Your new mixtape Black Mask Black Gloves is out almost a year after your debut album For the Hell of It. That’s a pretty fast turnaround.
Yeah. It’s a street album. I don’t want people to get it confused. I was off the scene for a little bit and I wanted to come back and drop a Hiroshima bomb.
What’s the difference between a Hell Rell album and mixtape?
The budget, really. Everybody’s gotta get paid. It’s basically the budgets. Basically less money means no A-list producers.
But the same Hell Rell, right?
Oh, yeah. The music ain’t gonna change. I’m not saying that I need a Timbaland beat or a Kanye West beat to deliver a hit. It’s just the marketing. I could deliver a hit as big as Wayne’s “Lollipop” but there’s less money spent on my campaign. There’s less marketing and it’s all about the machine behind you. So, you know, it’s just politics.
How have you grown as an MC in the last year since the release of For the Hell of It?
Oh, man. I think I’ve grown into a complete businessman. I’m a businessman by day and a rapper by night. Word. I'm heavily involved in my business. I done watched a couple of successful people such as Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson and I could name some rappers, just to name a few, who lost millions of dollars so fast because they wasn’t on top of their business. I’m on top of my business 24/7 and being a rapper comes naturally because this is my life. At the end of the day when it comes down to it I’m more focused on the business than the rap side.
Is it more important to handle your own business today instead of having a huge entourage and managers?
It’s important because there’s really no friends in this business, man. There’s no friends in this business. You might meet someone and be real friendly, but there’s no friends in this business, man. I’ve brought my friends into the business but there’s really no friends in this business. So you have to be on top of your business and on top of your game.
What do you want your fans to take away from Black Mask Black Gloves?
I mean, I want niggas to feel like I’m the realest nigga doing it. I’m the most underrated. I’m the most talented rapper who didn’t get his chance to shine yet. I definitely feel that. Everybody has their time. It’s definitely Lil’ Wayne’s time to shine. I feel like it’s my time also. When they listen to this they’re going to feel like why aren’t I on a larger scale. Why is he not on the same level as a Rick Ross or a Jeezy? Why is he not on that same playing field?
Why aren’t you?
I feel like people have been holding me back. I feel there's certain people around me and powers that be and people in Diplomats business that don’t respect my talent. I don’t know what it is. When you’re dealing with people you have egos and pride and they’re independent too and it’s hard for them to put you before them even if it’s going to benefit them. That’s how much the pride and the ego take over. I’m on my Malcolm X shit, man, as of right now. I had to separate myself from all parties. It’s Hell Rell the Top Gunna. I’m a free agent. Anyone that wants to holla at me with the paperwork, I have no ties with anybody. That’s what it is. I feel I can only go as far as I want myself to go. That’s what it is.
It’s all love but at the end of the day there’s no business relationship. It’s all love with Dipset but I don’t have no contracts or ties to Cam’ron or Jim. If there’s a better situation out there for me, I’m looking for it and that’s what I’m working towards. I’m about to launch my own website. I’m about to go into the digital world. At the end of the day the digital world is taking over anyway. I don’t really need anybody. The labels are going to need me in six months after I show them what I can do in the digital work. It’s all about the digital world right now, man, and I’m about to fuck the game up.
What’s your website going to be like?
My site is gonna be basically like a whole network of my shows, music and merchandise. Whatever you want in hip-hop you’ll be able to get on my site. You’ll be able to see new videos and get new music and see tour dates. It’s sort of like a membership. It’s sort of like a subscription. You have to subscribe but even if you don’t subscribe you’ll still get some stuff and things of that nature. We’re trying to build a fan club.
Getting back to Dipset, were they holding you back?
I wouldn’t say they were holding me back. It’s just that people worry about themselves too much. It’s a selfish business, man, but at the end of the day, I don’t fault nobody, man. If you have access to millions of dollars and you can make it on the account of somebody else throwing millions of dollars into the game, that’s good but I’m not like that. I’m going to show niggas the game and how it’s supposed to be broken down the way it’s supposed to be broken down. At the end of the day I can’t fault the person for being as real as me.
Are you talking about Cam or Jim?
I’m just speaking in general. These are all general statements. If the shoe fits then wear it, man, but it is what it is, man. I can’t sugarcoat it.
From an outside perspective, it doesn’t seem like the Dipset grind is what it once was. Do you see the grind falling off?
