MJ: MJ here with MJs Hip Hop Connex and joining me from the heart of Philly, yet internationally known, is engineer and owner of the syndicated radio station UTM and at Nest Recording Studios. Thank you for taking time away from the studio for this interview.
GUNNER: Not a problem, thanks MJ I appreciate this opportunity.
MJ: You are a man of many hats and trades, emcee included for those that don’t know! Let everyone out there know about those different hats and just why they call you Gunner G’s.
GUNNER: Sure! Let’s see, Producer is one. I did production for my group Beautiful Black Children (B.B.C.) for many years, that’s how The Nest got started. I own The Nest Recording Studio here in Philly. I do all the engineer work, so engineer is another hat. I’ve done some song writing and performing in my day which I am truly passionate about. These days I’ve been doing programming and directing for uTm Radio, my internet radio station run right out of The Nest. We specialize in playing Classic Hip-Hop and Independent music, so yeah radio programmer is the hat I’m walking around with today. As for why they calling me Gunner G’s well a good friend of mine, shout out to Edward Brantley aka the Stranger, gave me that name way back in the day, back when let’s say I wasn’t spending my time as wisely as I am now.
MJ: Let’s talk lyrics because once an emcee always an emcee! How did you become involved in the music scene? Also at what point did you begin rhyming and begin to pursue it more than a hobby?
GUNNER: Like I was saying, I’m part of a group called Beautiful Black Children which consists of Moe Wiggady, Dirty North, Tombstone, my man Tec Slash Injure (may he rest in peace), and myself. I’ve been writing rhymes for as far back as I can remember, I’d say since elementary school. I was a little bad ass…I would hooky school and just walk around the city and occasionally I’d find some abandoned building where I’d take out my book and write these crazy little raps. As I got older, no matter where I was at, whatever job, I’d write down my rhymes, whatever came to my head, I wrote it down. Then I met Tomb! I would kick my rhymes to him because he was already doing his own b-boy thing with his squad Righteous Hoods. He introduced me to Tec Slash and we clicked right off the bat! I made beats on this drum machine that I picked up somewhere and Slash would hear the beats and just write and write! I continued to make the beats, and over the years we created madness together! Before long Moe Wiggady came up from down south with a whole new flavor (we all had our own styles I think that’s what made us unique for the times). Once we started grabbing equipment and upgrading we were like, if we put our minds to this and stay focused man nothing can stop us. So yeah we got out of hobby mode real quick!
MJ: I want to go back to the BBC time in your life. Can you tell us what BBC is, what it stands for, and how strong the movement was and still is?
GUNNER: Beautiful Black Children of course. Once again, I have my man Ed, aka The Stranger to thank for the acronym BBC. He brought it home coming off of his “vacation” let’s say. We played around with a couple different names like Be Real Be Conscious was one, but we eventually settled on Beautiful Black Children. It just seemed like the right fit. As far as the movement goes (Rest in Peace Tec Slash, he’s no longer with us), the rest of the children are still around. We’re older, living life and a lot wiser. We were wild boys at one point, but now it’s all about life and making sure we’re all still here for each other. I’ve only mentioned a few names but we are still pretty deep! I have no doubt that we are just as strong, if not stronger than ever, it just takes time to get used to changes.
MJ: Talk a little bit about the shift in your life from emcee to engineer to owner of a radio station and recording studio? Give us the birth of Nest Recording Studios!
GUNNER: Indeed! The Nest was a result of many years of me doing music right out of my house. I mean at some point I was literally using my bedroom as a booth to cut songs, it was crazy! I shared my house with my beautiful girlfriend Helena for many, many, and many of those years so it was part of me needing to broaden my horizons, but mainly getting the studio out of my house. You already know what comes with a studio, which is some smoking, some drinking, late, late night sessions, yeah so it was only right. My Realtor had this space available and said it was mine if I wanted it so I checked it out and got it. I thought it was cozy, a nice little nest up here, so we just started calling it The Nest, which was back in 2005! I then applied for my business license, went through that process and The Nest Recording Studio was born.
