There are no bells and whistles when it comes to a hip hop artist as real and raw as Guilty Simpson, the rugged lyricist that keeps Detroit on the forefront of the rap game. With a career that spans close to two decades, Simpson is often heralded as being the ‘rock’ in the Motor City’s hip hop community. His honest and unapologetic rap style has kept him a firm favourite for the hip hop punter seeking a sound that is unfiltered and unfettered by its slightly more glammed up alter ego. You won’t find none of that when listening to a Guilty Simpson track and it is in that honest portrayal of a music genre that in itself portrays a crafty chameleon, with Simpson, what you see is what you get!
First breaking onto the hip hop scene back in 2003 , Simpson solidified himself as a powerhouse lyricist, quickly coming up in the ranks alongside heavyweights Eminem, D12, Phat Kat, Slum Village to name a few. As a member of the illusive Almighty Dreadnaughtz crew as well as the Quakers in recent years, catching the attention of the legendary late producer J Dilla (RIP) in 2001, Simpson made his hip hop debut on the single “Strapped” off the 2003 Jaylib album. The union between rapper and producer was a perfect symbiosis with Simpson and Dilla, one that bore a fruit rich with rhyme, flow and above all meaning. Simpson eventually signed to the Stones Throw Music label at the behest of Dilla and went on to release his long awaited solo album “Ode to the Ghetto”. An album which featured a stable of the rawest producers in the game, Ode to the Ghetto packed an almighty punch to Simpson’s ardent and loyal following. With production credits to J Dilla, Malib and Denaun Porter of D-12, Ode to the Ghetto proved the turning point for the emcee, whose lyrics provided the raw truth behind the harsh backdrop of growing up in a city like Detroit.
Simpson’s resume reads like a dossier of hip hop’s coolest and most authentic collaborations, from working with the likes of underground icons Black Milk and Phat Kat to a decade strong album and single discography ranging from (2008) Ode to the Ghetto, (2010) OJ Simpson, (2012) Dice Game and (2013) Highway Robbery, Simpson is an artist that never sleeps. Respected on the live hip hop circuit, Simpson brings a unique vocal energy to the stage and raises the bar on the lyrical assault tip. As Australia prepares to experience Guilty Simpson on his first national tour kicking off August 1st in Canberra, the lyricist joins forces with his Aussie label mate and collaborator DJ Katalyst .In conjunction with Grindin’, the pair will perform a showcase of classic and new material from the Stones Throw catalogue as well as surprise new cuts unreleased to the public. Guaranteed to be a show for the true hip hop lover, Guilty Simpson is bringing his Detroit flavour to Australia and is ready to inject his truth serum into our earlobes. Until he arrives best get familiar with this powerful yet humble emcee in our candid conversation about the art of hip hop.
Such a pleasure to be able to interview you Guilty Simpson – how has life been for you of late?
Good I can’t complain. My family is well and I’m working.
Great news to learn of your impending tour in Australia alongside our DJ Katalyst in August – this will be your first trip to Australia so what are your expectations of our hip hop community ( if any ) and what can we expect from Guilty Simpson in concert?
A hard core MC spitting hard core Hip-hop. I don’t have an elaborate stage show I stand front and center so the Hip-hop heads can feel it. No dances over here!
You hail from Motor City, Detroit and have been one of the driving lyrical forces behind the city’s strong hip hop command working alongside the likes of J. Dilla, Slum Village, D-12 and Eminem to name a few. What is it about Detroit that producers such a powerful hip hop community and what do you see your role in that community as being?
I think rough times produce unique opportunities to be special. I think Detroit breeds a hunger that translates well with music because of these same rough times. And Detroit is a blue collar city so we work for whatever we get. It was taught to us. My role is carry that tradition while getting better and better. I’m still learning the craft and it’s exciting. Even now!
I have been a long-time fan of yours, finding your honest and straight forward approach to rhyme delivery on a whole other level of authenticity. How would you best describe who Guilty Simpson is, your hip hop style and the overall message you aim to deliver through your music?
I’d say my style has a street edge but it’s still transparent. I don’t attempt to sell you a lifestyle. If I speak of drugs, I also speak of the consequences. I even speak of my flaws and I’d like to think that’s why a lot of people enjoy it. My message will always be actions and consequences. That’s my style and message. Definitely with a street edge.
Is there a story behind your name Guilty Simpson and can you share that with us?
My rap name has always been Guilty since I started. The 1st with the name that I know of. But I added Simpson, my last name to make it authentic. I was hearing about somebody with Guilty in their group name so that’s why my last name was added.
The MC/ Rapper / Producer union is like a musical relationship at the best of times would you agree? It takes the right producer to bring out the best in a rapper and vice versa .Your work with the great J.Dilla brought something truly original and explosive to our hip hop community, can you share with us what it was like creating in the studio with you both and what you feel Dilla’s gift was to you and to the overall industry in his passing?
It was dope we’d smoke some good weed and create. Dilla was a real producer. He didn’t have a particular way he wanted me to rhyme on a track he would remix the track after I left anyway. He just wanted to capture you in the zone. I think his gift to me was putting that work in. All of this is possible because of what I do in the studio. That’s where it starts. So that’s where I need to be. I don’t need to be in a party when I get that great idea, I need to be ready. He loved creating.
Since signing to Stones Throw Music back in 2006 you have been churning out music which includes two full length studio albums ” Ode to the Ghetto” and “O.J Simpson” as well as a strong of collaboration singles, mix tapes and guest appearances on tracks with Eric Lau, Madlib, Black Milk, the list goes on. What’s Guilty Simpson’s creative process like when you are in the studio to turn out the gamut of music you do?
I don’t have a ritual type formula but I need some smoke. Maybe a little drink but not too much, it affects speech. I basically mumble to myself and ramble through thoughts until I’m come up with something. I’m always thinking about music so in essence I’m always writing.
I’ve read that your greatest inspiration / influence in hip hop when you were coming up was Kool G Rap. As you have continued to grow and evolve as a rapper in your own right now and are probably inspiring other upcoming MC’s what advice would you impart on them about what hip hop has taught you thus far?
Yes I’m a huge G Rap fan. He has the ultimate mix of street and poetic elements. For anybody I inspire I’d tell them to be unique. If you’re original you’re adding to the craft rather than taking from it. If you have the foundation of being original, the rest will take care of itself.
Five albums you would take with you to the afterlife?
- Nas- It Was Written
- Bob James- Grand Piano Canyon
- Outkast – Aquemini
- Ice Cube – AmeriKKKas Most Wanted
- Sade – Love Deluxe
What is something you would love to experience in Australia when you are here?
I love animals so I’d love to see the wild. I know that’s a long shot but one day I plan to. I want to see great landscapes and beautiful views. We don’t get much of that in Detroit.
For more information on Guilty Simpson visit:
Grindin’ Presents The Guilty Simpson & DJ Katalyst Show – Australian Tour
Sydney: Sat 9th August @ The Basement
Tix : Moshtix
Always Hip Hop,