I don’t want to say “falling off” because everybody’s still as talented and everybody’s still doing what they’re doing but as far as camaraderie and comradeship and doing songs together, that kind of angle fell off and once the music falls off that’s where the business falls off. Everything is a domino effect, man. Once one thing happens then there’s the law of nature for something to happen behind it. Jealousy breeds envy and so on and so forth, man. It’s sort of like an evolution. It’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, man. At the end of the day, man, it is what it is. I don’t got time to be sitting around and waiting for another person to control my destiny whether I’m rapping or whatever I’m doing. I can’t let nobody control my business.
It seems like every time someone affiliated with the Diplomats does an interview they get the same questions about Cam’ron and Jim Jones. Are you tired of all those questions yet?
Yeah. At the end of the day I know the people want to know and I can’t get mad at that because if I was a fan and I didn’t hear what was going on, I would want to hear about it. It hasn’t been publicized and the world wants to know what’s going on. I can’t say that I spoke to Cam yesterday and Juelz is cool. I would be a fool for saying that. I’m not going to lie to you. The government will tell you one thing and it’s another. I can’t lie to you. I can’t answer those questions but I can answer a whole bunch of Hell Rell questions. As far as a whole bunch of Dipset questions, I can’t answer them. I’m in contact with basically everybody still but I have to get my business right. Niggas is rich already and I have to do what I have to do. I can’t sit around and wait for nobody.
If you had to look in your crystal ball, what do you think is going to happen with the Diplomats in the next year?
I don’t know about right now. I would love to see it but I can’t see it right now. It was a movement, man. That's all I can say. It was a hell of a movement and I loved to be a part of it. It was a fucking epidemic the way we set the streets on fire. Now I have to do what I have to do to keep it popping.
Can fans separate Hell Rell from Dipset and listen to your music without thinking of the Dipset affiliation?
Of course the fans can separate me from Dipset. The fans love me! They know who put it in. Niggas know who really lived by the codes. It’s all about street cred, man, and I ain’t sitting here bragging about what I did in the street, but if you look my story up you know I’m not lying about what I did in the street. I come to the people as me. Be who you are! I go through the same shit as y’all. Just because I got more money I still got problems. I still got everyday problems just like the rest of everybody else. That’s why niggas love me. Niggas want to see me shine.
When you think of the Diplomats, the mainstream thinks of Jimmy and Cam but the streets know I’m hardbody. The mainstream don’t recognize me as part of the Diplomats. They think of Juelz, Jimmy and Cam. They don’t recognize me even though I put in a lot of work and I’m one of the reasons why they’re some of the hottest niggas in the streets right now. I’m not saying I am the reason. I contributed to that. So at the end of the day if I’m not recognized in the industry, I have to get on my one-two. I can’t let anybody stop me from getting my shine. I have to go out and do what I gotta do.
Rick Ross was recently exposed for being a C.O. and he tried to lie about it to cover it up. How much should Rick Ross lying about his past affect him as a rapper?
He lost a lot of street love at the end of the day. I know a lot of niggas that lived his lifestyle that he rapped about as far as selling cocaine and the Port of Miami. I know niggas that really lived that lifestyle and could relate and then when they found out he was a C.O. it fucked niggas up. It was a letdown. That shit just goes to show you that he was perpetrating a fraud, man. But that ain’t Rugar. (laughs) You know what I mean! You can look that up at DepartmentofCorrections.com and see my rap sheet. You can look my shit up. I ain’t lying about my shit. You could look my shit up. And whatever you don’t see up there I didn’t get caught for it.
Are you happy with where the Bronx is in the hip-hop game today?
The Bronx gotta get on they shit, man. They don’t come look for the Bronx. They don’t come and look for niggas and shit. It’s hard. Bronx niggas is like goonies too. Goons and rappers don’t mix. A Bronx nigga is going to run up on a nigga like, ‘Listen to my shit!’ They also keep their music to themselves. You got a lot of niggas that rap but there’s a lot that won’t get on because they’re half rapper and half goon. Bronx niggas don’t really consider it a career. Cam’ron snatched me up. He took me to a video shoot and he made me see the bigger picture. At the end of the day I wasn’t planning on pursuing the shit but I saw the bigger picture. It is what it is, man.
