We go back to your days as one half of the Dynamix and now you’re dropping your biggest project to date, Imaginary Enemies, this September. It really feels like you’ve come a long way these past five years.
Thank you, my brother. It’s been a lot of hard work. It’s been a lot of hard work.
How do you think you were able to build up support from different media outlets and artists?
Good question, fam. The grind, my brother. Grind like crazy. From ’04 to ’07, I was working with Grimm and Day by Day Entertainment and doing my business thing. I wasn’t much of an artist at that time because I wanted to learn how to run a label and how to build these contacts and relationships. Once I was able to do that I started my own label and it just went from there. I just started laying like an animal and really building with people and letting them know that I was about my business very serious and that I was a good dude and that they could really trust the relationship and that we were really going to make this thing work. That’s what it was about. And from ’07 to ’09, I just applied what I knew. That’s what it’s all about.
When you started your label Classified Recordings, you were producing everything for yourself. What did it take to get the label off the ground?
It took some money. It took some time. And it took a whole lot of disappointment. It took determination more than anything and good friends, fam, good friends. Good friends really helped me believe in myself. The reason why I produced the first record is because I was tired of trying to get producers and letting them know how nice I was. I was going to get my own keyboard and do that shit myself. That’s what I did. I did beats for two years. I did beats from ’05 to ’07. I had 500 beats in a year and I just did my album, man, and I didn’t really get the reaction I was hoping to get. The people still respected the fact that I just put it out with no features and it was all me. It was all me, fam, 100%. That’s what it took.
What did you learn working with Grimm and Day by Day before starting Classified Recordings?
I learned that relationships are everything in this game. You have to have good relationships with people. You have to be a people person. I also learned the value of a good team and I learned the value of focus. I also learned that you have to prioritize and do one thing at a time in order to make it work. The good points, man, just like the value of teamwork and the value of hard work and the value of relationships and how to focus on just one particular thing at a time and to really treasure those relationships to make sure that they’re as strong as they can be and that it’s all business, man. Business never personal.
You sound like Nino Brown. Have you also taken over a hotel to have naked chicks pressing up Junclassic CDs?
(laughs) I need to get that in effect, yo! That would make an ill YouTube commercial, wouldn’t it?
It sounds like that’s what you have going on.
(laughs) The Carter! Yeah, man, I guess, if that’s what it takes. That’s the type of determination it takes to make it in this game. Brothers need to learn from Nino Brown. You gotta put your shit up on everything.
You’re not gonna do K-Cise and Ceez like Nino did his boy are you?
Nah, man! If I do that and you don’t witness it, you’ll read about it! Nah, that’s my team right there and they’re tougher than me anyway. I need them on my side!
Husky handles the production on Imaginary Enemies as opposed to you doing it yourself. First things first, how did you link up with Husky?
Husky’s the man, yo! He’s a motherfucking beast. Basically through the power of MySpace, he had reached out to X and X did a banger, out in late ’07 and I loved it. I didn’t really want to reach out to the brother because it was X’s connect but he hit me up and we did a track and it was all she wrote from there. I banged it out in one day and we just kept on knocking out joints. We initially started out with the goal of doing an EP so I told him to keep on sending me tracks. I just love his sound, yo. He’s a master with the soulful samples and he’s got the ill drum work and he just works hard. He’s got beats for days and days and his mixing and mastering skills are so suburb. He mastered my mixtape Southside’s Savior and Imaginary Enemies. I’m just happy to make the album with him and I pride myself on introducing him to the world. He also did an album with X that’s going to come out soon. That’s coming out soon too and that’s all produced by Husky.
I like you over his production more than I like you over yours.
(laughs) You know what? I think the world concurs with you, brother! I am not mad at that. Good looking!
You and Husky have a good thing going.
Thank you, my brother. I make beats. I’m a beatmaker. I’m not a producer. I’ll be the first one to put that out there for the world. Husky knows melodies and song structure and how to flip the sample in with the music and how to keep it interesting. That dude’s a genius and I’m glad to have worked with him. I also have to shout out Lakeshow because he did my whole Overqualified record. I’m all about the one MC and one producer format. This is my fourth album and that’s been the format that I’ve been following since my first one. I’m letting Husky take the reins and we’re going to ride this shit until the wheels fall off.
Why is the one MC and one producer concept for an entire project dying out today?
Because I think people are trying to please everybody instead of just pleasing themselves and times are harder than they’ve ever been for a lot of people and I think we really have to get back to some real music. Stop trying to make the people dance for one record and then you want to knock somebody out on the other record. I think if you have the ability, find one producer and do it. Look at the Pacewon and Mr. Green album. That album is crazy! Make some music that people can feel, man. Word.
