“Watching” was a record that really did well for you. How did that come about?
That was a record that was introduced to me from people at the label. The producer is actually Rel Da Beast. The RZA producing it, which a lot of sites said, is pretty much a misprint. That record is a product of working. I laid down six records in three days and that was one of them. That’s a beautiful record.
And I have no idea how the misprint came about. I don’t know if somebody got it confused or somebody saw the artwork and the stickers that we got. Since I’m signed to Wu Music, the RZA took a sincere interest in my project and he wanted to launch me personally. It says The RZA presents Gab Gacha. I guess that people must have gotten the impression that everything I’m dropping is produced by the RZA or someone in the Wu. The truth is a lot of the production on the album is production that I compiled through my resources. The label did their part and I’m doing my part and putting the music up.
How hard is it putting an album together on your own?
It’s definitely a challenge. I’m happy that I have a good team. I roll with Square Deal Music. I’m not the only artist under Square Deal management. We also have another talented Latin hip-hop group that was Grammy-nominated a couple of years back. We have a little stable of songwriters and producers and we’re pretty self-contained audio and visual-wise. We have everything we need. We’re a self-contained unit. Bringing that to the table and my resume and the music that I already presented them with, it was a win-win situation for the RZA and the rest of the Wu.
And having everything together makes it so much easier to move in the game. When you have a brand and a machine behind it, it’s a whole different story. There’s a difference between people saying “that new Gab shit is hot” and “that new Wu shit is hot.”
How did you end up with the Wu Music Group?
It was through one of my cousins who’s also an artist. He’s dealing with an A&R from someone with the Wu Music Group. He just happened to have my music on hand and he slipped them my music. It turns out that they fell in love with my music and I started meeting with them and worked it out. An agreement came about and we shook hands on it and signed a couple of documents and I am now an artist under Wu Music Group.
I feel with the RZA, the GZA, U-God…I’ve done music with a few of them and I’ve definitely put in a little bit of work with the Abbott. That’s a good look. I’m very happy to be a part of that movement.
What did it mean to you when RZA said he wanted to present your project?
It was an honor. Being a Spanish descent artist, I’ll be launched into a bigger international crowd. Not only can I spit in English but I can spit in Spanish. For them to push me is an honor and a privilege. I feel grateful because I feel capable of carrying that brand and I feel capable of being able to take that brand into the 21st century and throw a little bit of seasoning on it.
Your last project was Hustler’s Prayer. Are you happy with how that did?
That was all independent from the first record to the last credit. I love the way it was put together. We got it mastered and we had everything done correctly. That record was actually the record that got me signed to the Wu. Divine heard the entire record and that’s what got them to sign me. I’m grateful that somebody took the time to hear it because in this game, you try to get the right people to listen to your music.
Did you ever get frustrated waiting for an opportunity to come around?
I would get super-frustrated. Hip-hop evolved and the evolution of hip-hop has actually extracted itself out of the New York area. Very few New York artists are on BET’s Top 10 MCs and the ciphers that they have on these shows, when you look at it, you’ll see that New York artists are very few and far between in those. The landscape has changed so much that it almost feels as though New York artists aren’t as relevant as they used to be anymore. That’s frustrated in that fact alone. And then New York, where I’m from, there’s a million rappers and a million and one critics. Add to that, it can be very easy to say, “Fuck this music shit. I’m too old to do this shit,” but there are other MCs that were grinding for a long time and aren’t young bucks like Maino. We have our own crowds that we cater to and the people who love that hip-hop sound from the ‘90s, that’s who we cater to. People who believe there’s not a lane for that are crazy. There are a lot of people my age who don’t really listen to Soulja Boy. There’s a give and take but there’s a love for this and I’ve done it for so long that I know I’ve definitely lost more than I’ve gotten back but it’s something that I love. I love music.
Do you see that give and take balance turning now?
Yeah, I think so. I think this is it. I think it’s done right and that’s the thing I’m most happy about, to have a good supporting cast around me from Square Deal to my brother Scarborough and to everybody else on the label. I definitely believe that we’re going to make waves. We just have to learn how to capitalize on every wave that we make. And the more support that we can gather from people like yourself, the easier it’ll be.
You won the contest we had on HipHopGame to be on Joell Ortiz’s “125 Grams Part 3.” What was that like?
That was a great feeling because Joell Ortiz, ever since I met him, he’s an individual that I highly respect and look up to. He’s definitely the type of MC that’s capable of carrying the East Coast on his back and there’s a few MCs out there now like Fred Da Godson where if they’re given the proper push and tutelage, we can make New York hip-hop relevant again where we don’t have to look at these social mediums that try to make it look like we’re not relevant anymore. But there are definitely MC that are ready to lead.
