You’ve dropped a lot of songs and mixtapes in the past couple of years, but where have you been lately?
After the deal with the Trackmasters and after the deal with Columbia, see, I was young when I did that. I came back from just vacationing and all that. I had to ask myself if I really wanted to do music because I love it without the business part. I had to ask myself, ‘Do I want to do both of them at the same time?’ I just got in the studio and just started recording. Seeing the state of hip-hop now, they need a person like me.
What inspired you to write “Say My Name”?
That’s to all the people who tried to keep me out the game. They thought they were doing something but they were just doing a disservice to the game. Now that the game is going the way that it is and real lyrics are a dying breed, I feel like now, you have to say my name. Say my name now. Now you’re going to have to call me if you want this thing to be saved. I’m the last one from that generation. I’m from the generation of Big, ‘Pac, Jay-Z, Nas, Mase and Bad Boy. If you want somebody from that era to come save it who’s young and vibrant and you want them to come and do it, you’re going to have to do it.
In “Say My Name” you also spoke about how you had to rely on your mental to get through everything that you’ve been through in the industry.
Adversity is just something that goes with character. That’s something that you have to work on, so when I was going through the Trackmasters situation and dealing with tragedy, it’s just something that you put it in God’s hands and know that it’s not your plans and there’s really nothing you can do about it but accept it. That’s the most you can do about it – just accept it. It’s like if I asked you to do something for me and you didn’t do it, me pouting about it isn’t going to get it done and at the end of the day, you still didn’t do it. I’m going to use this positive energy to get to the next step. I never did that before. I just went and I did what I had to do.
You also say that it’s only a matter of time until you really get out there. How much longer will we have to wait for the Ali Vegas album?
Not long at all. It’s going to happen in the first quarter. I’m starting my descent into the game fully. I’m just warming them up. Right now I’m working with Cool and Dre and Scott Storch. I’m going to go to New York tonight because I have to go and link up with Primo. I have a few producers with great credibility. It’s kind of funny because my responsibility to the game is different from everyone else’s. Scott Storch is not going to give me what he might give a 50 Cent or something because of the simple fact that I hold more responsibility. Once they hear me rapping and they hear my history, they feel like I can accomplish their dreams. They can accomplish their dreams through me and bring back this music at the same time. They’re giving me this crack music that sounds incredible.
Do you still see yourself as the Prince of New York?
Yeah. I always say I’m the prince because only Christ is king. I would never say that I’m the king, but I’m going to go from P.O.N.Y. to N.Y.C.E. – New York City’s Emperor. I don’t ever want to be king.
You’re working on a street album now. How’s that coming?
It’s great. And the way that came about was because I never stopped recording, like, never. I never stopped recording. So it’s like from December to, like, June of last year, I had 1,500 songs on my hard drive. Now I have four or five hard drives now. Out of every 60 I do, 58 come out good, so that’s where the street album came from. Once I’m on the clock, I won’t ever let the people down because I got so much music.
What’s it like working with Lamar Odom and his label Rich Soil?
It’s great. How many of us get to become co-C.E.O. of a company? It’s not just music. We have a reality show coming out and a clothing line coming out called Son of Man. We got a cartoon coming out called Snotty-Nose Kids. There’s so much. There’s been so much. How many artists get to do that? A lot of artists, their dollars and cents don’t match up and mines do. Mine do because I’m the co-C.E.O. of a company. When I was in Jamaica, I started my own frat called Alpha Beta Paper. So we’re about to do our own road tour. I started my own frat. There are so many gangs. I don’t want a gang. I want a frat. It’s a brotherhood. Alpha Beta Paper. It’s been great. It still is great!
Do you have crazy frat parties?
Yeah, we’re going to have frat parties and all that. They gotta come down to the frat parties.
What goes into an Ali Vegas party?
The ambiance is crazy. It’s nice and sexy. It’s nice and woman-friendly. I don’t smoke or drink, so there’s not too much of that. It’s just a nice, chill environment. You can cool out and relax and enjoy yourself.
Your debut album is coming out on Rich Soil/Asylum. How’s that coming?
That album’s coming along great. Once I go to New York and record this song with Primo, we’re done.
You had problems with Stack Bundles in the past. Before he passed away, did you ever make peace?
Yeah. We just was at the Hip-Hop Power Summit in the Dominican Republic. When we was out there, we resolved it a little bit. We just was chilling and everything was cool. Everything was cool. We did it. You get your money. That’s how I left it. I told him to get his money. We’re young Black entrepreneurs in hip-hop. It doesn’t make sense for us to be arguing back and forth over something that we didn’t start and something that we couldn’t finish. I told him to just do what he did and I would do what I do and love is love. We don’t have to hold each other’s hands.
