You’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in the past couple of years. Has it slowed you down in any way?
Ain’t nothing. It’s been a constant grind. It’s the story of my life. It’s nothing that I ain’t built for. Something will supposed to go down and then something else will get in the way of it. It makes me more focused and it’ll make it more inspirational for the people who can relate to that type of lifestyle. They can relate to those inconsistencies and obstacles popping up. I’m pretty much living life like everybody else right now, trying to get to that next level and staying focused.
Why do you think you’ve been through so many ups and downs in your career and life in general?
I don’t know, man. I guess it’s just my path in life. I guess the devil is going to block the people that are going to do more for the people than the ones that ain’t gonna do nothing. You gotta look at it like if you were the devil, who would you stop first? Are you going to do more for people who are going to help others or are you going to give them obstacles? Of course you’re going to give them obstacles but when I get to that next level it’ll be different.
The people that are inspirational are the people who have been through a lot and I am that type of person. I’ve been through a lot and I ain’t no overnight success where as soon as I got into this everything started popping. I had to go through a million obstacles in my life. Everything I didn’t want to go through I went through, including going to jail. Including getting shot, including getting betrayed by people who are supposed to be riders. I’m built for this and that’s why I speak the way I speak and that’s why I can identify with the people I identify with. There’s no one on the street that I can’t relate to. This is my card and I’m going to play it.
Do you still get frustrated today when things fall apart on you or are you able to let it roll off easier today than in the past?
It is still frustrating. It’s not easy but it’s just like, what I’ma do? I ain’t never been one to give up. I ain’t never been one to be broke in any situation. I just have to keep going and stay motivated, regardless.
One thing I know is that it can be worse because I’ve been through worse so that’s the bright side for me to look at. I know it’s over 80,000 people in the state of New York that’s imprisoned and millions of people in prison across the U.S. that want to be in my shoes where they could do anything.
I don’t take my freedom for granted but I don’t look at money as the ultimate goal because I had that already. There was times when all I wanted was to be free. I was getting denied parole and going to the box and dealing with all kinds of disappointment. These problems that I’m having right now are a lot of problems that people from the penitentiary wish they had.
Dudes write me on a consistent basis. I get letters every week from dudes. I stay writing and I go up there to visit them. This is my life. I’m still motivation for them because I still go up to visit them. Some guys have been in jail since we were 17 years-old and they haven’t been out and some have been out and went back and got life or they got killed. Some things don’t mean nothing to people but I’ve been through a lot and to a certain extent I know that I’m blessed. I’m here and I know that I’m healthy and I’m on the other side of the penitentiary wall and I’m doing something that I dreamed of doing one time. And I got fans and people that support me and want to see me do good. I see and hear the support and I know that dude’s are checking for me. That’s something that keeps me motivated in my downtime.
You’ve been through more than the average person by a long shot. How do you feel when you hear rappers capitalizing off a story that you actually lived?
I mean, I’m not going to hate on nobody for what they’re doing because if they wasn’t doing that, what would they be doing with their life? For me to look at that like if I came home and I came home with a plan to unify and inspire dudes, from that perspective I gotta support that. Anybody that can either rhyme about a particular lifestyle instead of going to jail and being a statistic or being dead, all right, I respect that.
That’s not going to put no damper on what I’m doing because I’m secure with what I’m doing. This is something that’s just going to add on to the life that I live because the people that want to hear it from a credible source relate to me on that level because they know I’m a credible source. But anybody that wants to do that, I support that. Live your life, get your money and support your family. I definitely support that. But there’s definitely two different categories with people who actually lived it and people who rap about it. Those are definitely two different worlds.
Rick Ross was exposed for not being 100% real with his story. If you spoke to Rick what would you tell him?
Get your money. There’s nothing to say. He’s a dude who’s living through his music. He’s doing what he has to do. I’m not hating on nobody that’s trying to do something. If you’re really a person that’s for the cause and you’ve been in jail then you want to keep dudes from dying or going to jail. That’s what I do. How are you going to hate on somebody who’s rapping about a life they didn’t live? I’m not going to hate on them. I have a different respect for the people who actually lived it and we see eye-to-eye but I’m not going to shoot no one down.
That’s something that they have to live with. If you didn’t live that lifestyle before you rapped about it, you knew it might come out. I can’t say nothing on either side of it. I’m just going to relate to the people that have been through what I’ve been through. But somebody who has not lived this lifestyle and they’re in the music and they’re talking about it and they show appreciation to the people who lived it, I really can’t say nothing to it. They’re doing it and they’re acknowledging and saluting the people who did it. They’re showing that. I definitely couldn’t say nothing to nobody that’s not doing that they’re showing that. I definitely couldn’t say nothing to nobody that’s not doing that but other than that, we have to stay different because we have a different type of values.
