Paragon Interview (by Chris Byrne)
Paragon are two cousins from Battersea, South London, England. Jiff and Rapsody who have been performing for nearly 20 years now and they are still in it to win it! They started off recording in 94 as ‘Xtra Large’ leading to a collabo’ that year with early UK heroes Son of Noize. With their own production company and record label formed in 97, many (international) collaborations, respect from Chuck D and Giles Peterson these guys will surely come to your attention sooner or later.
How are you rating the prospects for UK hip hop?
P: Well every year there’s this “will it blow or not?” talk. We’re not really concerned with that over here. We’re just doin’ us (sic).There’s a faction of UKHH that thinks unless you’re coming a certain way, then you can’t rep the scene. That’s bull in our opinion. Hip hop culture is wide and varied, and the music should reflect that. So as far as the scene as a whole, well we’d say that it’s healthy now. Especially as lots of kids in the estates are just discovering that we’re here, and they can get involved in UKHH too. They’re leaving that garage for a minute and trying to write some shit. It’s all good to us. If you want us to name UK crews we’re watching, then you can hold this. Ty, Million Dan, TerraFirma, NDT, Bronz N Blak, SAS, Bad Manner, and bare up-and-comers to watch for in the future like Frontline, AMMO and Loose Cannonz.
What is your opinion of online UK hip hop communities, such as www.ukhh.com?
P: Online communities play an integral part in our culture now. All types of people now have access, so they can easily get involved. It’s where people can converse, share, trade, bitch, whatever. You have to get with each sites particular forum etiquette though, which can be a little daunting if you’re new to the online thing. By that I mean that on some sites, members won’t even acknowledge you exist until you’ve replied to at least 5 threads from other members. Once you’ve shown you want to be involved with their particular community, then you may get accepted. Which is fair enough to me. Otherwise you just get guys posting up ads for their product all the time.
A good hiphop community allows people to be themselves. It’s one where the artists frequent to converse with fans and haters. Where the communities varied opinions mean something. Where people share info to help the youngsters build the scene further. And most important A DAMN GOOD READ!! Plus some good audio/video exclusives, hiphop news, interviews, basically your favourite magazine with a free CD. Unfortunately what you get are sites with some of that list, and lots of things you dislike. That’s why you end up with about 30 hiphop sites you flip through, taking what you need, and investing time in those that you feel for in that moment. The US sites are the most thorough though. For example All Hip Hop, Mr Blunts, Okay Player, Rap Network, etc. With literally tens of thousands of members. But I dig the UK ones as well as it’s closer to home, the topics are realer to me.
What is the next step for No Dough Records / Paragon?
P: World domination! The word’s out. We’re getting thousands of weekly hits on our site from fans. They’re leaving bare messages via email and in our online guestbook. Basically we think we’re good at what we do. We ain’t trying to be anyone but ourselves. So don’t be comparing our punches, flows or beats to whoever. The complete package is Paragon, and right now there ain’t nobody on this island fucking with us. If we thought otherwise we wouldn’t be doing this now would we?
But we ain’t greedy over here. We have a ‘share the wealth’ policy. By that we mean whatever it takes for us to make it, we gonna share that info with you so you can get yours. There’s a ‘Knowledgebase’ of essential music industry info on our website, for people to access anytime they wish. We’re forever reaching out to crews to collab’ and stuff. As long as we respect each others talent, and beats, and time is willing, we ready to do it. It’s not just hiphop for us over at NoDough, as we have 3 R&B artists as well. So we going to hit you guys with some killa street shit over the next year for sure. But on the real, if you’re not about your shit and your business, don’t holla at us. We fuck with them cats that handle theirs, that are putting their lil’ change together to get studio time. Buying CDR’s and burning their shit. On the net all day telling people about their act etc.
How much time, money and effort does it take to be a Paragon member and run No Dough Records?
P: Crazy amounts of both to be honest. But you know what, you handle what you can handle, and forget the rest. At first we thought we could be the Bad Boy Records of the UK, but we found it’s much much more than talent alone. There are industry-made barriers to success which you have to hurdle. And these cost a lot of money. So you have to decide where you fit in, and make that scene your own. We can handle these streets, so that’s where we flourish. On road the youths know ’bout Paragon and No Dough! now. We’re just gonna build on that, and give them what they want. For your label to be a true player, you need the kinda real money people like us can only dream about. The kind of paper that only a serious criminal or wealthy family inheritance could handle. You gotta pay for everything from pressing, to promotion, to radio play, to every damn thing you could think of, and a hundred other things you couldn’t. It’s crazy, and it’s enough to make you wanna hurt someone some times believe. But then you get a group of teenagers come up to you on road chattin bout, “Paragon innit? Seen your vid man, heavy! When’s the album drop?” That’s what we do this for man, the music and the people. Jiff and I handle it all at the moment. Raising the funds, getting bookings, coordinating others we employ, marketing, radio, everything. It’s a full time job, but we have do regular work also to raise the funds, so you see what I mean about you gotta be about your shit. Don’t think you can come over here and talk shit, and we gonna give you the keys after we done grinded our hearts out. Are we gonna be successful? You damn right. We earnt it. We deserve it.
What is your opinion on the evolutions of hip hop culture, such as CD turntablism?
P: To be honest, I don’t really give a damn what format your using. Just make sure your playing my shit!! On the real, you can’t halt the times man. It’s always gonna keep on moving. So you either keep up, or fall back. It’s on you.
What do you define as success for you as an artist?
P: Recognition, respect, and debt free. You feel me?
Anything you would like to add?
P: Tune in to www.nodoughrecords.com… Peace.
Thanks to Chris Byrne for offering the interview to the site.