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Fat Ray Interview

May 14, 2008

Chances are you’ve been a Fat Ray fan for a long time, even if you didn’t realize it. The 7 Mile veteran has rep’d the D proudly since the days of the Hip Hop Shop, whether it’s with fellow Detroiters like Black Milk and Young RJ as the trio of B.R. Gunna, or in the national spotlight as a contestant on 106 & Park’s Freestyle Friday. But this year, you’ll know who you’re hearing: after enjoying breakout success in 2007, Black Milk has started his own label, Music House. The label’s first release is The Set Up, an LP that features him behind the boards and Fat Ray on the mic. The album has garnered critical acclaim, putting it at the forefront in what many have dubbed as the year that The Mitten finally gets the attention it deserves: a destination that Fat Ray has been working toward for years. As he says in the interview below, “When it’s your time to shine, and the camera lights turn on, you gotta be ready.”

Follow the jump to read MichiganHipHop.com’s conversation with Ray. From beats & rhymes, to talking about the times, the way Fat Ray amazes is amazing…

So what’s been going on since The Set Up dropped?
You know, things been real, real crazy. I ain’t expect it to be the way it is right now, but Hip Hop is gelling together man. I think people are getting more aware about what’s going on. And Hip Hop as a whole, they callin’ Fat Ray, man. And me, I represent the underground railroad of Detroit Hip Hop so it’s really a blessing, man. A lot of people concerned about what’s goin’ on in the D, and for me to be a representative [of this].

How long have you been rappin’?
When I came up in the studio, I’d say I’ve been rappin’ since the Kris Kross era, the Another Bad Creation era. You know, real poppy. But, at the same time, it was like super illegal like the Geto Boyz era, Esham era, Ice T era.

Was there one defining moment, or maybe one defining artist that you’ve heard, that made you say, “This is what I need to be doing with my life.”
Yeah, I was actually talkin’ about this earlier. At the time, my man Phat Kat had a deal on Pay Day [Records]. He had a song called Don’t Nobody Care About Us [and] it was produced by J Dilla, and it was just a real big record for me. He was one of the artists that really influenced me.

Going back to the 106th & Park days, how did that come about?
It was one of those things where, by me being from a certain part of Detroit, it was just like cats don’t think certain things are possible to overcome. So, I did the whole 106th & Park thing just to show a couple of my peers that it could be done, that artists from the neighborhood could go to New York and end up on TV. I actually went out there visitin’ one of my homeboys and we decided that we was gon’ go out there and go on the show, and see if we can get on the show. One of my homeboys went out there, and they let him do a little rhyme in between the show break, and they were feelin’ him. So the dude we initially plugged with was like, “Y’all kids from Detroit, y’all crazy.” Then he had the opportunity to hear me flow and he was like, “Awww man, y’all are dope. What I’ma do for y’all, is I’ma put y’all on the next two episodes of 106th & Park.” So, my man ended up goin’ on first [and] I feel like he got cheated out of his shot. But, right after that, [they] pulled me in and I ended up winning. It was just a good look, man. It was just to show that it could be done. That a Detroit cat and go to New York cats and show them what it was, and show them that we was just as sweet as everybody else.

So who were some of the people that you had to go through to win?
Actually, it was a one shot deal. I won the first time I went on. I battled some cat from GA, forgive (me) for forgetting his name but it really wasn’t about him. At the time, I ain’t know what it was really like. It was like, “Get it how you live.” [laughs] They wasn’t payin’ for nothing. You just come in and get yo’ little shot at fame. So, for us ridin’ back and forth from Detroit to New York, I really wasn’t with that. At the same time, I was already signed to a label, Barak Records. My heart really wasn’t in the battling thing. At the same time, I went two rounds. The second time I went, it was some fluke play that went on with another artist. But, I showed it could be done. When it’s your time to shine, and the camera lights turn on, you gotta be ready.

How did your partnership with Black Milk come about?
Actually, I met Black at a show. Black & Young RJ came up to me after the show and we chopped it up, and he asked me to come do a couple of tracks for the mixtape—Dirty District—and we just took it from there. I went and did a couple of songs, and we just had a phenomenal sound that we cooked up. They put me in the group (B.R. Gunna) and we took it from there.

