I’ve been good, man. I’ve just been working in the studio with the Beat Boizz right now. Those are my producers. I’ve just been keeping it in family and tight-knit. I’m basically finding that second classic coming off of Scribes of Life.
You’ve been quiet the past few years. Where have you been?
I had to come back to the drawing board, truthfully. I was bitter with how my first album went down, so I went back to the drawing board. I wasn’t feeling the game. I felt that it was saturated and I felt that there wasn’t really a place for me at the time for people to really understand where I was at with it. I felt that I was ahead of the game, lyrically, when looking at the other MCs. I had some bitterness in me so I wanted to go back to the drawing board and wipe the slate clean.
How do you look at your debut album Scribes of Life, which dropped in 2002, today?
I still listen to it from track 1 to track 14. It was a well put-together album. It was my first album. I did have butterflies in the sense that this was the firstborn. Even as I listen to it today, I feel that it’s still better than a lot of the albums out now, especially with the content and the diverse songs on the album. When I listen to an album, I want diversity. On Scribes of Life, you hear it. It’s about my life. I wanted to give that to the people. That’s real rap. You can hear that now and hear how it compares to the other stuff that’s out there. I feel that it was ahead of its time.
What went wrong with the project?
I don’t think that people saw my vision on it. The A&Rs that worked my project, I don’t think they saw my vision on it. That was my album. That was my jumpoff. I put a lot into it and they looked at it more in terms of the budget and selling records and recouping. I don’t think they saw my vision. That’s why we weren’t on the same page. You saw that. The promotion was bad.
How hard was it for you to get out of your deal with Motown?
I respect Kedar. Kedar came to me and he said, “I feel bad for how your project went down. Truthfully, you can walk. You can take the project and walk, however you want to do it.” At the time, I chose to walk because I didn’t believe in the people who were working my project. I’m not saying any thing bad about Motown as a label, but they don’t really know hip-hop. They know how to work other music, like Erykah’s stuff. But you can’t work Journalist like how you would work Erykah Badu. I think there was a conflict there and Kedar noticed it. I had the option to leave and I just chose to really fall back on it all because the whole situation was bad. Time was of the essence to me and I didn’t really want to dig myself deeper. I had the streets burning in Philly. Time was of the essence and the people were drooling for something. They needed a project and they needed to hear something. The day my project dropped, it sold off of word of mouth. We sold a few thousand off of word of mouth. It didn’t sell in Philly like it should have and I blame my management too. I blame myself too, so I chose to go back to the drawing board and rebuild.
Can you be successful in 2007?
Oh, yes, sir. I’m in my prime right now. I go into the booth and there’s no pressure at all in there. It’s my place of rest. The stuff that we’re coming up with is real next-level. You hear that from a lot of MCs, but the music that we’re coming out with is really music. The game is wide open and cats are doing whatever. It’s all love and I respect what cats are doing. Get your paper and do what you’re doing, but get your paper and move out the way. Cats are calling themselves nice but I’m a beast on the mic. That’s the truth.
I ran with one of the greatest lyrical cats ever in Canibus. I am and will be respected. When it comes to the microphone, I’m a beast. And I’m being modest. When it comes down to it, this is what I do. This is the blessing from God that I’ve been given. This is my gift. I give that glory. Behind the mic, I’m not to be touched. That’s why I feel that in 2007, I’ll still throw punches. It’s something I can’t forget, like riding a bicycle.
How’s the new album coming?
Well, right now we have about 50 songs for it that have been recorded since Scribes of Life. I feel like I always get better every day. We’re just being real careful with the songs that we have. We’re getting up with ‘Bis now to jump on one of the tracks. There’s not too many features on there, just like my first album. They asked me who I wanted on the first album, and I said, “M.O.P.” Right now, I really, really have to prove myself. But it won’t be a hard job. I’m back. I’m here. The songs that are up on HipHopGame is love. Some of the songs, no one knows how old they are but they stand the test of time. I’m still in the lab and working. It’s all love. I’m excited right now.
How important has Canibus been to your career?
If there’s anybody that I would give homage to in the game, it would have to be Canibus. He gave me that chance of taking it to the main screen. The first time I got on Hot97, I give that credit to Canibus. I definitely respect my man and he gave me that chance. He’s a good dude.
How has your relationship changed with Canibus changed over the years?