Speaking of times being hard, how do you support yourself in this game as a relatively new artist trying to come up?
(laughs) You need a better word than “hard” because that shit is damn-near impossible these days. I put out two CDs in stores and I made a little bit of money but the promo game is the most important part of this shit and obviously we don’t have the promo to get on Hot 97 or the top radio stations or Billboard or Times Square. You really have to utilize the internet and give out free music. That's a big thing. That’s why I gave out so much music like Southside’s Savior. That’s fully mixed and mastered because I want the people to know that if I’m going to give you that quality of music, I’m going to sell you something spectacular.
Also with Imaginary Enemies, I’m trying something different, B. I’m only pressing up 500 copies and numbering each one. They’re officially a limited edition release. I’m trying to encourage people to cop CDs. Leave the iTunes alone. Everyone wants to beef with Auto Tune. I’m beefing with iTunes. I’m old school. I like artwork and CDs. I want people to be able to purchase the CD. I’m only pressing up CDs and that’s it. I’m calling it the Anti-Digi Movement. You need to have it. The beats are crazy and the artwork is insane. I’m just trying to make an incredible product for people to go out and purchase. I’m also asking people to not put this up for free download and people are actually following that. I’m not going to post this up for free download and a few blogs said they would do the same. We’re taking it back to CDs and cassettes!
Do you still rock a VCR?
Absolutely! I got the DVD/VCR combination and I’m watching Menace II Society on it right now! I’m old school, baby!
You have to embrace the technology. VCRs, man? Really?
(laughs) I feel you. I rock with an iPod. I don’t rock with a Walkman no more. I like technology but I like a booklet with my CDs. I got a CD player in my car and I like sticking something in that slot. I’m trying to bring it back to that and bring it back to dope artwork. I’ve always been a comic book collector and my man Alex killed the artwork on Imaginary Enemies. It’s a canvas painting. I want people to buy it like it was back in ’95 with The Purple Tape. People appreciate taking it home and buying it with the packaging. Then you can put it on your iPod but you won’t see any names because iTunes isn’t going to have it. We’re going to have the best of both worlds.
I mean, I can rock with the digital movement but I still buy CDs. I don’t order off of iTunes. I’m all about going to Fat Beats and looking through wax. I used to buy wax and I didn’t even have turntables. I’m that type of dude.
You could throw that in there! I’m definitely a little off but that makes for better music, B! (laughs) Come on, you’re 730! You know what that’s about! And my pops had a turntable but I had mad wax. I like looking at it and having a big ball of wax in my room. I feel like I’m a part of it and that I could have more appreciation for it. I don’t know, man.
You’re a weird one, Junclassic.
Thank you, my brother! It feels so good when you say that!
How did you get what you wanted for the Imaginary Enemies cover?
I really have to leave that to my man Alan Coogan-Prieto. He really came up with that. I gave him a few ideas for what I saw as an Imaginary Enemy, like time and financial stuff, really just life and death and the whole concept with that. He really just took it and ran with it, man. That’s why you see the skill and the planet being absorbed by a death star. That’s all his genius, brother. I can’t take nothing from that brother. He had free reign and that’s what I wanted to do. I always give my art people free reign. Big ups to Alan. He’s also a sick tattoo artist. If anyone likes what he does, holler at me for a tattoo from him and I’ll make it happen.
What happens once you sell 500 copies of Imaginary Enemies?
That's a great question! I haven’t really come to that crossroads yet. I’m thinking I might do the iTunes thing after and maybe I won’t. It’s kind of ill when you look for your older classic albums. I love how Def Jux repressed the old Company Flow album. It’s kind of ill when you hear about a great album and you can’t find it. It’s an oversaturated market and I want to level that landscape, B. Maybe I won’t put it back out there and maybe I will. I haven’t really decided that yet. I just want to see them all go and the reaction to the music. I’ve been told by a lot of sources that this is my best work yet and I just want to see if the fans agree.
Do you agree that this is your best work?
Yes I do. Yes I do, fam. Just off of “ZeeZee's Groove” alone. That’s a dedication to my niece who lost her father a year and a half ago. That was my brother. I made a song about that situation and ain’t nobody rapping about that and if you are, I need to hear you and you need to hear me. I’m rapping about my real life and that’s what I need to do. It’s tough times with people losing their lives and everything. Let’s stop having fun and swag surfing and move on and be better people and have some fulfillment in our lives. So yes, this is definitely my best work, to answer your question in a long-ass way, brother.
