Image via Prince Metropolis Known's Bandcamp
When confronted by a rapping lion recording in a Bronx-based “crack and hoes spaceship,” you pay attention. No other option exists. Rap history is littered with bizarre characters, wild fables, and the occasional tiger style or Tyga, but Tyga hasn’t felt the need to dress up as his namesake (at least until Season Three of Tyga Loves Kylie).
Kanye employed a yeti for the Incredible Yeezus Traveling All-Star Extravaganza, but even he opted against going full Matterhorn (no Vinnie Chase). The lion has no such qualms. He is either the craziest or most fearless man in hip-hop, maybe both. It’s the eccentricity expected from a protégé of Kool Keith—the ex-Bellevue patient who once rocked an Elvis pompadour and tossed out Ziplocs of chicken wings and Capri-Suns to crowds.
Sometimes you get the progeny you deserve. Hence, we receive the golden-maned gonzo Aslan, Prince Metropolis Known. The origins of the Bronx rapper are murky. His early videos—some maned, some mane-less—have mostly been removed from YouTube. Interviews have been scarce, but he’s gone on Twitter rampages against critics, Fox News, New York rappers, and the pros and cons of eating flesh in the jungle. He also released the Kool Keith collaboration entitled “Durant & Westbrook.” The Lion was Westbrook. Obviously.
Last month, Metropolis unleashed his most incendiary bombardment, Kill Bill—a mixtape diabolically orchestrated to humiliate Bill O’ Reilly in comically profane fashion. The Fox News prevaricator has been one of hip-hop’s greatest foils for everyone from Cam’ron to Jay Z. He’s basically Harvey Dent if he occupied a time slot adjacent to Sean Hannity. But Prince Metropolis is the only one to write a song about pimping O’ Reilly’s daughter, taunting the host about his (alleged) erectile dysfunction, and drinking his wife’s urine.
There’s also “Tammy Bruce,” in which the lion tells those with a right wing agenda that he’ll slip a molly in them so that they’ll be “sucking their dog’s dick.” It’s absurd, rapped in a drunken style, and in the vein of the best of Kool Keith or Based God: unpredictable, funny, and scripted for maximum shock value.
It’s fitting that the Lion’s most controversial song is the best rap diss since Lil B’s “T Shirt and Budden’s.” A warning shot in advance of this month’s, War Against Music 2, “Troy Ave Sucks” desecrates the NYC coke-rapper, who has spent the last three years triangulating 50 Cent, Lord Voldemort, and President Business from The Lego Movie.
Shortly after releasing the song, Junkadelic Music (the Lion’s label) was allegedly hit with threats of a cease and desist. According to the Lion, Troy Ave’s people began pressing Kool Keith, who in turn distanced himself from his former ally. “Troy Ave Sucks” is technically not supposed to be on Soundcloud, but it’s obscenely catchy and a viable candidate for Best American Music Criticism, 2015. So, we found it on Audiomack and decided to post it anyway.
For his first real interview, I spoke to the Lion some about life, his animal kingdom origins, and his hatred of conservative demagogues.
Noisey: What’s the story of the Lion?
Prince Metropolis Known: Prince Metropolis Known represents the culture of hip-hop. I am hip-hop’s savior like Jesus Christ. I’m like Moses. I’m like the alpha and omega, the one and the only. There is no one before me and after me. I represent the truth, the lies, the success, and the failure of our culture.
I don’t have a story. I represent what you think of it and what you don’t think of it. I grew up around hip-hop. I lived a block or two from Slick Rick, the Ruler. Andre the Giant of Showbiz and AG gave me first rhyme dictionary. I have lived this shit to the fullest.
Grandmixer DST lived in my building, and changed my Pampers. He grew with my mom’s in the Edenwald projects in the Bronx. I would go to his house and look at the gold plaque of him and Herbie Hancock—the “Future Shock” record. I knew that I needed to be a part of this culture. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do or what time I would become hip-hop’s savior.
But there is no story, it’s just controversy and the ideas of a man that turned into a rapping lion to be different and to get exposure, and also to change the culture of hip hop. This was forced upon me like birth. If it was up to me, I would be a chemical engineer. I’m that intellectually inclined, but was created by the mother of hip-hop to sit on the throne.
Who are your favorite lions in film, television, and literature?
Frasier, the sensuous lion. Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia. I loved his mane and his personification. King Moonracer—loved his style. Richard the Lionhearted, aka Sir Loin of beef.
