I’m feeling great. When you put out a project after all these years, there’s only one way you can feel.
Are you happy with how your new album, Get Dirty Radio, came out?
I love it. A lot of songs going into it, I didn’t know I would do but I’m glad I did because it shows the diversity of me as an artist. I really like how it came out and the time it came out. I think it’s really needed. Everybody out now is borrowing trends. I just wanted to borrow the trend that I started.
The album’s been out for a couple weeks. Have you been getting the feedback you wanted to get from it?
Yeah. I was getting feedback way before the album came out. That’s what made me more happy going into this. I’m already working on my next one.
How do you approach a solo album like this without having Showbiz next to you the whole time?
There are going to be some changes because Showbiz brings so much to the table. Him not involved in any project will knock it off a little bit because it’s not just his production but his musical mind as well that he brings to the table. He’s also a perfectionist and he keeps you on top of your game. At the same time, I think I’ve been doing it for so long with a certain type of tendency that I think I can monitor myself.
You said you had tried some new things on Get Dirty Radio. What were those new things?
The Lou Rawls track (“Say Yeah”). That’s totally something that I would have never done before. A lot of people don’t like it but I love it. It has a lot of energy and that’s my thing. I’m really going for that energy. If you don’t have that energy, you can’t get the people to pay attention to you. I’m trying to manufacture an energy, whether it’s young, new, foreign or whatever, as long as it’s energy I can add what I do to it to make it hip-hop.
What was it like recording “The Struggle” with Show?
I’m not trying to be funny, but that was the easiest song. The lyrics came out. I’m used to his pattern. I’m used to his drum pattern. I’m used to his sound. Once I hear that, the familiarity of it puts me more in my comfort zone and it’s easier to write. The album is about many things, but this song with Show represents that Runaway Slave mentality.
How much do you want to revisit the Runaway Slave mentality versus moving forward?
I definitely want to get back to that, but I’ve been away from the game for a little while and I’ve been studying and monitoring it. I’ll gradually get back to it. You can’t force it. I have to get as much momentum as possible and then once the people have momentum, I can deliver an album that I really want to do, which would be more conscious than party shit.
On “Pray” you say, “The rich want ghetto. You don’t want ghetto.” Then on “Frozen” you say you’re the one the “rich kids follow.” Why do you think the rich have such an infatuation with poverty?
I don’t think I can explain it because I’m not rich. I can only explain my side, which is the poor, ghetto side. Every time I go around the world or friends come and visit me, they become in awe of where I lived at. That’s what spawned that line. I have a lot of foreign friends from all over the world. They’re Japanese, Danish, German, Chinese, Philippines, German…I keep strong relationships all over the world and we always find time to communicate with each other even if we can’t visit. Every time they come here, they want to see where I was raised at, not where I live at. They always want to go back there. Every time we go there, they’re always amazed how I made it out and how I’m not totally ghetto. I can speak well and I have an education. They’re surprised like, Dang, how did you come up out of that? On a record, it’s cool and dandy, but if you were to visit there, you’ll probably want to leave real soon. I’m comfortable there and I think that’s what makes them in awe, like, How can you be comfortable there? We want to know why.
Does that ever make you angry?
Yeah, because it shows ignorance. There’s a lot of people that have a lot of education and a lot of money, but they don’t have the experience that I have. That’s the part that gets me. That’s the part that confuses me a little bit because if I had a lot of money and I had a lot of education, that would mean that I knew what was going on over there so when I came over, it wouldn’t be so foreign. When they come, it’s more like shock. I’ve had friends visit when other friends got shot and killed. They thought I was exaggerating. There is ignorance, poverty and disease there. I think rich kids want to experience that, even if it is for a couple of hours, but not for a lifetime. After a couple of hours, it’s like, “All right, that’s enough, we can go now.” Anybody can come with me anywhere in the hood with me because I’m comfortable and it’s where I lay my bones at. I’ve always been community driven and people respect that.
On songs like “We Don’t Care,” you’re showing your most lyrical side. Are those your favorite tracks to make?
Yes, they are. At the end of the day, I have a point of view that I’m trying to bring across. It’s not just my point of view, it’s a whole community’s point of view. Anytime that I deliver that point of view with confidence and aggression, I’m always feeling I delivered what I intended to.
Line for line, how many MC’s in the game do you feel can see you on the mic?
Maybe two. I would say about two. It’s crazy because the question that you’re asking me, I feel very strongly about.
Do you want to give us the two names?
Jay-Z is one of them. And I would say Nas. Nas and Jay-Z. That’s who I would say.
Based on your history, it seems as though you would work with producers you go back with like Buckwild and Diamond D on Get Dirty Radio. What made you want to go outside to work with DJ Design, Madlib and Oh No?
