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Foreign Legion - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Playing It Tight

March 2004

The Bay Area and L.A. in California has been known for a love for authentic hip-hop. From Hieroglyphics and Dilated Peoples to Jurassic 5 and Motion Man, the Bay Area and L.A. have been responsible for making interesting yet fun hip-hop music. Some of these groups (Especially Jurassic 5) also have a deep love for crate digging and making brand new tracks that have old-school vibes. Foreign Legion is a 3 man multi-racial group from the Bay Area that consists of Prozack and Stretch on the mic and DJ Design on production. While many emcees are incredibly serious and even depressing, FL are here to start the party and have a good time like it was the late 80’s or the early 90’s. In 2000, Foreign Legion dropped their debut LP "Kidnapper Van: Beats to Rock Whilst Bike Stealin'". The producer, DJ Design crafted the album with samples ranging from The Average White Band to the Boston Philharmonic. Unfortunately, that album is out of print. Many people never even got to hear the LP. Eventually, Foreign Legion started Look Records.

In 2004, they released “Playtight”, 13 tracks of feel good, sunny California, old-school influenced hip-hop. Similar to the old-school vibe of Jurassic 5, Foreign Legion are more interested in party songs. While songs like “Feel The Music”, “Here We Go Again”, and “It’s Working” are basically straight party tracks, FL also experiment with other themes. “Nasty Lady” is about bondage and getting freaky in the bedroom (and even in public). “Voodoo Star” is about bad luck. The poignant and emotional “How Do It Feel?” is their most serious song about the struggles of life. The hilarious “Roommate Joint” is about having the roommate from Hell while “Champagne Beamin’” has that old-school feeling with female rap vocals (by Maryam), which is reminiscent of early Roxanne Shante. While the group plays a major part in their lives, they all have other things going on too. Marc Stretch actually plays football for the Oakland Vipers. Prozack took off to a third world country and began work on his solo project for Dream Works Records. Design continues to make beats. On a cold evening in March 2004, I had a conversation with Marc Stretch, one of the two emcees from FL and DJ Design, the man behind the music. Being serious is not their top priority as they consistently crack jokes and laugh. So, dust off your fat laces and get on the dance floor because Foreign Legion is playing it tight.

MVRemix: Your new album is called ‘Playtight’. Tell us about it. Who is on it? Who produced it?
Design: I produced it, along with the ghosts of Tesla and Marconi. Prozack and Marc Stretch shared the mic duties.
Stretch: Design did it all on his Atari 5200. It was the real us. We were showing off on ‘Kidnapper Van’ and this time, we got to really show you how we get down on a daily basis.

MVRemix: What is the meaning behind the title ‘Playtight’
Design: Just something we were saying at the time, it’s sort of like having your game tight.
Stretch: Just having fun and being cool at the same time.

MVRemix: Why and how did you hook up with Look Records?
Design: I started Look Records to put out music that I do and music of others that I enjoy. Foreign Legion is my group so naturally, they were the first act to be signed.
Stretch: It was just out of necessity. Nobody else could get us insured for a new record so we decided that we should just do it through Look since Design was in charge of it at the time.

MVRemix: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Design: I like the song ‘Here We Go Again’. It has a nice arrangement and emotes our struggle in the game.
Stretch: Mine is either ‘Party Crashers’ or ‘Y’all Ain’t Ready’. I like ‘Ya’ll Ain’t Ready’ cause it’s just some regular hip-hop sh*t. Beats, rhymes, and talking sh*t.

MVRemix: What song took you the longest to do? Why? The shortest? Why?
Design: They all took about the same time to do.
Stretch: None of them really seemed to take that long. Zack and I work together pretty quickly on the rhymes. We usually write a whole song whenever we sit down.

MVRemix: How did you guys meet and eventually form a group?
Design: Well, there are three of us in the group, Marc, Prozack, and me DJ Design. We all met in Juvie. Marc and I were already seniors in the Hall and Zack was the new kid. Marc and I decided to initiate him into the hall with a proper black jack beating with a bar of soap stuffed in a sock while he was sleeping. From there we all became pals.
Stretch: I don’t think my Lawyer is gonna let me answer that one.

