Are you ready to find out more about the “dopest group in the game today”?   I hope so because Sab-rey Smith, who is ½ of the rap duo GooD HooD, wants people to know that they’re all about “awesome music”.   According to Smith he wants “awesome music” to be GooD HooD’s ultimate legacy after it’s all said and done.   The other half of the DC-based duo is a cat by the name of Roger “Deuce” Brown who believes that “GooD HooD represents good music from hood influences”.   Brown goes on to say that “We are flipping that negative into positive, trying to show people that good can come out of the bad, a rose grows from the concrete, etc… We doin’ it big on behalf of those who never got the chance.”   Looking to inspire ALL people around them, GooD HooD delivers a powerful message & music platform that can be appreciated by many.   These two rappers have known eachother since grade school and they are aiming to make BIG-TIME NOISE in the hip-hop world!

J Rae:   First I gotta know how the words GooD & HooD were gelled together to make up your group?   Because honestly when I think of good and hood I’m thinking of two completely different situations or scenarios.   So, it would be very interesting to find out what it all means to you.

Deuce: Good hood means a neighborhood with a reputation. Coming from good hood means you are from an area that is respected for how real it is. When you look at it, all hoods across the globe face similar difficulties: lack of jobs, poor living conditions, oppression by the police or military. That mutual understanding of tough living results in a certain respect. That’s why those living in a favela in Rio would relate well to those living in the jects in Chicago or poor suburbs of Paris or the residents of Gaza or Mogadishu. At the end of the day, people living in the hood are still people, but they are often written off as lazy, worthless, or criminals because their hood is “scary” to those not from there. For us, GooD HooD represents good music from hood influences. Just as you said, people often associate the hood with negativity. We are flipping that negative into positive, trying to show people that good can come out of the bad, a rose grows from the concrete, etc… We doin’ it big on behalf of those who never got the chance.

Sabrey: Well, what’s funny about the name is its super simple yet its true definition, when you start to actually delve in, ends up bein’ mad complex. I always thought of that as a great analogy for the music and our movement as a whole. With that said, the point kinda is the fact that good and hood aren’t words you’d necessarily associate with each other, but in reality they go hand in hand. A real crazy dichotomy, ya dig?

J Rae: Has hip-hop been at the core of everything for both of you?   I noticed that GooD HooD incorporates other musical styles as well such as: soul, reggae and even international sounds.   Obviously a diverse bunch with a variety of different tastes but I have to ask is this the key reason why GooD HooD thrives?

Deuce: Music is incredible in all its forms. We both grew up loving hip-hop and in the hip-hop culture, so it is through this form of music that we found our expression. Still, we’re fans of many different kinds of artists and other genres and are influenced and inspired by them in how we make our music. The future of music and hip-hop in particular is in collaboration across genres. We think that blending genres, styles, and vibes will ultimately lead us to make world-changing music.

Sabrey: I’d like to think what makes us so dope is the fact that we take chances with our music and we allow some of our outside interests to influence the tracks. We both travel so you’ll hear that in our music. We both appreciate different music genres so the beats we pick reflect that.   But please believe, I can speak for both of us when I say we’re hip hop junkies. No matter what you hear from us, at its core our music is hip hop, pure and simple.

J Rae:   So you guys met way back in elementary school which means you guys must be pretty damn tight I’m guessing.   Were you guys rappin’ in the school yards back then?   If you could paint us a picture that would be great!   I guess what I really want to know is how it all evolved from that point?   When did you know for sure that you would performing together as a rap duo?

Sabrey: I can honestly say when me and the homie were playing dodge ball, I ain’t have the slightest clue we’d be rockin’ shows, doin’ videos and the whole 9. I will say that we both were doing the solo thing, and the way things kinda were transpiring with that and the fact we already had done hella music together it made business sense and artistic sense to create the group.   I would say it was a very smart move.

Deuce: We used to rap everywhere, in the house, in the street, in school… everywhere. Some of the best ciphers I ever took part in were in our high school student center, the alley behind my pop’s apartment, and in the basement at our guy Shifty’s house. We knew mad cats who rapped, so constant ciphers were an opportunity to compete, learn from older heads, and improve our skills. In high school, Sab and I were both part of a group called the Billa Click and performed a lot together, but we went separate ways for college. It wasn’t until Sabrey moved out to DC to work with the indie label I co-founded, Heavy Syndication, that we decided to work together as the duo GooD HooD.

