When did you decide that it was time for you to leave Flipmode?
I decided to leave Flipmode because when I came into Flipmode, I came into it as a dude that had already done a lot of work by myself. Busta respected that a lot. When I came in and I brokered the deal with Jive Records, the things that we were doing were so great and they kind of fumbled the ball. I don’t blame them or myself or Busta but I feel like the company fumbled and I didn’t want to be attached to anything anymore. I felt like I could make some executive decisions by myself and I’m good with that. I’m very humble with it and I don’t have a problem with it. I felt like the executive decisions that Bus was making, I could do them on my own. The relationships I have with people might not be as long as his is, but I felt like fuck it, I’m going to do it and I’m going to grow. I took the risk.
Is it harder now that you don’t have that Flipmode affiliation?
Not at all. To tell you the truth, Busta Rhymes cosigns me anyway so I’m already cosigned. It’s up to me to keep on growing with the relationship. Let me tell you one thing – good music beats out anything. I don’t care, man. If you got good music and you respect the peers that you’re doing business with, they’re going to respect you because they’re going to be like, ‘Yo, that dude right there, he’s cool, man.’ If all I do is deliver great music, how could you stop me? Don’t burn no bridges and work hard. They’re going to respect you.
Are you still cool with your peers like Spliff Star, Rampage and Digga?
Me and Spliff was always cool. Spliff knows a lot of people from my neighborhood. You gotta understand, Digga is like my big sister. She put me on mixtapes before Busta. She started my buzz. Rampage, I don’t know dude but he knows about me because where I’m from on the pavement, I’ve always been there and I did my thing. So he knows me more from the streets. He doesn’t know me as a rapper. Busta, we’re cool. He knows what my vision is and that’s what we’re doing. If I need help I know he’ll extend his hand and if he don’t extend his hand, it’s all cool, man. It’s all love. I don’t have a problem with that. We’re all men.
What advantages do you have as an artist now that you’re completely independent?
I know one thing – when you’re independent, you have to work 100 times harder and you have to know that it’s going to bring out greatness if you want to be great in this business. Everybody started just as I started, from Busta to 50 Cent. We all started with that production company or rapping company and thought we couldn’t make executive decisions for ourselves and we outgrew that because we were doing what they were doing. So there’s going to be some conflicts at times. When I make music for Rebel Music, Labba, the C.E.O., is making the decision for Rebel Music.
Did not being on Busta’s albums like The Big Bang ever bother you?
That was the biggest beef that we had. I felt like I had came in there and I brokered the deal at Jive Records and you didn’t put me on the Jive record. You didn’t put me on the “Touch It (Remix)”. I brokered the deal and he just added my records to mixshows. Mixshows are cool but I needed to be televised. That’s when it started to get funny. I feel that he didn’t market me right. When 50 Cent built his mansion, he never shut his doors. His doors never closed. He went back to Queens and he made those dudes believe in him. That’s loyalty.
How did you broker the deal at Jive?
To tell you the truth, with the Jive situation, I pressed up a demo, a 14 song demo, and I took my demo to Jeff Dixon at Disturbing Tha Peace. He was like, ‘Yo, I’m in the South. Listen to this dude from Brooklyn! How come y’all not up on your jobs?’ The word started going around and Dave Lighty was in Miami and heard that shit. Then he called me one time and he said that him and his brother were about to make it happen and he was a man of his word. They said this guy needs to be heard and the next thing you know I’m brokering a deal over at Jive Records.
Why do you think it’s taking so long for fans to know who you are and what you’re about?
I think that every artist that reaches the power of the N.W.A.’s and the Ice T’s, I might go back a little bit for you, the Dr. Dre’s, the KRS-One’s, all the way to the Jay-Z’s and the 50 Cent’s, it takes them time. I prove myself. I’m about greatness. That’s what I’m about. I think it takes us a certain level of suffering. We gotta suffer and learn the business because when you get in, we gotta be so aggressive and so hard-working that we actually have to go through some pain. I come from the slums. This is not pain. This is hard work right here and I think it’s going not take me a little bit longer. And the game is a little tighter now so it’s going to take me even longer than it took them. It’s going to take me a little longer. But I’m still working and I’m still grinding and I’m still making songs and the DJs are requesting my songs. The good music will never be stopped. As long as you got good music you’re gonna win.
Would Busta really be there to help you if you needed him to?
Oh yeah. Four months ago I was up in his crib drinking champagne and smoking marijuana. That’s the great thing about urban music. When a rapper leaves a family or a crew, automatically the media thinks it’s beef. Obviously there’s some subliminal shit but it ain’t gotta be beef. My lawyer and Busta’s lawyer could argue but then they can have a drink and me and Busta can go through what we go through and then go and have a drink. We’re businessmen, my g. I refuse to lose. I refuse to lose, man.
From your time in Flipmode, did you see true unity from everyone?
