I’m chilling, brother. I’m in New York.
You’ve been quiet for awhile. What have you been up to?
Basically I’ve just been working on music again. We’re working on contracts. I separated ways with my label, M.O.B. Records. I’m doing CLK Entertainment and doing it myself. The view and the focus I have for my music was different from theirs so we had to separate ways.
At what point did things start to go wrong with M.O.B. Records?
Basically when I came in the industry, I had a “do it ourselves” policy. We started doing different business and they wanted me to water it down. They started following the industry too much and that wasn’t what I had in mind. I don’t know. There was no disagreement or real issues except that the direction wasn’t right. That’s how I was feeling. It’s not my style, so I chose to just do my thing in my own way. That’s what we’re doing now.
Where do you want to take your music right now?
Right now, where Cuban Link is at is giving that fire that the streets need and that the radio needs. I have to get it there. It’s not like I want revenge on the industry. I just know how they work and I don’t agree with all of their methods of doing it. I just want to bring the realism of that from my circle and bring it from that point because we need to get that real hip-hop on the radio.
You’ve spoken in the past about feeling blackballed from the rap industry. Do you still feel blackballed today?
It’s still the same. As long as I got beef with that dude and he’s in a higher position, his job is to keep me down. He has to do that because my rise is his downfall. It’s to the point where he’s doing what he has to do and I’m doing what I have to do. Basically the avenues get cut short because of the beef and what we have between us. There are a lot of people in the industry and I can’t blend into the industry. We came from the outside into the industry and that’s what we’re going to do. The blackballing is still on, like some secret society-type shit. But it’s still there.
What would it take for you and Joe to not necessarily be friends but to not have beef with each other?
It would take nothing. There is no way we could do that. That’s the bottom line. It’s irreparable. You can’t fix that. It’s done. It’s not me being hard-headed. It’s just that the policy of trust is broken and when trust means life or death, it means life or death. If I trust you and if I come to an agreement with you and you violate your word, I can’t trust you. Something else can happen later where I can lose my life. I can not trust him.
Yeah, we could stop the beef on a respectful thing but I don’t feel he’s a respectful person when it comes to that. That’s the image I got and that’s the image he showed me. I can never trust him. I would rather have him say, “Fuck you” to my face and I could say, “Fuck you” to his face because it’s straight up. It’s not no snake shit.
Remy Martin said she wouldn’t mind working with you in the future. Is that possible?
That’s my baby. With Terror Squad, it’s always been love and for a great reason. She’s always fucked with realness. With Remy, God bless her, I hope she gets over the situation she’s in and if she wants to do songs, I’m here. She knows that.
What advice would you offer to her today?
What is done is done. I don’t know the facts, but get that good lawyer and get the fuck up out of that situation. She’s just starting her career. She’s more of a veteran for all of the time that she’s been behind the scenes. She’s like me. She should have been out a long time ago and she’s just starting to come out and she’s just starting to shine. She’s one of the illest female MCs. She’s almost at her peak. She’s separated from Joe. She’s doing her own thing. I know some people are sitting down right now and laughing. These things happen. Things happen that are real when you’re in the streets and as artists, we have to compose ourselves. We all have verbal disputes, but you have to try your best to just walk away or be loyal.
Are you still in touch with Triple Seis today?
Yeah. Seis is my brother still. We started together and we’ll end together. I still talk to him. He’s chilling. He’s doing his thing. You’ll probably hear a new project from him coming soon. He’s working on something big.
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of up-and-coming MCs shout out that they’re the next Pun. How do you feel when you hear them say that?
I feel like they’re trying to gain from Pun. If you respect Pun and if you’re a fan of Pun…It’s an industry norm for a Spanish rapper to be on some lyrical shit and the industry will be like, ‘Oh, he’s the next Pun’ or, ‘He sounds like Pun.’ That’s the norm in the industry for what Pun did for Latinos. He went platinum and he put us on the map like that. The industry is like that though. I don’t hear nobody that sounds like Pun right now, whether they’re Spanish or not Spanish. When I hear somebody that really, really sounds like Pun…Joell Ortiz’s voice at times sounds like Pun’s voice, but his format and how he rhymes is not. He has his own style. Tru Life has his own style. They’re Spanish and they can rap, but their format and the way they put their words together is in their own unique way. I don’t hear nobody sounding like Pun now.
Do you think it’s disrespectful for artists to say they’re the next Pun?
Me, as an open-minded dude, I don’t take it as far as others might. The idea of a Spanish rapper telling me that is that he wants to reach the top like Pun did. I have rappers tell me they’re just like Pun and I have to tell them, ‘Hell no!’ Nobody will ever be as nice as Pun. I think they just want to shine like Pun and have the hardcore essence of Pun. Pun didn’t just come with lyrics. It was his character and it was his presence. I don’t think they want to be like Pun. They just want to blow up like Pun and go platinum like Pun. I don’t take it as anything personal when they say that.
You’re constantly associated with Pun because of your history with him. Do you ever feel like fans don’t get past that association and look at Cuban Link as a solo artist?
