Your new album Illustrious is coming out on Koch in January. What can you tell us about this album?
It’s executive-produced by Fame of M.O.P. This time around, I tried to go a different route and I still tried to keep it street. I still kept it hard and brought that real hip-hop. This time around we really tried to do something a little different. I knew Fame for a long time but I never did music with him. I did a joint with him and it came out kind of hot. That was around the time I got my situation at Koch and I asked him how he felt doing songs for my album. Before you knew it, we were six songs in. He was with it. That’s how that happened.
What does Fame bring out of you when you work with him?
It’s definitely his energy. I bring a lot of energy to the table. I’m not a lyricist, but I don’t suck at writing rhymes either. I don’t do beats but I’m a great performer. That’s what I bring to the game. I’m already an energetic dude and Fame is also like that. He’s real cool to be around. I’ve known him for awhile but I’ve never hung with him. He’s a real cool dude and he cracks a lot of jokes. He’s real cool. And he’s right up there as far as energy too. He’s real hyped. When he hears something he likes, he gets opens and makes the beat. When he hears me rhyme on it, it gets him more open and he wants to add more to it. That makes me want to rhyme even longer. That’s what it does. He brings the energy out of me even more.
Are you bringing a different type of energy on Illustrious than you did on previous albums Episodes of a Hustla and On the Grind?
Yeah. It’s just different. Hav is a real dude. He likes to crack a lot of jokes, but as far as the music, I don’t want to say they’re laid back, but they’re more focused on producing the beat and then they’ll let me do my part on the verse. They’re not like, ‘Noyd, change this part’ or ‘I don’t like this part in the rhyme.’ They let me do what I do. Fame will be like, ‘I like everything but I don’t like this word.’ P will still ask to hear what I got when I’m writing my 16 and then I guess that makes him go and write more. I want to hear what they’re working on too. With Fame, we did a joint together where he did his verse. He didn’t like it but he kept the hook. He didn’t really rhyme on it. Even though I’m writing my rhyme, he’ll ask what I have and he’ll tell me what he doesn’t like and he’ll tell me if he thinks I should change something. He’s really more hands-on with my tracks. Mobb Deep will let me do what I do.
What kind of creative process do you like better?
I like both ways. Sometimes I write rhymes before I even go to the studio. If I have a song that I already wrote and I go to Hav or Fame, I’ll ask to hear their beats and I’ll spit that song over their beats or I’ll have the idea of a song ready. I’ll take a story or concept and see if they have any beats that will match it. When Fame tells me he doesn’t like that line or that word and I change it, that’s good because I’m not just writing for myself. I got other people’s ears and two heads is always better than one.
In our last interview, you said you were going to focus on making more grown-up music. Do you still feel that way?
I still want to make that music. I’m getting older and I’ve been there and I’ve done that. I have a new song on my album called “Things Done Changed”. That’s focusing on back in the days when Biggie and Mobb Deep first came out and there was Wu. We were pioneers of that era. We were part of that era where we changed hip-hop. We became artists where people looked up to us. “Things Done Changed” focuses on the EPMD era to the Wu-Tang and Biggie era. Now there’s a new era where we’re not out the game, but the music has definitely changed. I’m still keeping it gully. I may not still be in the streets doing certain things anymore, but I still come from that era and represent the people in the ghetto. I’m still doing “Shoot ‘Em Up (Bang Bang)”. I’m still telling stories for people who don’t rap but I’m still doing songs like “Things Done Changed” and looking at where we’re going in hip-hop. I have the best of both worlds because I’ve been there and done it and I’ve learned from it. I’m able to make songs without crossing over about what I feel hip-hop is and where it’s going and how I feel it is.
How would you describe Illustrious?
This one, you know what, we sat down and listened to all the songs. There’s not a lot of concepts. There’s great hooks and great concepts. This is one of those performance albums. And I think that I’m lucky to have it turn out this way. Record sales are kind of crazy. There’s nothing but energy on here. It’s like rock and roll with the energy. This is an album I’m definitely going to be performing. Every song is like an energy song. The whole album plays like I’m actually onstage performing.
A lot of your older music is much more introspective and more laid-back. Was it difficult for you to do an album with so much energy?
You know what? It wasn’t. That wasn’t even the gameplan. It just happened to turn out that way and I think that may have a lot to do with Fame and a lot to do with his energy. It just actually turned out that way. Me and Fame have a lot of songs and I maybe used 13-14 on the album. At the end of the day when we were listening to it and picking the best songs, we realized that it was an energy album. It wasn’t hard because I was planning on doing it. I’m thankful for it. The record sales may not go through the roof, but it is an album that I can get out there and perform and be active with my fans. Through word of mouth, I can let people know about it and I think I will be able to get to know the fans and shake some hands and let them get to know the music.
