Your Black Friday mixtape just dropped. Did you get up on the Friday after Thanksgiving for any good sales?
No, man. I was too tired. I was working and doing what I had to do, man. A lot of shit that you want to get early on that Friday morning, if you ain’t at the front of the line, you ain’t getting nothing. I just slept in, man. I shop when I can. The deals be looking good on TV, but the shit that I buy, my shit don’t me on sale.
What did you want to give fans with Black Friday?
I just was going back to the streets. I’ve been trying to really service the radio with a lot of songs but I wanted to really just dig deep into what I really do and what I really know and give them that real shit that I always give them and let them know where I came from with this music. I just wanted to get some shit together and get that one radio record, but now I’m back grinding hard and giving the streets what they love, that real street music.
Did you feel like you lost your connection to the streets searching for the radio hit?
No, I never felt like I lost connection to the streets because everybody knows what I do. I just haven’t done a crazy gutter mixtape like this in a long time and nobody was doing it like I was doing it so I had to give them what they’d been missing.
Do you ever have any hesitations about giving music out for free?
Nah. I want to keep giving them free mixtapes and free music like that so when my album comes, they won’t have an excuse for putting a few dollars into me. I do the music for the fans. Right now, there’s been a big recession but my album’s coming real soon and when I do release smething, I want people to have the money to go get that album and they can’t say they spent the money on my mixtape. I want them to go buy my record because that shit’s gonna be big.
How do you feel about the blogs that have been shut down?
That shit was crazy, man. I was going on them sites and I seen that. Those sites, I support those sites and I hate to see them go down because they’ve been supporting me, just like you guys have. I hate to see them go down and I don’t know if it’s going to help get record sales to go back up and stop all the free downloads of songs that you are actually selling. If you’re not giving it out for free, the shit that you’re selling shouldn’t be on the sites.
What’s the best way for blogs to exist and raise record sales at the same time?
Maybe streaming, where they can go to your site and actually hear the music but they can’t download it, maybe. Maybe some live streaming or something like that. All the downloading do hurt all the artists. It kind of puts us in bad situations of trying to feed our kids and pay our bills when everything that we put out for sale winds up on every site for free. I think it has to be streaming where you can just go and listen to it on there. I think that would help a lot. People would still be able to go to the sites they love and the sites could still post music.
Have fans gotten too spoiled to where all they know is free music or do you think fans can get used to buying music again?
I think they’ll go back. When you get something free, you do get a little spoiled. You get used to just getting it that way, but I think for the artists that they really love, they’ll go out and support. I think they can get back to buying records and I think they’ll understand that it’s a good thing because now, with the way sales are going, most artists, we’re not going to have no leverage with the labels because none of our records our selling. Going gold now is like going platinum. It’s rough out there.
Are you done with free projects right now or is that something you’ll always do?
You know what? That was the last mixtape I’m doing until my album drops. Maybe after my album drops, I’ll drop another mixtape but I’m not going to drop as many as I used to. But it’s like sometimes I might have something on my mind or something I need to get off my chest and I might just go in there and drop it on a track and then I’ll release a track like that. I might release one free track a month because I still believe in it. Sometimes I will be dropping free tracks, but not as much as I used to because now we’re at a point where the album is about to drop and it’s time for me to get money and get on my hustle and support my family.
You have diverse production on Black Friday. What did you want in the beats?
I just try to get beats that will really fit me. I like soulful beats and stuff that my voice just cuts through on. I just go in. I’ll get a bunch of tracks and listen to them and sometimes I’ll hear that one track and say “It’s me” and just go in on that shit.
You’ve worked with a lot of producers over the years. Who do you feel you have the best chemistry with?
I have the best chemistry with my in-house producer Sounwave. He knows my sound. He knows what I’m looking for. He can bring me exactly what I need. Sometimes he’ll just be at home and play some shit over the phone that’s crazy. My chemistry with him is on point because we’ve been together since day one and he does a lot of my production.
When you look at a song like “No Joke” where you talk about how your daughter keeps you level-headed and focused, how do you think fatherhood has changed you as far as being an MC?
Before I had my daughter, man, I was kind of wild. I didn’t really have no responsibility or anything like that. It never really mattered what I did. I just did it. I had my daughter and that’s my heart and I love her to death and I know I have to make a better way for her. Having her, I think before I make moves. I know I gotta be there for her. I know I have to take care of her and it gave me a whole other outlook on life. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in the streets and it be other people’s daughters or sons getting hurt out there and it makes me ask myself how would I feel if it were my daughter out there. It helped me mature as a man and as an artist.
In the “Kush” freestyle you talk about staying on the grind and not changing. How important is it for you to not change up the formula that got you here?
You know, there’s a lot of people out there that respect what’s real. There’s a lot of people that know the real from the fake. I have to stay real and keep everything about me and about what I know and what I do and what I know is real. It keeps me relevant to the niggas who know what I do. My grind, man, I just have to keep doing what I do and spitting that real shit. Motherfuckers respect that. That’s why I’ve been so successful.
From knowing you when the Warner Brothers deal first happened to now, you’re one of the only artists that has gone through the label game all these years and not changed. Do you realize how rare that is today?
I realize that’s real rare. But see, the whole time I really spit what I know and what’s real in life. A lot of people spit other people’s stories and other people’s lives. They might feel like Joe today and three weeks later they might feel like John. It’s like a lot of people in the industry are not who they portray themselves as.
What’s been the craziest experience you’ve gone through in the industry so far?
