You have a new album dropping, God Save the King. It’s a great album, same dope lyrics but definitely a shift to more spiritual lyrics. What made you include more spirituality in your lyrics? Was it both of your parents passing?
It actually wasn’t. I’ve been saved since I was 16. I never didn’t believe in Christ. I was just too selfish and caught up with trying to prove to the world that I could rap. In the back of my mind I think I had what most Christians have, which is this plan to do what I want to do for me and then I’ll catch up with God later. That was always my plan, which is an ignorant plan because you don’t know when you’re going to die. I almost quit rapping for the Lord when I was 17. It’s not really anything new, it’s just that I couldn’t run from it any longer. I think there was a point in high school when I was spazzing out on Jesus tracks. It’s definitely nothing new. People that really know me know that it’s nothing new. I just couldn’t run from it anymore. The things I was caught up in before, like going out, wilding out, getting wasted, random chicks, it wasn’t…It made me feel guilty and it terrified me. It wasn’t fun anymore and I just couldn’t do it anymore, man. It didn’t do anything for me anymore but worry me. I just had to do what I had to do for me, but you know, man, I just try to be the type of Christian that God wants me to be. I don’t judge people, man. I’m no better than anybody else. If you judge somebody, first of all, that’s not what we’re here to do. The world is messed up, basically, dude, and that’s why I’m a Christian. I’m not better than anybody else because I’m a Christian. I’m a Christian because I’m a total mess-up and I need Christ in my life. That’s it.
When did you feel like you didn’t have to prove you could rap anymore?
On Life and Times [of Peter Nelson], after all that stuff started and I lost my mom and I lost my Grandpa and dealing with the loss of Camu and seeing all sorts of people dying and seeing how fragile life is, because my mom died out the blue, man. She didn’t have any illness. She just died out the blue. My sister went in her bedroom and saw her dead laying in her bed. Life is fragile and I used Life and Times as therapy, which is probably, I’m sure that’s what it sounds like. Dude, I don’t know, man. It just got to a point where it’s like, people know what you do. When I was making Life and Times, I made it a point to try to help other people who were going through pain with my music because I could relate to them and I figured they could relate to me. I figure I’ll be the voice that speaks for them and I’ll make some music so they can say, “Hey, there’s somebody else that’s going through what I’m going through. Now I got some theme music to help me through my painful day.”
Have your fans responded the way you wanted them to?
Yep. Exactly as I hoped they would. The magazines, exactly as I wanted to. It’s funny, when XXL gave me the XL rating, the review is almost exactly verbatim what I was hoping for. So everything came out right on that album. I feel like it’s a little bit slept on, but hopefully when this one drops people will go back to Life and Times and The High Exhaulted too. I feel like people slept on it but it’s all good. It’s to be expected, man.
How do you feel hearing your older music today?
I like it. I feel like it’s good for the time it came out. I feel like my flow could be more refined. You know, you just look at it, like I’m sure you look at old interviews and wonder why you did it like that and if you knew what you know now you would do it like this. It’s like, ‘Why didn’t I know back then to do it like this?’ But it’s dope. It’s raw. I’m proud of all my work, except the only song I made that I hate is “Let Me In.” I can’t stand that song. I knew it was a filler when I was writing it and I hate that song. But yeah, man, I’m proud of every song I’ve done. There’s nothing I listen to and cringe when I hear it. I’m happy with High Exhaulted. I’m happy I made it. It represents a time in my life when everything was carefree and I was just trying to show people I could rap.
I remember talking to you a few years ago and you said you hated that album and couldn’t listen to it.
(laughs) You know what? I guess that’s probably because at that point, so many people only had that to reference to. I definitely don’t hate The High Exhaulted at all. I don’t know. Maybe I was over-exaggerating, trying to prove a point. I’m really proud of High Exhaulted and happy I made it. I just wish that I would have made it more well-rounded and more concept songs but it’s not like I learned anything new after that. I knew how to make an album, but I just was being stubborn. I just wanted to show people that you couldn’t F with me on the mic. I made countless metaphors and meanings and it wasn’t an accident and it wasn’t like I could only do that on two or three songs. I could do it all day and I wanted to show people that I knew exactly what I was doing and that I could do it all day.
Do you still feel a need to prove yourself to people?
