Hip-Hop Legend AZ Says His Sequel Album ‘Doe Or Die II’ Is ‘Crafted Like A Timepiece’
Ever since he burst on the scene with one of the greatest debut verses of all-time on “Life a B****, “ AZ has been “Rather Unique.”
The Brooklyn born, Grammy-nominated MC is one of the true legends in Hip-Hop with his signature word play, silky smooth flow, and intricate lyricism.
AZ took the Hip-Hop world by storm in 1995 with his debut album Doe Or Die. The LP went Platinum and featured the classic cut “Sugar Hill” which peaked at number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1997, co-founded the supergroup The Firm along Nas, Foxy Brown, Cormega and later, Nature. The group’s only album went platinum.
Over the course of his illustrious career, AZ has released over 10 studio albums, made numerous guest appearances, performed all over the world, and just keeps getting better with time
I caught up with Sosa and we spoke about what New York borough has the best MCs, why he feels underrated, the pros and cons of music streaming, and his new album Doe Or Die II.
Grove: I’ve heard a lot of different stories about this so I’m glad I finally can get an answer from you. Is it true that you, JAY-Z, The Notorious B.I.G., and Busta Rhymes went to the same high school in Brooklyn?
AZ: I went to Eli Whitney and so did JAY-Z but it got shut down. I think that’s when Jay went to Washington Irving or George Washington and that’s where Busta and Biggie were. They shut that school down and then everybody migrated to different places.
Grove: I always wanted to ask someone of your stature this question. If there was a battle between all of the MCs from each New York borough, would Brooklyn win?
AZ: That’s hard because you got so many great artists. Growing up, I loved LL and he was from Queens. I loved Kane and he was from Brooklyn. I loved Kool G Rap and he was from Queens. I didn’t know until later that Rakim was from Long Island you get me? So it wasn’t so much about the boroughs but about the quality of work that so many artists contributed but Brooklyn has had some nice MCs.
Grove: You, Kane, JAY-Z, Biggie, Busta, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Lil Kim, and Foxy Brown just to name a few, would be a tough match up for anybody.
AZ: Haha! You may be right.
Grove: Without question, you are a certified legend in Hip-Hop. But with all your accomplishments, do you feel underrated and underappreciated at times?
AZ: Yeah, I definitely feel underappreciated you know? When it comes to skills, I can dance with the best of them all. Sometimes it’s just about marketing and promotion. You can have some great water but if you don’t market it right, no one will know it’s out there. So I do think I’m underappreciated.
Grove: Back in the day, one of my favorite pairs of kicks as a kid was the Patrick Ewing’s. I recently read that you commemorated the 25th anniversary of Do Or Die with a collaboration with Ewing athletics. How did that partnership happen?
AZ: Everybody loved the Ewings back then. We loved the Ewings, we loved the Jordans and everything from that era and I always loved some fresh footwear. When Ewings approached me about a sneaker, I knew that the 25th anniversary of Doe Or Die was coming out, so it was perfect timing man. It was a great way to celebrate the album and the Ewing brand. It’s called “Sport Life X AZ” and it’s a hot sneaker.
Grove: I also saw you’re going to be dropping Sosa Beverages real soon.
AZ: I got into the fine wines so I decided to bring some fine wine to the table. I started Sosa Beverages. I’m starting off with a Moscato, some sparkling wine, and we’re going to have some fun.
Grove: In your experience, tell me about the pros and cons of music streaming?
AZ: When streaming was fairly new, like everybody else, I was really just trying to grasp it. I’m use to selling CDs and before that cassettes and now it’s streaming. I guess the pros of it is that everybody can do it for themselves now. All you have to do is set up your YouTube page, set up your TikTok, you and everything connects to one hub, you know what I’m saying? Social media connects the world and streaming makes it that much better honestly.
Grove: What I love about Doe Or Die II is that it has a hint of nostalgia with Buckwild and Pete Rock who were on the original but the album is really a showcase for your evolution as an MC and as a man. What was the creative process like?
AZ: The fact that it had been 25 years and I had like seven or eight albums in between you know, you just grow so much. With the sonic’s switching to the Midwest and to the South, as I was gearing for this one, it took a long minute. I’ve been wanting to put it out but everything was switching up so much. So I started to lock-in around 2017 and 2018 but there was still a gap and I started putting the songs out because I had people waiting so long. But when the COVID hit, man, it was really like now or never. So I really locked in when we all were hibernating during quarantine and knocked out most of it. This year, I finished the rest and here we are.
Grove: Your debut Doe Or Die is an undeniable classic. Did you feel any pressure to create the sequel?
AZ: No pressure. I wanted to do it because back then when we first signed our contracts, when we first got into the game, you look at it and it says you have to deliver nine albums. When you see that you’re like, “I didn’t even get past the first one.” For any artist that’s been in the game for some time, you want to bring that sequel to fruition because it’s like you completed the 360. Even though the contracts are non-existent, in my mind, I overcame and now this is the 10th, 11th album. Let me do two more. I’m ready now.
Grove: I know you love them all but what song on the album is your favorite?
AZ: I’ll keep it 100. I like the whole album because of how I created it from top to bottom. I like all of them because each song brings out a different life and brings different zones out of me. So I love all of them. They were hand-picked and then crafted like a timepiece. It’s classic man.
Grove: I love the hook on “Never Enough.”
AZ: “Never Enough” is great. Lil Wayne went crazy on “Ritual.”
Grove: Is there anyone in Hip-Hop, R&B, or anything else that you never worked with but would love to collaborate with?
AZ: Wow. I think I wanna say JAY-Z just for the love of the game. I think that would be a good thing to bring things to a close. But I would love to work with a singer like Anita Baker and most definitely Stephanie Mills.