Please give us a brief introduction.
PIZON: What up ya’ll my name is Pizon, reppin La Scala Entertainment / the Rawkus 50. Of course Queens, NYC, know what I’m saying. And Hip Hop, word up.
How long have you been recording music?
PIZON: I started recording music in the year 2000 actually; I was just coming out of High School. I started doing rhyming and rap you know during high school and around that time. But I wasn’t really recording anything until 2000, after I graduated. My first song I did was with a bunch of my friends from High school. And I just took it from there and kept growing. From 2000 till 2007. Everything I did was just better than the last. So 2000 was when I started recording music but before then I just started rapping in school.
You started out as a battle MC in high school, right? Where do you see the differences between being in the cipher and recording sessions?
PIZON: Well, I don’t know if I was a battle MC necessarily but it wasn’t like I was going up there in front of cats in school reciting songs that I wrote, you know. And the whole idea in a cipher is just to get a reaction out of people so I was writing punch lines and I guess battle oriented rhymes. It was a whole different dynamic where you would just spit 16s and the idea was to get a rise out of people, to make people laugh or get people to appreciate the individual lines you’re saying as opposed to what we do now which is Hip Hop song writing. And a lot of people who come from the cipher, the battle or whatever, they don’t really understand that there’s a lot more to creating timeless and classic music than just spitting hot rhymes. If you take three random 16 bar verses and throw them together and just put a hook over it, that’s not necessarily going to make a good song. There’s a lot more that goes into it than that. So it took me a minute actually to get out of the mold of just spitting rhymes because that was my background, which a lot of people start that way and actually start writing songs. And I think, what made me change my approach was when a girl that I was seeing died in a plane crash. It was just so impactful to me that I had to write about it and I had to make it into a song and that song touched people in so many ways that I just knew that that was the direction I had to take my music. That was when I first started to see that there’s much more to rhyming and to being an MC than just spitting hot rhymes and punch lines. You need to connect with people and make them relate to you and feel you as a person. And me personally, when I would listen to albums I know the one song on the album that I always liked the most was the personal song, the deep song or the introspective song. So I figured that it just made sense, if you want people to relate to you as a person and if they’re going to buy your music and if they’re going to invest in you, you need to make them care about you as a person because people don’t really buy music for the music, they buy music because they care about the artists, so the whole idea is to make them care about you personally, relating to you on a personal level.
You just alluded to the song “Angel Wings”… In numerous tracks you have chosen to put your emotions on wax. Was it hard for you to put your personal life out there like that?
PIZON: Well, It definitely did take some getting used to because you know when I first started rhyming it was nothing personal about it. I just spit rhymes that anybody could spit. Anybody could say the same rhymes that I did and it wouldn’t make a difference. It wasn’t anything personal to it. It was just me spitting dope punch lines or whatever. But when you start putting your soul into it, you know what I mean; it just opens up a whole new playing field, a whole different ballgame now that you’re working with. And yeah, that was something that was tough to do at first but once I opened up, I realized that was the path that I had to go down, because I had to make people understand who I was and appreciate me and relate to me as a person first and foremost. And that just felt so good to get my feelings, my frustrations out there, its like therapy, you know. And like I said, that’s how you make people relate to you the most. They need to care about you as a person before anything else.
You were chosen as one of the Rawkus 50. What do you expect from this deal?
PIZON: I think a lot of people go into deals with the mind state “I’ve signed a deal with such and such label, I’ve made it, I can now stop working.” When really the reality is, it’s the opposite of that. You enter into any agreement with anybody and that’s reason to work even harder, because now the pressure is on and now they really want to see what you got. And it’s called the Rawkus 50 because there are 49 other artists who were signed at the same time. So if I’m slacking now I’m really going to get lost in the mix. I really need to step up right now and I think that, as with anything in life, you get back whatever you put in. So, now is the time for me to really step up and I’m going to use the Rawkus brand name to my advantage. I’m going to use the opportunities that I have now that I didn’t necessarily have before to my advantage and use this as a stepping stone to take my career to the next level.
Could you see yourself being signed to Rawkus permanently?
