AZ talks new song ‘Save Them’…

The full AZ interview is up now. You can catch this cut on my May Mixtape.
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    The latest single “Save Them” features a snippet of a speech by Louis Farrakhan. Why was it important for you to take a clip from the Minister and place it in this song?

    Farrakhan is the voice of the hood. He’s a voice of the world. He’s for our people and he’s been there since the beginning. So at the end of the day, he has that powerful speech that was needed to reach the people. When you hear his voice, you will fall back and you’ll take notice and listen. And that’s what I was trying to get across to get the ears of the youth. When I was putting this record together, a lot of my peers and fans were like, ‘Yo, you got to save us!” And I use to be like, ‘Save you from what?’ and they would say, ‘The music now has no substance. We need substance. Save us.” So that’s where I got the title from.

    Why was it an important decision to add Raekwon and Prodigy on this album?

    They’re swords are sharp lyrically. And we all love lyrics. We wanted to bring that to the table. So me knowing that their discography contains nothing but that and they specialize in that.

Snippet of a new AZ interview…

Here’s a snippet of an interview AZ did over at Billboard, which includes his Buckwild-produced new cut with Raekwon and Prodigy…

It’s wild that this is the 20th anniversary of The Firm. What was that whole experience like working with Dr. Dre and being on Aftermath?

I mean you got to understand, we all were popping before that, so dealing with Dre, I was appreciative and I could respect it, but at the same time, the family thing was better. We all could connect and had love, especially me and Nas, and [Foxy Brown] was doing her thing. So to come together and do a project — it was a blessing. Of course Dre was going through his transition at the time too. He represented that West Coast so crazy. I just wanted to really get some of that Dr. Dre music, and that “Phone Tap” really set it off.

That crew solidified two strong MCs. It put a blueprint together. What do you think The Firm brought to the game?

We brought something together that some people probably have never thought of. As of now, a lot of powerhouses come together, even in R&B. I think we set that off. Usually, groups came in the game [already together]. It never was people coming together individually. We were the first ones to get together after having our own lane.

Are you still collaborating with a lot of people from the era?

Yeah, [my new single] “Save Them.” The sound was shifting. A lot of brothers in the street were [telling me], “You got to save us.” And I’m like, “Save y’all from what?” So I took that title to save the people, then [producer] Buckwild played a joint in the studio called “Save Them,” and I was like, “This is it.” I just wanted to bring some brothers who I know respect the craft. Raekwon — that’s my brother from day one, and Prodigy [of Mobb Deep] is from that era as well. I just wanted to put something together that I know that audience will appreciate. Even the shorties will say, “Oh that’s what this about,” and they will gravitate towards it. So that’s the goal: We want to save the people and save them from themselves.

“Building was where Kid Capri really made a splash.. He came to Building and utterly destroyed the place on a weekly basis. And, you know, that was before the internet, but the word of mouth was so strong, and what Kid was doing in that room, it just elevated him to a whole other plateau as a celebrity”

DJ Stretch Armstrong takes us back to the Building club days


*pic from the personal archive of Stretch Armstrong*

THE STANDARD: How old were you when Building opened and what was your life like at that time?

STRETCH ARMSTRONG: I was 19, 20 years old. At that time, I was going to clubs every night. If I wasn’t working in them, I was hanging out at them. I was club-rich. I could go and drink for free. Anytime a new club opened that was the place to be, it was completely normal for me to go there three, four nights of the week. For a lot of us who were not just in the scene, but kind of connected to the scene, a club just became like everyone’s living room. When Building opened, it was the place to be and I was just kind of connected to that network of people.

Was the music the primary attraction for you?

That was a big part of it. Part of my reason for being in clubs every night was to be noticed, and to be a recognized face, so that it would make my chances of getting on easier. I totally wanted to play at Building. It was a great room to play in—massive, super high ceilings, big sound system, dark space. The dark space allowed people who might be self-conscious to lose their inhibitions and dance.