MVRemix: When making hip-hop songs, do you go into the studio with pre-written rhymes, lyrics, and themes or do you hear the beat first and write then and there?
Design: They usually write lyrics to the music that I give them first. I’ll make a CD and they’ll go over it and pick their favorite tracks.
Stretch: It’s always the beats first. We usually have a pretty good idea of what we’re gonna record before we hit the studio but there’s always a good amount of improvisation going on in our sessions.

MVRemix: What is your favorite part of your live show?
Design: Being in the background.
Stretch: Just having a room full of screaming fanatics that know all of the words to our songs.

MVRemix: How has your live show evolved?
Design: It hasn’t much because it’s all improvised.
Stretch: It hasn’t really. We’ve always been like this. I think we’ve just gotten more confident, if you can believe that’s possible.

MVRemix: When did you first begin rhyming?
Stretch: When I was about 14.

MVRemix: What song made you fall in love with hip-hop?
Design: The song, “Bloody Money” by Capone and Noreaga. I’ll play it at my wedding some day.
Stretch: ‘Mighty Renegades’ by Soul Sonic Force and ‘Gucci Time’ by MC Schooly D.

MVRemix: How did you get your individual names? What do they mean?
Design: My mom just liked the name Keith. My dad wanted to name me Roman, after Roman Gabriel, quarterback for the L.A Rams in the ‘60s.
Stretch: I literally grew into mine. I used be really skinny and when I grew, I ended up with Stretch marks all over my shoulders and arms. ‘Nuff said.

MVRemix: How did you meet DJ Design?
Stretch: In a bar fight at Cat’s Alley Grill in S.F. He stabbed some guy in the neck with a broken beer bottle and I let him hide in my belly button.

MVRemix: How DJ Design’s production style different from other producers?
Stretch: He just uses sounds that other people just don’t bother to use. He has soul and lets it all hang out.

MVRemix: Since Prozack is white, what kind of obstacles have you encountered?
Design: Well, It’s difficult playing shows at Black Panther Party fundraisers but by the end of the night, he wins them over with his charm.
Stretch: It just makes it tough being the only hip-hop looking guy in a hip hop group. (laughs). I don’t know. He’s a pretty cocky motherf*cker and he’s nice on the mic, so we usually don’t have any problems.

MVRemix: What emcee/group would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Design: I’d like to work with Annie Lenox and Hilltop Hoods in Australia.
Stretch: That’s pretty tough to say. Depends on the person really. I’m pretty picky about stuff like that.

MVRemix: What producer would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Stretch: Pete Rock, J Dilla (again), Supa Dave West, Kanye West because he’s a goofy motherf*cker like me. I’ve been pretty fortunate and I worked with a lot of people that I admire. My favorites have been people that don’t just send you a beat and they really take it like the song belongs to both of us.

MVRemix: What are the 3 best things about living in California?
Design: Michael Jackson, Morrissey, and Lew Wasserman.
Stretch: Girls, Sun, and the amount of artistic talent we have here. It’s crazy. Everybody’s doing something.

MVRemix: What was your childhood like? What kind of kid were you?
Design: Have you ever heard of Richie Rich? Exactly like that.
Stretch: I was the same then as I am now. I moved around a lot so I learned how to get along well with everybody. I was like a Black Ferris Bueller, who lettered in 3 sports, break-danced, and played Dungeons and Dragons
. Design: (Laughs).
Stretch: Shut up!

MVRemix: What was the lowest or dirtiest thing you ever did for money?
Design: Worked.
Stretch: Recycled cans.

MVRemix: In ‘Nasty Lady’, you talk about bondage and sexual games. Are you truly into bondage in any way? What is the craziest or wildest thing you ever did?
Stretch: A little bondage never hurt anybody… too badly. Wildest thing I ever did? Hmm, I had sex with a girl in the hatchback of my homey's car once. This was while we were on the freeway at 4 in the afternoon. Other than that, I don’t think I’m allowed to say the other stuff. My mom would kill me.

MVRemix: What has been in your CD player or on your turntable recently?
Design: Madlib, Jay Dilla, Supa Dave West, Grip Grand, Jake One and AG from Show & AG.
Stretch: Kanye West, ‘The Grey Album’ by DJ Dangermouse, Death Taxes, and Prozack, Vinyl Bros mix tapes, Jaylib.

MVRemix: What kind of jobs did you have before you were making a living as a group?
Design: I sold women’s shoes.
Stretch: We’re making a living? When did that start happening and why didn’t anybody tell me?

