I was surprised when I first heard about you leaving Aftermath. What triggered this decision?
It’s not really a horrible decision. Dre has taught me a lot. I’ve been with him for seven years or a little bit over seven years, if I’m not mistaken. I feel like I’ve given him the best I had and we just weren’t coming out with enough music. I take everything he taught me and I’m ready to do my own thing. I’ve been gone from Aftermath since the beginning of May and a lot of things have been coming my way and I’m trying to show him that everything he taught me wasn’t in vein.
How did you officially leave Aftermath?
Me and Dre sat down and talked and we were supposed to be going into Detox and I was just telling him pretty much my deal was coming up to an optional close and I told him it was just better for me just to stand on my own two and he was cool with it. He told me that we would be working together in the future and he does want to work with me and I want to work with him. It’s just that right now, I have so much inside of me and nothing was coming out. It stacked up and it stacked up. But we sat down and talked and it was really cool.
Do you think you’ll still be on Detox now that you’re off Aftermath?
I don’t know. I don’t think Dre is vindictive. I don’t think there’s no ill feelings between me and Dre, at all, and there’s no ill feelings between me and Aftermath as a whole. Hopefully my records will stay on. I spoke to him maybe a couple of weeks ago and there were a couple of them that he was deciding to keep on Aftermath. Other than that, I don’t know anything past that.
Did it bother you when you didn’t make it on Eminem’s new album Relapse?
I think, and I gotta be honest about this, it bothers me when we come out with big albums like Get Rich or Die Trying and I could have sworn I had what would have been great for that album and I wasn’t on the album. I’ve learned a lot and it’s just time for me to go. The way that it went with Em was great and maybe I could have fit on there, maybe I couldn’t. But now I just gotta stand on my own two.
Why do you think you weren’t on Relapse?
I had stuff that I tried to submit to him and if you look online today, my boy sent me a link with Eminem and Mr. Porter rapping over “Conglomerate” and that’s my beat. I know I would have had something that would have caught his attention and I know I would have been on Relapse. It might have been my fault. Maybe I wasn’t in the space or whatever. Anything’s possible.
Do you think you’ll be working on any of Aftermath’s other upcoming projects?
I have a great respect for 50, for Em, for Dre, so if they ever ask me for beats, because I know Sha has been asking for beats for Fif and I sent them a batch but it wasn’t what they were looking for. I think a placement is a placement at this point, whether it’s on Aftermath or not. I just want to stay making music. I don’t want to stay making one sound and it’s no disrespect to the masses, but we were stuck on one sound. Now I can show the people all kinds of stuff.
Do you think being “Focus from Aftermath” helped you open doors that you couldn’t have without the cosign?
I think at the end of the day, it opened doors and I can only thank Dre from the bottom of my heart and Aftermath from the bottom of my heart, but now people know what I can do and not being with Aftermath is not going to stop me from making great music. If people aren’t going to mess with me because I don’t have that at the end of my name, then so be it. Those people were just there for that season but I’m going to be around for a long time making music and me and Dre still have a great rapport. It is what it is.
Do you feel more pressure to produce now that you’re on your own?
No. This is probably the least amount of pressure I’ve felt in my entire life. When it comes down to working under your mentor and somebody you look up to and you’re directly under his tutelage, that’s pressure, when you’re trying to make sure he likes what you’re doing. Now there’s no pressure to it. I’m just doing what I love to do and it’s working out.
What kind of reaction did you get from your A-Fam family when you told them you were leaving Aftermath?
Oh, man, everything has been positive. Everybody knows that I didn’t leave under bad terms. It’s all been positive. Dre gave me blessings. Chino called and gave me blessings along with Bishop and Busta. Everybody has been really positive, including my own A-Fam label. Nobody thinks I made a dumb decision. And I don’t say this to disrespect anybody, but a lot of people stay under Dre because they’re afraid to stand on their own two feet. And I’m not afraid. Dre gave me a lot of tools to use and a lot of tools to show people that I’m a certified producer and I gotta show ‘em. I can’t show him that I sat there and didn’t learn nothing.
What kind of lessons are you taking away from Aftermath and Dr. Dre?
As far as the stuff that I’ve learned from being with Dre and Aftermath, it’s definitely about patience and when you work on your tracks, a lot of people try to put them out real fast and I’ve learned about taking my time and making sure there are different elements than what people are playing on the radio. I’m not sitting here trying to please a small audience but to go universal. I learned that here because I could have made regional tracks and been hot in my ‘hood. Dre wants every track to rock the world. He’s not even thinking about California. He’s thinking about Germany and all over the place. I learned a lot. I learned a lot over there and all of it is big to me because it’s all on a big scale.
What projects are you going to concentrate on now?
When me and Dre came to the end of the deal, I started working with Christina Aguilera. I’m going to be on her project and that’s a blessing. I’m on Busta’s new album and right now, my biggest thing is to break a new artist. I’ve been building my label and actually sitting down and mixing more as well as producing and writing. I noticed with Dre, he mixes a lot. he mixes all of his stuff so he knows exactly how it’s going to sound on the radio. So I’m not sending my stuff out to be mixed anymore. I do everything. So right now I’m just really, really focusing on being a better producer and breaking my new artists. That’s all that’s in my head right now.
I’m working on Kida and Al Gator at the same time. Kida’s my West Coast rapper and Gator’s my down south rapper. They both know they have to get their names out and their sounds are amazing. Kida has a mixtape coming out this summer and Gator has a project he’s been working on. I’m excited for both of them right now.
