Oh, man, I’m just grinding hard and trying to work the album. I’m just trying to be in six places at one time right now. I’m feeling really, really good about the way that things are going and that my hometown is showing me love. I’m trying to take my hometown worldwide.
How does it feel to finally have your sophomore album Life Unscripted in stores?
It’s a beautiful thing, man. Going to the store and copping your CD is really what it’s all about. That’s something that I’ve worked for since I was a kid, when I was 14, reading about the cats that did it and watching TV and watching their struggles. Now I know that my struggle is going to be documented and in the history books and that’s a beautiful thing. I have the best distribution in the world and two legends, NORE and DJ EFN, cosigning me. To me, right now, the sky’s the limit. I couldn’t be happier.
Are you getting the response from the fans that you wanted for Life Unscripted?
Yeah, I am. I’m catching myself on a lot of websites and I see my album getting bootlegged. While I don’t want to be bootlegged, you have to take it as a compliment as well. They wouldn’t bootleg your shit if you were wack. All the press and all of the acclaim are starting to come in. All of the writers and fans are telling me they’re feeling it. Most importantly, my hometown is telling me that they’re feeling the album. DJ Khaled is telling me that he’s feeling the album. I have the mainstream and college radio love. It seems like I’m getting the mainstream and underground love at once and that’s a tricky thing to accomplish.
Your album is like that too, as you have hard, underground songs mixed in with more commercial-sounding tracks.
That’s how I wanted to do Life Unscripted. It’s not a concept album. I love concept albums. My favorite album of all time is Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. We didn’t have the studio budget to go in and just do a concept album. We wanted to make a street album where I stayed true to myself and really showed loyalty to myself without a formula. A lot of cats try to do a radio single and they try to be like something they’re not. I tried to show my East Coast side, my Latin side and still keep it like me at the same time. There are no games and no gimmicks on this. That’s all I was really trying to get across on this album and hopefully it comes out that way.
I didn’t want to just have two hot singles and then a lot of hot garbage. I wanted to show cats that I can get these radio singles and club bangers popping off, but at the same time, I have another side that I have to show about my struggle. There’s no other legal option for me to do anything else. I really put my heart into this and I’m pushing it. If I’m not attached emotionally to a project, then I’m not going to give it my emotional all. I wanted to give people what they need – life lessons, stories, struggle and things that they can relate too. They don’t want to hear about Ferraris. Shit, half the rappers out there that rap about Ferraris can’t afford them. I want to rap about something that I’m really living.
The sequencing of the album is interesting. There will be some deep, hard songs and then a club banger and then another hard song. How did you go about sequencing Life Unscripted?
Well, one thing we didn’t want to do is put all the songs of one type together. We didn’t really want to do that. We wanted to give people a mix so that the CD is like a ride. We want you to put it in the ride and have it play like a ride, where you’re rolling with the punches. I didn’t want to have the first half be the hard shit and then other tracks be the club shit. I didn’t want that. I wanted it to play like a rollercoaster, where you go up, up, up and then you go down. I wanted to put you in a certain vibe and then take you out of it. I think cats, especially in Miami, can definitely relate to what I’m talking about on this album.
On “Tell ‘Em Who You Are,” you talk about turning down labels that were scouting you. Is being independent the best route for you?
Let me clear that up. I did turn down a lot of labels, but I did it for one reason – they didn’t understand what I was trying to get across. It’s not that the label didn’t respect me, but they wanted a certain thing out of me. It’s my foundation that got me to where I’m at and I can’t forget about that foundation, ever. Once you take me out of my foundation or the foundation out of me, it’s over. It’s not a complete picture anymore. If you want me, you get Crazy Hood. I’m not saying that you need to fork over $8 million because there are eight of us, but I got to where I’m at with DJ EFN. We wanted to show that we could keep it independent, make a lot of noise and succeed. All we need is some financial support and radio support and we can take it to the next level. We’ve done this our whole lives, so we know the industry better than most rappers know the industry. We need a label deal or imprint deal so we could show the labels what we can do. DJ EFN is still my manager and still my A&R and he’s helping me balance my new self with my old self. That’s the thing about labels. It is all or nothing with us. These labels don’t give a fuck about you. They don’t give a fuck about you. They just want to throw records against the wall and see what sticks. So you go with them, sell out your team and then you have no foundation to stand on. That’s the reason why we had to keep it independent on this album. This album is hopefully my last step that I have to take to cross me over into the majors. It’s not like I’m some backpack kid who’s trying to be underground his whole life. This game is 90% business and 10% talent all of the time.
On “I Am,” you talk about being “wild out off the Ritalin.” Ritalin slows most kids down.
That’s the thing! When I was a kid, I was so hyper. The doctor had me on Ritalin to try to calm me down. That shit was nothing to me! I was still bouncing off the walls in high school. That shit did nothing to me. I’m always ready to move and grind. It was the same as when I was a kid. My mom and the doctors could never slow me down. I was never a controllable person. I was like, ‘Fuck this shit. I’m going to keep it moving.’ That’s how it was.
You also talk about speaking for the voiceless on “I Am.” How important is that to you?
It’s real, man. I try to speak to those without a voice. A lot of cats out here want to do something but they can’t, so my voice represents them. My voice represents my city. Hate it or love it, I’m really representing them when I get out there. I’m speaking for the voiceless. A lot of cats are fucked up in the game and they may not have the talents to get them to where they need to be, but they still need to be heard. That’s what I meant by that.
What does the song “I’m Cuban” mean to you?
