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Greensboro emcees put a cinematic twist on debut collaboration

by Ryan Snyder

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In the rarefied realm of great hip-hop concept records, subtlety is an under-employed mechanism. On the self-titled debut by Veteran Assassins, the collaboration by Greensboro emcees Veteran Eye and ethemadassassin, the duo employs it so effectively that its true motive has an ulterior feel. Casting themselves as two hitmen on a lyrical quest to bury fake rappers, E and Vet step out of their own comfort zones to work with jazzy beats provided by the French production team the Fakehunters, and the result is the anti-Mafioso rap album. Smokey muted brass and syncopated breaks dot verses packed with voluble detail. It’s terse and raw, with distinctly cerebral underpinnings. After a run of several West Coast album release shows alongside LA emcee Kandi Cole, the duo will head to Greensboro for a string of shows in their hometown.

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Y!W: With both of you from Greensboro, why release the album on the West Coast first?

ethemadassassin: Vet has lived in LA for the last four years, so its difficult for us to do whatever we want to do on the East Coast. I was able to go out there and we had a release party in LA, but I definitely want to have one out here.

Y!W: Are you planning on joining him out there?

E: As soon as my house gets sold, as soon as they say its sold I’m gone. Actually I’ve been trying to move for the past five years.

Y!W: Where did the idea for this album come from?

E: What we did was, it’s a concept album, and we tried to make it like a movie. We had some investors who wanted to shoot a mini movie who hadn’t even heard the album yet. What we did was, we tried to make it the story of two emcees who happen to be hitmen, but they’re not hitmen for the hell of it. What it is is they get hired to kill whack emcees who perpetrate all the BS in hip hop that people think is popular now. It’s all about trying to break down stereotypes and not glorify anything.

Y!W: But it does so by putting you in that same role.

E: It’s extremely real, but that’s our initial point to make it sound like a movie so we don’t come across like a couple of reckless dudes, because I think there’s a lot of reckless hip hop out there with no point and people follow it and they go crazy and the youth is screwed up by that.

Y!W: You mean like commercially reckless? E: I’ll never say commercial is the problem, what it is, is that… okay, okay, the mainstream hip hop that is being sold to the youth is typically reckless. It’s all about ballin’ out of control, it’s all about ‘I sell drugs and shoot people.’ It’s about ‘I’m a pimp, a player and a hustler, and it’s a great life.’ That’s what you get out of it.

Y!W: And 99 percent of the time it’s not true.

E: It’s never true, it’s all bullsh*t. Yet people eat it up and fakes are getting paid off of it. Children don’t know that and unfortunately parents don’t sit down and explain what’s real and what’s not. My nephew wants to rap and he asks me what he needs to do, and I tell him you need to read, you know, study your vocabulary up. I tell him you need to know things. That was probably two years ago and I just saw him last week and I said, ‘How your grades?’ He said, ‘What’d you say, I didn’t hear you, what’d you say?’ But he loves music, and I know he’s listening to certain artists who don’t care about being honest. People are mad at TI, but at least he tried to tell both sides of the story. Most popular rappers out don’t do that. They make everything seem like a party. That’s the kind of music we talk about on the record.

Y!W: Since you’re playing a role, did you try and alter your style to fit it?

E: My delivery didn’t change. I don’t pull any punches or sugarcoat, I try to lay it down for exactly what it is and I think that something that people don’t do much anymore. Sometimes they tell too many jokes, which you need that, but you also need a serious artist.

Y!W: The beats on this are a little uncharacteristic of your previous work

. E: It’s kind of a funny story to it, but basically the production guys from France, the Fakehunters, I had already done some work with them before and they asked me to do a record, and then another. I’m not a very big fan of jazzy beats. I’m a moody emcee. But this was very calm and very soothing, and I was like, ‘Damn, who am I going to get to be on this record, because I don’t want to do it by myself.’ That’s when I sent it to Vet, and he recorded his verses there and I recorded mine here. Finally he was like, ‘Lets just do an album together.’ The way most people make music, they just find beats here and there and hope it has a storyline. He wanted to have one producer just to have a cohesive sound throughout the entire album. They hit me and were like, ‘We like this song so much would y’all do an album if we produced it?’ That happened in March 2009, so I flew out to Cali with only six days to do it.

Y!W: What were those days like?

E: Hectic, man. We were holed up in his bedroom with Popeye’s chicken, beer and liquor, and a whole bunch of Black & Milds and some good Cali, so for four days straight we were in there writing. We didn’t listen to any music, nothing. It was straight from brain to paper and I think the album reflects that.

Veteran Assassins will perform Friday, Nov. 19 at the Somewhere Else Tavern and Saturday, Nov. 20 at Legitimate Business.

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