PIZON: Well, Rawkus doesn’t really have the resources that it used to have, and even back in its heyday it was still an indie label and I really feel like I want to touch as many people as possible, millions of people. You know, I want my art to hit the whole world and everybody to relate to it because I know I have some really good things to say. So, I don’t see myself necessarily signed to Rawkus forever, I’m not saying that I won’t put out future projects with them, although I’m not obligated to it, you know. The contract I have them is just for one album: “I am Hip Hop”, that I already dropped. In the future, yeah, I may do some more work with them, but I don’t see myself necessarily signed to Rawkus forever because I want to get out there. I want to be a Grammy winning artist, you know. As far as I can take it. And I just feel like Rawkus is a little limited in that aspect. Just because they don’t have the financial backing as some other labels. And you know if you want to make it to the big time you got to play ball with the big labels. So I think eventually that’s where I’m headed but for now I look at it more like a stepping stone.
You formed a label yourself. When did that happen and where does La Scala Entertainment stand today?
PIZON: I started “La Scala Entertainment” really the minute I started recording songs because I didn’t want another label to put me out and I didn’t want to be anybodies bitch and you know be a slave to their masters, you know what I mean. And make the moves they wanted me to make. I wanted to make my own moves, do my own thing. So even now that I have this deal with Rawkus, it’s not a situation where they own my masters or publishing. I own that all myself. My album was released independently on La Scala Entertainment and it still is La Scala Entertainment. If you go buy my album it’s still a La Scala Entertainment release. Rawkus just acquired parts of the rights to it but it’s more like a mutual agreement that I have with them. We’re benefiting from each other. It’s important to me that I retain ownership of my own music. The money is part of it but it’s also because I want to make my own moves creatively and be my own artist. And that’s essential to me. So La Scala Entertainment is my vehicle for expression and even if I’m working for other labels, and I realize now that I have to to get out there, I’m still going to always be La Scala Entertainment. I’m always going to run my own label.
Do you have any other artists signed to it?
PIZON: Right now, La Scala Entertainment is just me, as far as artists that are signed to it. I do have a producer named Scrappz, who we may do like a producer album with, where he gets a bunch of MCs to rhyme over his beats. Actually I was going to stop focusing so much on my solo career when my album came out and then start signing other artists and looking to putting out other projects but then I got the deal with Rawkus and that made me say, you know what, I have to keep continuing to focus on my solo career right now because now this deal is here and it’s like “it’s go time now” and I have to keep doing the music and keep pushing forward and keep making myself the top priority at the moment but in the future I definitely do want to sign other artists to the label and put out other projects. We did put out on La Scala Entertainment some compilations and mix tapes and some collaboration projects like the “Lost EP” with Timid and Killa. But as of now, yeah Pizon is the only artist signed to La Scala Entertainment.
You seem to be very aware of the business side of the industry. Is that because you have worked different jobs in it like radio hosting? And how did you experience seeing the other side of it?
PIZON: Getting your feet wet, I guess, and wearing different hats or however you want to call it, um, just experiencing different aspects of the industry, it definitely does help. The radio hosting thing, I would say, helped more with connecting with artists because if you’re coming at an artist as just another MC, saying: “Here, listen to my demo!” they’ll be like “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” But if you have a radio show and you come to them like “Yo, I can help you. I want to play your music on my show. I want to interview you on my show.” They are probably going to give you their number and say “Call me tomorrow. Let’s build”. So you know, it that sense it made me look more like their peer as opposed to some guy just trying to use them to get on, so in a way that was a hustle. And also, you do learn that the industry, the more exposure you have to various aspects of the industry, the smarter you’re going to be because the more knowledge you’re going to acquire and that’s essential, because these days, since everybody’s trying to do it and the market is so cluttered, you’re not going to get too many people offering you hand outs. So basically you’re going to have to do everything yourself. Like, for example when I started rhyming I didn’t know any producers so I had to make my own beats and I didn’t really know any labels or really wanted to mess with labels and get into the politics of all that so I had to make my own label you know. And that’s just how it works and especially in Hip Hop that tends to happen a lot. People don’t always have the access that people that mess with other genres may have. So it forces them to be more entrepreneurial and that’s a great thing because it’s survival of the fittest. Just like nobody’s going to help me get on, I’m going to put myself on and I’m going to learn the business myself. But then you also have people who are just not business orientated and you could be the best artist in the world but not have your business straight. And then you could also be a crappy artist but be great at business and 9 times out of 10, probably more than that, the guy who sucks at being an artist, but is great at business is going to succeed. The business aspect is the most important thing in terms of success and getting your music out there. So you just always need to realize that there’s an art to it, but business side is just as important if you want to be successful at this and you have to always think business minded. Like it or not.