What other producers did you work with for Illustrious?
I worked with Hav. I worked with Fame. I worked with Ric Rhude. I worked with DJ Skiz, who’s a DJ up at NYU Radio on the Halftime Show. He produced one for me. Fame did like half of the album. I worked with Sebb and Bless. I also got Street Radio on there. They did two joints on my album.
Has your chemistry with Havoc changed today?
Oh yeah, definitely. I know from the outside looking in and the critics, they don’t see it as it used to be with the Mobb and G-Unit. That’s just the hip-hop fans looking at it. Me and Havoc go back like brothers. It ain’t nothing. What y’all ain’t see is what goes on when we work together. Everything else goes out the window. We just get up with one another and we get in the studio and we get right back to how it was in, like, ’96 or ’98. He’s so open to see me and he wants me to check out his new beats. He wants to hear what I have for his beats and I rhyme and we’re right back in motion like nothing ever changed. We’re brothers before we’re MCs and producers. We’re like family. Things haven’t really changed between me and Havoc.
Are you still as close to Prodigy today as you were in the past?
We’re not as close as far as being around as much as we were, but we lived in the same house for 4-5 years. That’s family. That doesn’t even have nothing to do with hip-hop. But I’m trying to do my own thing and not just be an MC. My album is coming out on Koch and I’m trying to work on my label. I’m trying to become bigger than being an artist and P’s doing the same thing. Everybody just got more hands-on with their business aspects. But me and P just performed at the JMJ tribute in the City on Tuesday. We hung out like old times and performed. We were just wiling out. P has to go in and do some time so we took a lot of pictures and talked about some old times and had a lot of fun.
How important is it to you to be seen as an artist outside of Mobb Deep’s shadow?
It’s hard. First of all, the outlet of me being on a Mobb Deep song is definitely a bigger outlet for me just because of who they are. And then with me coming out on an independent, I’m not coming out on a major and it’s not the same level. People will cop a Mobb album before a Noyd album, but the critics give me good feedback when I’m on my own. I get consistent feedback and the people that really listen and know Noyd know that we have our own music. The stuff that I do on my own and independently, people still give me my props. It’s cool. They still respect me on my own. They hear the Mobb joints and they like it but they hear me do something on my own and they still give me my props. The thing is the outlet I get from being on a Mobb Deep album is usually on a major album so more people get to hear me as compared to being on an independent. But the people that do hear me on an independent usually give me good feedback. It still works.
Cormega is working on a QB compilation album with Havoc and more QB artists seem to be working with each other now. Is there more unity in QB today?
To be honest, and this is talking from experience, I don’t know if there’s more unity, but I get more phone calls from ‘Mega, Capone and Tragedy. I get more phone calls from them now than I did in the past. They just call to see how I’m doing and how I’m feeling. I get phone calls from ‘Mega just to see what I’m working on. He told me about the QB album and asked me if I wanted to be on it. I don’t hang with them every day or see them every day, but I get more phone calls than I did in the past. Something changed.
The last time we spoke, there was talk of you going to Uncle Howie Records. Did that ever work out?
That never took off. We had one or two meetings. We did a song together called “Street Villains”. That was actually the connect from DJ Skiz because he’s up at Halftime Radio at NYU with DJ Eclipse. We got to talking and they wanted me to do more joints with Ill Bill but it never panned out. They’re still good peoples and I still hear from them here and there, but it just never happened.
What made you want to go with Koch for Illustrious?
I have gone through Caroline in the past. This was just a bigger distribution outlet for me. P had already done Return of the Mac through Koch and I got a phone call from the people up there. I was ready to come out and get my money and get my hustle on and I went to Caroline even though I already had talked with Koch about doing an album with them. It kind of stalled for a little bit. After Return of the Mac came out, they were back on the Queensbridge tip and they asked if I was interested in doing a project with them and I was like, ‘Sure, why not?’ I only had a one-off deal with Caroline and they were bigger than Caroline. They still gave me control to do my music so I was with it.
A lot of fans thought you were going to sign with Infamous/G-Unit once the Mobb went over there. Looking at that and the fact that you are at an independent label now, are you happy you’re not tied down to a major?
