HHCF EXCLUSIVE: Flashback interview w/ Andre Nickatina from 2000
By: Adisa Banjoko, The Bishop of Hip-Hop
I met Andre Nickatina in 1989 while taking a Black Psychology class at Skyline College. Over time we got cool and he knew I wrote for the Source. At the time, he rapped under the name Dre Dog. He invited me to his first show at an old club called One Up. He was kinda nervous that night. But he ripped it. Since then, he's made some serious history in the rap game.
Many of his raps are dark, violent and some of them have a lot of drug references. However, while I do not condone a lot of the content in his music- Andre Nickatina is a soldier of the rap game. He has stood the test of time like few others. This interview dropped shortly before the release of Tears of a Clown. He ended this with a serious insight to how important it is to be a good business man. I know a lot of HHCF folks want to be rappers or producers. So, please pay attention to how he closes this interview.
AB: What does the title, Tears of a Clown mean?
AN: Nothin'. Its a phrase that I thought went with the picture. It has no meaning behind it. I thought it would catch peoples ear. When I make and album, if people can't see it, I want it to sound good to them.
AB: Doze Green did the cover right? He's an O.G. graffiti!!
AN: Yep thats him.
AB: We're you trying to accomplish anything in particular with this album?
AN: Nope. I just throw out tapes to sell them until they can't be sold any more. Then I go back into the studio and make another one! I got no accomplishments, expectations or goals...Other than that I wanna get it to the people that wanna hear it. Ain't nothin' else to it.
AB: What's your favorite song on the album?
AN: My Rap World, is my favorite song on the album. It'll have a video to it soon. I was actually looking at a dictionary when I wrote the rap. I remember because I was looking at a rhyme dictionary. It helped me come up with the whole beginning- then I flowed with the rest. I wrote the song before I heard the beat though.
AB: Why do you think so many rappers from the Bay are supported by their own. Rappers in NY can't sell in NY. But when cat's out here see Andre Nickatina, San Quinn, Mac Mall, whoever. they're gonna pick it up. Why is that?
AN: I think its the hustle. People recognize the hustle. They wanna help you get to where you gonna go. The Bay Area is the foundation of people really doing their own independent thing. It went from cats looking for major deals to being like "We gonna sell these by ourselves". So people like, "If he's doing his own independent thing, I'll spend my last seven dollars on his tape". That reputation spread to the South. For a long time, you only had Tony Draper and Rap-a-Lot. 40 was out here doing his thing, and thats how he got down with the South. When you are independent like that you gonna meet more people- because you are doing for self. Thats how the Bay got put on the map. When you are independently hustlin' you know more about whats going on with your S!@#.
You meet more people. But when you on a record label, there are so many people doing things for you. They might have sold ten records, but they'll tell you they sold three!! Thats how dirty they get. Thats the difference between NY and the Bay Area.
AB: Do you think other cats outside of the Bay buy Andre Nickatina?
AN: Not necessarily.
AB: Do you care if people from Florida or NY buy your music?
AN: Nope, no, no...I feel whoever needs to buy my S!@# is the person who is gonna buy my S!@#. Its too many rappers out there. To much other music out there for me to be mad at anybody not buying my S!@#. I'm not in this for competition. I rap because I know there is a certain amount of people out there who will buy my S!@#. If they tune other people onto my stuff, then thats gravy to the situation. But I'm not worried if Florida or NY buys it. 'Cause I know Santa Rosa is buying my tapes. So, I'm gonna concentrate on Santa Rosa. I know people in Oakland are buying my tapes. So, I concentrate there. If you don't want my tapes that ain't no thing either- walk away.
AB: Do you hope to make movies in the future?
AN: I'm sure I might. If I branch out, I'll let you know right before it drops. I'm not gonna tell y'all that I gotta movie coming out. Then people be like "When ya movie droppin'" and I don't know [laughs]. You feel me? Let me say this though. I gotta lot of surprises. I don't even know what I'm gonna put out. But when I do, it'll be something to hold onto. When I do it, you gonna like it. Maybe somewhere down the line. No time soon. But I support anyone else doing it.
One quick thing. I wanna talk to all you cats out there rappin' man. You givin' up your ideas and your children- meaning your ideas...You give it to these record companies who giggle in your face at the time. Then, as soon as you sign on the dotted line- its war. You gotta fight for your money. You gotta fight for your rights. They know exactly what they are doing when they sign you. So, you gotta know WHY you are getting signed to them in the first place. Why you signing? Other than that, you just gonna give up classic stuff that you made and classics to come in the future that ain't even gonna be yours!
You goin' state to state, on the frontline. Goin' into all these hoods and running into all these gangstas, pranksters and thugs. While the record companies are sitting back on silk sheets sending their children to college! So all you rap cats man, you gonna have to dig into this technology. Know these books! I'm not gonna pretend that I read books all the time. But took licks for not knowin'!! In order you gonna have to get up on it. Other than that, you're signing your soul away. I'm not gonna tell you what to do to get there. If someone owe you five dollars, you want it back! Imagine if it was one hundred thousand dollars?! And you got no way of getting it back unless you bring firepower. And I don't mean guns...I mean lawyers or knowing the right way to get the money they owe you.
"You owe me this"! you'll say.
"How do I owe you this?" they gonna say.
If you don't break it down- you won't be gettin' jack S!@# back. I'm gonna tell you that now. You better break down how he owes you that money. If he say he ain't paying you after that, then you gotta get a lawyer. So, to all you rap cats, I love all rap cats that wanna BE rap cats. But there are new rules to the game. You gotta business man, and you gotta be a thug. You gotta be a business thug then!! You just can't be no ignorant thug. That time is gone.