One-on-one with the legend, Adam Bomb [Interview]
Toronto, ON – Empire has become a household name to Canadian hip-hop fans, but not too many people are familiar with how the Fifth Letter Fam came together. Here’s part of the story:
More than 7 years ago, April 15th 2000, Toronto emcee Adam Bomb headed downtown for a freestyle appearance on DJ X’s Powermove Show which was being broadcasted live from HMV (Yonge St.) at the time. Bomb was the show’s “Eat The Beat” emcee battle champion and was invited to spit a freestyle on the show. While waiting for his cue to spit, New York’s Non Phixion, who had performed in Toronto the night before, entered the store for a scheduled appearance. They say a few a words and get to rhyming and not long into the cipher, two other guys make their way down the stairs. Without warning, one of them snatches the mike from Ill Bill’s hands (Ill Bill of Non Phixion). Instead of the situation potentially turning ugly, which is what most people including Bomb assumed would happen, the two guys laid down some heavy verses and completely tore the roof off the place. Non Phixion acknowledged the two emcees and continued the cipher, with them included. It wasn’t long until Bomb jumped in the mix and when it was all said and done, the emcees gave each other respect and went about their own business.
A couple of months later, Bomb is in Toronto at a club and bumps into the two emcees, who he soon befriends as Scandalis and Tek-Man. The 3 get to drinking and head to an after-party and without realizing it at the time, they begin to plant the roots of The Empire as we know it today. Over the years, new members have been added and some faces might have changed, but the original foundation of artists remains intact.
In a significantly short amount of time, Empire has earned the respect of Toronto and Canada alike, and has made a huge impact in the Canadian mixtape circuit with the infamous Sick Artists Runnin’ Shit series (better known as S.A.R.S.). S.A.R.S., which has a brand new edition ready to be released in the near future, has a different ‘Featured Artist’ with every new version that hits the streets. For S.A.R.S. Volume 5, the legend Adam Bomb was given the nod, and to say the least, he didn’t disappoint. This is the first project putting an enhanced emphasis on Adam Bomb since the release of his highly acclaimed Made Man mixtape, which was released by S.A.R.S. and the Made Man Music Group label. He’s been featured on a ton of projects since then, but this will be the biggest onslaught of new material since this title’s release. That is, until GET IT hits the stores.
Empire’s debut group album GET IT has been the talk of Canadian fans for quite sometime, and those that have been privileged enough to get a sneak peek have credited it as being some of the hottest Canadian material to date. To be brutally honest, the fans are expecting nothing less then a classic album and, in this reporter’s opinion, the group has put together just that.
HipHopCanada.com caught up with Adam Bomb to discuss the upcoming projects, S.A.R.S. Volume 5 and GET IT, to discuss his views of the Canadian scene and to tell you why he thinks “Canada Sucks”. It’s all about brutal honesty today, and the following transcription holds plenty of it.
HipHopCanada: Adam Bomb, welcome to HipHopCanada once again. This is the first time we’ve had you in the spot without the rest of the Empire family so let’s get into some history first. What first introduced you to hip-hop?
Adam Bomb: The day I heard “Ay Bay Bay”… changed my life forever. Really, the first memory I can think of is hanging with my cousin when I was a kid. My older brother and him knew I could draw a little bit and they really didn’t want to hang with my ass, so they kept me out of their way by getting me to copy album covers. Mostly Public Enemy, a lot of Kane, Kid N Play and shit… At first, I didn’t care or know who was who but they let me take tapes home to do more. Eventually I just popped ’em in and from there, I was hooked.
HipHopCanada: What were the biggest influences around you in terms of deciding to write rhymes and make music? Has your family played a role in your career choice? How supportive are they of your music?
Adam Bomb: See, a lot of dudes would say how some great emcee made him want to write. I could always put words together but it took some real wack shit to get me involved. Hammer was a big inspiration. As far as family goes, I mean, they might ask about it from time to time but for the most part, they hope it’s a phase. You might see my brother at a show or two. Not mom though… she only bumps DipSet.
HipHopCanada: You’ve come along way with Empire. What are some of the most memorable moments you have from getting started with the group? When and how did the group come together as we know it today?
Adam Bomb: Without getting into a whole bio thing, a good friend of mine put me on to DJ Shortcut in Regent. He was really the first cat that showed me I could do this for real and he schooled me to the underground scene in the late 90’s. From there we were already “Empire” but it wasn’t until we added the rest of the camp in 2000 that things took off. Some of the best years of my life were the ones building with my team but thanks to the LCBO, I don’t remember any of them.
HipHopCanada: [Laughing] No doubt. S.A.R.S. has been holding down the Canadian mixtape circuit for quite sometime now and you’re the Featured Artist of the latest installment, S.A.R.S. Volume 5 (Shout-out to Dudley DoWrong!) Did you have a specific plan in mind in terms of how you wanted to approach this project? For those that don’t know, what does being a Featured Artist on a S.A.R.S. mixtape entail?
