A buckshot is a shotgun pellet designed to split into dozens of deadly pieces — in other words, a small bullet with maximum impact. The same can be said of Brooklyn-bred rapper Buckshot, formerly known as Buckshot Shorty. With his small physical frame and commanding personality, Buckshot has left an impact on the rap world that is yet to be measured. Aas a member of Black Moon, he released "Who Got da Props?" in 1992 and the underground classic Enta Da Stage a year later, then formed the prominent rap crew Boot Camp Click, and now is at the helm, with Dru Ha, of independently owned Duck Down Records, whose roster includes KRS-One, Smif-N-Wessun, and Kidz in the Hall. But he hasn’t neglected his solo career — teaming up with 9th Wonder for The Formula, his third solo album and their second collaboration, released on April 15 on Duck Down.
What made you decide to record another album exclusively with 9th Wonder?
9th is an excellent producer. Some people have it, and others don’t. 9th Wonder is a producer that always has it. He’s really got a “now” sound, and it’s a pleasure to work with someone that has that. When we recorded Chemistry [Duck Down, 2005], we did it for ourselves. We had no idea people would respond to it the way they did. When we saw the critics and the response it garnered we were like, “All right, let’s do it again.”
Why did you name it The Formula?
It’s like, once you have chemistry, you create the formula. I followed a certain formula within myself during the recording process, and so did 9th. So when we put them together, it was our formula for creating quality music.
Can you explain the recording process?
I flew down to North Carolina to do the album, and recorded it by myself with him. I went down to North Carolina Central University (where 9th Wonder teaches a hip-hop history class) and as he would be teaching class, I would be recording at the studio right on campus. When he left class, he would come right to the studio and play me the beat of the day. Everyday I would record a song, and 9th would come with a new beat the same day. He would go, “Buck, here’s the beat for tomorrow.” It took me a week to do the album, from Monday to Friday.
Did you guys go back and forth a lot?
Yeah. If I don’t get his head nod, it’s not going down. 9th doesn’t make a lot of beats. He is only going to make one track at a time. So I would pray everyday that the beat he would give me is going to be hot. And you’re either going to match it or you’re not. When a beat comes and it’s hot, you’re like, “Yeah, this is exactly the reason I’m here.” He makes music that makes an entire room react, no matter who is there.
Do you usually lay down your raps first or do you wait to get the beat from him?
Usually, 9th would go, “Buck, come here one second.” Then he would play me the beat. So I start visualizing in my mind everything I can do to match the beat. I’m not going to do anything average on these albums. You can’t ever say, “I got it.” Nobody can say that. Not Rakim, not Buckshot, not Jay, not Snoop. Going to the booth is like going at bat. You are either going to swing a home run, get a good hit, or strike out. The recording process is no different than a sport. If you strike out, it doesn’t mean you are out of the game. Sometimes you’re just having a bad season. Train hard, zone in, and next thing you know, you hit it right out of the ballpark.
Do you guys come up with concepts for songs together?
It depends. If I come up with a chorus, he can lay another chorus with the beat. Or I will just come up with a song and he’ll go, “Buck, I got a chorus for you.” It really is a natural back-and-forth chemistry for us. When I work with 9th, it’s always its own thing.
It’s become rare for MCs to work with the same producer for a whole album. Why do you think that is?
Well, a lot of times producers don’t have the longevity or consistency to do a whole album. Also as an MC, you can’t stick with one producer just because he is known to do entire albums. Your goal as an artist is to create the best album you possibly can. It can mean sticking with one producer, but a lot of times it’s not possible to do that. That being said, MC-producer teams tend to work hand in hand for a common goal. Like Primo and Guru, the Beatminers and me back in the day, or 9th Wonder and me now.
Why do a lot of rappers today pride themselves on rapping without writing rhymes?
I can’t answer for sure but I think that people enjoy being given the feeling that you are working hard for something. You can have an egotistical attitude, but you should make the extra effort to use your brain when you write instead of just thinking of a clever metaphor or a new flow. But it’s all good if you’re like that, because there are people who like rappers like me and there are people who like rappers like you. I don’t pride myself in saying so-and-so ain’t real just because they don’t do what I do. All I know is that you can’t do what I do.
KRS-One recently signed to Duck Down and you guys are working on a project together.
Yes, and I give praise and thanks to that, because I’m not owed any of this. For me to have the acknowledgment of KRS-One — a legend — means everything. We are working together on an album and already have twelve songs. We can really do something special. Not just on the microphone but on stage controlling the microphone and controlling the crowd with severity and clarity. When you say something, every line sits on your lap. It’s an incredible feeling.