Slap happy lion is very funny and amusing. I don’t like the Cowardly Lion from The Wiz and The Wizard of Oz – he was wack and corny.
What is the mission of the Lion?
I am here to push the envelope of our culture. Our culture is so saturated with artists that claim they love this culture, but will sacrifice themselves or their content for commercial success and don't forget their bodies.
I am commercial success. I am underground success. I am mainstream. I took all rappers’ styles before me and put them in one artist. There is not one rapper who will ever take my place. I am the lion of this culture.
This is not a game. I am not a joke or gimmick. I am not a spectacle. It’s like when DMX came out and Jay Z was the man talking to the ballers, but DMX spoke to the poor, the hungry, and the savages and took hip-hop somewhere else. That is my mission. You will get mad. You will cry when you see me.
Photo via artist's tweet at the author
What would you do if you were locked in a room with Sarah Palin, Bill O Reilly, and Tammy Bruce?
I would have the Ultramagnetic sparkling robe with a male G-String on and would ask Tammy Bruce and Sarah Palin to get on their knees, and I would allow them give me the bomb brain, and let little Bill sit there and masturbate to my moans and groans.
I would take Tammy Bruce and massage her vagina with that revolver she holds in her pictures. More so, I would let them taste my semen and spit it in Bill O’ Reilly’ face so he can smell the aroma of my salty semen and tell him to scream, “N—gas in Paris! N—gas in Paris!”
After that, I would sit down with them and talk about socio-political topics that affect our society and humanity as a whole. I would learn a lot from them in the moment. It would be disgusting to see his wrinkles, but we would do a cuckold. Then I would take pictures with them and have them glorify my music, having Tammy Bruce shaking her body to the name of Prince Metropolis Known.
How did you and Kool Keith meet… what bonded you guys?
I met Keith on the 2 Train on a day that I was going to get another job. It was crazy, like the train was there just waiting for me. The door closes and I'm standing there and feeling really strange. I just felt so much energy, so I looked down the train car and there he was, Kool Keith.
I instantly walked up to him, gave him a pound, and it all happened in slow motion. I mumbled that I wanted to be a Ultramagnetic MC. He was getting off at 116th in Harlem, so minutes later here, there I am, walking up Lenox Ave. spitting for Kool Keith.
I was in shock. I always said that if I ever met him, he would help me out. I was spitting; he was just smiling. He said, “I want to hear you on a beat.’ I said OK and he gave me some really heavy money and told me that he had to go out of town for three days. I walked off and went got a half-pound of weed and smoked it in two days with my entourage in the projects.
When I got in the studio, we must have recorded eight records in like two hours. It was crazy. He was in the booth doing a verse and I was writing my verse listening to him. And it went back for forth. So the creative process definitely linked us together. I was really hype at first, then after I calmed down it was normal. We watched porn in the studio and sipped champagne and ate pizza with a few ladies.
I got hundreds of records with Kool Keith that may never be released. He likes things like putting pineapples in women’s buttholes and things like that and I am perverted as the same. We just link for creative perversion and it was nice. He calls me a unicorn. He’s a unicorn and we battle mainly on records politely for the respect of each other and our flow, and lyrical integrity.
What would you do if you were president?
First, I would I make my lil homie, Kid Middi the class clown, Vice President. Then I would ban Fox News from the air. Then I would pass a law that whoever is a wack rapper has committed hip-hop treason. I would create a prison for wack rappers, where their punishment was to listen to me and watch me take a shower.
Then I would create free welfare for single mothers with fat butts and tight stomachs. I would pass a law saying elderly abuse is legal—the old take up space on the earth for the young. I would make Bishop Magic Don Juan, the prime minister of the world pimp association. I would make Pimpin Ken a scholar at NYU.
Then I would legalize prostitution. I would make sure my face is in every school of the ghetto and white America. I would make college free for the urban youth. I would take concern at real social issues that our society battles every day. The new anthem would be “BONE PRINCE METROPOLIS KNOWN.” I would take being president very seriously despite my ignorant views and levels of idealism that will create controversy. I would also make Jeff Weiss a United States hip-hop diplomat.
How did you start rapping?
First of all, I’m an MC. I be rapping at these other rappers to get my point across and because being an MC is played out and you can't survive the times if you don't know how to navigate through the storm.