J Rae: Any famous rap/MC battles, past or present, you’d care to spill out to the Skope Universe that were memorable?   Hopefully no feuds yet!   LoL

Sabrey: Well, when me and Deuce were a lil younger our crew got at some corny ass dudes with our lil diss record. Trust and believe it involved no one worth mentioning. I won’t lie, I spit some bars on that song. But in all seriousness nothing too crazy as far as that is concerned. I will say that while I was in college I won the Northern Illinois Rap Battle Royale. I was probably the most unknown guy at the event, but I did the damn thing. I also wanna say that was the last battle verse I’ve spit since. However, and let this be known throughout the Skope Universe, we run from no man and/or battle. Ain’t no sucka shit goin’ on over here. And you can print that.

J Rae:   Who are some of your musical influences and what drives GooD HooD to make music every day?   Where does the drive and inspiration come from?

Deuce: Some of my biggest hip-hop influences were Biggie, Tupac, Outkast, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, AZ, Jay-Z, Eminem, Twista, Psychodrama, Do or Die, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, NWA, Snoop Dogg, Rakim, & KRS-One. Really though, the whole hip-hop community helped raise us through their music and schooled us to the game before we even understood all of what they were talkin’ about in their lyrics. Some artists from other genres that were big influences include Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Bob Dylan. All of these artists pushed the boundaries of music in a way that forced everyone to stop and pay attention. Hip-hop has deep roots of being able to give voice to those who often get ignored in the mainstream conversation. That is something we strive to accomplish through our music.

Sabrey: That’s always an interesting question when it’s asked, because I think that every day you grow and your art should reflect that growth, ya know? So clearly hip-hop has a huge bearing and artists like B.I.G., Outkast, Hov, Esco and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony were guys that had an influence on how I developed my own sound early on. With that said, there‘s so much music, not just hip-hop, that constantly helps my sound and flow develop. I love listening to 80’s soul and 90’s R&B. I love reggae and dancehall, ya know. I love what the South has done with hip-hop and the music that comes out of the trap. But what it really boils down to is that the best music, for the most part, comes from the disenfranchised. And that’s said with the whole music universe in mind. So I don’t care if the song is Portuguese or whatever, I’m checkin’ for it if it has the hood soul and influence behind it. Hell, I feel like that’s why people all over will be checkin’ for us.

J Rae: What are the differences between what a Roger “Deuce” Brown brings to the table and what Sab’rey Smith delivers?   This could be anything:   style, flow, rappin’, lyrically, approach…whatever you want to discuss.   And how about any comparisons you’d care to share with the Skope audience?   Going off of that how do you make the two personalities mesh together and just WORK?   What’s your secret GooD HooD if you’re able to reveal any of your tricks?

Deuce: I think that the biggest difference in our styles is that Sab’rey uses more subtle metaphors and punchlines, while I stick with a more direct literal approach. So generally speaking, Sab tends to be more clever, while I tend to be more profound. Sab was always more of a Biggie fan, while I was a Tupac guy. Perhaps this also has a lot to do with how our styles developed. Sab’rey and I have developed chemistry in our music that can only occur with time and close friendship. We have known each other since we were like 5 years old and have been making music together since high school. Because of this, working together is very easy. We have good communication and shared views on what we are going for with our music and the representation of our brand. When in the studio, we help one another determine what sounds good and what we need to redo.

Sabrey: A great magician never reveals his tricks, but I will say that we are very different and because of that we both have a distinct sound on records. Roger is a lot more direct lyrically. I would say that you never hear a verse or song from him that you don’t have a full understanding of the point he was trying to make, to be honest it’s something that I would love to incorporate into my style more. Now that’s not to say he doesn’t use metaphors or similes but he ain’t that type of dude. Also, his flow is very impeccable, really polished. So in a word I’d describe the homie as crisp. I would describe myself as much more subtle and lyrically very slick. I thrive on the fact that someone will hear a verse of mine a week, a month, or a year from now and say, “Oh snap, that’s what he said? That’s what he meant!” I think with all great artists, their best works can be viewed 1,000 times and there will be 1,000 different perspectives.

