R.O.T.’s MuGGz & Tay Dayne Are Out To Reclaim Manhattan’s Hip-Hop Roots (Audio)
The island of Manhattan has been instrumental to Hip-Hop culture. Since the late 1970s, the top DJs from the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn would play at and party in the clubs, from Harlem to the Village. By the time commercial Rap was pressed to wax, acts ranging from Beastie Boys and MF DOOM to Cannibal Ox and Big L represented the island on the international stage.
In 2016, it is not so easy. New York City has changed, a lot. The income gaps, the architecture, and the landmarks that defined a Hip-Hop Head’s Big Apple are reinventing themselves. Duo R.O.T. (an acronym for Revenge Of The Truence) are both products of the old New York City, and hopefuls for its new sound. With them, Tay Dayne and MuGGz are carrying the styles and imagery they love, with a DIY approach for the digital era.
Today (May 6), MuGGz releases his 3Dayz solo EP, which premieres via Ambrosia For Heads. As Tay has his own EP in the chamber, the pair speak about their goals and challenges, appreciation for the past, and commitment to being there for New York City’s Hip-Hop future before the next R.O.T. studio album.
“I was born in Manhattan in ’87 at Metropolitan [Hospital] on 97th [Street]. We would have been considered a low-income family, but I never really went without. There were definitely times when my parents struggled to keep the lights on and the fridge filled but I had friends who had it much worse than I did,” says MuGGz. “As far as keeping the sound of the music specific to the ‘golden-era’ sound, it’s all about your influences. I suppose my biggest influences have always been lyrical artists. Big Pun was a huge part of my lyrical development when it comes to staying true in an ever-changing industry. You just have to be true to your craft and stick to what sound works for you. Not to say we don’t make ‘new age’ music, but we’re best at traditional New York Hip-Hop.”
Tay Dayne jumps in, “I was born in 1990, [and have been a] Harlem kid my whole life. [The] first thing I remember about Harlem growing up is how live it was. There was a special kind of energy here especially in the summer. Anyone who’s spent time out here knows it’s a different feeling. Being a kid in the park watching basketball tournaments, speakers bumping TLC’s ‘No Scrubs,’ or Ma$e’s ‘Lookin’ At Me,’ everyone out there having fun. I try to incorporate that same energy into the music I make. A lot of my influences come from ’90s Hip Hop, really because of how well they conveyed their message. The way they expressed themselves through story but could also swag it out, and strove to be different. Rappers didn’t want to be carbon copies of other rappers. I inspire to do the same; be a creative, be different, be genuine.”
Muggz described his just-released 3Dayz as “When we first started making music it was just me, and Tay acted as producer/manager for my solo career. We did that for a few years so [Revenge Of The Truence] is something we created kind of recently. After he dropped his solo tape Free 4 All, we decided to push forward with a duo. We both have a very strong solo presence, so it made a lot of sense to form the group and give the people some true New York fire.”
Like Gang Starr, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, and Mobb Deep, R.O.T. has a producer entrenched in the group. “We have in-house production but we work with outside producers as well,” notes Tay. “As artists we are always writing something or bumping a new beat. We record so much we have projects and mixtapes we haven’t even dropped. It’s important to me that we put out quality music.” He adds, “I prefer the boom-bap, Golden-Era Hip-Hop sound, but we have tracks with influences from other styles and genres.”
As an MC, MuGGz maintains that in-house writing is a must. “In my opinion anyone who doesn’t write their own rhymes isn’t a true artist. Maybe they’re still considered an ‘entertainer,’ but to me they’re far from being a true-to-the-craft artist. We always write our own music, 100% of the time.”
On the name Revenge Of The Truence, MuGGz explains, “We all know the kids in school who are exceptionally smart, but just don’t do the school thing – whether the work is too easy or what’s being taught isn’t truth to them. Revenge of the Truence is basically what happens when the smart kids don’t show up but continue their education outside of school. That’s us.”
One of the group’s standout tracks is “Dr. Moreau.” Heads may catch the reference to The Island Of Dr. Moreau, the H.G. Wells novel adapted into a Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando movie released before MuGGz and Tay were born. “I’ma huge movie buff. Before DVDs became obsolete I had an extensive collection, so I get a lot of my references from movies or shows,” admits MuGGz. “[The Island Of Dr. Moreau] is one of my favorite films, so the song just took form from me watching the movie. Subconsciously, the song represents living in a world where people in power attempt to play God with other people’s lives and inadvertently create chaos instead of harmony—the thought of being trapped in a jungle but music being a way out.”
“[The] two biggest obstacles we face is the lack of support amongst people and lack of diverse music,” Tay Dayne says of working as a Hip-Hop artist in 2016 New York City. “In NYC people hate it before they love it. If it’s not on the radio or if it doesn’t have a particular sound, then it’s not popping to them,” he adds. Acts like Wiki, Your Old Droog, and Timeless Truth have countered the notion of radio-endorsements in the five boroughs. “That is the same frame of mind that keeps people from finding music outside of their normal channels. There should be more love for New York artists in New York. The other side to it is a lot of the music being made right now sounds the same. Everyone is making the same kind of Hip-Hop. New York is a very diverse place and the music should be the same way.”
MuGGz agrees with his band-mate. “Exactly. Unfortunately there are a lot of obstacles we have to overcome being from New York. People say, ‘Oh, if you make hot music the city’s gonna be behind you,’ which isn’t always the truth. People from New York… Americans in general, tend to form their opinions based on the ‘group mentality,’ meaning if the majority of the people they know think the record is hot, then it’s hot because the group said so. That’s the biggest obstacle; people not thinking for themselves. The second biggest problem in the New York Hip-Hop scene is the complete lack of originality. Most rappers in New York just want to copy what’s hot in hopes of getting that break-out single but then they can’t follow up with a worthwhile project. [This] puts them in the one-hit wonder lane and that’s acceptable, but not respectable. I remember a time when niggas would pull up on you for biting their style or lyrics. Now they sign you to a 360 [record contract] and send you on tour.”
MuGGz stands up for his work, Tay Dayne’s art, and their R.O.T. foundation. “I believe we have supreme talent as do many other artists, but when you can make a song like ‘Count Of 3’ and sound completely different from our usual [catalog], it shows our ability to step of out the box and show that it’s more than one sound or style. I think that speaks volumes for the music. Like I said before, it’s mainly about staying true to our biggest influences, but also being true to ourselves and letting that come through on the tracks.”
Tay Dayne agrees. “[‘Count Of 3’ is] one of my favorite off 3 Days… for the fact that we show respect to the culture while creating something new. That’s really what its about: Showing love to Hip-Hop for what it’s done for us, while using inspiration in all forms to create good music. Outside of Hip-Hop I listen to Jazz [and] Funk so I add elements from everything I like.”
Looking at their accomplishments in the 2010s, Tay Dayne acknowledges, “[The] biggest highlight for me is how much love we’ve received from the ROT4Ever [mixtape] and movement as a whole. To see people around the world and even in our area rocking with us means a lot on its own.”
MuGGz states, “For me, being able to make this music and to see how far we’ve come from almost six years ago is def the biggest highlight or accolade. Another big highlight – which isn’t really a highlight, but more of a sobering moment – was when we opened up for French Montana and Chinx out in [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] about two weeks prior to [Chinx’] passing. It was the biggest venue and the largest crowd we’ve been in front of. It’s definitely a memory that stays in the front of my mind…life is short, get money, skip court, you feel me.”