well. I'm just staying focused and trying to get to that next point.
about a year since our last interview. It seems that your situation really
In between that time, I knew I was coming out, but I didn't know which
way. I had some things in the air, but not this Death Row situation. I
didn't have any crutches or support last year. It was just me. I was just
hoping that I could put the music out and get the opportunity, but I didn't
know how it would happen. I stayed strong and kept doing it. I was able
to meet up with Suge and I believed that if we got together it would be
a powerful move. Once he heard my music, it was on from there. He saw
what I could do. This is a defining moment in my career because he sees
what we can do and I've always wanted to do this. He has one of the most
renowned labels in music. What he did for music is phenomenal. No one
can deny that. For him to do what he did and what he stands for, I know
it's a blessing and I'm very appreciative of this opportunity that I got.
I'm going to take full advantage of it right now.
Death Row Freestyle, you said that you wondered what it would be like
if a dude from the East got on Death Row. How does it feel?
remarkable. I wasn't around during the East Coast/West Coast problems.
I was incarcerated from 1992 to 1999. When 2Pac came out, blew up, and
got killed, I was in jail. When Biggie came out with Mary J. Blige, I
was locked up. I was never here for none of that. I respect the way the
music went and where it's coming from on the West. A lot of dudes didn't
respect the other coast's music. If everyone respected each other, nothing
bad would have happened.
that, I knew it would be a powerful move if I got with Suge. I was always
on the outside looking in. Now that I'm in here and I'm doing it, I'm
going to make a lot of people proud because I'm bringing the streets of
the East Coast together with the streets of the West Coast. I'm going
to give a lot of people a chance. They're never going to get that shot
if no one real gets in the game to help them. Not everyone is a rapper
and a lot of people never get their shot. A lot of people need a helping
hand and people in positions don't do anything with it. There's people
making millions of dollars off this music and they don't feed anybody
in the hood or give anyone any jobs. They just want you to support them.
But where are the people that were down with you before and are doing
life right now? Where is your lawyer, your political party, where is anyone
that can be productive? Most aren't for the people. We don't have anybody.
Now, you're going to see somebody like that. We depend on our leaders
to show us how to move. Our leaders right now are not responsible, so
it will never change. We'll never uplift our people. That's what I've
always been for and that's what I'm always going to stand for.
Row hasn't dropped an artists' album in a long time. Does that worry you?
Not at all.
All I needed was a shot. I was thinking that if I can get my music out
and get a fair shot, then it would be worth my while. A lot of people
liked me when they heard me on other people's albums. I put out my own
records and I've seen how people responded. I just needed a shot. With
Suge giving me a shot, it's going to be powerful. I like the challenge.
It puts me on my toes. I know I'm going to shock a lot of people.
your relationship with Suge?
respects my craft. He doesn't try to dictate what I do. Whatever beats
I need, he gets them for me. He doesn't get involved in my creativity.
He'll tell me what he loves. I'm in control of what I'm doing over here.
have full creative control?
I control everything's that going to be put out. It's a blessing that
he lets me do that. He believes in me and he believes in my dreams. He
respects it and he likes it. It's a perfect combination.
your album coming?
with songs. I've been recording for years. Every time I go in, I make
about three or four songs. We have a lot of good songs and a lot of good
things to talk about. There have been a lot of things that happened in
my life. Everything that I speak from is from my soul. I've been through
a lot in the street from getting stabbed, getting operated on, doing eight
years in a penitentiary, getting money, losing money, losing friends
been through it all. Not every day is a happy day, but I still try to
turn my negative experiences into positive experiences through music.
It's a really well-rounded album.
feel that your album is overdue?
Oh man, it's
way overdue. I know it's way overdue, but I'm not upset because I know
everything happens for a reason. It's hard to always know why things are
happening, but if you look at it objectively, you can know why certain
things happened. I think this happened for a reason. Now I can put it
out how I need to put it out and come out on a level that I need to come
out on. It was meant to happen like this. If I was meant to come out in
a different way, it would have happened. I know other people that I was
dealing with, we could have made something big out of it and we didn't,
and that's cool. I know a lot of people are suffering and I wish that
they weren't in the positions they're in now.
referencing not being able to do things with Nas?
are a lot of people that went different ways. I don't have anything against
him. If I feel like I have to say something about a certain person at
a certain time, I'll say it and keep it moving. I'm a serious person and
I have serious issues that I have to deal with on a daily basis. There
are a whole bunch of people that I was talking about. That's nothing.
ever a time when you thought about giving up?
No. I never
thought about giving up. I just kept making music and booking and paying
for my studio time. I was always looking for new producers
stayed motivated even though I went through all these different roadblocks.
There was always something happening. There was so much, but that's what
makes me who I am. I don't give up. I'm not a quitter. There is nothing
that I wanted in life that I gave up on. This is something that I wanted.
