Smif-n-Wessun (aka Cocoa Brovaz, aka rappers Tek & Steele, of East Coast underground rap posse Boot Camp Clik) are nearing “day 400 of celebration” since the release of Monumental, their incandescent 2011 collab LP with legendary producer Pete Rock. I caught up to them by phone Thursday night as they prepared to send off Under Pressure.
Darcy MacDonald: This festival Under Pressure that you’re coming up here for is a graf festival, in its 17th year now. So I wanted to ask if either of you were ever writers?
Smif-n-Wessun: (simultaneously) Yeah!
Tek: I tagged up every now and then, yeah!
DM: Did you ever get into doing murals and shit?
Steele: I did a couple of corny-ass bombs and shit. I used to write — one of my names was “Daze,” but then I found that somebody had that already. Like, I spent most of my graf career looking for a proper name! We had our little black books and all that. But you know, that was then. That didn’t last that much, but it always transfers over to something else. We still got our tag game up, we might throw a tag every now and again on something.
DM: What about you, Tek?
Tek: My tags didn’t always look as good as other ones. My shit was kinda sloppy, my penmanship wasn’t that good. But yeah, I used to throw up “Ski,” and I had T-Ski — Tek — and that’s what stayed widdit.
DM: Daze & Ski — that woulda been a team name!
Steele: I ain’t even gonna front though. One of the first times we went to Spain, they had this wall along the highway where the police just let you just tag on this wall, let you do murals. And we actually did a Cocoa B’z mural on that wall. And it was aiite! We took some pics. Mind you this was awhile back, like 2000 or something.
BOOT CAMP BRATHAS
DM: What’s the summer hip hop festival grind like for you guys? We don’t get that type of thing here in Montreal.
Tek: I mean, it’s all good when you get a chance to get out and travel, and get up in front of the people that helped get you there. And you’re givin’ back, and you’re feelin’ their energy clappin’ and screamin’, you get to jump into the crowd, so I mean it’s definitely great!
Steele: It’s also refreshing for hip hop, because you get to see all different types of mixes. You got the Rock the Bells, you got the Paid in Full, other different things that go on overseas or in Canada. It’s always a different blend. It gets you a refreshing memory of how much hip hop has grown to be so diverse.
We just did a festival in Zurich, I forget the name, but it was crazy. We were on the bill with… what’s boy’s name? Uh Tyga, Pitbull, Talib Kweli, and some other cats that was actually from out in that area. But I thought that was a pretty interesting mixture — all on one stage!
DM: I guess people say this to you all the time, but you guys sound like you get along so well. After all these years working together, you really just flow so well together like this, it’s cool to hear.
Tek: That’s so crazy, because we just was actually talkin’ amongst ourselves about that same power. So it’s funny that once that power is in the air, how it comes right back. And you didn’t even know nothin’ about that. Just to say that was crazy. But yeah man — that’s my bratha!
DM: So [Boot Camp Clik bandmate] Sean P is one of the most fuckin’ hilarious interviews of my life, just because he was so salty. And then once he got over being salty and decided he enjoyed talking to me, he didn’t wanna discuss anything but his kid. (S-n-W crack up laughing) It was the weirdest interview of my life. My editor was like, “I’ve never seen so many cuss words in a single article! That was the most ‘motherfuckers’ ever!”
Steele: (still laughing) Yeah, he’s like that. I mean, like Tek said man, we’re brothers. We [BCC] been friends before we was rappin’. We didn’t “become” a group, you know? We’ve kinda built up a rapport amongst each other. We kinda know our quirks and stuff. So it kinda makes it a little bit easy. Plus, you know, we ain’t… I dunno. I guess we kinda grew up in a different era. So things don’t really blow your mind like that.
Not to say that we’ve seen it all, but we’ve seen like… we’ve been super poor. And we’ve been on planes, first class. And then goin’ back to the neighbourhood, back to Bed-Stuy and back to Brownsville, goin’ and smokin’ and drinkin’ 40s with the same people. That’s kinda like a mindfuck, no prophylactic. How do you maintain that unless you have like, loyal, honest people around you, you know? It’s weird, but it’s dope though man. It’s a weird natural high. ■
Smif-n-Wessun headline Under Pressure’s closing event at Foufounes Electriques on Sunday, Aug. 12, 9 p.m., free