After seeing so many sides of it, which one are you more now, a fan or an artist?
PIZON: Well, I’ll always be a fan in spirit first and foremost because that came before being an artist. If I was never a fan I would not be an artist now. But these days I’m just so focused on my career and doing so many different things that it’s just impossible for me to spend any time on being a fan. I mean I’m listening to other artists’ music with a critical ear and it’s not like, you know I do appreciate artists that I do like, but more than that I’m listening to hear what the competition is doing and how I can use that to outdo them or you know, make my own music better or whatever. So, at this point I’m just so caught up in the game, being a participant, that it’s hard to even consider myself a fan. Certainly not in the same way I was back before I started doing it myself because it’s just completely different for me right now. And honestly I can’t even tell you the last CD I bought, and I don’t really be downloading music like that either. If I hear something, it’s either on the radio, or something somebody played for me, or something I heard someplace else. It is important to keep an ear out to what other people are doing, just like I said, so you know what the competition is doing and also to keep yourself from going crazy because if all you’re doing is listening to your own stuff you will loose your mind completely because you cant really listen to your own music without being overly analytical because you want to know how you can improve it, how you’re going to get better. If you can get to the point where you’re listening to your own music just as a fan then that’s a great accomplishment because that almost never happens. You always try to find something that you can do better and you listen to your old stuff and it sounds horrible compared to your new stuff and that’s just the progression of being an artist. But you know, the point is that you get so caught up in it that it’s kind of hard just to be a fan, at least not in a way that you once were.
PIZON: Do I miss being a fan? I suppose so. I suppose I miss the time when everything was a lot more innocent. But at the same time, back then I couldn’t wait to be a participant because it’s just the type of person that I am So I used to listen to these records back in the day and I used to hear these songs and I used to envision me saying them. I would listen to the lyrics and some people would get offended because they were like “Yo, don’t you get offended when this dude’s talking about fuckin’ your bitch?” But I wouldn’t get offended at all because when I heard a song I would listen to it as if I were saying it because I wanted to be that guy. I just couldn’t wait to start doing it myself and take part in it. So in that sense, no, I don’t miss being a spectator. I’m the type of person who wants to participate in everything. So I’m happy now that I’m on this side of it
How do you define the phrase “I Am Hip Hop”?
PIZON: “I am Hip Hop” is very subjective. It can mean really a million different things. And if you watch my DVD a whole bunch of people have all different kinds of opinions of what it means to them. And that’s the beauty of Hip Hop. Honestly, one thing I do notice, that most people were saying, and I agree with this, being yourself is probably the most important element to it. Because you can’t say Hip Hop is a particular stereotype. You have to fit a certain mold to be Hip Hop. Really, the common demonolater is that everybody who is Hip Hop is just true to themselves. And I think that’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Just be proud of who you are and project that to the fullest. And chances are, if you’re real, and that’s a cliché too “being real”, but being real to me just means being true to yourself, no matter what. And if you’re that, people will respect you for that, and that’s what Hip Hop is to me.
What song do you suggest checking out for someone who has never heard your music?
PIZON: Well, I hate saying “This is the one song you should check out!” Because, like my album was so much more than just a collection of random songs, but the game is so messed up right now. It’s such a single-driven market these days that people really aren’t dropping albums anymore. So people are listening to albums expecting to hear compilations or just a bunch of singles. And people listen to my album and they may hear one song and then a couple tracks later hear a different song and think that I’m contradicting myself or that I’m just doing different types of songs to appease different people, when that’s not the case at all. I dropped one cohesive album that was a concept album and told a story about things that I went through in my life and my perspective gradually changed as the story went on. So if you listen to my album it’s so much more than just 14 songs. It’s a cohesive album which is in my opinion what an album is supposed to be. So it’s hard for me to say “This is the one song you should check out.” That represents me as an artist because there are so many different sides to me and my perspective is going to be different depending on what’s going on in my life at that time, etc. But I will say that “Angel Wings” is one song, even though it’s from 2002, that people constantly come up to me about and say “Yo, that’s a tight song.” I really like that. People can feel that and relate to it. And actually, I made that a bonus cut on my album, re-mastered, I didn’t rerecord or remix it or anything because I wanted to keep the initial essence of the song intact. And I didn’t want to force a recreation of that moment. It was re-mastered and put on there. That’s definitely one you should check. “Homegirls” is another one that people like, just because it’s funny and silly and it really hits hard. And I guess “4 letters” is the other one that people are really feeling these days. That might be a more modern version of “Angel Wings”. It’s kind of similar in the subject matter and one of those personal, deep songs. So I guess start there, but really listen to the whole album and judge for yourself.
