Q&A: Meyhem Lauren On Hotel Life, Ralph Lauren, And Why The Wu-Tang Clan Is The Best Rap Group Of All Time
Room 426 at the Embassy Suites hotel in Texas might not be up there with the great rap recording studios, but for two days earlier this year it was transformed into an impromptu hip-hop spot by Meyhem Lauren. While he was there, the Queens resident and long-time Action Bronson associate cut a new mixtape, which is now released today via Das Racist's Greedhead label. Titled Respect The Fly Shit, the project showcases Lauren's weighty way with words, and has been preceded by a video for "Special Effects" that co-stars Heems wearing a very silly hat.
With Meyhem Lauren's profile looking to receive its biggest boost yet, we checked in with him to talk about going way back with Das Racist, his obsession with Ralph Lauren's Polo clothing line, and why he's convinced the Wu-Tang Clan are the greatest ever rap group in the world.
How does Respect The Fly Shit differ from projects you've released before?
I would say there was less thought put into it, as far as the concepts concerned, which I think created better music. We did the majority of this project in two days in a hotel room in Texas, so the vibe was like we were on vacation, in a different element, doing so many shows, and in a hyper environmentwhich is the feeling I wanted the album to have.
What was the hotel room like?
The hotel room was crazy! There was a lot of room service, a lot of barbecue, a lot of smoking, a lot of drinking. It was at South by South-West. It was a crazy environmentI honestly don't know how they didn't kick us out! We had a mic on top of the ice bucket, you know, we just set up shop and turned the hotel into a recording studio.
What was the most over-the-top thing you ordered from room service?
I believe Action [Bronson] ordered like 26 crab cakes! That was just to do it. Then he ordered everyone ice cream sundaes too. They were smoking so much they out some sort of machine outside of our room, like a high-tech vaporizer that looked like a proton pack from Ghostbusters. If we didn't order so much room service I'm convinced they would have kicked us out.
Did you give the hotel room turned recording studio a name?
Nah. I think it was room 426 though. Embassy Suites, we love you!
The mixtape's being released via Greedhead. How did you hook up with Das Racist?
I've actually been friends with them for a while. We had mutual friends; we met before they blew up. We've been cool for a while. When I met them, I was kinda not doing musicI was in a down periodthen when I started again they were like, "Let's work 'cause we're already cool."
Were you surprised that they were making music themselves?
Nah. They told me they had a plan and they made it happen. I think they might be surprised at how far they've got, but I'm glad for them.
On the first single from the project, "Special Effects," you talk about having a waterfall in your living room. What's your favorite ridiculous boast a rapper has ever made?
Yo, I probably go back to Special Ed's "I Got It Made." He had the island of his own, he had the dog with the solid gold bone! But with that line [of mine], I didn't say I have a waterfall in my living room, I said that's what's I'm going for. So hopefully next year with the next album we'll be doing this interview in a living room in front of my waterfall!
Where did Heems get the hat he wears in the "Special Effects" video from?
The building that we did the shoot in, we just found those hats. The one Bronson had on too, they just picked them up and wore them in the video. That's what the whole project's likea lot of things weren't planned. It was like, "Oh shit, we found a hat, let's grab the mic and do it."
Alongside your music, you're also known as a connoisseur of Ralph Lauren Polo clothing. When did your infatuation with the brand start?
I may have been like 12 or 13 years old, like as soon as I went to junior high and got my MetroCard and could travel and do graffiti. Polo's like the start of the fly shit.
What attracted you to it?
Really, just like the colors, and the fact that you can kinda camouflage in Polo. A lot of people think like, "Oh, he's just a loyalist," but the way Ralph Lauren has it, you don't have to wear anything elseyou can go to work, you can go skiing, you can go fishing, you can go to somewhere formal. He came with more markets so you really don't have to go elsewhere. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
What's your most prized Polo possession?
I'd say my Snow Beach hoodie. A lot of people like the Snow Beach jacket Raekwon wore in the "Can It All Be So Simple" video, but I like the hoodie better. I don't know if it's the most valuable item to anyone, but that's my personal favorite.
The Lo Lifes were known for raiding department stores and making off with Polo clothing. What's the craziest rumor or story you've heard about them?
I think it's a lot of misinformation. I've witnessed some real crazy stories that I don't want to get into, but all I can say is the past is the past, but the majority [of Lo Lifes] are grown now. The younger generation have kids, it's a positive thing, people are home owners, giving back to the community and things like that they don't talk about. A lot of good things going on in Lo Lifes now.
Did you once mention that the Wu-Tang Clan were the greatest ever rap group of all time in a song?
Why do you think that?
There's just so much talent. First of all, to even have a group of that size of people with so much equal talent, and then the effect they had on society during that era. That was the Wu-Tang era: people were talking like them, people were dressing like them, and it was deeper than rap. Their whole image was the way to be back then.
Can you remember the first time you heard a Wu-Tang Clan song?
I probably heard "Protect Ya Neck" but the first song that caught me was "C.R.E.A.M." and after that I went back to the other songs. With "C.R.E.A.M." I was like, just wow. I was young at the timeI had to be 12-years-old when "C.R.E.A.M." droppedand I remember me and my brother would just watch Video Music Box all day. We just wanted to hear that and [Gang Starr's] "Mass Appeal." Those dudes are still idols to me.
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