I’m doing all right.
You’re dropping a new album, A Bullet and a Bracelet. How did you approach this album?
It’s like my millennium version of Diamonds and Guns. It’s like the beginning and the ending of something. The first song on there is called “Project Illa” and it’s basically about being born. I say “nine days” but it’s equivalent to “nine months.” It’s like rap needed an MC and the creators of it were like, ‘We need a real artist to come out’ and at the end of the album, we have a dude with his life flashing before his eyes and in between, it’s really explaining my rap style so that people can understand. I don’t rhyme about the typical things that everybody else does. I’m still human and I know that everything is cash, money and hoes, but I’m giving you my perspective of it.
Why the title A Bullet and a Bracelet?
Because there are different forms of jewelry. Some people like cars. Some people like different things. People like weed. I happen to like jewelry. Even though the jewels that I learned from the street, I hold on to those also. In this day and age, you have to have some sort of gun to protect your jewelry. As far as the street jewels, I protect it with the knowledge and for the human version of my jewelry, I protect it with a gun. You could take it either way, but it’s all straight up and down me.
What inspired “For the Visual”?
It’s so people can see me. I don’t really open myself up too much. That song is so that you can get a vision for what I’m thinking. You leave the streets and some of your friends will be like, ‘Do your thing’ and some of your friends are like, ‘When are you coming back to the streets? We miss the street dude. You changed on us.’ I never thought about peer pressure, but it still exists. No matter what people say or think, and I know it sounds retarded, but I do miss that life and I know that I can’t do it. So it’s a visual of what I’ve got to go through. It’s just a different visual. People don’t understand. People will talk about everything in the world like they’re doing it and I’m trying to stay away from it. That’s just as hard as doing it. That’s just as hard as being in it.
Why do you miss the streets?
I don’t know. I was kind of deep into it. It wasn’t just me. I’m not really going to speak on how deep I was into it. I don’t know. I used to get picked on when I was younger. You know how people follow the street life or the mafia? I followed the street life serious. I was really fascinated by it. Just to be in that realm at one time, the kind of level that I was in and staying true to it, you got dudes that will go out for you and all of that. It was intriguing. Getting money and you being into it, you get big-headed and feel you’re invincible and something will always bring you down. These rap guys that are getting money, they feel invincible until something happens to them. That’s how I felt.
On “A Bullet and a Bracelet,” you mention how your flow is too raw. Is the game ready for Illa Ghee?
I think the game is ready. I think the game is ready because everybody is copying. It’s the same thing, over and over. Over and over, it’s the same thing. The only person different right now that’s being himself is Kanye West. That’s the only person that’s being himself and I love him for that. He’s not afraid to be himself. He can say that he loves clothes and at the same time he can say that he loves God. At the same time, I don’t have no problem saying that I’m an atheist.
You talk about your reflection in “My Image.” How would you describe yourself as an MC today?
I am the now, back then and the next. I am today’s MC. I am a back-in-the-days MC and I am the future, all wrapped up in one. That’s how I would describe myself today.
You’ve worked with Prodigy a lot in your career, but more recently on “Walk With A Shotgun.” What’s it like working with Prodigy?
We go back years. Me and P go back years. I remember sitting in his grandmother’s house and we were just saying to each other, “Yo, we’re not going to sound like no one on this planet.” It’s always been like a friendly competition with us because of the school we went to. We were battling all of the time. We just kept that friendly competition, like, ‘I have to sound better than you on this song. That’s just the way it is.’ You know, P is P.
You worked with producers Team Demolition a lot on this project as well as in the past. What’s it like working with them?
Oh, they’re very creative dudes. Their beats make me think of different concepts. I think different anyway. I love them because it’s not just one person’s ear. They’re a group of four. So by all four of them being together, they have a way of doing it to where you don’t know who it may be that did the beat. They have a lot of different styles and they’re very critical of themselves.
They’re some of my favorite producers to work with. I really haven’t had too much experience in working with other producers. I could name other producers that I feel are crazy and that under the right circumstances, if we made the right song, it would pop off and I’m trying to get to that level to help them out because there are some dudes that are incredible to me.
You were at SOB’s when Saigon and Mobb Deep got into it. What’s your take on what happened?