I wanted to change my energy. I’m very passionate about music and at the time, I wasn’t really that passionate about this music. I said that if I was going to go out of my comfort zone, I was going to go way out of my comfort zone. DJ Design is the one who brought Madlib and Oh No to the table. After I did my research and really studied them, I sat down and said, “If we can get this right, a lot of people might support this album just because it’s so different.” They’re all West Coast and I’m East Coast. I’m on top of my game lyrically, so I’m bringing Diggin’ in the Crates with me. I said if we can pull this off, we can get both coasts on this. Madlib and J.Dilla have so broad of an audience and a lot of people like them. A lot of people like Showbiz and AG but we’re also known for our sound.
Do you see yourself doing more work with the Stones Throw family?
Yeah. First of all, personally, they’re just so cool. I would make an extra effort to work with them. I don’t like asshole producers or the producer feeling like it’s his track. That’s where we differ at. A lot of producers feel like they contain and control the song. I’ve been a lyricist for so long and I respect lyrics, that from my point of view, I control the song. I can’t look in your mind as a producer to see your vision because I’m the one writing the song. I should take advice and direction, but at the same time, I’m the one who has to land the punch. The people I work with are very easy to work with like that and every producer on this album let me do what I needed to do.
On “Frozen” you shouted out everybody in Diggin’ in the Crates and said that would always be the crew. Is there a reason Diamond D, Buckwild, O.C. and Fat Joe aren’t on the album?
No. It’s only because I recorded it in San Francisco. If I recorded it in New York City, everybody would have been on it. I’m in communication with Finesse and Show daily, so it wasn’t nothing to get them to MP3 me something while I was over there.
Was the Giant at home in the land of the Giants?
It was beautiful. The Bay shows me so much love. It’s incredible. They showed me so much love throughout my whole career. My first promotional tour back in 1990 was in Cali and from then on, they’ve always been supporting me. I think we dropped the ball on giving them the outlets to pick up and support our music. I feel everything happens for a reason. I feel I’m at the prime of my game and for that support to come now, it’s happening for a good reason. A lot of artists that got overpopularized can’t come back out. Most of the people don’t know me, and that’s a good thing in my mind. I’m being introduced to a whole new audience that doesn’t know me.
What made you choose “Frozen” as a single?
That song, I think, reflects my mind more than any other song. My mind is all over the place but at the same time, I have organized confusion within myself. That track had the carnival sound. Madlib did the beat. I really wanted the lyrics, the anger and the aggression I had represent me on this album. I had less control over my last album, The Dirty Version, and the first single with that album was not something that represented me. Seeing as the people like my approach, I would rather go with an approach that I’m totally confident with that displays lyrics and displays hip-hop. I would rather not do it the other way around.
You have a line in “Frozen” that says “Underground heads mad I stay frozen like a coke habit.” Are you concerned with how the underground receives Get Dirty Radio?
I make references to the underground and I let them know that they’re heavily on my mind because that’s where a lot of pure, from-the-heart music is at. At the same time, any artists who doesn’t grow, dies. I see other artists that are not on my level making a certain type of music and getting exposure for it and being financially stable, all because they’re going at a difference audience. I can keep shooting for that, but I won’t go out of my character. I’ll keep building this up and whatever’s over there will have to ask for me. I’m going to keep doing me.
Another reason I made that comment is because a lot of cats that I run across hate hip-hop right now. I love it. I think it’s still just as interesting as it was. Maybe there is no message. But at the same time, it’s still entertaining and it takes your mind off the everyday struggle. Hip-hop still means a lot to me and it still supports me. It’s still the movement of the youth and I think there’s a big gap between the older heads and the younger heads. I think there’s ignorance on both parts.
Has it ever been difficult for you to stay focused and motivated in the hip-hop game?
At some times it is. But I think I’m truly blessed and I think I was really put here to do that, so when you think like that, it’s easier to get back your motivation and passion. Sometimes it just goes out because of certain things you’re going through in your life, but it never really leaves you.
How do you make sure you stay sharp musically?
I listen to everybody. I always can grow. If I limit myself to only the people who make music the way I grew up on it, then I’m going to be limited. I listen to everybody and all of it can be incorporated into what I do. I think everybody can learn from everybody else and from any type of music.
Did the murder charge you beat change your outlook on things?
Yeah, it definitely did. In a matter of seconds, all this shit can be taken away from you so you have to go hard now. There is no time for leaving loose ends for tomorrow.
How do you feel about the reissue of your classic albums Runaway Slave and Goodfellas?
I think it’s needed. It’s great music, but it’s limited. Very limited.
How important are those albums to hip-hop’s history?
I think they’re very important because, as you can see, it doesn’t sound like that anymore, but at least there’s a reference to what it sounded like and people will know that at least one of us did real hip-hop. Without that, no one would have had the direction of how to get out of the current state of music. I understand that certain cats are out of the street making music that’s probably of a lesser quality to you, but if they weren’t doing that, they would probably be on the corner selling crack, wilding or stealing. Where I come from, getting someone off the street is a plus. That’s what I thought this whole thing was about.
A lot of artists and fans from the early ‘90s complain about the state of hip-hop today. Is it worth complaining about?
