I’m feeling blessed. I’m feeling real good.
How do you feel about your new album Go Head?
I feel good about it. I definitely changed my style from the last album. The beats are a lot better and I think that it’s more geared towards the streets. I think a lot of street dudes are going to feel it. A lot of people can see growth on Go Head and that’s definitely what I was aiming for.
Did you feel you had to change your style from your last album Deep Rooted?
On the last album, Deep Rooted, I was just going through a lot in my life. On Go Head, I settled a lot of things in my life. Now I’m ready to work. I felt like maybe I didn’t reach people the way I wanted to reach them on Deep Rooted. Go Head is going to touch a lot of people across the board, overground, underground, whatever.
Deep Rooted dropped in 2003. What’s been going on with you the past couple of years?
First of all, I was real, real frustrated with the game as far as getting shows and trying to come out. The thing about me is I want to put out music without selling my soul. I definitely do it for the love of it, but after so long you want to see the fruits of your labor. You want to see kickback and money from your shows. I didn’t think that was doing what it should be doing so I got involved in other stuff. I went back to school for my teaching degree and now I go into different schools and talk to them about abstinence until they get married or until they’re old enough to handle the responsibilities that come with it. There are a lot of girls 11, 12 years-old, getting pregnant. I’ve been working on that and when the music came back around, I was ready to make it happen.
That’s a challenge.
Yeah. It’s definitely a challenge. This is no disrespect, but if you look at the videos out there now, all they do is promote is sex and violence. That’s all kids know and that’s all they gravitate to. I got a connection with the kids. I don’t preach to them. I just lay the facts out to them. I’m like, This, this or this can happen. These are the consequences for your actions. I just lay it out and talk to them about STD’s and all that. When I come into the classroom, I have an instant connection with the kids. I try not to tell them that I rap, but when they find out I rap, that’s an automatic entrance to their circle. Then they’re like, Spit something. They connect with you in that way too.
If you could change one thing about the videos to make things better, what would it be?
With all this stuff that’s going on in the world, from wars, gentrification happening all through America…I don’t know how people feel about gentrification but I feel that’s a bad thing for our society. They’re taking an area that was low income and flipping it into high income and they’re moving people out. That’s how it is in Chicago. They’re moving them out to the suburbs and cutting off transportation. I think Freddie Foxxx said this one time. He said, “Music should reflect what’s happening.” If you look at Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Billie Holiday, they were talking about the struggle in their music. Nowadays, when you listen to the music, all they’re talking about are their cars, their clothes and the hoes they’re hitting. It’s like a matrix. They’re speaking all of this stuff, but if you really look through all that, America’s at war. People are getting pushed from their homes and the government is corrupt. It’s cool that rappers are successful and that they’re able to obtain the things they want, I’m not dissing them, but you have to look out for the kids. I think we definitely need more doctors and lawyers than rappers. That’s one aspect that I would change as far as videos are concerned.
From my experience working in a high school, a lot of kids have unrealistic rap dreams.
If someone feels like they can make it in hip-hop, then cool. It’s like basketball though. If someone can hoop and they’re telling him he can make it to the League and he makes the jump from high school to the League, not that that can happen no more, and then something happens where he hurts himself, if he had gone to college, he would have his education to fall back on. Tracy McGrady went back and got his education. I think education is real important and if you want to do music. Go to school for it and get certified for it. That way you won’t be getting jerked. Instead of signing to a label, you could start your own label. Then you’ll have a sense of ownership. A lot of dudes are quick to sign on the dotted line. I feel bad for these kids. I’m 34. When I was coming up, I had KRS-One, Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers and Rakim telling you to read books and have knowledge of self. All of that is necessary to getting an education. That’s real important for everybody, but especially minorities.
You’ve been on All Natural Inc. for awhile. Are you happy there?
Yeah. We have our ups and downs, but overall, I love it because I got complete control over what I put out. Tone is not on my back telling me I have to do it a certain way. He gives me complete creative control of what I do. I never go too far left. I’m sure if I were to come on some crazy stuff, he would tell me I had to calm it down, but he pretty much lets me do whatever I want to do. I take my time with the music. He tells me all the time how the game’s changing. He tells me it’s not about quality, it’s about quantity. I’m from the same school as De La and The Roots. They have you waiting like, What are they doing? Then when they drop, it’s amazing. I think it’s still quality over quantity. They let me work at my own pace and they realize that we’re living our lives as well. It’s not all music with us. Everybody on the label would love to be doing music full time, but we’re working, taking care of our families. It’s hard to find that balance but somehow we find that balance. All Natural is perfect for me because they work through situations that I’m going through. I love All Natural and I’m sorry I stepped away when I did. I wish I could take that back.
