La, you’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes lately. How do you like that?
I love it. I’ve always been behind the scenes, even with my situation with Wu. I was a teenager and I have a lot of ideas. I picked a lot of beats for the Wu-Tang Forever album. There’s also songs where you could hear me on hooks. I’ve always been behind the scenes. I’m the Darkman and I live up to my name. The Darkman is lurking in the dark. I don’t have to be seen to be felt. I can be heard to be felt. They don’t know that’s a La the Darkman production. Every beat that was picked and who rapped first and who rapped last and who rapped in the middle, I was behind that. I really love being behind the scenes. I was that type of guy in the neighborhood where everybody knew me and I knew everybody but I didn’t stay in everybody’s face.
How much do you use what you learned from the Wu days with the Apphiliates now?
Everything. Everything you see coming out of here is just a new chapter. It’s just similar principles and similar integrity and what you see is just another chapter that I’m building, from the logos to everything. There’s no schools like the Wu-Tang Academy and we’re starting a new school over here. There’s no academies that can teach you what we can teach you over here. That’s why we’re cornering the market. You can’t be a PhD without putting in the work and you can’t be a doctor without putting in the work. We’re trying to get a doctorate over here. I graduated from every school I went to magna cum laude. I was in my high school days with the Wu and I went to college, went to get my masters and went to get my PhD. Everything you see from the flyers to the imagery to the logos, I’m a stockholder over here so you’re just seeing a new chapter.
What are your responsibilities with the Apphiliates?
I’m the co-founder of the Apphiliates Music Group and I’m a stockholder of Apphiliates Music Group and Embassy Entertainment. Apphiliates Management is another company and Gangsta Grillz is under that. I manage DJ Don Cannon and DJ Drama and Willie the Kid all under Apphiliates Management.
How did you help DJ Drama blow up?
I did a lot. I did a lot of the grinding and a lot of the groundwork and a lot of the credibility.
When you first started with the Apphiliates, did you see getting as far as you’ve gotten as a possibility?
Of course. Always. I never had even an inkling of doubt. When you plan your work and work your plan, it’s infinite possibilities. When your plan is luck, there’s no such thing as luck. Luck is really Laboring Under Correct Knowledge. When you put the labor in under the correct knowledge, how can you lose?
It’s been almost 10 years since your only solo album Heist of the Century. Why has there been such a long delay?
Really, I was independent on my first album and I was a teenager. I dropped my first album when I was 17, 18 years-old. I was really learning and we were getting $7 an album and I was still a neighborhood guy. I didn’t know how to do the music industry things. I knew how to do the neighborhood things. Once I got the money so fast, I opened up a clothing store and I opened up a management company and I started to do more entrepreneurial things because that’s where my heart was. I didn’t go back to the studio. I wasn’t making music at the time. I was just doing my album and doing shows and I was just eating and just taking care of the things around my family. I think I lost focus a little bit but at the same time I did other things like real estate investments and clothing store investments. I was a businessman.
I’ve been rapping since I was young, but I’ve also been dealing with money since I was young. It went hand-in-hand, but I made so much money when I was young that I didn’t understand it. I had a couple of dollars so I wasn’t worried about dropping another album. I opened up a store called Young World and a little mini-mall and I started managing other artists. Just two or three years ago I started recording again seriously. We were doing different things and people gotta understand that.
I was around before we even had the name Apphiliates. The name didn’t even exist. I’ve known Drama and Cannon since 2000, 2001. Everyone was building their different entities and I was just doing different management things. I got back in the studio three years ago with Willie the Kid and my partner DJ Sence. They kept on pulling me back to the studio to work on Willie’s album. See, I was always writing though from ’98. I was always writing rhymes but I never went to record them. I started recording again in 2003, really, as I was developing Willie the Kid’s joint.
I started recording again and I had multiple rhymes. I always got rhymes. I write rhymes whether it’s a beat or not. I would just write the rhyme and keep the verse. I was having so much fun with it and I had done it before. I just got back into it. I would say I lost focus though as an artist.
Even though you were always writing, was it hard to get back in the booth?
Hell no! I was always writing. Hell no! It’s like riding a bike. How are you going to forget to push the pedals? Even before I got in the industry, I was doing music as a hobby. I never started this for the money. I have a little different passion for music. I’m not a rapper. I’m a musician. I make music. I compose in a range and I’m a writer. And I’m an executive producer. It’s a little bit different for me. I’m ready to take hip-hop. This is our new rhythm and blues. I’m ready to step in the place of a new Marvin Gaye, of a hip-hop Stevie Wonder or a hip-hop Lionel Richie. Or a hip-hop Frankie Beverly and Maze. I’m about to make some music to have fun doing it. I don’t make music for money. That’s a little different. I get money in a lot of different ways.
