Five Star General Steele

Published by: NJ on 2nd Feb 2011 | View all blogs by NJ
       Five Star General Steele
                                                                                                 By Natasha Jordan (NJ)

“Being an agent of speech or agent of information.
I can communicate with people across the world
So what I say has to be important
It has to be helpful. 
 It has to be unless I’m just agent for destruction”.
                               -General Steele            

A strong sense of one’s identity, commitment, empathy, adaptability, a good sense of humor and great survival instincts are among the hallmarks of a Boot Camp Clik Soldier.   All these qualities can be summarized in two simplistic words; General Steele.   You see these are but few of the characteristics that have seen a veteran like General Steele through these hip hop transitional years.

In these days and times there are a thousands rappers out there who have mastered their flow, honed their auto tune skills and become absolutely fluent in self expression through skinny jeans. Sure,they may be considered the most prolific lyricist since Rakim, to those who don’t know any better.   However, there are still some true ride or die hip hop fans who know good music.  Good music is commitment, courage, initiative, empathy, self confidence, fun, laughter, love, longevity, and character.  These characteristics are the reason why fans eagerly anticipate the dynamic duo’s forthcoming album “Monumental”.

The legendary Brooklyn duo Smif-n-Wessun (aka Cocoa Brovaz) has collaborated with Pete Rock and will return with not just the next chapter but what expected to be a whole new novel in Hip Hop.  Melodic Hustle recently sat down with General Steele, one half of Smif-n-Wessun during a busy afternoon to talk about his hip hop influences, the challenges of pleasing a younger audience, and to uncover what truly defines a Boot Camp Clik Soldier.

SNW.JPG I’m a fan and avid reader so I’ve read several of your interviews where you’ve talked about the coming and going of the Smif-n-Wessun name. I want to know more about General Steele!  Where did you get the name from and is there some type of meaning behind it.

General Steele: I got my name from gang banging with the Decepticons in the 90's from my big homie Minnosaur.   My full name was Steelepunch, which is self explanatory! Wow! I have never read that before!  I knew there was something more behind your name!   Much like your fan base, we have a lot of variety in our readership. Can you describe your music style for any readers who are new to Earth and meeting you for the first time?

General Steele: My style of music represents the pulse of the common people.  I speak as a street griot reflecting the evolution of people living in the ghettos of America and the world. You speak with such passion.  Tell me was there a special someone in your life that told you as a child, “that you can be, do or have anything in this world and if so when did you start believing it?

General Steele: No, I always went against the grain.  No one believed in me but me 7 God.   My dad use to tell me that rap stuff will never work.  Then right before he died he told me he was proud of me for following my dreams and being my own person.  That means more to me than any amount of money or award. That’s real!  Now I understand that you were your own supporting cast growing up but there had to be someone who inspired you to become involved with hip hop.  

General Steele: When you grow up in the ghetto you are surrounded by hip hop on many levels.  When I was in high school my good friend Chase said I was going to be his partner, at the time I paid no mind but Chase had a vision. And so it began! I love to laugh so it’s not uncommon to hear me joking around about auto tunes, skinny jeans and some of the different things we see in hip hop expression today.  On a serious note how would you say your music has evolved since you first began as a hip hop artist?

General Steele: My music has become more direct in the immediate thought and concerns of the common people.

SNW5 copy 3.JPG If you knew then, what you know now, when you first started in the industry what would you have done differently if anything?

General Steele: NOTHING! (laughs) Okay, I like that!  A man with no regrets!  Eighteen years in the game and still going strong, how does a veteran such as yourself please a younger audience that may not know who you are?

General Steele:  I pay attention to what the people want no matter the age requirement.  The pulse of the people beats thru us all. That’s a perfect segway to my next question.  Now the amount of ghostwriting that goes on in the industry today truly amazes me.  I will not ask you to reveal any of you clients but are you among the many MC’s’ that ghostwrite!

General Steele:(laughs) HAHA! (laughs) Okay we’ll come back to that one!  What “distinguishes” a lyricist from a rapper in your opinion?