Adam Bomb: My biggest issue was making sure it held weight with the previous editions. For me, I tried to balance the straight spitters that heads have come to expect along with some concepts that they might feel too. There’s always some pressure that goes along with putting your face and name on a compilation project because not only do you gotta come correct, but you have to get that same effort from everyone on it. SARS 5 is wild and I can honestly say I endorse it 100%. Hopefully fans will do the same, if not there’s always next year.
HipHopCanada: What else should we expect from S.A.R.S. 5? Artists? Producers?
Adam Bomb: Well, my man DoWrong gets the artists that came out in the past to bring that heat every year. For this year, we got Big Sproxx behind the project as well. So he arranged for some of the cats that should’ve been on the earlier ones to debut on this one. Shouts especially to PB and Jugganaut on that tip. For the production side, due to it being a mixtape based on dubplates, you won’t see an all-star producer list like you will on GET IT, but the beat selection is always fresh. I will say this though. I was given a CD marked “Classified” that ended up being the beat behind “Canada Sucks”. After calling Halifax, it turns out it ain’t his beat. So, producers, pick up S.A.R.S. 5, and let me know if you’re responsible for that because I have no clue who the hell made it. Before you ask, “Canada Sucks” is me and Peter Griffin venting a lot of built up frustration on behalf of me and a lot of the country’s artists. You will hear names on it. A few I’m taking little jabs at, and others are guys I think are really dope and aren’t being compensated for their talent. It’s not a diss record. It’s a wake up call that shit needs to change. Enjoy.
HipHopCanada: The long anticipated debut album from Empire GET IT is almost ready for release. What should we expect from this project? Other then officially introducing the group to the masses, does the album have a specific theme? Guest appearances? Producers?
Adam Bomb: GET IT is the family at it’s best. Everything from the production, to the skills, to the ideas on it, is a step ahead of the game in my opinion. You know that feeling you get when you hear something real genuine and real fresh? That real hip-hop shit? That’s GET IT! We’re putting our backs into this project and it wouldn’t have taken this long if it wasn’t for the benefit of the records. It will be in stores. It will have videos. It will have beats from a lot of your favourite Canadian producers. It will be worth the wait. If I quit making music after it’s out, I’ll have no regrets.
HipHopCanada: That’s definitely a serious testament to your belief in the album’s quality. As a group with a number of members, how do you guys decide who will be on which tracks? Are there ever any disagreements as to who should be featured on a particular track and who shouldn’t? How would you guys decide something like that during the album creation process?
Adam Bomb: Normally, we pick the dude that won’t do the record justice, send him to the store for beer and blunts and by the time he’s back, the shit is finished. On the real, we usually come up with an idea between one or two guys, if it needs more on it, we get him or them and it’s done. As far as I’m aware, there haven’t been any feelings hurt by cutting a man off a track or not getting him in the first place.
HipHopCanada: What would you say is the biggest public misconception about Empire? About Adam Bomb?
Adam Bomb: That we’re all from Scarborough. Scandalis and Tek are from Scarborough. I’ve been there like twice and once was just to get gas so let’s get that one cleared up. Another one is that we can’t do what these other cats are doing. People assume we can’t make a diddy bop record. Or we can’t do a sappy love song. We’re all intelligent folk… we can create a new wacky dance step. We just prefer to stray from the cliche shit.
HipHopCanada: A lot of people are looking forward to an Adam Bomb solo album. Can you comment on when something like that might become a reality? Is it even in your radar right now or is that more of a “down the road” project?
Adam Bomb: My mind has been so focused on GET IT and even re-focused on S.A.R.S. 5 that I haven’t thought about anything else. I’ve said in the past that it’s not a possibility but I just found “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ’em” behind the couch, so I might have enough left in me for a solo.
HipHopCanada: [Laughing] The Canadian hip-hop scene knows you as a lyrical monster who, pardon the cliché, keeps it real. This is best exemplified with tracks like “Not Me” and “Black Limoz”. It’s clear that it’s more then just music for you and even closer to therapeutic release when you’re writing. Where do find you get the most inspiration from in terms of starting from scratch on a song? Break down your usual process in crafting a record.
Adam Bomb: Number one is the beat. I mean, you could play a banjo and I could work with it but the best ideas always come to me when the right beat drops. After that, it depends on my mood and the amount of rum in me at the time. That’s why you’ll hear me contradict myself over and over. When my bank account isn’t in overdraft, I’m usually on some “you can’t touch me, I’m a legend, I got cash” shit. When I’m broke, you get the “Black Limoz”.
HipHopCanada: No doubt. It’s clear that Canada and your hometown of Toronto are jam-packed with talent but it’s still rare to see a project rack up some serious numbers in sales. Besides the fact that we have a much smaller consumer base then our neighbours to the south, what else do you feel is straining the progress?
