“My motivation is always to make something great.” — Bronze Nazareth
Bronze Nazareth — the prolific music producer, rapper and record-label owner — has not stopped working since his induction into the hip-hop culture. Born as Justin Cross in Detroit, Michigan in December 1979, Bronze gained critical acclaim as soon as he arrived on the scene at large while simultaneously earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from Michigan State University in 2003.
Responsible for “The Birth” and “A Day To God Is 1000 Years” — the most popular cut on the long-awaited official RZA solo album Birth Of A Prince in October 2003 — Bronze kept busy until securing his first full-length breakthrough.
After founding his independent record label Black Day In July Productions in December 2004, the compilation album Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture was released in October 2005 — largely produced and cultivated by Nazareth. The record was a major success, blending underground hip-hop artists with Wu-Tang Clan members and affiliates.
Shortly after, Bronze began his illustrious and varied solo career, releasing his first official solo record The Great Migration in May 2006, considered a classic amongst the majority of Wu-Tang and hip-hop fans. Bronze then released his first official group album Wisemen Approaching under the Wisemen moniker in February 2007, with production handled between Bronze and his best friend/older brother Kevin “Kevlaar 7” Cross and featured legends such as Gary “GZA” Grice and Walter “Killah Priest” Reed.
Bronze Nazareth continued his steady stream of legendary albums, features and verses; he has also experienced a great deal of loss. In June 2009, longtime friend Kirk Jackson passed away after a long battle with addiction. In December 2014, Kevlaar 7 passed away, succumbing to a long battle with a rare blood disorder known as Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome.
The duality of tragedy and success has yet to slow down Bronze Nazareth. He continues producing heartfelt, honest hip-hop music and spreading knowledge through his lyrics and authentic disposition.
Bronze Nazareth recently took the time to speak about his career thus far, love for wisdom, the collaborative spirit and his goals for the future.
- Born in Detroit, Michigan
- Thirty-five years old
- Bronze Nazareth & Kevlaar 7 (The Unknown) — Death’s Birth: The Grip Of Behemoths (June 2002)
- Bronze Nazareth — Thought For Food Vol. 1 (April 2005)
- Bronze Nazareth (Think Differently Music) — Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture (October 2005)
- Bronze Nazareth — The Great Migration (May 2006)
- Wisemen — Wisemen Approaching (February 2007)
- Wisemen — Wisemen Arrived (February 2007)
- The Almighty — Original S.I.N. (Strength In Numbers) (July 2008)
- Bronze Nazareth — Thought For Food Vol. 2 (September 2008)
- Bronze Nazareth — Bronzestrumentals Vol. 1 (August 2009)
- 60 Second Assassin — Remarkable Timing (June 2010)
- Wisemen — Children Of A Lesser God (October 2010)
- Bronze Nazareth — School For The Blindman (September 2011)
- Kevlaar 7 — Die Ageless (May 2012)
- Phillie — Welcome To The Detroit Zoo (January 2013)
- The Almighty — The 2nd Coming (August 2013)
- Bronze Nazareth — The Blenders EP (October 2013)
- Bronze Nazareth & Willie The Kid — The Living Daylights (February 2014)
Yes and no. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. I think against a lot of odds, I’ve done well. On the flipside, I’m not satisfied at all. There’s independent acts doing big tours, getting the right promo, festivals, spins. My music is comparable. And I’ve had tours, done a few festivals. I get shows; I get respect for sure. But not too often do I get, ‘Yo Bronze, jump on this tour with us” or “Hey, let’s do an album with Bronze and such-and-such.”
Even when I do a collabo project, it gets critical acclaim but poor coverage. I’ve been largely under-promoted, which is why you never heard a Joey BadA$$-Bronze Nazareth joint, or why there’s no Bronze Naz verse on a producer’s albums, or why there’s a lack of Bronze Naz album reviews/interviews on blogs.
ON PROLIFIC OUTPUT
It’s very important, especially now; you gotta keep your name out there amongst the saturation. People forget music now faster than ever, so you have to give your fans a lot so you don’t slip from their radar. What I’ve put out doesn’t come close to what’s in the stash.
ON OPEN COMMUNICATION
It’s all about winning fans and keeping them so they grow with you. I try to get back to everyone as best I can. If you take your time to listen to my music and then take time out of your day to show me love, I’ma always show love back.
