Interviewed by Big Momma ‘Miz’
Hip Hop Forum digital magazine’s Big Momma ‘Miz’ meets half of the quintessential Philly ‘power couple’ – NTG – who speaks about her latest release ‘I’m real’ and recent collaborations with indie artists from Russia, Africa, California, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana .. and, of course (bringing it back home) Philadelphia.
HHF: So how’d ya day go today?
NTG: Good, ya know, always working & promoting, how about yaself?
HHF: That’s wassup, today was a chill day for me. I got a lot of work done yesterday, so we just did some family stuff today.
NTG: That’s always good
HHF: Yup, soooo getting right into it, tell me a little bit about NTG the artist, the MC, the DJ!
NTG: OK, well actually it’s me & my husband, we do our thing together.
HHF: That’s’ wassup!
NTG: Thank you! Yeah it’s important to us, we wanna represent black unity, showing positive examples of couples together, in love, putting out feel good music, and other music representing how I’m feeling at the time, but for the most part we try to keep it positive.
HHF: I like that, I like that, I was watching your latest video ‘I’m Real’, I was kinda digging that part in the hook, “recognize when you talking to a G” I know that’s wassup!!
NTG: I appreciate that, and thank you for checking it out. I definitely been pushing that jawn hard, its actually in the charts right now, we check up on it every day, because as an artist you want to make sure you stay up on promotion and see where you are as far as digital tracking for radio airplay. Right now, were #35 for independent artist out of the top 100, for any genre. For the majors, were standing at #191, that’s with Drake, Rihanna and all of them, so were pretty proud.
HHF: As you should be, that’s your hard work paying off.
NTG: Yeah we’re trying, it’s a lot, but we’re trying.
HHF: That’s good! Can you tell me what’s message behind the song ‘I’m Real’, what are you trying to say?
NTG: That song is a feel good song, it’s a song that you put on when you tired of everybody putting you down, putting you in a box, you just wanna be like, look, this is who I am; I’m real, I know how to go out and get it if I want it and I can do what I wanna do, having confidence in yourself. Also, it’s just about having fun.
HHF: That’s good, you said the message is for those putting you down, do you encounter that a lot in this industry? If so, how do you deal with it?
NTG: (scoffs) YES! Coming up as a kid, I always considered myself standing up for the underdog, the ones that weren’t picked in the game’s first, or picked for anything, so I’m saying; if I can do it; you can do it. Its ways to feel good about yourself without selling your body and selling your soul. That’s the message that we’re tryna represent.
HHF: Alrighty! So what do you think you are coming to the game with?
NTG: (pauses for a sec) Aww man, it’s a lot. It’s definitely more than just tryna make money off of music. I mean everybody wants to be successful, but my husband and I want to be a good examples. We don’t have children, but I have a little brother, nieces, nephews, & lil cousins, so at the end of the day I want to be able to look in the mirror and feel good about what I’m doing and my message. A lot of music today is detrimental to our youth, and I hate to see the kids getting caught up in a lot of crap believing what they see and hear is real, and it’s really not, the artists are just doing it for the money and since they don’t know that, they try to go out and emulate what they see in the videos and what not, so we try to put out a different message without the drugs and guns.
HHF: Right, I noticed that. So what would be your message to people about supporting local indies, I like the billboard challenge that you had, how did that go?
NTG: I appreciate it, it’s still going, and it’s ongoing. She laughs and says, a lot of people have been sending me fake pictures, you’d be surprised. Even when you’re giving away, it’s very hard to get support. I would say it’s very important to support local artists, indie artist in general. When Beyonce drops an album, everybody goes out and grabs it, but if ya cousin, sister or friend drops an album, they’re like whatever, I’ll get the bootleg, it’s important to support the people that you know so they can be successful!
HHF: I always wondered why that was, I see that a lot too. People seem slow to support you on the indie level, but let you blow up and be on that Rihanna & Beyonce status, they’ll swear they was riding with you the whole time.
NTG: Yeah, that’s why a lot of celebrities cut people off because they aren’t grass roots. If you’re not shooting with me in the gym, why should you be chilling on the yacht with me?
HHF: Real talk, that’s right.
NTG: Support! it can help people that have different messages come out, the reason why we have so many people with the same kind of music is because they are getting support from the industry, and the industry wants to degrade us, especially black people, they want to make it look like the women are loose and the men look like drug dealers, they don’t want you to see the positive side of hip hop, or the positive side of our music period! So you gotta support those local people that are trying to be positive, it’s important.
HHF: I definitely get that, do you do a lot of collaborations with other indie artists?
NTG: Absolutely! We have collaborated with people from Russia, Africa, California, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Philadelphia which is where I’m from, my husband Draw is from Chester, and we’ve collaborated with artists all over, to me it’s the best thing because you can blend your talents together, and build new fans, it’s really a good mix.
HHF: What are some big names that you can say you’ve had the honor to work with?