I remember the first time I saw you perform was a couple years ago at an Iron Fist summer concert at the Music Hall, where Royce Da 5’9″ was headlining. How does it feel now that you’re the headliner, and cats like Royce were opening for you at the listening party for The Set Up?
It’s crazy, man. I can say that out of all honesty, hard work pays off. A few of these guys I still look up to now, like Elzhi and Royce. By me being a real Detroit emcee, I’ve dealt with these guys on an underground level and seen them become the artists that they are. And for me to be coming into fruition to where they’re sharing business secrets with me and giving me the game, it’s a blessing to be critically acclaimed…because I’ve worked real hard to get where I’m at right now. I work two jobs, you know what I’m sayin’? I got Hip Hop, then I got another job. And I got a family too, I got a big family. So for me to even have the time to dedicate to this rap thing, and for it to be taking off is like a blessing to me. Because I know I’ve sacrificed to do this. I take time out of my real life to share this with everybody, and to make sure I got an equal investment in the movement. When I see my name on the marquee, and when I see, “Special performances by Elzhi and Phat Kat, Guilty Simpson” and all these cats that’s comin’ out to show me love makes me feel like I did something right and makes me wanna continue to use this formula that we got to share with each other. It’s a blessing for me. I just know that don’t nobody owe me nothing, so for everybody to be showing me love right now means the world to me and I just wanna reciprocate that.

So how does it feel seeing your name on the marquee, coming from being in a group with two critically acclaimed producers? Did it felt like you’ve finally arrived?
It feels like me and Hip Hop are taking in another direction because I consider myself like a runaway slave to the whole system. You got the way that things work in this music industry, you got the people who are responsible for the music industry being like that, and then you got cats like me who do things the way they’re supposed to be done, hypothetically. We’re real independent wit’ it right now. It aint like I’m punchin’ no schedule, or doin’ something that the big boss man sayin’ has to be done. We’re doin’ this strictly out of the love of Hip Hop, and out of the urgency that we don’t want the legacy of Big Proof and my man J Dilla to die. We want the world to know that we are descendents of these great martyrs, musically, and that we got what it takes as well.

So, you don’t gotta stray away from us, we got what it takes as well. And we don’t need your industry to solidify what we do because it’s not for the industry, it’s for us. If people wanna give the industry that much power, to where the industry represents the people… I don’t think it works that way. I think the people represent the industry. So, if you can get to the people before the industry do, then you can sway the view. You can sway their opinion, so it might not take a million dollar budget for Fat Ray to get in your CD changer. It might not take a world tour for Fat Ray on your computer screen. All you gotta do is start lookin’ for real, Detroit underground artists and one way or another you’re gonna bump into me because that’s what I represent. I try to keep it fully thorough at all times, as far as Detroit goes and as far as I go musically. The game is comin’ to a point where it wanna hear real artist, and they’re lookin’ for real artists. They’re tired of this façade people put on. That’s why they’re lookin’ for Fat Ray right now, because the game has came to that. There’s a time and place for everything, and now it’s the time and place for Fat Ray and Black Milk.

Looking at the current state of Hip Hop and Detroit radio, what do you feel it’s at and where do you feel Detroit Hip Hop can come in and take over?
I was having this same conversation the other day. My man was sayin, “Yo Ray you been doin’ so much and doin’ so good, and the radio won’t show you no love.” It raised a question for me. When Detroit artists don’t get spins, is it the artists’ fault or is it the fault of the conglomerate? The reason why I don’t get spins from radio, and I know why these other local artists don’t get spin from radio either. They think it’s because they buddies at the radio stations don’t wanna play their records, and that’s not it. It’s that this industry is set up to box out the underdog and set up to overwhelm the consumer with that visual and verbal imagery that they put the money behind. So, can I get mad because I’m the local artist and I don’t know the Program Director at the number one Clear Channel station? I don’t know the Program Director, but one of my homeboys work there, he spin records and I get mad at my homeboy because he’s not spinnin’ my record? It’s my responsibility as an artist to make sure the Program Director at the station knows who I am, first and foremost. Second of all, know that I got equal investment in the movement. I think that artists are scared to voice their opinions about what’s really goin’ on. They sit back waitin’, and it don’t work like that. Even though you can sit back and blame it on the super powers and say, “Yeah, they’re not playing our records,” at the same time, we’re not forcing them to [do so].

