Interview with Tik Tokk
from The Gospel Gangstaz
It's been three years since we've last seen The Gospel Gangstaz. Outside of cameo appearances with Fros'T and Woody Rock, the Gangstaz have been out of sight but definitely not out of mind.
— interview by Gerard Bonner —
Now, from the proverbial abyss, rises Tik Tokk, Mr. Solo and Chille Baby with a new album, a new label, and a new outlook on the industry. Gospelflava.com recently caught up with Gangstaz member Tik Tokk for a candid perspective on all that, as well as their careers.
When we last spoke with the Gangstaz, they were embarking on what seemed to be a ride into superstardom. After pronounced issues with their previous label Holy Terra, the Gangstaz had just signed with powerhouse label B-Rite Music, home to Kirk Franklin and Trin-i-tee 5:7.
Certainly the time spent with B-Rite propelled the Gangstaz into the mainstream gospel marketplace as their release "I Can See Clearly Now" spent time atop the gospel charts and was nominated for a Grammy award.
However, all was not peaches and cream with this picture. Tik Tokk described at length that it soon became apparent that the unavoidable business and political pressures so commonly associated with major record labels was not a very good fit for The Gospel Gangstaz.
"I mean, praise God for Kirk [Franklin] and praise God for Trin-i-tee 5:7 and everybody else but that's not the Gospel Gangstaz. The Gospel Gangstaz are The Gospel Gangstaz. We're not Kirk Franklin. We're not Donnie McClurkin. We're not all of these other cats. I mean, thank God for them, but we are us."
While the Gangstaz harbor no ill will towards anyone, they readily admit that for them to continue in the game, they truly felt that they needed to be released from B-Rite.
"It was just needed because things were boiling to a point," states the Gangsta member. After some prolonged negotiation, an agreement was reached that everyone could be happy with. "They let us go and we were like 'cool'. You can do your thing and we're definitely going to do our thing."
The end result is that the group has now begun their very own venture, their own label known as Camp 8 Records. The Gangstaz are extremely proud of their new venture and, as always, there is significant meaning behind the meaning and purpose of this record label.
"The Eight is a new beginning. 7 is the sign of completion. 8 is a new beginning," explains Tik Tokk. "When the Father destroyed the earth, He saved eight souls. Noah, his three sons and their wives...eight souls. It shows new beginning and they replenished the earth all over again. That's what we're doing. We're replenishing the music industry all over again."
Album Review: The Exodus
However, just when you think you have the double Gz figured out, Tik Tokk, Mr. Solo and Chille Baby change the game on you. The Gangstaz introduce live instruments to this project, with almost half of the album ......|
See full album review.
In their mode of replenishing, the Gangstaz along with Camp 8 Records have amassed an impressive stable of talented artists who can be found on the Gangstaz latest release titled The Exodus. "The Father has blessed us with some like-minded brothers who are just as hot if not hotter because the pupil always has to surpass the teacher," admits Tik Tokk. The inaugural list of talent on their roster include new groups Black Rain (East Coast), Sonz of Prophets (Las Vegas),and Elite (West Coast) along with solo acts Aqua Blaq (Dirty South) and City Mac, who is featured on 7 of the 12 songs on The Exodus.
They are also breaking out of the proverbial box with some other acts that they are looking at signing. "We've got a singing group that we're looking at right now," says Tik Tokk. "The 8 ball is rolling. We're going to be a legitimate label, man. We're going to take care of our artists."
The Gangstaz also have upcoming collaborations with some of Gospel's biggest acts. "Yolanda Adams was supposed to do something on this album with us but due to time constraints, it wasn't possible. However, she has committed to it. We're going to do something with her and she's going to do something with us," says the ex-Blood member. "Fred Hammond has something that was going to be on the album, but again, time constraints was the issue. We already have the song and it's on deck. That'll probably be on our next release."
Star power is something that the Gangstaz have become more exposed to, as of late. With basketball superstar Allan Houston being linked to the Gangstaz, the sky seems to be the limit for the group. They've also found a friend in funk legend Bootsy Collins, who appears on their lead single, "Gangstaz Don't Dance".
Album Review: The Exodus
"The Gospel Gangstaz have been in the game since 1989," says GG'z member Mr. Solo.
No strangers to the industry, Mr. Solo, Tik Tokk, and Chille‘ Baby embarked on a mission
to reach lost souls using the avenue of rap......|
See previous 1999 interview.
"Bootsy has been a long time fan of ours, unbeknownst to us," shares Tik Tokk. "He's out of Cincinnati, Ohio. We did a big thing out there with Dr. Creflo Dollar. While we were doing that, he came to the event, talked to us and the Father linked our hearts together. The following week, our label we were on B-Rite then flew us back to work with him. We were working on another album, before the Exodus album, that got shelved because we left B-Rite. That album was off the chain. We worked on that with Bootsy at his studio in his house. During that time, the Father melded our hearts together. Now he's full-fledged 'eight'. We call him Uncle Boots."
Within the music industry, numerous groups, both secular and gospel, are finding it difficult to stay together. This hasn't been an issue for the double Gs.