NTG: O.G. Tweed Cadillac (Penthouse Playas Clique) he was under ruthless records back in the day, he knew Tupac, he does radio now, kinda moved past the rapping part, now helping other artists. We did a performance with one of the pioneers of hiphop; Curtis Blow, and that was really exciting, we actually got to spit with him, everybody was digging it, and from there we kept doing shows and performances trying to build and expand to let people know who we are.
HHF: Off the subject but on the subject, as a black woman what’s your opinion about what’s happening today with the police and our men, as quiet as its kept, the attacks on us as black women are starting to surface now, what’s your opinion if you have one?
NTG: I totally do! It’s hard, because every day you just don’t know what’s going to happen because you don’t feel safe. I don’t’ want to get to deep because I may seem a militant, but the bottom line is; I believe as a race we really have to unify, and if we don’t we’re in so much trouble because it’s obvious these officers aren’t getting any type of punishment for their actions, so the only way we can sustain and survive as a culture is if we start putting the dollars back into our communities, making our own businesses, supporting and uniting with each other otherwise were gonna be extinct. It’s so important to support black businesses and grow our community. Also, when you see another brother or sister, stop being mean and start speaking to one another so we can gain that connection that our ancestors once had before they were invaded. Unity is definitely needed in this culture.
HHF: I agree to the fullest, kill that crabs in the barrel mentality…
MOB OUT ENTERTAINMENT PRESENTS LADIES FIRST VOL. 2, what’s that about?
NTG: That was a CD that I hosted, shout out to MOB OUT, they have me DJ different cd’s for them, and ladies first is important to me because it’s an all-female mixtape, so it was great to mix it down with females from all over the world. Currently I’m working on a compilation with artists from all 50 states, so everybody can get the same type of exposure and radio play as the major artists but on an indie level. That’s also a goal.
HHF: Tell me about SFR Radio.
NTG: That’s the radio station that I D.J. for, shout out to DJ Ize & the whole crew. Also, I want to plug in the Fathers Stepin Up Organization, they’re talking about fathers taking care of their kids and doing the right things, so if anybody wants to donate make sure you hit up SFR RADIO 24/7, a very good cause.
HHF: Are there any last words, message or motto that you wanna have on print?
NTG: Power couple; NTG we wanna represent something different and new. We want it to be about real hip hop, not to discount anybody else’s music, but I do think we are over saturated with the same sound, so we want to be that refreshing music that makes people feel good again, for every age and everybody. So make sure y’all stay updated with what’s up with us, it’s so much going on, there’s a show on 8-18-16, Coast 2 Coast Philly edition, performing our new single ‘I’m Real’, it’s on hiphopDX, allhiphop, getyourbuzz, probably over 100 sites. It’s pushing up the charts, grab it off of iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Tidal. Just keep supporting us and support your local artists, and we appreciate all of the support.
HHF: Okay! Well Natalie it was certainly a pleasure talking you!
NTG: Thank you for calling it was a great interview, I like the questions, gave me a chance to talk some.
This interview was done by Big Momma “Miz” a North Philly native, out of Harrisburg Pa., She is now the C.O.O for an indie label ILL CRE (Illustrious Creations of Entertainment) where she is also signed as an artist under the moniker “Penelope”. The Hip Hop culture is embedded in her style & personality; she likes to compare her persona to “Shock G & Humpty Hump”, meaning its two sides to the coin. Big Momma Miz handles the biz, while Penelope handles the mic! Miz is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.
Written and Interviewed by: Madeleine Byrne
HHF: Let’s talk about your company, you’re the CEO of First Family productions, talk to me about what you’re trying to achieve.
TJ: The logic of the game is to turn artists into businesses. We do the things record companies don’t do any more – we teach stage presence and how to do interviews and how to perform. A lot of artists think that each time you record a song, it’s a hit, so we’re trying to teach artists different things to identify in music; we try to keep them relevant by making music about relevant situations that are going on in the world. We take the time to develop our artists; photo-shoots and brand management … We treat our artists like a product, you’ve got to maintain that product and when you hit that level it’s about distribution of that product to the world.
HHF: Just tell me about why you decided to set up the company, I mean why did you feel there was a need for it?
TJ: Well, I had the group AMN and we were travelling a lot, doing a lot of performances, we were meeting a lot of record labels. We’d meet with a label and they’d be like, yeah, we like the songs; we like the performances, you’re talented, but we don’t know what to do with you all. We’re not really sure how to market you guys – and this happened so many times. And I was thinking to myself, I don’t even know the name of the person I’m talking to, who are you? Who are you to tell me that you don’t know how to take my music to the next level? I don’t need you. So I figured, man, I could do this myself. I then decided to take my career into my own hands at that point.
HHF: This is one of the really interesting things in hip-hop at the moment, there’s a real movement towards artists representing themselves, setting up a collective ethos. Do you think this is something that’s happening more broadly across hip-hop now?
TJ: Yes, but I have way, way bigger goals for the company. Right now I just figure if I take the time to do the little things myself. I’ll be responsible for my career to the point where I’ll find guys to do something I can’t do. I’m not going to get someone to do something I can do myself. That doesn’t make any sense. The object of the game is that my kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ have money so I have to cut out a lot of middlemen.
