By Paul Cantor
The streets are still talking about the Dipset reunion on this weekend's BET Hip-Hop Awards, but newcomer Vado, is actually drawing the most attention. Born Teeyon Winfree, the Harlem native’s been quietly building his buzz over the past year by riding with Cam’ron as part of The UN, a separate group that was launched by the veteran MC prior to the Diplomats getting back together.
A slew of mixtapes from the pair have dropped, most notably the DJ Drama-helmed Boss of All Bosses trilogy (parts 1, 2 and 2.5, respectively), and this past summer, the street single “Speaking in Tungs,” dominated New York airwaves.
It also doesn’t hurt that songs like “Large In The Streets” have helped Vado endear himself to new listeners and true school heads by embracing a 90s-era New York flow peppered with his own unique brand of Harlem-inspired slang.
Originally planned as a project with DJ Drama, Slime Flu, Vado’s first official retail mixtape, is set to hit stores October 12. The Ralph Lauren-inspired first single “Polo” featuring Young Dro from the project is just beginning to hit radio stations. Rapfix recently caught up with the budding MC about the Dips reunion, Slime Flu and carving a name for himself.
How did Slime Flu go from a mixtape to an album?
The anticipation, most definitely, [and] the buzz. And Cam felt that we give ya’ll a trilogy of Boss of All Bosses, which is what built my anticipation. He said you might as well put Slime Flu in stores.
How did Drama feel about not doing it anymore?
Drama’s my dude. I’ll have a Slime Flu in stores but after that comes out I’m putting out a Slime Flu with Drama, definitely, and then we putting out Boss of All Bosses 3 with Drama.
The one Drama will produce will have different music?
Definitely. We got over 100 songs, we work every day. I’m leaking songs every week, and those not even on the album. I keep saying album, I mean mixtape.
Did you do anything different with Slime Flu once E1, who’s distributing the project, got involved?
Songs have been off and on the mixtape for almost a year. It’s just been like, put this on take this off, put this on, take this off. Originally the songs for Slime Flu was “Large On The Streets,” “I Got Em,” “Kick in the Door,” “Memory Lane,” “Hard in the Paint” freestyle, for the Drama street version. A lot of songs that are out, the samples couldn’t get cleared so I ended up switching up a lot of songs.
Was that frustrating?
Definitely. It was frustrating because I’m like, 'this mixtape’s gonna be a classic!' Then I’m taking songs off that can’t get cleared. I’m like 'oh don’t do this to me.' Cam calling me five in the morning, you gotta come to the studio and fix this. Then I’m listening to my other tracks, putting those and thinking now I done got it back to the point where I’m like it’s a classic again, I feel good about it. Then we can’t get it cleared. I’m like, 'oh producers acting up. Oh man, don’t do this to me.' So it’s been crazy. I know I been having people wait so long, that’s why I’m gonna keep hitting ya’ll with music until it comes out. I want people to get tired of waiting.
Some people have said Nore is the originator of the slang term “slime.”
I heard that too. I heard Nore say it, but that’s from my hood. Slime was something we grew up on. We been saying slime for over 10 years, that was one of the words in my hood that we known for and anybody from Harlem know that. That’s why I put Nore on [“Slime”], I showed him love. I call him the slime godfather. He was the first one that brought it to the game. He also handed me the torch too, for those that’s asking.
What’s going on with the collaboration album with you and Cam, Gunz N Butta?
They keep pushing it back. It didn’t come out yet. Cam is negotiating a lot right now. We’re trying to see really what’s going to happen for as that, that’s why it’s not being put out yet.
How did “Speaking In Tungs” come together?
I was in the tattoo shop and this dude I know, he’s right hands with a producer. He had sent me a couple songs, I never got a chance to listen to them. I get to the shop, getting a tattoo, and he started playing the beats, all of them was sounding cool. But then that “Speaking In Tungs” [beat] just was crazy, to the point where I had to get up. I told my tattoo guy Andy, 'chill, let me go hear this beat.' I’m like, 'yo that’s your beat?' He’s like 'yeah I told you, I sent that to you.' I said 'word, send that again.' From that tattoo spot I went straight to the studio and just rocked the beat. I didn’t even start writing to it until the next day. I just played video games, I smoked, bulls---ted that whole night in the studio just listening to that beat. First thing I said, I’ma start with the hook. It’s nothing to write the rhymes to it. The knock is crazy, [so] I need that hook to be catchy. But the way the hook gotta be catchy, it gotta express me. It can’t be no gimmick hook.
A lot of people felt you got snubbed on the XXL Freshmen cover. Why do you think they didn’t include you?
Maybe at the time they weren’t really on to me, I guess. That came out in a good way though because they wasn’t on to me but then they paid attention because people was upset about it. So they was like, let me listen to this, and let him perform at this [XXL Freshmen concert at Highline Ballroom], see what he can do.
They’ll do another freshmen cover. Will you be on it or are you past freshman status already?
To be honest I feel I’m past that. But if they were to do that, I’ll definitely be thankful, because XXL always showed love to me. I been in about three or four issues already. I feel I’m past that but I’d definitely be honored to be a freshman of 2011.
Cam seems to be occupied now with the Dipset Reunion. But you’re a new dude with a big buzz, is there any part of you that’s like 'you guys had your turn, let me get mine?'
Nah, not at all. I was one of the people that influenced him on the Dipset reunion. I told Cam, 'let’s take over.' Yeah my buzz is crazy and yeah we can do this on our own, but at the same time, we want an empire. People love movements and people empires. Let’s build that. I say ya’ll already capable of doing what ya’ll do, making hits and just going crazy with the trends and everything. So you bring a new member to the table, which does the same, that smell like a takeover to me. Don’t it?
Jim Jones made a comment about "Salute" being a Diplomat record. Do you think he feels some which way about Cam rocking with you now?
Me and Jim cool. What he was saying was, it’s a Diplomats song. That’s him, Zeek, Cam and Juelz. I’m just with the family. It’s like when Dr. Dre and Eminem made noise. Then he had brought the whole team from Deathrow to the table, Snoop, all them cats. He had his family back together. At the same time, Eminem was Eminem. When they do tours and everything they do as a family, [but] Eminem’s on tracks, you hear him. He always did him.
Do you think people think you’re a Diplomat artist?
Actually people don’t look at me as that. I’m a Harlem artist.
But Dipset is kind of like Wu-Tang, anyone that came out of Staten Island people thought was a Wu-Tang artist, but that wasn’t always the case.
Definitely. But Dipset is big. It’s worldwide. I am a Diplomat artist. I don’t think people will look at it that way, but I am a Diplomat artist. That’s only because they want to hear me rap the same as Jim rap, or Juelz rap or Cam rap.
You think people want to hear you rap like them?
I don’t know if people want to hear me rap like them. But I guess the reason that I don’t rap like them is the reason they don’t look at me like a Diplomat artist. But it’s just like Eminem, he came with a whole different flow and style.
Do you think you can establish your own identity?
Most definitely. The Diplomats is already a brand that Cam, Jim, Juelz and Zeek started and made into an empire. We trying to do it the same way Dre and Em did it. It’s really like I’m building mines from under the Diplomats.