have you been lately?
good man, just taking care of business with this album. I just put out
two mixtapes, "Parts of Renaissance Volumes One and Two." I
got help from the Beatnuts on those. People are showing me love right
now and I appreciate that. I'm really humbled by cats that are just willing
to help out and are willing to make some good music.
was it working with Marco Polo on "Orange Moon Over Brooklyn?"
was good man. Some people that work with Marco might say "oh, he's
a dick. He didn't like this, he didn't like that." But he's got an
ear. He's got a producer's ear. He doesn't just make a beat and say "rhyme
on this." He helps you construct a song. Working with Marco is easy,
he'll make a beat and I'll write to it and drop it right there. If he
doesn't like it, he's like "we're not doing this." I'll fight
him a little bit, but he also knows what he's doing. And the album came
out hot. I'm glad that I actually got to do a whole album with him and
work with him. Plus, he's been a fan of me since '98. He had "Dynamic,"
my first single. When he came down from Canada, he was like "let's
work." I met him through my partner and brother Will Tell. It was
a pleasure working with him.
do you feel about the way it came out?
came out dope. We sat down and created the album, and we figured out what
sequence the tracks should go in. I had never done this. For "The
Beautiful Mind" and "The Old Testament," I just gave them
the songs and said "do what you want. Me and Marco sat down and figured
out who we should get on the album and all that. It's like candy for your
ear. It's that classic, head-nod Hip Hop. It's that Hip Hop to make you
feel like you're back in '92, even though it doesn't have that '92 sound
to it. It's that same good feeling you can get listening to "Midnight
Marauders" and stuff like that. It's that type of feeling. I try
to listen to my album at least once a day.
your favorite song on the album?
favorite song on the album
damn, that's a hard question. I got a
few songs that I really, really like. I love the whole album, but one
that stands out to me has to be the intro, "Alkaline and Acid."
That's because it's the first song on the album and it's also stating
that ok, we're here now." This is my first step into developing myself
as an artist. I had to refocus my whole shit. I went through a change
in my whole life. I came in through the underground. At one point. I was
trying to do what everyone else was doing with hard-core battle rhymes.
And then I just got back to the basics of Hip Hop. And this songs basically
states that. And I got my son on there spitting for four bars at the end.
And he's really trying to rap too, just from watching me. So to see him
do that and get in the booth at one year in the booth and step to the
microphone with the headphones on and make the gestures that rappers make,
it was just a good feeling.
does being a father change your approach to making music?
definitely toned it down somewhat. I still have battle rhymes in the stash.
Those real severe tales of popping your brain off, pause. That's basically
what I do. But this album, to just be having a son, this album is more
about my life. It's about the good things in life. There's some bad things
that go on in life, and you can hear that in "Anthem to the End of
the World." But I toned down a little b it, not a lot, but to the
point where I think my son can listen to my music and I don't have to
cover his ears.
On" is a dope single, what did you want to give people with that
wanted to map out my career to the people and how I came up in the game,
and who I came up with. It's like a family tree and blueprint of what
I've done in my career and who I've met in my career, and showing respect
to them. I've been on this hustle for a long time and have been trying
to develop the culture of Hip Hop. It's not no bullshit, where I'm like
"I'm 30 years old, and I'm not where I wanted to be, so I'm going
to quit." Nah man, I'm going to keep rocking on. And I think everybody
should always keep that in mind. When you're in doubt, and you're like
"damn, maybe I should give up," don't, just keep going. I've
been doing this for 15 years now, and I haven't given up because I haven't
made the amount of money I think I should have made. I'm going to keep
doing this and keep rocking.
one of the only artists to ever admit that you might not have a platinum
real. I might never get a platinum plaque. I might never get a gold plaque.
I might not even get a cardboard plaque. I don't care. I'm going to keep
it funky with everybody. It doesn't bother me. I'm making my money, I'm
doing my thing with this music. It pays my rent. I don't have a huge house
on the hills or six cars, but I'm happy and my family is happy. And if
I can take that next step and make more money, then it happens, but I'm
doing what God meant me to do, and that's what's happening now.
get political on "Grenade." I haven't really heard a lot of
political tracks from you in the past, do you look at this track as taking
really, because it's how I felt at the time and how I feel now. Our country
is putting our people through a bunch of bullshit that they don't need
to be going through. We don't need to be in Iraq and we don't need to
be fighting people. The reason we have terrorists coming at us is because
our government is taking oil and shit from them. And I'm not condoning
that, because that's wrong too, that's horrible the people that did that,
they're going to burn in hell. But what I'm saying is if the United States
would just keep their nose out of other people's businesses, that wouldn't
happen. But no, we have to be all-great and all-powerful and try to take
over shit. That's the evil mentality of a demon, and that's what we're
dealing with in the office right now. We need to get him the fuck out,
and that's how I feel.
album is a lot more mature and focused than"Beautiful Mind."
