Hot! Agallah – The 730 Interview

Agallah and I did our first interview about ten years ago. This is back in the Purple City days and his first official release was dropping, You Already Know. When we started the interview, it only took one question for 8Off to tear through almost every subject I had questions for. I’m staring at my phone, feeling a mixture of confusion, because I don’t know how I’m going to run an interview that was only one question, but more awe, definitely more awe, because this was a dude that fully believed in his project and himself as an artist and was so damn excited to talk about it that questions be damned, he has a platform and he’s going to use it.

Fast forward ten years, and as Biggie said, things done changed. While his music has advanced, both sonically and in the diverse subject matters, you wouldn’t know it talking to Ag. On this cold night, I’m in Virginia and he’s outside San Antonio, spending time with his aunt, who just emerged victorious after a bout with breast cancer. There should be a lot to be happy about, but there isn’t.

The pain of losing Sean Price last August is still ever-present, so much so that Ag stops the interview at one point to compose himself. Sean wasn’t just a rapper friend and someone Agallah worked with. They were childhood friends, dudes who stuck together when the industry was over both of them, before Sean’s resurgence with Monkey Barz. As devastating a loss as Sean Price was to the hip-hop world, it’s much, much worse for those who knew the real Sean, the friend, the father, the husband.

Despite the pain, Agallah released his new album, Bo: The Legend of the Water Dragon, to reaffirm his place in the game and remind everyone that while he’s been suffering, he’s paid his dues and he’s still one of the most talented in the game, both on the beats and the mic. On the album, Ag works through the pain of losing Sean Price, releases the final finished song of them together, and fires some much-needed shots into the air just to let everyone know he’s still here and while he may be down, he’s far from out, the one common thread from our first convo back in ‘06.

One of the things you’ve mentioned as you dropped this album is that it’s to prove why you’re so underrated and that you’re not where you should be. What makes you feel that way?

Well, you know, Fuck All Rappers Out, it’s really nothing personal to anybody. I just knew that when I was creating this album, I reached out to certain individuals and they didn’t want to be on the album and didn’t even want to support. And I was like, Damn, I’ve been in the game all this years and maybe I went about certain businesses wrong and didn’t capitalize on certain opportunities I should have and I felt that I needed to prove myself to my peers first that I can still put out great music without their help.

And at the end of the day, you know, losing Sean Price August 8 really took the world from my feet. And shortly after, I lose another brother, Cadillac Ron, and I just knew right then and there, like, asking myself how much longer do I have on this planet? Why am I not where Kanye and Jay is at and I produced the best rap groups from Big Pun to Dipset to EPMD to Das Efx and I’m not where I should be. Something I was doing wasn’t right and I felt like now I needed to change that up. I needed to change the way I was coming at doing my music. And I had to reinvent myself and that’s what F.A.R.O. is. Fuck All Rappers Out. Fuck All Ratchets Out. For All My Real Ones. I realize that the internet really changed the damn game and I was famous before the internet, so really, since the internet’s been in place, it’s decreased value in a lot of artists. People think the internet helped them, but it also decreased value in a lot of deserving artists who have been paving the way for years.

And understanding with that being said, I basically just wanted to keep it moving because a lot of artists don’t know that I still exist. I feel like it’s a bigger world and rap done got bigger. And now I feel like I’m still a rookie and I’m still at a rookie level and it’s hard to even say that because I don’t have the money that Kanye got. I don’t have what Jay got. But I got the rhymes and the talent. I just don’t have what they have. And at the end of the day, I really wanted to dispel that and try to reinvent myself in 2016 and that’s why I put out this album. I felt that it was much more the world needed to see from me as an artist and my struggle and still I’ve been trying to do that with other projects. Agallah the Don, me being Agallah the Don, I felt like that was taking away from the truth of my life. And that’s why I had to reinvent myself as F.A.R.O.

You mentioned the passing of Sean Price. That hit everyone like a brick and I remember being so shocked by it. We talked around that time and I know how close you guys were. On “Water Shark,” you talk about your grieving process. What were August and September like after Sean P’s passing?

