You’ve been working with Scram Jones on your debut album. How’s the album coming?
That’s been coming along real good, man. We got a few other producers that’s working with me. I got this guy out of Chicago named Chi City. I’m working with Buckwild as well. Tha Bizness is working with me. They do beats for G-Unit and stuff like that. The album is crazy.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far recording this album?
Well, it’s really no challenge. My story is crazy. My life story is crazy. It’s like venting. It’s not that hard for me to do. This album is like venting for me.
What inspired you to make “The King is Dead”, your biggest record to date where you have a conversation with Biggie?
Well, actually a few years back, I didn’t take rap that seriously. People used to tell me I sounded just like Biggie. So Scram came up with the idea. He said that when I talk, I don’t sound that way, so I should just calm down a little bit and do both voices so I sound like Biggie and I sound like myself and just come up with an ill concept song. I came up with the song and it was just magic after that. It was probably one of my biggest records and one of the most conceptual records in hip-hop history. People know. Nobody could do that.
You took a meeting with 50 Cent off the success of that record. Did you ever think “The King is Dead” would go as far as it did?
Honestly, it wasn’t a straight meeting. Part of my management works over there and I came to meet him and he was there. He complimented me on the record. Actually it was around the time of Biggie’s anniversary death. WE never sat down to do any deals, but he really said he was interested and that he would help me how he could. Right now he’s really busy. He has a movie going on with Ray Liotta about Hurricane Katrina. He’s out in New Orleans a lot and he’s working on the new G-Unit album. After that, we’ll sit down and we’ll chop it up like we’re supposed to.
Where exactly would you like to sign to today?
I want to be on billboards, No. 1. I don’t feel like I’m just a rapper. A lot of guys have come out from the streets like myself and they tend to go through the battle realm and the diss realm and I feel like my records are bigger than that. I look at myself as a Nelly and Jay-Z, along those caliber of people. I don’t think small. When I do things, I do things big.
How are you going to succeed as a new artist in a game where few are selling albums?
Well, it’s an uphill battle but I got God and good people behind me. If you make the good music and the people see the story and they look at me the way I’m supposed to be looked at, that’s when things will happen. Right now, New York artists are starting to be redundant. They’re starting to sound the same, most of them. You have to realize that we’ve been dominating the game for three decades. The people have been hearing the same people and when the South came and they had access, it was like a breath of fresh air. I’m not saying that it’s better music, but it’s different. That’s what people are looking for. They’re looking for something new. As far as New York goes, I feel like we just need to stop going against each other and start going together. That’s the only way that we’re going to stand. IF you look at other people outside of New York…Look at Eminem. He was on Trick Trick’s single and that helped him go gold and that helped him. Everybody here is at each other’s throat. It’s a competitive state. But when you’re on one side and other people are on the other side, you’re never going to win anything.
You were originally signed to Justo before he passed away. Was it an easy decision to sign to Beast Music after Justo’s passing?
I was introduced to Scram through Justo’s best friend Tytanic, who runs the Mixtape Awards currently. He just brought me to Scram and told me to just work with him. MNE and Scram have been working on records for two and a half to three years.
How has Scram helped you grow as an artist?
Well, Scram is a dope producer and a superior lyricist. He’s a great DJ too. That’s why I call him a triple threat. He understands the aspect as an artist and he also understands the aspect from the music side as well. When you got somebody like that, he knows what people want to hear. On top of that, he also knows what it takes to sell the record. So he always pushes me and tells me he wants me to make some out of the box records. I might want to make a record about a crime I partake in and he’ll tell me to do it like this. When you think about it, he’s kind of like my Dr. Dre.
It’s been three years since Justo’s tragic passing. What was it like working with Justo?
First of all, he was a good friend of mine. We knew each other. I used to be in Tytanic’s house and he used to come by. We built a friendship first before we did business. He was a good guy. I used to beat him in NBA Live. He’s a real good guy. If there was anybody who really loved hip-hop, he was one of them. He was a really humble guy. He taught me a lot when we were together. He always told me to be humble and that’s what I did. I did a song where I said, “I know Just is smiling at me.” He sees what I’m doing and he knows that I’m really down here getting it in. He was a great guy and his son is a good kid. I know his son. And he really loved music.
What kind of an impact did Justo make on the game?
Justo, he left a great legacy because if you think about it, he was one of the only guys, I think he was working for Atlantic if I’m not mistaken, he was working for Atlantic and he was one of the only guys that could break new artists. He actually helped 50 Cent with his career on the mixtapes. So now you got guys six to seven years ago, you wouldn’t see them having a mixtape for themselves. They might be featured on mixtapes. Now guys have their own mixtapes. Look at someone like Papoose. He’s got like 14 mixtapes. That works and that’s wonderful. But at the same token, it probably takes away from artists because if you put all that music on a mixtape, what do you have left for your album? But Justo left a great legacy and at the end of the day, all he did was help hip-hop. He got the music to the masses.