I make music because it’s fun and I make music because I want people to hear what I’m saying and maybe they can dig it and maybe it can grow on them and they can learn something like I used to do when I would listen to Ice Cube’s Amerikaz Most Wanted or Chuck D and Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back or the Geto Boys. I got my first Geto Boys tape when I was 10. I remember it was called “Read These Nikes” and they were talking about how they would stomp you out. We’re going to make money anyway if the music is good, but I don’t make music to make money. I make music to do my thing because I’m a musician. It started as a hobby and it’s still a hobby.
Now it just so happens that I’m in the industry and we have a couple of different deals. We have the Apphiliates music deal through Grand Hustle and Atlantic and then we have another deal with Embassy Entertainment through SRC/Universal. So we have two active deals and then we have another active deal through Asylum. I got three active deals. I was featured on the Gangsta Grillz album, then we’re coming with my album, then a Willie the Kid album, then we’re going to do a La the Darkman album and another DJ Drama album. We’re working on that now.
That’s all really good, but what I really want to know is will your new album be better than Heist of the Century?
Hell yeah! It’s going to be a classic just like Heist of the Century. It’s going to be a classic. It’s going to be a Heist of the Century for this time, 2008. Ain’t that funny? (laughs) Numbers don’t lie. Everything happens for a reason. I’m the same La, man. I got the same songs like “Spring Water” and “The Love Song” and “What Thugs Do For Money” with the singing on the hook and “Figaro Chain” and “Lucci” or the song with Mobb Deep.
I got the same type of style. My style ain’t change. I’m really just more mature. I’ve added more rhymes and I’ve added more material and I’ve added more styles since then, but I’m still La. I’m really like a Polo shirt. I’m like Izod. Izod and Polo haven’t changed, homie. If you like Izod and Polo, that’s what you do. You have all of these clothing lines that come and go and you have your Enyce’s and all of that and all of those things that have come and go, but I’m like Polo. My style is like a Polo shirt and it’s funny that I’m saying that because I’m laughing, but I’m like a Polo, B. I can go anywhere. You can wear a Polo or an Izod to any party.
Are you still working with Havoc today?
Yeah, I’m still working with Hav. I talked to Alchemist today. I have the best relationships, B. I just got off the phone with RZA. He just started a company with Quentin Tarantino. I’m a genuine dude. I mean what I say and I mean what I say, so anytime somebody has a problem with me, they must be a snake or they must be a liar because all I do is I ask anybody to keep their word. That’s what I do and that’s how I got this far. Anybody that’s ever done business with me will tell you that I’m a man of respect. I’m trying to become a made man. Made men don’t become made by doing business incorrectly. You become made when you put in your work in all of the right places and they all say, “That dude is the one.” I got all my relationships and I got more. I got relationships with Scott Storch and JR Rotem and T-Pain. JR Rotem did a Sean Kingston joint with me. He did the joint “Keep Talkin’”. I got the same relationships and better relationships. Everybody will tell you that’s ever known me that I’m a man of respect. Respect made men.
How do you get at these guys who are supposed to be impossible to get at?
I think it’s because I’m genuine and I’m sincere. Anybody who talks to me or touches me can see that I’m not shucking and jiving. I’m not any of that. I do business straight up and I love all them guys. Vanilla Ice, who I’m cool with, is the first Eminem. He sold 30 million records and had the Taco Bell commercials and I ghostwrite for him sometimes. It’s really sincerity. And I love the game, man. It don’t be about the money because I get money in many ways and I’m going to get money in the music, but if you’re going to give me some money, give me some money. But I do so many shows for free. I did my internship on the road with the Clan early. I ain’t never asked for no money, man. They’re my brothers, man.
Being in the Clan is like being a Kennedy. Kennedy’s pop up in many places. A Kennedy is supporting Barack Obama right now. Arnold Schwarzenegger is married to a Kennedy. Being a Kennedy is like being a Rockefeller. The bloodline is rich and when you have that, you don’t have to worry about money. I’m rich in mentality and I’m rich in thought process and I’m rich in how I develop relationships with a RZA, with a Vanilla Ice and with a DJ Drama. You have to be rich in mentality. Kings travel amongst kings.
How closely do you associate with the Wu today?
I just left RZA in Cali a week ago. I saw the real truck from Kill Bill. I thought that was just for the movie but that nigga drives that pickup truck! The truck that the girl drives, Quentin Tarantino drives in that!
That’s insane! That’s what I’m sitting here telling you! (laughs) That’s insane! When I saw that shit, I thought that shit was just for the move. Yo, he drives that truck, B! He’s got other cars, but we drove to Vegas and he drove that joint.
It’s about developing relationships. It’s a mentality. I’m genuine. I’m not trying to do nothing slick. There’s too much of that. There’s too much of that going around. Do the work. Stop trying to trick people and make money without doing the work. Do the work. That’s how we are in the country with our education system. We used to be on the top 10 and now we’re 19. How did we get to be 19? Come on, we gotta put that work in, bro. There’s kids in other countries going to school year-round. I work early morning and into the late night. I don’t take breaks. There’s no days off.