The night before I was stressed out. Two weeks before he passed away I told him on Instagram that I loved him and I cared for him and I was glad we did what we did in this life and I Was proud to have him as my friend first and expressed my love for him because we came up from Brownsville Projects where people don’t live past 21 years-old and that right there really, really made me appreciative that we were able to do these records out of nothing, out of hopelessness. And you know, with his success, it gave me hope. Being that he was getting successful and he was back on the road as a solo artist, I was just happy for him.

And you know, the night before, I was going through my demons the night before and I got wild drunk and I fell asleep and I got a call in the morning from my ex because I was going through a breakup from a relationship at the time and I was broken and I had nowhere to go. I was sleeping in the street. Nobody wanted to help me out. I was in California. I had really no type of real friends that were there for me and then I get a call from my ex on top of it all to say that he passed away and it ripped through me. I mean, it just ripped right through me hearing it from her. It just tore me apart.

And I couldn’t believe it. I got to a real dark place and it’s been hard to recover from losing him and losing him as a friend because he is more than a friend. He was a brother. And it just made me real dark. It made me go into a dark place in myself and it was just hard for me to be an artist.

When I heard the news and I couldn’t be in New York to watch the wake and watch him go to rest, that even hurt more. I was trying to find ways to cope and I was looking for all types of escapism. You know when somebody like that passes away, it’s like, Wow and then on top of that, hearing my favorite aunt had breast cancer and she just got a miracle, you know, now she’s cancer-free, but with him dying, it was like, Am I next?Am I getting ready to leave off here next? Is that what it is? Is that what you’re trying to tell me? I can’t live past 43? I’m about to be 42 so I’m over here every day counting my blessings. It just put me in a real, real dark place and that album has his aura on it because every day I still think he’s around me in spiritual form and it might be my time one day soon to join up with him. I don’t know. It just really made me real dark as a person. I didn’t like myself and what I became. Losing a friend like that just devastated me. I’m still hurt by it right now to this day. It still seems like yesterday. Right now, pardon me, I just have to shed a tear right now.

I’m sorry, man.

It just hurt because he was one of the only best friends I had since we were kids and through all this music. Really, I would give it all back to have him here. Sometimes I wish it was me that would have left. I feel like the world didn’t deserve what I did, what we did, because everybody just started coming out. The bloodsuckers came out when he passed away and you know, that hurt me even more for people to think that I wasn’t at the funeral that I wasn’t there, that I ain’t wanna be there. It’s because I didn’t want to be around people that weren’t there when we were doing our thing.

Nobody was there when we were doing our thing. It was just me and him. And you know, it just made me reminisce to the times when we were broke and I had to sell a jacket for us to get some weed and when I had to run to get us something to eat and when we were trying to make those early Sean Price and Agallah records. It just brought me back to everything that we started together from nothing, from the bottom, and it made me realize, man, I don’t know how much longer I got left to do this music and that’s why I tried to give F.A.R.O. my all because I think it’s my most important album to date and being that he’s on it, that’s the last time, that record that he’s on on that album, that’s the last record that we ever did and that will be the last entry of Agallah & Sean Price records separate from what he had with Duck Down or anything else what he was working with, me and P stated at the origin. He tells people if it wasn’t for me, he probably wouldn’t be doing what he was doing today and I was blessed to have him in my life as a friend and family. He will forever remain in my heart whether I’m dead or alive.

I don’t know if anyone could have said it better.

I’m just trying to stay strong for his wife and his kids. It ain’t easy because his wife, Bern, she’s going through a lot and my prayers are with her right now and I just hope that she’s all right, more than anything. I hope the kids is all right. And that’s it. And htis family, whoever was close family, his brother, we all have demons and we’re trying to fight and escape and I’m human too and he was human too. And it just made me bitter losing him. It made me real bitter inside and this album is like…that’s why I changed my name to Fuck All Rappers Out. I got a line on the Nottz project where I say, “Fuck y’all, I was Sean Price was still here.” And I really wish it was me and not him.

I’m surprised “Brooklyn Emcee Murderers” is the last record since you guys were working on an album together.

We got records that’s scattered, but the last record that I was really working on was that one with him and you know, when death comes, death changes things and it just makes you cold and it made me real cold around a lot of people, around my friends, people that know me personally. And you know, everybody that had love for me knows that it was shocking. Like you said you were shocked. I was devastated. And trying to recover from that still, right now, I’m still trying to recover from that right now and it’s not easy for me. It’s just an everyday struggle. It’s like a day by day thing where you’re like, Man, he ain’t here no more.

