Your new album 93’ Fly recently dropped. How’s it doing for you so far?
Right now we’ve been working on the promotion and everything. I’m overseas in Dubai, UAE (United Arab Emirates) and we’re working on getting everything together and giving me a big push overseas. It’s gotten a great response in the States and people are really behind it. We’re really trying to get everything together so it can make the most impact as possible. We haven’t even given it a proper push, yet. So, once we get the proper vehicle behind it, we’ll see at that point how well it does. But so far, everything has been lovely, man. It’s been all good.
What kind of response are you getting in Dubai?
Oh, everyone is surprised, man. For them to see someone from a similar background doing it at the scale we’re doing it, they’re all surprised and they’re happy and they’re behind it. Everybody is behind it right now. It was something that they were waiting for.
How important is it to represent the right way since you’re speaking for way more people than yourself?
It’s a major part of everything I do. I’m constantly trying to keep myself in check and make sure that we don’t make any wrong moves or do anything that will put me in a negative light because I know I’m representing a lot of people. But at the same time, I don’t want to come off as the one representative of what Muslims should be. I’m a human being and I make mistakes, and I’m going to do some things right, and I’m going to do some things wrong. In the end though, that’s part of being human, and I’m just doing my best to stay on point and enjoin in the right. It’s a struggle, especially knowing that people are going to scrutinize everything I do, because I’m representing for a people who have no voice right now. I basically have to give everyone the truth, so it’s up to me, to keep it as real as possible and clear up any misconceptions. We’re constantly keeping everything under a microscope and analyzing all our moves, to minimize any mistakes or mishaps along way. I look at it like, as long as we do our part, the rest is in God’s plan.
As far as your name “Jihad”, has anyone judged you based on your name before finding out your story?
Yeah. I’ve run into a lot of that and it’s been happening my whole career, but when I sit down and explain it to them, they understand. It’s more of a conversational thing. It goes beyond the music and it allows for people to see who I am and what I’m really trying to do. I think once they actually realize there’s more to my name then what they’ve heard, it helps people get into the music more and really listen to what I’m saying, and from that you can see where there are multiple meanings in my lyrics and get the real message behind the music. The thing is, people take it as having a negative connotation, but if you look it up, it means “to struggle or to strive to stay on the right path or be righteous.” Everyone can relate to that. At the same time, I’ve still run into people who’ve understood the meaning of the name, but, they’ve been afraid of what the general public would believe and how they would respond. The way I look at it though, is you have to stand up for what is right even if people are ignorant. That’s the only way for people to learn, if someone comes out and shows them.
And I guess the main thing people think of when they hear “jihad” is Holy War and terrorism. It actually means “struggle” and “the struggle to be on the right path” and “the struggle within yourself.” It’s nothing about being an aggressor or attacking anybody. There’s actually nothing negative about it at all. It’s a beautiful word in Arabic if you research it. It’s been twisted in the media, but as individuals, we have to research everything we believe and we can not just sit here and take another person’s word for it.
Have you experienced racism in the hip-hop game?
Not really. I guess to a degree. There’s racism everywhere. Some people feel because of my ethnicity, I shouldn’t be able to rap a certain way. Even within your own community, you hear people telling you that you can’t do that. I guess within themselves, they don’t feel that they can do it and immediately because they don’t think that they can do it, they don’t think that anyone else can. People have to realize that everyone is different and just because someone else can’t do something, it doesn’t mean that I can’t do it. Besides that, you’ll hear some stuff in hip-hop sometimes that’s racist, but it comes down to your music and your character and what you’re really about. I sit down and I analyze myself to the fullest and I try to hold myself to the highest standard of musical quality. I hope from that, it will garner me some real attention and people will realize that this is my life and not just something I’m playing with.
“New York” is one of my favorite songs off 93’ Fly. You talked about a lot of serious issues in the song. Can you talk about “New York”?
That song, basically, when I heard the track, the hook was already in there and it was speaking on New York. Immediately, the first thing that came to my mind was the Towers and Ground Zero. I looked at that and I realized I had to come with a real concept for the song. I’m from L.A. and I couldn’t just start repping New York. The song came to me for a reason and nobody’s been talking about that stuff from my background in hip-hop and that’s why I really tried to touch on it and let people see things from a different perspective. A lot of undercover stuff has been going on and I don’t think people have realized everything that happened leading up to that event. It’s about how people are really quick to judge without really knowing what’s up. I felt that I had to put that song out and let people know what 9-11 was really about.
How do you plan on doing a video for “New York”?
I’m going to be shooting that one when I get back in the States. I want to shoot that one properly and we really want to make sure that it comes out tight. I want to get a good budget together for that one, so we can get really creative with it. The effects are really going to make it stand out. The concept is already there in the song, and we just want the video to provide the visual portrayed through the words.
How did your previous project, Death Before Dishonor, help you set people up for 93’ Fly?