I believe our management had something to do with everything. They weren’t getting along and that affected us. The last time we spoke, we cleared everything up. He doesn’t have any animosity towards me and I don’t have any animosity towards him. We both said that the next time we get up, we’re going to tear it down. I think that with my schedule and his schedule, we weren’t able to get up. That’s been years. I haven’t talked to him since 2002. I spoke to a mutual friend of his a few months ago and we’re supposed to get up soon. If I could speak to him now, I’d tell him, “Let’s get up. We need to tear this down.” Everyone’s talking all this coke talk and all that. We’re getting beat over the head with cats talking about money. I understand all of that. Anything from me or ‘Bis is get busy music. It would definitely be a great workout for the two of us to get up and kill the streets one more time.
What do “Life Liquid” and “Die Slow” off Canibus’ 2000 B.C., both songs that you appeared on, mean to you today?
To this day, that was a career-breaker for me, truthfully. Before, I didn’t have the opportunity to hit that mainstream radio. There were people in Germany talking about that album. It was a jewel for me. It was mind-blowing before. I had heard him on the radio with X, Pun and N.O.R.E. and I thought he was incredible. For me to run with him a year later was some big business. I let the past be the past, but I’ll never forget it. It was definitely a big move in my career.
The mixtapes today aren’t what they were when you were first coming out. How important were the mixtapes to you making your name back in 2002?
The mixtape game is so important for MCs. I caught that last train of good mixtapes. DJ Clue put me on some big tapes. I think we need some more of that. DJs now, the game has become so corporate now. I love to see people become entrepreneurs, but cats can’t forget the foundation. Cats say they’re not trying to hear this and that they’re not trying to hear that. These cats are chasing that paper and that’s what’s up. I love that. Chase the paper and get your money. That’s a big part of this game. But you have to keep the foundation. It’s really about balance right now. Me and several other nice MCs out there, and there are a lot of them, in order for us to get the attention that we need to get, the DJs need to be a part of that. The DJs have to step in and bridge that gap in order for the nice cats to get back on like it’s supposed to be. It’s definitely a crucial part and somebody has to make that difference.
What else are you working on with your HardRout label?
Right now, the music is my heart. Hip-hop is my heart. That’s the jumpoff with what we’re doing. The music is just one part though. The company is a motivational company. We’re working on some events with sickle cell. We’re doing a lot of benefits in the neighborhood and we’re working on raising college funds for kids. We have a t-shirt company too and a lot of the proceeds are going to the soldiers. The music is a big part, but it’s also a motivational tool. With Godspeed, we want to surface with everything.
We’re working on a bowling benefit for Labor Day. A lot of people are waiting for it. We’re going to be sending a lot of proceeds to different charities. That’s a lot of gratification for me. I know so many family members that have sickle cell, so this is a personal thing and that touches my heart.
How important is it to you to give back to the community?
That’s something that I wanted to do from the time I got into the game. I always wanted to do that from the beginning. I’ve seen so much, coming from South Philly. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do much with the first project, but it doesn’t stop. Now we have our own company. It’s the personal gratification for me to do something like this for the community. I’m right there in the ‘hood. I definitely love to see the ‘hood come up. I definitely love seeing everyone not destroy the ‘hood and diss the ‘hood. I don’t want to talk about it. I want to be about it. You’re going to see what we’re doing to improve the ‘hood, not just hear about it.
How involved do you stay in the Philadelphia hip-hop scene?
I love the Philly hip-hop scene, man. I love the cats. I listen to a lot of the up-and-coming artists. I love a lot of the cats here, but they have to understand that it’s an international thing. One thing about me, before I got on, I had an international goal. I like to live outside the box. I want my buddy that’s spitting to live outside the box and follow suit. A lot of the time, it’s not about Philly or New York. Sometimes Journ just falls back and does Journ because I don’t want to be beat in the head with nothing. If it’s hot, I’ll listen to it. To the artists coming up, stay out of the box and do you.
What’s your next move?
I definitely want to get this project done. I have a friend of mine doing a film company, Full Effect Films. They’re definitely going to be a major part of what we’re doing now. One thing that we’re hoping to do now is to get that jumping off and get the HardRout company really launched off and get people checking for it. We’re going to keep hitting the scene until Journalist is back and being heard internationally and in the mainstream. I’m still going to be doing me. I’m not going to change for nothing. I’m definitely going to be putting my heart into getting this company launched off. We’re just going hard, man. It don’t stop.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Make sure you check the mixtape, it’s called The Preceding. It’s a whole mixtape of unreleased Journalist songs. It’s all fire. Make sure that you check for the new album, The Humility. I had to bring myself to some humbleness before I brought myself back. It’s some next-level music. I had to bring myself back. Also make your donation to the HardRout Foundation to whatever fund is relevant to you. There’s a college foundation and we’re working on building gyms in the neighborhood. It don’t stop. Your boy is here and it don’t stop. HardRout!