"Hathaway comes to the Performance Center after a successful tenure as a manager and a wrestler on the indies. Although, trained for the ring, Hathaway gained a reputation in recent years for wheeling-and-dealing on behalf of other wrestlers. The notoriously outspoken Hathaway has represented clients in several promotions throughout The US, from EVOLVE Wrestling to the New England-based Beyond Wrestling. He hails from New York City," reads a recent WWE Performance Center press statement. They're, of course, talking about Independent wrestler and manager Stokely Hathaway, who recently signed a deal with WWE NXT/Performance Center. Hathaway has previously wrestled and managed talent for EVOLVE Wrestling, Beyond Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and Major League Wrestling (MLW) and has gone by a variety stage names, including Chuck Taylor, Ramon, and most recently, Court Moore for NXT.
Stokely is the self-proclaimed 1996 Source Awards Winner & Former Editor of XXL Magazine. Griff & Scorcese have composed a starter kit/theme music, of sorts, for Court Moore on his venture through WWE NXT entitled Dream Team: A Stokely Hathaway Joint. Scorcese & Jason Griff were kind enough to gift us the exclusive premiere of their The Rock-inspired single, "Flex Kavana" Feat. Vic Spencer. Next up will be "Robbin' Peter, Payin' Paul (Heyman)" Feat. Sauce Heist to be premiered at 33 Jones, as well as third single, "Stokely's Theme" at Speed On The Beat. We're very proud to be premiering "Flex Kavana" right here on The Witzard, along with a comprehensive interview with Griff/Scorcese, on the eve of WrestleMania 35 & WWE RAW. Griff/Scorcese were, also, kind enough to gift us with a SECOND exclusive premiere of "Pink Flamingo Weather" from Dream Team: A Stokely Hathaway Joint, as well.
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Wrestle Rap/Hip-Hop Enthusiast
I. How did you two meet and initially decide to start recording and releasing music together as Griff/Scorcese?
Scorcese: So, Griff/Scorcese began thanks to Zilla Rocca! He gave me a suggestion to remix my friend's project and he got me in touch with Griff. He sent me a beat he was working on and told me I could use it until he sold it. I recorded a verse to it and he liked it so much he told me I could keep it! That verse, eventually, became a song on Dream Team! I mentioned I was working on a mixtape for Stokely [Hathaway] and he said, "what if we made it an album?" and voila!
Jason Griff: Shells [Scorcese] & I connected when Zilla Rocca referred him to me for a remix for his [A World] Only Gods Know project. Shortly after that, Shells heard a beat I put on Instagram and asked me to send it to him. He laid down 16 bars on it, along with some Stokley Hathaway samples, and it was fantastic! He started telling me about this project he was working on with Stokley. I hadn't really delved too deep into the various [indie] wrestling circuits to know much about Stokley, but I was intrigued and ready to work on something unique.
II. What exactly is the title "Flex Kavana" intended to mean or signify? How did you go about getting Vic Spencer involved in Dream Team: A Stokely Hathaway Joint?
Scorcese: "Flex Kavana" is, actually, the original wrestling name of The Rock! When Dwayne Johnson first decided to wrestle, he was sent to Memphis to wrestle and train with Jerry Lawler. He chose the name Flex Kavana and began appearing on TV. When I first heard the beat, I knew I wanted to write something really dusty and grimy—some throwback Hip-Hop sh*t! One of the lines I dropped was "I move Rock like Flex Kavana / Gucci shades, that's my urban camo," which stuck out to me, and that is what I chose to title the record because it sounds like a dope name to stamp your dope with.
Vic got involved when I mentioned to Griff that I loved his music. I had been listening to Spencer FOR HIGHER [like] crazy and his tone, cadence, bars, everything, was captivating to me from a musical standpoint. I knew I wanted him on Dream Team, but I didn't have the record, at the time. Well, along came "Flex Kavana." Vic heard it, said he loved it, and he got busy!
III. What were your typical writing, beat-making, and recording processes like for Dream Team: A Stokely Hathaway Joint? How involved was Stokely through the shaping, refining, etc. or the project's overall narrative?
Scorcese: So, Stokely gave me two directives: he wanted a "Rick Ross-style" album and he wanted it to "sound like New York." He approved all the records and made sure to direct me to his best samples. He, also, recorded some promos for us and got me in touch with other wrestlers. I consider myself a lyricist, so I have to curb more of my desires to get intricate with the references and wordplay. I decided to go back and watch older Stokely promos and build my song ideas around his promo work. It was, also, a process with Griff; we needed to find beats that fit both aesthetics. We went [through] some starts and stops, but we really saw what we had when we did "Pink Flamingo Weather," which Stokely LOVED. Eventually, we got into a groove and knocked out the record.