There’s not unity in Flipmode. That’s the reason why it can never happen. The reason why there’s not more unity in Flipmode is because he never came from a gang. He didn’t come from the pavement where he had nothing. He thinks it’s about us huddling around him. Yes, it’s supposed to be like that but each man is working hard and you have to work hard for them just as hard as you work on your own shit. That’s what he doesn’t understand. When Jay-Z puts out a project, he’s behind it. Same with Curtis Jackson and Dr. Dre. When the Lox put out something they’re behind it with everything. He doesn’t understand the difference between self and selfishness. And he’s not going to have any success. I’m not hating on him but the only Flipmode there will be will be Busta Rhymes.
I’m guessing we’ll never see a Flipmode album.
Never. If you did it would come out on Koch because he’s not willing to spend on his gang. He’s not willing to do that. He don’t work like that. He’s on some old school shit and he wants to cash in on a favor. It’s depressing out here and motherfuckers need money, not favors.
Who officially makes up Flipmode right now?
Spliff Star is there. He has to stay with Bus because Bus has to go into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame and when he goes in he can’t go in without my g. Spliff Star is Busta Rhymes and Busta Rhymes is Spliff Star. Reek Da Villain is there and I wish him the best but sooner or later he’s going to be out. He’s not going to stay there and it’s going to be what I said – Flipmode is going to consist of Busta Rhymes. Spliff Star is his own entity and he’s built his legacy with Busta Rhymes.
Everyone knows Spliff Star as Busta’s hypeman and for that he doesn’t get as much respect as he probably should. What did Spliff Star do in Flipmode when you were with them?
All those stage performances and hot-ass hooks, Spliff has a lot to do with that and he does it well. Spliff gives it his 100% in a performance and he gives it his all just like Busta does. They help each other well. Loyalty is keeping Spliff Star there. There’s only one guy Busta took off of the streets and made him something and that’s Spliff Star. He can’t say that about me or about anybody else. That’s why we move with such independence. But my record and my music will stand up against his anytime pound for point. I know the secret – making great records.
What’s the most valuable lesson you learned while affiliated with Flipmode?
Work hard because his work ethic is fucking superior. I learned that from Busta Rhymes and most of the clique couldn’t keep up with him. Only me and Papoose could keep up with his work ethic. Nobody else. And that’s what he loved about me and Pap. If he’s doing two records, we’re coming with four apiece. Pap keeps working and Spliff would come and play records. When I come I’m playing records. I don’t have to record where they record at. I was never dependent on that. I record my own music and so does Papoose. I always worked better by myself. I didn’t need any crutches.
I used to get your singles from Jive six years ago. How hard has it been staying on the grind for so long without having an album come out?
I think I would have to say that with Jive, I was there coming from the urban ghetto and going to prep school. When I got there there were a lot of things that I learned at Jive. Now I’m ready to go to the media and now I’m ready to be on HipHopGame. There are a lot of things that they taught me. I already knew how to rap and I already knew how to do all of this. I already knew how I wanted to look and I already knew how I wanted to walk. But there are things I had to learn like how to get a record on the radio and how to deal with DJs and how to attack the media. These are things I didn’t know because I was coming from a public school to a prep school and that shit was amazing. I call those years my boot camp years because now I’m ready. I’m ready to be heard and I’m ready to take over.
Musically what have you been working on lately?
Right now I’m working on my next mixtape that’s coming out with DJ SMF. I’m working on some projects right now, some online work, that I’m going to do in the future. I think that’s going to be real good to work on my buzz. And I’m continuously working to make records to add myself to the radio because radio is my strongpoint. I can get myself on the streets and my album sounds beautiful. I’m working on a beautiful album. I’m happy.
What producers are you working with today?
Right now I’m working with Cool and Dre. I’m working with this producer out in San Diego. I worked with Scott Storch on two records. I worked with T-Pain. I was blessed to work with T-Pain. I worked with Yogi and I worked with Sam Sneed, which is Dr. Dre’s cousin. And I may be forgetting some people but whoever I’m forgetting, nothing but love and respect. Right now I just want to work with Dr. Dre. That’s my next step. Word. Dr. Dre is next. That’s where I’m at right now. I need one record from the Doc to pick me up and then I’m good.
You’re also doing a cartoon with MTV. How did that come about and where are you with that?
Right now we shot the pilot for it and the people are loving it. They purchased 13 episodes and we shot nine episodes. The producer and the writer are back in the lab doing their writing and their stuff. They got enough episodes to air until the top of the year and I’m hoping that it goes great and is successful.
What character are you?
I’m fighting crime in the ‘hood! (laughs) I’m fighting crime in the ‘hood, which is cool. I love it because I think it’s just an opportunity for me to open up some more doors in my career with Pixar or Disney or one of those animation companies that makes these movies. I hope they hear my voice and get attracted to it. I don’t care. I’m working. I’m out here to be working.
What’s next on your plate, sir?
When I go to sleep I’m a rapper so I’m always going to be into my hip-hop music and getting my music out there to guys like yourself.