Who else do you think can carry the torch for New York City?
Definitely Joell and Fred. Vado. A lot of the young guys that are coming up in New York and are definitely doing their thing. I don’t want to sound geographical to that point to where I’m going to say there are other MCs that are not making noise in New Jersey and Connecticut. But they might not have the notoriety or the right team or the right person. But I’m the type of person where I open doors. If I get in, I’m not going to shut the door on people that I work with. When I get in, there are definitely people that I want to work with and they’re definitely nasty and we’ll make great music. That’s what it’s about at the end of the day. It’s about making great music. Right now me and my team just did a feature with an artist from France named Soprano. He has videos with 3, 4 million hits on them. It’s the No. 1 record in France right now and it features one of the players from our team so we try to stay focused on that and make good music. We’re reaching overseas and I love New York but where we want to jump off is way beyond New York. We want to hit other states and other countries and other time zones.
You worked with the Beatnuts on “Bless the M.I.C.” How did that go down?
You gotta think about it like this. I’ve known the Beatnuts for a long time. Juju is one of the people I look up to in hip-hop and he put me in a position to help me hone my craft. He really believed in me and I was spoiled when I came up as a young’n because I was always around one of the illest producers in the game. That’s how come my ear for beats is so pure. I only rock on ill beats and that’s only because I was around Juju. If I would have been around someone else I may not have been so finicky. But he helped me there and he’s a beast lyrically. People sleep but he’s a beast lyrically. Not only did they throw me on Stone Crazy, that album also had “Off the Books,” which was Pun’s real first big jump. They also had me on Street Level on a record called “2-3 Break.” They also did a single for me called “Angels” that I released on Hydra Entrainment at the time that moved 15,000 units with no promotion and no nothing. And then I got incarcerated for 7 and a half years but I think you’ve heard that story before. But that’s why there was a big gap for all those years.
Do you think that because you missed that first opportunity, you take the music more seriously today?
Yeah, dude. In ’97, I was right there. This was at the cusp of Terror Squad’s eminent rise and we were all there and we were all chilling and we were all building. I know Triple Seis and I know Cuban Link and I know all those dudes on a personal level. I had met Pun a few times and everything was going good and unfortunately there’s a thin line between rhymes and life and the path I was on was real dangerous and obviously I lost. I came home and I never stopped rhyming, even in prison. Even in prison, I made sure my name was known in all ciphers in prison. I performed in front of 700 inmates and I had inmates turn tables over because it was so hyped of a show. I still rhymed and I wrote over 150 songs at least. I mean, there’s a lot of music that I never put out that I probably never will put out that I did in prison. It made me a better man and it made me realize that you can never take anything for granted. As good as you think you have it, you can never take nothing for granted.
Do you stay away from the “what if?” game?
Yeah, I try to stay away from it because there’s a lot of what if’s that people probably don’t look at it. Let’s say that I don’t get caught up. That means I don’t stop hustling and what that means is that the probably of me going to jail for a longer period of time or getting killed exponentially increases. I can think about how I would have risen through the ranks but I was also playing another game too and that game was a lot more dangerous than the hip-hop game.
Do you think we’re going to get some new music from Juju soon?
They’re actually touring a lot. I’m not in touch with him as much as I used to be and that’s just because of our lives and the circumstances that we have to do. We all have our agendas and our families and that’s another thing that sometimes keeps people apart. But I’m sure there’s another Beatnuts project in the works because there’s been rumors that there's another Beatnuts album ready to go. I know they’ve definitely been working. I’ve heard a few songs that are crazy but I just don’t want to let too much out of the bag but there’s definitely something on deck.
What are your favorite Gab Gacha tracks that you’ve released?
Oh, man, that’s tough. You know what it is? Imagine if you make 50 tracks and out of these 50 tracks, you’re going to pick 15. Everything on Hustler’s Prayer I love. Those were all records that were picked out of a bigger batch. To say what are my favorite records, I listen to them the same way I listen to all my music. I’m humbled when people love my music so I don’t go out of my way to make demonstrations about how ill I am. I think there are people who are iller and tighter and I know I’m not the best. I love “Champion,” “For the Love,” “Timeless,” and “Watching.”
What do you have to do to make sure your upcoming album Timeless is a success?
You gotta keep hustling with the music and you gotta keep giving them new things. You can’t be stagnant and send people one record and want them to rock with that record for one or two months. You gotta hit them with some new shit. I’m going to leak some stuff every couple of weeks. You gotta stay relevant. Obviously collabs that you can do along the way help. You gotta make noise and sometimes controversy sells. I’m not saying that I’m looking for controversy but if one of these major power players wants to mention me in their rhymes, it’s always a good look.