What’s your current situation since Death Row East folded?
I just want to get the music out, man, and get the people relating to me and what I’m doing. My situation has always been what it’s been – an independent struggle. When I was with Suge it was an independent struggle and before Suge it was an independent struggle. Suge was one of the people that was relating. It’s going to help me with my current situation and I got a lot of indie information from a person that did it on a great level and has an untold amount of success in the music industry.
With me and him building on what we built on, that’s priceless within itself and when I get the opportunity to utilize that, it’s going to be worth every minute of it. I look at the good I got out of it and not what I didn’t get. I have to utilize that. I got a lot out of life already. This is something that a lot of people never had an opportunity like this. They really admire what I’m doing and this is inspiration to them. I just have to stay grinding.
When I was with Death Row East, I was still grinding. I was doing what I was doing and everything that I’ve ever done has been on my back, from me getting on radios and any magazines to any interviews. That all came from my grind. Any cameo I ever got was from my grind. It ain’t even like I got handouts. I was still grinding doing what I was doing all the time and that’s what I’m going to continue to do – network. And the people that keep up with me. They’re going to see it. And when what’s supposed to go down goes down, it’s just going to be great. There’s going to be more of a focus on it.
What kind of a situation do you want next?
I’ve been working on something for the last four years. It’s about to come to fruition. I don’t want to spoil it and I know a lot of dudes talk about what they have going on. I’m going to let my situation build. It’s going to be an ideal situation. My whole thing that I’ve been doing is getting me a fair shot and a machine behind me to put my music out to get my music to all the people that would appreciate it and that would buy it if it came out. That’s what I’ve been doing. Now I’m going to have an opportunity to do that very soon.
This is February of ’09. Talk to me next year in February of 2010 and we’re going to have the same conversation and then we’ll see what you’re asking me about my situations. We had a couple of times that we talked and we went over different things before and it’s been a lot of years of me grinding and going through different adversities and struggles and every time it looks like I’m going to be there something happens. I’m working on a situation for the last four, five years that I’ve been working on. Since ’04. Talk to me in a little while.
At the end of this year going into next year you’re going to know exactly what I’m talking about because you’re going to see it and you’re going to hear it and you’re going to know I knew what the fuck I was talking about. It’s time for that situation. My card’s been in the deck for a long time and it’s time for me to play it with no jinx on it or nobody doing this and that. You can interview me in October. That’s going to be the prime time for me to talk again. That’s when I can go all in on what I’m talking about. But it’s going to be big in ’09 for hip-hop in general and when people really put their heads together they’re going to know what I’m talking about.
“Animal” is one of my favorite songs that you’ve released lately. What inspired that?
It’s hip-hop, man. I love doing hip-hop. When you think about putting out joints for the mixtapes, there’s more freedom to drop certain songs that a machine might not push if you’re not in the right situation as an artist, depending on where you’re at. I know people love a lot of the hard joints that I do and that’s what they’re not getting to see right now. People are putting out different types of music and when I got the opportunity to go in on my mixtapes like that, I’m putting out real joints. “Animal” reminds you of real hip-hop. It’s hard. It’s grimy. It’s 2Pac going in on his hard shit and Lake going in on his hard shit. The beat fits the both of us and I just tried to give something back to the people that I knew they would appreciate.
You’ve been working a lot with producer Soulo. What’s he bringing out of you?
He was getting at me for awhile on the computer and he was telling my people to get at me and I was busy doing what I was doing. When I heard the beats we finally got up and that shit was hard. That shit was hard! We did “Carnivore” first and we’ve been going back and forth since then. I was working on a sound to cultivate and I always wanted to lock in and get a sound. I wanted to be consistent with my sound and not just have an album with a whole different variety of beats and the records going all over the place form one sound to the next. I wanted a consistent sound and I told Soulo what I was looking for and he was coming with that.
We build on the phone every day and I’ve been getting beats from him like crazy and he’s been consistent and that’s what I appreciate. You know, you get with certain producers and DJs and they’re around when it’s going well for you. When you get your downtime everybody’s not moving like that and what I respect about Soulo is that he kept it consistent and he’s been riding out and I want to make sure that he’s rewarded for that.
When things are going good for you there’s no shortage of dudes that you can deal with. But let things slow down and see what happens. That's what I respect from him. I’m paying him a million dollars for the way he works. He goes in and gets whatever I need. He works consistently, every day. He's the only person I got that works like that. A lot of people recognize potential but they never get out of their situations. They don’t grind. They don’t want to go from the first to the ninth inning. They want to go to the victory party but Soulo is different. He’s in it.
