M.O.P.’s Billy Danze Reveals His Mother Inspired The Theme For 1 Of Hip-Hop’s Hardest Anthems
Between 1994 and 2000, M.O.P. was climbing up the Pop charts with each release. Lil Fame and Billy Danze released their 1994 debut To The Death on the same Select Records responsible for introducing Chubb Rock, U.T.F.O., and Kid ‘n Play. While that effort did not chart, the Brownsville, Brooklyn MCs made a nice home for themselves at Relativity Records. Between Firing Squad (released 20 years ago this month) and 1998’s First Family 4 Life, the duo reached the Top 100—and found a great affiliate in Gang Starr’s DJ Premier. Preemo began adding hard scratches and dirty drums to match the vocal outbursts and aggression from “Fizzy Womack” and “Bill Berkowitz.”
After so much effort throughout the 1990s, Y2K’s Warriorz was the fourth LP coming out party that the Mash Out Possé deserved. Released on Loud Records (which had absorbed Relativity), the same home to Wu-Tang Clan, Big Pun, and Mobb Deep, Bill and Fame were treated as stars—and underground Hip-Hop Robin Hoods. The LP reached the Top 25, and had not strayed from M.O.P.’s sound or theme. Whereas past albums had Jay Z, Gang Starr, and Kool G Rap, this one was a First Family affair.
In an interview with MC/producer Zilla Rocca at Passion Of Weiss, Billy Danze was asked about “Ante Up,” a song that has been licensed to the You Got Served soundtrack, appeared in several films, and spoofed in an unofficial viral Sesame Street sync online. “Every request for this record is weird especially when it’s coming from corporate. It’s a saying that we got from my mother, every time someone comes through the door she’s like, ‘Where it’s at? Ante up,’” explained Danze about the catch-phrase’s origin. “Just the fact that we took it from the street corner—there was two meanings to the record. It was ante up, we’ve been in this game too long you guys see how we demolish the stage, how we make short work of the main major artists when we get on their records and you still won’t give us the props and the recognition that we deserve.”
The obvious song meaning was robbing people of their jewelry—as featured in the video. “The other side was kind of where we came from. We need money, ante up take that off take your shirt, but nobody knows the first part of it. They only see the second part of it where it’s like take this off take that off. So the song in everyone’s head is only about robbing people.” The Brooklyn, New Yorker admitted his own surprise when brands seek out a song about theft. “[When it is licensed to] movies it’s cool because they can put it anywhere it’s kind of an exciting song, but when it comes from corporate like Budweiser or something like that, I’m going ‘Do you guys not understand?'” The song would get a high profile video remix featuring longtime affiliate Busta Rhymes, Terror Squad’s Remy Ma, and their First Family member Teflon.
Zilla then asked Bill about a rumor that “Cold As Ice” literally began out of somebody’s trash. “We were coming out of the record label and, right in Manhattan, somebody had thrown some records in the garbage and it was raining, pouring down rain,” confirms Danze of Foreigner’s 1977 self-titled LP with the “Cold As Ice” hit. “I think [Lil] Fame or [producer/manager Laze E.] Laze grabbed them and was like, ‘Let’s see what we got here,’ and just let them dry out for a couple days and then Fame started going through them and he put that track together. That track is one of M.O.P.’s biggest records today and they still won’t let the song die.”
Warriorz is resoundingly M.O.P.’s best-selling album. After that release, they would be extensively courted by Jay Z and Roc-A-Fella Records, as well as 50 Cent and G-Unit. While at both labels, Mash Out did not release an album—putting their momentum in gridlock. However, the duo remains in tact. Whether underground or nearing the leader board of the charts, Bill said, “Our formula is really simple we’ve been doing it for so long now it’s kind of like we know what we wanna do as far as when we say direction of the record we don’t mean aiming towards any audience but the way we want the record to feel.” He said that Warriorz was not strategically intended to cross over. “We never actually aim a record. I don’t think as an artist you should do that because you never know what you can come up with. I liked ‘Cold As Ice’ better than I did ‘Ante Up’ and I wasn’t crazy about either one of them.”
Elsewhere in the Passion Of Weiss interview, Bill Danze speaks about the tables “full of money” Roc-A-Fella offered the group, his own success from the music industry, as well as his upcoming solo LP and We Build Hits company.
In 2014, M.O.P. released Street Certified on Nature Sounds Records. The EP was executive produced by DJ Premier.