And you just gotta try and do the best and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been trying to stay strong and at times I do cry. I break down. Right now I’m broken. I don’t know if you can hear it, but Ag is a broken dude right now. I’m very broken by the loss of Sean Price, the loss of Cadillac Ron right after that, my aunt getting breast cancer. I’ve been hit with a lot. And that’s just where it’s at right now with me. How much longer do I have? I wonder. I just wonder.

I’m sorry for everything you’ve been going through. You talked about how it took you a long time to come out of everything. I know you’re still hurting and still going through it, but how did you begin to come out of that initial, dark cloud?

My thing is, you know, I was numb. I became very numb. I went through a spiral. I was staying with a friend of mine and he kind of looked out for me. My boy Joe from Long Beach, and Joe is a dude who has three jobs and works a regular life. He works every day and being around him, you know, made me realize the reality that I gotta stand on my own two as a man and toughen up and get back to who I am, myself, and not lose myself.

And I’m thankful that I had him around to be there at the time because sometimes you need tough love and it just made me realize that whatever love I was getting from out of that helped me survive and, you know, just knowing that I needed to change. I needed to change who I was and I needed to change where I was at in my life and why things were happening to me the way they were happening to me. Sometimes you get blindfolded by this rap game, thinking that this music is going to change your life.

And I always thought that music was going to change my life and really, I was really just on the level knowing that I got Knowledge of Self and I was having a tough time of trying to balance out my personal life and my music life, saying to myself, What’s more important? Me or this music? You gotta make a decision, bro, about what’s going to benefit you. The music is there but is it helping your personal life? I even thought, there were some times, when I was thinking suicide. I was in a dark place. I was thinking Why should I keep doing this if I’m not paid like Kanye and Jay? Why? Do I really have fans all over? Where are my diehard, hardcore fans? And I really was just like I’m gonna give it a last shot and you know, my boy Nick Swiss, who’s been there as well, he was like Yo, man, we gotta put out something great, man. You gotta do your thing and you gotta get back to you. And with his help, I was able to put this album together and I couldn’t have did it myself. No way was I able to do it by myself.

And this was like the biggest weight that I ever carried in my whole life. The biggest weight I ever carried. And not too long ago, I just lost Cadillac Ron, also a good friend of mine, and it was just wild because me and him was starting to become good friends after P died and he also came out. I did a tribute for Sean Price in California and he came out and rocked at the tribute and I was happy that he came and blessed the mic and that would be the last time that I would see Cadillac Ron, at that Sean Price tribute. It’s devastating to know that I really witnessed two good people that I was close with and I didn’t know that they was dealing with demons as well and I didn’t know their health status and I just felt like Wow, what could I have done to help stop the deaths of Sean Price and Cadillac Ron? What could I have done to help them better as artists? What could I have done? Did I do enough as a friend? You ask yourself that. Did I do enough?

I can see that becoming a self-destructive cycle.

Yeah. It basically became something that I did not expect and I was not prepared for it. I got out of a relationship, a real bad relationship that put me in a dark place too. And I was like Why is this happening to me? Why?Why is this happening? I really just knew that I needed to change something about me. I left California to be with my aunt because of her cancer scare and just knowing that she had a miracle just gave me a little hope. Now she’s cancer-free from her breasts and it just gave me hope to keep pushing. It’s just real when you got situations like that, you’re going to ask yourself Is this real?Is this really happening to you? And right now it’s just a day by day thing with me.

I’m glad you didn’t go through with the suicide. Did you find the writing and recording process to be somewhat cathartic? Did that lighten the burden?

Yeah. It was escapism for me. The album is escapism for me, for my soul to be lifted from the bad part that was happening. And just knowing that I survived a lot in life. I survived near-death experiences and all of that and just knowing that, I was like It’s gotta be some guardian angel watching over me or just fate or something that just keeps…it’s like God and the devil are fighting and I don’t know if I would say that, really, but it just made me go into my shell more but it made me dig deep into my feelings and into myself and pull out some great material. It made me dig deep and it shocked me. When I say, “I can’t lie, my brain is fried, since that nigga SEan died, with me you can’t sympathize, real G’s emphasize, some feelings got hurt, it was meant, I apologize, fuck the top five, Allah’s way overqualified.” And I meant that shit to everybody, everybody who ever doubted me and anybody who ever thought I would be anything. I ematn that to the whole industry and to everybody. I meant that from my heart. I feel like I’m the best and I feel like I love myself more than anyone else is going to love me. I felt like that.

