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YC The Cynic released his excellent GNK album last week, and now we’re proud to premiere the video to the storming “The Heaviest Cross.” It’s a track the Bronx-based rapper calls “one of the more introspective records on the album,” and he describes visuals as “kinda like different rooms in this weird place that represents each verse: The first verse is about my career. The second verse is about my family. The third verse I guess I’m talking about spiritual beliefs.” Shot in the South Bronx, the flick was directed by Oliver Eid. After you peep the heavyweight eye candy below, read on to hear YC run through the ’90s rap references that are nestled throughout GNK, including quotes from 2Pac and lyrical nods to Biggie and A Tribe Called Quest.
“The Pacs” includes a quotes from 2Pac, right?
Yes, it starts and ends with a quote from 2Pac.
Where are the quotes from?
They’re just from various interviews that he did. He doesn’t necessarily share how much knowledge he has about the world in his music but in his interviews it’s crazy.
Were you inspired by him as a kid?
I was born in 1990 so when 2Pac died I was like six or seven. I remember hearing on the radio that he died but I didn’t necessarily have an emotional connection to him because I was young. Then Biggie passed away shortly after. As a kid, it all happened in like the same time period. But I couldn’t necessarily understand what was going on at that time.
One of the 2Pac quotes talks about not changing the world but wanting to “spark the brain” that will. Did any of 2Pac’s songs do that for you?
I got to be honest, I was never a huge fan of the music of 2Pac. I’ve always loved the revolutionary angle and ideas that he had, so hearing him speak and hearing how he affected people who did love his music, I’ll always have respect for him as an artist because of that and of course isolated songs, but I was more a fan of the man and his intellectual properties than the music itself.
Why was that?
Well for me, I was rapping since I was eight or nine-years-old and I’ve always been a fan of lyricism and he’s not necessarily the most technically sound MC. His thing is straight emotion and feeling and I didn’t really look for that in hip-hop music until I grew up. So that’s my reason. But I know a lot of people that don’t necessarily love him ’cause his messages were so conflicting a lot of times and they might not necessarily understand that we’re complex human beings and we can feel this way and that way and not be a contradiction of both.
See also: What’s Up With Hip-Hop’s Obsession With the Suzanne Vega Hit “Tom’s Diner”?
On “Murphy’s Law,” is that you rapping part of The Notorious BIG’s “Notorious Thugs”?
Oh yeah, that was me.
When did you have the idea to do that?
I was in the studio with Frank Drake, my producer, and we were listening to the beat and I was having a hard time writing to it because it was such a slow song. We were thinking of songs that would sound slow over that beat — and this is before the concept was made — and he said it sounded like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and I agreed and the only song with Bone Thugs on that popped into my head was “Notorious Thugs.” I started rapping Biggie’s verse and it fit so perfectly that I knew I had to keep it and I wrote a song around it.
Were you worried people might be critical of you using Biggie’s flow and words on the song? People can be very possessive of his music.
Nah, that never really crossed my mind. I don’t really feel like anything is off limits in music. Maybe that might come back to haunt me one day, but I think it’s public domain for the most part. Of course, that changes when lots of money is involved but right now I think whatever works creatively, go for it.
What was the hardest part about replicating Biggie’s flow?
It wasn’t hard at all. I think that verse is kinda embedded in a lot of people. I knew the flow like the back of my hand even though I’ve never practiced the song. It’s such a popular and addictive verse.
Is the “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha” laughing on the song inspired by Biggie’s “What’s Beef?” too?
Yeah, it was. It was actually a friend of mine that recorded that.
On “Molotovs of Poseidon” you throw in part of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Sucka Nigga.”
Yep. Tribe was a similar thing to me like 2Pac. When I first started rapping I started going to a studio that my older brother, Marc Bucannons, used to go to called WACO Division and I was like 15. First thing they did was make me listen to everybody that came before me. I think that’s something that doesn’t happen at all today and you can kinda hear it in the music. But they made me study everything that came before me and I had a knowledge of all these artists. I was never a huge Tribe fan as a kid though. They had pretty kinda mature music and it didn’t really get to me as a kid — I wanted to hear more something that makes me happy, you know! But now, I see the visions behind it for sure.
I’m guessing the reference to Posdnuos is also a similar situation?
Yeah, absolutely, it’s the same with De La Soul as with Tribe for me.
Are you referencing Big Pun on the chorus to “Negus”?
No, is there a Big Pun rhyme that’s similar?
Yeah, on “Off Wit His Head.”
That was C-Murder I was taking it from, I believe. In 2013 It’s kinda crazy how, just like with classic R&B and soul songs, they didn’t portray the original songs and verses. I didn’t even know C-Murder was the original version but I’ve heard a lot of people use that so it was like another popular flow and rhythm that was invented and I didn’t even know the origins behind it but I saw it as a great opportunity, just like with “Murphy’s Law,” to change this popular phrase or flow and make it into a positive one when it might not have been in the beginning.
So on “PWRTRP” is the bit where you ask “Who the fuck are you?” inspired by Slick Rick’s “Lick The Ball”? Or am I reading way too much into it?
Maybe! I didn’t even know Slick Rick did anything like that! I thought that was original…