If you’re complaining, you’re doing less to fix things. I just want to make the music my way. I think if we all made music the same way, it would be real boring. We have to take a look at that. Everybody says different things. You can’t expect everyone to make the same type of music. As long as it’s coming from their heart and it’s true to them, I’ll support it. I may not like it or get into it, but I’ll try to support it and see what it’s about because you’re being authentic and real to yourself.
Are you happy with how your last solo album, The Dirty Version, did for you?
Nope. I don’t think it was in the right hands, even though I had a hand in it. I think Get Dirty Radio is in the right hands.
Are you and Showbiz working on a new album?
We’re going to put out an EP at the top of the year and then put out a full-length. We’re doing this hardbody. This isn’t something we’re doing for money or doing it because people wanted us to. This is the real deal. We never separated. It’s just that we’ve been doing different things. I was trying to find different outlets. Throughout all that, we lost touch of what was really most important to both of us. This is not just an album that we are coming together to do. We speak to each other every day. Our friendship is tighter than ever and our music is going to reflect that. He was the first one that told me I had a classic on my hands with Get Dirty Radio. That meant a lot to me.
You’ve been working with Show for a long time. Has the chemistry changed over the years?
It’s changed a little bit because we’ve both grown, but the foundation is still there.
Do you see DITC coming together for an album anytime soon?
I know that’s going to happen. This is our time to bring everything back out. I’m not trying to sound arrogant, but it’s really starting with this project here. This project is going to make a big statement and we have a lot of projects following it.
When I interviewed Fat Joe, he said that back in the day he never felt he could flow with you guys and now he feels he can hold his own. How do you feel about that statement?
Fat Joe has always been an honest person and spoke his mind and I think that statement is accurate.
Will Party Arty ever drop an album?
Yeah. Arty’s in the studio right now working on his shit. Joe and Finesse and Wali World are going to have a lot to do with it. It’s going to be a nice project. We might get some outside production as well. A lot of people don’t know how to accept him in the business. They don’t understand that he is raw talent and energy. The songs he had on Showbiz’s Street Talk album were old. You should hear some of his newer songs. They want him to make popular songs but if he can stick to his element and make the songs that I know he’s capable of with the same aggression and representation of the neighborhood, I think he’ll be fine.
Have you helped him turn that raw talent into something he can use?
I think, honestly, I have. We’ve spent a lot of time with each other and I’ve learned a great deal from him as well. Whenever you spend an extended period of time with someone, you’re going to learn a lot from them, whether it’s good or bad. Fortunately the things we’ve learned and picked up from each other will help us progress our careers and talent.
How would the game be different if Big L were here today?
Jay-Z might not be in the position he’s in right now. I think he’s the best rapper that’s out right now. I think Big L would have been a part of that and I think that would have changed everything around.
Is there enough unreleased Big L material to have him on the next DITC album?
I’m not sure, but I’m sure we have enough material to have Big L represented on the album. You’re dealing with some real creative dudes when you’re talking about Diggin’ in the Crates, so anything is possible.
Is the industry ready for a Diggin’ in the Crates album?
Truthfully, no, but we’ve never been the ones to wait around and wait for people to warm up to what we’re doing. I think we got discouraged as a unit but we’re aware of the way to do it now. I’ll be on the road and O.C.’s album is out and Showbiz had an album come out. We have to get everybody ready. If the Diggin’ in the Crates album were to come out tomorrow, I don’t think people would be ready for it. People don’t know what we’re responsible for. There aren’t too many platinum albums to come out in the last decade that my team hasn’t been on. We’ve had our hands in a lot of things.
Are you targeting the older fans with new material or are you targeting newer fans who aren’t as familiar with what Diggin’ in the Crates has done?
I’m not going to lie, I would be disappointed if the old heads didn’t support. Some will fall off because things change and they may not like it. I’m not at all trying to reach the mainstream on Get Dirty Radio. I think any record with a good push can become a mainstream record. I don’t have to make a mainstream record. I just have to make sure the business and machine is in tune to make people familiar with my music and I think the rest will take care of itself.
What are your goals for Get Dirty Radio?
To reintroduce myself to the whole hip-hop world. I have to do that right now. I’ve been away on a certain level for a long time and I have to get that back. I have to get my feet wet on different levels. I was locked in the studio with my 950 niggas Party Arty and DJ Design. There were no outside influences on this. I’m very excited about this.
As someone who’s accomplished a lot in hip-hop, what advice would you offer the next generation?
Regardless of what roads you choose, don’t ever stop believing in yourself regardless of what other people tell you. Once you stop believing in yourself, it’s over.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Stay in touch with AG. This is the first of many projects coming. I have my documentary coming up with a CD. That will come out later next year. I think people will really like that because it’s very informative. At the same time, the Showbiz and AG project is up next. We’re putting our all into it and that should be nice. If you ever want to holler at me, send me an email or hit me on my MySpace. Please go cop Get Dirty Radio. Stay posted with me and anytime you want to holler at me, just holler. Hit me with some feedback and let me know what you think.