by Alex P80 Parks
An under-appreciated figure in hip hop for over 20 years, Agallah has worked with just about every emcee and producer in the game. Throughout that time, despite a few name changes, Ag has remained a steady presence; working tirelessly to provide fans his rugged, grimy rhymes and consistent beats. With his new album No Mercy for the Weak dropping next week I linked up with 8-off Agallah, Ag Al Ghul, the Don Bishop himself, as he was eager to share his story.
DRHH: You been around, seen the game, worked with everybody. What was the jump off for you though?
Agallah: I fell in love with hip hop culture at the age of five years old. My Godfather ran a record store called “Soul Shack” On Pitkin Avenue. I Wanted To be a DJ so i would buy all my records and cassettes and break beats from there. Djing turned into beatboxing for a group around the way called Smoke and Top Dollar. Top Dollar wound up getting in some trouble with the law so i took his place in the group. I was always rapping, though. I just didnt take it serious until Top Dollar got in trouble, so I had to step up for the team. Brownsville, we stick together. We from “never ran never will!”
DRHH: When did you know you had to do this HipHop shit?
Ag: Well, when I was a kid no one really believed I would be a hip hop artist. My dream was first to be a lawyer, which is funny cause now I read my own contracts. So I guess, somewhat knowing legal terms is a thing for me. I knew I had to do hip hop when I ran away from home cause of abuse from my stepdad. My moms had an abusive relationship. And cause of it, I ran away from home only to land myself in group homes and foster care afterwards. I was living on the streets at 18 in Washington Square Park, battle-rapping against any MC who had skills. My name would soon grow big in the city. Some of the best can attest to this: Talib Kweli, Mos Def, MC Supernatural, and Akinyele. Both Akinyele and Talib have even spoke about this on Drink Champs. I have became an icon; One of hip hop’s most prolific MCs ever.
Check the Akinyele drink champs episode here:
Talib Kweli episode:
DRHH: You began making your name in the game as a producer right?
Ag: No i was always an MC before a producer. I remember times I couldn’t even get a beat from producers. Now I’m one of the dopest producers in the game today. I have produced for a lot of greats including, Busta rhymes, EPMD, Das Efx, Lloyd Banks, Remy Ma, Guru, Onyx, Run DMC, Mobb Deep, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Big Pun, and Dipset. Fred Durst and more have either needed my production and/or ghostwriting. My latest album is all written and produced by myself, which releases on June 22nd “AG AL GHUL NO MERCY FOR THE WEAK” fans can pre order it here:
DRHH: You’ve been a producer for some of the greats-What was it like to be from that era? Did it feel special or was HipHop culture so ingrained in you that it was all just regular life for you.
Ag: The vibes was all natural, nothing forced you know. Back then, if you had that heat (Production), heads wanted to hear that in person. Now a link is sent to listen to music. Which, in my opinion, takes away from the organic level of creating. But I just roll with it, cause you can’t win in today’s times using yesterday’s methods. These kids are getting rich out here. I ain’t mad at em. I like that they giving the game life. I take the positive levels and roll. People want great music and they don’t care about street cred anymore. You got cats like Childish Gambino who is black but appeals to a white audience cause he is a poster boy for that sort of music. I’m the posterboy for that real street, live NY shit that will never die. Mad love to my west coast family for holding me down the last ten years, facts. It made me a better producer. I’m always learning as well teaching.
DRHH: Your first album “Wrap your lips around this” Was supposed to come out in 95, but got shelved right?
Ag: It never dropped due to label complications. They discontinued the label so I got shelved. But that album is a classic. Anyone today who is a real 90’s hip hop collector will tell you. I even heard the album is going for $700 on ebay, for the original CD. I also produced that album entirely myself.
DRHH: Sean Price was not only a collaborator in multiple projects but also a dear friend of yours. Would you speak on that?
Ag: Me and Sean Price grew up together. I known Sean since four years old. He is family to me. We became friends at an early age and we both loved hip hop. Playing video games and getting fresh kicks and clothes was our thing. He was my family no doubt. I known him my whole life. Me and P had a bond. It was family, we ate together, starved together. At one point, noo one wanted to give him beats, lol. So I wound up doing a lot of the first solo Sean Price demos. I put him on a song I did called “Rising to the Top,” which is a classic from Grand Theft Auto 3 and it garnered a lot of attention. ‘Lenny and Spittly forever!’ that’s my brother inshallah and I miss him and carry him in spirit.
DRHH: Can you share a story that most may not have heard of working with one of the greats.
Ag: One day DJ Premier called me up to do a remix for Teflon. I went to D&D (studios) and laced him with a banger, fixed up the track and he was happy. He said “Yo Ag If you need anything give me a call fam.” I was always in awe around Premier. I didn’t think nothing of it until I got to the elevator with Ike Eyes and said to him “wait a minute, I’m doing a solo album..” I just put two and two together then and called him right then when I was on the elevator and said “Preemo, check it, I’m doing an album and I need a track produced by you.” He said, “No doubt, I got you.” And a few days later he sent me the beat for my song “New York Ryder Music.” Premier speaks on how he gave me the beat in my guest appearance with him on his Shade 45 radio show recently.
