Q&A: 4th Pyramid On Touring With Too $hort And Wu-Tang, Hooking Up With Cosmo Baker, And The Makings Of A Good Hypeman
Back in February, Adam Farag sat at the bar of scuzzy East Village drink spot The Library with an envelope stuffed with $500 in singles. It was early afternoon and he was alternating pints of beer with whiskey shots while telling stories about touring with the Wu-Tang Clan, recording in El-P's basement, and partying with The Weeknd. The wad of bills, he said, was for a strip club he planned on hitting up later that night. The drinks flowed a little too freely, however, and Farag, who splits his time evenly between his Toronto home-base and NYC, never got to spread his singles wealth around.
A few weeks later, talking on the phone from Toronto, Farag laughs about the over-imbibing, saying he ended up blacking out on his couch at home at 8 p.m. and suffering through a J Dilla tribute gig he was performing at the next day. He adds that he had to make do with hitting up a "more gutter" strip club in Philadelphia a few days later; New York strippers, he says with a laugh, have "less bullet wounds."
As befits the stories Farag told that afternoon, the 28-year-old rapper and producer is something of an unseen hip-hop industry veteran, having been involved with a stream of labels and artists for nearly a decade. Now he's focussing on his solo career in earnest, recording as 4th Pyramid and starting with this month's release of The Pyramid Scheme, a full-length project featuring golden era rap live-wire Greg Nice, boom-bap fanatic Marco Polo, and The Rub's Cosmo Baker. In the interests of self-promotion and bar banter, we got Farag to recount some of his favorite career stories.
The other afternoon you mentioned going on tour with M.O.P. and Lil' Fame pulling a prank...
That was hilarious. We were in Buttfuck, Arkansas; it was a Scion tour. We went up in this truck stop, like this little thing it was like white America at its finest. And Fame just walks in and yells, "Alright, it's a motherfucking stick up!" He does it in some straight-up M.O.P. "Ante Up" voice. Literally, people started jumping on the ground! We was laughing hysterically, but afterwards we were like, "We're lucky this wasn't West Bubblefuck America, 'cause we'd have got shot or some shit."
You've toured with a ton of artists over the years, right?
Yeah, I've toured with the whole Wu-Tang Clan a few years back, Big Daddy Kane, Redman, Too $hort, EPMD, Bun B, Nice & Smooth, Black Sheep, Buckshot, a lot of shows. The Pharcyde, that was fun, but a long time ago. I was on the road as a host, as a rapper, as a DJ I've gotten around. And Digital Underground Humpty Hump, Shock G, he is the fuckin' man! He was like the first O.G. to school me when I was really young and thought I knew all the shit. He was the keyboardist for MURS at the time. It was fuckin' great.
Did you get to learn a lot from just observing these other artists on tour?
Yeah, if you go on tour with someone, you can instantly tell why someone's winning and someone's losing. So I feel if I fuck up in my career or make a shitty song, it's more of a brutal reality to me. I've seen all that I have no reason to suck whatsoever. It was like the ultimate hip-hop college.
So which of those artists got the most girls on tour?
Too $hort. Honestly. The crazy shit with him is, he's a cool motherfucker even though his persona is so larger than life. He's not chasing it, it's all around him. That's the real deal right there.
How much of a mess was the Wu-Tang Clan's tour bus?
You know, when you roll with Wu-Tang, it's so many people it's like a Tasmanian devil rolls into the room, that's what it looks like. But the busses were pretty clean. Actually, the dirtiest busses were the Def Jux tour. It was Cannibal Ox, me, J-Live, and a bunch of motherfuckers, and that bus smelled awful. If you went to the bunk area it was nauseating, like why would you even sleep there?
How did you get involved with Def Jux?
I was working with a guy named C Rayz Walz at the time and he was signed, so then I met El-P 'cause the studio for Def Jux was in El-P's basement and he started hearing some of my songs I'd recorded on my own. He put out a single [2004's "Aquatic"], then subsequently I worked with other artists on the label from about '04 to '06. I was working with that crew a lot.
What was the Def Jux experience like in those days?
Honestly, it was really a fun time. It was special. I was a big fan going into it; it was my first real experience getting to put out records, even though it was still indie and it was just putting out vinyls, but the basement was crazy. At any given time you could be in there with Cannibal Ox, Camu Tao (rest in peace), Metro from SA Smash, Cage would be up in there... It was a good time to be around them then, 'cause they had a lot of success. It showed me the pace you can work at. It was a really fun era.