Jason Griff: As far as the beat selection goes, it began with me sending Shells a bunch of beats I already had made. Once he started choosing the ones he liked, it gave me more direction for future creations. So, the album is about a 50-50 split of beats made before we met and beats made during the actual collaboration process.
IV. How exactly did Dream Team morph into a "Wrestle Rap"-themed project in tribute to/collaboration with WWE NXT wrestler and cultural icon Stokely Hathaway?
Scorcese: So, Dream Team was always a Stokely Hathaway project—I, actually, did his independent theme music he used before he signed to WWE NXT. After a show in Orlando, he asked me if I could do a Dream Team mixtape mentioning the wrestlers he managed and using some samples of his! I was about seven records in when I met Griff and we decided to scrap the industry songs and make an album!
Jason Griff: That was the concept from the jump, but it evolved and grew with each song we did.
V. What do you fellas, as well as Stokely Hathaway, have planned for the Dream Team album roll-out? Also, in addition to this project, what else do each of you currently have in-the-works or nearing completion?
Scorcese: So, we are currently getting our merch together and planning on a short film based on three songs! For our roll-out, we chose three top-notch writers, who had a sincere interest in both the music and story behind the project, to premier each record. We use the "📟📟📟" because it reminded us of that "code" on the pager—if you know, you know, right?
Jason Griff: We're gonna do a short, limited run of some physicals (probably tapes, hopefully, vinyl,) along with some unique merch ideas. I'm, also, recruiting some other producers to get involved and do remixes of tracks off the album. Aside from this project, I am working on another EP with Alex Ludovico, I produced the closing joint on Zilla Rocca's '96 MENTALITY. and a few loosies with a handful of other artists in-the-works that may drop pretty soon. I'm, also, in a continuous state of making solo/beat tape/compilation albums and then, scrapping them halfway through and starting in on a new concept solo/beat tape/compilation album!
VI. If each of you could choose a favorite project or special release of each other's (Griff for Scorcese and vice versa) what would you pick and why?
Scorcese: I loved Griff's [original track, "Mysterio"] on Zilla's Hard Boiled [CD], but my current favorite is easily the new SCARF TISSUE project! The soundscapes are impeccable and I told him we need to fight because that "Dy-No-Mite!" record would have been PERFECT for me.
Jason Griff: 2-Man Power Trip... [Co-starring Seven Digit Lito/M-Lito] was extra-dope. The music itself is awesome, but it, also, resonated with me because he used a bunch of samples from the Backlash PPV in Chicago that a bunch of my friends and I went to when we were like 20. I've heard a handful of miscellaneous demos from some upcoming projects, though, and they're gonna be even better.
VII. Aside from Stokely Hathaway and, of course, Wrestle Rap, what were each of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence throughout the creation and recording of Dream Team: A Stokely Hathaway Joint?
Scorcese: My biggest influences for this project have been a lot of underground NYC & CHI rappers, honestly. Guys like Sauce Heist, K. Burns, Benny The Butcher, Sleep Sinatra, CRIMEAPPLE, Roc Marciano, Vic Spencer, Chris Crack, and a few others. I've been vibing with that and a heavier, sample-based sound, like Zilla Rocca's current work. I even listened to Rick Ross, even though, I despise his music. I, also, watched a ton of older Blaxploitation films and listened to soundtracks.
Jason Griff: Generally speaking, my list of influences is a revolving door of artists. My constant motivators are producers like Alchemist, Madlib & El-P. During the process of this album, I was really vibing to a lot of Oh No/Gangrene, Armand Hammer, DJ Muggs, Roc Marciano, and conversely, a lot of Punk Rock sh*t, like Iron Chic & Off With Their Heads.
VIII. What are each of your all-time favorite wrestling moves, who does it best, and why?
Scorcese: Chaos Theory or The Liger Bomb, easy!
Jason Griff: Most of my favorite finishing moves are classic ones that were dope in WrestleMania 2000 or No Mercy on the N64. The Stone Cold Stunner, The Pedigree, The Dominator, The Screwdriver, and Jeff Jarret's The Stroke because it was awesome and had a hilarious name. I, also, love a classic submission move, like Bret Hart's Sharpshooter, The Crippler Crossface, and when Chris Jericho used to do The Liontamer—not the Walls of Jericho, that sh*t is just a Boston Crab—he ain't foo'ing anybody with that! And I never get tired of über-athletic finishers, like The Red Arrow and Spanish Fly... but, if I'm picking just one, it's The Pedigree. Coincidentally, years ago, I broke a friend's nose with a Pedigree, but we're still cool; he played guitar on this album!