How did you go about finding what worked for you on this album?
just found that I make really good music when I'm just being me. What
I meant by being more hard-core in the past and making the transition
from being an underground MC to trying to commercialize myself, it's because
I was in the environment of people trying to get major label deals. I
want to eat too. I don't want to sleep in the studio. I thought I was
making the right decision at the time, but when I was recording, I was
only fooling myself. The music I was making wasn't half as good as the
music I was making when I was being myself. So I took a step back and
looked at everything, and I realized I make music for myself, and if you
happen to like it, that's great. I make music that I want to hear, and
if you like what I like, then we have the same taste.
got that dope skit with "Napoleon Dynamite," are you a fan of
I own that movie! My boy had been telling me for mad long that I had to
see that movie. So I bought it, and I popped it in and was watching it.
At first, I thought it was kind of dry, the shit you don't normally laugh
at. But then I watched it again for a second time, and I think it's the
greatest movie of all time. And I'm not even going to reveal who did the
voices on the skit. But my boy did both of the voices on the album. Me
and him would be having an argument, and one of us would be like "gosh,
you're such an idiot!"
done a lot of work with Black Panther and Will Tell in the past, is there
any reason why they're not on this album?
not really. It was something where I had to do this album on my own. I
didn't want to have the normal list of producers that I've been working
with, like Will Tell, who helped me build my career off of his beats.
I didn't have Will Tell, I didn't have Block McCloud, and it's not because
we're not on good terms. But this was something that I had to do on my
own, a journey. I had to find myself. But big ups to everybody, we're
going to work in the future, but this project, I had to do on my own.
I worked with one producer so we would have a solid, cohesive sound throughout
up with Brooklyn Academy today?
doing their thing. Will Tell has an album coming out soon. Block McCloud
has an album coming out soon on Day by Day, and it should be out by September.
Meddaphoar's got another full album coming out. And we're going to come
back together in a couple of months or so, after all of our albums are
out, and we're going to really, really focus on a tight Brooklyn Academy
album, because that's what our fans want. We're going to take it back
to that gritty sound that they fell in love with when they first heard
have a line in a freestyle about helping Jean Grae in the past. Do you
feel like you've held yourself back to help others?
I think that everybody has done that at one point in their life. Jean
helped me a lot. That's my sister, she'll always be my sister forever.
When I said that, a lot of people were asking me if I was mad at Jean.
I said no, you have to hear it. I said "people ask why you ain't
salty, it's because if you don't look out for yourself in this game it's
costly." She had to do what she did to get on, and I don't blame
her at all. At one point and time, I couldn't figure it out. I was her
hype man, we were traveling and doing shows, and then I wasn't getting
phone calls anymore. But she had to do her business, and I understand
that now. And I'm at the point where I'm about to do the same thing. And
it's not that you want to be an asshole to anybody, but you have to focus.
She has a family, I have a family, and that comes first. And at one point
we had stopped communicating, and I was a little aggy about it, but now
I'm fine. I love her to death, she's my sister.
and Jean were both over at Third Earth a few years ago, how was it being
beginning of the whole Third Earth situation was cool. We were on the
road. I did this EP. I recorded it at Block McCloud's studio, we mixed
it there, I got the artwork done. My boy, DJ Shag, helped me out with
the artwork. Basically I created this album for them, and they didn't
do what they should have done with that project. At one point, it was
like I was hiring a publicist to do work on the album, and then dude was
like "they didn't pay me, I'm not pushing your album." It sold
a minimal amount because we weren't getting the push. We had a situation
where I went into the distribution company and tool all my albums and
I said I'll do what I have to do with them. It's a shame that it had to
go down like that, because Kamani Rogers is a good person. And what he
was trying to do was create a movement, and I think he just took on too
much at once and really didn't realize that it's a lot of work. He had
a lot of artists on the roster. I think there was too many artists on
the roster for him to really focus on them. And Jean Grae's album was
the only one that did really well. And at the end, I was like "I
gave y'all a really dope album, and what did I get from that?" This
time around, it's a little different. But a big up to Kamani and everyone
who's trying to hold their head after that Third Earth situation.
experiences have you had dealing with labels and their politics?
going to break it down like this and give a piece of advice to artists
dealing with labels. Don't be fooled. A lot of these label dudes will
tell you "we'll give you this
" make sure that the paper
is right and that the contracts are right, and that they're going to good
by you. Make sure you get a good lawyer. A lot of these labels are shiesty.
They might only push 500 copies and leave the rest on the shelf. All these
politics between labels and distribution messes up the game, and that's
not really right. When you sit down with a label exec, make sure you tell
them what you want, and if they can't give it to you, don't jump on the
first deal you get. You have be confident, you don't have to be all humble
and say "thanks, I'll take a box of Newports and Puma sweats."