MVRemix: What was the last incident of racism you experienced?
Stretch: In Cali, where we live, there’s none of that really, that I’ve seen.

MVRemix: Abortion – pro-choice or pro-life?
Design: I’m pro-choice.
Stretch: Pro-tect yo-self.

MVRemix: Death Penalty – For or against?
Design: I’m against.
Stretch: Depends.

MVRemix: Where were you on Sept. 11th (The World Trade Center Terrorist Attack)? How did you deal with it? How do you think it has affected music?
Stretch: We had just gotten back from Denmark the day before. I was just shocked. I couldn’t believe that something like that could just happen.

MVRemix: What collaboration are you most proud of?
Stretch: ‘Just Doing My Job’ with Prozack and Jake One. I just really love how that song turned out.

MVRemix: Is ‘Roommate Joint’ a true story? Who was the worst roommate you ever had? Why?
Stretch: F*ck it. I’m not pulling any punches. I love the dude now but me and my boy, Fanatik, just could never live together again. We just butted heads about things that you just shouldn’t have to.

MVRemix: Word association time. I’m going to say a name of a group/emcee and you say the first word that pops in your head. So, if I say ‘Chuck D’, you may say ‘Revolution’. Okay?

MVRemix: Del The Funky Homosapian.
Stretch: Dr. Bombay.

MVRemix: Phife Dawg.
Stretch: Tip.

MVRemix: Common.
Stretch: Real N*gga Quotes.

MVRemix: The Roots.
Stretch: Impossible.

MVRemix: 50 Cent.
Stretch: Funny looking.
Design: Eminem.

MVRemix: Eminem.
Stretch: Rap Olympics.

MVRemix: Dead Prez.
Stretch: Too serious.

MVRemix: Wu-Tang Clan.
Stretch: I owe ya’ll.

MVRemix: Ugly Duckling.
Stretch: Grace Olson. My ex that introduced me to those guys.

MVRemix: Atmosphere.
Stretch: DJ Flip, Slug’s #1 fan.”

MVRemix: Gil-Scott Heron.
Stretch: Who?

MVRemix: George Bush.
Stretch: Brings back good hip hop.
Design: Ugh, you got me on that one.

MVRemix: What do you think hip-hop or music (in general) needs these days?
Design: I think hip-hop music needs to be heard. There’s this whole genre of music that needs to exposed to the masses.
Stretch: It needs a f*cking enema. Stop taking yourself so seriously.

MVRemix: What is the biggest mistake that you made in your career?
Design: Starting a record label.
Stretch: Quitting N-Sync.

MVRemix: How are European audiences different from U.S. audiences?
Design: European audiences usually have accents.
Stretch: They just don’t trip on dumb sh*t. If it’s hot, that’s all that matters to them.

MVRemix: What are some major misconceptions that people have of you?
Design: Most people think I’m a doctor.
Stretch: That I’m only 19 years old.

MVRemix: If you could re-make any classic hip-hop song, what would it be?
Design: I’d like to re-make ‘Wham Rap’ by Wham.
Stretch: It wouldn’t be a hip-hop song. It would be an old soul song.

MVRemix: Do you want to be cremated or buried?
Design: Cremated, then mixed into a smoothie.
Stretch: Buried.

MVRemix: What do you want on your epitaph?
Design: Long live Kane.
Stretch: Guess drinks are on you now.

MVRemix: What is next in the future for Foreign Legion?
Design: We’re planning on purchasing an Island in the Caribbean called Necker.
Stretch: Who knows? Hopefully, some money and a few concubines.

MVRemix: What collaborations should we look out for?
Design: DJ Design LP featuring Marc Stretch, Prozack, Madlib, Jay Dilla, Supa Dave West, Oh No, Peanut Butter Wolf, Mark Rae, and David Gest.
Stretch: Vinyl Bros, for my DJ stuff, and anything with any of our names on it.

MVRemix: Any final words for the people who are reading this?
Design: Yeah, don’t sleep on the Yay! Rick Rock, E-40, E.A. Ski Fo Sho! FL, Bringing that ish for the real cats.
Stretch: Buy my record. Porn Stars love me.

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"We all met in Juvie. Marc and I were already seniors in the Hall and Zack was the new kid. Marc and I decided to initiate him into the hall with a proper black jack beating with a bar of soap stuffed in a sock while he was sleeping. From there we all became pals."