Corey Penn is known to the world as C.L. Smooth. He and Pete Rock made up what the Hip-hop world called the Dynamic duo. C.L Smooth has not released an album in a decade but since he writes all of his rhymes getting back on track should not be a problem. In addition there are tracks he has co-written with other rappers. You may have heard the rumor that he is coming out with a clothing line, or that he was working with Wyclef, or that he was getting back together to do an album With Pete Rock. Today he begins to answer some of those questions. Our Playahata Ro-Porter, who passes through walls to get the scoop, talked to C.L. recently about his future, the future of the dynamic duo, and any hopes for a new album. Their fans want it but there seems to be some tension and although there are groups that have members that can't stand each yet have not disbanded, it's that much harder when you are a duo. But in the words of C.L. Smooth “We don’t have to get along to make an album”. As of August 22nd, 2003 the duo has agreed to do an album together but if that will happen remains to be seen. Ro-Porter talked at length with C.L. Smooth and the full transcript had to be slightly edited down, but here is what C.L. had to say.
No Need to
Reminisce Over You
Playahata.com: Let's start out with the question that everybody wants to know? Where you been, man?
C.L. Smooth: Well, basically I have been retired from the rap game for some time & just dealing with other matters in personal life. Trying to rearrange, put myself back in a position where when I retire for good; that I'm set for life & I can still keep this same lifestyle that I'm use to living. Just investments, real estate, personal loans, & other business a young black entrepreneur should be into.
Playahata.com: Now you were on Pete Rock's solo debut 'Soul Survivor’ but could you tell us what happened with the "Chocolate Boy Wonder" & the "Carmel King"?
C.L. Smooth: Basically, we were together for a long time we grew up together & sometimes people grow apart & people have other agendas that they want to make & other ventures that they want to do. So, when it comes to money I really don't like to (pause) I like to make suggestions. I really don't like to tell a brother what to do. So I only make the suggestions that this is how I want my business done & he has his different business ethics & codes to how he likes to handle business. I personally like to be on time. Pete likes to show up when he wants to. So eventually that's going to clash. I wish him well in whatever he does but yeah we work together here & there but it's really not like it should be.
Playahata.com: How should it be?
C.L. Smooth: It should be an appreciative of each other, a bond with each other that despite what goes on personally & in our households, our music should always be made together. We have a gift together. I mean the ups & downs of it, yes, I'm willing to go through it, but not if there is no productivity to it. If it’s not productive & its counter productive then you got to take a step back & say look, 'Do I really want to take on a headache. I'm not being too productive', being that I'm productive in personal life & P not paying any of my bills. I just figure that this is what I got to do. I either got to hire you like I hire another producer or just not work with you at all & go for the next Pete Rock. Cause we come from a town with a lot of history & a lot of talent. Just like he can get another rapper, I can get another producer. I'm still a business man & I still leave the option open for him to come back in. With some sense, with some loyalty, with some dedication to it, with some 'to be on time', & to be fully into whatever I'm into. So that's where I'm at right now & I feel like, being in the right frame of mind as a Man, that you can't compromise those types of things. Being that I've prospered without him, in personal life, this should have proved to him that I am worthy of making business work. Worthy of taking time & consideration to be on time & be attentive & not be so bull headed about the things that I want to do as far as my career is concerned.
Playahata.com: Now I've heard that Treach & Kay Gee of Naughty By Nature just went to a park & fought to settle out their differences. Are there any words of advice, you can think of, that would help some of the younger groups coming up.
C.L. Smooth: Well, I'm not the type of person that claims to know everything about the business. I feel it's the type of business that you have an opportunity to continue to learn. & there are ventures & a lot of parts of the business that I haven't really got into, yet. But what I can say is that it's no different then the Street. Go with what's in your heart. If you know what you need & what you want; then you go for that & you don't compromise with that. That's where I see it as. I mean right now it changes from generation to generation. You don't really get an opportunity to say 'this' is how it is & this is how it’s going to be, it changes so much. So whatever era your from you take little bit pieces of the other eras & you mix it up? & You take all that wisdom & you try to apply within your career.
