Brownsville’s own Rockness Monsta is one of the founding members of the hip hop collective Boot Camp Clik (BCC) which consists of General Steele & Tek (Smif-n-Wessun), Buckshot, DJ Evil Dee & 5ft (Black Moon), and Starang Wondah, Louisville Slugga & Top Dog (OGC). He was also part of the iconic duo Heltah Skeltah alongside Sean Price aka Ruck (R.I.P). Rockness has an intricate rugged flow. BCC as a whole added such vigor and style to the hip hop scene. Their talent and charisma was a game changer. Each artist uniquely gifted brought crazy energy to each performance. Heltah Skeltah and OGC’s Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka was my favorite collaboration. That video always got me amped up.
Watch Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka
Rockness’ contribution to the supergroup was his commanding presence, eloquent wordplay and the ability to spit some of the most engrossing freestyles. I had the amazing opportunity to interview Rock. He was so candid in his responses, the stories about his career, and future endeavours.
Who are your musical influences?
Originally as far as hip hop goes, as a kid, I didn’t love the stuff that was on the radio at first. I was born in ’73, when hip hop was allegedly started. I loved groups like The Fat Boys, UTFO, Whoudini… My main influences were in the East Coast and the West Coast. KRS-One, Kool G Rap, NWA. A lot of people in NY weren’t receptive to NWA. Eazy-E had the rhymes. We didn’t know at the time he wasn’t writing his raps. Ice Cube… not a lot of people gravitated towards him. For me, MC Ren had an East Coast flow. Dre’s raps were standard they weren’t corny, but he got his point across. NWA let me know I could say what I want on a track. Before that you had to say something dope and be technically savvy. They let me know I can be angry on a track. I can express my feelings. That was revolutionary for me because I was an angry kid.
When did you start rapping?
My friend wrote a rap. I said if he can write a rap so can I. I wrote that one rap I had that for a year. And then I wrote my second rap. By the third year, I was like 13. I started writing verses. I built me a little stash when I was 13. I can’t remember the lyrics but I do know it was on some “say no to drugs” shit. I knew how to say my first two really good though. Those were the only ones I had for awhile.
Did you have a rap group when you were younger?
I did. It wasn’t really a rap group though. I was the only one who rapped. I was 15. I had my friend he was the DJ and I had two dancers. G Rap had two dancers Sean and Kenny. I was mimicking that. Like that’s how it’s supposed to be. My man played the keyboard. I didn’t even grasp the concept of production back then. I just knew that would make us stand out. All these niggas are my friends til this day. We wasn’t getting nowhere though. All they did was crack jokes. We laugh about it all the time. Half the time the jokes were on me. I knew that wasn’t gonna work.
How did you come to form Boot Camp Clik?
I was introduced to Steele by his uncle. We lived in the same projects but we didn’t know each other. The uncle introduced us because he thought we were both wild dope. I was like 15, Steele was 16. We were both lyrically dope but what Steele had going was ten times what I had going. He had moves and dancers and they had routines. My dancers didn’t have routines. Steele was just amazing and still is. Once I saw Steele’s team perform, I knew my team days were numbered. I was like, I’m fucking with that. I’m a pretty calculated dude. Salute to my team though. I didn’t ask “yo Steele can I be down?” I just stuck around. We built a bond first and went from there. From the moment me and Steele connected everyone else just came through him and me. Everyone asks why we didn’t become a group. Still can’t answer that. I would say we didn’t look right. It just wasn’t meant to be. Steele and Tek been cool since high school. Steele taught Tek how to rap. That was his righthand man. They looked like a crew. My original partner was a female Lady Champagne… she was a beast. It was hard to balance things out. I was kicked out of my high school and had to go to high school redirection. I knew Ruck since I was a child. I would hang with Ruck all day everyday. I worked on the bond first and I knew he was gonna be my rap partner. I just didn’t tell him. Once we built the bond I was like “got your ass.” I brought Ruck into the folds. Steele brought in Buckshot. Once we saw what we had, we just trained everybody else. We all from the same neighborhood except Tek. Starang I knew him on some Decept shit and he could rap. Boot Camp Clik is nepotism at it’s finest.