When is your album coming out? Are you going to go on tour? Where can people check you out?
PIZON: My album “I am Hip Hop” is in stores now. That was one that I dropped on La Scala Entertainment at the end of last year. In March signed into a deal with Rawkus records. And now Rawkus is pushing that. We have ads coming up in the 10th anniversary edition of XXL, Scratch magazine and all that. So they’re pushing it. That’s the current project, “I am Hip Hop”. Production by Domingo, Kno from the CunninLynguists, Pizon and Timid. And guest appearances by Timid, EJ of the Fam and Deacon the Villain of the CunninLynguists. Also at the same time we’re working on the Fam project, with myself, Timid and EJ. And that’s coming out soon as well but we don’t have a date for that yet. And I’m also starting the new solo project, I have a couple songs done but I’m probably going to do maybe 30 or 40 songs and then narrow it down. So that’s really too early to even say when it’s coming out or what label it’s going to come out on, I don’t know. But the album “I am Hip Hop” on La Scala/ Rawkus, that’s available in stores right now. As far as a tour is concerned, we definitely do want to put one together. Last year we were working on one with Akir actually. We had some dates planned but the whole thing just kind of fell apart. Once this Fam album comes out I definitely do want to put together a tour for that. December 1st of this year we’re doing a Family reunion 2007 at the Creek and the Cave in Queens, New York. That’s going to be our second annual, big show with the Fam. After that we may take that on the road, you know. I don’t know, but definitely check that out right now. Basically what I’m doing is just spot dates here and there. A promoter may bring me out to a different city and I go out there and perform, from NYC down to DC, Florida, Michigan, Buffalo, Massachusetts, wherever they’re at and they want to bring me, I’ll come and do it and then I’ll come back home. But as far as setting a tour up, that’s definitely something we want to do in the future. Of course, for show dates, tour information, when we put that together and anything else that is going on you can check me out at www.pizonishiphop.com , myspace.com/pizon . For the Fam stuff go to myspace.com/theFammusic . Check me out in XXL and Scratch magazine. Check me out on the radio, online, wherever I’m at. Just holla at me, I’ll be there. Hopefully in your CD Player is where you can check me out too.
Is there anything else you wanted to mention?
PIZON: Yeah, the one thing I wanted to mention that we didn’t get into is the charity work that I’ve been doing. Everybody wants to blame Hip Hop for everything. It’s just really getting out of hand. And I think it’s all bullshit. Honestly, people just have their bullshit agendas. I heard that Al Sharpton is marching in front of 50 Cents house to tell him to try to change his lyrical content. I don’t see what good that’s going to do. Why isn’t anybody marching in front of record labels demanding that they sign more artists like Common. Why try to focus on the negative, you’re just adding to the problem. Why not empower the positive. So, Hip Hop in my opinion, and I think a lot of people will agree with this, certainly Hip Hop heads will agree with this, Hip Hop is not responsible for societies ills but maybe a reflection of an ill society. But why scrutinize the artists who bring the problems of society to light? Why not focus on the problems themselves? So I’m starting a charity organisation called “Hip Hop is not the enemy”. We’re going to raise money for good causes, we’re going to have fund raising events, charity events, benefits, and we’re going to do some public speaking. If you donate to the charity you get a free DVD, a Pizon DVD. I’m trying to get other artists down to where they’re going to donate their merchandise for the cause. We’re going to show you that Hip Hop is not the enemy and we want to see good things happen in the world, too. And I think that it’s all bullshit and people try to blame Hip Hop for everything. It’s like, at what point do we start looking in the mirror and stop blaming our ipods? That’s what it is. You can check out www.hiphopisnottheenemy.org and get all the information on there.
PIZON: I just wanted to thank you for the interview, for the opportunity. Once again, Pizon; Rawkus records, La Scala Entertainment. Album is in stores now. Of course, December 1st at the Creek and the Cave in Queens, it’s going to be huge. That’s what it is, Peace!