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Name: Adam Bernard
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Artist Of The Week – Poison Pen
Monday, December 17, 2007

The first time I saw Poison Pen perform was around five years ago. He was headlining an event called The Last Word in NYC. A buddy of mine had told me about Pen and noted that I had to see him live. He was right. Pen was, and still is, a monster on stage. The Stronghold member quickly became a top name on my must-see list and over the years many have seconded this opinion as his fan base has grown significantly both in the US and overseas. This week I caught up with Pen to find out about his latest album, Pick Your Poison: The Mark of the East, how he’s changed over the years as an artist, his thoughts on rappers aspiring to be thugs, and why he feels traveling is one of the most important things an artist can do to help their career.

Adam Bernard: How did you end up linking up with Immortal Technique for your latest project, Immortal Technique Presents Poison Pen - Pick Your Poison: The Mark of the East?
Poison Pen: I’ve known Technique forever. We travel together, we tour together, I host all his events. He’s Stronghold. The only problem I had with this whole situation is the label, Fontana/Universal. They were kind of funny style, I had to take em to court to get my money. They did Immortal Technique Presents Poison Pen like he’s my mentor, or I’m his son, like he taught me how to rap or some shit. That’s bullshit, I didn’t appreciate that.

Adam Bernard: When I first read Immortal Technique Presents I figured he put up all the money for it and was the Executive Producer because that would be the only way he could “present” you.
Poison Pen: Exactly. It’s funny that you mention that. When I got the proofs of the artwork back I threw it at him. I literally threw it at him like get the fuck outta here. I was about to punch dude in the face. The first proof of the artwork was basically me jocking Immortal Technique and the shit was like Executive Produced by Immortal Technique and I’m like this motherfucker ain’t put five cents into the shit, stop riding this dude’s waist, jump off his dick. The only reason I wasn’t so verbally adamant about it to most of the public was because it would look like I was trying to berate my man and that’s not the case. I don’t have a problem with Technique at all, I have a problem with how they presented it with Technique. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t go out like "yo fuck this, it’s not Immortal Technique Presents," because if I run out doing that it can be easily twisted like I’m dissing him. I kind of just held that. If you go to some record stores it’s under the Immortal Technique section. That shit kills me, but at the same time I’m at over 10,000 sold with no fucking radio, with no promo, no nothing, and I own everything, I own all my masters. I took it with a grain of salt and I made it into a success, so I’m cool. Honestly, this whole thing was basically the benchmark to see if people were ready for what I got, if people were ready for the new project, which is The Moneyshot. We’re looking at May ’08 release date for that.

Adam Bernard: New York City is considered the Mecca of Hip-Hip, but I know you travel quite a bit. What have you learned from your travels and why do you find them necessary?
Poison Pen: Traveling is imperative. Unfortunately New York doesn’t support. It’s called The Mecca and you’re supposed to thrive in The Mecca. People go to The Mecca to seek nourishment, to seek enlightenment, to be fulfilled, but New York is not like that. To me there are a lot of parasites. I love New York, I love Brooklyn, I’m from there, I was born there and I live there still, but as far as Hip-Hop-wise I’m not thriving in New York. I’ll show you my Soundscans, my biggest market is the West Coast. As much as I yell Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, New York, New York, New York, Bed-Stuy this, Nordstrom Ave that, my largest market is the West Coast and my largest selling city is Los Angeles. They support me way more than New York supports me. Honestly, my career wouldn’t have even popped off if it wasn’t for me traveling. If it wasn’t for me going to Boston and opening up for Eminem in ‘99 and runnin around with Breez Evaflowin and C-Rayz Walz… actually if it wasn’t for me going to Boston I wouldn’t have a record out because me performing in Boston led Landspeed to approach me back in the day. I made up a song on stage because I had no material but my boy Static had an original beat. I literally threw some verses I had together and acted like it was a song. People from Landspeed Records were in the audience and said “yo, that’s dope. I like that song a lot, who’s putting your records out?” I was like, “nobody.” They were like “yo, let’s make some records.” If I had stayed at home none of this shit would have been possible.