How does it feel moving forward without Ruck?
It feels like shit. Shittiest thing I ever had to do.
What are you up to now? Any upcoming music?
My latest project is Rockness AP which is Rocknees After Price. It’s not a sappy dedication album. That’s not how you honor P! You honor P! with bars. There’s a couple of songs in there that may elicit some feelings. It’s a few guest appearances. I needed that support system. The concept initially started with fraternity. Just close friends. I did get three Wu members: Meth, Rae, and Deck on the project. I got Ras Kass. He always been my homie. We were on Priority together. I got M.O.P – my fellow Brownsvillians. I had people who could relate to what I was going through or close friends. Those were the people who made the cut. Ron Browz on there too. Right now I’m working on a new project with Ron Browz. I created a Kickstarter for this one.
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What prompted you to start a Kickstarter?
I listened to the fans. We all gotta do our part. Support the rappers you do like. People complain about shit the radio ain’t playing that they want to hear. I don’t have a label backing. I don’t have those perks. It costs money to properly promote. This is a business. People will suggest that you need to do this or that. It costs money and more than what we are asking for. Believe me, I don’t like asking nobody for shit. Last American B Boy was like, this is what niggas are doing. I know to keep my expectations low. I don’t expect anything from anyone. We are just promoting and creating incentives, t-shirts, and different stuff for certain level of donations. Like people being my guest at an event.
What do you think of the evolution of hip hop?
When you listen to young ppl like my bro Milli rapping over these beats, he on that new wave shit. I mean the beats are insane. Sometimes beats be carrying niggas careers. Lyricism has downgraded tremendously. My lil bros have a combination of the young swag and lyrical integrity. The songs are ridiculous. You not be around me we not learn from each other.
How do you maintain longevity in this ever-changing hip hop climate?
I’ve always been a dude that knows how to rap. I don’t care if I rap fast like double time. I’m gonna do it better than you. When you break down all the fast raps and slow it down, it’s nothing but fluff. I’m saying something when I rap.
What’s your standout project?
I would say D.I.R.T. Heltah Skeltah just came off a long hiatus. Ruck had dropped two dope solo albums. I was in the cut stacked up with artillery. I had an arsenal. A nigga that’s fire and a nigga backed up with verses was a dope combination.
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Do you think social media hinders the growth of hip hop?
I think when we say hip hop, I’m thinking the culture as a whole… not just the music. Although sometimes we use the music and culture interchangeably, I mean it as a culture. I think there are pros and cons either way. It’s allowing people to do more, which is a good thing. In some cases, the quality is compromised.
What artists are you listening to?
Lately I haven’t been in the mood. I know there’s some albums I need to check out. Certain people I’ll always listen to and support. There’s certain albums you can’t get away from. One of them is Meek Mill’s Champions project. The song with him Rick Ross and Jay-Z especially. People were like, I’m gonna let you finish, but Jay-Z has the greatest verse of all time.
Tell us what’s in store for you and your future
I want to do voiceover acting. I want to create shows. I want to create video games. There’s so much I want to do that would pay way more than this rap shit. Not saying fuck rap. I’m just saying there’s a lot of stuff on my plate.
If you could form a supergroup, who would you select?
Shit, am I in the group? Let me think. Hmmm… Sean Price and Rockness Monsta… The End.
This was a feel good interview that took me down memory lane to one of the best eras in hip hop. I could hear the emotions in his voice when he spoke on Sean P and how close the BCC family structure is. Thank you Rockness for your consistent contributions to the hip hop culture. You are a true hip hop legend. Your legacy carries on with Monsta Nation. We look forward to your new music.
and the list goes on…