Playahata.com: What are your thoughts on the current state of Hiphop?
C.L. Smooth: As long as you speaking what's true to your heart & what's in your soul. It’s all in truth. I think that is a big part of what Hiphop is all about & Hiphop was built on that type of foundation. It's so hard today because you don't know what's real & what's fake. What background a brother is coming from. Is he speaking the truth? Is he speaking what he saw? Did he live this? What? It's up to you as an individual, if this is the type of favorite artist you have to do the homework on him & see what his background. This is all apart of learning. Not to take things for face.
Playahata.com: Not to try & place you in any particular genre of rap but while reading your lyrics or listening to your songs I hear you sticking closer to the intellectual concepts & hooks. Do you think it was easier at the time of your first album in 92 to do that? Is it harder now?
C.L. Smooth: No, I don't think it's harder for me because I'm just speaking on my life. It's like writing down a diary except this is music. Nothing is hard if you're speaking the truth. When you’re trying to invent something & trying to put something that's not really there & your trying to invent 'it' like an action movie. Then you have all these stunt men it makes it hard. But when you sitting down & you getting the wisdom from your Grandfather? Speaking words that are music to you.
Playahata.com: How did you keep the balance of being conscious but at the same time not being too preachy & do you think we need to hear more songs of that nature?
C.L. Smooth: That's a good question? When you're a young man at 21? You’re a sponge. So all your doing is absorbing & relaying whatever feels good to you. Whatever makes you go day by day like when I listen to 'Ghettos of the mind' or I listen to those types of conscious records. Those where there to place me in a position not to fail. To recognize that when I'm in a certain position, these are my lessons that will walk with me, the lessons that will always be with me. To make a long story short. You got to understand I was dealing with people triple my age? A 20 year old, someone my age, couldn't teach me anything at that time. I had to deal with somebody 3x my age & just break it down to a form where the young man my age could understand that. So I had more substance in me then just outside appearance. It's the inside what makes me move around, what makes me live, & what makes me understand what blocks to walk on & what people to deal with.
Playahata.com: Do you think it’s becoming harder for artist to write about universal issues & if so why do you think that is?
C.L. Smooth: No, I think it's hard. All you have to do is look at what's going on in the world. All you have to do is read up on current events like I was talking about Saddam Hussein back in 1991. Before Mayor Bloomberg before all these programs gave you the opportunity where, you had to read a paper? You had to do that. Now the guys feel its hard cause their not up on current events. They'd rather look at the movie Scarface & I'm not saying its bad. But at the same time you got to put something conscious in there & know this is what's going on in the world. My friend & me were talking & I'm telling him like 'notice everything is like the weather no, everything is all crooked & twisted'. It keeps raining off & on it's because on the other side of the earth they keep dropping all these bombs & messing up the earth axis. So now you have on one part of the globe you couldn't get enough water so they’re passing & getting heart attacks. Then over here it's raining, raining, raining every other minute so then we have floods over here. So if your up on current events an up on just being religious & knowing the Bible, & reading on the last days & what people feel you can understand where its coming from. It’s all coming to rise, & that's just simple talk, that's not even preaching. I feel like, rappers, feel like they too ignorant where they say 'preachy'. What's preachy but 'Knowledge' & understand of your Self. You want this but you don't know how to read a contract. You don't want this but you want to know how to build our career to the highest level but you don't want to be preached to. You don't want the lesson. Like you don't want that, but you want this.
Playahata.com: You came at a time when mainstream Hip hop was going into the beginnings of what they call the Bling era. Now we're somewhat being stripped of a lot of those 'culture visuals', much like true rock & roll music when Elvis took it & made it popular visually. How do you think we can get it back closer to the root?