General Steele: The lyricist becomes what he is trying to convey thru speech.  The rapper just raps and is comfortable with the accolades, having fun and getting money, etc.  The lyricist works to make sense to him or herself and becomes one with the message. Anybody can be a rapper, not every rapper is a lyricist. On a more personal note what is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into because of your lyrics.  Maybe an argument with your girl or a misunderstanding with a family member or another artist?

General Steele: (erupts with laughter) All of the above too numerous to mention! (laughs again)  But in 1995 Smif-n-Wessun faced a lawsuit from the gun company Smith and Wesson. Yeah! I remember feeling like it was one of the first legal attacks on Hip Hop of many.   But you guys definitely handled it with a grace they did not expect from the hip hop community.

SNW3.JPG Okay here’s a tough one for you!  What’s your favorite three hip hop albums of all time if you can narrow it down?

General Steele: (without hesitation)  Blackmoon’s - Enta The Stage, Smif-n-Wessun’s - Dah Shining and Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Maybe that was not as tough as I thought!  Here’s another one!  What’s the hottest bar you ever heard an MC spit excluding your own of course?

General Steele: “Thinking of a master plan but ain’t nothing but sweat inside my hands” Rakim That’s definitely a classic!  If General Steele could record and or perform with anyone in the world either departed or alive who would it be and why? 

General Steele: I would have loved to work with Curtis Mayfield.  I can really relate to the pain and the promise in his music.  That’s deep, but lets go deeper!  What don’t we know about you? Tell me something that I can’t find by doing a Google search on General Steele. What are some of your interest or hidden talents?

General Steele: I love to edit, I love to cook and I love my people. All of which you will see incorporated in the future works of Bucktown USA ENT. Am I sensing a “Cooking with General Steele” show in the works (laughs).  You’ve been in this business almost two decades. What do you do for fun and or relaxation away from the music?  

General Steele: I am a simple man.  I relax when I can but I love to work.  I get satisfaction from making progress.   This brings certain calmness to me, but there are many things I like to do to relax. Everybody has their own definition of success.  Define yours?

General Steele: Success for me is Genesis Inity and Massai Jahbriel my two suns (sons). That’s a beautiful definition for success.  I once heard Will Smith say in an interview, “Don’t get ready, be ready”.   So I began using that as a daily affirmation.   Do you have a daily affirmation that you say to yourself to help you stay focused?

General Steele: GIVE THANKS! Any advice for the new era of rappers and lyricist who are trying to make a name for themselves in the hip hop game now?

General Steele: Know thyself; know your people and your struggle.  Work hard, have patience for creation, have fun and live.

Shot_18-009 copy.jpg  In 2010 you released Amerikkka's Nightmare Part 2 Children Of War, which was a total enlightening experience for hip hop.  In my opinion no one had dedicated an entire album with the intent to go  head on with heavy political, controversial issues since Public Enemy.   Occasionally we may hear a rapper drop a one or two liner here and there, but after that it’s back to popping bottles.  I say all this to ask, what legacy will General Steele, the man, the father, the lyricist, the leader leave for generations to come.     

General Steele: The legacy I leave will be the testament of those who lived in the same timeline as me.  The ones who can attest to the daily struggles of the common people and can speak of the leaders and the pioneers who have made a great impact on people and the culture We are really excited about the Smif-n-Wessun and Pete Rock upcoming new album “Monumental”. What else can we expect from you in the near future?

General Steele: More behind the scene work.   More community involvement, more success and more living.  Just for few laughs before we end.  I’ll start a sentence and I want you to finish it!  Without Hip- Hop I would be ...

General Steele: A jazz musician (laughs) (laughs) from listening to my lyrics you would never know that I...

General Steele:  Like country music (laughs)  Hip Hop is...

General Steele:  Life If I could turn back time, I would...

General Steele:  Play the violin, I use to play in public school but I stopped. I have the biggest crush on... Khandi Alexander. Her range is crazy and I think she is beautiful even as a crackhead in the HBO series “The Corner” (erupts with laughter) This has been an exhilarating ride!  We thank you, we appreciate you and we look forward to more of Smif-n-Wessun as well as more of the Boot Camp Clik.   Any closing remarks.

General Steele: I give thanks for the opportunity to kick it with you.   Enjoy life be creative!




    by NONE ILLA 8 months ago
    Good Interview! I'm waitin' for that new album to come out. CLASSIC
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