MJ: Do you miss creating music and performing?
GUNNER: I miss the production part of it so much. I’ve even grabbed a couple of toys to keep myself sharp during my spare time just in case I’m needed! Do I miss jumping around on stage and acting a fool with all my boys and family watching? I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss it! It’s not like I long to perform again, I just know if it’s going to happen, it’s going to be something special. I think that I have a better idea of what I’d present now, if that makes sense? Back then it was just raw and straight from the gut, we didn’t think we just did.
MJ: Now let’s talk about UTM Radio, which stands for Under the Middle Radio! What was your vision with the station? UTM is not just a business or career but it is your heart, like a child if you will. Describe that passion and love.
GUNNER: My initial idea for uTm was to create a place for me to put Tec Slash’s music on display after he passed away. The first show that I came up with was Tec Slash Tuesday! After searching around and doing a bit of research about how I would even start a radio station, I settled on my service. I started broadcasting in April of 2014. I only broadcasted on Tuesday at first, and then as I got better at setting up the stream, I added Monday’s. On Marley Monday, I played all Bob Marley music for a few hours and before I knew it, people were reaching out to say hell yeah we like your station. I began to add the Classic Hip-Hop since for years I’ve been a music hoarder, oh I forgot to mention that! I have hard drives on hard drives with music on each and every one of them, classic Hip-Hop artists. I always told myself that one of these days, I’d put up my own antenna to allow people to hear all this great music. A sure music buff here I am, putting it all to use and good use! I mean, I started it from scratch and have watched it grow over these past couple of years and I look forward to watching it grow even more.
MJ: Take this time to tell everyone about all the shows on UTM Radio! How to listen? Where and when to tune in? Please let all the artists out there reading this know the process for studio time or a live studio interview on one of the many shows!
GUNNER: Indeed, I’ll start off with Marley Monday. Again, we have the International Space Station Show hosted by Timi Tanzania, a reggae slash spoken word show from 3-6pm. We have the longest running independent Hip Hop radio show called the IIour Show UNCUT, the brainchild of Zakaariyah Hardin aka T.H.E., Godhead the General, and Tasty Stacy. Some of the coolest people on earth on the IIour Show and I’m blessed to have them part of the uTm Family. They bring in a legend in his own right Gene Kirby, aka DJ Soulbuck as their resident Musicologist. He was actually the one to reach out to me and suggest bringing the show to uTm Radio. I can’t thank him enough for making it happen. Tuesday of course we have Tec Slash Tuesday from 2-8pm and we play nothing but Beautiful Black Children music in honor of Tec Slash. Once or twice a month we bring in a show called Behind the Bars which is a Battle Rap round table hosted by LaCarr Hamilton and Elijah Medley. Here’s two more dedicated and hard working down to earth brothers that break down the world of Battle Rap. Wednesday we do something special, it’s called Indie Wednesday. A show dedicated to all the independent artists out there who are working hard and making good music. From 5-8pm, it’s commercial free and uncut then on Wednesday night we bring in the Rough Rugged Raw Radio show, hosted by Chuck Thomas and Augustus, along with another legendary maestro of music CJ Brooks, aka DJ Siege who are all quickly becoming staples in the uTm Radio family. On Thursday we bring them classics back with Throwback Thursday from 1-5pm. This is where we play all the classics for the old heads that can’t get this music anywhere else! On Thursday night we brought in something a little different; it’s called Hype City that’s hosted by Eli Seeney and Pharron “gerzey Gliss. These are great guys and we’re happy they’re part of the uTm Radio family. They bring a newer flavor to the station. I was first opposed to playing some of the newer music out today and for a while I didn’t at all. It took me a while to come around, but I couldn’t be a hypocrite and have these extremely talented artists coming to the station (all independent by the way) which is our platform. After talking with the hosts, we all agreed that at the end of the day it’s about the work, is it dope or not??? I’ll just say that Hype City plays dope shit and we are not in the business of excluding anyone. As far as booking studio time, I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For in-studio interviews, contact me or a host from the show you had in mind, and contact MJ. We can never forget about MJ and what she does at uTm and how you help keep this ship afloat. We’re forever grateful, all of you guys really, everybody works hard and make it look easy, it amazes to me. I want to say thank you to all of you!