Agallah part starts at 11:30 into the program here:
He said the beat belonged to T.I. for his album, but he didn’t use the beat. So, thanks to T.I. cause (Atlantic) he turned down the track, i made it a classic.
DRHH: How did your Dipset and purple city affiliation come about in the early 00’s
Ag: Through my boy Dee Doubler who was a close friend of mines and was friends with Shiest Bubz and Un Kasa. I came around hanging out on some cool vibes and they got wind of my production and music. The thing is, I’m not from harlem but I held them dudes down with my production only to see that it wasn’t worth my time in the end. Rest in peace to Dee Doubler as well. If it wasnt for him it wouldn’t be my involvement or no Purple City. I got the deal going with Chris Landry, and then Shiest did some business moves that I didn’t agree with. So I just left after the second album cause I was bored. So that’s why i did that PCP (album) stuff. I had a lot of fun doing that though. It feels just bittersweet with what coulda been a dynasty. Too many egos will fuck up the bag.. next question!
DRHH: Your catalog runs deep, for over 20 yrs as both an emcee and a producer. Looking back over those years, Is there a project or collab that was shelved or never released that you hope to one day share?
Ag: Yes i have an album called Imagine Your Life that never was released on game records. Also a album with Nottz called Language of the Sands. I look foward to releasing those projects soon and much more. Right now its all about AG AL GHUL NO MERCY FOR THE WEAK. PRE ORDER HERE
DRHH: Do you feel that you aren’t recognized enough for the time and work you’ve put in? I wouldn’t use slept on, but do you feel under appreciated?
Ag: I feel like im trapped between two eras. But make no mistake, I feel like I am a new artist to a whole brand new group of people who use social media as a platform to do what I done. There is a story that must be told outside of music, so I’m writing a book and gonna have a documentary about all of my career so the world can understand me more as an artist and my art for what it is, and also me as a person. I learned not to have an emotional attachment to feeling under appreciated, cause you only should be where you’re celebrated. I try and go where I’m celebrated, not under appreciated.
DRHH: More recently, You dropped Agnum Opus last year and The White Lotus with Dirty Diggs earlier this year, and now No Mercy for the Weak is dropping. Those have been pretty high quality albums and you’re Certainly not stopping..
Ag: Definitely not stopping. I have a fifty-clip I’m loading up called Agsquiat with a lot of names on it like EPMD , Sadat X, Edo G, Layzie Bone and a slew of other greats on it. It’s a work of art and the production is slapping. The raps is crushing, and I can’t wait to release it after Ag Al ghul No Mercy for the Weak. Shout to all DJ’s and people supporting it. My first single “Ghul Baby” produced by me is out now on itunes check the video- it’s litt!
DRHH: What’s your focus like these days? Are you focused on producing for yourself and others or are you tryna emcee for the most part.
Ag: I’ma do both as long as Allah wills me to. I love what I do, though I admit at times it hasn’t been all sweet getting my music to masses. I go thru a lot of politics and I don’t mind doing this for the people who love real hip hop. I’m happy that I get a chance that so many others dream of and will keep pushing the envelope. Bars and real banging beats will never die in my opinion, true story.
DRHH: What’s the process like for you in regards to creating beats and rhymes, Are you constantly creating or does it hit you in waves?
Ag: I challenge myself as much as I can to give the people what they want. It’s a competition for me to out do the next mc/ producer. I’m always making music. I’m like an addict. I make up to ten beats a day in my head then hit the studio to make another ten. I’m an animal with this man, really.
DRHH: Any other upcoming projects you can speak on?
Ag: Yeah League of the Shadows/Assassins coming. I got a few artists im working with from Cali to NYC right now with that project; Propain Campain Records is the label. We def got more albums on stash but best to let the public know when they ready. We keep people wanting more that way.
DRHH: Any younger emcees you feelin that you’d like to work with, either in a producer capacity or as a feature/guest emcee?
Ag: Lil Eto is one of my fav mcs right now thats up and coming and dope. I just worked with a cat named Rome Streetz who is dope. Hus Kingpin and Rozewood is lit. Nowaah the Flood who just dropped a album with the Architect, and his album cover he has got used by Nas on his new album produced by Kanye. What can you believe these days, haha?!
DRHH: Any collabs with any artist that haven’t already worked with that comes to mind?
Ag: Joey Badass, I would like to produce for him. I also would like to produce for the Flatbush Zombies, Bodega Bamz, and Asap Ferg. They the new voices right now of hip hop and its dope to have that element here. Check my boy Young Hope from Newark, he got heat and my boy Pop Off from Los Angeles. Shout to Choize Reef from Los Angeles, they real spitters, coming your way soon.
DRHH: Top 3 non HipHop artists or albums that inspire you.
Ag: Lalo Schiffrin, Bob James and Patrick Adams the king of disco music . These are producers who i’ve learned from and got jewels from. Look em up if you dont know who they are.
DRHH: 3 favorite hip hop artists?
Ag: Rakim , Big Daddy Kane and Chill Rob G
DRHH: 2 albums that changed your life.
Ag: Eric B and Rakim Paid in Full and Big Daddy Kane Long Live the Kane.