Eightball: We’re cool, man. We’re just on the grind right now. We’re here.
Are you happy with how Ridin’ High came out?
Eightball: Yeah. I think it’s going to be a classic. It’s another classic Eightball and MJG album. We put the focus on the gutter and made it a real Eightball and MJG album.
Is it ever hard to stay true to the music you do when the game is constantly changing?
MJG: We’ve seen a lot of this new stuff come and go. A new style doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to stick.
Eightball: I think probably the hardest thing is the battle between the artist and the record label. It’s the battle for what they want versus what we want.
What did Bad Boy want from you for Ridin’ High?
MJG: At the end of the day, going independent always turns out to be the best route.
Eightball: The record label is always looking for their smash single, and in my opinion, they’re looking for their radio song. We’re one of those groups who never had much radio or video play, but we still have close to platinum albums. Look at the other groups out there who have big budgets and big labels and they have big songs on the radio constantly and they still barely sell 400,000. We have to scrap for the little radio play that we get and we still sell 6 to 700,000. That’s the thing right there. We’ve never been a big radio group because our audience is not the radio audience. That’s the big battle right there. The record label wants that big, successful radio group every time.
MJG: When you let a major label dictate your moves, they’re only worried about themselves. You have to control your own future. You’re the one who has to worry if you look like a fool if you do a song. A label doesn’t care because it’s business. They’re looking at them.
Are you happy with how the single “Relax and Take Notes” did for you?
Eightball: We just didn’t like the timing of it. Our album got pushed back a few times. The song is beautiful but the timing was just bad.
MJG: We loved it but the label moved too slow.
Eightball: When we first dropped the single, the album was supposed to have been coming out, and that was five months ago. Even though the song is incredible, the timing doesn’t match up. There was nothing we could do to capture the hype of the song because the album was not out yet.
Do you want to go independent for the next Eightball and MJG album?
MJG: Most definitely.
Did you try anything different on Ridin’ High that you haven’t done in the past?
Eightball: The biggest difference in working with Bad Boy is working with different producers. We’re more of an in-house group and we like to take our time. We don’t work with a lot of producers at the same time. We always have done it our way. We always worked with outside producers, but not all at the same time. Bad Boy also takes a lot of chances on their projects.
MJG: I think on this album, we just did what we did. We rap about what we see and what we live as far as being on the road and doing what we do and being on the streets of Memphis. That’s what our album is about. Our music is a little bigger on this album. That’s probably the biggest difference. The music is a little bigger.
Do you think your hardcore fans will be satisfied with Ridin’ High?
Eightball: I think the hardcore fans are going to love this album. On every song, you definitely try to please the audience, but we try to please ourselves first. We have to love it first before we present it to anybody else. I think our fans are going to feel the same.
Are there certain songs that Eightball and MJG won’t do no matter what the label wants?
MJG: We can do a country western song, but it’ll sound like an Eightball and MJG song. We have our sound.
Eightball: We’re going to keep it real gritty because a lot of cats now try to be squeaky clean, set the perfect example and be a role model. Everybody can’t be that.
MJG: And we’re not going to be bright and pretty all the time.
Eightball: Remember the Larry Flynt movie when somebody told him, “People don’t want their gospel mixed with porn”? We started out gritty and people don’t want to see us go no other way. They don’t want to see us go pop. You can’t control it now because who would have ever thought a lot of records that went pop in the last couple of years would have. You can’t control that, but we just try to do our best to stay gritty and gutter in this world of politically-correct bullshit.
Your sound on Space Age 4 Eva is similar to a lot of hit songs today. Were you guys ahead of your time?
MJG: Definitely. We always tried to be ahead, but not in a weird way.
Eightball: I think we do it unconsciously. We just do us. Whatever the track brings out and whatever the music inspires, that’s what we put down to it. I think we do it unconsciously. The music we’ve done now, people do ten years later.
MJG: We don’t try to make it too complicated. We just want to make music that makes sense and will still make sense ten years from now. We don’t’ chase the new style or the new gimmicks.
When I interviewed Inspectah Deck, he said it would be cool to hear Wu-Tang with Eightball and MJG. How do you feel about that?