Yeah. It definitely does happen. Pun and me had that bond. We were brothers where you couldn’t get in between us as far as friendships. Even with our music, it was brotherly love all across the board. We always thought alike. Before he had an idea, I knew what he was thinking. It was like telepathy. I know what my brother would want me to do. Before I do that, of course I have to look at myself and my next move. I didn’t get to do what I needed to do because of Joe. I have to step it up. The respect is there on some real street shit and some real lyrical shit, but as far as taking over where I need to take over, I still need to conquer that. I still need to make that song for the world where I can get radio play and club play. I still need to conquer that. Pun is Pun and Cuban is Cuban and I know how to separate that and take it now as if it is for the both of us.
How do you balance rhyming in English versus in Spanish?
It’s just a thing that came. With this reggaeton thing and the Don Omar’s and the Daddy Yankee’s, it definitely inspired me to take the Spanish thing to another level. When I came in the game I was saying words in Spanish and I let the people know that I was Latino. I always made Latin-influenced songs like “Donde.” I was always putting a little Spanish twist into it, but when they came out and took it to the next level, it inspired me to take it to the next level. I was like, ‘Let me try this shit. Let me try this avenue of music.’ Hip-hop is fun to me in whatever form it’s in. But when you’re Latino and you’re not doing rhymes in Spanish, you get looked at as fake. I really took it serious where I had to make sense and I had to pronounce words exactly the way it is before people think it’s fake. It wasn’t really a problem.
It’s actually a little more fun in Spanish because I can have more fun with it. I can make people dance more in Spanish. In English, I have to be more focused with putting lyrics together for real niggas and so people can hear me and real people can feel me. I want to make songs that will be heard ten years from now. That’s my mind-frame when I rhyme in English. I’m actually working on a Spanish album now. It’s called Hijo de la Calle, which is “Street’s Son.” I’m working on that. I’m working on that on the Spanish side only where the Spanish people can get access to it and it will let them know what Cuban is about. It’s the same as it would be in English but there’s a different market for that. We’re going to put that out at the same time as the English album and just push it out there.
Despite everything you’ve been through, you still have a very loyal fanbase. Why is that?
I’m very thankful for that and for them allowing me to share my art and my hip-hop with them. I’m a very humble dude. I don’t have too much pride. I’m very humble and very real with my stuff. You’ll hear in my music that everything I do is real. When people hear that, they’re appreciative because there’s not too much stuff like that today. It’s all entertainment and the glamour and the lights can blind a lot of people. It doesn’t blind me. I never stopped being the dude I was from when I came into the game. A lot of fake people hate me and a lot of real people love me. I would rather take the real people.
How would you describe your fanbase?
My fans that are feeling my emotions, they cry when I cry. They’re happy when I’m happy. It’s just that connection. If you listen to my records, it sometimes feels like I’m right there telling you that, living it in front of you. That’s what I’ve tried to portray from the beginning. I’m trying to show you another side of me and the fans understand that from me. When I say something that’s real, they know it’s real. There’s no asking questions because of the way I said it. They knew “Letter To Pun” was real. There was no way I could fabricate that. If they say it’s fake, that’s a Cuban Link hater. Maybe they’re just saying that because Cuban Link doesn’t interest them that much or maybe they have love for the other side or maybe they’re about the shine and the glamour. The shine and the glamour is later. It’s about the real emotions with my fans. When I shine, I shine with everybody. That’s the difference.
Your last album was Chain Reaction. Are you happy with how that album did?
I’m happy. It was a movement. It was a great movement. When you’re dealing with Cuban, you can’t hit them with one knockout. You have to keep hitting them. It’s a process. We were supposed to drop the next album on M.O.B. to get to where we needed to get to. It did kind of well in my eyes. There was a lot of money spent on it from an independent point of view. The industry just was moving slow. Music wasn’t being sold like that. You only had three top artists that were making money like that at the time. Those guys had that shit locked. We moved 100,000. It was a success to me in my eyes. Even to the M.O.B. guys it was a success. It was good.
What’s the next move for Cuban Link?
We’re working on this Chain of Command album. That’s No. 1. These fans and the streets have been waiting for a long time. It’s a situation where the politics are getting involved more than the music and the avenues are a little more difficult. Just know that. I’m definitely working on the Chain of Command and the Spanish album. It’s just those two projects right there. I have a trailer to my new reality show that I’m doing with the cameras following me around. We’re doing it from the start again where the heart is. It’s a beautiful feeling. The hunger is still there. I ain’t losing it.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Good looking for being a fan and for even knowing Cuban Link like that. Expect nothing but the best from me with the music. Real is real. Real recognize real and I’ll always be real to my peoples. We just have to get on Hot 97’s ass and Power 105’s ass and let them know that Cuban Link is still around. But there’s been a lot of politics surrounding my projects when they come out because of the beef and friendships, but as long as the streets feel my music and as long as the people that feel my music hear my music, I’m good. I’m gracious. I’m very thankful. I can’t ask for more than that. The streets control it at the end of the day. If we put enough pressure on the radio, the radio will understand what it is.