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Meyhem Lauren: "Street Art Will Never Be Real Graffiti"

Meyhem Lauren: "Street Art Will Never Be Real Graffiti"
Meyhem Lauren via Instagram

[Editor's note: In "Tweets Is Watching," Phillip Mlynar asks local artists questions based solely on the contents of their Twitter timeline.]

Queens repping Meyhem Lauren is dropping his new Silk Pyramids project this week. Produced from top-to-bottom by the D.I.T.C. icon Buckwild, you can check the first leak "Q.U. Cartilage" below to get a taste of the duo's fine blend. In celebration of the project's release, here's Meyhem Lauren going deep on the meaning behind the album title, breaking down the difference between graffiti and street art, and philosophizing over gravy recipes.

See also: Despot Pays Tribute to Ratking: "That Is Some Very Particularly New York Shit."

When did the idea to do an album entirely produced by Buckwild come about? It was about two years ago when we first spoke about it. At the time I was being managed by Dante Ross and he and Buckwild are long-term friends. Buck heard some of my material through him, spoke to Dante and made it happen.

What was the studio vibe like between you and Buckwild? When we got in the studio together, it was a pretty calm experience. He would create most of the beats from scratch then I'd sit there and write to them while he'd go in another room and work on something else, then we'd lay it down. It was a pretty smooth process. I enjoyed working with just the one producer for the project -- I feel like we got a pretty cohesive sound. And I also think that helped me grow for this project. I think it's a little more polished, conceptually I'm going a little more deeper, and now I'm thinking about performing songs more than ever. I used to just write to get a point across, but now I'm thinking about how they will translate to my live show. That's a big difference.

Did Buckwild give you any tips on how to lay your vocals down? Not necessarily tips but he was vocal about what he did and did not like. Most of the time he was cool with what I laid down but he'd sometimes tell me I could do something better; he wouldn't actually tell me specifically how but he'd tell me to re-do the vocals. It was cool to have someone of Buckwild's standards asking me to do that. I mean, think about the things he'd produced -- Big L's stuff, Fat Joe, the Big Pun records, everything he did for O.C., The Notorious B.I.G.

I'm guessing the album title, Silk Pyramids, was your idea? Yes it was.

Can you break it down? Well silk pyramids is really whatever you want it to be, to be honest. From a philosophical point of view, when I was thinking of the title I was thinking that pyramid is a phenomenal structure, especially during the time period they were built, and silk is one of my favorite fabrics 'cause it's smooth. So I kinda just thought about my rhyme style and how it's calculated but still smooth. But I mean, a silk pyramid doesn't really exist so it can be whatever you want it to be.  

Can you explain what you meant about the difference between street art and graffiti? Yeah, basically graffiti art is the purest form. It's street-bombing, tags, pieces, all of the above, not just one of them, and breaking the law. I'm not trying to advocate breaking the law, but if you're gonna consider yourself a real graffiti artist then you can't only do permission spots, you can't only do legal spots -- you have to get out there in the streets and take some risks. Although I like street art, I don't consider it graffiti because a lot of it is people that never really paid their dues or learned the skills. Dudes that can draw murals and take pictures of people, they're artists but they don't do the real hand stuff -- you can tell that they skipped phases. That's fine, but don't consider yourself a graffiti artist if you haven't mastered all of it.

How do you feel now that street art is so fashionable? I don't mind it. For the most part I like street art. Obviously I don't like all street art 'cause that's like saying you like art in general and nobody likes all art -- just as I don't like all graffiti -- but I like it for the most part but it's not graffiti 'cause they're two different things. It's like watching a baseball game and watching a basketball game -- they're different things, you know?

You recently suggested that you might give out gravy at your next show. Is that likely to happen? Yeah, it is likely to happen depending on the venue and if I have time to actually prepare it. When I did the Mandatory Brunch Meetings release party I definitely gave brunch out: I had attractive young ladies running around the crowd with bagels and cream cheese and coffee and orange juice. Whenever I can give food to the crowd, I love to, so I might have to make a mean gravy.

What's the biggest mistake people make when making gravy? You can make the flame too hot and that will burn the bottom layer and then that will affect the whole pot. It'll make it all taste burnt. You've got to step it up and make sure you don't burn that bottom layer which unfortunately a lot of people do.

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