Eightball: I would love that. As a matter of fact, I have an artist on my label, 8 Ways Entertainment. His name is Devious. We have a song on that over Raekwon’s “Ice Cream.” We’ll mix it up with anybody from Wu-Tang to anybody else.
MJG: That’s what it’s about. That’s the creative part of it.
How would a Wu-Tang and Eightball and MJG collaboration sound?
Eightball: It would sound like you’re tripping off LSD, mescaline, weed and X at the same time. That’s how it would sound. I think the world would appreciate that because it would be so unexpected.
It’s taken you guys a long time to get your props nationally. Did it ever get frustrating when you knew you were putting out quality music but not everyone was paying attention?
MJG: Yeah. That’s natural when you’re working hard. It’s all part of it. If something comes too easy, there’s something wrong with it. If you’re going to college for four years, there’s going to be something hard there.
Eightball: At the same time, if we never contributed anything to the game as far as people on the outside looking in, at least we showed young people and whoever never to give up. As long as God wakes you up and breathes breath in you, you have the strength and the right mind to do whatever it is you want to do. I think that’s one of the things we’ve shown people. If you stick to something, you can do it.
Where would Memphis hip-hop be today if it weren’t for Eightball and MJG?
MJG: I still know Memphis would most definitely still be doing its thing. I know that it’s definitely a different place because of us though.
Eightball: That’s like thinking about Atlanta without Outkast, New York without B.I.G. or LA without Dre. There would have been something missing.
Do you get the respect you deserve today?
Eightball: With the fans, we get the utmost respect. Our fans love us to death. It doesn’t matter if we’re in Alaska, Hawaii or anywhere else, our fans let us know how much they love our music. As far as the industry goes, I don’t think we kiss enough ass. We don’t bow down to whoever and that’s the problem. In the industry part of it, they want you to be what they want you to be.
MJG: Yeah. And we’re still on the grind and still on the circuit. A lot of cats get to a certain area in their career and they go flat. A lot of cats get their money and they hide behind that. They’re not in touch with the people. They just come around to get a check.
What’s allowed you to have the longevity and relevancy you have today?
MJG: It’s hard work. There’s enough people giving up on a lot of stuff. A lot of cats have a six or seven year career and they get lost.
Eightball: We have a genuine love for what we do. I think people on the outside looking in see us in the public eye looking flashy and riding fresh. But they don’t see the things we go through to get these things and to get to the level that we’ve gotten to. If it wasn’t for the love that we have on the inside of us, whatever and however we did, we probably would have quit. We have a genuine love inside of us for what we do. Not too many people have a way to make income and have fun doing it also while touching people. A lot of the music out there now is about the bitches and hoes, but we have a lot of music out there that touches people.
MJG: When fans follow you through the years, they grow up with you. With the good and bad things happening in their lives, they can hear our music and think of those times.
You’ve both dropped solo projects as well. How do those solo albums help you artistically?
Eightball: We just do that. It’s all Eightball and MJG, but the solo projects show both sides of the group. We’re still Eightball and MJG at the end of the day.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists?
MJG: Up-and-coming artists need to know that it is possible. Don’t look to artists like us to make it happen for you in the beginning stages. That’s where you have to put the work in. Independent labels try to format themselves after the majors. Majors are looking for artists that are already groomed and already look like they understand it. That’s how the game goes. The days of coming up and freestyling are over. If you could freestyle in the ‘80s, you could probably get a deal and have an album out in a week. If you come up to me now and freestyle and that’s all you have, it’s really showing me that you’re not serious about what you do. With all this technology and as cheap as it is, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a demo in your hand.
Eightball: And there is no substitute for hard work. Cats have to do as much as they can for themselves. We’re living in the day of technology with MySpace and Fruity Loops. There are just so many ways that people can get their music heard and get people to see them now versus what we had and what we started with. Cats have a lot more opportunities now. To make a long story short, there’s no substitute for hard work and do as much as you can yourself.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Eightball: The album is in stores now. It’s the greatest Eightball and MJG album since Comin’ Out Hard. It’s gritty and gutter. It’s not a pop album. It’s straight up hardcore Southern shit. If you want something to listen to when your kids aren’t in the room, then go get that. And for the kids, this is some shit you can sneak around and listen to when your folks aren’t around. And my album Light Up the Bomb on 8 Ways Entertainment is also in stores now.