I didn’t even tell him what was going on at first because I wanted to make sure that he was going to ride out. Then I told him what was really going to go down and he was staying consistent with it. I felt that he earned that. When the situation comes that I was telling you about, he’s going to be one of the first people to be on board because I never forget nothing that anybody does for me or to me and that’s who I am and that’s who I always am. I never forget somebody that rides with me or somebody that rides against me.
That’s why I’m going to keep on rocking with him but there have been very few people that have actually stuck it out. They want to do stuff when it’s going well and then it’s not going well and they tell you things they’re going to do and they don’t. I don’t rock like that. People can get at me whenever. I’m doing that whatever the situation is and no matter how many hits I get and all that. The way we were dealing before, if you kept it real with me I’m going to keep it real with you. But if you kept it inconsistent with me, I’ll do the same and I won’t feel like I don’t owe you nothing. That’s how I rock. But Soulo’s definitely been down.
Who do you feel wasn’t 100% loyal to you?
I see that every day. With every situation you’re always going to get that. You have to look at my situation and what I’ve been around. For the people on the outside looking, I’ve been running around with millionaires and multi-millionaires and on the covers of magazines and on TVs and radios. I’ve been on everything. People are coming at you with different types of motives. They’re getting at you for different types of reasons and they’re not going to be there for the long run. There are industry people that want to get at you when you’re hot and then later they’re not looking at you for interviews or any types of press coverage. That’s straight business.
You get producers and artists the same way. You get people that are trying to get out that are going to change their position and that’s cool because I know what I’m doing and I know how I’m rocking. I don’t need no one around me that’s not loyal anyway. Loyalty is the first thing along with integrity.
You could take my freedom and my money but you can’t take my integrity. Integrity is something I have to give up. They had me in jail and I still stood up every time it was time to stand up, regardless of what the situation was and regardless of what the odds were. That’s why I respect myself and individuals who protect their integrity. I can’t be bought or sold. Nobody’s going to disrespect me and give me money and think they’re going to compensate me for what they did before. When I make a decision and that comes from my heart and I feel that it’s righteous for what I stand for, I’m not compromising it. That’s who I am and what I stand for.
If I’m rocking with you I’m rocking with you. We already made that bond. I’m not going to switch on you. If they switch they’re not going to get that same loyalty. I’m rocking with you until you start showing me what you are but I’m never going to leave my mans behind enemy lines.
Certain individuals would die for me so it’s nothing that I wouldn’t do for them. If you knew that somebody would die for you and leave their children here because of their love for you, that’s priceless. I’m doing whatever. Whatever I gotta do, I’m gonna do. If I gotta send money to their family while they’re upstate or pay for their trial then that’s nothing.
That’s why I’m not running around throwing money around because I got priorities. I’ll put money up for my people’s cases, whether it’s for lawyers or investigators. My money goes to my family. My street family is my family. This is one family. This is what I stand for. Everybody doesn’t feel like that. Some people feel like they don’t have to do that. That’s why the people that rock with me rock harder. They go all out. Some people are not ready to roll on that level and that’s cool. They fall to the wayside and those are the people that are not going to be there when you’re on your downside. If you’re loyal you’re going to be with your people regardless of what. You’re not going to leave them when they’re down and that’s now how people were built out here.
People out here want to ride with you and they have an ulterior motive and when they’re not getting what they want out of it then they’re going to treat you on a whole different level. That’s why I can’t build with somebody who doesn't have the same values. If I gotta explain all of this stuff to you then it’s not going to work out. It’s cool and I know how we’re going to rock. My loyalty is more stern than other people’s is going to be. If I see you’re not like that, we can rock but we can only rock on a certain level.
If I rock with you I’m not going to let you take no losses. I’m ready to take this further than other people are. If I rock with somebody that gets violated, I’m not going to take no disrespect, nothing. If somebody in jail disrespects me, you think I’m gonna get on some music shit? That’s not what I’m about. People just have to understand that we have different types of values. And some people act disrespectful and then they don’t want to take it that far. I’m not that type of individual. I have to understand that I have different values than some people so that our relationships can be more consistent. That’s where I’m going to be at with it.
Does your group 848 have that loyalty?
Yeah. My group…It’s like, certain people, in there they rock like that. Ruc da Jackal, he’s been down. He shows me that whatever he do, eh keeps me abreast. Ruc is like that. His loyalty is in tact. My man A.B., he’s definitely like that. He’s just locked up right now. He’s got a case but he’ll be back out in the next couple of years but his loyalty makes him a good cat. Wherever he’s at, he’s going through it and he’s always been ride or die, all the way out. I got some other guys I’m bringing out now and we’re going to see where their loyalty’s at. But those guys, they earned it. I could let them go deal with any kind of money involved and they would definitely keep it official. That’s respect.
