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Editor's note: This is an expanded version of the Q&A that appeared in print.
Desperate times call for productive men: NYC-born rapper Bigg Jus was a ward of the state who helped make Company Flow one of the definitive independent hip-hop groups of the back end of the 20th century, and from there, he never took a rest. Now—older, wiser, featured on NPR—he's still the kind of guy just who works a little more when he needs a break from all his work. Currently: working on a collaboration with Shape Shifter Existereo, working on a new solo record to follow-up his airtight Poor People's Day, working on shooting videos for the new De La Soul and (listed last just to tease the fans) working on material for the first new Company Flow record since 1997. Plus there's the coming war to end all wars, the sadly endless source for much of Jus' inspiration—lyrics about "a killing machine so perfect at first they couldn't intellectualize it/and they were afraid to ask too many questions" make him a rapper a lot closer to Alex Jones than Mike Jones. California might be a long way from the Tribeca record company he lost on Sept. 11, but the songs remain the same: "It's not like I'm gonna run off and start partying," he says. "There's way too much on my mind."
OC Weekly: Were you ever a lazy guy?
Bigg Jus: I'm the quintessential New Yorker—I kind of had a hand in everything from the get out. That's the hustle mentality. I pretty much had a rough childhood and I had to get down. That's how Company Flow and the independent thing started—us saying, 'Fuck it, we don't need any labels. We can just do it ourselves.'
How much time do you think big labels as we know them have left?
How many are even left? Like three? All they did was absorb people's catalogs, and now they're not even people—they're just on a ledger sheet somewhere. The whole thing will disintegrate. The only real growth is in digital sales, and as we move toward that, the game will turn to people putting out digital singles first. It's a beautiful thing—you check your online sales and find out where the most people buy your stuff. "I'm hot in Sri Lanka? Let me get on the phone to the poppin'-est promoter in Sri Lanka!" It couldn't be better for artists.
Did your NPR profile get you in good with the commuter-progressive crowd?
It got me into a couple of things—I hooked up with a guy who was doing an economics documentary with Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, and they had a little segment at the end where the filmmaker just talked to me, and I ended up being the whole end of the movie. Probably the highlight of my year last year! And I worked with some guys who created this kind of robotic platform with a gyroscoping camera—one was a guy who developed the lunar rover for NASA's Apollo program. And I shot the Rock the Bells concert with that.
You filmed Rock the Bells with a lunar robot camera?
Exactly. The one guy was like an 80-year-old former NASA engineer. I run with real quirky diverse people. But I like it.
Is there anyone out there that you use as a sort of blueprint for your own life?
It's weird but I kind of don't follow anybody—that all stems from hip-hop, and me being a graffiti writer. I was a writer before anything else, and writers don't bite nobody's shit! I have so many things I like that I don't have time to admire anyone. Thomas Dolby, when digital first started—he was an early pioneer but he branched off into electronic music, too. I admire people who stuck with it—who are there year after year.
Exactly! Definitely count him.
How are you going to follow up Poor People's Day?
It's a pretty hard one to follow up, to tell you the truth! The next record I'm working on with a guy named Kingston so it will have a totally different sound, and I'm going more multimedia. But I can't help but still be conscious and cover what's important to cover, especially because they're literally trying to get in Iran. That's too heavy to think about being selfish with the music I make. Things are very life and death now in terms of informing the people—damn, people are sleeping right now! I think they're so beaten over the head, but the propaganda machine hasn't slowed down in the least bit. People can't keep up. But it's totally not the time to zone out right now. We're on the brink of heading toward world war, which is what this administration wants.
I didn't expect that the government would ever be this media savvy—it seemed like that was supposed to be a weapon for the artists.
It should be and it is! But it's hard to compete with somebody with that cash flow. They're basically robbing people and raping their resources, and it doesn't help that the networks are owned by defense contractors. They team up with the other globalists and how can you compete with that? They swoop up all the media channels and you're left with . . . shit. Hot steaming poo. But at some point in time, we have to take it back. I know that's why I try and do what I do. It's more important to me than personal musical aspirations,
You sound like you have a sense of duty.
