Your new single “Show Stopper” is now out. Are you happy with the feedback you’ve gotten so far?
I’m happy with the buzz I’m getting. When I wrote that record, I wrote it awhile ago and at the time I thought it was missing something. So then we figured Slim would be a good fit for it. We reached out to him and he thought the record was hot and we made it happen. The people that I’ve played it around, they’re feeling it.
Not everyone knows who Five is yet. Why should people be checking for you?
Because I have a real story. A lot of people get industry and a lot of New York rappers and rappers in general, they become who they always wanted to be through music and I just tell my story as it is. I’ve been through a lot of real shit. I feel like a lot of people will be able to relate to me regardless of what kind of music you used to like and what region you’re from. You’ll be able to relate to me. I’ve done five years in jail. I’ve been out for the last year and my name is getting up and my buzz is getting up and people are starting to realize what a talent I have.
How did your time in jail help inspire “Prison”?
Actually going through it and living it, you see that it’s nothing to really glorify. A lot of people try to make records like that and all they talk about is what they were doing in jail and they talk about it like it’s cool and that’s not a cool thing. It’s nothing to be glorified. I try to paint that picture. Why the glorification? You’re in the basement. Going through it and living it and realizing it, you realize that there comes a time when you try to let a certain part of your life go and that’s what I learned from that and that’s where my name Five comes from. Those give years changed my whole life. Anything before those five years doesn’t really matter.
How do you feel hearing rappers glorifying prison and negative images in their music?
It does bother me in a sense but any person that’s really been through it and really lived it and really learned from it, they know that those people talking about it never really did it. It pisses me off at times but then I remember that anybody who really lived it knows the difference between people who really lived it and who didn’t really live it. Rappers get prison and jail confused. County jail is one thing. Prison is a-whole-nother thing.
How much more focused do you think you are because of where you’ve been in the past?
I’m hungry like that, I guess, because I realize how much time I wasted bullshitting and I know when I listen to hip-hop and the state of hip-hop, it’s kind of insulting. Hip-hop raised me. It used to be when you listened to music it taught you what to do in the streets and what to wear and what not to wear.
Now the game is selfish. They’re making music to make themselves rich. They’re not making songs for the people. I’m starving to make good music for people to believe in hip-hop again and to believe that they have a reason to listen. I’m not trying to say no dumb shit like ‘I’m what the game needed! I’m what rap was missing. I’m the new this and the new that.’ No. I’m just telling a real story that people can relate to and I’m hungry to tell that story.
I see a window and I’m going for that window. The heavyweight championship is wide open and all these guys are worried about the middleweight belt, trying to duplicate each other and it’s just, I don’t know, I’m just starving right now and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit here and let these dudes who have never been through nothing and never lived nothing get rich off of my life that I’m not proud of.
You have a variety of songs, like the somber “Prison” and more upbeat songs like “Show Stopper.” How do you balance the type of music you make?
I make music off of experiences and things I see. Somebody could go through something and I can just make a song off of that. Something I see today tells me to make a song. That’s how I write. I write about real issues. Anybody can relate to it because I talk about real stuff. When you talk about real situations, you don’t have to think of crazy things. You can just make real music and paint a picture of real life. I have so many songs and they’re so diverse. Anybody who has ever been through anything will understand my songs and understand my story. Anybody who has ever had to deal with the pluses and the minuses of anything, they will understand my music. It’s just about the pluses and minuses of everyday life.
Ski Beatz produced “Prison” for you. What did you learn working with him?
The thing with him was he just wanted me to make what I was feeling. He told me to make what was in my heart. We didn’t have too many back and forth issues when we were in the studio. He got on the board and told me to double up on some things. Other than that he didn’t have no changes for me. He saw my passion and felt where I was going. He dealt with people on those same types of songs and he just realized that my angle was a lot realer because I talked about the negative parts of it and not just the bullshit that everybody sees on TV. I talked about the emotional parts of it and what they feel in their heart while they’re sitting in there. You worry about your family and your kids. Anybody can survive prison physically. It’s the mental side that does you in. I wanted to show that side on “Prison”.
You also recorded “Down Under” with Akon. How did you make that collaboration happen?
I was dealing with some people in the Netherlands who had worked with Akon’s management team over there and they just sent me the track. They sent me the track. I never was in the studio with Akon or spoke with Akon. I just got the track, did it and they loved it. That was that.
How have you made these big collaborations happen with no huge budget behind you?
It’s just about being a real dude. The people I happen to work with happen to be real individuals. It wasn’t even about the money. They felt what I was doing and they were willing to reach out. There was some money but it wasn’t nothing compared to what the average person would have to pay to get something done.
You’ve released all of your mixtapes for free download in the past. How important has that been to getting your name out and your movement?
That’s been real important just because I’m letting the people know that it’s for them. It’s not really about me trying to make a dollar off of it. I make music. Music comes easy to me. I just make music and tell my story. I know people can relate to it and I want them to hear it. I know they’re getting all this garbage that’s out on the airwaves right now. It’s cool to have drug dealer songs and party songs and gangster songs but we’re at that point in time where people need balance and there is no balance in the game. I just wanted to give some of that with free music.
Why did you choose the title Star Power for your debut album?
The reason I chose Star Power is because I wanted to point out the difference between me and all these new artists that are out here because they don’t possess that. They don’t have the ability to be stars. The music that I’m making is so broad and I have a lot of big records. The thing we’re doing with this album is we’re trying to figure out what’s not going to make it. We would have 38 songs on it if we put everything on it. We’re trying to figure out where it needs to be and we got a distribution deal through Fontana and Universal. The album will be out early ’09 in late January or early February.
What do you have to do from now until then to get people ready for it?
Just flood the streets with more music. Just keep giving them more music. There’s a couple of marketing strategies we’re working on and we have a few tricks up our sleeves. It’s really about making good music that will speak for itself. People know good music. I’m a lyricist. I can write and I can flow over everything. There hasn’t been a complete person in the game like me in a long time as far as my look, what I can write about and how I can say it, my story…I don’t think there has ever been a person as complete as me has ever been in the game, period.
When we talk a year from now, what are we going to be talking about?
We’re going to be talking about this interview. You’re going to say to me that you said you were going to be a star and you damn-sure did it and you’ll probably thank me for just being real with you, like, ‘I appreciate you being a real dude.’ That’s what anybody who ever dealt with me said about me. In my heart I know what I am and I know what I’ve always been. I just have that ability to stand out and shine. I just chose to stand out and shine at the wrong shit in the past. A year from now we’re going to be talking about how I’m a star and how it’s good to be doing another one.