That's what's wrong with these label characters, is that they really think
they're powerful. You have to make them work for you, not you work for
you. Because when you have that mentality, they'll do anything to please
you, and that's what you want.
made you want to put out "Orange Moon Over Brooklyn" on Soulspazm?
when me and Marco first got up to record, we were just going to do an
EP, and bang out six songs. Then Marco got asked to do Beat Society. So
the cats that run Soulspazm also run Beat Society. They were feeling what
they heard from Marco, so we all sat down and things just worked out.
I told them Marco and I could lace an album real quick, and they were
with it. We went back to the studio and banged out the rest of the album
in three or four weeks. We were grinding hard working on it, and there
always stayed consistent with your lyrics, what's allowed you to do that?
don't know man. I just love the music. There's nothing complex about it.
I love the music, I love the feeling of being onstage, and I love seeing
the reactions from people when I spit a rhyme, that shock and awe gives
me the drive to continue making this music. I've been doing this half
of my life, and I'm not going to stop. And I'm not going to conform myself
to be on a major label. If a major label signs me, it's because they feel
my music, not because they think they can change me to satisfy who they
think listens to Hip Hop. I'm just going to continue to be me and give
y'all good Hip Hop.
know when the artist really loves what they're doing
And when I make a song, I'm giving you my soul. When I sat down and wrote
this album, I thought about every word that I put on that piece of paper.
I didn't think "oh this rhymes with this, and this rhymes with that."
Nah. I constructed a guideline of Hip Hop to let you know this is what
Hip Hop is, and I will not give you anything less.
do you want your fans to take away from your music?
want them to take away me. I want them to take me with them. When they
listen to my album, they see what I'm about, my struggle, my hustle. That
can be a guideline for someone else trying to come up in the game. They
can see what I did wrong and learn from my mistakes. A lot of kids come
up to me and tell me I inspired them to do their thing because I'm so
honest with my music, and that's a great feeling. I just want them to
understand that this is who I am and that they should be themselves. And
just be yourself. Don't be anything anybody else wants you to be, or what
they think they want them to be, that's what I want them to take away
from my music.
used to do your thing on the battle circuit, are you still battling today?
I'm retired (laughs)! I gave that up. My last battle was with Pack FM,
and that's my crew. I just realized that I don't have the hunger for the
battle anymore. You've got cats that come in with props. Pack FM had props
with him in the battle. He had Tonedeff in the background with a backpack
throwing him props, and he beat me off of that. Battles have changed so
much. You never used to just take shit out of your pockets and be like
"this is your girl's panties." There wasn't none of that theatrical
shit before. And I just figured out that I don't have the hunger to battle
anymore. But if anyone wants to test my skills on a microphone, on a beat,
I will murder you. Don't mess with me. Organized battles though, I'm done
with. I'm not even feeling that no more. I'm enjoying making my music
and am enjoying creating albums and history. I'll still go watch one,
but I won't enter them anymore.
makes a good punchline?
think shock value is what makes a good punchline. Regular punchilines
don't work nowadays. You have to really make somebody drop their jaw.
You have to say some of the foulest shit that you would never want tot
hear. You really have to say some bad shit for a punchline to really hit
somebody. Or just be extra-complex with that. Everybody has a different
style of punchlines. My punchlines tend to be a little more intense and
adult for kids to listen to. And then you have other rappers whose punchlines
are more like a joke. My punchlines are like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre,
and there's some where they're more like Dave Chappelle.
all that you've been through, are you happy with where you are today?
loving every day right now. Soulspazm is a great label. They definitely
take care of their artists. When I sat down with them, the thing I liked
about them the most is they told me straight up that they wouldn't give
me empty promises. They told me they were going to get their money up
and in three months they would come and see me, and they did. Things moved
quickly. I signed the contract, and I was having the photo shoot for my
album right after that. They hired good people. The photographers were
on point, and they just hired a street team. They're putting their best
effort into this project. You will see two-page ads of me, you will see
features in magazines of me. I haven't had that in years. "Dynamic"
was the only other thing that got me attention like this, and you're going
to see it. It's going to be explosive.
it back to that, how have you grown since "Dynamic?"
I've taken it to another level. When I made "Dynamic," I was
immature in the game and I didn't really understand about Hip Hop or the
culture. I was new to the game and I'm more mature with it now. I think
anybody can listen to my music. It's not that the underground backpack
kid is the only person that could listen to my music. A blue-collar worker
could listen to my music, a 30-year old music could listen to it, anybody
could listen to it.
do you want to say to all your fans out there?
don't call them my fans, I call them my friends. I just want to thank
y'all for years of support and for helping me get to that level and helping
me achieve what I have, and not turning your backs on me and giving up.
I just want to thank y'all for just being there for me and supporting
all the projects I've put out. And if you're a friend and you see me,
just come out and holler at me, I'm a cool cat, let's have a drink, a
shot of Jamison, and let's just hang out. I'm all about that.