You and Fame have been working on a rock album. How’s that coming?
The album is coming great. We got a lot of good records. It’s strange. I was just talking to my girl Foxx earlier, and without even realizing it, we have messages in these records. We wanted it to be hard, but there’s more positive records than I realized. We got 14-16 joints going on the album. The first single is “730”. My man Ikka Bod is on it. He does the song and I do the hook. Ikka Bod is out of Detroit. Lyrically, he’s incredible. He brought the song to life. We got a lot of other stuff going on with it too.
I just did a song with Ice-T called “Sit Down” which is crazy. Foxx got a joint on there called “How To Get On”, which is crazy. Teflon’s on it. Basically what it is is it’s called Hevi Medal: Badge of Honor. The badge of honor is for people who deserve it, who have been through the struggle and the ups and downs of this bullshit-ass industry that we’re in and never gave up. Even the producers we chose have the badge. It’s like HipHopGame. You guys have been at it and you didn’t give up, so you deserve this badge also. Everybody can’t get it. It’s the fly-by-night dudes that don’t deserve it. We’re going to start looking for a bigger situation for it. Maybe we’ll drop that in February or March. We should be able to put it out then, hopefully.
How comfortable do you feel making rock music?
If you go back to the first M.O.P. album, there was “Rugged Neva Smoove,” which was actually a rock record. Then if you come up a few years, we did the Handle Your Business CD which was all rock and the Mash Out Posse record, which was all rock. It’s something that we’ve been doing. We pretty much do music like the rockers do music anyways – loud and aggressive. It’s something that we’ve always been into and we’re comfortable in. We’re not going to do things that we’re not comfortable with. And we’re getting good response. There’s a lot of response on the “730” single. People like when we make music aggressively anyways, because that’s what M.O.P. has been doing. What it does is it gives us another life and it pushes us a little further into the eye of the rock fan. We got everybody on this album. There’s not an M.O.P. record yet on this album though. We’re with other artists like Teflon and Foxx. We want to keep it all separate so people can see we have a whole bunch of things going on.
Are you trying to create a separate lane for this music to not be compared to rock-rap groups like Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park?
Of course, because there’s no way in hell that I can do it like them. (laughs) You know what I want to do? I like all of that hard, heavy rock music with the loud and screaming guitars. I love it all, but those Nickelback guys are incredible. Nickelback is incredible, dude. That “Rock Star” record is incredible. I was telling people about that months and months before they even put the video out. That right there, it works a little better for me. Either way, we can do it, but I really want to do it on a big scale so it feels like worldly music and not underground rock or Brooklyn rock. I want to do it real big. Of course I can’t do it like Niceklback, but I’m going to get close. I can definitely do it real good.
What is it about you that allows you to make rock music while never losing credibility as an MC?
Most of the rockers, these guys probably grew up in nice houses, but somewhere along the line, they made the wrong turn and life got frustrating and hard for them. It’s the same shit. I make music with aggression for a couple reasons. One reason is because I’ve dealt with a lot of frustration in my life and I just get it out when I’m in the booth. And the other reason is because no one else, in my opinion, does it like that. That’s how I want to hear music. That’s why I do it like that.
Fans have been waiting a long time for the M.O.P. album on G-Unit Records. How is that album coming?
It’s coming along great. We have a lot of songs. We just have to put it in a position to do well. We have to have that support. It makes sense to me to not put a record out if it’s not going to get to where it needs to be. We’ll trickle records here and there to let people know that we still got it, but once we get our legs under us, then we’ll set up to shoot the videos and drop the album. I’ve been doing this for too long to just let something go. I need to make sure it works. I can’t just put a record out and then it doesn’t work and nobody knows it’s there. That doesn’t make sense to me. The guys over at G-Unit, we have a good relationship with those guys and we’re all on the same page. It just has to make sense to put the record out. That’s it.
You said you needed more support to put the album out. What kind of support do you need?
Well, we’re looking for radio, of course. Video and internet, of course. Some of the dopest MCs put records out and nobody knows it’s there. When you go on these internet sites, you see. I just listened to a record by Jynx. I think Jynx did really well on the record and nobody likes the record. Do you not like the record because it’s the kid Jynx? It’s a good record.
