[image-1] Columbia rapper FatRat da Czar’s new double LP, Tribe, which features around 40 collaborators from across the region, announces that South Carolina’s self-proclaimed Godfather of Hip-Hop is back in a big way. To celebrate this milestone, Czar is holding an album release concert at the Purple Buffalo on Sat. Nov. 16 at 9 p.m. In preparation for that show, we recently caught up with Czar by phone to talk about this latest flurry of activity and the long road that led him here.
City Paper: When you were coming up, the hip-hop genre itself was still evolving. Which stylistic components appealed to you the most back then?
FatRat Da Czar: I liked the flow of the East Coast, but I have to be honest, I really loved the instrumentation of the West Coast, especially that funk groove. And those guys seemed to be having all the fun they could stand out there, you know, girls, low-riders, and everything. So, I was drawn to aspects of both coasts, but my true respect was for what was going on in the South. I looked up to the Geto Boys and Scarface in particular.
CP: How do you think you’ve evolved as a person and as a performer since your early days in [hip-hop group] Streetside?
FRDC: Well, in those days, we were young, you know, like late teens, and we just thought we were the greatest thing ever, and that we were ready to be big rap stars. I’m 42 now and, obviously, things didn’t turn out quite the way I expected, but in some ways, they have turned out better.
Back then I would have been satisfied with a 500 Benz and a couple of chicks to ride in it with me. I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be running a business and bringing something like the Love, Peace & Hip-Hop festival to the Capitol City. So, I would say that I’ve grown a lot as a person and also as an artist who now sees more clearly what his role is in society.
When you punch a clock, you work for the Man. All you’ve got to worry about is keeping the Man happy so you can collect your paycheck. But when you are an artist, you work for the people, and you have a different kind of obligation, you know, to make good judgements when it comes to your art, and to speak the truth, so that you can build trust and earn their support.
CP: According to the credits, you pulled together something like 40 collaborators for Tribe. Was the process of assembling this new double record daunting at all?
FRDC: I think if I had thought about it beforehand, it might have seemed like too much to take on, but I just got rolling and I started thinking about people to include along the way.
CP: How did you decide who to invite to the party?
FRDC: You know, there were some producers that I knew would be able to get something different out of me, and then there were artists I’ve been wanting to work with for a while now that seemed like the right fit for certain songs. Some of them have been around me for so long that it’s ridiculous to think that we had never collaborated before now.
CP: Would you be able to pick a track that is special to you and break it down a little?
FRDC: I think “Carolina” is special to me because it represents how, over the years, I’ve had a lot of friends in the Charleston area, and in other parts of the state, who were also in the hip-hop game, and although we’ve had some great back and forth, until now I’ve never really made a record that would allow me to work with them and pour all that Carolina energy into it. You know, there’s something about even the Carolina accent that, all around the world, people go, “Oh, that’s Geechee,” and they know that’s connected to South Carolina and all the people of color who were brought here through the port at Charleston.
CP: What do you think the advantages — and also the drawbacks — have been as far as being a hip-hop artist based in South Carolina?
FRDC: It’s hard to remember what the drawbacks were. I’ve heard others say that we’ve been overlooked and things of that nature, but I’ve never really echoed that, because when I look at where the hip-hop culture was, back when I was starting out, it is obvious to me that there has been so much growth around here. It looks nothing like 1993. There is a vibrant scene in place now with lots of opportunities. No one thinks they have to go to New York, L.A., or Atlanta to fit in anymore. The younger acts that I know all have the attitude of, “Nah, I’m gonna get it done right here.” So, in that respect, our day has finally come. I’m just glad I was able to stick around long enough to be a part of it.