Sometimes you have to block the people you build with because you can do a lot for a person and they leave you and you see where the loyalty is at in the game. Niggas are trying to shit on you and you think back to when they didn’t have nothing and you put a person in that situation and there’s no appreciation for that, regardless of what. I don’t care. If I was rocking with somebody and they got me a situation where I didn’t have to work and worry about getting arrested and if somebody else could help you live your life, that’s not worth no appreciation?
You’ve seen how these dudes rock. That don’t mean nothing. I’ve seen certain situations where artists outgrow situations and that’s cool but there’s just a certain loyalty that I feel you should have for something that someone’s done for you so I couldn’t afford to do stuff with these dudes on certain levels because I knew it wouldn’t be like that and it wouldn’t be appreciated and that’s where he problems come in. That’s where it gets fucked up. Motherfuckers do not appreciate shit like this. The motherfuckers that I got down with me in my circle are loyal. They've been here in my down time and they know about the ups and downs. They’ve been rocking with me through all of this shit and then they’ve been waiting for their time to pop. I have to reciprocate that because they’ve been down with me for years. And I got my little man from Lefrak named Profit. I’m looking forward to putting him out and he’s going to be the future of this rap shit.
Who is officially in 848 today?
Right now it’s Ruc Da Jackal. A.B. is locked up. Profit, Complexion and Final Chapter are the new additions I added to 848. You’re going to hear music from them. We’re working on music right now. My other man from Jamaica, Sekou 720, he’s moving around and trying to get some situations down but the people that you’re going to hear first, more than likely, are Ruc Da Jackal and Profit. Those are the first two faces that you’re going to see in this shit.
Is there any conflict with Ruc Da Jackal being affiliated with Ron Artest’s Tru Warier Records as well?
He lets me know everything he’s doing. He’s getting his presence and he’s doing whatever he’s doing over there but he’s still a part of this. And I’m a man. I’m not going to stop him from getting his money but I can tell him what not to do and he wouldn’t do it but I wouldn’t do that. Why would I stop this man from getting money? He can go out and go across seas and network and go out and get paid. Why wouldn’t he do that? Go and do that. Get some money. Make it happen, homie. I don’t have to question Ruc or question his loyalty because he’s been in situations and he let me know everything and he kept it 100. There’s nothing I have to question about him.
What’s your big plan right now?
My big thing is I’ve been trying to get my sound together. That’s what I’ve been working on. I’m trying to get all of it orchestrated the way I wanted to orchestrate it because I do a lot of my own production now. I know what kind of beats I want to be on and how I want to sound. That’s what I’ve been trying to put together.
I have visions in my head and I need to get with producers who can make that work and that’s what I’m doing. But I can’t put the carrot before the horse. I have to establish me before I can put them out because the people have been looking forward to that. I want to put an artist out and see how he’s going to do but before I did that the people wanted to hear more from me. That’s what the people needed. But I’m definitely going to bang it out.
It’s not going to be hard for me to get them on the streets and get them on the mixtapes. But I’m so close to doing what I’ve been working on doing for a minute that I have to do that right now. These niggas have hits and there’s no question in my mind that they’re not going to pop. I wouldn’t be fucking with them if I didn’t think they could. I’ve been working with nothing but stars since I got in the music industry. Everybody that I worked with has been stars.
I got the production and placed the hooks and put everybody on the records on The 41st Side album. I orchestrated those records. Nobody orchestrated that for me or did it for me. After that I had input on my projects to say what the records were going to be. You hear my presence on there and the hooks. I can orchestrate my music and it’s going to be nothing to get everyone else hot. I’m going to push them and kept them get to the next level. I always came into this game with the mind of a businessman. That’s what I do.
I know talent and that’s what I’m going to do. I know where the new talent is and I’m going to let them make their mark. I need to get in the position I’m in to keep these people getting out so I can have some longevity in the game. I’m not trying to work with people that are going to be here today and gone in a second. I want to work with people that have the talent and the ability at the same time. I’m working with guys that are hungry. They got 16 bars and that’s it. They’re not taking it seriously.
If you’re going to do this you have to put your backbone in it and work hard. I work with dudes that work hard. I know what hard work is because I go in there and make four or five records in five hours. That’s how I work. They have to be up to par for me to even respect how they work.