C.L. Smooth: To get back closer to the root is just sticking to the music. The music is the root of it. The music & the concept of how you approach it. It's not just all about the streets; it's about being well rounded. I appreciate the steps that Hiphop took. If Hiphop weren’t rising, then it would be boring to me. To have the opportunity for the 'Bling-Bling' era & to have the opportunity for the 'Conscious' era & have the opportunity of people mixing it together this is all a part of the art & all art to me. It's like a painter; every painter can't paint the same. Every painter paints different, so everybody has a different stroke. But all painters criticize each other’s paintings. That's what makes it art, that's what makes it interesting. Is that everybody has an opinion '. It gives it an opportunity to grow & lead the house of Hiphop to be much stronger then rock & roll music, to me & my opinion.
Playahata.com: 'ol' school' is being associated to rappers & songs that were popular only ten years ago. Why do you think that is?
C.L. Smooth: I got this from LL 'its hard to put yourself in an ol' school form'. Like in Rap, you want to stay away from anything that's old. It's like you always want to be new. It's almost like you can't reinvent yourself is what they saying. Like you can't be brand new again, you can only be old. It's like you only want me to perform with Sugar Hill Gang. You only want me to perform with Grand Master Flash. You won't allow me to perform with The Clipse. I'm not worthy enough to perform with Jay-Z & I don't think that's fair. All these people all of New School have bits & pieces of the Rakim & the KRS1's. They all took bits & pieces of Biggie's records & Pac's records, They're all doing it. I think when you “old school” is when your retired from the game.
Playahata.com: Your name always seems to come up among Hiphop artist & music artist as a whole that have a unique way of approaching their particular art form. was there any artist or b& in music that helped you guys come up with your own unique sound & lyrics?
C.L. Smooth: Definitely, you got Run DMC. Which was a big opportunity & in my opinion it official-ized me as a rapper. I no longer had to prove myself as a rapper once I made a record with them. It's like I didn't have to prove I was a rapper anymore. I know I'm a rapper now once I made a record with them. So just to be apart of that history making & just being apart of what's going on. I mean Your not guaranteed anything in life but it's a blessing just to be apart of that. Being compared to LL is what I love to be compared to if you ask me, because I studied him. I watched the steps he took. I watched the interviews he did. These are how I learned & these are how I came to understand what position I was in the game.
Playahata.com: Same question just a little different; who was your favorite rapper coming up & why? & Do you have a favorite verse of all time?
C.L. Smooth: I would say between LL & Rakim. Anybody that knows Hiphop knows 'Rock The Bells' is just like. Its crazy. 'I Need Love' that's crazy. If you look at mine I'm just patterning. If you look at my first album & how I came up, my whole pattern is imitated off them. & I have no problem with saying it. 'I Got A Love' that was from the vibe that LL stepped in. It made me understand that this is what I want to do & this is how I want to do it. You can only compare me to the great ones. I only want to be compared to the great ones. Like Rakim for instance 'standing by the speaker suddenly I had this" (first line to 'Move the Crowd' By Eric B & Rakim) This is what I love, this what motivates me. So these are my music idols. These are people I look up to & say 'This is why I am who I am today' because I imitated, emulated, & looked up to these people & to get to know them & to get to understand them personally was a blessing.
IF I say a particular song, it would be Doug E. Fresh's 'The Show'. That made me feel like 'Oh my God' this sh-t is for real. I'm not talking about it was what they said. It was just how they said it & what it did in the park! It was just unbelievable. It was a blessing. That was the one thing that really changed my life, that I never told anybody really, it was 'The Show'. The show really changed my sh-t up.
Playahata.com: Is there any artist currently out on the scene that you really like, hoping to work with, or just waiting for something from them?
C.L. Smooth: I would like to work with Snoop Dog & I would definitely like to work with Eminem, whether its production or anything from Eminem is cool with me. I like his vibe. I think his work ethic is cool. He's a lab rat I understand that & that's what gravitates me towards him. As far as Snoop, Snoop is a legend & he has the up most respect for me & my music & so does Eminem. Eminem grew up off of our vibe, so I'm just giving them homage back & respect back.
Playahata.com: Was there any historical leaders or books that helped you through the ups & downs of the industry & dealing with being an internationally known artist or just being CL?