Adam Bernard: What are some of the aspects of yourself that you feel may surprise people?
Poison Pen: That I’m a nice guy. (laughs) If people really listen to what I say I’m not on no gangster shit. I don’t kill nobody, I don’t sell crack. I’m a rowdy dude that likes to have fun. Yeah, I might be rough, I might be talking about fucking people up every so often, or it might be real street tinged because that’s what I am as a person, but I’m not a gangster, never was. A lot of shit I say is just tongue in cheek. I’m not trying to scare nobody, which is why on the cover of the album I’m smiling. A lot of these artists tend to believe their own hype. Everybody’s trying to scare everybody else, like all these so-called street rappers, or gangster rappers, or whatever you want to call them, everybody is out there trying to scare you like they’re the realest and they can’t be seen and they can’t be touched. Yo son, you don’t believe that shit yourself. I see a lot of these dudes and a lot of these dudes is ass.

Adam Bernard: A lot of the rappers who tend to do all the posing and posturing and believing of their own hype end up with rap sheets and problems with the law when they never had any of those issues before.
Poison Pen: Yeah, it’s like they get on with rap and aspire to become thugs after that. I don’t get that. You’re 33 years old and now you’re getting arrested for assault. That’s stupid. That’s insane, if you ask me. Like myself, I’ve been bagged a few times, but I ain’t never do no time in the pen, never, no felonies. I’m here to tell you I’m proud of that. Have I been arrested a few times? Yeah, I’ve been arrested a few times. Have I ever been locked up in the penitentiary, like up north? Never in my life. None of that shit, b, I’m too grown for it now. I wasn’t catchin em before, why would I catch em now? Don’t try to live up to your hype now to prove something. It’s funny because you’ll see a bunch of 30-something year old rappers trying to prove their tough to a bunch of fucking kids. It’s fuckin insane. I don’t got shit to prove to a high schooler, man. If you enjoy my music and you enjoy what I do that’s what’s up and I appreciate it, but I don’t have nothing to prove to you as a man, or nothing. If you really want to check people’s histories they’re not difficult to check. I’ve been in Brooklyn my entire life, before the gentrification and before they started putting basketball teams there. I was there before bloods and crips was there, so I know about Brooklyn for real, not that bullshit.

Adam Bernard: That’s some real history. Finally, speaking of history and growth, in what ways do you feel your rhyme style has changed over the years?
Poison Pen: When I first started I was running around battling and freestyling all the time. All I was concerned about was that ill punchline that made everybody go ooooh. Songs didn’t matter, I didn’t care about song structure, all I was concerned with was an ill punchline. After a while I realized that I got a reputation like that, but that’s all I got, so I kind of left that alone and stuck to songwriting and getting my stage performance sharper. Now I worry about the total package. I don’t have to have 400 punchlines in it for no reason, I’d rather you feel the whole song than feel that one line and not know anything else I say in the song. The Poison Pen name really reflects on my old rhyme style. I’ve totally evolved. I don’t sound anything like I sounded back in the day. I’ve calmed down a lot. I’m not as hyper. I want people to understand the total package of me as an artist, me as a person, rather than just that one line that I say to make somebody go ooooh and shit.

Related Links

MySpace: myspace.com/poisonpen


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:53 AM  
  • At 9:15 PM, Blogger a-one said…

    Dope interview. Poison Pen is a cool cat. I met him standing in line at the food vendor at Scribble Jam one year. We were clowning people for being mad that there weren't any vegan dishes. But aside from that what impressed me the most is that he attended Scribble several years & I only recall him performing once. You won't find too many people who will humble themselves enough to travel several states away to an event that doesn't have the best reputation when/if they're not even on the bill. Gotta respect that grind.

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