I didn't expect to hear guns in the background or the sound of girls screaming orgiastically in a club when calling Billy Danze of M.O.P. at his home in Brooklyn. I was, however, surprised when he interrupted the interview to comfort a crying baby with some unusually adorable baby talk. But then Danze is rarely what you might expect him to be.
Known for filthy lyrics, punch-you-in-the-face intensity and incredible stage presence, Danze explains his views with the respect of an old-school gentleman. He promises that fans can expect "one of the best live shows in the world" at the Paragon on Saturday. Their live show has been honed to a science after decades on the road, averaging 150 tour dates a year.
M.O.P. is dedicating this tour to late rapper Guru of Gang Starr, a close collaborator and fellow member of the select group of rappers that participated in the early '90s golden era of hip-hop. "Now he is gone, it's up to us to hold him down and fulfill his legacy," says Danze. "He laid down the blueprint of what hip-hop is today."
Things have changed a lot since those days. "It was a niche market and starting to become popular, through Biggie and Pac and Jay-Z," explains Danze. "I would look at them like the Tiger Woods of rap, they exposed non-rappers to rap music. In the beginning, the average guy walking down the streets wouldn't know it. Now it's the number one music in the world. To be a small part of that small collective that made that happen is an honour for us, we love it."
Danze says that rap groups from the golden era are still in demand, but M.O.P. haven't changed the way they live, even with the success of megahit "Ante Up."
"Most people, they would get a successful record, buy a big Mercedes, mansion, be on Cribs; we have always maintained ourselves," says Danze. "We didn't put it around our necks, we defined our success by changing the lives of the people around us."