Man, I'm doing outstanding. I'm feeling like a million bucks. I'm looking like $2 million.
You were chosen as part of the Rawkus 50. What did that mean to you?
It means a lot because I was chosen by a brand that represents real hip-hop. You have a lot of people talking about how hip-hop is dead and this, that and the third. I kind of feel like this is a resurgence of hip-hop coming back. It's great to be with a company that shares my beliefs and is saying something. We want to get the clubs rocking and all that, but we want to have the content strong. I feel like right now, too many people are focused on their singles and their ringtones and their quality has been suffering. But it's a new day now.
Your biggest song to date is "Hood Famous." How important is that song to your career?
That song is an Arizona hip-hop classic. It speaks volumes. My man Strida Hiryu produced it. When I went to his studio and he played the beat for me, I was breathless. I was looking for a track like that forever. I was like, 'That's that one.’ When I recorded it and people started hearing it, there was nobody that didn't like it. From there, the music speaks for itself. If you're putting out quality, the people are going to start gravitating to you. So many opportunities started opening up for me after that. It put me in a position where I started having more resources coming my way and I started maximizing off of it. You can have a hot song, but if you don't maximize off of it, it doesn't mean shit.
You also have a mixtape titled Hood Famous. How's that coming?
Man, that joint is fire! I've put a lot of time into making it as hot as possible. People are going to be amazed by it. It could be an album, real talk. I'm really trying to bring awareness to the movement on a worldwide basis. It's not a local mindstate. That's something that every cat, overseas and in America, can relate to. You can be Hood Famous. You don't have to be on TV to live that lifestyle. You don't have to have the biggest song on the radio to still be smashing your city. So I'm trying to let cats know. Go out there and get it! Don't let what I guess we can call "popular culture" be your definition of success. Don't worry about what they consider success. Still be out there with the 26"s and the white-on-whites. That's what I wanted to drive home and that's what motivated me to do this mixtape. This is a movement and this is a new ideology. So I got my man Statik Selektah and he's cosigning it. Now let's turn it up a little bit.
What are your goals for your Hood Famous mixtape?
You know what? My whole thing is to get my buzz up and to keep that going. I want to bring more awareness to this Arizona lifestyle and my movement and my philosophies. I'm putting my name in the hat to be one of the best new MCs in the game. That's what my whole goal for this project really is. It's a statement. And it's a series. The first one is going to be I'm Hood Famous – The Maryvale Story. The second one is going to be I'm Hood Famous – The Uprising. It's all going to be a series leading up to my next album Say Hello to the Crook.
What does Statik Selektah's cosign mean to you?
Man, it means a lot. Anytime you can have a prominent DJ showing you love, it means a lot, like it did when Kay Slay cosigned me. DJs are the most important part of breaking new artists and getting you out there. So the more DJs that you're able to align yourself with and have support your movement, the better you're going to be and the better your movement is going to be.
Do you look at coming from Arizona as a challenge or is that something that you embrace?
I embrace it. I'm going to keep it 100%. A lot of people told me that after I dropped Hood Famous and my name started growing and before MTV came out here, a lot of people told me that I would have to get out of Arizona to blow. They told me I would have to move from here. I heard that constantly. So me being the type of cat who likes to go against the grain, I was like, 'I'm staying.' If you do what you do and you do it well, the people will come. It's kind of like Field of Dreams. If you build it, they will come. I built the stage, put the lights up and got the $3000 microphone and now the people are coming to me. If you do what you do well, then you don't have to go anywhere. I embrace coming from Arizona. It's Maryvale all day.
Hot Rod has been building his name up and he shouts out Arizona a lot. How has he helped the state?
I'll say this – I don't know Hot Rod and I'm not really familiar with a lot of his stuff, but I do know that he's a cat representing Arizona. The way I look at it is that on a mainstream platform, screaming out my city is only a benefit for all of us. The more cats that are coming out and are screaming Arizona, it's just bringing more and more attention to us and all of the people that have their game right are going to be able to reap the benefits of that. Any cat screaming out Arizona on a big level is a good look for all of the artists.
There is talk of a tour with me, Hot Rod, Willy Northpole at DTP and Juice from Black Wallstreet. That would be big for the city. We're still working that out. But if it does happen it would be a huge step forward for Arizona.
How important is unity in Arizona right now?
It's tremendous. If cats are really about helping the city, then more cats are going to get on. That's how any city that's really got it popping has done it. You can't be stingy with your opportunity. You have to make opportunities for others and that's how your blessings grow. In Arizona, we're still warming up to unity. To be all the way real, we ain't 100% unified out here. There are a lot of people out here that are new to getting attention and some cats are moving real selfish. We just have to represent Arizona. We can't sit here in interviews and say that we're the only one popping in Arizona. That makes us look crazy and it makes you look crazy. You can't say that and I see that shit happening. You have to represent the city and you have to let the people know that you're not just a movement but that Arizona is a movement. I'm glad to see that we're starting to embrace that and cats are putting their egos to the side a little. And you have to have a team. You're only as strong as your team. You have to have strength in numbers. Cats need to get over that crybaby shit and the ego shit and recognize that this whole thing is bigger than them and it's bigger than Arizona and Arizona is going to move on with or without them and some of the cats you shitted on will get a shot and they may not be as forgiving. Let's not let silly shit get in the picture. There's a lot of money to make. Let's break in that door together and make that money faster.
