Harlem Born MC Nutta Butta took time out of his busy schedule for an interview with Reviews & Dunn. Here is part 1 of a three-part series.
Reviews & Dunn: Growing up, who were your early musical influences?
Nutta Butta: Wow! I had so many musical influences growing up from various genres; I could be writing forever ever! Hmm… I would have to say Michael Jackson was my first and most impactful musical influence as a youngin. I had a mean afro and could spin like a bottle, not to mention doing the robot off the Jackson 5 song Dancing Machine. With that said, I would be remiss not to mention hip-hop frontrunners such as; The Fearless 4, Crash Crew, Cold Crush brothers, The Treacherous 3, Furious 5, The Sugar hill gang. Fast forward to Run-DMC, LL Cool J (who is one of my all-time favorite artists along with Jay-Z.) Wrecks n Effect, A Tribe Called Quest, and that whole native tongue vibe. Slick Rick and so many others! I could go on for days.
Reviews & Dunn: You were raised in Harlem, New York. Where was your favorite place to get a slice?
Nutta Butta: Well, I was born in the Bronx, and I moved to Harlem when I was 13. There were plenty of fantastic pizza spots in the Bronx. However, I would have to say a place on 110th street and Broadway; they had the huge slices for $3 back in the days! Man! You just took me back with that question.
Reviews & Dunn: I understand your borough was full of talented artists like Mase, Aqil Davidson from Wreck x-N-Effect, and DJ EZ Rock. Did you ever have a chance to do a cypher or battle with anyone who is in the industry now?
Nutta Butta: Yeah, you’re correct; I was surrounded by some of the best hip hop artists’ in the business at that time. I was never one to just dig in at a cypher when I” got on,” so to speak, but Aqil is a lyrical animal, Godzilla, to keep it all the way real! We had a gang of iron sharpening moments back in the days in New York and Virginia. At any given moment, especially when some out of town, Mc’s would come to the studio trying to flex!
Reviews & Dunn: How old were you when you wrote your first “hot sixteen” and what was the song about
Nutta Butta: My first hot 16 was pieced together, bitten and written from a serious cypher battle rapper in the early ’80s named Bo Fresh, who went to my High School Park West. I took like 8 of his bars and mixed in my name instead of his. The other eight was from a few lines I took from whoever! The funniest thing was I went everywhere and said that rhyme like I owned it! I was a hip hop head who was in the lunchroom playing the beat on the table for the Mc’s to battle! I loved to be in the thick of the music; I wasn’t an MC; I just loved the culture with my entire heart and soul! Nevertheless, I was in a group called STP, and S of the TP was the writer for the group, T was the DJ, also known as EZ-Kid, the other DJ beside EZ – Rock. Yup! Rob Base had two DJ’s back then. And of course, the P was for my name peanut, which later evolved into Nutta Butta. Back to my first hot 16, my boy S used to write rhymes for me that felt like things he would say. I hated it, and I decided to give it a try and write my own rhyme for this song we were recording called “Outlaw” It was everything! It was my best 48 bars to date! I started writing, and I could not stop!
Reviews & Dunn: Jay-Z is known for writing without paper. However, I understand that you and Aqil Davidson were doing that in the early nineties. What is the process that goes into writing without paper?
Nutta Butta: Yes sir, around 1991/1992, I was in the booth recording, well more like screwing up this verse that I had written down on a few pieces of paper. After some blunders, Aqil, who was engineering the session, asked me, “Butta, what the blank are you trying to say?” I replied that I wrote my lyrics on a few different sheets of paper, and I couldn’t quite remember how I was supposed to say some of the lines. He exhaled and said, “BUTTA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING STILL WRITING YOUR LYRICS DOWN ON PAPER?” Baffled at his question, I won’t get into my reply, but what came out of the conversation was some simple instructions on how to write without ever using paper again! I will share it with your readers; basically, you can misplace or lose your phone with your lyrics, but it is hard to lose your mind. So when you are vibing, say your lyrics over and over, once you got the line that you want to say, move on to the next line repeating the process until you have your verse or song. Bam! Thank me later!
Reviews & Dunn: The first time I can recall seeing your name was on Blackstreet’s remix of their 1994 hit “I Like The Way You Work.” How did you come to the attention of Teddy Riley?
Nutta Butta: 1994 was an awesome breakout year for me, as far as features were concerned. I had a feature on a hot, now classified by DJ’s as a classic remix single called “90’s Girl”, with the lovely and sensational group named Blackgirl. Before that, I was introduced to the industry in 1991/1992 as a ghostwriter for Markell Riley of the multi-platinum group Wreckx n Effect. Markell and Aqil were neighborhood rock stars! They were living the Hoodmerican dream, and I wanted in! I’m a hustler, hustler hustle. I peeped the times they came through and how they moved, and I applied hustle.
I would roll up on Markell whenever he came through in one of his toys, that smoke grey 300 hundred Z with the tints was easily noticeable. One day I just came up with this story about how I had written some rhymes for him, and he said cool, he was with it, just run it by Aqil, Yeah, I had to let Aqil know. We were all from the same neighborhood, St. Nicholas Projects, and we were good with one another always! I would chop it up with Aqil every chance I got. I would lurk inside the building late nights like 2 and 3 in the morning, just waiting for Aqil to come through so I could chop it up with him. He will co-sign it; I was hungry and relentless. Through these efforts, I had the opportunity to write on the Wreckx n Effect Hard or Smooth platinum album as my introduction to the music business. What an intro, huh? Thank you to my brothers Aqil and Markell for giving me a local Harlem dude with limited recordings, a lot of hustle, hunger, and loads of potential, a life-changing chance!
Reviews & Dunn: When you made it down to VA to work with Teddy, did you ever get a chance to work with a pre-fame Neptunes or Timbaland?
Nutta Butta: Man, Pharrell, and Chad were different dudes, very musical and unusual, borderline weird, but their genius was always evident. Always cool and always love! We were like teammates, but competitors at the same time. The camp wasn’t groomed or encouraged to lock in together back then. I mean, we weren’t told to walk over a bridge to get a cheesecake or get some slightly chilled Cambodian breast milk or throwing hands with one another. But the atmosphere was just as divisive. Imagine a gang of hungry cats, one song up in the main studio, and a thousand rappers given the impression they are the only one on the record. Only to find out the other nine hundred. Ninety-nine rappers were given the same impression. Breeds envy and division, I got on them songs, so Nah, we never got to record, that is with Pharrell, Chad, and the boys! Timbaland’s situation was different. Tim used to come by the studio in VA, him, and Magoo! Magoo was my guy, he was a cool dude, and we would chop it up from time to time. Timbaland used to ask me to jump on a track every time he saw me; he would say my voice was crazy! For whatever reason, the general and lead producer of our team wasn’t feeling Timbaland, so I never said yes to any offer from him.
Reviews & Dunn: Before releasing your first solo single, you had a heavy presence on Teddy Riley’s remixes for R&B songs. Do you think Teddy was trying to market you the same way as Mase & Fabulous before releasing their albums?
Nutta Butta: Nah! I wish!
In Part 2 of our interview, Nutta Butta discusses why he never released a solo album, and he reveals the identity of Anonymous, a guest on his 1998 debut single “Freak Out.”