And he didn’t give a fuck about rap and now I gotta adapt. When he left, he didn’t give a fuck about rap either and I realize that I kept giving a fuck about it. He used to tell me shit like DJs is phony. They ain’t your friend. P used to tell me that shit. I think P didn’t like that shit. He didn’t like the fact that motherfuckers did not show him no love. He didn’t like that shit at all. And you know, that really stuck with me. It really made me realize. We used to talk about cetina people and certain blogs that wouldn’t show love, that would fuck with him and not fuck with my shit and I’m like Why? What’d I do to these people?I ain’t do nothing to them. I ain’t put a gun to their head. I ain’t rob them. I didn’t pistolwhip Elliot Wilson. You feel me? It made me bitter.

Kanye’s talking about he’s $53 million in debt, that shit be me talking about how I’m $105 million in debt, but I ain’t saying that and there goes a dude who has a bad white bitch and everything he could want in the fucking world, sneakers and all that, and it made me envious. I ain’t gon’ lie. It made me a real envious dude. And half the demons I’m dealing with are jealousy and envy right now. I’m dealing with that and that’s why I had to make this album and I had to show my fans that I can’t be slept on no fucking more. I put too much work into this game to not be where I’m at and my boy Harley Hustle, he told me, “Yo, Ag, everything happens for a reason” and I was like You right. He’s from Chicago and I’m a small-staff label. The majors don’t want to holler at me no more. Nobody wants to book me for a show. I’m like What the fuck is going on? What’d I do to y’all niggas? It made me angry to see dudes that I came up with, dudes that I was loyal to that’s eating right now that don’t show the love back. And I don’t want to say no names, but they know who they are. They’re going to read this and they’re going to know who the fuck they are and that’s just on God’s truth. That’s how I feel.

I know exactly what you mean in terms of loyal and getting the respect for what you accomplish. Do you come up with any answers when you think about why certain blogs don’t support or certain DJs don’t play your music?

It’s because I’m not paying nobody. I’m not doing no payolas. I’m not seeing Funkmaster Flex with $20,000. He owes me a favor. He still ain’t show up. All of those DJs in the tunnel except for Big Kap can go fuck themselves. At the end of the day, DJs say the papers should respect them. Why can’t we respect each other? Why’s it gotta all be about you? Because you got equipment and two turntables and a mixer? You think I’m supposed to bow down to you? You see what I’m saying? DJs feel some type of way. That’s why you got dudes making money off an artist and these DJs are putting out albums making money off of the artists. That ain’t right. That shit ain’t fucking right at all. The game is fucking backwards.

The other day I seen Tim Westwood. I watched the thing with Rich Homie Quan. How dare you let Rich Homie Quan freestyle? That was the worst shit I had ever seen in my life. I felt robbed. I feel robbed. But you know what, it’s all good because God don’t like ugly. What goes around comes around and that’s why I knew right then and there, I seen that post by Tim Westwood, I said, “Man, you ain’t got no respect for real hshit.” If you listen to Rich Homie Quan freestyle on Tim Westwood, you’re going to be upset. Trust me.

And that’s what happened to me. I’m not the same person I was. I’m not Agallah the Don no more. I’m F.A.R.O. It’s Fuck All Rappers Out. When I said that, I meant that. Whoever wants to take it personal, they can. They can come see me. We can handle that shit. That’s how I feel. It made me real bitter. To each his own and my fans love me for it. They know what I’ve been through with these motherfuckers. I was too passionate. And that’s on everything. And now I know what I gotta do. Stick with my fans that fuckw ith me. Put out my records and make sure that my fans rally behind me and that’s it. And that’s what I gotta be worried about and who’s rocking with me. That’s what I gotta figure out. How can I get all my fans to rock with me? And that’s what right now I’m trying to figure out so I can enjoy my life, no matter how long it’s going to be.