C.L. Smooth: I'm a book reader & I have a little brother that has master degree so he's just a book collector. I would say 'Message to the Black Man', 'The Spook who sat by the door' or on to even biographies like Sammy ("the bull") Gravano's book. I like little stuff & little versatile stuff. The Donald Goines books. It's just a vibe & I like to be versatile. As for as leaders it would be Khalid Muhammad (rip). I'm saying that because I've talked to them for hours. These are the people that, I'm not a Muslim, but you couldn't tell the difference because my conversation is still the same as a Muslim, a peaceful being. I'm gravitated more towards knowledge, people with some wisdom, people with some depth. I had an old soul back when I was a teenager so I felt that anything that they gave me right or wrong I was able to apply pieces of it. Filter out the things that I didn't want & apply it to my life.
Playahata.com: As for the up coming CD, when is it being released & what are some of the issues or topics you tackling & who are some of the producer?
C.L. Smooth: I don't even have a date. I anticipate before the New Year is out that I will have something out for the people. As far as the topics are concerned I'm dealing with different types of topics. It a time change, so what I'm doing now is I'm not coming straight at you like 'Ghetto's of the Mind' & "All the Places". I'm not coming at up like that anymore. Because that audience is not there, so what I have to do is almost like ”you don't want to be taught YOU JUST WANT TO DO”. So what I have to do is put the tablet in the SHIT & then give it to you. Instead of just giving you the fruit & giving you the tablet & saying 'Here' with some water. You use to eating shit so you got to put the medicine in the shit & give it to you. SO I have to spoon feed you cause you can't feed no babies steak. So I got to feed you the mush first & then gradually draw you into the steak. It's a matter of here's a rapper that stepped away at the top of his game & what happened? Pop died, Uncle Doc died & these are all the people you can relate to. These are all people that people don't know that are forever immortalized in my '? Reminisce' record. People all over the world can remember Pop & Uncle Doc. It's just a matter of a different approach now. I would say my approach to my producer Mike Lo, Tre Baz, Pete Rock with 'the Climax' dealing with the women & the seduction & the vibe of coming from the club & going into the studio & making that happen. Giving you a whole idea of what CL is all about, cause CL is not a kid anymore. You have to grow with the times. So you have to make records for people. I'm not making records for myself anymore I'm making for the people & it's a different approach now.
Playahata.com: So as far as tour dates & club promos when will we be able to come out & see you?
C.L. Smooth: We're putting the dates together now so the people can come out & see me. Soon as it happens people are gonna know about it, definitely. I just reopened my web site now so I have that so people can get an opportunity to know what I'm doing & how I'm doing it.
Playahata.com: With record labels becoming notorious for ripping off artist, what was the financial situation with you & Pete Rock's record deal & was it a good one?
C.L. Smooth: I think it was excellent. To my knowledge I've gotten everything I wanted. I haven't missed a beat. I'm still eating off my records. So I don't have any complaints. I just wish I had the opportunity to go on a major tour; I've never done that. I've only done spot dates being that Pete Rock was into the production heavy. The only negative spot I had was is like they pulled him away from me to do other projects & other records for other people, rather then respect his projects. It's only because we did a good project that he's been able to produce for these other artist so that's the only negative vibe I have on that. I did what I wanted to do, as far as creative control, & I got what I wanted. I mean, if I didn't do the right thing with it, then that's on me.
Playahata.com: Are you doing the independent thing this time?
C.L. Smooth: I'd rather go with a major label. If I can't get the major label vibe then I would go independently. I did something independently with 'Shine on me' & the b-side 'Climax'. It did well but I'm more of a mainstream artist. I'm not really an underground artist nor would I want to be. I want to be a mainstream artist & I want to make big records. I'm not the type of artist that's just happy making records. I want to make big records. I want to make an impact records & I think my credibility shows that I want to make the big records. So when everybody's talking their shit about this? I'm talking shit about that.
Playahata.com: Is there any closing statements you'd like to make to the people?
