I was first introduced to Bishop Lamont’s music in the summer of 2006 when I heard “Welcome to Havoc” during the closing credits of the straight-to-DVD film, Havoc. I learned soon after that Bishop was signed with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment and I eagerly awaited his debut, The Reformation. While working for Billboard Magazine in 2008, I even wrote a review of his single, “Grow Up.” However, after an almost five-year stint at the label with no album released, Bishop amicably split ways with the house that Andre built in 2010.
Despite the setbacks at Aftermath, Bishop did not allow them to stop him from bringing his music to the masses. From 2007 to 2010, he released six street albums which covered numerous heavy themes ranging from race to religion. According to Bishop, “I was tired of mix-tapes. The last person that did something really great with mix-tapes was 50 Cent. 50 Cent never got the respect or proper standing ovation for what he did.”
Bishop elaborated by saying, “He (50) went and innovated a dying art form and made the mix- tapes collector’s items. So after seeing what he did, what was the next logical answer for what to do with mix-tapes? It was to elevate the quality of the music because everything had been done. Let’s make a true
experience for the listeners that they can’t get anywhere else and it was putting together a dream team of producers and artists on these records, and it was above all else for free. It would force the rest of the industry and creators of music to stop coming half-assed, cheat(ing) the fans, and disrespecting hip-hop with these microwavable, fast-food raps.”
The approach worked. Not only were the street albums critically acclaimed, but they were able to reflect a sign of the times in popular culture. (i.e. N*gger Noize and Caltroit addressed the Michael Richards controversy and the passing of Detroit producer J. Dilla respectively.) Additionally, they satisfied Bishop Lamont’s loyal fan base while continuing to grow his audience.
Upon receiving news that I was going to conduct this interview, I reached out to hip-hop legend Warren G and asked him for his thoughts on Bishop Lamont, whom he collaborated frequently with on his 2005 opus, In the Mid-Nite Hour. Responding via twitter, The Regulator said “ (he’s) a very talented cat and knows how to create a story.”
Bishop was quick to return the compliment, “Warren is one of those guys who is a legend in the eyes of people who love West Coast hip-hop and music in general, but he’s just a normal guy. And I revere him in the sense that he has never let any of that affect him. And if it did, it definitely doesn’t now. He’s also a seriously devoted father. He hates being on the road; he doesn’t want to be away from his kids. He’s a mentor. I love that dude tremendously and I’ve learned a lot. And so I’m always pushing for him.”
Not only has Bishop used his talents to impress hip-hop’s elder statesmen and push rap past its all too common cookie-cutter sound. But he has also made a point of giving back to the community. In November 2011, he appeared on a song, “No Struggle No Glory”, which raised money for the Little Village Recording Studio in Los Angeles. “For me, that’s what it’s really about,” Bishop said proudly. “It’s been successful. I got an award (for that) and by far it’s the greatest honor I’ve received so far. When it comes to awards, I think that’s the best one I’ll ever have. No disrespect to the Grammys; I want the Grammys. I want the Oscars too, but they won’t equate to this kind of work. I think this is the greatest kind of work- being a humanitarian and changing lives.”
And just a couple weeks ago he appeared on “Neighborhood Watch”, a record with MC Serch’s protege Sneakas, which is currently raising money for the Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation. In conjunction with Serchlight Multimedia, it is arranged where every time the song is downloaded for free, Serchlight will donate 5 cents to the foundation founded by the parents of the slain Florida teenager.
Now at the present time, late April 2012, Bishop is finally set to release a video for The Reformation’s first official single, “Sodom and Gomorrah.” And to commemorate such a wonderful accomplishment, he will be hosting a fan Q&A after the video premieres on his website. He shared with me that it was the most difficult video that he has ever had to edit. “There was so much information. To convey it truthfully though, there were things we had to cut. But there were so many beautiful gems,” he said.
“It was the greatest reward (putting out “Sodom and Gomorrah”) and to see the reaction (to the song) and how it’s still growing is a dope thing because the video drops April 25th on bishoplamont.com. And it’s going to be that much more incredible when people finally get the visual to match what they’ve listened to,” he explained. “What we’re talking about is what’s really affecting us as we speak. “Sodom and Gomorrah” is not just the title of a song. It is something we are experiencing as a world. We truly are in Babylon,” Bishop remarked.
“It’s really great to do a service to the faithful and to the aware that are out here and try to wake people up and make them aware of their surroundings-how we are losing a lot of our freedoms, our own identities, and our power to have choice,” he continued. “That’s what the song really embodies, and we’ve just scratched the surface. I want to thank everybody for supporting it (the song) and banging it. Please check out the video.”
Similar to his mentor, Mr. Griffin, fatherhood has also had a profound impact on Bishop as well. “Having a daughter, it makes us (men) a lot more docile, it makes us a lot more conscientious of our tempers, of our egos, of our anger,” he said. “It makes us a lot more compassionate. Not to say I wasn’t a compassionate person before, but once you cut that umbilical cord everything changes. You appreciate life on a higher level and then you appreciate your parents even more. It changes the perspective on everything.”
With so many strides forward, both personally and professionally, Bishop is more ready than ever to put out his highly-anticipated LP. “The Reformation is slated for this year. I appreciate all the fans being patient with me because it has been a labor of love first and foremost,” he exclaimed enthusiastically. “Excuse the pun, but I had to detox from the situation at Aftermath. Because I almost lost myself in that situation, I almost lost my soul. Your (the fans’) patience is going to be well rewarded with The Reformation, so it’s definitely going to come out this year. I can’t say a date yet; I don’t want to do a Dre to you and have you thinking it’s going to be in stores and then it’s not. [laughs]”
It has been a long time coming, but Bishop’s time has finally arrived. And like his namesake suggests, by combining the lyricism of Nas and the message of Public Enemy, he is of the highest order that hip-hop has to offer. Believe the hype!
Words: Shad Reed [SReed0508@gmail.com, @Shad1424]