We’ve been doing interviews for over ten years at this point and I’ve kept up with all of your music. I would hate to see you not release music, but at the same time, how are you going to make sure that how you’re feeling right now doesn’t take over and doesn’t distract you from making the great music that you’re known for?

You know, I make music because I love this shit. I really feel like I did this because I loved it. When I was a kid, I was born in the era of hip-hop. I was born in 1974, so you know, love for the music made me do it. And I tried to return to that era when I loved it in my mind. You know, when I was really in love with hip-hop. I tried to return to that in my mind when I was a kid and when I used to hear Red Alert and Marley Marl on the radio stations in New York and I used to be like Man, I want to do this. This is what i want to do. And I tried to return to that in my mind and close out everything. Close out all this bullshit going on in society and return to that era when it was just fresh in my mind, when I was just a kid. And you know, it just made me realize that nothing lasts forever, bro. We’re all going to die one day. You know, you can never prepare for death. You can never prepare for it. You’ll never know when it’s your time to go and that’s what’s real. In my music, you know,

I came down to Texas to chill with my family and try to get myself back with my family. Me and my family go through stuff. We go through things because we disfunctional. And we try to fix the pieces, all these broken pieces that put me in this place, in this dark place. I’m trying to get myself back and get my happiness back. And I realized that don’t come from your frisnes. That don’t come from no girls. That don’t come from no rappers. That comes from you. That comes from digging deep down in your soul and pulling out the negative and trying to keep positivity in your life and keep positivity flowing through your blood and that’s what I’ve been trying to do and it’s not easy. It’s not easy. I wish that it was. I just gotta keep striving and hopefully a miracle will happen for me. I just hope a miracle will happen for me and if it does, then I will be grateful. I’m grateful for anybody that bought a record. I’m grateful for anybody that helped Agallah.

Do you feel that you ever underestimate where you’re at in the game and what you’ve accomplished?

Nah. Nah. I would say it’s a double-edged sword. I’m not worried about getting new fans. I worry about the fans that I got right now. I hope I get new fans but if not, cool. If not, cool ‘cause, like I said, I don’t know how much time I got left here and maybe when I’m dead, I’ll get more fans than I got now. Like Sean Price, for instance.

You mentioned that you thought a lot of bloodsuckers came out of the woodwork with P’s death. What did you see? Were all the tributes authentic?

No. It definitely wasn’t because it didn’t go through his wife. I got permission from Bernadette to do anything. Before I put out P’s record I asked her if I could put it out and if I could get her blessing on it and I had to make sure that I got her blessing. These dudes, they ain’t get Bernadette’s blessing. They ain’t get her blessing and I feel for her because she’s the one suffering the most. She’s the one suffering the most and the kids are. And the family is suffering. And they need the respect right now and the stories I’m hearing, it’s a lot of fuckery going on. I hope that people come to their senses and stop doing that to Sean’s music. I hope that they come to their senses and stop that and think about they self and think about his wife and his kids. The dudes that’s putting out the compilations of Sean P, they didn’t know him.

The only person I could speak for is P.F. Cuttin ‘cause that was Sean Price’s DJ. And that’s my homie. That’s my dude. He put some of my first mixtapes out. So I stay loyal to the people who helped me do what I do. I stay loyal. You know, it is what it is. He ain’t here no more. He do got another album in the works though. They’re recording it. I don’t know if I’m going to be on it or not but either way, Dru Ha and them, they’re controlling that. His wife is overseeing it and they’re doing their thing with it. He’s going to have a life in music still. Everybody loves P that much. He’s still got hardcore fans out there rocking with his music. And he’s got joints recorded. He’s definitely got records. I ain’t hear nothing new on the project yet but we’ll see the whole wave when it comes out and I wish the best.

Hip-hop has lost a lot of great MCs lately, especially when you consider Pumpkinhead, J. Arch, and others.

Yeah. We lost a lot when we lost P. We took a heavy blow. Artists need to take better care of themselves and help is important. That’s why I’m putting out a record soon called “Healthy Righteousness.” People need to get to their health better and monitor themselves more instead of monitoring what other people are doing. Monitor yourself instead of worrying about what the next man is doing. Monitor yourself and you’ll live a healthier life instead of monitoring people who don’t matter in your life. And you know, artists sometimes, we spread ourselves too thin. And the realest thing that I know is that nothing lasts forever so you gotta be real careful with what you do, what you say, and how you live. Now I just want to become greater than I’ve ever been. I want to become greater than I’ve ever been before I leave off this earth.