This is something that I believe in. I've had more than enough reasons
to quit and give up. This is ridiculous. This is more than being loyal
to my culture and craft. It's above and beyond that. I had fewer reasons
to do it than not to do it, but it's my dreams and I never gave up on
it. My people never gave up on me. I'm going to make a lot of difference.
I speak for a lot of people.
your inspiration to keep going?
I know my
calling in life is much bigger than what I'm doing right now. Some people
can't recognize what they're missing. You have to see people in your community
doing it. The same dude that can come home from jail and be ready to rob
and steal, now he has something to do because he knows my man and I'm
going to give him a job. That's saving a lot of people's lives. I never
looked at it like I got what I worked for. I put a lot of work in the
street and music and I've always been loyal. I always thought that everything
I went through was worth it for this record deal. I'm a real person. It
may make others who don't put the work in look funny. Some people don't
connect with me because we don't have the same values. You're definitely
going to see a big difference. We're going to see who's really about their
music and who's speaking the truth. You're going to see the results of
what I'm saying overnight.
be signing artists to Death Row East?
I have Artillery coming out. He's been down since the "41st Side"
album. His voice and lyrics are crazy. There are a few other artists I'm
looking at. Uno Dos is down with me. They have a few things on the table.
I have a few other artists that I'm going to be bringing out. I definitely
have an army coming with me.
were alive today, would he be excited to work with you?
My music is the truth. Nobody can deny that. What I speak, there is nothing
realer than that. People know that it's the truth. Once I start putting
out this music, you're going to see what I'm talking about. I'm going
to give people what they expect, but I'm going to give people a lot of
surprises on my album. 'Pac would love to work with me. That's my predecessor
in the game. Nobody can take away from what he did and stood for. I respect
his music. It's an honor to be in the same place that 2Pac was at.
you tell us about your album with Cormega?
is solid. I'm proud of that. I love working with 'Mega. That's my dude.
We'll always be together. We don't even have to talk. We were together
before we were rappers and we'll be together when we're not rapping. What
we did on this album is crazy. You can't duplicate it. I'm talking about
a lot of real issues that people will have to respect. I'm not making
anything derogatory. I'm a real G. I don't have to disrespect anybody.
That's not my focus. I'm speaking from my soul and mind when I make my
music. It's my thoughts. That's what you're going to see when me and 'Mega
put this album out May 23.
your work going with C4?
I'm blessed to be working with him. I don't even want to leak those records.
They're so dope that I just want to save them for my album. This summer,
all you're going to hear is me and C4. He's incredible. That's a jewel
to my crown working with him. A lot of dudes that had a chance to work
with him and didn't, they're going to regret it. C4 is incredible. There's
Uno Dos, Now-n-Laterz, and Dave Hudson hitting me with beats, plus dudes
from the West Coast. I'm definitely blessed.
is it working with Uno Dos?
It's a pleasure.
We're always on the same page. They've been grinding with me for a minute.
We've been doing it for the last seven years. A shot for me is a shot
for a lot of people. They're incredible. I love working with them. They're
a year since you released your song to Nas. Has anything improved between
I did run
into Nas at a party with Puffy. We talked about a few things. We said
what we said. I don't wish any ill will towards Nas. He just has to do
what he has to do. Our friendship is above all the music. He's a public
figure and I'm becoming a public figure. I'm not in it to go back-and-forth
with him. It's an embarrassment coming from where we come from. There
are a lot of things that he's doing and you can judge it for yourself.
I have no ill will towards him. Everything's alright. It's cool.
of people have weighed in on Nas going to Def Jam. What do you think of
that move for Hip Hop?
good question. You can't use Hip Hop whenever it's for your benefit. You
can't say if it's a good move for Hip Hop. You have to be a man first
and have morals and principles first. Nah. When you stood for what you
stood for and you made the records that you made and people are standing
behind you, you're representing them. Now you can't just go and say, "I'm
going to do this for that." That's not G. That's not going to work.
You can't just use it. When you do other things, you don't care about
a lot of things that would have been phenomenal for Hip Hop, like a Biggie
and 2Pac album, but they had their own issues, and that was that. It was
bigger than Hip Hop. If someone does something to you personally, when
do you stand up and be a man about it? You can't just use Hip Hop and
throw that in. At the end of the day, you have to make decisions so you
can look at yourself in the mirror and respect yourself. You can't tell
them that if you don't stand for anything. Kids are going to ask you questions
and you won't have any answers. I'm not saying it's directly relating
to Nas. No one can use Hip Hop to make decisions. Don't act like it's
something that it ain't. Call a spade a spade. I don't respect that statement
find people sleeping on your skills?
but it's because I haven't put my music out. If they're still sleeping
after I put my album out, then it's a different story. I'm communicating
with my people, and if people don't like it, that's cool. If you can relate
to where I'm coming from, that's cool, but if you can't, then this conversation
isn't for you. I'm speaking for people that went through what they went
through. You don't have to love it but you can never judge me. Who the
fuck are you to criticize anything I say? What I say is the gospel. Look
in my eyes. My life is iller than these movies that dudes go to Blockbuster
to get. If you put other rapper's lives in a book or movie, it would have
to be exaggerated. My shit is phenomenal. You can say what you want to
say about me and not believe me, but you can go to the library or check
the Daily News or the Post and there's stuff about me catching my case.
