M.O.P on stage at the BC One World Final 2018
© Romina Amato

10 things you should know about legendary rap heavyweights M.O.P

Hip-hop legends M.O.P were the unannounced surprise act at Red Bull BC One. We met them for an interview before the show to find out 10 things you didn't know before.
By Tracy Kawalik
9 min readPublished on
In Brooklyn, New York City, in 1992, amid the latter half of the hip-hop's golden era, rappers Fame and Billy Danze came together and formed Mash Out Posse. Both aggressive lyricists, M.O.P. stomped onto the scene with formidable force.
Laying out heavy hitting, unapologetic bars over thumping boom not only became the seminal sound of hardcore hip-hop on their block in Brownsville, but streets worldwide, marking the beginning of a lengthy musical legacy.
We caught up with M.O.P at Red Bull BC One in Zurich, Switzerland, where they played a surprise set, to chat about their come up in the scene. From growing up together to producing for Wu-Tang, how Remy Ma pushed her way onto a feature verse, and everything else in between.

1. M.O.P had no clue their DJ and manager was roommates with Big Daddy Kane and choreographed for Scoob & Scratch

Billy Danze: Fame and I came together, because we were living on the same block. When we were kids, long before we made music, Lil' Fame and I hung out on the block together. We went to school together, the shops together, everything. We came together because we needed to do something else, other than the other shit we were doing.
Back in the neighbourhood you'd sometimes hear 'this guy got shot' or 'this guy got locked up' so it was just nice to get off the corners, you know. Coming from where we come from, people don't take chances. You don't take a chance going over to the next block, because you might not come back. So when we started making music, and took the chance to cross the bridge to New York and the big city, that was a big deal.
Lil' Fame: Pun came up with us, Biggie as well came from the neighbourhood and grew up with us. NAS was down the block, Big Daddy Kane, too. We had no idea.

2. Their breakout hit How About Some Hardcore also gave Hype Williams a big break

Billy Danze: Hype Williams's big breakout was with us, but it just so happened that it was our very first video, too. Man, when I first heard How About Some Hardcore, and our voices coming out of those speakers, I didn't go to sleep all night. We'd made old tapes and stuff before, just messing around and recording, but never anything professional like that.
Lil' Fame: I'm a fan of music so in my head I know what it's supposed to sound like. So I knew How About Some Hardcore was one of those songs. We played back and I was like 'Yeah I know this is the joint'.
I don’t think we slept for four days straight before that video came out, the whole neighbourhood was hyped for that video. How About Some Hardcore was crazy. We rolled up on set and I was like "Yo, how does he have a gun?" Shooting that video was fun. When we dropped that record and made that video, our neighbourhood was at its worst so all our people were rooting for us. They were happy for us so we partied for weeks!
M.O.P on stage at Red Bull BC One 2018 in Zurich, Switzerland.
Spitting the rhymes

3. M.O.P's studio album First Family For Life was the most stolen album from New York City's HMV stores in 1998

Billy Danze: I wan to say 60,000 units or something like that were stolen. It was thousands and thousands. That was crazy for us.
Lil' Fame: The thing with hip-hop now is that you don't own anything anymore. Back then getting a copy of the CD, that was like owning a piece of hop-hop property. You had something that you could hold in your hand, and open it up, pull out the lyrics and the artwork. That meant something to people.

4. Nearly every hip-hop legend has jumped on their tracks

Lil' Fame: Most of the features happened because we'd be in the studio cutting a song, and other artists would be next door, hear what we were working on and come in, like, 'Yo, what's up, let me jump on that with you'. We never really went after anybody to get on a record. I think OC was the only one.
Billy Danze: The first feature we ever did was with Kool G Rap, and that was something that was really really huge for us. I remember waiting at the elevator and they were saying, "He's on his way upstairs', and I sat at the elevator happy as a kid in a candy store.