What was the most memorable thing you saw there, musically?

Building was where Kid Capri really made a splash. If you were into hip hop, you might know him, but if you were just more of a downtown club person who liked hip hop, you may not have known Kid Capri. He came to Building and utterly destroyed the place on a weekly basis. And, you know, that was before the internet, but the word of mouth was so strong, and what Kid was doing in that room, it just elevated him to a whole other plateau as a celebrity.

What was so unique about his style?

The DJs that I idolized coming up, like Clark Kent, they didn’t really talk. They were just nasty with their hands and their music. Kid Capri was the first deejay I ever saw who would regularly turn the music off, just like oozing with confidence, and with this super loud voice just command the crowd to do stuff. He would have them in the palm of his hand and the music would come back on at exactly the right time, just as he was getting the crowd into a frenzy. There was this give-and-take that was incredibly dynamic and powerful. He didn’t use the mic because he was making up for any deficiency as a deejay. It took his deejaying to another level because he was always nasty on the turntable, but the added dynamics of that crowd control, that was just something that people downtown hadn’t really seen.

Do you recall the people you’d see there?

De La Soul had a party there, Black Sheep did a party, A Tribe Called Quest. It was one of those clubs where the hip hop industry—whether people from labels, managers, or the artists themselves—were commingling with the club scene, the club clientele.

My favorite invite was for a short-lived night that Jessica [Rosenblum] started on Saturdays called Jessica’s Nickel Bag Lounge. The area was really, really high up, like four stories up, and it was closed off from the main floor. You took these industrial stairs. The flyer was a green piece of paper with a little Ziploc bag, the kind that you would cop marijuana in at Washington Square Park, with a chunk of oregano in the Ziploc, like a dime bag.

What made you keep the flyers from the club?

I think at some point I realized that these were ephemeral items that were a part of a really exciting time of my life. And I was right. Because as time goes on, you realize that that era from ’88, to maybe like ’92, was a really, really special time—in clubs, in music, and everything.

Are there specific tracks you associate with that time and the club?

Oh yeah sure. For house music: Lil Louis “I Called U”, Lidell Townsell “Nu-Nu”, Crystal Waters “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)”, Underground Solution “Luv Dancin”, Frankie Knuckles feat. Robert Owens “I’ll Be Your Friend”, Jay Williams “Sweat”, Bobby Konders “The Poem”. For hip hop: Nice and Smooth “Hip-hop Junkies”, Jungle Brothers “J Beez Comin Thru”, Black Sheep “Choice Is Yours”, A Tribe Called Quest “Can I Kick It”.

What you’ve got to remember is that back then New York was still the center of the world when it came to clubs and music and particularly hip hop. I mean all these records were breaking out of New York on the weekend mix shows and in clubs like Building. Back then, people went to clubs to hear their favorite song, which they heard on the radio. You would go to a club, to hear records that were hot, but you’re also going to hear new music. And that wasn’t something that would frustrate people—that was something that people looked forward to.

How was Building different from other clubs that were around at the time?

Building was a short-lived club. People were genuinely heartbroken when it closed down. It never went through the normal lifecycle of a club where, when it opens it’s hot, and then it gets less popular, and then, sadly, it becomes a hip hop spot. Building was very pro hip hop. I mean they had a lot of different things going on, but the hip hop nights weren’t just an afterthought or a footnote to a club’s previous glory days. From the jump, they were doing hip hop nights.

Do you have any Building stories?

Actually, I do have a Building story…it’s kind of a sad story. Kid Capri and I eventually became friends, I would say this was probably like ‘93, ’94. And we were hanging out and he tells me that he wants to buy Building and reopen it as his own club. I said, “Oh that’d be so cool, a deejay opening a club.” And then later that day, I happened to be in that neighborhood and I drove by where the Building was and it had just been torn down. It was a pile of rubble.