MJ: UTM is constantly growing, expanding, networking, and making new moves…Can you tell us about some new projects in the works for UTM Radio?
GUNNER: Indeed! For uTm Radio you can keep your eyes out for a uTm Radio mixtape. I’m looking to get a few hot independent producers together and pair them with some dope independent artist! We got more uTm apparel coming, of course hats and shirts! We’re looking to throw a nice show for our fans really soon – uTm Radio show is definitely in the near future. I’d be remised if, I didn’t say, KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN FOR UTM TV, coming soon…
MJ: You are incredibly talented, business oriented, humble, a Hip Hop guru and advocate, the list goes on… How do you remain so patient in the music industry, which at times can even make the behind the scenes folks want to throw their hands up in the air! How do you deal with the arrogance of some artists, demands of managers, and artists who are not business savvy? Please share your secret!
GUNNER: First of all, thank you for all of that, not sure if it’s all true, but thank you. I’ll say this, the reason that I’m able to be patient with people is mostly due to my own experiences. I’ve been where most of these guys hope to go one day! I’ve been every one of these artists who are hungry, wanting to be heard, undisciplined at times, not really knowing what to do or say when thrusted into certain situations. I can relate to all of this! I actually admire these folks out here still trying to get it. Some know it’s a game and making it in this business is a long shot, but they still dream big, and some have no idea it’s a game and get caught up. I like running across those smart ones that get it and have made a business out of this. As far as attitudes, I’ve dealt with so many different ones in my travels. It’s hard for me to let things get under my skin, especially if I can put myself in a person’s shoes. People need to learn empathy! I get it. Not to mention, I’m not reactionary I’m more level headed, I like to think my moves through and going from 0 to 100 is not one of them.
MJ: What would you say are some of the same or different challenges you have faced as emcee and engineer?
GUNNER: Man pay to play! It was the only ticket on the market when I was out there. If you didn’t pay, sell those tickets, promote, pass out flyers etc., then you didn’t get to play. Luckily there were movements like Lyrically Fit around that didn’t gauge you on how many tickets you sold, not that we didn’t sell tickets too for Jay, Salute Jay Grady, but those movements were rare and scarce. As an engineer, I say, some of the same. The main reason I started buying my own equipment and producing my own music was because I didn’t have the money to pay for tracks, and they were pricey back then. This was before the YouTube era, now you can just find a beat anywhere and it actually helped me in the end to becoming even more independent.
MJ: Gunner G’s let’s talk Hip Hop, a lifestyle which you personally embrace and carry out. How do you define Hip Hop? What defines an artist as a Hip Hop?
GUNNER: As my boy T.H.E. would say I consider myself a hip-hop elitist. If you are in the culture, it’s just part of your life, it’s something you live. It’s a mindset that you walk around with, it’s an attitude, and it’s not just music. A true artist puts his or her life in those lines, bares their souls, and the good ones you can actually feel it coming through the music. A true artist cares about the art they put on display.
MJ: I’m curious about the influences in your life and not just musically. Who are the key people in your life that have left impressions?
GUNNER: It’s about to get cliché up in here. My Mom of course, she did the best she could with what she had, and raised five kids, and we all turned out pretty good. Rest in peace, Walter Jones, my older brother we lost him to a brain tumor some years back and he was the backbone of our family. We lost a lot when he passed. I got my work ethic from him for sure! He was the definition of hard working family man, he raised four step kids like they were his own and never batted an eye about it those were his kids. I always expected that. He worked in sanitation, yet you would’ve never known it by the way he stayed pressed and dressed to impress! I admired him! He taught me to take pride in my appearance, rather be overdressed than under dressed and that’s for sure. I could never out do him though. RIP big bro.
