After all the waiting and inevitable rumours that followed, Terra Firma have finally hit the UK with their first collective release. The Foundation has been one of the most eagerly anticipated releases in the UK hip hop world and rarely disappoints but may just be the only ever Terra Firma release with the line-up that worked so long to get the mixtape to us. Just before the recent news emerged that Kyza has decided to part ways with the group, I caught up with K-lash and Skriblah in East London’s Cable Street Studios to talk about The Foundation and their thoughts on what they think has held them back this far…
So how did you guys get together and what’s the background behind Terra Firma and did you all start off making hip hop?
Klashnekoff: As a group we have always been doing hip hop, as individuals I was more into singing when I was a kid first, then acting, then the rap came after.
Skriblah: I just do music in general…all types of music but the rap comes with Terra Firma.
We got together in kind of a strange way, K-lash met Kyza, through Kyza’s older brother, they knew each other from back in the day… and I met Klash through one of his cousins – Sparrow who we both wanted in our rap groups at the time and we met through that.
Has it always consisted of you two and Kyza?
Klashnekoff: In terms of rappers its always been us three… when I started the group I wanted to get together the best of the best, and obviously its hard to find the best of the best in this game as you know, I got as far as three… but before TF the rap group, it was just me surrounded by my boys and we used to be called CF – Central Foundation before TF which not a lot of people know.
“…saying fuck it today and then tomorrow you wake up saying no…and keep fighting that pain barrier…” – Klashnekoff
A lot of people recognise Terra Firma and particularly you Klash, through tunes like Daggo Mentality and Murda, how far do you think you have come from those days?
Skriblah: In terms of progress we feel we have progressed in ourselves and within the group, even though we have only just started as a group… but in terms of reaping the rewards from the previous effort we put in, I don’t think we have fully got everything that we should have.
That’s the reason why the mix CD was quite a struggle, we went through a lot to put it out – we had problems within the team and everyone had problems in their own life, and when you put in so much effort and heart into something and your not getting anything back out of it, it’s a bit hard to keep doing it.
Klashnekoff: For me as an individual, I’ve definitely already surpassed what I set out to achieve… in some sort of childish way, my dream is for peace on the earth and if my music can help that in some way… not saying that I spit pure positivity, but that’s what I aim to strive towards… But what I wanted to do, is be on that level where I have respect from the common man, and just to say I’ve had a couple tunes out there and to say that I’ve had some sort of effect is my basic dream and I’ve definitely surpassed that already because I have heard stories saying this particular tune helped me… for example I had one guy through MySpace who was in a mad hospital and through ‘The Sagas’ and the ‘Malcolm X’ book , he’s regained some strength and now he’s getting a degree and so he sees me as part of saving his life…
Klashnekoff: But at the same time financially people see me and TF as ghetto superstars but still got that cult factor, and certain things like the MOBO’s are not recognising us as well, so how am I supposed to feel in terms of progress… loads of people know about me, I’ve sold ‘X’ amount of records, but I’m still not getting the systematic recognition.
So is that the type of recognition your after now with The Foundation?
I don’t give a fuck, it’s about changing the game and trying to destroy and rebuild.
In the past we’ve seen TF collaborate with the likes of Jehst, Farma G, where do you stand with these people now and do you consider yourselves to be in the same category?
Skriblah: We never really put ourselves in the same category even at that time… it’s not an up or down thing but a sideways thing… What we’re on and what we do is individual to us, this is not a normal rap group in my eyes… because we have put a lot of effort in cultivating ourselves, we spend a lot of time together and a lot of time trying to build with each other on a mental level as well… so its like our goals through TF are very similar and the money side of it is important just to keep it going, not to lead some kind of special life… in terms of other UK artists, I respect what there doing but I don’t see what there on the same is what anyone else is on.
“…I think we are the closest thing you can get to a British Wu Tang…” – Klashnekoff
Klashnekoff: We’re made up of mad different elements, everyone is doing their own thing, but the way I look at it, there isn’t another group from this country, coming from where we are coming from… being black and from the roads and having the love and respect from the other world, whether it be the cosmopolitan world or the backpackers or whatever, but at the same time its not like we have to get our point across by being intimidating or anything like that, we have actually got some context and content to us, and I think we are the closest thing you can get to a British Wu Tang, so in terms of what them guys are doing, everyone’s doing their thing, that’s what rap is about… you wear a t-shirt, I can wear a hoodie, but that’s the whole point we are Terra Firma no one else.
About your new CD – The Foundation, it’s taken quite a long time to reach us, how did the whole project come together?
Klashnekoff: Before The Foundation, we know how it looked and people thought we were slacking and were wondering what was going on, and at the end of the day, a lot of things were resting on my back because we ain’t got immediate dough and weren’t signed, so a lot of things were weighing on the fact I’m out there… do you people want to sign me, because through me being signed, I can hopefully create other situations for people to come through… I put a lot of faith and time into record labels that have ended up bullshitting me about… because at the time and I didn’t know the game… and my manager at the time… he wasn’t good… he tried his best or whatever but… he didn’t do the right job and I ended up wasting the whole year messing around with record labels… In the meantime these guys are living real lives, and everyone’s losing momentum… Kyza went off and did his own album so we didn’t see him for a while and things started to break up…
And I suppose it’s all part of the plan, getting hurt along the way… and I don’t think you’re a real artist if you can’t go through that pain barrier of saying fuck it today and then tomorrow you wake up saying no… and keep fighting that pain barrier.