How do you think Justo would have responded to Lil’ Wayne’s “Fuck the DJs” statement?
Wow. That’s a great question. Knowing Justo, he probably would have addressed it by saying that without the DJs, there would be no rapper. If you didn’t have somebody manifesting the music for you, how could you create music? How could you call yourself an MC if you’re saying fuck the DJs? The DJs, they’re like the cook. How are you going to say fuck the cook? You’re not going to eat!
That’s a slick comment by Wayne. I don’t think he was thinking. He was probably high off of that sizzurp shit that he’s been drinking because that was not a wise comment at all. And I think people overrate him too much. He is a dope artist but he’s starting to put out too much bullshit in my opinion.
I take it you don’t like Tha Carter III.
Nah. I heard snippets on it on HipHopGame.com and I wasn’t pleased. I kind of figured that he would come out with something like that. It’s just when somebody says everything you do is hot, you think that and it’s just not true. What people don’t realize with Lil’ Wayne is that he’s been having around with Dipset. People in Harlem have that Harlem swagger. He took that Harlem swagger and he put his little twist on it. He’s not himself. I heard he’s supposed to go to rehab. After he goes to rehab and he comes down back to earth and he realizes the shit he’s been saying, hopefully he’ll fix shit up.
I’ve been listening to Lil’ Wayne for years. I think Tha Carter II, I think, is one his best albums. But anything before that or after that is garbage. And that’s even in question because Gillie the Kid “wrote” most of that album.
What did you think of Jermaine Dupri saying mixtapes are killing hip-hop?
I don’t agree with that. I disagree because mixtapes are a platform for new artists. If you’re not a new artist such as myself and people want to hear more from me and people want to see differently sides of me, financially, an artist like me can’t drop an album because you won’t have the right promotion. Mixtapes are the way to do it. If you’re a good artist, a mixtape is only going to display that. So I disagree with Jermaine Dupri to a certain extent.
How important have the mixtapes been to you getting your name out there?
I feel like I’m a bigger artist than that, but that’s a platform that I have to go through. It’s like when you go to a job interview. You can’t go there with your hoody on and your baggy jeans. You have to go with a suit, your resume and a pad and pencil. You have to go through the avenues to get to where you need to be. The problem with New York artists is that we can’t get out of there.
Look at Maino. I like him as an artist and as a person. He’s a cool dude. But it took him a minute to break out of the mixtape game. He’s got a single but it took him a minute. He’s got a single “Hi Haters” that’s blowing up and I wish him all the success in the world. But he went through those avenues and he made it happen.
It sounds like you have the patience to grind it out.
I mean, you gotta have patience in this game. You got to. It’s all about timing. You have to strike when the iron is hot. If you don’t have patience, you have to get the fuck out of this game. People think that if you have music, you might get seen in the video or you might get seen in a magazine or you even might have a lot of looks on the internet and people assume that you will get millions of dollars. It takes some time. CDs are not selling. People are on the internet. I remember talking to Tony Yayo and he was explaining the importance of the internet blogs. He was explaining how a lot of the population had jobs and when they were home, they were on the computer. When you have a job, you can’t listen to the radio or watch TV, but most of the time, you’re going to be on the computer, so if you got a chance to advertise yourself on the computer, that’s the best thing that you can do. That’s the best promotion you can have right now.
Is promoting yourself online your main priority?
My main priority is trying to get my videos up. I just did a video last week. I’m trying to just get my whole visual up. When people see you and then they read about you, then they feel like they know you. That’s when they trust you and that’s when they’ll go buy your music. They’ll like your music, they’ll like you as a person and they’ll like you vision. It’s like an election. If the people like you and you are who you say you are, they’ll support you and they’ll make you President or whatever else you want to be.
What’s the next move for Haffa?
The next move for me is to keep doing what I do best and that’s to make good music. I got a new mixtape coming called The Cook Up. After that mixtape, by then, I should have some more videos. I should be taking some meetings. I do got some people coming at me. I get a lot of phone calls. Some phone calls are bullshit and some are more genuine than others. But I do get a lot of phone calls as far as what do I want to do. I got approached by someone to be on the Biggie soundtrack, which I think is big. I got a few things coming up. I don’t want to count my chickens before they’re hatched, but I got a lot of things coming up in the near future. The way that I see things, my album will be out at the end of the year and it will probably be one of the best albums.