My little man Profit is doing that now. He’s doing all of it, from mixing and all that. He’s in D.C. up in Howard right now learning that. He’s really applying himself to the future. He’s been up in college for two years putting it in. Why wouldn’t I want top see somebody like him get an opportunity? He’s not sitting in the ‘hood and not doing nothing with himself and thinking somebody’s going to come and find him. To see someone like that who’s that young and working so hard, that needs to be appreciated. That’s what I do.
That’s my angle. I’m going to cultivate everything with them and put them out. That’s who I’m putting out. I’m putting these niggas out and that’s my word. I’m going to put them out and that’s my word as long as everything stays consistent in our relationship.
Do you consider your project released in 2006 My Brother’s Keeper presented by Cormega to be a success today?
The situation was all right. It needed to be done like that. That’s how Bob Perry wanted to do it and I guess for Cormega it was easier for him to present it. I needed to do that album at the time and it was cool. I was going to put a mixtape out around that time with Koch and I was already up there talking and that’s when that situation came about.
They were going to give me money to do this, that and the third but I didn’t want to do that. They wanted too much out of a motherfucker, contract-wise, and I wasn’t trying to do that. The shit that we did was cool because there weren’t any stipulations. It was cool.
I was doing that shit to get the paper to pay for my homie’s lawyers with a federal case in Queensbridge. I needed to get the paper to pay their lawyers because it was crunch time. There was pressure on all of us. They were really trying to take us out and put us in jail for life, me and all my mans that were down so all the moves that we made had to have a paper trail. I couldn’t go in there and fuck with niggas and pay lawyers and not have no legitimate source of income.
That’s the reason I did the shit, really. That’s why that shit went down. We were doing what we had to do. But in looking back at that, if I had to do that again to get the money and to take care of the homies, I would do that. That’s just the type of individual that I am. That was my intentions when that shit was done. So that was cool.
Have you and Cormega been working on music recently?
Nah. ‘Mega’s doing what he gotta do and I’m doing what I gotta do. I’m focused on getting myself to the next level and staying consistent with what I’m gonna do. That’s why I’m staying focused with the people I rock with and I’m going to be consistent. Everybody’s got different agendas with what they’re trying to do and we can keep on building on that and building on that.
Certain people are going to be all right and we can do things and build on things in general in the music industry. But when you think about what you want to do when you’re building your foundation, you want to build your house with bricks and not build it with bricks that someone else is gonna take. Then you won’t have no foundation. I’m trying to work with all the people on the same project. We can get a contract built on one building quicker.
If you got somebody working on something else then you’re not gonna get nowhere because this dude is trying to come over here and work with you but he’s got his own projects but he’s trying to build his situation and someone else is trying to build his situation. You need to lock in with people who have the same goals and you can go and do what you want to do.
People in Queensbridge always wanted to go and do it the way they wanted to and there’s nothing wrong with that. If everybody was locked in and all wanted to do the same thing, then we would have the same goals and we would be working as a unit but that’s not the situation. Everybody has to do what they gotta do on their own time and I ‘m the same way. I have to establish what I have to establish and I have to be consistent on that.
I don’t need to worry about what no one else is doing because that don’t make no sense. Lake has to handle his situation and whatever that is. Any situation that I have to address, I’m handling that. Nobody gives a fuck how I handle my situations and how I’m doing what I gotta do. Lake got to do that. I got to handle myself and I’m not looking for somebody to do something for me. Period. I’m going to do it. Somebody else could do that and that’s comrade love but I’m not going to ask them to do that. I’m going to do that.
And I’ll do stuff for someone else based on the love. They don’t have to ask me. And we’re not going to let nobody disrespect us. You wouldn’t let that happen. You’re going to step up and address that. That’s how I am with the people that I rock with. That’s how I feel about it. I’m just making sure that the loyalty with the people I rock with is more than consistent. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m doing what I do and trying to get to this next level.
What’s coming from you in the next couple of months?
I’m working on a DVD. It’s a whole documentary on me. It’s got a whole bunch of videos on it. The video is almost done. There’s mad people on there. It’s taking so long and it’s hard to get all of the interviews on there with the records. We’re trying to shorten it up and we might have to do two volumes. But the DVD is crazy but they’re going to appreciate it. They’re going to get a lot of information and learn how the streets see me. We’re going to be putting out a lot of real shit and the people are going to have a different view of me when they see what the people are talking abut because I’m not even on the DVD. This is everyone else talking about me who knows me and is talking about me. That’s real. So I’m putting that out and then I’m dropping about two more mixtapes and then by then it’s going to be playtime. It’s going to be time to work and our next interview I could have a whole different angle by the time me and you get back up. Whenever that is I could be talking to you about a whole bunch of different shit.