MJ: As I mentioned earlier you are a man of many hats, including being a family man. How do you balance career and family?
GUNNER: I like to think oh I got it all figured out and it’s all running smoothly. My family would beg to differ. I have a beautiful daughter named Jasmine, she’s 25 years old now and a mother herself of my gorgeous grand daughter Majesty, both of whom I don’t see nearly enough. We are together on Holidays, which is not nearly enough. Although when I’m with the family, it’s always like we’ve never been apart. I look forward to one of theses days being able to say hey, I did what I came here to do, it’s all family now 200%. Especially my girl Helena, she deserves it, she’s seen a lot and been through a lot with me and has held me down every step of the way! Over 20 years and not one breakup “ Knock On Wood “ she’s my rock for real.
MJ: You are extremely grounded and humble individual, qualities that are lacking in the music industry regardless of position or genre of music. I’ve come across several dj’s, producers, promoters, engineers, etc. that because they hold so much power and control in the tips of their fingers, treat artists unfairly or won’t give their music a chance. What separates Gunner G’s from them?
GUNNER: Like I said earlier, I think it’s because I’ve been there. I’ve been that artist trying to get my foot in the door only to get jerked and mistreated. It didn’t happen often but it did happen. So I go by, treat people like you would want to be treated theory, If I’m not disrespected, I don’t disrespect people, it’s that simple! Oh and your music has to be dope. I love music, so I listen to everything! Some people get into the business just to make a buck. They don’t really have love for the craft or the art and don’t understand the hard work it takes to do what these artists do. I know what it takes and if you are out here putting in the work, with ASCAP, and BMI, you’ll have my support.
MJ: In your opinion what are the key elements needed for an artist to succeed in the music industry in 2017?
GUNNER: I say this to everybody all the time, you have to want to do this. You have to want to tell your story. You have to put in the work, build your own brand, learn the ins and outs of your craft, put the time and money up needed to make the proper moves. You have to surround yourself with likeminded individuals that want it just as bad as you do. Be positive because negativity breeds negativity. Keep it as far away for your inner circle as you can.
MJ: Gunner G’s let’s play the 3 game…Who are three artists in your personal play list? Which three artists would you like to come out and record at Nest Recording Studios? What are the three favorite concerts you ever attended? What three goals are you personally or professionally working on?
GUNNER: Mad Squablz of course, this young fella is nothing short of miraculous. King Magnetic, I’m banging right now, and because I love me some positive Hip Hop I have to put Napoleon the Legend in there…I’d love to have Dead Prez up in The Nest one of these days, a session with Method Man would be dope, and why not Rakim the God. Three sessions I’d love to be in on. For concerts it would have to be the recent Kool G Rap concert at Voltage Lounge, the headliners were dope, but the opening artists were just as dope. Naughty by Nature at the TLA not too long ago, those guys put on a really great show. Let’s see number three, I saw Red & Meth a while ago at the Electric Factory, there was a mosh pit involved and Cypress Hill was on that ticket. That was another good one. Personally, I’m working on keeping my mind right, making sure my family is straight, and taking over the world! Professionally I’d say uTm TV, BBC Reunion songs, and look out for the uTm Radio mixtape sometime in the near future.
MJ: I want to thank you again for taking the time out for this interview and for being who you are, salute!
GUNNER: Thank you MJ. Salute to you and everything you do behind the scenes for countless amounts of people, as you also hold your family down. Next time you’ll be on the receiving end of the interview for sure the people need to know who you are as well, if they aren’t aware already. You make me look real good out there, and it’s thoroughly appreciated, Salute to you! Peace, and Thank you to everyone who has supported and continue to support The Nest, and uTm Radio! Peace to all involved in making the station come to life on a daily basis. We look forward to keeping you connected to the heart and soul the culture, peace!