What’s your favorite track from Go Head?
I like “War Stories” because that’s talking about a lot of the stuff I went through. I like “Beyond Space and Time” and “If Ever.” To me, I like every song on there. Every song on there I hold close to my heart.
“War Stories” is dope. What was your inspiration for that?
It’s about understanding what’s around you, as far as friends and the influences from television and the music industry. I’m not that dude who’s been on the block peddling crack. I’m just the average dude. I’m talking about how I’ve never been shot, never sold drugs…I wanted to fit in with dudes that was gangbanging. I felt that was where it was at. Now I put my trust in God instead of putting my trust in man. I expose myself in these songs. I want people to feel what I’m going through.
You also talk about how you never made a dime with Deep Rooted. What went wrong with that project?
If you’re not mainstream, and this isn’t a diss to All Natural Inc. at all, but everybody from Chicago or LA or from anywhere and they hit me on MySpace, they tell me that Deep Rooted was slept on. They’re asking me why. I did the African Fest yesterday and one of the police officers was like, One of my nephews listens to your music and he put me on to you. Why you ain’t where you supposed to be? I don’t know. First, I think it’s geographically. Being in Chicago, it’s real hard to get your music out. You have Common, Kanye, Teefa and Ludacris, whether he claims it or not. Luda moved to Atlanta, Kanye is in Atlanta and Common’s not here. Geographically, it’s hard here because there isn’t really an industry here. New York has Hot97 and MTV and there are a whole lot of different directions you can go. The scene is alive in New York. It’s alive here too, but it’s not as vivid. We have to scrape even harder. A lot of those dudes in New York and LA, they’re probably doing music full time because they’re probably getting shows way more consistently than we can get shows here. Geographically it’s hard. And people in Chicago don’t generally gravitate towards our type of music. I love our city and if it wasn’t for this city I wouldn’t be where I am, but people over here would gravitate faster towards somebody outside of the city like a 50 Cent because they see them on TV. That puts other artists ahead of us. Everybody on All Natural Inc. works. If we ever had the opportunity to quit our jobs and do this full time, you better believe we would do it.
Are you happy with how Chicago is represented in the mainstream?
I’m glad that Kanye, Bump J and Lupe are out there. They all have different styles. Kanye is different from Lupe and Lupe is different from Twista, even though they’re both from the Westside. Everybody is so diverse here. I’m glad they’re out here. That’s only going to bring more light to the city. We’re labeled as being the city of hate. I’m glad they’re out there doing what they do and I’m glad Kanye won a Grammy. All of that is only going to help us. It’s like, What else do they have coming out of Chicago? I’m definitely proud of them and I salute those brothers. They’re at the frontline right now and I’m definitely proud of them.
You worked with a lot of musicians on the production side of Go Head. What do you learn working with live musicians on tracks?
It just takes music to a different level. There are some amazing musicians here. Live instrumentation is priceless. The MP is good to learn and it’s good to learn how to use different samplers and drum machines, but say you have a power outage. What are you going to do then? I think all artists should learn one instrument. I’ve been playing the drums since I was 10 years-old when I was performing for my church. People love to see me rhyming and playing the drums at the same time. They’re like, That takes your show to a whole ‘nother level. It really does. That’s where it comes from, that live type of music.
In the liner of Go Head, it says “Monumental Coming Soon.” What is Monumental?
That’s the album I’m working on now. The whole concept behind Monumental is that everything in life can be monumental. Your family is a monument to you. Your mother and father, whether they’re together or not, that’s a monument to you. Hip-hop is our monument. You can take it to another level – mind your mental. You have to be aware of that. When you do that, that will make you monumental. Look at Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. They were monumental in their life. Look at the monument J.Dilla left in such a short time. That’s what I want to do. I want to leave a monument. That’s what we’re doing in our music.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Thanks for the support. Thanks for gravitating towards my music. I hope I can fill a void out here and that my music can fill a void and allow people to think from a different perspective. I got love for everybody that’s holding me down.