I started rapping because of Slick Rick. I was always amazed by his image and personality. I remember being a little kid and he’d come to The Plaza on Baychester in a Red Benz. I use to love that dude: his style, all the jewelry. He’s the perfect rapper.
If you could be stranded on a desert island, what book, record and movie would you bring?
I would have The Perfume Garden, the Bible, the Torah of Moses, and the Holy Koran. And I would have the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie.
How would you want to be remembered?
As an artist that put his own self on the line for the culture. I would never want to die for the cause. I would die for the purpose and want people to look at me as an intelligent artist who can communicate his ideas to both critics and the masses.
I’d also want to be cherished not just for what I did, but for what I contributed to the views of the culture itself. You can't make history; it has to be a part of your destiny. I see rappers all the time talking about how they make classics. But it’s critics who determine what is a classic and what is not a classic. I just want to be understood and known as something special from the slums of the projects.
What are your least favorite animals in the animal kingdom?
Because I am the one with the mane, I have no least favorite. I am the king of the jungle. I depend on them. I depend on sick zebra children for a quick feed, although I don’t really hunt that much. I have wives doing that for me.
But in answer to your question, I would really say only one animal: the hyena. He is my death and destruction. He is very smart and hunts with intellect and always corners one of my family members. I hate the hyena with a passion in my heart. They have destroyed prides.
I normally eat my own children to maintain my own pride, feel me? It’s different when you got an animal that doesn’t care about me being majestic and will crack my bones. It’s horrible, just horrible. I’m sick to my stomach to even think about that piece of filth.
What made you decide to do an album about how much you hate Bill O' Reilly? Why is he the worst?
I hate Bill O’ Reilly with a passion in my soul. He has tried on numerous occasions to make hip-hop culture look like it’s the reason for social ills. So when I did this album, I wanted to give him what he wanted and at the same time change the culture with the content.
This is first time that Bill O’ Reilly has been put in his place. He should understand that there are people that do agree with him, but simultaneously have no right to stigmatize something as beautiful as hip hop.
He needs to suffer when he listens to it. He has no right to separate cultural demographics with right wing agenda idealism. I am a left wing advocate, yes, and I’m from the ghetto. So what?
As an American lion, I have the right to choose my political identity. I put that album out for one reason: to make his heart suffer, and to trash his whole idea of what he thinks about the culture.
What led you to write “Troy Ave Sucks?”
I never wanted beef, but just wanted to keep everything focused on the creative standpoint. I felt it would have been good for hip-hop to see two up and coming artists do a battle album, speak their peace, and continue with their solo careers.
I put the record out expecting him to prove his point. I felt it would be great for hip- hop and the culture. I wanted that KRS-One and MC Shan feel. When I finally spoke to Kool Keith about it, he he was really angry that I said Troy Ave’s name and mentioned Ultramagnetic, as if they co-signed it. He felt like he’d taught me better than that, because he’s the master of subliminal diss records.
At the same time, I paid sincere homage to the art and the legacy of Ultramagnetic destroying MCs. I tried to explain to him that I wanted to do a battle album with Troy Ave and felt it would be good for hip-hop and the economic value of black music. He didn't feel that way about it and was like, ‘Nah, take the record offline and don't put it on War Against Music 2.’
Then TR Love of Ultramagnetic told me that I could have done it in a different way, but telling Troy Ave that he sucks is total disrespect. But Ced Gee produced the “Penicillin on Wax” record for Tim Dog, which was a controversial attack on the West Coast, so I felt they would understand where I was coming from.
Then I heard that Troy Ave took it personally and didn't see it as I saw it. I almost had a nervous breakdown, not because I was scared of getting beat up over the record, but more over, how could he miss an opportunity to create history? I still haven't spoken to him. He blocked me on Twitter. I was trying to spark a moment in our culture, and honestly with that record, my mission was to cut his jugular vein out creatively. But it didn't happen that way.
I’m sorry that he took it personally. I respect his movement, but I represent War Against Music at any extreme. It got taken out of context: it’s just a hard record.
What is most misunderstood about you?
People think I am an asshole, but I’m not. I’m just a little mentally disturbed. I do this for the culture. That said, Fuck Bill O Reilly and peace ladies—if you want to have phone sex with me, call 347-373-1693. Women only. Peace.
Jeff Weiss wrote an oral history of the oral history of Ultramagnetic MCs' Funk Your Head Up. He's on Twitter.