It's a long, long way from East Orange, New Jersey, to Ocean Drive, and Jacquim, "The Wicked Buddha," never lets the illusion faze him. Sure there's the standard parade of girls ("lust college - twelve o'clock"), and the sun has a tendency to make everything glimmer, but the mood and the mode ("easy") suggests it all be taken with, shall we say, a grain of sand. And anyway, this is business. There's sounds to plug and knowledge to drop and nothing's gonna get in the way.
The longplayer in question, the cold-clockin' 240's and No Brakes, could, if justice ever showed up, put Miami on the rap map and make Jacquim a star. From such Shaft-in-Liberty City stomps as "Contract on Cherry Street" and "Diary of a Hustler" through the obligatory boast-popping "Art of the Takedown," it's hometown hard core like Florida has never heard before. But it's the wise street perspectives of "Mechanics of a Scam" and "Dropped All Charges" that truly prove that the science-slipping Jacquim and his partner, the spliff-twirling toastmaster Mr. Fontobomb, can kick ballistics with the best of them.
Still, this is far from the N.Y./L.A. record-industry power axis. This is Miami, a place where homeys have been known to resort to obscenities in order to chart. Jacquim doesn't play that cheap-shot, T&A parody ploy - he knows too much for that. Instead he's put some mack daddy insight to some wicked, wicked beats and let the wisdom do the talking.
We pulled the elusive duo from their urban stronghold for a seaside sitdown and let them throw a couple of punches for peace and an end to booty music. We've composited answers from Jacquim, Mr. Fontobomb, and manager Sam Welsh into one voice because they all speak for the I & I anyway:
Q. What's up with the Miami hip-hop scene?
A. I hear a lot of talent but none that's really out on wax, that's got someone behind them. I hear a lot of good talent everyday, they just need to be recognized. Most of Miami still listens to booty music, it's still ruling Miami. The record companies down here don't want to be involved with Cali-style or N.Y.-style hip-hop, 'cause they don't think it works. I mean, the Miami people do listen to a lot of hip-hop, but they don't expect locals to come off like that. They still expect booty music.
Q. But that shit's, what, five years old now?
A. Right. And it all sounds the same. The interesting thing about it is that they may say they don't like that Luke sound, ya know, booty-this and booty-that, but as soon as they hear a new song by Luke, they jump on it. It's the same basic thing on every record: dance to the drummer's beat.
Q. How long can it last?
A. As long as these listeners keep buying it. We're trying to change the mood of the whole Miami scene, and let 'em know that there's more than just booty music comin' out of here. We don't knock it, sometimes we even like it. But they actually think it's something new.
Q. But the clubs play more than just booty music - Cypress Hill, Naughty By Nature, Arrested Development.... Why do these acts get over?
A. Video. We're still waiting for our video ["Mechanics of a Scam"] to come out. If that would've came out when it was supposed to, the shit in Miami would be us right now.
Q. Do you get frustrated?
A. Yeah, but basically we understand that our type of music is underground. It takes a while to build up and get to a point where people notice you. We just hope to put out conscious music that people always love.
Q. Keep the truth in the music?
A. Yeah, we always try to remain true to ourselves instead of trying to be something we ain't, like gangsta gangsta. Ya know, we ain't no gangstas, we're survivors.
Q. What's the scoop on the 240's and No Brakes philosophy?
A. Well, like everything, you got your negative and your positive side to it. After you drink a 40-ounce of beer, you gots no brakes. You're gonna act a fool anyway, especially with a fat blunt in your hand. But you also have to think on the positive side, like, two 40s and you can't be stopped. Don't be stopped no matter what, don't let anything get in your way. There's no limits what you can do, where you can go. 240 and no brakes. I'm doin' 240 on the flat land. Once I hit the hill I'm probably doin' 300 more.
Q. What's up with the record?
A. It's doin' okay. One of our biggest problems is the person behind us. He's trapped in that booty music.
Q. Looking for that instant cash?
A. Exactly. He works in this game like it's a get-rich-quick scheme. Plus he thinks he knows more than us because he's the one with the money. I mean, we've been in and out of the studio with different people since '86, so we've seen the games and the fakes.
Q. And you're down with the action on the street?
Q. Ever consider trying Luke?
A. We don't really want to mess with Luke 'cause he's goin' through his own little problems. And of all the acts he's had, I haven't seen one of them that's gone on to be a big success, except for 2 Live Crew, of course.
Q. From your record, I take it you're a Curtis Mayfield fan?
A. Yeah, you could say I'm a fan of all kinds of music - jazz, hip-hop, reggae, even country if it sounds good.
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Q. What's your favorite hip-hop record of the moment?
A. I can't really say, there's so many, and we don't want to slight anyone.
Q. Do you like the metal rap stuff - Body Count, Public Enemy/Anthrax?
A. Yeah, that's cool. You can put hip-hop into anything to make it sound good, as long as you know what your doin'. If you don't know what you're doin', it's gonna sound like crap. Those guys know that they're doin'.
Q. Tim Dog?
A. I figured it was bound to come. Somebody was gonna say, "fuck Compton," sooner or later.
Q. Yeah, Ice-T is one thing, but N.W.A. don't sound legit any more.
A. No, they don't seem too convincing. You can look and listen to a brother and tell if it's truly them talking. You just have to look.