ON DETROIT INSPIRATION
Maybe more so inspired by mood and my surroundings. If I’m in a certain mood, I’ll catch a certain note that feeds it. If I’m down, it’s hard to write a upbeat joint. When I’m in the city, I can feel the grit.
“It ain’t no time when freedom is on the clock” — Good Morning (A Nice Hell)
This one line says a lot.
It’s really deep yet simple: when freedom is on the line, you need it by that next second, the next minute, the next moment.
The only time on the clock of freedom is NOW. It’s really saying: no time for progress — just change. That is the urgency when freedom is at stake, or even a percentage of freedom.
Equality is a simple idea but seems impossible for humankind to achieve.
Why was Kalief Browder locked up so long for a alleged theft, yet Ray Tensing is out on bond for murder? Why is James Holmes getting a life sentence for all those he shot, yet Troy Davis executed controversially?
Can’t foresee equality anytime soon, because it is purposefully neglected, and done systematically. Not in my lifetime, at least.
ON CREATING WITH EMOTION
That’s kind of like asking a fish how it swims — it’s just what a fish does, right? I’m the same way when I’m writing — I do what comes natural. Rhymes pop into my head off the beat-feel and then I adjust it all into meaning.
ON OVERSEAS LOVE
It’s humbling. To see my ideas connect in Mozambique. Or to have a fan tell me he bought Wisemen Approaching in Kuwait. To go to the UK and bump into fans who said they’ve been listening for ten years.
It’s confirmation that I’ve been doing what’s right: following my heart.
ON REMAINING TRUE TO ONESELF
It’s number one for me. Anything besides being true to yourself is uncomfortable. I make music for me first, meaning I make the music I love or feel, and then I put it out only to hope others love it, as well. No different from Van Gogh. Whether it was right away or later on, people revered what he painted; he didn’t paint what people revered. Feel me?
“I loved somebody who ain’t love me back, too / Nigga, it wasn’t just you” — Sinuhe’s Impasse
That joint was really referring to a relationship I had with a pretty hood chick, but she was kind of messed up mentally.
We were parting ways and she did the whole, “If you leave me, I’ma kill myself” but it was at the point where I didn’t care anymore; I went through so much trying to deal with her that it was like, “Yo! No more!”
That was me saying: she not the only one who lost their love/didn’t get love back, so deal with it. It was like coming-of-age movie shit, haha. Grew me up mentally, though.
I’m a student of life, so I mostly like to read bios/autobios. I love to see how people overcame the odds thrown at them. My favorite book is hands-down The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Another great book is Will You Die With Me by Flores A. Forbes. Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown. I like to read about the lives of artists, too: Marvin Gaye, Keith Richards, Prodigy’s Infamous Life. Gotta get that Scarface book next.
Reading for enlightenment is what it’s all about! Besides pure entertainment, I think you should be able to take something from most things you read.
ON SCORING TELEVISION / FILM
I’d love to. I’ve done some TV, and I’ve had a song or two used in film. I have loads of non-sample beats, as well. I do much more than just sample-based beats, so that’d be a great opportunity. Haven’t had the chance yet.
ON SELF-BELIEF BEFORE SUCCESS
I don’t think I ever lacked in self-confidence as far as my abilities. I know my craft like a mechanic knows his engine. To me, it’s more about the blockades, the access. Will I get to this level? So I definitely felt it was only a matter of time for me.
Whether through this angle or the next angle, I was gonna get in.
“Life is too slow for some to wait / too fast for those who left” — The Letter
Another painful moment. Very painful.
I regret heavily my lack of recognition on what Kirk had going on. I’m not a superhuman, can’t see the future — but how could I not see this? I’ve got plenty of rational reasons like, “He hid it well” or “He stopped coming over” but as a man, I can’t help but feel like I failed him.
Addiction damages the addict the most, of course, but the effect on the people who love them is like the second-hand smoke of it all … astonishing.
I know it would hurt Kirk right now, to know I get down on December 15th (his birthday — exactly one week after mine) and I get down on June 9th (the day he passed). Feels like a black cloud over me. I fight it. But the mood has been downloaded to my blood!
