How’s everything been going?
Everything’s been going good. It’s still moving slow, moving slower than what I would like to see, but still, it’s moving. It’s moving forward. It’s a process.
You recently released a song “Hello” clarifying your affiliation with Mobb Deep. What made you feel like you needed to release that?
For years now, I don’t think that me being affiliated with them was in my best interests. I don’t think they really believed in my music. It wasn’t good. I know you don’t have to help anybody, but they wasn’t trying to better our position. They weren’t even pointing me in the right direction. So why? Why should I be around? Why be affiliated when it’s not really like that? It’s like you just have me sitting around for what? To do what? You want me to come around and do nothing? Just sit there? Come on, everybody wants their own. Even if you’re going to call me an affiliate and a friend and all that, at least put me in the right situation to get there and it’s pretty obvious that they weren’t doing it.
When you look at artists like Big Noyd and Infamous Mobb, have Prodigy and Havoc really taken anyone under their wing lately?
What I’m saying is that in general, we’re different people. Just because things didn’t happen for one, it didn’t mean that it wouldn’t happen for all of us. It’s not the same way. You can’t tell me that doesn’t work because you can’t tell me anyone knew who Lloyd Banks was until 50 Cent put him on. It worked out for him. It’s like, ‘Come on. Either you’re going to do it or you’re not.’ It’s not like I’m mad at them or bitter at them or beefing with them. I’m not trying to go at them and I’m not trying to call them any other name. I just feel like I have to separate myself. That’s it. There’s a lot of things going down behind the scenes. I’m not going to do this if it’s not going to go places. Put it like that. It has to go both ways. It’s not mutual.
Why do you think Mobb Deep didn’t believe in your music?
I don’t know. You should ask them. P likes my music. I was told Havoc didn’t like my music.
You and Prodigy recorded a lot of tracks over the past few years. Would you guys still work together in the future?
I mean, if I’m trying to separate myself, I shouldn’t do it, but you know, P is always going to be my homeboy. I know people are going to be hard to understand. Hav is cool with me. Kejuan is cool with me. But as far as them being together as Mobb Deep, I just can’t deal with it. Al Johnson and Kejuan Muchita, they’re cool with me. But as far as the entity of Mobb Deep, I can’t do business with them.
There were definitely a lot of benefits that you had coming up under the Mobb Deep umbrella, like having people check for you that might not have.
Yeah, but fine. There’s things I can say to kind of help them out too in a different angle. Granted, fine, yeah, I know people wouldn’t have heard of me if it wasn’t for Mobb Deep, but if you’re going to keep me, that’s like constantly driving someone somewhere and you’re doing your events and you’re keeping that other person in the car. It’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna let you come out sometime. I’m not gonna let you come out all the time.’ What the fuck is that? That’s controlling. That’s like, ‘We do whatever we feel like doing.’ No. I’m not that dude. I’m not that person.
Did you ever talk to Prodigy and Havoc over this?
No. I haven’t spoken with them. Why should I? The last time I really spoke to Havoc was at his album release party. And I take it like this. He was like, ‘You should have been around more. You could have been on more of the CD.’ I’m like, ‘Why?’ When they was in the machine at Jive and then when they switched to G-Unit, nobody couldn’t get on nothing. There’s many times I’ve been on songs and then when they was about to put it out, they took my voice off the songs. It’s like when you’re in the machine, y’all don’t really know nobody. But then when y’all not in the machine no more and you’re coming back to square one, it’s like, ‘Come on.’ It’s not the same. If you’re going to treat me cool, treat me cool all of the time, not when you’re not there where you want to be no more.
Do you feel like Mobb Deep has made some questionable moves in the past few years?
They know they’ve done it themselves. Everybody knows that. Everybody knows that. That’s not just me. They know it. The people know it. Their fans know it. It’s not like I’m trying to downplay them or do anything like that. They’re always going to be my people. I grew up on friendship so they’re always going to be my people, but I just can’t do business with them. Don’t affiliate me there. When was the last time I was ever on a Mobb Deep album? You said my name when I was locked up and made me feel like everything was cool and that when I came home, everything would pop off. Not pop off, but like, ‘This is my man. Let’s point him in a direction to get money.’ You could have let me know that years ago. I could have tried to separate myself years ago. There was a lot of bullshit that I went through. It was unnecessary being behind them. I’m not going to go any deeper into that, but it was.
Did you go to Prodigy’s going away concert on Monday?
Did you speak to him at all before he went in?
I spoke to him that day. I spoke to him that day. I guess he was in a bad area. I couldn’t catch him after that.
What do you have to do succeed on your own with no cosign?
I live and die with it. If it never pops off for me, fine. I’ll live and die with that. I’ve been doing that. See, this is how the industry is. Mobb Deep is not popping so they feel that my music is going to sound like theirs. But it doesn’t. Not even remotely. I’m totally different from them. But the industry thinks that I’m under that umbrella and they think that I’m going to sound like them and they’re not popping right now, so why should they mess with me? It’s like proving a point. I like proving a point. It’s like being an underdog. If I have to prove to motherfuckers what I am then this is what it’s going to be. I’ll live and die with that. I have no problem with that. It’s not like I’m not going to make it because Mobb Deep didn’t help me. No! Fine. If I feel that I’m that nice, then I’ll go on my own. That’s what I feel anybody should do. If you feel that you’re nice enough, then go out on your own. They didn’t put out any music from me. I put that out. Best Known Secret, New York Crunk, A Bullet and a Bracelet, I put that out to get my name out. I did that. They didn’t do nothing. I didn’t ask them for nothing.
