Philly-born Jamal Gray aka the Last Emperor has always been one of my favourite artists, but unfortunately also one of those so talented and gifted emcees who would never get their deserved shine. Sure he’s by no means unknown, having still a loyal fan base from the US over to Europe and all over the globe. I think getting a mayor recording deal with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment was his biggest chance to leave the “underground” and getting heard by the masses, but according to rumours or let’s say I’m not really sure anymore, he refused to dumb down his lyrics and to start cursing around, so that his time was quickly over at Andre Young’s camp.
I personally heard him for the first time watching the And1 mixtape (I guess vol.3 or 4) featuring his classic “Do You Remember“. So from Aftermath/Interscope, to Rawkus, to forming his own label Red Planet Music together with his brother and getting distribution by Raptivism records he finally released the classic and one of my all time favourite albums “The Palace of the Pretender” (released as “Music, Magic, Myth” in the US with a slightly different tracklist)
At the moment it has been pretty quite around him, I would say his last release was “Man Of The Year” by the German producer duo the Snowgoons. For the release he was supposed to be on a Europe wide tour together with the Snowgoons sound system, Chief Kamachie, and Jus Allah but finally stayed in the United States due to a new job he got there, at least that’s what I’ve been told. I’m really looking forward to hearing new tracks but haven’t heard any news since then; hope the last emperor gets finally back to the stage one day to drop a sophomore classic.
Here’s a bootleg/compilation with unreleased and b-side tracks entitled the legend of bigfoot.
The Legend Of Bigfoot:
01. Last Emperor-Secret Wars Pt2
02. Last Emperor-Heavy Weight Invincible
03. Last Emperor-Party Crashers
04. Last Emperor-The Expedition
05. Last Emperor-Caravan
06. Last Emperor-Animalistics
07. Last Emperor-Fo Rel
08. Last Emperor-The World of Susie Wong
09. Last Emperor-Monumental
10. Last Emperor-The Last Dozen
11. Last Emperor-Jungle Cats
12. Last Emperor-Medation
13. Last Emperor-Keep On
14. Last Emperor-Heaven
15. Last Emperor-Black Magic
16. Last Emperor-Bums
Edit: Here’s also the link for the “Do You Remember” track from the And1 mixtape.
You can also visit his Myspace site and watch the video to it and also it seams that he’s currently working on a documentary entitled “Memoirs Of An MC”, you can watch the preview there too.
And finally I found the interview on my PC which my man Nic did back in ’05 for the Bombfirst site, funny thing is, he talked about releasing his new album in September or October that same year, whatever happen to it?
Interview with the Last Emperor (@ Hengelo, Netherlands 2/19/05)
Bombfirst: So this show being one of the last, how do you feel about touring through Europe?
I appreciate the European support tremendously cause like, we come a long way from home you know. We want to make sure the kids and the people, when they come out, enjoy themselves and have fun at the shows. Cause, at the end of the day that’s what it’s all bout: for the kids to come out, have fun, go home safely and they can remember and tell their friends “ey yo we saw a good hip hop show tonight”. Like all the people said they liked it enjoyed it and always the people want us to come back we gon come back.
Bombfirst: The final show will be in Prague do you feel like it’s going to be something special, considering the political changes we’ve seen there and seeing hip-hop grow in places like that?
Yo I think it’s tremendous you know, perhaps 20 years from now, as an American, I might not have the opportunity to go there, so I think that it shows the power of hip hop and music and we see how it can affect the life of people all over the planet. Now the Czech Republic is really interesting in itself, from its own history, so am pretty exited to be able to perform there.
Bombfirst: What are the next things for the Last Emp when he comes home from this tour?
Yo the next things for Last Emperor will be working on the upcoming album, it will probably out by august or September 2005.
Bombfirst: Could you give us a few details about what we should expect?
It’s going to be classic Last Emp: Older joints, classic songs, storytelling but it’s going to be more character-driven. It’s basically about the characters I met during my adventures after the last album. To get a little look of what the album is about you need to cop the “Hidden treasures” mix tape cause we got to new songs from the album on that tape. One is called “2012” and the other one “Walk like an Apache”. The first one is about my vision of the future in hip-hop and the other one is dedicated to the Native Americans and their struggle. There’s going to be different characters like Captain Jack and the bounty hunter in the year 2012 and the apache chief…. so it’s new things you know, things like what it’s like to be a pirate in this hip hop circle that joint’s called “Taxation” and that’s on the record too.
Bombfirst: What type of vibe will the album have? Is it going to be more laid back or…
A little more up-tempo and action-packed you know. Production wise I have my man Mega D doing a lot of work. We work closely together; so sometimes I have a concept and he finds music to fit that, or he comes out with music and I write to his concept.
Bombfirst: After a show and a concert like this, do you feel like your often mentioned? Past is all behind you?
(Nodding) I have no regrets. Everything that I’ve experienced even if it was negative or hard, it was a learning experience making me confident and a better emcee. So I have no regrets I’ve been trough a few label problems, things of that nature but am still here. As long as people want to continue to hear me I’ma still continue to bring out good hip hop so I have no regrets.