M.O.P.’s Five Favorite Collaborations


If you don’t like M.O.P., you probably don’t really like rap music—or so the cliché goes. But there’s something in the sentiment: For nearly two decades now, Billy Danze and Lil Fame have been putting out passionate, uncompromising rap music that’s rooted in a resolutely east cost aesthetic. Fame was even moved to mandate, “When I die, make sure you bury me with a cassette of [Eric B & Rakim’s] Paid In Full.”

The duo, originally based in Brownsville, has worked with a who’s who of New York hip-hop heavy hitters; they even endured stints signed to Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records and 50 Cent’s G-Unit movement. Now they’ve hooked up with European production unit The Snowgoons for the full-length project Sparta. To tie-in with its release, we asked Billy and Fame to reminisce over their favorite collaborations from the vault.

Jay-Z, “4 Alarm Blaze

Lil Fame: “At first, ‘4 Alarm Blaze’ was just three of us on it [Teflon also features on the song]. Back in the days, D&D Studios was just a hang out, like that’s where Guru always was. So most of the artists that worked with DJ Premier and the D&D camp would be up in D&D; all types of dudes walked in there. Jay would come through there a lot and one day he was like, ‘It’s “4 Alarm Blaze” but there’s only three people on the fuckin’ song! Let me get a verse on it.'”

Billy Danze: “Jay-Z actually went as hard as he could to get on the track. I don’t want to say beg, but he kinda made it clear how much he really wanted to be on the track. The track was already closed and playing on the radio and everything, but he was really heart-set on getting on that record.”

Lil Fame: “We gave Jay the invite and he left the studio and rode around the block a couple of times in his car. Half an hour later, he came back with his rhyme and laid it down.”

Kool G Rap, “Stick To Ya Gunz

Lil Fame: “That’s one of my favorites, man. Just growing up in junior high, G Rap was kinda like the underdog, but one of the best from the Juice Crew. I’m a Juice Crew fanatic. Just meeting G Rap knowing who he was and him knowing who I was, like before I walk up to him he’s got his hand out to shake it, to reach and give me a pound… I was like, ‘Damn!’ It’s always a good thing to meet the artists that you love growing up and see their attitude is good or better than you imagine. He’s like an older brother for me.”

Billy Danze: “We stayed in the studio with G Rap for two or three days. Everything was created right there; Premier came and created the beat right in front of our face, and G Rap wrote his verse right there. It was amazing. When the bell rang they were like, ‘Who is it?’ ‘G Rap.’ I went right immediately and left the studio and met him at the elevator. That man is amazing to us.”

Lil Fame: “In the studio, G Rap is just a wizard. He goes inside—he writes quick. He told me the key to writing a rhyme is just having the beginning—just something to start—and then he goes all in. And you can tell he’s smart. He works quick and he’s just racing, you know what I mean?”

Guru, “Half And Half

Lil Fame: “Guru’s one of a kind. He don’t hold no punches, he’ll tell you how he feels and he’s just so into music. He has a passion for music and lyrics and good delivery. He’s one of the first artists that actually told me to do my rhyme over—and I took his opinion and did it over. I always looked up to Guru. Coming out of Brooklyn back in the day, we didn’t have too many artists that was popular: we had Bid Daddy Kane, Buckshot, and we had Gang Starr, who was based in Brooklyn. Guru was just more the street shit, like he’s the intelligent dude plus he’s street. I don’t care how big you is, Guru’s gonna tell you how he thinks.”

Billy Danze: “The way Guru recorded was weird because he would put the verse together as he went along. I guess he would jot down his thoughts, then go in and do the verse, then come out and talk to Premier about it. But then he’ll move the words around and the order around—he won’t change the meaning of the words, but he’ll move the order around as he’s in the booth. After the fourth or fifth time, he’ll have the song complete. But he never changes the whole subject or meaning of the song. I thought that was really creative.”

Busta Rhymes, “Ante Up (Remix)

Billy Danze: “Busta is incredible dude. Energetic is an understatement when you talk about Busta Rhymes! The same way you see him in those videos? Busta is like that all day long! And the dude will make you work hard. He’s real inspiring. This dude actually made me leave my house and get on an airplane to get all the way to California to do a record. It turned out to be two or three. He’s passionate. It comes across in his music—he’s not one of those artists that halfway do a record. He’s either gonna do it all the way or not do it at all. Did he fly me first class? Yep, he did! On Delta Air Lines!”

Lil Fame: “Busta is just stupid! Busta’s crazy! When you need a remix, he’s gonna bring you what you need. Busta’s a good brother also. We vibe creatively, musically, and if it’s something he wants an opinion on he’ll holler at us, like, ‘Yo, what do you think of these joints?’ He’ll ask our opinion, and vice versa. And Busta is always with the energy! I don’t know where he gets it from—I think he’s mentally off! Busta’s classic, man.”

DJ Premier, “Downtown Swinga

Billy Danze: “The first time I met Premier was actually at the radio station; he was playing on WBLS at the time. Of course I was always a fan, but he was all that I expected of him: he was cool, down to earth, a good dude, and so passionate about his music. Three or four months after that we went into the studio with him to do a remix for ‘How About Some Hardcore,’ but it turned out to be the first ‘Downtown Swinga’ song. I learn something every time I see Premo, even if he’s just playing records. Maybe I’m just so excited about him because he’s my family and seeing someone that’s in my family being accepted by the people is exciting.”

Lil Fame: “Premier is just a genius.”


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