No. I feel that need. I feel that need often. I’m about to do a song with Chino and [Planet] Asia and Bronze Nazareth. I have to write my verse today and they’re all beasts on the mic. I feel like when you let your guard down you stop being as nice as you can be. Even when I’m writing emotional songs or conceptual songs, you have to be as sharp as you can be. I’m my own worst critic and if I don’t like the first two bars I won’t record it. I’m OCD with my writing. If I don’t like the first two bars I won’t record it.
Does it take awhile for your albums to come together?
Yeah, man. It all depends. If I’m clear-headed and if things aren’t going all crazy in my life then I can sit down and focus. God Save the King has been done since back in August, it’s been finished, but we just had to wait for it to get a proper release. We didn’t want it to come out in the fourth quarter with so many albums coming out and so many independent albums, like Torae and Evidence. I feel like my album would have got overlooked because there was so much heat dropping, so I just figured to wait for the new year. But it all depends, man. I’ve been writing for so long that I know exactly, not to sound cocky, how to eliminate the filler and get exactly what I want to say on paper.
Speaking of longevity, we’ve been doing interviews for eight, nine years at this point. What’s motivated you to keep going and not give up?
I guess I really like it, man. It’s just a part of me. It’s a part of who I am. It’s a major part of who I am. I abandoned wanting to be a cartoonist for rap and I don’t know, man, I really like doing it. I’m always eager to get better at doing it. I feel like I can always get better, so I don’t know. I think I make pretty decent music, man. I think I’m one of the lyricists that picks good beats. I don’t think I pick horrible beats. I just like doing it, man. I like putting together sounds and putting together new patterns. I’m always writing down ideas or emailing myself ideas. I just have so much stuff that I want to put out in rap that I don’t see people doing.
Where does God Save the King stand in your discography?
Dude, honestly, I feel like it’s my best album. I feel like everybody says that when they put out a project, but I really do. If I were to describe it to somebody I would say it’s High Exhaulted meets Life and Times. I consider everything that I’ve done before kind of like college. All the stuff that I’ve learned and all the mixtapes that I’ve done, The Jerk, High Exhaulted, Life and Times, I applied it all to this album and I finally, I don’t know, man, I feel like I just figured out what I was doing on my last album in terms of making an album and putting the tracklisting together and knowing how to make an album and knowing how to finesse an album. A lot of the songs on there are raw. It’s not a lot of…I mean, I feel like Life and Times is a more mature album than this. This is a lot of clowning around and raunchy metaphors. I’m talking about spiritual things in songs too. This is my favorite joint. This is the joint that I’m most proud of, for sure.
It sounds like you’re okay with balancing raunchy punchlines with spirituality.
It is what it is. To be real with you, I wrote all those songs and recorded all those songs before I decided to make a change in my life. It wasn’t until May that I decided to make a change that I couldn’t live like that anymore, and I made it into music. I know a lot of my fans are the way they are. A lot of my fans dabble with drugs and they run around and wild out. That’s the kind of person I was and can be on any given bad night, so I guess that’s the kind of people my music attracts. But maybe it will take my raw songs to get them to listen to what I have to say about the spiritual things.
I’m always going to destroy the mic, no matter what. I’m me. I’m not just, over the night, turn into a person that’s not me, but it is what it is, man.
Was “White Democrats” a jab to Asher Roth?
Nah, man. What we were doing, when Nas and Jay had their beef and got together and squashed it, they called it “Black Republicans.” Me and Mac had our differences and squashed it. Shout out to Mac, real cool dude. We called it “White Democrats” and wanted to see if anybody gets it. I know why you said it, I said an Asher Roth line and he said one. Personally, I said it because I needed something to rhyme. I was just rhyming and I think he was just rhyming too and playing with words. But it’s always fun to jab at people that you, at one point, had an issue with. But it’s no big deal. If I saw that dude, I’d buy him a matzo ball or something.
What music inspires you today?
Oh, man. If we’re talking about hip-hop, it’s gotta be, like, Jay. It’s gotta be, like, Biggie. It’s gotta be newer cats like Jay Elec. It’s gotta be Royce. It’s gotta be Crooked. Crooked, to me, is maybe my favorite. There’s some Christian MCs who are incredible, Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle, Eshon Burgandy, and Believin’ Stephen. I shouldn’t have to say “Christian MC” before their names but I guess that’s so cats can find them a little easier. If we’re talking about rock, it’s Radiohead. I really want to make an album that sounds like a Radiohead album, but with rhyming. Doing with rhymes what they do with instruments.