It’s retarded. It’s retarded. It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t look good at all. To me, it’s stupid. Like, if it don’t have to be, it don’t have to be. I feel like this, simple and plain, as far as Saigon, you can’t diss nobody and really shit on them and expect for nothing to happen. I mean, how far are you going to take it? You disrespect them and then you come up there. You knew there was a chance something could go down. And on their part, it’s like, ‘Come on, son. We’re not teenagers.’ You know they’re trying to find any reason to shut things down. It’s not good for music in general, especially our music. Rap is our music and it’s not good. There are better ways to go about it. I’m not saying I’m not with it, but if it happens and it had to go down, you can’t stop it. Whatever happens happens and however both sides take it, it was meant to be. But if you can avoid it or speak on it a little more, you never know. But it happened. No one could do nothing about it. And only time will tell what will come to be of that situation.
You didn’t get involved in the incident. Did you not feel it was worth getting involved in?
No, I didn’t feel it was worth getting involved in. For what? Why should I get involved? What do I have to prove? I don’t have nothing to prove.
Where does that perspective come from?
You do six years. Go do six years in a town where nobody likes you, where they will hit you simply because you are from New York. Come on. There are bigger fish to fry. I can’t speak on how they felt about it. All I can say is that I’m a person that’s like, ‘Things happen because they’re meant to happen.’ Apparently they felt they had to do that. That’s what it is. We can’t stop it now. We can’t press “Rewind.”
What are your goals as an artist for the next year?
MC-wise, I feel I’m one of the nicest. There’s a difference between MCs and rappers. I have to prove my point that I’m one of the nicest. Rap-wise, I am trying to show that I’m musically-inclined and that I can produce songs. I can make a beat also. I have a crazy perspective as a producer. I’m a hard critic on beats and trying to make shit for me to rhyme on, that takes time. That shit takes forever. In rap, I’m just trying to show you that I can make songs. I can take you from talking about the government to talking about the streets to talking about a woman from a different aspect. There are different things that people go through with women. Women are crazy. I’m not saying just women are crazy because we’re crazy in our own way too, but there are different aspects to everything and I’m talking about that. I’m opening myself up to things that I’ve been through and how I’ve felt. It’s hard trying to be an artist when you’re coming from a life where shine is not a good thing. So that’s why I feel funny when people be like, ‘Oh, shit, you’re Illa!’ It’s like, ‘Wow!’ I have to pay the price because I want to be unknown and unseen. But once you’re unseen you don’t really make paper. But I have to do something I don’t want to do. If I want to get to my goal, this is what I have to do.
How far can you take A Bullet and a Bracelet?
Hopefully it’ll sell more than Air Force Ones.
What’s your next move?
Go hard with the CD. I’m trying to get my own label launched. That’s what I want because people are really not trying to invest in an artist right now. They sure as shit ain’t. And if you believe in yourself, put money in yourself. That’s the only way you’re going to do it. It won’t happen overnight, but in some cases it may happen overnight. It’s very rare. But if you believe in yourself, stand out there and put money in yourself and see what happens. If you can get eight out of 10 people to say you’re good, then maybe you’re good. If you can only get five people out of 10 to say you’re good, let’s see. Below that, stop doing it. You’re not going to get the whole world. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care how much you sold. You have to know that. Somebody ain’t going to like you for something. Somebody ain’t going to like your flow. But if you can get the majority, keep doing it. And I want it to keep going. I get good responses. People are saying they like my flow and they like what I’m talking about. I just want other people to know what I’m about because some people, all they hear is the violent aspect. They don’t hear anything else. All they hear is a gun that may pop off but they’re not really listening. They need to pay attention and listen and they will hear the difference. But I want this to go as far as it can go. The next thing for me is to just keep trying to build this name and this brand.
What do you want to say to everybody?
If you’re feeling good music, keep supporting it. Support Illa Ghee. Go buy my CD. Those who are in the streets, don’t think the streets are a game. The streets will swallow you up forever. We just have to stay strong. Stay strong. Support good music. Hip-hop ain’t dead. Rap ain’t dead. Let’s just get it right. There is money for everybody. Let’s get money, bottom line. Everybody, get money.