Looking at the praise you received for A Bullet and a Bracelet, do you think fans are starting to see you as a solo artist who can stand on his own two?
Little by little. Little by little. I get more of a response like, ‘Oh shit, I didn’t know he could make music like that.’ People don’t realize that I have a swagger. I have character. I’m my own man. A lot of people are more surprised because they think that I’m going to talk about “shoot ‘em up, cut ‘em up, stab ‘em up shit” all day. I can do a lot of things and what I’m trying to get to the people now is that I’m a live nigga now. I’m a person that’s been through the streets and I don’t do it no more. I’m me. I don’t have a problem being me. I’m not a sucker and I’m not going to let anybody do whatever they want to me. This is what I’m putting out there. It’s my thoughts on everything. It’s my thoughts on street life. I still do what rap was based off of and that’s ego tripping. I can still hit topics on my point of view and how I’ve been through it and how I’ve seen it and slowly but surely people are realizing it now.
From following your career, you’ve steadily shown improvement with each project you’ve put out. Are you still getting better as an MC?
Yeah. If I was to really rap, everybody wouldn’t understand what I’m talking about because of the different words I use. But then I was told that, it actually came from a Scripture out of the Bible, that a more intelligent person would speak in a way that more people could understand him instead of sounding intelligent but people don’t know what you’re talking about. You have to speak so that people can feel you and so that people can understand you.
Can that ever water down your music?
That’s not the point. Hip-hop is a feeling. It’s a way of life. Rap is a business. And the point of rap is that you have to make songs that can be spinned on the radio. That’s how it is with hard rock and alternative rock. That’s the same thing. Hard rock is about what they feel. They play fast, heavy speed and they get what they gotta get off their chest. Alternative is more melodic and it’s more radio friendly. It’s the same thing with rap.
Do you have to shoot for the radio these days with the great response you get online?
That’s not the point. That’s still part of me. My mother used to play music that made people dance, so naturally it comes on here. Even though I’m not a helluva dancer, I like that music where it makes people scream and they want to party. It’s like I said earlier, like a part of hip-hop, it’s more ego tripping. I just like boasting on different things and that’s what makes it. People understand that. They get new things and they step up higher in life and they just want to talk about it and express it. When you talk about that, it’s just better.
Did your last album A Bullet and a Bracelet go as far as it should have?
No. All right, I’m not in the machine, so I can constantly still push it. When you’re not in the machine and you put something out on your own, you can’t look for the reasons why it didn’t sell. It’s hard. It costs money to advertise and we really couldn’t advertise like a mainstream artist. So it’s constantly pushing. Like right now, at this very point in time, I’m going to stop this interview and tell you to go and get A Bullet and a Bracelet. That’s marketing right there. That’s the best that we can do right there. Make sure that you go get A Bullet and a Bracelet.
I thought that was a strong project.
Thank you, sir. You should hear what I’m doing with Godlike. And I got a mixtape that I’m doing called When the King Come Back. DJ Mickey Knox is the DJ for that. It’s basically like a street album. I don’t want to rhyme on anybody’s beat ever again. It’s original music and it can be called a street album.
I’ve done the homework and I could have kept going with the Illa Attacks series because that’s got longevity. But I did songs from Premier and that was cool for me. Rhyming over people’s beats has been done and I did that when I came home. It was good for people to reminisce on but I’m past that.
How’s Godlike coming?
Very well. Very well. And it’s going to be more of a shocker.
Where are you trying to take Godlike?
I’m just trying to show people that there’s more to Illa Ghee. Everybody is expecting me to talk mostly about street life but there’s more to me than that.
Does that ever get frustrating for you?
No. It’s more of a feeling. It’s like, ‘All right, you just have to keep going.’ You can’t get into it. You just have to be yourself and sooner or later the people will get it. If for some reason right now I was just to catch fire and everybody was to start listening to it, then everybody would want to follow that. So once enough people start getting it and word of mouth gets around, then it’s going to happen.
What producers have you been working with lately?
There’s a lot of underground producers who have just as good of music as the big producers, like Team Demo, Scorsece, Haze, Hotch, my homeboy that goes by the name of Broadway from Queens…I mean, there’s so many dope producers that I’m trying to work with.
You and Team Demo have been working together for years.
Yeah. Their sound makes me think of more different things because Team Demo is not just one producer. They’re like four producers together. That’s how they collaborate on their beats.
What’s the next move for Illa Ghee right now?
To get everybody to see what Illa Ghee is about and separating myself from Mobb Deep and letting everybody know and understand what Illa Ghee’s music is about. And go get A Bullet and a Bracelet.
Illa Ghee wants you to send him beats at firstname.lastname@example.org