PHILAFLAVA: Growing up in Philadelphia, in whats a proud and in some cases predominate Catholic city, what prompted you to convert to Islam?
VINNIE PAZ: Growing up yeah, I'm Italian and from Philly, so obviously my family is Roman Catholic. Religion and spirituality are a strange thing, ya know? Most people just grow up and accept the propaganda that their parents pushed on them. Christian families produce Christian kids, Jewish families produce Jewish kids, and so on. Not many people break that mold. I just never felt any connection with Catholicism, or Christianity in general. I spent a lot of time in high school at my homeboy Arif's crib, and he came from a Muslim family. I learned a lot there from his family and I got interested in Islam through them.
PHILAFLAVA: Did you see the new Rocky?
VINNIE PAZ: Like I said, I'm an Italian from Philly, so yeah, I saw it. I loved that shit. Rocky was a way of life when I was a kid.
PHILAFLAVA: Stoupe rarely appears on projects that aren’t affiliated, yet he’s praised throughout the underground as one of the most innovative and consistent producer in the game. Personally I think his name should be mentioned up there with the 9th Wonders, Madlibs or El-Ps, but he isn’t. What’s holding him back from becoming that household name?
VINNIE PAZ: Obviously I'm biased and I admit that, but I think he's better than all of the names you mentioned. He's just not really interested in working with people that he doesn’t know on a personal level. When his solo record drops, he'll be a household name, trust me.
PHILAFLAVA: What are some Philly cats that we should be checkiin’ for but aren’t?
VINNIE PAZ: It's a bunch of cats in the street right now that are crazy. Doap Nixon, Dmize, Reef, lots of heads. Philly has a bunch of dangerous kids right now.
PHILAFLAVA: Most cats overlook the importance Philly plays in hip-hop. Whenever it’s brought up usually you’ll hear a Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince comment, rarely Schoolly, 3x, Steady B or Cosmic Kev, but to you as a native and employee of hip-hop, how important is Philly to the culture?
VINNIE PAZ: For some reason, Philly doesn’t get its proper place in the history of rap music. I mean, we had Pop Art records, who were releasing all of the early Juice Crew records, DJ Miz, Cash Money, 3X Dope, Tuff Crew, Hilltop Hustlers, and so on. Philly was a HUGE part in the development of rap culture and ALL of its elements.
PHILAFLAVA: Six (JMT) albums deep, what’s your personal favorite and why?
VINNIE PAZ: I've said this in other interviews before, but it's true: records are like girlfriends. You always like the one that you're with RIGHT NOW the best, so I'll have to say Servants In Heaven.
PHILAFLAVA: What’s your least favorite and why?
VINNIE PAZ: I mean, we've never done a half-ass record, so i love all of them in different ways. You'd have to ask the fans that question
PHILAFLAVA: Your collabos are always anticipated and always appreciated. It seems you guys are also very selective with who you work with, but always manage to get the best of the best on a track; such as Kool G., Tragedy, Sean P, GZA, Percee P and Ras Kass. When are we going to hear you get down with Ghostface Killah?
VINNIE PAZ: Ghost is incredible, but there's always crazy red tape when you're dealing with an artist on a major label. It's something I'd love to do though. We'll see.
PHILAFLAVA: What’s the chance of an Ill Bill/Vinnie Paz LP?
VINNIE PAZ: We both have wild shit on our plate right now, ya know? I'd love to do it though. Hopefully it's something we can put together in the future.
PHILAFLAVA: Where would you rank R.A. in regards to today’s top emcees?
VINNIE PAZ: RA is one of the best ever. It's just that the casual fan doesn’t see a huge body of work, so he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves.
PHILAFLAVA: What does Ras Kass need to do in order to make us believers again?
VINNIE PAZ: Ras is incredible. He's had a long career and written one of the best rap songs ever (Nature of The Threat), so I dont think he really needs to convince anyone of anything.
PHILAFLAVA: What does Apathy need to do in order for us to remember him again?
VINNIE PAZ: Ap is very versatile. He's got lots of different flows and styles. Maybe that confuses people? I don't know. he's a great rapper to me, and I don't really always understand the fans because the average fan is much younger than me, so that's kinda hard for me to answer.
PHILAFLAVA: Where does Dia rank among female emcees?
VINNIE PAZ: Bahamadia? If that's who you mean, she's one of the best. Right up there with Lyte and Latifah.
PHILAFLAVA: iCON the Mic King is a resident member of Philaflava.com, so it’s only fair I ask this question for all those who were told one side of the story. From what was reported, apparently you two got into an altercation which ultimately led you to changing your name to Vinnie Paz. What exactly happened and was the similar name being used by iCON the reason for your change? Also, iCON once stated you two were going to record together and put past your differences, is that still happening?
VINNIE PAZ: Vinnie is my real name, so it was just a natural decision I noticed that people were popping up everywhere with the name icon, from DJ’s to rappers, to groups, so I decided it would be best to just go with my real name. Any beef I had with dude has been squashed for a few years now, it's all peace.
PHILAFLAVA: I’m sure you grew up listening to 3rd Bass like myself, what’s your take on Search’s “The White Rapper Show?”
VINNIE PAZ: That shit is terrible. I mean, I'm literally embarrassed by it.
PHILAFLAVA: What was your favorite album of ‘06?
VINNIE PAZ: Clipse- Hell Hath No Fury.
PHILAFLAVA: What artists (any music) would you like to work with?
VINNIE PAZ: System of a Down or Slayer.
PHILAFLAVA: Pats, Ginos or Jim's?
VINNIE PAZ: (Laughs) Why you gotta ask the fat guy? Actually, I fuck with the chicken cheesesteaks from Ishkabibbles on South Street.
PHILAFLAVA: Many artists love being independent because their deals are usually more lucrative and they have control over their releases. That said, are you content with being on a label such as Babygrande?
VINNIE PAZ: Control is a big issue for us. We've always walked to the beat of our own drum and Babygrande allows us to do that.
PHILAFLAVA: Recently you and Jus Allah squashed the beef and recorded an album that appeared on the internet, will he be on the next JMT release?
VINNIE PAZ: Yeah, he will. We're starting work on it soon. It's called "A History of Violence."
PHILAFLAVA: What’s on deck for Vinnie Paz in ‘07?
VINNIE PAZ: First off, thanks for the love and support. I appreciate you taking the time to interview me. 07? A new AOTP record, the Stoupe solo project, and of course, lots of touring.
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