How far do you think you can take Kida and Al Gator?
It’s a 50/50 thing. I can do as many tracks as I can. I’m mixing them and all that. They have to get the buzz. You can’t “take a rapper” anywhere. Anybody that’s getting looked at has a 50% buzz already. If they can get some more hits then it’s even better for them. These rappers have to create their own buzz before they can do anything and it can’t just be a thousand people. There has to be a lot of people on the ‘net who know who they are before they can do anything.
What do you think is the best way to break a new artist today?
The past six or seven months I’ve been putting out a lot of free music. I think the internet has to be your friend. The minute you make yourself unavailable on the internet, they’re going to find your stuff and put it up for free. I’ve been putting a lot of stuff up for free and I’m going to get everybody to see those things and once we do that, we’re going to go for the album. We’re just utilizing the internet right now.
What upcoming albums do you want to be a part of?
Everybody, man. Everybody. Whoever wants to work with me, I’m open. It’s that simple. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Hal Linton. He’s signed over at Motown. He’s an R&B artist but he has a very Caribbean feel because he’s from Barbados. He’s an amazing artist and I’ve done some new tracks with him. I got to work with Busta Rhymes too. He’s a legend and my big brother. I’ve been working with Chino XL and Marsha Ambrosias and Sterling Sims. Anybody who’s coming to me and knocking on my door, I’m ready to work, like Stat Quo and all of them. I’m just ready to work.
Why do you think you and Chino XL work so well together?
Because I don’t ever, ever ask him to do anything but to be him and he doesn’t do anything but to ask me to be me. And I understand who he is. Chino is a legend and he’s just a beast. If you give him the right beat he’s going to be able to eat it alive. He’s amazing on his own. Every time I call him and I tell him I’m feeling like this way and I send him a beat, he rips it perfectly. We’re have a couple more things coming out, called Reconstruction and he has an album coming out called The Secret that I’ve done the majority of the tracks for, so I’m really excited about that.
Would you rather make great music with artists like Chino XL and never get a huge amount of airplay or work with artists who will get spins but maybe won’t make great music?
I would rather work with cats that are going to do my music justice. So being honest, I would rather work with a Chino XL than cats that are just on the radio right now. I love the fact that these cats are getting on the radio and making this noise, but there's no longevity in a single. There’s longevity in being legendary and no matter what, people are going to look back and remember what Chino and Focus did. Whether it’s mainstream or not, they’re going to remember what we’ve done.
What was it like recording “Conglomerate” with Busta Rhymes?
That’s big brother! Busta came to the studio when I was in L.A. and I was just going through beats and Busta knows what he needs and what he wants. It was just amazing. There was a time when I would sit down and watch Leaders of the New School and Tribe Called Quest and I always wanted to meet him; not just work with him, meet him. Now they work with me. Busta came through and he grabbed “Conglomerate” and he sat on it for awhile but he said when he did it, it would be epic and he did exactly what he said.
What did you think of Eminem’s Relapse?
I think Dre and Eminem are, like, the perfect team. I don’t know how else to put it because there’s a lot of stuff on there (laughs) where Em is really pushing the boundaries past all the other albums. I think they’re the perfect team. Dre understands who Em is and Em understands who Dre is, so they make great projects. It’s a good album. It’s a good album. It’s not The Marshall Mathers LP, which is my favorite album, but it’s a good album. It’s good to hear him after five years.
Kid Cudi and Drake are two artists that are on the verge of really blowing up right now, along with a few others. What new artists are you feeling right now?
Um…man, you’re putting me on the hot block but I’m going to have to be real with it. As far as the music is concerned, nobody is trying to be different and this is no disrespect to Kid Cudi or Drake. Drake is a good dude and I worked with him on Detox but everybody is making the same track over and over again. They need to be pushing the producers to make something outside of the box. You’re really not hearing too much new stuff on the radio. You’re just hearing records that blend well together in the club.
Do you think the music is going to get worse before it gets collectively better?
I think we are at the worst point. I think when you can’t tell an artist from another artist or a producer from another producer, we have reached the lowest point. It just takes somebody who’s not afraid to go left, and I’m not just staying the producers but the executives who are afraid to lose their jobs so they’re signing the same shit over and over again. When you get cats in a good position who can sign somebody new, then we’re going to get a good change.
The last time we did an interview you talked about how all your new beats had to sit in the Aftermath pipeline for a few months before you could give them to other artists. Are you happy you don’t have to go through that anymore?
Always. That’s the biggest blessing in this whole thing because I just love to make music. It’s good that everybody is hearing what I can do now.
Do you feel like having your beats sit for awhile before they could actually come out and be used killed your motivation and inspiration?
Every day. That was the biggest pressure and biggest stress, just trying to please the powers that be at Aftermath. It does wear and tear on you and it makes you question yourself and think you’re not good enough. I read the blogs and it does matter to me what the listeners think of my music and a lot of these listeners, they critique you like you’re not a person. They’ll talk about how I shouldn’t be with Dre and he should get somebody else. It does wear and tear at you but I try to do the best I can and the people who love it, they really do love it.
Do you think you’ll change some minds now that you can put whatever you want out whenever you want to?
(laughs) I think the people that don’t believe in me and didn’t believe in me are going to continue to not believe in me and I’m happy for them and I hope that God blesses them ten-fold. Why? Because we all need haters. They keep us relevant as well as the people that love us. If everybody loved me, I’d have a problem. (laughs)