Where do you see your music going in the future?
I have no idea, man. I have no idea. All I can say is I’m going to keep it as honest as possible and keep it as new and fresh and not try to do what everybody else is doing and try not to do what I’ve already done.
Is the O.Dot crew still around?
Nah, dude. Tage, from Megahurtz, is about to drop a solo. He’s got Oh No on production. It’s incredible. People might just wake up when they hear this. Jakki is still doing stuff. Dom, I guess he really doesn’t care too much about music. Catalyst doesn’t really care too much about music. I mean, bro, Catalyst is a mind-blowing MC. Everybody in Columbus always nags him and bugs him about why isn’t he doing anything. He doesn’t care. I try to get all my friends motivated but I can’t make them want to rap. We’re all together, man. They just don’t care. They really just don’t want it.
It sounds like you’re putting more a focus on MHz in the future.
Yeah. I’m focused on who wants to make music and more on myself. To be honest with you, I’ve said in some interviews that I don’t care about rap. That’s maybe an exaggeration. I care about rap, but it’s maybe not the first thing on my list. I’ve done it for so long and I know it’s going to be there so I don’t have to force it to be there. It’s like me saying that I care about my hands. I don’t know that my hands are always going to be there but I’m going to wake up with my hands and ask about what I’m going to do about my left hand tomorrow. It’s going to be there. I don’t know, man. It’s cool. I’m trying to work with who wants to work and Tage is super-motivated and we’re about to do this MHz with RJ and Jakki and Tage and we got a few Camu verses in the vault. We’re trying to do something real, real, real crazy. Real innovative. Try to do something that’s not too standard in hip-hop.
I think fans will really appreciate that.
Yeah, man. We’ve got, like, ten songs done. The songs we have are really, really, really dope.
You haven’t been in any lyrical beefs lately. Are you staying away from that now?
I tried to squash beef with everybody who had a problem with me or I’ve had a problem with in the past. That door is still open. I don’t harbor or hold grudges. Cats out there who I may have had an issue with ten years ago or five years ago, or whatever, we should just squash it and make some good music or just squash it. I’m not the type that wants to have beef with people. I guess that’s the Christian in me. I want to make peace with everybody I’ve always had a problem with over some dumb music. Life’s too short for all that.
Anyone in particular that you’d like to squash it with?
Yeah. Like, really, truthfully, Cage and Apathy. Those are two cats that we’ve had our very small differences in the past and it’s not because I want to make music with them, necessarily. It’s because, bro, we’re all humans. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be at peace with each other. Those are probably the only two cats. And you know it’s on mind if I’m going to say it in an interview. You know it’s heavy on my heart if I’m going to say it in an interview. I’ll take the blame. I guarantee I had something to do with it but I’ll apologize. I’m embarrassed at things I’ve done in the past and I’ve acted immaturely. I feel like those are two talented brothers and I would like to not have any stupid ill will between any of us.
I feel like there’s a misunderstanding and people think I’m a different way than I am. People think I’m a super-jerk but when you rap, you become a super character and you become an exaggeration of yourself in certain songs. You take a thought and you exaggerate it to the tenth power. You take all of your egotistical, jerk thoughts and you put it to a verse but that’s not how a person is in real life. I could see how cats don’t want to come first because they think they’re going to put out their hand and you’re just going to leave it hanging. But I don’t think any of us are like that. We’ve all been in this game for over a decade. Obviously we’re all doing something right. There’s no reason we should all be enemies.
Honestly, we should have some kind of union in underground hip-hop because there’s a lot of labels selling our underground albums and we’re not making any money off it but somebody is. Like, I still see The High Exhaulted in stores and I’m not getting paid for this. Somebody is. All the underground artists who know each other and can get a hold of each other should form some sort of union and make sure that we can all get paid from our old albums but we can’t do any of that if we’re all too busy beefing with one another and we can’t get along and we think somebody hates us. It’s not like that with me, man. I’ll sit down and squash it with anybody. After I lost Camu and certain members of my family, I don’t hold onto any of that. Life’s too short.