It did really well. Death Before Dishonor opened the door up and let people know that I was here. I was mentioned in The Source because of that and was on MTV’s Mixtape Monday’s, Scratch magazine and on Sirius Satellite Radio. It let people know that I was for real and that I wasn’t just doing this on a minor level. We did it like an album and it was all original production and it was all done with no budget. It was put together off all of our relationships and everybody just pulling for us to succeed, so to see the people’s response to it and how they’ve embraced it is a wonderful feeling. We really put a lot of time and effort into making it and getting it to the quality it’s at. It’s like a real album. So, to see people get behind it has been really inspirational, and now it’s just a matter of getting my music out to the masses and the general public.
How far are you trying to take 93’ Fly?
Through the roof, man. We’re in talks right now with people not only for distribution but for other projects and ventures to help establish our brand. It’s been great for marketing and once we give it a full push, it’ll be different. Already the doors have been opening and we’re working on the exposure aspect of it. Once there’s more exposure out there, it should help more with the whole Rebellion movement and everything we’re trying to do.
Do you get the support you need in your hometown of Cerritos, California?
Yeah, definitely. They want someone to shine. Cerritos is like a hip-hop city. A lot of the DJs out here on the radio are from Cerritos, like the Beat Junkies, Icy Ice and others. You also got a lot of the big hip hop clothing lines being started by people out here like Crooks N’ Castles and Mixwell. These guys laid the foundation down. It’s a big hip-hop city, man. So for me to come out from here and see everybody supporting, it’s a big deal, man. I just have to make sure that I come out right and that I represent Cerritos to the fullest.
DJ Warrior has also been in your corner for awhile now. How has that helped you?
That’s been key, man. Warrior is family. Much respect to him. He’s a four-time Justo winner and he’s been in Rolling Stone. What he’s done is a blessing and we try to help him out as much as he’s helped us out. We’re just trying to push together and create a movement. He’s really helped get it out to the public and to let people know that I’m not just an everyday rapper that came in here, because every few minutes there’s a new rapper talking about something. Warrior’s really been behind it and that’s been a big deal.
Where do you want to take your career in the next year?
Oh, man, you know we want to lock in. I want to be able to be able to be alongside the Eminem’s and 50 Cent’s and Dr. Dre’s. It’s a process and whatever it takes to get to that next point, that’s what I gotta do. We gotta lock in a deal. I don’t want to put a timeline on it, but I want to see myself progressing from where I am right now. I don’t want to be dropping a mixtape every month and have nothing happen, I want to see myself succeed. Hopefully people appreciate what we’re doing and we can take it to a larger scale, whether it’s on a major or independent label. I just want to have a platform to put my music out and get the right people behind it, who really believe in it and can help it get out to the masses. It’s not just about California. It’s worldwide and we want it to touch everybody. Hopefully that can happen within a certain timeline and every day we’re trying to work towards that goal and just keep building on what we’re doing right now.
You’ve made a lot of cool collaborations happen as an independent artist. How did you make those happen?
Man, I’m independent and working with no budget, so it’s all about relationships, bruh. A lot of it has been done through Cook, who’s the head of the West Coast Ruff Ryders. He’s really helped me out a lot. He’s really been the one. He’s a triple O.G. in the streets and that’s my family, man. So to have him there and have everyone on our team just pushing me, there’s a lot of us in our camp, Rebellion, and they’re great people and off their reputations and people seeing their character and my character, that’s allowed me to work with a lot of artists and producers. We all got relations within the industry and outside of it, and that’s how we make collaborations happen. It’s a blessing.
What’s the next move for Jihad?
Right now we’re pushing 93’ Fly real heavy. We’re working on getting some videos shot and we just released the CD for free download, which you can get at my MySpace. We’re also trying to lock in some physical and digital distribution. And from that, I’m also working on my album, which is in the works right now. We’re in talks with DJ Skee to handle the marketing and promotion end of that. I’m also working extensively with platinum producer Big 4D from the Secret Specialists, and I’m also working on a hybrid rap/rock album with rock band Burning Tree Projekt. My partner in Rebellion, Joe Park, and I are also putting together a clothing line with our homeboys Daniel Lee and Eddie Hahm from Commune Clothing. My cousin and artist on Rebellion, Drifter, is finishing up his debut street album, “A Troubled Soul”, and I got my manager Cook putting together the West Coast Division of Cassidy’s group Larsiny, which I’m going to be a part of. I’m also wrapping up some new mixtapes to help set up the buzz for my album, which I’ll be doing with DJ Sept. 7th, Evil Empire, Superstar Jay, DJ Big Mike & DJ Thoro. Also, look out for the independent film I’m co-starring in, “Hype”, directed by Kader Ayd, which will be premiering at The Cannes’ Festival in 2009. We got a lot of big things going on, God willing, it all comes together and we’ll get that push that we need and from there, man. The sky’s the limit.