So, life is like that: for some it was too slow to wait … too long a grind … too much of a haul. Then others just couldn’t wait — living fast then gone too soon. The line is a juxtaposition on where you must find the balance.
ON COLLABORATIVE PROCESS
PREFERENCE OF ARTISTS:
Doesn’t matter really. It’s all about the potential of what we can make together, and can we meet that potential. My motivation is always to make something great.
SEEKING LIKE-MINDED ARTISTS:
I can’t work with just anyone. I don’t like to work with people who are difficult, or try to control everything. If I’m the producer, let me produce! I’m a laid-back person. I’m easy to work with, so a similar person is best for me.
PREFERENCE OF IN-STUDIO v. SUBMISSION:
Definitely rather be in-studio — I try to if I can. Chemistry is big for me. Most times it’s just easier and faster to send it out, though.
FINAL SAY OF FINISHED PRODUCT:
Depends. Someone like Canibus: I’m not or don’t need to tell how to rhyme or what concept to go on, he’s certified. Willie The Kid just brings back top-notch work, so no need to say, “Hey, can you fix this-or-that.”
Others I have no problems saying, “Yo, you should strengthen this part of your verse” or whatever. I try to stay away from working with anyone who I’m not feeling. I want to make sure you don’t get on my beat and waste it, bottom line.
ON MAINTAINING STYLISTIC APPROACH
Not important at all as far as style. I do what fits; whatever comes. I did a remix for my homies Shing Shing Regime — they had stic.man on it. You wouldn’t think it’s my beat. It fit the song how it should, though. It’s still high quality but it’s hat-heavy, skippy drums … just not my usual. It was called “Remember”.
I can flip the style easily, but it’s gonna have that same high quality when I do. As long as I do it from the heart, I can’t help but stay true with it. I’m all about branching out — I want more projects with great MC’s. I’m known for hitting it out the park on production, so why not get an AZ and Bronze album? Or Chris Rivers on some Bronze Naz shit.
I got my leads into some R&B/Soul, too. A few singers who can get down on a hip-hop beat, as well as some big names looking for production. It’ll all fall in place.
ON KEVIN “KEVLAAR 7” CROSS
Yes indeed. A great Man, Father, Brother, Son, Human. I miss him dearly. He taught me a lot, pushed me a lot, loved me unconditionally. Couldn’t ask for a better brother. I still can’t believe he’s gone — it’s like a big dream you can’t wake from. He had a blood disorder (APA) — he had been dealing with health issues related to it. His heart failed in his home in the early morning of December 23rd, 2014.
We were very close. Real genuine brothers who grew up together from day one. Felt the same way about things. Never really fell out. Loved the same things; people. To have him suddenly taken from us is overwhelming.
I have to stride on because of him. He wouldn’t want me to stop. We were seven songs into an album with him rhyming and me producing, so in his honor the world will definitely hear it. I know he would want that.
Nothing will ever be the same for me and the crew. Just a devastating loss. Love You K7.
ON SHOVEL COAL THEORY
It’s just a little theory I made into my motivation, and I always tell this to the Wisemen: Remember the steam train where you had to shovel the coal into the fire or whatever to make it move? That’s the metaphor on music for us. If you shovel the coal, then by the forces of nature the train has to move. The machine is there — you gotta put in work to make it move.
Keep shoveling, keep progressing. That’s all that is.
I’m one of those guys who feel like I’m still an up-and-comer. Legend? I’ve heard that a lot and I’m humbled by it. To me though, I still have that hunger, that urgency to get more widely recognized for what I do/have done. So really it’s an honor to hear that people consider me a legend.
Still, I have more work to do.
Shout to Mr. Matteo Urella — thanks for the interview and the opportunity.
Peace and thanks to my fans!
I produced these in 2015 so far — support!
- Bronze Nazareth — Thought For Food Vol. 3 GET IT!
- Bronze Nazareth & Canibus — Time Flys Life Dies…Phoenix Rise GET IT!
- Illah Dayz — The Illahstrator GET IT!
- Bronze Nazareth & Dom Pachino — War Poetry GET IT!
- Salute Da Kidd — Diggstown (09/18/15)
- Bronze Nazareth & Willie The Kid — The Living Daylights 2 (coming soon)
- Kevlaar 7 — Kevlaar The NGS (coming soon)
THANK YOU FOR THE EAR!