I have a strong sense of duty. It's personally reflective of Sept. 11—we're coming up on the five-year anniversary. That's the neighborhood I creatively got my start in. I lived with El-P on Murray Street, which is right before the World Trade Center. We were there when they tried to blow it up in 1993, and I started Subverse Records only a couple of blocks away in 1999. And I literally ended up losing everything because of Sept. 11. And when you come to find out the exact events—exactly what happened—I was blown away. That it was a government-engineered plot! I went into a depression and came out with a sense of duty—like, "Fuck this! This isn't going down!" We have to inform and wake up the people. To this day, many people have no idea. I probably tell more people about Sept. 11 than anything else. Every single day!
What do you mean by government-engineered plot?
Literally controlled demolition. It's not for me to tell you—it's for you to figure out. Five years now, and they've concealed so much, and so many other things have come out. Three buildings came down. 7 World Trade Center was a secret office for the CIA, the Securities Exchange Commission, the Secret Service building whenever the president came to town, Giuliani's bunker, the FBI—the whole entire building was an intelligence building. And it came down in 6.4 seconds. It wasn't hit by a plane or anything. It's at www.wtc7.net. The 9/11 commission didn't even mention it—like a footnote in the index, page 500 at the bottom. But you watch and you tell me! Buildings don't melt, and this building melted! And the fact that they were running five different war games—it was the same thing in London. They do war games and the war games go live! They're trying a scenario and it goes into real time. The Madrid bombing and the London bombing and 9/11—all the same thing. They keep on using the same playbook over and over. And people are really not waking up.
Is America on the last downhill slope?
We are at a fucked-up time. Civil liberties as you know it are about to change. They're about to rewrite the Constitution. They're doing it everyday: warrantless wiretaps, checking your bank account . . . Everything at this particular time is free rein, and it's only getting worse. If they start a war in Iran—if you keep doing things wrong, they're gonna come back and bite you, and that's Iran. They wanna hit them just to keep themselves in office. And that's gonna backfire like crazy. But the plan in the Middle East is to fracture it into little warring factions. Bernard Lewis created the term Lebanization. The foreign policy paper states just that: keep them divided. Divide and conquer. It's for a greater control of oil—creating this melee to keep on top. But it's stupid.
What do you think will happen in your lifetime?
What I'm hoping—why it's more important to me to make music to help people wake up—is if we don't stop and try and take control, we won't be able to put this country on the right path. We will literally be too far gone. The war on terrorism does not exist—but if we go into Iran and we push that next button, then we will have a war on terrorism. We will have suicide bombers in the U.S. I'm a big believer in "don't call death because death will come if you call it." And that's exactly where we are at. You call for a war on terror? You're about to get it! And then you'll understand what's real and what's fake. And once they do have a real terror attack—we'll get locked down. With these people in power? Martial law in effect. You see how bad they get when the plots are fake.
So now what?
What do you believe in? What do you support? Where is your patriotism? Do you really love this country? If you do, the ideals you support and the reasons you thought you were getting when you elected Bush—it's now time to separate the political parties from the ideals, and if you hold true to your patriotism, now is the time to really start believing in that and start fighting for it. I'm not talking physical fighting, but I'm a strong believer that if you get 5 million people surrounding the White House and they camp out, you will get that fool out of office! You will make your mark—it's a still a government of the people, though people don't necessarily realize that.
You remember the big joke of 2004: "This election was a mess—good thing it's the last one we'll ever have."
That can damn near be true! I'm a big watcher of Fox News—it turned out to be the mouthpiece of the administration. If you listen to them, they tell you we're in a world war. They try and get you ready. They tell you you're going to lose your liberties.
Destroy freedom in order to save it?
You ask people if they want their liberties or their freedom—they don't recognize it's the exact same thing.
What do you do when this kind of thing burns you out?
I work on music. I work on a craft. I'm just a hobby dude, basically. But this stuff weighs on my mind constantly. I pay attention because I don't want to be the one caught off guard. I imagine OC is a heavily Republican district.
Tradition dies hard.
There was the Republican party of Lincoln's day, and then where we're at now. And that should be a strong wake-up call for people.
BIGG JUS PERFORMS WITH RADIOINACTIVE, L.A. JAE, MESTIZO, RHETERIC, KYUR LONGRAY AND AQUATIC AT THE ROC, 1700 PLACENTIA AVE., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-3884. SUN., 8 PM. CALL FOR COVER. 21+.