It’s 50/50, because when you are with somebody huge like that, the output that they have to get you on TRL and BET and all of that, they got the connections to really get you out there where being independent, I could have the hottest song out, but if I ain’t get that connect and somebody’s not giving me the opportunity to get on TRL, having the hottest song won’t mean nothing. I could have a mediocre song on a major and be put out there. That’s what you miss out on being on an independent. But being on a major, you could be locked down for 2-3 years and your career is in other people’s hands. I’m able to do what I want to do and be creative, but I don’t have the same opportunities as somebody else on a major. It’s 50/50 with that, but I’m happy with where I’m at. I’m eating and I’m making my good money. Hopefully when this album comes out I’ll do more shows. I killed it at SOB’s and a lot of people asked me when my next album was coming out. Hopefully this album will get me out there and allow me to shake hands with my fans.
Do you consider your project The Co-Defendants, which came out last year, to be an official Big Noyd album?
That was just a mixtape. All the projects I put out are mixtapes except the first joint with Tommy Boy. The one with Caroline was the first independent one and this is my third one. I put the mixtapes out there just to keep a little buzz out there.
You’ve never been the type of artist to have a million freestyles floating around on the mixtapes, but your fans know you bring high-quality music when you do drop an album. How hard is it to maintain a buzz in today’s climate?
It’s a little harder now. You have so many people rapping and everybody’s doing it. There’s Pro Tools and people don’t really need a lot of money to get in the studios. It’s harder now because everybody is doing it. There have always been a lot of people doing it, but there was never the amount of people doing it now. There are so many people coming out and you have to try to stay on top of that and keep your music hot. It’s not that bad for artists like myself because that’s all we did. Mobb Deep has so many albums and we have so many songs. People come up to us like, ‘Why didn’t you put that out?’ We have 50-60 songs and recording is not a real issue for us, but now, just the way the game is, it’s getting corny. You could hear some exclusives from Mobb Deep and be open, but now, you better have exclusives out and people expect that from you, whether it’s hot or not. They expect you to be doing mixtapes and it kind of makes it lame because there’s no exclusive music now. The way the game is now, it works right up my alley.
Are you going online more these days?
Just a little bit more, to be honest. There’s still so much more that I don’t do. There’s a MySpace that I try to stay on top of. I have other people that handle that for me but I check out artists and beats. I think I need to be a little more hands-on with it. I’m more hands-on than I was a year ago, but I need to be a lot more hands-on.
Are fans ready for a new Noyd album?
I definitely think so. The people are going to hear that I have a lot to say. They’re probably concerned about the Mobb Deep and G-Unit thing. A lot has happened since the last Noyd project and this one is completely different from the last Noyd album I put out. The production is a lot different. The energy is a lot different. I could be performing with rock stars if I wanted to.
Where do you want to be in a year?
I want to put out at least two more solo albums. I’m in a groove right now to really be able to sit there and make my own albums. With the help of Mobb Deep or without the help of Mobb Deep, I’m going to make the albums and express myself. You’re definitely going to hear Noyd rapping and if I can get somebody that’s nice and let them know the stuff that I’ve been through and if he’s willing to follow my steps and he’s real nice, I would love to put another artist on and show them the ropes and help them come up. I think that would be a great thing. I’ve learned so much and I want to get somebody who’s the nicest MC. They also have to be humble and have a little head on their shoulders and be patient. I would love to start showing somebody else the ropes and get that talent out there. I would love to show people that I’m not just an artist. I’m also a businessman.
What are your plans until the album Illustrious drops?
I just wrapped the album up now. My whole clique, we’ve never really been on the mixtape thing unless we were putting out 15-16 songs of our own music. Now that I have an album coming out, I have to focus on hitting the Big Mike’s and the Kay Slay’s. I have to start hitting the mixshows and letting people know that I’m nice. I know that I’m nice and I have books of rhymes. I have to start marketing myself and getting out there and rhyming on the mixtapes and hitting up college radio. It’s going to be kind of hard now because college is about to be out for the holidays and my album comes out at the end of January. I’m actually trying to get them to push it back to February because I know that it would be hard for me right now to do college radio and that’s a big avenue in hip-hop for artists like myself. I really want to try to just start now and put a bug in everybody’s ear. I want to go do the mixshows and the college radio and hit all that before everybody goes on vacation and I also want to try to hit the streets up. I want to give the DJs my record and be more hands-on and not wait for the label to do it. I did a lot of clubs and parties over the weekend and I just want to let everybody know that it’s coming out.
What do you want to say to everybody?
What’s up to my peoples? I appreciate the love over all the years. The music is definitely going to be worth it. I’m not copying from nobody else’s style. I don’t just steal flows and copy whatever’s popping. That’s not me. I bring the realness and I love this. If you have to drive to see your family for the holidays from school, if you’re pumping that Noyd, that will keep you up for the whole ride. There’s a lot of energy on this album, definitely.