I recently spoke to Spencer4Hire, who produces for The East Flatbush Project, and he was talking about how he was trying to work with you eight years ago. Do people realize that you’ve been on your grind much longer than your first Diplomat debut on Diplomatic Immunity?
I’ve been grinding for a long time. I thank Cam for the opportunity but I put in work. At the end of the day when you bring somebody into the game and they put in work and they shine and whatever, whatever, it just makes them look larger than life. He has a good ear for talent and he has a good ear for what’s going on out there. The most classical example of that is Nas featuring AZ on “Life’s a Bitch”. How many niggas do you know that got a deal off of one song? He’s still eating to this day off that one lookout. Do you understand what I’m saying? So it is what it is, man. You know what I mean? But the game is funny, man. It’s real funny. There’s no friends so I just have to deliver good music, man, and raw talent always shines, man.
Motherfuckers say they don’t like this nigga and I always talk shit but they have to say that this song is hot. That’s what it’s about. At the end of the day it’s a friendly competition. It’s rare that you find other rappers their just due. I’ll be the first to say that I love somebody’s music. They can say they don’t fuck with me but I can say I like their music. I like hot shit. I ain’t gotta like you to like your shit. I know a lot of niggas fuck with me and I know people that don’t fuck with me. Show that love, man. I ain’t tripping.
When you talk about a friendly competition, is that the approach you’re taking with your collab album with J.R. Writer?
I never did an album with J.R. Writer.
Weren’t you guys doing an album together?
It was a possibility.
I just feel like I got shit that I gotta do, you feel me? We’ll probably be able to do some songs together, probably, but as far as doing an album, I can’t cheat the fans, man. I gotta do what I gotta do. Word. From what I’m hearing in the streets, they want to hear more Rugar so I gotta give them more Rugar. I don’t hear the people screaming for that album. Once it’s on my radar and people are wanting it then I’m going to do it. I’m not just going to do it for a check because then we’re going to start looking stupid like we’ll do anything for a check. I ain’t gonna compromise my credibility like that. I’m going for what the streets are telling me. I’m doing this for the people that are in the streets, the consumers. These are the people that buy my music and that support me. They want to see me shine so I gotta shine.
Can you reach a wider fanbase with your next album?
Yeah because at the end of the day, this project solidifies me as an artist. I put out street music and I put out music for the masses all across the world that’s going through the same shit that I’m going through. Right now the economy is fucked up and it’s sad to say that when the economy is fucked up, people want to get high and listen to music and relate to somebody who’s going through what they’re going through. Unfortunately I feel this more than most motherfuckers around the world and they feel my pain. I’m still bothered by what I write in my music. It’s not like I’m sitting here with a bunch of chains and big cars and girls. I stepped out of that person. Whatever swagger I was throwing around, that’s not who I am when I’m in the booth and fortunately that person that you hear in the booth, niggas can relate to him and they can relate to that music and they can relate to that struggle, that pain. They can hear it in my voice.
At the end of the day, look on YouTube. It’s a viral video and look at how many hits I got. The numbers don’t lie. Half a million hits on YouTube. That’s a lot of people. You try putting 300,000 people in a room. Are you telling me 300,000 people wanted to see what I was talking about? That’s a big following, man. So at the end of the day, the numbers ain’t lying, man. It’s a different world. I just gotta get with the program and the numbers ain’t lying, man. I gotta let them see.
Are you still focused on acting today?
I’m definitely focused on the acting. I’m actually trying to get with an agent now to get squared away. But as far as me doing my own production, I got Hell’s Vision so I’m putting out a lot of independent films of my own shit. You know what I mean? As far as directing and shit like that.
The last time we spoke you were in the process of opening a restaurant called Rugar’s Ribshack. Is that still going to happen?
Yeah, all that. Everything’s still in motion, man. Everything that I was talking about is still in motion, man. It ain’t changing. We’ve just got to figure everything out and blast off. But I couldn’t leave the streets. They needed that Black Mask Black Gloves. I can’t say I don’t have a following. The industry knows I got a following. Show me love and go to my website and look at what I’m doing and buy my music. They gotta show that love.
What’s the next move for Hell Rell?
My next album is definitely in the making. I’m like four or five songs deep in it already. It’s in the baby stages because I’m running around. I got a gang of songs, man. I got a gang of songs in my computer. I’m just trying to pick out the hottest that I feel that are dope for the project. So I’m taking my time with the music.