You obviously had a real vision for this project when you started. Do you feel you executed that vision in the end?
I feel like I’ve accomplished that in the sense that I put together a good package of music for people to listen to and enjoy. I don’t feel like they gotta skip one song. I don’t know what the listener will say but I feel that way. I stepped it up with the beats. Some of the beats from Lakeshow were a little eccentric and I appreciate the feedback off of that. I think I’ve started to nail the production and just in terms of the beats alone, I could sell this as an instrumental album and I feel people should cop it. The lyrics are definitely talking about real life. I think 100% I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to make some real music with good production.
Were you happy with the buzz your free mixtape Southside’s Savior got you?
I would say yeah, it was definitely successful. I got 11,000 downloads and great feedback on it. People are loving the variety on it, like “Everybody” and the samples and recreating “Road to the Riches.” People are loving it, man. I’m getting some dope feedback. I did a show last week with Brown Bag All-Stars and we did “Accordions” and we did “The Renaissance” joint off of it and the crowd was going crazy. If you can make a New York crowd feel it then you’re doing something incredible.
I don’t understand why some of the top websites didn’t show me love on it but it’s going to be heard. We’re bringing real music and I’m appreciative of the feedback. I just need the top websites to feel what I’m doing. I’m keeping it 100 in a fake world. Listen to the music. it’s real music. I ain’t gotta talk about guns to be hard and I ain’t gotta tell no crazy drug stories to be a real person. I’m definitely bringing you my real life, man, and it ain’t all sour. That’s what I’m trying to do. And Southside’s Savior definitely reflected that. It’s 78 minutes of music. Go download it. I think you’ll love it. Big ups to Dub MD for putting that together.
Do you think we’ll get another Dynamix project or will you and Ceez possibly do something?
Man, Monsta X wants to punch me in the face for it taking so long! Husky’s doing some production and we got something special for you! Ceez is definitely, definitely going to be doing some tracks with us. He’s working with K-Def and he’s a beast! He bodied that “Renaissance” track off Southside’s Savior with Monsta X and Ravage. We’re definitely going to be doing some joints and he’s going to be on the Dynamix album and I’m hoping I can get on some joints that he’s going to be releasing and this Dynamix album is definitely coming in 2010.
What should we be expecting from you from here on out?
The goal is to keep dropping projects consistently. I told J-Zone I’m trying to do it like Master P in 1998 when he had the four page ads in The Source. I’m definitely getting on my Lil’ Wayne and 2Pac shit. I got my new EP that I just finished done and I’m shopping that. I want to start working with my artists and have another label working my shit. That’s the goal with that.
And my new EP is Better than Fiction and it’s with Wunderkind from Germany and I have another EP called Hybrid that I’m hoping I could drop by early 2010 and I’m working on three albums. I always start a new project before I finish the last project. That’s how you keep it going. And plus I’m unemployed, man, so I got a lot of time on my hands. I’m trying to keep feeding the people. That’s what you gotta do. I gave ‘em 50 songs this year. I’m going to keep hitting them, bro.
Personally I feel like you’ve grown a lot from the Dynamix days when we were doing mixtapes together to now. How would you describe your growth?
That’s a great question. I said, “I love the music, it keeps me in a better zone/So pardon if I keep y’all in the loop like a metronome.” I just always talk about my real life and life has just gotten really, really real for me in the last couple of years and I’ve just been trying to document it and through documenting the hardships like losing my brother to my homeboy getting locked up to falling out with a close friend, I document it and just try to find the right production for it and I feel like as long as I keep it truthful in the music then it’s going to grow for me. And I’ve been writing these songs like Stephen King! As an MC sometimes I can’t tell if I’ve grown and sometimes I think that my older stuff is better but I’m glad that you’re keeping tabs. That means everything to me. And I just did a track with Large Professor, so it’s about to get crazy!
How did that go down?
Oh, man, that brother’s incredible! I hit him on the MySpace. I hit a lot of dudes on the MySpace and some dudes don’t holler back but the god LP had a beat up called “Corona” and I just hit him like, ‘I love that track’ and he said, ‘You like it? It’s yours!’ I’m working on it and I think it’s going to be real big. I’m hoping to do lunch with him and really bother him at length. He’s a busy dude and all these dudes are busy. I’m also supposed to be getting on Evil Dee’s album too. There’s a lot of things I’m trying to get my hands involved in.