Adam Bomb: To be honest, if I had that answer, I would’ve fixed it and been rich by now. If I had to take a guess, it’s got to be a combination of factors. I think laziness and fear being a big two. Laziness by the artists, myself included, to really dedicate their time, their money and their life to their craft and getting their business correct. Fear… more from the labels, the radio and video decision-makers and even the artists to be different. They know what is selling but no one cares what might sell next. So everyone thinks inside the box and with the times instead of taking the risks. It’s kind of a cycle. The industry rightfully plays what pays. The broke artists can’t get paid without play. When those with business sense make classics, and we’ve had a few, it’s always noticed but it’s not consistent enough to spark a buzz. So the industry sticks to what sells and you get 24 hours of Akon and Gwen Stefani mixed in with Canada’s mandatory percentage of easy listening folk raps, club-banger attempts, “make-a-difference” poems and blatant replicas of American hits. Then another year passes that we’re not acknowledged or compensated for our time and talent. Bottom line is… I don’t know how to break that cycle but I will respect and support anyone that does or at least tries to. Until that day, I will continue to make music for myself and anyone that likes my shit.
HipHopCanada: What would you say is the biggest improvement in the scene from when you first got involved to now?
Adam Bomb: Other than the increase in people getting involved and the raw talent, I think due to a lot of these compilation projects and show rosters, there’s less unneccessary hatred amongst artists… I mean, there’s still battles and it’s still competitive but there’s an understanding that others are just taking their shot. The respect for that is starting to show a little more now. Oh, and OTA live. That’s something I’m proud to say comes from here.
HipHopCanada: Definitely, big up to the OTA Live & the Megacity Countdown! HipHopCanada.com first interviewed Empire as a crew on April 27th 2003. Within that interview you stated that your favorite track from your camp was “Cypher Taktix” and the reason you provided was, “If an emcee makes me say ‘I wish I said that’ then they’re dope. Everyone on that joint had me jealous.” If you had to answer that same question now, which track would it be and why?
Adam Bomb: I really can’t pick one.. I can definitely say instead of just verses, we write songs so these days it might have to do with how I’m feeling at the time and whatever track matches it. Although “True Survivor” with T.R.A. and Ziah always gets the rewind.
HipHopCanada: Which producers are you really feeling right now? A lot of artists have been telling me recently that they’re biggest interest is to create an album with only one producer in the mix. If you could pick one producer to build a project with from ground up who would it be and why?
Adam Bomb: If we’re talking anyone worldwide, Hi-Tek… he does it all. On the bright side, if we’re just talking Canada, the things we continuously excel at are DJing and Production. I could throw out a bunch of classic names and even the newcomers are crazy but I’ll drink on that question and get back to y’all.
HipHopCanada: Sounds good. What’s going on with LoudMouths? Thoze Guyz? Should we expect to see any projects related to those Empire sub-groups in the near future?
Adam Bomb: Once GET IT is wrapped, those would be the next projects for me. The LoudMouths would be great just because I know the album and the tour that would follow it would be nasty. Thoze Guyz would be great because TalkSick is partially retarded and I’m the only one dumber than him.
HipHopCanada: [Laughing] I know you’ve got a ton of projects in the works… let the cat out of the bag on one of your up and coming tunes.
Adam Bomb: There’s a record on GET IT that has every Empire member on it. Even the guy who gets the blunts.
HipHopCanada: Let’s get into some more general questions. Aside from your own project, what album release are you most anticipating?
Adam Bomb: All of them, really. Before being a writer and performer, I’m a fan of hip-hop music. That’s why you still see me at concerts on the floor and not backstage. Also, because they won’t let me back there. But again, you want names so I’ll say… Kanye’s joint.
HipHopCanada: The must-see flick of 2007?
Adam Bomb: Transformers. If you didn’t like it, your seat wasn’t facing the screen. But I hear Jessica Alba’s got something coming out just now, so Optimus Prime might take the silver medal.
HipHopCanada: [Laughing] Alright, and my last question, and the question I’m going to be asking all artists at the end of my interviews from now: What is the go to meal for the pre-performance warm-up and what is your pre-show routine? Surprisingly, I’ve gotten this question a few times from upcoming artists looking to fight off performance jitters. I figured I would take it right to the source and find out what the experienced artists are doing.
Adam Bomb: Good question. Personally, I never get time to eat until after the show so I guess the meal would be Southern Comfort and Root Beer. We call that “Northern Hospitality” and if you drink it through a straw quick enough, you won’t give a fuck if there’s ten thousand people in the crowd or just you and the bouncers.
HipHopCanada: Adam, thanks for coming through, it’s been insightful and entertaining. Looking forward to GET IT! Anything you want to add that we didn’t already touch on? Shout-outs?
Adam Bomb: Yeah, shouts to anyone that stuck by me and the Fifth Letter Fam… Shouts to everyone trying their best to make this shit happen. We’re in this together and we ain’t got to be pals but we gotta be unified or it’s gonna die. Shouts to everyone who worked on and came through for S.A.R.S. and in advance to those that pick it up. Shouts to my brothers from 734 mothers, The Empire. Shouts to HHC for letting me talk shit. “Ay Bay Bay”, motherfuckers.
Editor’s note: For more information on Adam Bomb check out http://www.myspace.com/thelegendadambomb.
Written by Jesse “Dutchy” Plunkett for HipHopCanada