J Rae: GooD HooD has played many spots around the states and also had had the pleasure of opening up for some quality acts.   What have you gained from all this so far and to this point any favorable memories that come to mind?

Deuce: Opening up for bigger acts is always a dope experience. My most memorable experience was opening up for Do or Die at Northwestern University. While we were backstage, we got to meet them and they were mad encouraging. BeLo told us that we reminded him of them when they were young and that if we just keep working hard that we could be just as big as they were. That was really inspiring!

Sabrey: For me, one show stands out and that has to be our first performance back in Evanston, at the BooCoo lounge. The entire hood came out and I mean everyone! Having that genuine love and respect from people we hadn’t seen in forever was just incredible. They were proud of us, and how we were repping the city and I must say I’m proud to put on for my town.

J Rae:   Would you guys say you are not just making a statement with your music but also from an image standpoint?   What do you want the listeners to grab onto to the most?

Deuce: We aren’t trying to be anyone else. The way you see us in the videos and what you hear us talkin’ about on the records is who we really are. One of us is white and one is black, but we are brothers as close as blood. We all ran together and have each others’ backs, mad different types of cats: white, black, Jewish, Vietnamese, Mexican, Jamaican, Haitian, and more. Those guys are all still our brothers and we do this for them. We are modern America.

Sabrey: I feel like image is fleeting, but music that’s a forever type of thing. Art is a forever type of thing and I want fans to know we put a lot of effort into making, in my opinion, some of the finest hip- hop out right now. Now I am a fly dude and my taste is exquisite, but honestly so what? Its the music that matters, everything else is secondary. If people remember me as a great artist then I’ve accomplished a life goal. If I’m remembered just cause I had on a crazy pair of sneakers in a video, than I’ve failed, period.

J Rae :   Favorite duo of all time–GO!

Deuce: Gotta be Outkast or Nas & AZ. I guess since Nas & AZ were never formally a duo, I would have to say Outkast. Andre and Big Boi did such a great job of each having their own style, flow, and image, not to mention that they have consistently made great music throughout their careers!

Sabrey: Penn and Teller…… Nah seriously I’d have to say EPMD. They were clearly the freshest on the market at the time and severely underappreciated in my opinion. Outkast is also dope as hell.

J Rae:   I gotta ask if you guys actually grew up in the hood and if so what was life like?   Could this be what motivated you two to make music and is this an essential element of who you are today and how your tracks are represented?

Sabrey: I’ll be honest, I ain’t have the super duper hard ass life. The way I was brought up my mother made sure my sister and I never wanted or really needed. She worked hard as hell and I won’t disrespect her hustle by sayin’ any different. With that said life wasn’t a damn walk in the park neither, ya dig? And that’s what my music is drawn from: my life experiences, my truths, and my convictions.

Deuce: We grew up a few blocks apart in what is known as the south end of Evanston, IL, just a couple blocks north of Howard St., the border with Chicago. Evanston is a crazy place, because you can go from a neighborhood of million dollar mansions to section 8 housing in just a few blocks. It is also a very diverse city, so we grew up with kids from all different backgrounds and financial situations. Our high school is one of the best public schools in the country and sends kids to Ivy League universities, but at the same time all types of hood shit went down in Evanston in the time we were there from gang fights and shootings, to DEA busts and police brutality. Several people we knew and grew up with were killed in gun violence; many more are in jail or prison. Experiencing how the police treated us and our guys so bogus and seeing how things were set up for young men to fail, be killed, or become wards of the state was a huge incentive for us to do something bigger and help out our community. Hip-hop provided that outlet. Now having traveled to many different parts of the world and seen other hoods in similar situations adds fuel to the fire for us to represent and do positive things for folks in all hoods across the world.