HHF: So you’ve got the guys associated with AMN with First Family, have you got any artists who are up and coming?
TJ: I’ve got a singer, a female singer called Mars – she’s very talented, she’s a great writer; we got her in the studio working. We’ve got other artists that we’re working with, who we haven’t officially added to the company. At this point I’ve got four, and I don’t see the need to add 50,000 artists; the whole point of the game is to take the time to develop. And working with four different personalities (laughs) is very time-consuming.
HHF: Are they all in Philadelphia, or where are they based?
TJ: Yes, everybody’s from Philadelphia. That was intentional, I intentionally work with people from my area.
HHF: Let’s talk about Philadelphia now, how would you describe the city in terms of its hip-hop scene?
TJ: We have a very strong underground scene in Philadelphia. Obviously we have a lot of great, great artists coming out of the city. We have strong musical roots in Philadelphia – anyone who knows anything about music knows this. Our underground scene is very active now, but it’s not the place you’d come to if you are looking for a record deal. If you’re looking for anything big, well we don’t have that kind of energy here.
I love this city for what it is, but (pauses)…
HHF: So you’re saying that if an artist in Philadelphia wants to move to the next level, get a record deal perhaps with a major, you have to leave the city, is that right?
TJ: We have a lot of artists that are like famous in the city, who’ve been famous 10-15 years and its like, how far do you want to go? How far do you want to take it? Anything you do you’ve got to broaden your horizons. You have to think bigger than your city, bigger than your neighborhood, bigger than your corner. (…)
HHF: How does it compare with another city, say for example Atlanta, in terms of the hip-hop scene?
TJ: I lived in Atlanta for a little while, and in Atlanta their energy is different. In Atlanta they give you chances. People will work with you; people will help you; people will partner you. The thing about Atlanta is that everybody is from somewhere and everybody moves to Atlanta for the greater good of the cause so people understand the basic concept of team-work.
HHF: Maybe we should say something positive about Philadelphia, though, because this is going to get published …
TJ: I love my city. I feel like my city is the best city in the world. I wouldn’t trade from being from nowhere else. I love it here. Its home to me. I love everything about it, it’s just that I understand that to do better, I have to move on. I love it here though; I love the way we dress, the love the way we talk … I love my city. I don’t think there is no city better in the world than mine. Thank you for what she’s given me so far, but it’s time to leave.
HHF: So you’re from Philadelphia, originally right? Tell me about the kinds of music you were listening to in terms of hip-hop when you were growing up?
TJ: My older brother is in his mid-30s, so growing up he played music like Method Man, Wu-Tang and music of that nature. My music though is 90s R&B, this is the music I play when I drive, when I’m at home, because it relaxes me. I’m not too big on listening to other hip-hop artists, honestly I might catch singles that come through the radio. But I always like to have my own thoughts, my own opinions and my own ways.
HHF: So what you listen to now and when you were younger is R&B, right?
TJ: Yes, I love it.
HHF: How do you think R&B has influenced your music; what’s the connection there?
TJ: It’s definitely influenced my music, but more than that it resources me; I use it to get away from my everyday life. I use it to get away from what’s going on in the streets. So when I get a chance to be alone; I listen to R*B music but it relaxes my soul. It keeps me in a better mind state. It helps me to be calm, when I’m with my son and when I’m with my girlfriend. It just calms me down as a person.
HHF: Let’s now think about AMN – Any Means Necessary – you’ve taken a name that seems to refer to one of the most famous maxims from Black American history, why did you choose that name?
TJ: Well, I was sitting around when I was younger and my friends were sitting around thinking of a name for the group. We were thinking, thinking and thinking; just talking. I just responded to something one of my friends said with, we’re going to succeed by any means necessary.
HHF: It’s a great name. Talk to me about your career with AMN.
TJ: We started the early 2000s, about ten years ago and it got to the point we had like 15 people in the group: we had singers, dancers, rappers … It was like a lifestyle, we made a thing out of it. Over the years, things changed – we lost members, left and right; the AMN now, well it’s my third time building the group.
HHF: Let’s talk about the AMN track ‘Famous’ when was it released?
TJ: February 2013, I believe.
HHF: You’ve said it was the story of everybody; can you talk more about that? What do you mean by that?
TJ: In the video, you can see Vino came home from the military and he had to go back to regular life, but it was hard for him. It was hard for him to find a job; he’s married with a kid, it was hard to find a job so he struggled financially for a while. Chris was in high school, I think he dropped out, you know he went from check to check, job to job thing, being homeless and having nowhere to stay, trying to get back and trying to figure out ways to survive. And me, well I was on the streets before I tried to do music so I ended up being in prison for a while. So coming home, we all decided – you know what, you’ve been through what you’ve been through, I’ve been what I’ve been through; how about we just take this and turn it into something positive. So the object of the video is that no matter what you go through, don’t forget there is always something to look forward. You do have direction.