I'm not exaggerating or glorifying anything. This is my life. If you're
sleeping on my skills than you're sleeping on yourself. I'm the realest
motherfucking rapper ever, period. There's rappers that went to jail and
did their time, but there is no comparison to what they did in the streets.
You can not even judge me unless you went through what I did and you know
what the real is.
you feel about the realness in music today?
When I first
heard what some people were saying, it was cool, but then it got a bit
exaggerated. Now you can't even tell what's the truth. I'm not mad because
some people have found ways to come up from the hood and avoided being
a statistic. That's a good thing. Their kids aren't starving and doing
crimes in the street. As a people and a whole, we found a way out. But
do not look at somebody like that and salute them without triple-saluting
me. I don't look down on rappers because they didn't go through what I
did. If you're nice, that's cool. But don't get me confused. If you sold
eight million, that's cool. But give me my just due when it comes to the
street shit and somebody who's really lived this and walked the walk.
A lot of dudes never get the opportunity. I'm not older than any rappers
right now. We're all the same age, so what were you doing when I was doing
what I was doing? We were in the streets at the same time and at the same
parties. I held the projects down when no one else would. Dudes were coming
from Brooklyn to rob Queensbridge. I was the one that was policing the
hood. I really did that. That's why you heard people from Queens rapping
in '94 and '95 shouting me out. I couldn't come out rapping because I
was living a completely different lifestyle. Look at 'Mega. He went in
too. He came home after three years. We went to jail because this was
our life. Every day it was gun smoking and selling drugs. We didn't do
that to say that we did that. That's what we stood for. A lot of dudes
will watch what we did and it's almost an insult that they don't pay homage
to the dudes that really did this. All the O.G.'s that come home, I salute
them. I respect them. If they were loyal to the life that we live, I respect
them and salute them. So how are these motherfuckers not going to salute
me? They know they should. I'm not mad at them. They just don't have the
overstanding that I have in life, period, so I don't expect them to look
at life the way I do. They can get their money, but they better clear
the way when I come because my shit is way overdue.
you feel about young rappers that never even get a chance to blow?
up. There are a lot of these young dudes that deserve a shot and they're
never going to get a shot because the people that are in positions don't
even know good music. The people that are in positions to sign people
don't have the balls to do it. They're scared to sign anyone because they
don't want to lose their jobs. They'd rather take the safe route with
an artist that has four or five albums out. Look who had to give me a
shot: Suge Knight. He's from the West Coast and I'm in New York where
all the big labels are. Without Suge Knight, we wouldn't have had Snoop,
"The Chronic," or 2Pac. I'm going to put out great music because
he's giving me a new opportunity. There are all these young dudes coming
out trying to make good music and they're not getting their shot. I don't
like that. I'm going to give a lot of young kids a shot. I can't give
everyone a shot. I have to feel a kid and their music. I'll definitely
give kids a shot. I'm not going to sell them any dreams like a lot of
motherfuckers. That's why people are so loyal to me. People know what
I'm about. I earned that loyalty and I'm going to maintain it. It's only
going to grow.
do you have for young rappers today?
Find your own voice. Do not try to duplicate nobody. You can have inspirations,
but do not duplicate them. Whatever artists you like, the game already
has that. You have to create your own voice. The most dominant thing that
you have to do is stay consistent and keep making music so when that shot
comes, you never know when it's going to come, but you have to have that
music. If you believe in yourself, never give up.
the worst thing you've seen in the industry?
There is no loyalty in the game. People give their loyalty and it never
gets reciprocated. That hurts. Look at all the entourages. If you ask
the right questions, you can get the right answers. Some always say, "Nah,
he's not shitting on me, he's doing what he has to do." But then
you ask them why you don't have an album coming out and why you're not
on the couch on BET and why weren't you in his last video and why don't
you have an album coming out? A lot of dudes show loyalty and they don't
get it reciprocated and that's horrible. You should show people that if
they're down with you, it's going to be worth something. New York is not
really a place that reciprocates love. People give it to you when they
have to. They wait for you to get hot. Most don't want to see another
dude come up. Once you do, they want to get some of that heat that you
generate. That's horrible and that has to change in the game. I'm one
of the people that's advocating and demanding change.
your album drop?
with 'Mega is dropping May 23 and my album on Death Row will be dropping
you want to say to everyone?
been a long time coming. I appreciate all my people staying down with
me. Without my producers, I wouldn't be here. C4, Uno Dos, Ben Grim, Dave
Hudson. I love my boys that are locked up. I wish they could be here with
me. I want to send a thank you to Ben Ski for plugging me with Suge and
making everything happen and Suge Knight for giving me a chance and helping
me get my voice heard to the world. That's priceless to me.