When I heard about his passing, it really stunned me. Even though we ain’t see eye-to-eye at times, I don’t wish that on none of my brothers. Hip-hop alone is like a brotherhood. Any type of organization to me is like a brotherhood. The NBA is like a brotherhood. They have their Player’s Association and they have to stick together. Hip-hop is like a brotherhood to me and I really felt bad. I felt like I lost one of my brothers, even though we were distant brothers. I still feel like I lost one of my brothers. I send my condolences out to his family. That’s really where I’m at with it.
You also had problems with DJ Clue and Fabolous. Looking back on that situation now, is there anything that you wish you had done differently?
Nah. Anything in my life that I do, I would never do it differently. That’s what made me who I am. Good or bad, right or wrong, I would never go back and say, “I would do this over” or “I would do that over.” What was said was said. They said what they said. I voiced my opinion on it and spoke my mind on it and that was that. This hip-hop game is a brotherhood. If we all sit in there and are getting along, at the end of the day, it’s not realistic. If you’re living in the house with someone for 30 years, you’re going to have at least an argument. The only thing I get disappointed with is when it can’t be worked out. When the situation is so bad that it can’t be worked out, that’s when I get disappointed with it. I really don’t have any regrets with that. Get your money and I’ll get mine. It’s like a brotherhood. If something were to happen to Clue or Fabolous today, it would still affect me as if it were a brother of mine. That’s what it is at the end of the day – it’s a brotherhood.
Your voice has been compared to AZ, Nas and Jay-Z. Do those comparisons ever bother you?
To get compared to Nas and Jay-Z, it’s like asking Kobe Bryant when he gets compared to Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. They’re the greatest players in the game. Basically what they’re saying is that with me being named amongst that elite company, that’s not just an honor. That’s a blessing. With the Nas and Jay-Z comparisons, it’s more of the voice comparisons. Me and Esco know the same people and we have similar characteristics. And when they compare me to Jay, it’s more like because of the fact that I’m in the same position he was in where he was the co-C.E.O. of a company and it’s not just rap. It’s clothing and all of that. I’m an entrepreneur. It’s a blessing.
I used to shy away from it, but I accept it and embrace it. It ain’t like I’m being compared to MC Bubbalicious. I’m not mad at all, really. I’m not mad at all. You would have never known Jay-Z was going to be our modern day Russell Simmons. Jay-Z is my generation’s Russell Simmons. I’m the next generation of Jay-Z and it’s going to keep going on. There’s going to be a young me that’s going to be compared to me and he’s going to be his generation’s such-and-such.
You did two Best Of mixtapes two summers ago. Are you happy with how those did for you?
Yeah. I’m definitely happy with how they did. They haven’t even seen the best of me yet. They haven’t even seen the best of me yet. The album that’s coming out in the first quarter, I can’t even explain it. I got a song on there called “Generation Gap” that’s crazy. The joints that I’m coming with got me so excited. It’s not even the best of me yet.
How overdue is the Ali Vegas album?
Wow. I don’t feel like my album is overdue. I feel like it’s right on time. I’m telling you, it’s all about God’s plan. When I was signed at 14, I was signed in one of the realest eras in rap. He signed me because he knew where this game was going and he wanted me to come through and save it. What He did was He gave me my credibility and then when I come out today, I’m young, I’m pretty and I work hard. Now I can appeal to the youth that are getting steered wrong right now. I’m right on time.
You’re mainly known for making good mixtapes. Is that a good thing?
It’s a good thing, really. You want to conquer every part of it. You want to conquer every part of it. The mixtapes are like getting the scoring title. You want to get the scoring title and you want to get the MVP, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to win the championship. I’m just getting my personal accolades and then I’m coming to win the championship in the first quarter.
What’s the next move for Ali Vegas?
Right now I’m in Miami working with Cool and Dre and Scott Storch. Then I’m going to go to New York and do this thing with Primo and then I’m going on this Alpha Beta Paper tour. You can look for that, the college tour. We’re going to do it like that. We’re going to go out on the road. I’m going to go out on the road by myself with the Alpha Beta Paper tour and then I’m going to go on tour with Esco. He’s been like a big brother to me. Then we got the reality show. That’s being filmed right now. We got the cartoon Snotty-Nosed Kids. We got everything. We got Son of Man clothing. That’s all happening now. So in the first quarter, when it all seems like it’s happening overnight, it didn’t.
What do you want to say to everybody?
I know the ones that have been waiting for me. I know they’ve seen me pop up and fall back, but I just want to let them know that there ain’t no stopping me right now. I’m running for president right now. With me, the country would be a better place. I’m the Bill Clinton of rap. I want them to look for me and support everything that I do and it’s going to be a good thing. And look for that Alpha Beta Paper college tour coming to a city near you.