Every day, when we turn on the radio to listen to the same monotony of whatever they decide to force feed us, we’re not doing enough to change the culture of the landscape.
You know, the love is here. You let Jigga and Lil Wayne come here, and they leave with twenty-thirty thousand, and sometimes fifty to one-hundred-thousand out of a two night weekend in our city and they can invade our city and invade our radio stations, and we allow them to do that. But, it’s not one local artist we can send down south that’s gon’ come back with thirty or forty thousand dollars of their money to break bread with the people that’s here. You understand what I’m sayin’? That’s something that’s got to do with fear, and nobody’s willing to stand up and say, “Hey, we got an equal investment in this thing. It can’t just be one side.”

You’ve said entertainment is dangerous—
—Definitely. Entertainment is responsible for deaths! It’s responsible for the lives and the careers of a lot of cats, and it’s also been responsible for the deaths and the shortcomings of a lot of cats. Entertainment is a weapon, a weapon that is used to give birth to a lot of careers and end a lot of careers.

Well do you feel, as an entertainer, that you have a personal responsibility to watch or monitor what you say, to make sure the next person or kid who picks up your album isn’t negatively influenced.
If I wanna crucify myself, then I could say “Yes” to that question. But, the reality of it is, I’m not gon’ be nothing more than a man just like everyone else in this world. I’m not gon’ be nothing more than what I see fit at the time. I can’t predict whether I’ma monitor myself for your child. I can’t predict whether I’ma do the right thing or make the right decisions all the time. All I can tell you is that, I’ma be Fat Ray and I’ma be true to myself at the end of the day. If anything outside of that offend you, and you see I’m responsible for it, [then] all I can do is apologize for being a man and apologize for doing what it is that I know. I’m not gonna monitor, or I’m not gonna water nothing down that I feel in my heart to compensate nobody for their shortcomings. What you do in your home is your business, what I do with my music is my business. It’s just like the church. The doors of the church is open to all who believe. If you believe in what I’m doin’, you’re welcome 100% but I’m not gon’ change the text or I’m not gon’ change the scripture to appease you. If you feel the words, if the words of the bible inspire you [then] you’re welcome. I’m not gon’ alter the text to appease nobody. Only God can judge me, so I’m not gon’ make myself responsible for nobody else shortcomings, except for my own. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit that. But, I’m not gon’ premeditate being wrong.

That’s all you can do, is be responsible for yourself. Your persecutors are gon’ persecute you regardless, (so) you can’t live in fear of persecution. Referring back to the Kwame situation, he did what he thought he could get away with at the time, or whatever the case scenario may be. It goes to show that what’s done in the dark DOES come to light, but at the same time, does that mean it’s relevant or not to ruin your career? Who’s weighing up these consequences? Who’s the decider? Who castin’ the stones, who throwin’ the first stone? I’m trying to find out who has the perfect hand to be throwin’ these stones, you feel me?

Even Judas casted his own stones.
Exactly. Ain’t no man that’s free from the inequity of this world. Who’s the persecutor? Who’s the critic? Who’s qualified to say that Kwame shouldn’t be the mayor? I wanna meet this person. Who’s qualified to say that Fat Ray ain’t the next big thing out of Detroit? I wanna know! Who’s qualified to say that this ain’t the coldest interview [that I’ve done], you know what I’m sayin’? It’s like, it’s what we make it. Like, from my opinion, I can say that this is the coldest interview that I’ve ever done ’cause it’s real life. It’s right now [and] everything else I did is in the past.

Fat Ray & Black Milk “Flawless”

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Fat Ray & Black Milk “Take Control (Feat. AB)”

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Fat Ray & Black Milk “Bad Man (Feat. Guilty Simpson & Scorpian)”

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3 Comments »

  1. sweeneykovar says:

    good shit. Fat Ray is the fucking truth.

    May 15th, 2008 at 12:54 pm

  2. Marcel says:

    Thanks fam, Ray is the truth!

    May 15th, 2008 at 1:51 pm

  3. newyorkmusic says:

    thats what is is Fat Ray!

    you are the real deal

    keep doing what you do..

    June 23rd, 2008 at 11:37 pm

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