How much is succeeding in the game today related to grinding?
100%. There’s no such thing as luck. Luck is Laboring Under Correct Knowledge. If you’re grinding in all of the wrong directions, it’s going to do you no good. If you’re grinding under correct knowledge, laboring under correct knowledge, you’re going to end up where you need to go. You can’t get a PhD or a Masters degree and know nothing. You can’t pass the SAT or the ACT without studying. If you study and you get a high score on the ACT or the SAT, that means that you have knowledge behind what you’re doing.
On another note, what’s it like hanging out with Quentin Tarantino?
Oh, he’s the coolest guy! He’s one of us. He’s one of the good guys. He’s one of the artistic minds. We’re scientists with this. He makes movies and we make music. But still, we’re creating something to put out to the world, an energy, something that you can feel. Nah, that guy’s great! I was able to play him some music and I knew that nigga was crazy. He’s cool. He’s the best. I don’t even want to take pictures. That’s the first time I even wanted to take a picture. I went and took a picture of the Pussy Wagon. I don’t even take pictures but I wanted to take a picture in front of the Pussy Wagon! (laughs) For real, B, he’s a cool dude, man. We were eating dinner, chilling, like regular guys. He’s from the bottom too so he knows how it feels to be from the bottom and to have some success.
Carlos Broady did a lot of dope production on Heist of the Century. Are you going to link back up with him?
I’ve been trying to catch up with Broady. He’s been doing a lot of stuff with 3-6 Mafia. I brought him to the light. I have a couple of tracks from him now but I need more. We’re working and that’s my boy. I just went out to Michigan actually to mess with him two months ago. I got a lot of relationships, man. Everybody knows who La is and if they don’t know, they’ll be learning. Of course I have people who don’t know, but I have a lot of cool guys who I’m fortunate to be able to do business with.
You dropped a song with Willie the Kid called “The Rap Kevin Garnett”. Can you explain why you see yourself as that?
It’s my integrity. It’s my hard work. And I play with bosses. Kevin Garnett, when he was in Minnesota, he got to play for Kevin McHale. He’s one of the owners and he was a part of the Boston dynasty with Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge. Playing for Boston then is like being a part of the Wu-Tang dynasty. I’m trying to build this over here like the Boston dynasty and playing for the Celtics. Everybody knows when you’re playing with someone with a heritage that it’s more than playing for the Toronto Raptors or the Charlotte Bobcats. We have a different legacy over here and we have a different heritage over here. We’re used to winning championships and hanging up banners. We’re used to that over here.
And Kevin Garnett came straight out of high school and he’s very well-mannered and he’s very intelligent. He’s improved every year. He’s one of the good guys. He’s a man of respect. He’s making 40 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals all in one game.
As Willie the Kid’s big brother, how much do you guide him versus letting him figure things out on his own?
I definitely let him figure things out on his own. I just let him do his thing. If he asks me a question I answer it. Other than that I just let him do his thing.
How’s Willie’s album coming?
It’s coming good. It’s incredible, man. It’s incredible. It’s coming out crazy. He’s going to be featured all over my album and then he’s going to drop his. We have a mixtape coming too called The Notorious L.A.D. It’s a Gangsta Grillz mixtape with La the Darkman and DJ Drama. It’s coming in stores now. He’s going to be all over that too. That’s going to be another taste of what we’re doing.
What can you tell us about the mixtape?
Oh, it’s crazy, man. I got everybody on there from Yung Joc to me and Twista, joints with Devin the Dude, joints with Chamillionaire, Juelz Santana and Lil’ Wayne. It’s crazy. Willie the Kid is on there. It’s crazy. The Gangsta Grillz is going to really hurt ‘em. I’m using a lot of words on there. It’s serious. I’m working hard. No days off, that’s really the motto.
A few months ago Willie the Kid was dropping his album before you. Why the change in the lineup?
I think with the momentum. I think I got a lot of fans that have been waiting for me and I think that it would be better for me to introduce him because it’s like, the momentum when we was recording together, he was liking what we was doing and he was like, ‘Yo, bro, you might want to come out first.’ It was kind of a family thing and it was kind of a natural progression more than us sitting back and thinking about it.
Are you still cool with Vanilla Ice today?
Yeah. Actually I talked to Ice about a month ago. He was just talking about how he wanted me to come to some award show with him. Yeah, we’re definitely cool. That’s a cool brother. I’m fortunate to be able to deal with some of the greats and to walk amongst some of the multi-platinum artists and to have communication with artists who have sold 30 million records. I’m fortunate and I’m blessed. It’s a cool experience and it’s a cool space to be in.
What’s the next move for La the Darkman?
Really, becoming a recognizable movement because I’m building a dynasty. We’re a small corporation striving to become a big corporation.