That song, “I’m Cuban,” is very important to me. I hadn’t really done a song yet, at that point, that really represented my culture. My culture hasn’t really been represented in a lyrical way in hip-hop. It hadn’t been represented to the point to where the people could know what being a Cuban artist was really like. I grew up in a Cuban household, surrounded by other Cubans. It’s Little Havana out here. I really wanted to get across what it was like being Cuban in Miami. I was born to a family of immigrants that flew here during Bautista. I really let the people know what it’s like to be Cuban in America. There's a certain pride in your culture. Cubans really came to Miami with nothing and really took control of the city from a business standpoint to a cultural standpoint. And that’s not to say that other cultures aren’t represented out here, but it’s like being Puerto Rican in New York or Mexican in LA. There’s a certain pride and a certain love and respect that you have to have for that.
Did anything specific inspire “The Struggle”?
That song was given to me already with the hook laid. When I heard that, there were so many things going on in the world. I’m not a stupid person. Every day, I try to get at least an hour of CNN or MSNBC. Whether people know it or not, decisions are being made every day that will affect their life. There are a lot of cats caught up in the struggle that cats don’t talk about, whether it’s Iraq or tsunami victims or homeless people, pimps on the corner, prostitutes to porno stars. I wanted to shout everybody out. There are still a lot of topics that are left open in hip-hop. I just wanted to let everybody know that I have their back and that I know they’re going through the struggle and that I respect the struggle that they’re going through.
What did DJ EFN and NORE add to the project as executive producers?
E added his whip. He’s cracking a whip on a nigga! He had me in the studio working every day. He’s going to crack his whip! He’s also lending me his ear as a DJ. He lets me know what he thinks is hot. He never yes-man’s anybody. NORE connects me to the industry and the street. His name opens a lot of doors. He brings a lot of connections to the table for you to play with and talk with and really promote your album. The two of them combined is a beautiful thing.
What are your goals for Life Unscripted?
My goals for this project are to get another project going as soon as possible with a decent budget that’s going to take me over to the next level as well as solidifying my respect in the underground across the country. Not to be braggadocios, but my respect in the underground is really there. I earned my spot in the underground and in Miami through blood, sweat and tears. We busted our ass to get here. There's really not much else to do in Miami. We’re trying to take it national. This album is to show that I have the talent and mindstate to do it. We’re looking for that next project to take us to the next level, whether I come out on a major or whether we get an imprint deal. Once you stop moving, you’re dead. I don’t care how rich you are, you can’t stop moving. Once you don’t have that passion, life’s not worth living. Honestly, I’m looking towards the next project and I’m looking towards the majors.
How are you gauging the success of Life Unscripted?
I always gauge my success by my ‘hood showing me love. A lot of cats know who I am. I get approached in the malls and in the clubs all the time and I don’t need to walk around with security. I don’t front on nobody and I don’t have any enemies. As long as I have that, I’m good. I’m judging the success of this album on a respect level. If I walk in a room and I get respect and I get love, then this project is a success. A compliment is worth more than a royalty check. That’s what you work for. You want your people to know that you work for them and that you’re an inspiration. When you become an inspiration for little kids, that’s when you become a success.
Have you already started working on your next project?
What I’m working on now is my new project, Hood Music Vol. 2. It’s with DJ Obscene, DJ EFN and DJ Big Mike. Big ups to Termanology. I just did a track with Termanology, which is a beautiful thing. I’m working with a lot of different producers and doing some freestyles. Anything that’s super-hot is going to be for the next project. That’s going to be called Shattered Dreams. The song “Shattered Dreams” would have been on this album but we decided to hold it back. That’s easily the best track I’ve ever recorded and we want to make sure that it gets the light it needs. That’s going to be the title track for the next album.
What’s going on with Heckler right now?
He's working on his album, No Joke. Heck is definitely the next problem coming out of CHP. You’re definitely going to hear his voice on my project as well. You’re going to be hearing me on his project as well. We’re shopping for distribution for that now. Every label is always looking at your last project. I know my project is going to affect him and I’m trying to make sure that my project doesn’t affect him in a negative way and that benefits him.
You’ve really built your movement from the ground up. What advice would you offer to other up-and-coming artists?
Just stay with it, man. That’s the main thing in this game. If you allow people to knock you down, they will. Even if you’ve been knocking at the door for years, nobody’s going to want to open it for you and sometimes you have to just kick it in. You’re going to have competition everywhere, no matter what. Believe in what you believe in and stick to your beliefs. That’s the main thing that kills artists. Consistence is the key. I may not have a lot of money right now. I’m not poor, but I’m not rich. I’m not where I want to be financially. Growing up and watching Yo! MTV Raps, I saw these guys and now I’ve been on MTV, met every big rapper I’ve wanted to meet and I’ve toured across the world. No one can say they’ve done what I’ve done. I’ve lived every dream in my life. I’ve done it. So from here on out, it’s business. But if you’re an up-and-coming cat and you’re looking at equating money with success, that’s not the way you can look at it. Money doesn’t always make you successful. Money just makes you financially stable.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Cop my album! (laughs) To anybody out there reading this interview, know that if you do cop the album, you get me. Hate it or love it, you just have to respect it for what it is because I did it the way that it’s supposed to be done in hip-hop. I did it the way it’s supposed to be done. I never paid for a DJ to play my music. I never paid any of these magazines and I never paid anybody. I did this the way it’s supposed to be done and the way hip-hop was meant to be done. I really got here on blood, sweat and tears. With Crazy Hood, we made something out of nothing. That’s what I want people to understand about us.