Oh, man, you know what? A lot of dudes, there’s crazy stuff. I don’t want to say no names, but a lot of dudes that I grew up looking up to and then I ran into them and met them and thought they were some real cats, they’re the fakest dudes in the industry, man. I talk to them and they act like they’re on some real shit but after you take off, they’re more Hollywood than a motherfucker. It’s crazy. You look up to somebody all this time and then you meet them and you talk to them and you tell them you grew up on them and you really look up to them and it’d be an honor to do a track with them and they tell you yeah and they got you and then I make the phone call and I can’t catch them. It’s just some fake shit because I always try to keep it real and 100 with everybody.
Do you think your fans realize that you’re one of the few who didn’t sell out over the years?
I think my fans understand. They understand. They know I keep it real. They know I don’t try to be on no fake shit. I’m always going to be me. I can’t be nobody else but me. Either you like it or you don’t, but I’m going to always be me. I don’t ever sell out. I told my fans that on day one and they know what I do.
How did you get your release from Warner Brothers?
Top Dawg went in there and he did what he had to do and walked out with my masters and everything. I still respect Warner for giving me the opportunity. My song was moving and I was on my way and something happened. My team didn’t like what happened over there so they went and got me up out of there, but I still got love and respect for Warner Brothers. They gave me an opportunity to shine.
What made you realize that it was time to move on?
I had a record with Lil’ Wayne. Today everybody asks me what happened to that record because it was a hit. Every PD asks me. When we were there, the record got up to 6-700 spins and it was about to impact and they brought in some new people and they just shitted on my record. Once they did that, we said it was time to go. They shut my shit straight down. Wayne had just come from selling a million records in a week and he’s in my video playing on BET and it was time to impact and they wouldn’t impact and they showed me that they didn’t have my best interests. You don’t know how many times you talk to people and that’s all they talk about, like ‘What the fuck did Warner do?’ and ‘What happened?’
It sounds like the release was a long time coming.
Yeah. Once they stopped that record, we had a meeting at Top Dawg headquarters and they he told me he’d have to snatch me off of Warner because they weren’t doing what they were supposed to do and I just followed his lead. He’s the OG out my ‘hood. He snatched me out the projects and introduced me to music. I just follow his lead.
You recently signed with Strange Music. How’s that looking?
I just jumped into a great situation with them! They gave me a new budget for an album. They guaranteed me 100 tour dates a year. We had labels on the table offering deals but Strange offered the better deal when they told me they could guarantee me 100 tour dates a year. No label guarantees tour dates and jumping on another label’s tour, I don’t know where I would be and they sign other artists and they show favoritism, but Strange, man, presented the best situation that we could have wanted. As soon as we signed the paperwork I was on the road with 45 shows. I’m happy and I’m rejuvenated right now. That’s part of Black Friday, happiness with that situation. We have a great Christmas coming up. I’m in a great situation and whatever we want to do, we got it right there with Strange Music. While all the other labels were losing money, Strange Music pulled in $20 million and Tech N9ne toured 200 days out of the year. I mean, I can’t run from that.
And 100 shows a year, if I could do 200, I’ll do 200. That’s where most artists make their money. I’m looking forward to this. I’ll do 300 shows if I can!
Will we hear you collaborate with Tech N9ne?
We got a lot of stuff in store for you guys. It’s going to be a great year. 2011 is going to be my year. It’s time to shine and my labelmate Kendrick Lamar is being courted by Dr. Dre. All the labels are calling for him right now. It’s going to be a big year for us right now and everything happens for a reason. I’m glad I’m a free agent and able to go sign with whoever I wanted to sign with. A lot of people probably think I got dropped but we asked for our release. Everything is looking good and I’m feeling good.
How soon do you think it will be until we get the album?
No later than April. Look for a big push coming at the top of the year. There’s going to be a crazy Jay Rock push. I’m going to be everywhere, man. I’m going to need everybody’s support to really push the line. The record’s going to be crazy. Y’all are going to love this shit. I also took all my material from Warner with me. I took all my material with them. I gotta give them their respect for letting me take it. They didn’t put up no big fight. They gave us what we asked for and they let us do what we wanted to do. I respect them for that. I got evertytihng and I leaked some of those songs and I recorded about 40 to 50 new songs. I got four to five albums done right now. It’s just so hard going through these songs and trying to figure out what goes on the album and what goes on the next album, but I got some crazy shit and what I’m going to do in the next month or two is having my album on me and playing it for different DJs and letting people hear the album. It’s coming real soon.
You’ve been working with Kendrick Lamar for awhile. What do you see as your role in his career?
I opened the door and I shined the light on my brothers. Those guys have been down with me and they’ve had my back. They’ve helped me push the lines that I needed to push. They came with hooks and ideas and they supported my movement and for that, I opened the doors and shined the light on everybody from Schoolboy Q to Kendrick Lamar to Abso. I just opened the door, man, and everybody’s ready to run through.
When do you think we’ll hear more on Kendrick Lamar?
Oh, man, we got something coming real soon. We got something coming hopefully in February. He’s got an EP or something coming in February. He’s got some deep shit that he’s working on. And he’s got the co-sign from Dre now. There’s a big buzz around him right now and he’s got a lot of stuff coming out.
Do you think Detox is really coming?
Yeah, I believe it’s coming. Dre, he’s a perfectionist so he’s just trying to make sure it is what it is. I think it’s coming for real. He got on the radio and said it was coming and he shot a video. I think it’s coming and I think it’s going to be great for the West Coast to have a real pioneer putting something out there that’s going to be real big and is going to bring some focus back to the coast. Everybody’s been waiting on it.