C.L. Smooth: Yeah I just want the people to know & understand that I been trying to get with Pete Rock & do the right thing. I feel that deep down that if the people want to hear Pete Rock & CL Smooth I think they need to let Pete know that anything he puts out without CL is not gonna work. I want this interview to touch mainly who I wanted it to touch with my partner. Because I want my partner to understand that when you make music with me, there's a bigger impact. When we make music separately its not a good impact. We got to do it together. I can do my own thing & you can do your own thing but together we got to have this chemistry going that we have in this family & then we can build off of it. We made a foundation already & we left at the top of our game? well, I left at the top of my game. He left to get on & it hasn't happened. If it happens then I'll be the first person to say 'You were right all that time? I was holding you back. Now you got your Snoop. Now you got your Eminem. You got the hundred million dollars now I understand. Now its time for me to go & get my money & get my throne & get my understanding of what this game is all about but that hasn't happened, None of the projects that either one of us has done can top what we've done together. What he need to do is search within his soul & search within his mind & let these fans tell him what they want cause this is about what they want. The people are buying it & they want what they want. So its like Dolce without Gabbana, you see what I'm saying. We're not the Commodores it shouldn't be hard. You got a front man & you suppose to watch my back & hold me down with them records. What you got to do is come out of that selfish mentality & think about the bigger picture. This shit is bigger then that. This is like a fraternity. This shit has been going since the beginning of time. Rap has been there & if you look at the history books. It's better to create bigger history, then just be in the history books. My whole thing is I know I can make it in this game & I ain't broke & all I need is the Man that I grew up with to make my music. Even if he don't want to be on time let me cover your back. Let me make it so people know we appreciate what's going on. We don't take for granted that you Pete Rock & you the shit or you feel you the shit. That you can just do whatever & shit on your brotha. That's not what I'm about. I'm about putting this sh-t together, getting over our difference. This is why I'm speaking out now I haven't spoken out in ten years. I had nothing to talk about I wanted to see it. Sit back & see 'is this really what he wants t o do & how he wants to do it' but I haven't seen it. So when I haven't seen the spark I know now I'm like 'let's put this sh-t back together again'. We grown ass men & let's put this shi-t back. Let's put these kids through college now there not just being born now. They're grown people there individuals. I can't stop little Korey from saying Uncle Pete I just can't stop it. So I might as well just make him understand if he's willing to listen, because I can be versatile. I can go everywhere. I can do it with any type of person. I was raised that way. If your not making no sense, daddy, you not making any sense. & if you listen to the songs we were making back in the day, you would think this is the last person that would have that problem. You got to listen to these songs, bro. There's too much knowledge in there for you to be acting like you ignorant to this sh-t. When I was on Pete Rock's shit I told him on the verse that he got on his album Soul Survivor 1. I said 'I am the best that ever did on a Pete Rock track' ('Da Two'). Yo homie, I want to do it out there. I want people to look at the both of us & say ' you know what, they've overcome all those odds & put this shit back together again with some big music'. That vibe & that music will never be duplicated. We not trying to f-ck with 'The Clipse' we trying to build bigger. No disrespect to The Clipse, but we were the Clipse. Now we got to be Run DMC, for real, & that's where I'm trying to get to. Take all that bullshit out all that cookout shit. All the rumors & the this, the that. & let's make this music. Cause it's the only way to elevate you into that status of Boss Man. Then when you Boss Man, then you can make the rules, then you can be real late to anything, then you can do what ever you want to or sh-t on whoever you want to sh-t on. Right now its time to be humble. Get back in the game & be humble with strength behind you and organize because we already made those mistakes. & I don't feel like we should be coming out & making those same mistakes that we made before. We could do that. If so, we don't need to do that. & that's the dilemma I'm at. I'm waiting for Pete Rock to come back & give my real sh-t. I got all the up & coming producers in Mount Vernon. I got'um? now its time to put the icing on the cake. Pete don't have to be the cake no more but he can be the icing though & that's where I'm at. If you want to hear something about me, this is what you can hear. If you want to read something about me this is what you can read. Come back home & get this sh-t right & then you can go about your business. & that's what's up, man.