Lenny Lenn has an opinion, and he's not afraid to express it. He frequently makes big, bold statements about seemingly everything.
One moment he's speaking in a quiet, humble tone about his technical training in post-production, for instance, and the next he's comparing himself to Andre 3000 with no shame and enough confidence to charge a bull.
When discussing hip-hop in Denver, he quickly categorizes a young cat like Turner Jackson as one of the hottest underground rap acts, and firmly gives up-and-comer Pries "mainstream" status.
With a history rooted in promotions, television, radio, film and post-production, Lenny Lenn is a versatile figure who considers himself a voice of reason in the Colorado hip-hop scene. He's been involved in a number of projects, from Dispensary Music to Mr. Midas's new album, Son of the Crack Era, and often is the exclusive ear of some of the hottest projects to hit the streets.
Smartly, Lenny Lenn knows the line between arrogance and confidence, and he toes it finely. We caught up with the overachieving multi-tasker, and he held held nothing back on topics such as beef in hip-hop, the genius of Wacka Flacka, and why Lenny Lenn does as he damn well pleases.
One thing you're prone to doing is making these bold, controversial statements by pitting artists like KRS-1 and Soulja Boy against each other, drawing distinctions that have never existed before. Do your thoughts need justifying?
Absolutely not. I'm just expressing my opinion. I don't need to justify or explain myself. If folks would like to debate me on anything I've ever said, I have no problem with it as long as it's an intelligent conversation and not based off of emotional feelings.
You have such an extensive history within Colorado hip-hop. Why does it feel like you've constantly had to prove yourself?
Because folks always doubt you, like, Why does he get this project?, or Folks only fuck with him cause he's on the radio, or He talks so much shit, can he back it all up? But I have no problem proving myself time and time again, even though I feel my track record speaks for itself.
What are the many hats that you wear?
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Rap, produce, I direct, edit, graphic and whatever else needs to be done to make whatever project I'm working on to be as good as it gets. If that means going to get somebody food or going to the liquor store or picking up blank CDs, I do all of it. I can pretty much do anything, because that's what I would want somebody who's working with me to do.
Is this an approach you've etched out along the way, or a style you've adopted that works on each project?
Every single one since the first project that we recorded -- it was called Kin: a Family Affair -- we recorded and we made the beats, we mixed, we mastered and did our own graphics, pressed up CDs and hit the streets. It's pretty much been like that since day one. If I see something that needs to get done, then I do it.
What it is about your brand that works as an advantage for you?
It's kind of an advantage, but it's a disadvantage, too. I think a lot of people think that because I do so much, I'm unapproachable, or because I talk a lot of stuff and because I have a cocky, arrogant attitude that I can't work with people. Anyone who has ever reached out to me knows where I'm really at, but I know that I'm good at what I do. I know this, so why wouldn't I have that confidence in myself? I wouldn't talk stuff if I couldn't back it up. When I don't know something, I try to listen and observe and learn what I can. When you don't hear me talking, I'm learning and listening. But when I know something, I'm on.
Where do you find you're learning most?
Everywhere, working on projects. Every time I do a project, I sit back and watch it and learn what I did wrong. I'm not scared of learning about that. I'm not scared to fail or look bad in front of other people. As much stuff as I talk, I should be able to take it, too. I have a thick skin. I know people watch and they are critical, but I can take that because that helps me grow -- seeing what I like and trying to learn what I can from them.
Who has influenced you or mentored you as you've come up?
It kinda depends. When it comes to the music, my brother was one of the ones who was doing the beats and was saying to me, "Hey, Lenn, we should do this," and me having the excuse of making money or there was a girl or something else. But he's a big influence. People who I've worked with: Whygee, for sure; Foe, Julox, QBurse -- anybody I've ever worked with when it comes to learning about having a thick skin and doing my thing.
For someone who does so many things, what is it that you do the most?
The music. I was in school and doing film and videos and commercials and getting work done and doing all these things. I felt like I was losing touch with the music. And then I was reading the blogs and seeing people on Twitter saying things like, "Yo, this is what we're doing," and I was like, "Wait a minute. I'm good. I'm good, too. Let me put a project out."
And most of the time they wouldn't pay attention to what I was doing and what I was putting out, so maybe they weren't feeling me as a rapper. When Foe and Whygee asked me to do Dispensary Music, I thought, "Hey, this is it. This is something that's outside of my comfort zone by working with somebody else." They made me step up my level and what I could do. Both of them basically said, "You talk enough shit, so let's see what you can do."
Dispensary Music had this colossal buildup. What's going to happen with it?
It's out now. Finally, [with] all the work that we put in, people get to hear it. The release party is coming up, and I think people will get to see it for what it really is. They've seen these guys together on stage, but you'll really get to experience Dispensary Music with them together. After that, seven to eight unreleased tracks that no one's ever heard before. After you leave the dispensary, you have doobies, so these songs are tracks that didn't necessarily fit the whole feel of the album.
I want to talk to you about Twitter. It seems like it has become the platform for public opinion. Why?
It's put a value on it. Before Twitter, before Facebook, it was kind of the same thing, except your numbers were smaller. It was like in high school when you would have the six cool kids and they tell someone they're not cool. It's the same thing if I tell them they are. It's the same thing, except it's a couple hundred more.
People value their success or their failure based on their Twitter numbers. I figure, why not use it, because it's free advertisement and I'm trying to build a brand, but it doesn't determine my value. It's a free service. It's better that I use it, because there are people who pay for this, and we can use it for free.
So when used as a tool, it's helpful.
Yes. I saw the importance of Twitter based off of Dispensary Music. That buzz was created damn near off of Twitter. Within 72 hours, we had 2,000 views, and that was just off of me tweeting. There were no hard copies; I wasn't really out there face-to-face. It was Twitter, really. I'm a firm believer in making something out of nothing.
Okay, Lenny Lenn, what is with the beef in hip-hop?
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I think there's a lot of beef when there are too many egos in the room. We're in a box and there's not a lot of space. A lot of arrogance and "I'm better than you" attitude. There's no real beef; people really handle that off Twitter. In hip-hop, I think it's just competition, and that's always. Hell, we all grew up together. We went to the same elementary school. We're not really beefing with each other. The cats who are making a lot of noise coming out of Colorado are not beefing with anybody. They do their thing.
If you had two sentences to convince someone of the genius of Wacka Flacka, what would you say?
I wouldn't try to convince someone he was genius, but I would say that the music he makes speaks to a particular market, and believe it or not, there are folks who don't want to hear all the complex rhymes folks praise so much. Actually listen to what he's saying and you just might respect him a little more.