Ike Eyes has always been a great MC and it’s been fun to watch his growth as an artist over the past decade-plus. What has he been up to?

Ike is my family. We’re not blood-related, but that’s my family. I introduced him to Sean Price and him and Sean got tight. They got pretty tight and that was a good thing to see that P loved Ike. P loved Ike. They connected and really, really, really made some things happen. And I was proud to see that, that Ike was doing his thing, but Ike comes from Red Hook projects. Ike had a hard life. Ike is a hustler. He just happened to have a great talent. Ike was a special child. He’s a special child, like he was especially gifted. He went to school for especially gifted people and Ike is a specially gifted dude, straight up. He’s one of the dopest rappers I’ve ever met.

Sean told me the same thing.

You know, I was blessed ‘cause Ike’s been there for me. Me and Ike have been there for each other. Ike just wants to write dope rhymes and make dope songs. That’s all he wants to do is shine. And that’s Ike. Ike’s got a daughter and he just wants to make sure his daughter does the right thing and he wants to be a good father to his daughter in any way he can and he wants people to know that he’s a dope artist too. You know, it’s real for him right now. It’s definitely real in the field for Ike. I’m gonna work with him soon, soon as I get back to myself and as soon as this project starts picking up more and I get some shows and we got back to showing the world who’s boss. He’s on the album too. Everybody can hear Ike on my album. Hardbody, he’s got a hardbody verse on “Brooklyn Emcee Murderers.” It took me a while to pull that out of him but I’m grateful that he came full circle on that record because that record is going down in hip-hop history, straight up.

I love that he has the last verse there too. From his first bars, that was a special verse from Ike.

Yeah, man, you know, when you’re the cleanup man, you gotta wrap it up. He cleaned it up great coming after me and Sean Price is a hard thing to do.

Are you happy so far with your response and is the album doing what you need it to do?

No. I’m never satisfied. I will never be satisfied. That’s the key to success. Never be comfortable. I’ll never be comfortable with it and until I own my own condo, until I own a building or some land, like the other day I found out my great-great grandmother was a slave robbed and beaten by SPain and Europe funded Spain to bring genocide to Puerto Rico. At the ports of Puerto Rico, they beat my great-great grandmother and they took her off the island and left my great-grandmother there and the rest of my family. Look up slavery in Puerto Rico. That’s where I come from. I’m Black. It’s a culture. My race is Black. I’m Afro-Caribbean. I could tell you the same thing – we’re Afro-Caribbeans, me and Ike. We Black. So at the end of the day, that came crashing to me. Just recently my aunt told me this and it devastated me too to hear that they raped my great-great grandmother and beat her. She was an African slave. And that hurt me to hear that. That really hurt me.

I bet.

And I’m like Damn, what else life gotta throw at me? Keep it coming. What else do this motherfucker have to throw at me? What else can I get hit with now? This is great. What else can I get hit with? Can you blame me for feeling the way I feel? It’s just crazy.

Where does Agallah go from here?

Well, I got some ideas. Basically the ideas I got, basically, I’m putting together one of the biggest rap groups of all time called The Barbarians. And I’m recruiting a lot of new artists and some O.F. artists I’m rocking with. It’s going to be like a compilation album. You know, right now it’s got me feeling like the type of guy where I need to make the records that are going to outdo the next producers and the next artists out there. I’m gonna have to stay mixing it up real heavy and you know, all year. I got a project with Nottz.

At the end of the day, I’m going to try and become a mogul and put out artists. And one day I hope that I can still make music. I hope I can in this day and time and still be able to deliver that to my fans. But I’m going to also put out new artists that I feel deserve what I could have got and live my dreams through them. And that’s what I’m looking at right now. And at the end of the day, it’s something I gotta do day by day, but I’m not going to give these haters one second to think that, you know, I’m going to be done after this. So that’s what’s rocking. And hopefully I get this album out with Inspectah Deck. I spoke to him the other day and we’re trying to work and finish that. Pete Rock and I have spoke on doing a project later on in the year. Hopefully we can get these things done. I just need to stay mentally right and focus on me and get it right.