5. Lil' Fame also operates under the alias Fizzy Womack, producing records for Masta Ace and Kool G Rap, as well as Wu-Tang Clan's Chamber Music

Lil' Fame: Music is in my blood, but coming from where we come from, I didn't have a lot of opportunity to afford equipment. I had the worst equipment ever so I had to be smart to know how to put the sound and the song together. You'd have to take a piece from here, and a piece from there. 
When I finally got my hands on professional machines, I already knew what I was doing. It was like a whole bunch of stress lifted off my chest. I didn't have to think any more about plugging this here, and tape this to that
Billy Danze: No producer in history has had equipment as busted as his.
Lil' Fame: Making Chamber Music was fun, because I got to work with a band. The same way I would chop a record, for Chamber Music I was doing that with a live band. If I found a real old soul record or an Al Green sample, the guys in the band would play their version of it,  and I'd just chop it up and take the pieces I wanted. It was dope. They had trust in me, and I had a lot of creative control.
Billy Danze: They also gave him a lot of money!
M.O.P on stage performing at the Red Bull BC One World Final 2018 in Zurich, Switzerland.
M.O.P brought their heavy style to BC One as surprise guests

6. Remy Ma didn't take no for an answer when it came to jumping on the Ante Up remix

Lil' Fame: When we started working on the remix for Ante Up we had to make a list. I don’t even know how people heard about it, because we hadn't even finished it yet. We had artists calling up, 'Yo, what's up? I heard you guys were doing a remix, let me get on that'. A lot of people never made it on.
We got verses from C Murder, Masta P's brother. We got a verse from Jay-Z, Prodigy of Mobb Deep, and Nori. A lot of people did verses for it. We chose Busta Rhymes, and then Remy forced her way on the record. She was like, 'I'm getting on the record'. We liked Remy because we were really close with Big Pun, he was a good friend of ours. We hung out with him that same week he passed away, and met Remy then. She was his artist at the time, and that situation was the reason why we kept her on the record.
Billy Danze: It's good we did, because she was dope on that record! We never invited anybody on that, but she bogarted her way onto Ante Up, and the record made history, so good work Remy.

7. Warriorz was one of M.O.P's favourite albums to make

Lil' Fame: We made Warriorz at a time when a lot of street stuff started clearing up. You were able to breath and think clearly all of a sudden so when I look back on it now, that was the time everything was coming together. When we were making Warriorz, we used to stay in the studio for weeks on end. We'd be coming out of the studio when the sun was just rising, and then the next day we'd be rushing to get back in there and do it again.
Billy Danze: This was one of the first times when we were leaving our block, not to do something negative, but because we were working towards something big. You could feel it.
Lil' Fame: The good thing about it is that we didn't know what we were doing, but we know we were doing something, if you know what I mean. We knew we were coming on to something. The first time we made Ante Up it was more as a street track, and we were only known as making street music. This was the first record where we decided to test out playing the commercial game with a record or two mixed in.

8. M.O.P's music is in a lot of video games

Lil' Fame: The first time I heard us on a video game, that was ridiculous. Especially when my kids were little, but I had to act cool about it.
Billy Danze: This week, I heard Ante Up on a commercial for a new reality TV show coming out in New York – and they play that ad about 10 times a day. I'll be walking the dog and I hear it blaring from car windows, sweeping the floor and Ante Up is on in the background on some video game.
Billy Danze and Lil' Fame of M.O.P at the Red Bull BC One World Final 2018 in Zurich, Switzerland.
Hyping up the crowd

9. They've also put out two rock-rap albums

Lil' Fame: We used to tour with a band, and that's something different and unique from working with a DJ. We put out Handle Your Business and Mash Out Posse because we were really just like, "I feel like playing some wild ass guitars today." The live guitar actually matched the vocal cadence better than some of the hip-hop drums. It was more expressive.
Billy Danze: Rapping over rock was easy, because of the strong music and the energy that we already put into our records. If you take an M.O.P acapella from way before we did any rock records, and you just played the acapella and started banging a guitar, it fits perfectly. It just felt like that's where it was supposed to go.

10. Despite commercial fame, M.O.P didn't compromise for anyone

Lil' Fame: Our manager would ask us sometimes, 'Can we get a clean version for the radio?' We'd always refuse. After that, he said he knew an M.O.P record was going to be a hit when the DJ played it and people in the clubs would start fighting.
Billy Danze: We kept it so pure and stuck to making music about what we knew, you know. We knew Brooklyn felt like the things we were saying, but we didn't know everywhere else felt like that. We didn't know so many other people around the world went through the troubles we did, and were feeling the things we were feeling, because we were just kids at the time. The record deals started coming in because other rappers and artists were fans. The CEO of the record label was a fan because he was feeling that stuff, too.