J Rae: You guys definitely have your own, unique styles when it comes to spittin’ rhymes so I gotta know who’s better?   HaHa!     This is for bragging rights or maybe we should have a battle right now and Skope could be the judge–what do you say?   Deuce vs. Sab’rey for the title in a no-holds-barred match, so in the words of Michael Buffer “Let’s get ready to rumble!”   LoL   (;

Deuce: That would be a first! We call that “sharpening swords.” – Testing one’s skills and seeking improvement through competition with your peers. We both see the other as competition in that neither of us wants to get outshined on a track, which means we also expect nothing but the best from one another.

Sabrey: Look, I’ll put it like this. I feel like I’m the absolute best at what I do. And I’m sure Deuce feels the same way about his skill set. It would be an interesting battle, and who knows… But as of right now our focus is on being the best team we can be.

J Rae: Being that you guys are in Washington DC I wonder if there is anything you’d like to get off your chest in regards to the White House and how it operates?   Here’s your chance to let it all out if you choose to of course.

Sabrey: I wanna let the people know, we make the difference. We the people ….ya dig?   I could care less if it’s Ghandi himself in the oval office. No complaints. If we’re not gonna stand up and shout and be heard. That’s it and that’s all.

Deuce: The democratic process of government is corrupted. Point blank period. With the unlimited amount of non-transparent money flowing into campaign accounts thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, corporations can basically buy legislators to push their interests. Appointed regulators in many industries are often buddies with those they are supposed to be regulating. Washington is looking out for profits, not people.

Despite his accomplishing some great things like the Healthcare Bill and repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, I’m really disappointed in Obama for his recent passing of the National Defense Authorization Act. This bill will allow indefinite detention without trial of even American citizens if they are under suspicion of being a “terrorist.” This law undermines the Bill of Rights and is a serious threat to all of our civil rights. In addition, Obama has weakened environmental standards and is considering approval of the Keystone XL project, a massive underground pipeline that will pump the dirtiest type of oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, directly through the agricultural heart of America. Rather than directing us towards reliance on cleaner, more sustainable energy sources, we will be going back towards dependence on dirty oil. I wanna support Obama, bein’ a Chicago dude and all, but its real tough with the way he’s handling things. I think people should be active and vocal about the issues they care about, rather than trust in a politician to make the right decisions.

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J Rae: What else are you into besides music?

Deuce: Definitely a big sports fan, mostly football, basketball, and soccer. I also love to travel and explore other cultures, study languages, history, and politics.

Sabrey: I’m a huge sports guy. All sports, football, basketball, soccer, tennis so if I get a free moment I’m checkin’ scores. Fine art is also something I’ve found myself getting in to lately. I see so many comparisons to the great fine artists and great hip-hop musicians. When I can find time, traveling is also a favorite past time of mine. So many spots I’d love to check out.

J Rae: What is one thing that you would want people to think of the most when they hear GooD HooD?

Sabrey: That we made awesome music. That’s what I want our legacy to be, awesome music.

Deuce: If they’ve never heard our music before I would want them to think, “Damn!! This song is great! Who is this???” If they already know of us, I want ’em to think, “GooD HooD is my favorite group in the world! I love these guys!!” LOL!!

J Rae: With a new video out called “Game Tight” that has Hot Sh!% written all over it and a new EP that you are currently working on what else is in store for 2012 & beyond?

Deuce: The Game Tight video has been getting a great reception. It now has over 11,000 views on YouTube. Our top priority in 2012 is finishing our new Liquid Assets EP and releasing it to our fans! We will also be shooting several new music videos to support the release. We will be performing at various locations in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) and planning a tour to Chicago this summer to promote our new music! Every year, bigger and better!!

Sabrey: Traveling, more shows, more great music, and more videos. And honestly building a stronger relationship with the fan base. Keep it growing and keep ‘em happy by constantly dropping dope ass music. We are, in my opinion, the dopest group in the game today. Now it’s up to us to convince everyone one else in what we already know.

GooD HooD’s here to stay and they want the whole world to know!   Sab-rey Smith and Roger “Deuce” Brown will prove to you that hip-hop is far from dead and that the music, the culture and the movement are all still evolving.   For more on GooD HooD surf over to their site www.goodhoodhiphop.com to keep up with all the latest news & updates.  

By Jimmy Rae (jrae@skopemag.com)

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