In this interview Tito Lopez and his contribution to hip hop.
By William Hernandez
WHO?MAG: How did you first get into hip-hop?
TITO LOPEZ: My first word actually was “rhyme”. I’m guessing God wanted me to be a rapper. At 5, I did my first rap and when you get to high school, you start to take it more seriously. You start practicing more and getting on the mic and do the mixes. It’s just something that’s born into me and it’s something I do and something I had.
WHO?MAG: You’re originally from Mississippi right?
TITO LOPEZ: Absolutely, Gulfport.
WHO?MAG: How influential is your town Gulfport to you as a MC in your music?
TITO LOPEZ: One of the most influential things, cause you know, like I said, I speak for the underdogs, voice of the underdogs. They’re overlooked and underrated. I don’t think you get much more overlooked and underrated than Mississippi. Whether it being hip-hop, you know it’s only a few of us out here representing, whether it being politics or whatever we at the bottom of the state, bottom of the map, bottom of the totem pole, so I mean that just actually makes you go harder. It also makes you appreciate everything you get. We’re not out here on no Hollywood BS, we’re just trying to make that real music. So that’s why you hear the type of music you hear from me.
WHO?MAG: Do you feel David Banner, being a fellow from Mississippi as well?
TITO LOPEZ: Yeah, that’s the homie! He used to come through my city all the time when I was younger in a van. I have a lot of respect for him because he used to come through in a van homeless. He would be so much about the music and that’s all he’d talk about. Selling his CDs and he would just drive all over the whole state. He finally was really the first one to break through nationwide as a hip-hop artist. So you have respect for anybody else doing it, so I try to stay in my own lane. I think it would be corny and expected to go jump on the record with him or whatever like tomorrow, that just makes collaborations possible. You do me real quick and get to where they at and we’ll come together later on.
WHO?MAG: How did you get your deal with Capitol Records?
TITO LOPEZ: I was doing music for years, putting it on the internet and everything like that. I wasn’t really trying to take that old fashioned route of pressing up CDs and standing at the gas stations trying to sell them. You know put it on the internet and slowly but surely built up a little small fan base. My current manager heard it, flew down to Mississippi to meet me, and was like I have to meet this kid and really see who he is. When I saw he was really who he is cause that’s what we’re about is being true to who you are, you know we have to make this official. So I took him on as my older manager, my man Watt and he just got connections all over the place. We could of went to Def Jam, Jive, and anywhere, but we choose Capital because ain’t too much hip-hop there, so we’re gonna do the unexpected, they’re the underdog label too. They got Katy Perry and Coldplay, so what am I doing over there trying to rap, but they showed me the most love, let me get free rain to do what I do, and they trust me so the rest is history.
WHO?MAG: Any possibility you may work with the Beastie Boys since they’re legends and on Capitol Records?
TITO LOPEZ: Yeah, no doubt, everybody. A matter of fact, I’m glad you asked me that. If I was to work with somebody sooner, it would be veterans and legends more so than newer cats so you know I’m definitely open to work with them anytime. I never got a chance to meet them just yet, but I’m also always down. A lot of the dudes who are veterans like that move on their own kind of terms or whatever, so they don’t necessarily be in the offices all the time like I do. They have these meetings that they always approve themselves, so that’s why I ain’t have a chance to meet them, but I would definitely be open to that.
WHO?MAG Multimedia: Who are you working with as far as producers for this album?
TITO LOPEZ: The album is going to be incredible. I got the Organized Noize on the album, who everybody knows they are legends for all the Dungeon Family and Outcast stuff and a big influence on mine, but I feel like they are underdogs. They were putting it down for so long, but the new school Atlanta these days, you kids they are on the normal stuff Travis Porter, Rosco Dash, whatever whatever. They not all about that right now, so definitely got Organized Noise, definitely got Drumma Boy on there, DJ Toop on there, that’s a couple cats with the bigger names. We got The Futuristics on the bulk of the album, I mean my first single “Momma Proud”. They got an incredible sound. They’re all my age and its about working with cats who may not have the name, but they got the talent. There’s a few surprises on there too that everybody can expect so get that when it comes out in the summer time.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Organized Noize?
TITO LOPEZ: When I was signing my deal, they asked me whom I wanted to work with and they were just the first names off the top of my head. I had to work with Organized. Huge Dungeon Family influence everything that they did was influential. My manager had to contact them and we went down there and they saw that I wasn’t a fake fan. I went down there and knew every lyric from the Dungeon Family and they knew it was for real. We just bonded and we hung out. We had a good time. It was natural.
WHO?MAG: How was it working with them in the studio?
TITO LOPEZ: Incredible! To me, to be spending time with those dudes who are the greatest producers ever, they are actually talented musically. They are great producers for different reasons and them dudes really do know how to produce and not just make the beat. We’re in there mixing song where you’re going to hear a hip-hop song in the Dungeon and we got hard rock guitars and trumpets in the corner. So just imagine what type of music came outta there. So that’s what you’re going to hear on this album.
WHO?MAG: Any cameo appearances on the album?