If you put a Tony Yayo record out, some people don’t like Tony Yayo, but the record could be fire and they’ll say it’s wack and they’re not listening to it. They feel like it’s not worth listening to. They already got it in their head that they don’t want to hear what he has to say. As far as that goes, the game needs to change. You get a lot of people saying, “The South music this” or “The South music that.” I really appreciate all South music and music everywhere. You need all of that shit. If you don’t have the not-so-good product, then how would you be able to tell what the good product is? There are so many other artists from the South that aren’t getting played. If you listen to radio in New York, you’ll hear five artists and you don’t hear anybody from New York in New York, which is really strange to me. And then the five artists that you do hear are from different states. They’re dope, but you have to give everybody a fair shot, in my opinion. That’s how the world should turn. Everybody should get a fair shot.
When I interviewed 50 Cent, I asked him about your album and he said I would have to ask you guys about it. Are you guys holding the project up?
It’s not that we’re taking our time with the album. Of course we would take our time with the album if everything is not set up for us to properly put the album out. Remember, M.O.P. was around before G-Unit. Anything that needs to be done on our end, we’re going to take care of it and it’s being taken care of. Just putting a dope record out doesn’t mean anything today.
Nowadays, music is about business. It’s about money. It’s not about “let me just put this out because it’s dope and I know people are going to appreciate it.” If you put it out and it’s dope but people don’t get it because you’re not getting it to them. This has nothing to do with M.O.P. as a group or G-Unit as a label. It has to do with how the game has turned. We’ve been around for too long to just throw an album out.
I think 50 is just tired of answering the question of “What’s going on with the M.O.P. album?” to the point where he just says exactly what he feels. I don’t think the man comes across with any disrespect. We’re grown men and we can talk. If 50 feels he should be disrespectful about something, he would do that because he’s never had a problem doing that before. There is no problem between M.O.P. and G-Unit or Billy Danze and 50 or Lil’ Fame and 50. It’s just that all parties in this situation understand that everything has to be in order for this to happen and 50 doesn’t just own a label. He’s also an artist. So as he’s doing everything that he has to do for himself and his career, he’s expecting everybody else to do that for themselves and their careers. When we were coming up in the game, the record label would do a lot of the things that we’re doing. Now you have to hustle a lot harder on your own. It’s just a matter of adjusting to what’s going on in today’s industry.
A lot of fans were worried that M.O.P. would change the sound once you signed to G-Unit. Was that a valid concern?
No. I can only do what I can do and Fame can only do what he can do. Changing your image in the ninth-inning doesn’t really make sense. This is what we do. This is what we’ve done. The fans don’t have anything to worry about as far as M.O.P. goes. We’re going to continue to bring it. We get most of our fans for the rugged music that we made, but we made those “Blood, Sweat and Tears” joints and the “Dead and Gone” joints. We did those M.O.P. party-kind of joints and we did it our way. We always did it our way without compromising anything that we’ve done in the past.
Have you ever been told to change to “stay relevant” in today’s game by industry execs or fans?
The only way you can expect somebody to change is if they’re comfortable with change. We’re comfortable being us. We do what we do because that’s how we feel inside and that’s what we know. That has never been an issue. I believe one of the companies we were signed to asked us to change something. My last conversation with Biggie, God bless him, was that we had to make a radio record. I was like, ‘I hear you.’ It’s odd how they won’t play your record on the radio, but you pull up to the DJ at the light and they’re breaking their neck to your record. That’s a little weird to me, but it is what it is.
Do DJs support M.O.P. like they should?
Of course not. And you can’t even say that because you can say that because maybe we just don’t make great records that can be played on the radio. If that’s the case and that’s how they feel, then that’s understandable. But if you’re not playing an M.O.P. record because you don’t like M.O.P., then that’s really not the way you should be handling yourself. As a DJ, you shouldn’t be doing that. But they got these program directors and everything now. Maybe it just doesn’t fit their program. That’s cool. I’m not offended by that. That’s cool. But if you’re not playing M.O.P. because you don’t rock like that or if you’re not playing us because you feel like we’re not a group that’s down for ass-kissing, then it really shouldn’t be like that. We continue to do it the way we do it and somebody likes it because I’ve been doing it for a long time and I wouldn’t keep doing it if I wasn’t able to get what I need out of it.
How loyal is the M.O.P. fan?
Very loyal! Very loyal. The only person that I’ve shared fans with over the years that I’ve been in the industry is, I believe, the real hip-hop heads. And if you know hip-hop like I know hip-hop, then you know that those guys don’t ever go anywhere. The only person that I really shared fans with outside of my immediate crew like Gang Starr and Freddie Foxx and those dudes is DMX. Not even the whole Ruff Ryder camp, but with artists like the Lox. These are artists that I don’t mind sharing fans with. These guys made a strong impact on music and across seas and everything. I don’t mind sharing fans with them. Their fans are always there for us and I’m pretty happy with that.
Has the average hip-hop fan changed from when you first came into the game?