What's your role in making Arizona bigger as a hip-hop state?
You know what? My role is what I'm doing now. I'm trying to bring as much attention to the Arizona culture as possible. In 2003 I came out with an album titled King of AZ. That was based on how I felt I was moving in the scene. You have to live up to that title and make those moves. I have that pressure and obligation to bring light to the city in whatever I do. Not just to Phoenix but everywhere.
Also, every year I do an event called the Music Fusion Festival, where I bring A&Rs out so they can listen to some of this unsigned heat out here. Now we're planning to turn it into a conference and we're bringing all of the heavy hitters out. We're going to do panel sessions and listening sessions so that I can provide help to other artists. I don't have too big of an ego to do that. I'm comfortable in my skin. I don't have a problem sitting in a room full of 100 MCs because I know that I'm still going to stand out because of who I am and how I get down. I'm for helping out as many people as possible and that's what I'm trying to do and that's what I'm trying to provide for Arizona.
At the end of the day, I'm a part of the foundation for Arizona reaching that national spotlight. Me being on MTV and representing the city well helped show cats that there is actually something going on here.
Your album Arizona Caesar is coming out in October. How's the album coming?
It's coming really well. We had an advance listening session and we got a lot of positive feedback. You can listen to the album on Rawkus' website. The album is really a collection of my older material. The album that we're really focusing on is Say Hello to the Crook. The album Arizona Caesar is already in the can and we're using that and the mixtapes to set up Say Hello to the Crook. That album is going to be a beast.
Taurus Scott and DJ Kay Slay co-executive-produced the project. How did they help it?
Kay Slay really helped with his cosign. It's the same with Taurus. Taurus is an up-and-coming cat from Arizona. I thought that it was a good idea. Let's work together and put together that unified front. It definitely helps with that cosign. But we're still working on some particulars. When the album comes out next year, we don't know who will be the executive producer. A lot of things have changed. My manager was working on the Slay thing, but, last I heard that communication has stopped and Taurus has a full plate with the stuff that he is doing with Money Management. So the executive producer stuff may change. I got nothing but love for both of those dudes so I'd love if we could make it happen. But you know how this game goes.
How's your album Say Hello to the Crook coming?
Man, it's coming along great. We were in the studio last night. I was with my A&R from Rawkus, Slop Funkdust. We're just banging it out and my whole thing is just to make it a classic album. The whole concept of the album is that it's basically looking at yourself in the mirror. Say Hello to the Crook is basically saying that we are looking at ourselves. If you look at the real crook in the urban community, a lot of times it's ourselves and our own mentality. We hold ourselves back and we rob ourselves of chances. That's the picture that I want to paint with this album.
What do you have to do to succeed as an artist in this day and age?
You know what? You just have to grind, man. And I tell everybody this all of the time. You just can't sleep. You have to understand that you're competing with other dudes. In rap, honestly, you would have a harder time making it in rap than you would in sports. Everybody that doesn't become successful in sports or anything else becomes a rapper. You're literally up against a million MCs. And you have to stand out amongst these million MCs. You literally can not sleep. You have to be awake all day and all night and everything you do has to be a part of a plan. It's like I told you, I already have my other mixtapes and my third album already mapped out because you have to not only be a step ahead of the competition, but you have to be ahead of the game. You can not complain and you can not cry. If you do, you will not succeed in this game, period.
What's the next move for Atllas?
Man, the next move is getting this mixtape out, I'm Hood Famous – The Maryvale Story. I'm finishing up my next album and hitting this tour, cats will see me in select cities as a part of the Rawkus 50 showcases. God willing, the Phoenix Sons Tour with Willy, Juice and Hot Rod will happen. I'm planning this music conference, man. I got a lot on my plate right now. Immediately, it's about getting my buzz up because I'm trying to drop Say Hello to the Crook on the same day as one of the big dogs and someone I feel like is ahead of the game. I'm not afraid of competition. What are cats afraid of? We need competition the same way that Kanye and 50 are going at it. What's next for Atllas is that I need to get my weight up so that my name is in every corner of this rap game.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Man, I want to tell everybody to check out Arizona Caesar. We're giving that to the public. Everything that I'm doing now is I'm getting the word out to the world that I'm putting out real music. Mark my words, Say Hello to the Crook is going to be one of the biggest albums of the year next year. We're going to be putting everything into that thing, man. And watch out for Fire Flock Entertainment. It's going to be one of the biggest independent companies coming out. We're working, we're grinding and we're getting our money right. We're going to compete because I'm dropping on the same day as somebody next year. We need events. I want to help make hip-hop exciting again.