The Last Emperor conducted by Mike Oz  

The Last Emperor Interview

January 2002

If you had any kind of pulse to hip-hop in 1999, you were bangin a song called "Secret Wars" by a guy named Last Emperor. His tale of comic book characters squaring off in a battle with rappers established him as one of the most creative emcees around. Word spread that he was down with Dr. Dre, but that soon changed. Then he hooked with Rawkus, while littering a few 12-inches over the past three years. Now, about three years since "Secret Wars" hit, the Last Emperor fans are still are awaiting a full-length release. Problems at Rawkus now have his album in limbo. This was one of the topics Last Emperor spoke to MVRemix about. He also gave a sneak peek into Secret Wars 2 and talked about his science fiction fascination. The interview was conducted by Oz on January 23rd, 2002.

MVRemix: The question that I think everybody - at least me and the people I know - want to know is: what's up with the Last Emperor album?

Last Emperor: Right, well as it stands right now, I have a completed, full-length incredible album on Rawkus. Now they seem to be having some problems in terms of distribution and just their whole corporate structure altogether, so obviously it's causing my problems in terms of getting this album out. It's been done for, I would say, over a year now. Executive produced by Prince Paul, you know of Stetsasonic, Gravediggaz fame. It's a really, really good piece of work. It's just unfortunate that, you know, for some reasons known and some unknown, that Rawkus hasn't been able to get this out to the fans.

MVRemix: So right now, you're basically waiting to see what's gonna happen with Rawkus, then? So how does it feel for you, 'cause you were down with Dre for a while, do you just feel like you've been jerked around for a while and it's just time to get it out?

Last Emperor: Exactly. You know it's obviously frustrating from an artistic standpoint and just from a lifestyle standpoint you know to have something complete and ready for public evaluation, but yet there's always this roadblock that's preventing that from occurring. But you know here and there certain songs find ways of getting out there to people. Obviously we have things like the Net, which enable some people to get their hands on thing unbeknownst to myself or even the label that I'm affiliated with. But yeah, it's real frustrating and my situation is not unlike so many other artists that have come before me and that probably will come, in that we concentrate on our art and make sure that it's tight, and ready for public consumption. Yet these corporate entities for some unapparent reason seem to not really stand by the artist and make sure that what we do is put out there. And in the long run, it's the fans that suffer. Like you said, you've known about what I've been doing for a couple of years, every time I go to a new town, I go abroad, people are very familiar. It hurts me that they're hurt that they're not getting the album yet.

MVRemix: You kinda touched on this a second ago: like Internet stuff, bootlegging, I know people probably have a lot of your stuff. Do you care in your situation if people are downloading your music?

Last Emperor: As with all things in life, there's a yen and a yang to it. Certain days, certain things may bother me. But in light of certain things that I've gone through, I can't be too mad at it because at least it gets a chance to get out there. So some days I might be pissed off that "Oh wow, this is on the net, too. Who's doing this?" But then, again, this is kinda what's kept The Last Emperor as an artist alive. Sometimes things getting out there that aren't supposed to. So yeah it works both ways.

MVRemix: It's kinda like J-Live and now finally his album is coming out. So it must be frustrating. But actually one thing I wanted to ask you about. You mention it on "Secret Wars," "Secret Wars part II" is that actually in the works? Ever gonna happen or what?

Last Emperor: At certain shows I've been doing recently I will like give a little example of it, give a few glimpses here and there or who might be featured. But again, since I'm the situation with Rawkus, like I can very easily record and while I'm dealing with these dudes and have them sit on it for like two years. But knowing the position that they've taken already, I really want to make sure it gets out there. So it'll be out there sometime. I would say maybe late summer / early fall this year.

MVRemix: So give us a hint on that one. What's up with that song?

Last Emperor: You'll definitely see the more expanded universe of the Marvel characters. What I try to do is make everything congruent with what goes on with the rest of popular culture. You've got "Spiderman" coming out in May. We've got "X-Men 2" in the works. And these things are important to myself and a lot of people who listen to the records, just the young population of America, we love comics. So what I want to do is give some glimpses of some different battles, so you might see someone like Xzibit vs. the Silver Surfer or you might see Canibus vs. Iceman, but just very lively. The thing is, with the first Secret Wars I could have very easily took any person in hip-hop and matched them with any character, but that's kinda corny. You gotta kinda study the styles and the powers and match them up, so it makes for a good fight and an entertaining fight.

MVRemix: So there is a rhyme and a reason behind why everything's going on?

Last Emperor: Most definitely.

MVRemix: At least we know you're putting some thought into the lyrics and everything. Is the comic books just something you've always been into?

Last Emperor: Oh absolutely. Comic books. Science fiction. So many of these things helped shape a lot of people's imaginations. I'm sure you and I both, everybody's that gonna read this interview or listen to it, it's just a part of popular culture. For example, we can take something as far-fetched as some people would say "Star Wars" is. In the next Star Wars film, which will be out in May - and the title first of all is "Attack of the Clones" - now something like cloning, ten years ago might seem far-fetched. But here we are today, where legislation is being passed to the ethically of cloning human beings. So now we do have the capability to clone people, so what's talked about in "Star Wars" is not that far-fetched. So ultimately, maybe there will be a clone war. As far legislation is concerned, we're having a clone war right now. So science fiction is very much science fact in many respects. From comic books, to Star Wars films, you name it, it's a part of popular culture. I just try to help enhance that.

MVRemix: It sounds to me that you're bringing in a lot of stuff that maybe a lot of rappers won't touch on. Do you think that's something that you think maybe separates you from a lot of rappers out there?

Last Emperor: I see a lot of cats that do it, too. You know, maybe they may not go as in depth as I might on certain topics. A lot of emcees, I just mentioned Xzibit, he's one that really has a lot of sci-fi influence in his lyrics and things of that nature. Method Man does it a lot. A lot of dudes that I really respect take it there. The RZA, a lot of the Wu members. So there are a lot of cats that do it, but I just try to really make a point to really sticking to that subject, and I guess it's kinda been my forte.

MVRemix: So when we do get this album, what are we gonna expect? You mentioned Prince Paul, but what else you got in the works?

Last Emperor: Right, we got Prince Paul, we got Diamond D producing as well as rhyming. We got Grimm aka TooPoetic from Gravediggaz, rest in peace, he just passed away from cancer a few months ago. I think that's pretty much it. Again, I got the RZA, we got a song called "He Lives" that he's rhyming on. We got tracks from everybody from Madsol to Big Tike outta New Jersey, to Set Free outta Philly. A lot of up-and-coming cats as well as established. So just a lot of exciting material.

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