“…In all honesty I still don’t think Hip hop has found it’s own identity in this country yet…” – Klashnekoff
We came back together… the game was pants…. Sorry I know I’m going on a bit long… .but it was hard to be inspired… and nowadays I get inspired by more old stuff and people around me, so mainly me and Skriblah said fuck it and tried to hold it together – more Skriblah who was like… you know what, let’s do this thing… because I was ready to fuck off at one point as well and slowly but surely we came back together and started hitting the studio and it was over a span of four months, going to the studio in Northampton with Skully every few weeks and just banging out stuff… we didn’t sit down and premeditate… lets do this, lets do that, lets do double time, lets not do double time, we just sat down and banged it out… we linked new producers like Lewi White, Smasher, Beat Butcha and Mac 1…. the way I look at it, is like a lunchtime meal… we banged it out like it was nothing…. a mix CD, but at the same time I still think its got more quality and content than anything that’s coming out in this country right now.
What was the hardest part in terms of actually creating the CD?
Klashnekoff: The after bit… like putting it together and the remixing and mastering… some tracks had to be mixed like four or five times before they were ready.
Where do you stand with labels? Is it important for you to go independent? Do you think Terra Firma’s style of music even belongs on a major record label?
Klashnekoff: I’m open… I’m actually just starting a new label now, and The Foundation is the first release on it… Central Foundation Records… and we feel like we know the game, we know what time it is and what our worth is… you cant tell me I’m only getting 16% of something I fucking created, and so it came to a point where I’m trying to be the change in this game and build some sort of infrastructure… where the record label overstands the culture and where they are coming from, its not some indulgent thing… because I really do think that these record labels are businesses at the end of the day and this is more like a business with a heart.
So do you think going down the independent route has made it a lot harder in terms of promotion and finding the best outlets for people to hear your music?
Skriblah:– In a sense obviously because the mainstream have the media machine on lock and they have the resources to do things a lot quicker… but when its independent, its your own product and your own money, so instead of being airy fairy about things and looking at money your getting from a record label, you realise the implications of everything you do and it makes you work harder… and at the stage we are at right now, our exposure is getting a lot better and because of the responses we get from people, I don’t think it has been that much of a problem for us…we just have to keep at it.
“…in terms of reaping the rewards from the previous effort we put in, I don’t think we have fully got everything that we should have…” – Skriblah
How much has stuff like MySpace helped with this?
Skriblah: That shit is futuristic, it’s the lash.
Klashnekoff: It’s a revolutionary tool it like… Channel U and 1Xtra when Murda came out… they were the revolutionary tools of that time and with MySpace now I can talk to people from all different countries I didn’t even know about before.
Skriblah: It helps u gauge what you’re on as well.
Klashnekoff: Exactly, like before MySpace we didn’t think we had that many female fans… through MySpace we realise actually, we have got more girl fans that we thought.
In general you work with producers of a very high standard, do you ever make beats amongst yourselves?
Skriblah: I make beats all day long but I just don’t have all the equipment I want but I’ve been learning under Lewi White and Smasher…
Klashnekoff: Skriblah has been producing from the day I met him and that’s how he is kind of known in the manor as well… and he was the guy supplying all the youngsters with the beats… he’s the future and the golden child in terms of production and he’s got all angles on lock.
So which other producers are you rating at the moment?
Skriblah: I’m kind of ignorant to the game right now… I’ve been going through too much real life, I haven’t watched Channel U or listened to radio for time, so the only people I can give my whole 100% backing to, is people I work with, and that’s people like Lewi White. Smasher, Mac 1, Beat Butcha, Skully, Joe Buhdha, LG and Lopez, and a guy called Merlin…
Klashnekoff: A lot of these people are on MySpace as well… .that thing has just opened my mind up, I’ve even created a hot-shots ones to watch page, www.myspace.com/klashnekoffhotshots
“…In the meantime these guys are living real lives, and everyone’s losing momentum…Kyza went off and did his own album so we didn’t see him for a while and things started to break up…” – Klashnekoff
Looking to the future, can we expect stuff from Terra Firma as a group, or have you got more solo projects coming out?
Klashnekoff: We’ve got so much more to come… the next one is Skriblah’s project…
What’s that about?
Skriblah: Well… I’m not going into it too much right now, because it’s under construction, so I’m not really trying to let of anything until it’s done.
Klashnekoff: The next release is the Lionheart Tussle With The Beast album… which is a Joe Buhdha / Klashnekoff collabo album… it’s going to be humungous, Hip Hop Connection gave it 5/5, which apparently they have never given to any British album before… after that its Skriblah’s album, then mine called Sound Klash, which is going to be revolutionary as well… me going back to a reggae feel, and after that were working with those other producers as well… so a lot of things happening.