Listen to Crossroads!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time Travellin' w/ Ren

As promised, here is part 2 of our interview with Hip-Hop Cyber Media Group. Sit back and let producer/soul brotha Ren take you away with words..

AS: Green Street has been around for a while now. How did you guys get your start writing and producing hip-hop?

Ren: We were both casually doing music with our crews back in the day, and at one point we merged and started doing stuff together, you know – ciphers, sessions, recordings and all that. Me and A-live were really the ones holding that down, and Green Street kind of just naturally evolved from that. It was just us trying to fuse our love for the music with different genres while still keeping it gritty, and that’s really what we still hold to today. With our music now, “the rhyme style is elevated, the style of beats have elevated, but its still A-Live and Ren.”

AS: You’ve been compared to positive-minded, conscious hip-hop groups with jazzy beats like A Tribe Called Quest and The Roots? What other types of artists have influenced your sound, and what do you make of those comparisons?

Ren: When we started out, we were both fans of that true-school style. For me, I got into ATCQ , Wu-Tang, Rakim and all the old school cats, and as we got more into it, as we progressed as people we started opening up our minds to what we thought hip-hop could be. Pete Rock really got me into the jazz stuff and helped me realize that the boundaries of hip-hop are infinite. That feeling definitely grew as we started listening to the modern cats such as Little Brother, Nicolay, Oddisee, etc. It’s always an honor being compared to any of our influences, and I can’t really say anything about the comparisons, but I always make sure to pay dues because they are the ones who got us here. At the same time, I like to think we have our own, distinct flavor over here on Green Street but we still hope that people can hear our influences reflected in our music.

AS: What about other artists you’ve worked with, what type of advice and mentoring, if any, have you received? Any particular piece that was particularly illuminating?

Ren: We’ve done projects with Tableek of Masspyke and Replife, but the biggest artist that we have worked with to date is Oddisee. Homie probably gave us the best piece of advice we’ve gotten. We usually don’t get that much criticism in terms of our music--its usually just the cliché stuff since most people aren’t really trying to rock the boat. But we really respect Odd for being real with us and giving some real constructive criticism. He told us he could see a lot of the past in our music and our efforts to preserve that old soul, but at the same time, we should always remember that it’s our job as artists to bring that forward and make it relevant to our times. As much as it’s important to keep the roots of the music alive, we also gotta always be striving to progress the artform. That would probably be the best advice we’ve got in this game so far.

AS: When I wrote an earlier blog post on Green Street for an American Studies “Hip-Hop Media” class focusing on your origin from Lexington, MA, Ren shot me a message thanking me for the publicity, but questioning the suburban focus of the post, saying it came off in a way that made Green Street seem “illegitimate.” That being said, is there any certain astigmatism arising from your own suburban backgrounds that you’ve experienced with your involvement in hip-hop culture? Since you guys certainly are no “Asher Roths,” marketing yourselves as suburban hip-hop, and both live in urban environments now, how do you view your own [socioeconomic, conscious, “hard”] status within hip-hop culture? Urban, suburban? Legitimate, Illegitimate?

Ren: You know, we really subscribe to the philosophy that ‘it ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.’ I feel like if you make good music, that transcends all kinds of boundaries that people normally construct. And from the responses we’ve gotten about our music, it seems that a lotta people feel the same way. That being said, we know that some people will write off a hip hop act labeled “suburban” right off the bat without even giving the music a chance, and that’s not something we’re trying to promote. We don’t really have anything against people knowing where we’re from, but we think that being labeled up front like that takes away from the universality of the music. We also don’t like to label ourselves; we like to let the music speak for itself. If people want to judge us, that’s all good, but we don’t really concern ourselves with all that. All those categories are just unnecessary limitations. Lupe probably sums it up best: “they wanna put us in boxes like chocolates, that’s nonsense.”

AS: Both of you are avid basketball fans and court warriors. If you had to compare Green Street to any famous basketball duo, who would it be and why? MJ and Pippen, Bird and McHale, Kobe and Shaq?

Ren: This one took a lot of thought. We went through some of the classic duos, and none of them really fit, so we thought it might be more fitting to find a modern Celtics duo because that’s what we grew up on. We really thought we had it with Kenny Anderson and Eric Williams, but realized that wasn’t it. Then we moved on to Big Al and Perk, but that didn’t work either, so we settled on Ray Ray and Pierce. They got a lot in common with the finesse and the clutch shooting, but both got their own style with it. That’s how we see the Green Street dynamic; we got a lot in common that holds the group together, but it’s our different styles that give our music character.

AS: Speaking of Basketball, I’ve heard through the rumor mill that there may be some sort of an upcoming collaboration between Green Street and the Boston Celtics. Any further details? Does the color green have anything to do with it?

Ren: Haha, yeah…A-live has been on his grind, networking with some people and I aint trying to jinx anything right now, by letting anything leak out, but stay tuned!

A-live: Further details will come soon, I apologize, I’m kinda superstitious, haha…as of now, the color Green is not involved, but I don’t see how it couldn’t be in the future. KG, holla at me, you know what it is!


AS: What are your future plans for Green Street? Any new releases coming out soon or projects that are in the works? Do you see yourselves taking Green Street to new heights after finishing up college, and/or trying to make a living through hip-hop culture?

Ren: We got a lot on our plate right now. We just came put out a little collab project with this producer Thallus from Germany and now we’re real close to finishing up our new “Chess Moves” mixtape. We also are a couple tracks away from finishing up a collaboration album with Introspective Minds Productions out of ATL (shouts to the homie Stephen Jones!). Both of those should be out real soon. We’re also trying to put out another mixtape sometime this summer with some more material we’ve been working on. On top of all that, we’ve got two projects in the works with guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/bassist/musical genius Ken Ross. One of them’s a jazz/fusion album with lots of live instrumentation that we’ve been working on on and off for a while now that features two of our hit tracks “Old Music” and “All I See.” The other’s a collaboration with this emcee Nieve out of Cali—dude’s a crazy lyricist. Both of those albums are gonna feature production from the producer team “Ren and Ken,” so if you like the production on those 2 tracks I was talking about, you’re gonna find some treats on those albums. As for where we’re trying to take the Green Street movement? We’re really just riding the wave right now, trying to see where it takes us. The future’s something you can never bet on, but music’s such a big part of our life that we’d like to keep it going as long as we can. Looking back at how far we’ve come, anything’s possible.


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