"We're not an act," states Tik Tokk. "We're brothers that really love each other. You don't just see us on stage and then we don't see hear from each other until the next time we have to do a show or practice. We're together everyday. We eat together. We get up together. We kick it. We're more than an act. That's why you can't take somebody from us or one of us just drop out and you just add him or add him. We don't do that. The Gospel Gangstaz is the Gospel Gangstaz. Solo, Tik Tokk, and Chille Baby, that's the Gospel Gangstaz. That's going to always remain the Gospel Gangstaz. We just stay focused on doing the will of Elohim and not the will of man. We ain't never goin' nowhere. It's Gospel Gangstaz for life."
With growing pressures within the industry to conform to a particular image coupled with bad experiences with record labels, the Gangstaz have a unique perspective on the music industry as a whole.
"This industry is a dog-eat-dog industry," admits Tik Tokk. "It's just not designed for the artist. It's not pro-artist. I may be sounding radical on this one but it's almost anti-artist. I mean if you look at it, who benefits the most? Not the artist. It's the label. We do all the writing. Sometimes the label will go out and pay other writers and stuff like that. But for a group like us, we do all of our writing. We do most of our own tracks. We take care of all of the artistic end, and the record company gives us a loan. And on that loan they give us, they get an astronomical rate of return. And that's the same with every artist and label. So it's almost anti-artist, because we do all of this work and then we don't see any monetary gain from it unless we go platinum, double-platinum or quadruple-platinum. Even then, the record label gets majority of the money. This is a business and business is set up to generate capital. If we're not benefitting from that capital and we're the artist, we're the one making the label."
"A label is only as good as its artists," continues Tik Tokk. "Look at Death Row [Records]. Death Row was on top until Snoop left, Dre left, and Tupac got killed. Now what is Death Row? Death Row can't do nothing because it doesn't have a good roster of artists. So if your whole business scheme and business strategy is based upon the artist and then you turn around and, for lack of a more eloquent word, 'do' the artist, then what does that say about you? So the music industry itself, not just hip-hop, but the music industry itself is almost anti-artist.
With such tumultous experiences, the glamorous life of an artist seems like it's more fiction than fact. "It seems like no one really cares," says Tik Tokk.
And so it would seem that, at least for the Gospel Gangstaz, the pressures of major record label life are not up their alley. Enter Camp 8, their own label, where they themselves call the shots.
Other Albums with Gospel Gangstaz
Click on the above CD images to check out albums from Fros'T and also Woody Rock, both which featured The Gospel Gangstaz.|
"It's just freedom, man. We're just free. We're free from censorship. People aren't telling us what to do or trying to recreate us. We're going to do what the Father called us to do. It's our label. We're going to say what we want to say. Everything we say is Bible-based, so it's not like we're going to say something wrong. People still want to tell us that we shouldn't say this or we shouldn't do this or we should look this way or that way. Look that way....smile... We don't need all that junk. We know what we're called to do. So what you hear on the album are free spirits. People who are free to do what the Bible called us to do; free to speak our minds and speak the truth."
The freedom has lead The Gangstaz into unchartered territory for them as they embrace live instrumentation on this project as well as different musical styles. Even Tik Tokk sings the hook to "Heaven Awaits Us".
"It's just being versatile and not being stuck in the mode. We're just doing whatever we feel we need to do and it shows on there. We may have a sound that sounds East Coast or a down South sound. We're going to have a West Coast sound because we're West Coast but we're not stuck in that mode. We're free to be free. He who the Son sets free is free indeed."
In times past, the Gangstaz was part of a larger clique known as The Committee. With original plans of touring and future albums, The Committee seemed destined for greatness. However, The Committee didn't last. "The Committee dissolved. It wasn't the right time nor the right people nor the right spot for the Committee. So The Committee dissolved and the Father gave us the Eight. See, we created The Committee but the Father created the Eight. The Bible talks about how things are to be tested by the fire. If it survives the fire, then it's well worth going forward. The Committee didn't survive the fire, but Camp 8 did and it's continually surviving."
Not known for holding anything back, the Gangstaz place some funny interludes on The Exodus that poke fun at some preachers in churches. They want to be clear in their message.
"There are crooked preachers out there but just laugh at them," laughs Tik Tokk. "Don't let them stop you from coming to the Father. That's why we made [the interludes] really comical. 'Yeah, they steal from the church. They take the tithes box.' Just laugh at them because the Father has a special place for them who lie, steal, and defraud the church. Don't let that stop you from coming into the knowledge of Christ Jesus. You're not going to find a perfect church nowhere. No matter where you look, you're not going to find a perfect church. What you can do is work on the perfecting of yourself."
With a solo project in the works for Gangsta member Mr. Solo, the Gospel Gangstaz continue to turn potential tragedy into great triumph. Through gang life, jail time, and twelve years in the game, the Gangstaz true heart still lies within ministry. Their "Exodus" can be celebrated by all and they look to share their new found freedom with all who will listen.
"The Gospel Gangstaz love the Father," says Tik Tokk. "We love people. We're not going to stop with this message. Everything we give to people is always going to be hot and it's going to always be Godly. We're not trying to shove Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in every verse we say. But you will here Christ and the Word throughout our lyrics and feel it."
All content in GospelFlava © copyright 2002. No
information to be reprinted or re-broadcast from this site without the expressed
written consent of GospelFlava.com. All rights reserved.