TITO LOPEZ: Nah, just me. Everything we do is calculated. We might have somebody in the future, but let me do me right now. I’m kinda doing everything that is fresh, it’s calculated for me to do something different, but it’s just what I want to do. I feel like Nas came out with Ilmatic with no guest appearances and it was a classic. Biggie only had Method Man on “Ready to Die”. Classic! I don’t think its necessary to overcrowd your album and make it a compilation or what’s the point of it being your album. To me, nobody heard enough of me yet. On Twitter, you can say I’ve never heard of Tito Lopez until yesterday, but he’s the nicest. So that means you all need to be hearing me now or I’m not doing my job. S o don’t expect any other rappers on there, just me, and it won’t be boring at all.
WHO?MAG Multimedia: How did you hook up with Dr. Dre and how was it working with him?
TITO LOPEZ: That was definitely a great experience. It was impromptu though. My manager at Capital who signed me was like, “do you want to go meet Dre cause your talent is incredible?” So we went over there and he put on a beat. We were only supposed to go over there for 10 minutes, just to play some music. I met Dre and he was a cool down to earth dude. I told him instead of just playing music, why don’t I just rap a capella for you so you feel that energy. He said “okay, let’s put on a beat” and someone in the corner had a camera and it was on the Internet. It really went down and I always get the question were you nervous rapping for Dre, and I said absolutely not. It ain’t Tito Lopez rapping in front of Dr. Dre, it’s Dre in front of Tito Lopez and all he had to do was listen and he knew what talent was.
WHO?MAG: Break down your writing process as a MC.
TITO LOPEZ: I hear the beats first, that’s most definitely. I always have words in my head. If I’m making a song, I hear the beat first. I can’t lie though, I’ll be on the plane sometimes with no beats. I’m always thinking of dope lines. When you all hear these dope lines, those come to me during the day because regular punch lines are supposed to come from regular life, so I watch a movie and think this might be a dope line and I might save it in my phone. I come back to that line and realize, “wow, I want to put it out”. Right now, I got a bunch of dope lines saved in my phone, but they don’t have any verses, just lines. Then later on, I hear the beat, let it tell me what I was supposed to be saying, and I just fill in the blanks and it goes natural. Sometimes I don’t even write. Whatever the beat tells me to do, I do. So I let the beat lead me, you feel me?
WHO?MAG: Who are some of your influences as a MC?
TITO LOPEZ: Most definitely the Dungeon Family is an influence. They’re one of my biggest. Biggie is also an influence, that’s my mom’s favorite rapper and than my favorite rapper because of his honesty and how effortlessly he was on the mic. When you hear him, you know he’s supposed to be rapping. Eminem and his honesty, DMX, Lauryn Hill, and the list goes on and on. Even people who don’t do music, Michael Jordan, is an influence because I just want win and Nirvana and the pain and passion that Kurt Cobain might put on a track.
WHO?MAG: What do you think is missing with a lot of artists in hip-hop?
TITO LOPEZ: What’s missing with a lot of artists is everything I got. That’s integrity. Nobody is really who they say they are as far as I can see. The competition is missing, the edge is missing. People are forgetting that hip-hop is not supposed to be so safe, not so poppy, or every damn McDonalds commercial they’re rapping about McNuggets. I don’t even understand it because all the edge is missing. To be quite honest, it ain’t nobody’s fault. It’s like too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. So when you have an art form that you want to be taken seriously as music and it never was, then it becomes so pop that it is pop music now. It’s not so much about being real. It’s about being attractive and appealing to 13-year old girls, like that’s your fan base. Like people have got to understand the top rappers, whoever they are, that’s their fan base. It’s just their edge is missing it ain’t nobodies fault, it’s just nobody’s pushing buttons.
WHO?MAG: What are your first memories of hip-hop?
TITO LOPEZ: “Wild Wild West” was of course my first word in the highchair. I’ll tell you this, the first memory I can remember is from being two or three years old was this movie “Fight The Power” and they played the song all through out the movie and that’s what I remember. Also growing up the 90’s, and Dr. Dre, and “Doggie Style” and growing up on rap because I had young parents, so they played rap for me.
WHO?MAG: Do you plan to rhyme in Spanish since your Latin?
TITO LOPEZ: I’m not going to rhyme in Spanish no time soon, I’m a black dude. I mean I have some heritage up there, but not enough for me to say I’m Spanish. I’m black. My real middle name is Lopez, so its just kind of playing homage to that because my mom names me that. I can barely even speak Spanish, let alone rap in Spanish. So don’t expect my Latino version album coming anytime soon.
WHO?MAG: What’s next for Tito Lopez besides the album?
TITO LOPEZ: Man, everyone needs to get that Lost Files Reloaded its out right now, that’s what I want everyone to get right now.
WHO?MAG: What’s that Barack Obama song you did?
TITO LOPEZ: That was on my mixtape Tito 2 that came out in 2008. The song was called Barack LObama and it was about him being elected and that being history. It’s just respect to someone who made history.
WHO?MAG Multimedia: Any last words you want to add?
TITO LOPEZ: I just want to say that the voice of the underdogs is here and that you can hit him up at @realtitolopez on twitter and my video is out on TV and my single is out on iTunes so go get it.