They’re changing. Their passion for the music is not changing but their insight is changing. The only way you can get it is from what you see and what you hear and if all you hear is this and all you see is that, then that’s what’s dope to you, even if the first time you heard it, it wasn’t dope. You know how you hear a record for the first time and you don’t really like it, but everybody is playing it and you start singing it? You soon have your own little dance to it and you do your own remix to it. You didn’t like it when you heard it, but you know it because it kept playing in your head.
I think a lot of people are scared to put M.O.P. in certain positions to get us that success that we’ve been fighting for. People look at us like we’re animals and if they put us in certain positions, people are going to have problems. That was true at one point, but we’re grown men. We all have to eat. I’m not going to be fighting in the street. I’m not going to be holding up anyone else’s projects. If you don’t have music from other people, how would you know who to trust and what to like? You need all of that. I’m not mad at all. We’re just waiting to get in that position where we need to be and get these records out.
Do fans misjudge you and think you’re going to be a reckless dude based off your music?
Yeah, of course. All the time. People actually think that we’re fucking animals. That’s why we have those M.O.P. street records. That’s how we survive, by not breaking down to all the madness that we’ve seen over the years. We stay strong and make the records. People think that we’re like that all day. They think that’s all day, every day. They think we’re pissed off all day, every day. I’m not a fronting-ass dude. Even if I wanted to front, I couldn’t be pissed off all day, every day. I couldn’t do that.
There are situations that we have to handle and be wild about. We’ve actually gotten into situations with people because they were being too aggressive around us, but they felt like they had to be that aggressive. M.O.P. is still M.O.P. We’re businessmen, we’re artists and we’re producers. We do a lot of stuff, but we’re just still M.O.P and the M.O.P. that you never really knew. Nothing changed. We started in this game as kids. You can not be mad all day. You can’t want to flip out every time you see somebody. Most of the times when we were in the clubs or the street, it was mostly somebody testing us. It wasn’t like, ‘Let’s go wig out on somebody for no reason.’ That’s not us today and that wasn’t us yesterday.
How do you feel when you see people in clubs and at shows going crazy to your music?
That’s a good thing. It’s a whole different world than what we come from. We come from Compton. We come from Watts. We come from Little Rock, Arkansas, where the gangs are crazy. We come from that wild-ass place in the U.K. We come from there. We come from Brownsville, which is the same. There’s a ghetto all around the world. We’re not supposed to be able to be loved by people in other countries and in other states. We’re not supposed to be looked at as anything other than criminals, drug dealers and stick-up kids. We’re not supposed to be ahead of the game and we’re not supposed to be doing nothing positive to be taking care of our families. When you see that happening and you see the impact you have on the audience…We just did the Czech Republic and there were 30,000 people out there. People were high as hell, and I don’t mean on drugs, but people were high as hell off of that M.O.P. shit. When you see that, it makes you feel like you’re lived and you’re doing it for a purpose.
How hard was it for you to get to that place to where you’re loved worldwide?
Of course we never thought that that would have happened, but as it happened, it was really weird for us, but it was like it was refreshing. It was like a relief. It was like a relief because all our lives, we lived on one block. We never dealt with no other crews or nobody else because we always felt like everybody was against us. To see everybody saying “M.O.P.” at the same time, that’s a relief and I will always cherish that. That’s something that keeps us going. That’s what really keeps us going anyway – the fans.
While fans are waiting for the next M.O.P. album, you have released remix albums and street albums. How important are those projects to keeping the M.O.P. name out there?
I have to be honest with you. I don’t listen to M.O.P. records like I’m a part of the group. I listen to it like a fan. If I don’t hear something for awhile and I hear it, I’ll be happy. It’s really important. I know how people feel when they hear M.O.P. records and they haven’t heard them in awhile. They’re like, ‘This is super-incredible. I remember the feeling when I first heard this record.’ I listen to it like a fan. I think I kind of know how people feel when they’re listening to those M.O.P. records. It’s that adrenaline. They need that adrenaline. We’ll continue to do those side projects until this M.O.P. album comes out. Hopefully people enjoy it and hopefully we can get it out there on a wide scale like that. Hopefully they can see that we still do it for them.
Will we see more from M.O.P. in the next few months?
Of course. Through December, January and February, you’re going to get an onslaught of M.O.P. shit and that will determine how we should put this album out and that will start the promotions for the album and everything. We’ll see what happens. I’m going to make sure HipHopGame gets the joints first. We’ll see what happens. If not, we still have to release those records for our fans. We’ll continue to put records out to make sure that the fans are satisfied.
(Click here for Part 2)