You’ve been grinding for a long time. Why has it taken so long for you to get your shot?
I think one reason is definitely politics. Politics is everything. It’s like high school. Everyone has there little clicks and crews and they all go to the same parties and events and also so if you don’t get in with them somehow its that much harder to grind , put it like this if you have friends say at radio, other labels, TV, et cetera, then do the math a lot more gets done and a lot more favors but if you're not 'IN' then you are left for dead I’m sorry if I offend or if anyone doesn’t like what I say but it's the real and I speak from experience, I also just think I didn’t get that cosign yet. Every rapper in the industry that came out got that cosign. You look at Vado getting cosigned from Cam for example I feel like once I get that cosign from an artist That is known and respected people will pay attention. I think it’s due to the politics and just not getting the cosign from the right person. I’m not really the format rapper. I stick to what I do and I believe in what I do in my heart and a lot of these labels, they want to package a rapper like a robot and I’m a straight up b-boy.
Who would you want a cosign from?
My dream cosign would be from Nas just because I’m from Queens. I just want to be cosigned by people who have respect and if they say something, people listen and it matters. It doesn’t really matter who. It’s just somebody in a position who can help me get to the next level. Eminem, G. Rap, Rakim, the real lyrical spitters. Even Prodigy and them.
You’ve taken an interesting route to get to where you are. Can you talk a little about that?
I come from two parents of jazz musicians. Michael Keith was a trombonist. He passed away and my mom Mekea Sista Mekea Keith. They gave birth to me. My older brother is Ommas Keith Respected Producer and he’s in the group Sa-Ra. Ever since I was 11 I wanted to rap and Ommas was always a producer. When he was 16, I was 13 and he was one of Jam Master Jay’s engineers. We were around 50 Cent, Onyx, Jayo Felony, Ja Rule, Rev Run and everyone. After that my brother went to mess with Ice T In LA and he met Sahfiq Husyn. They were working on an album for a Group called Raw Breed signed to Warner Bros and I got on that. From 1993-96, I was just doing demos. My brother had a studio and I would do my own shit and later on I would open up for Smoothe the Hustler and my crew opened for Jay-Z when he was doing twenty twos acapella. They were letting me in clubs when I wasn’t really old enough to get in. That approach comes from my older brother Ommas and I just followed him. As I got older, like 15, 16, 17, I started going doing my own thing and I got up with Russell Simmons after high school when I was 20 yeah I was a super senior and the rest is history. But my brother is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing. I just wanted to be like him. We went to the same junior high school and high school. I was at a school where you can intern for credits so I interned at record labels just like him. I always liked to rap but I was always inspired by people like Russell who had their hands in the business. I started interning and instead of asking to get signed, I thought maybe I could get in another way and I started getting relationships and knowing people and that’s how I started letting people know about my music. I took an ill approach to it.
Even being around artists like Ja Rule early on and when he was doing his thing with the Cash Money Clique. I saw him go through his little downfall when Blunt Recordings dropped him and then he got with Irv and Def Jam. That gave me inspiration. He lived two buildings from me on 191st off Wooodhull Ave. When I was 15, 16, I was selling tapes from the street. I had a 10 song album and I was selling it for $10 and he was like, ‘Damn, B, I wish I had an album.’ I always had an independent spirit and I was never a dickrider or someone who wanted to kick someone’s ass if they didn’t believe in me. I got a lot of doors slammed in my face but I kept at it.
And now, everybody’s a rapper because of Pro Tools. Back then, not everyone could get into it. I was one of the only Young Rapper in Jamaica, Queens doing it. That’s why I’m a legend now. I was always the youngest dude out and I was around the legendary Queens MCs that had great songs but never got heard. My approach on it was just different. I always wanted to rhyme for an A&R but I always felt like I could be bigger than a rapper. I just wanted to experience this from a business aspect and see how it was run behind the scenes from the musical part. I’m still learning. Man, I have so much to say about my experiences, man. But my approach was always rebellious. I never did it the typical way. I always did it against the grain.
Do you think that approach set you back a little?
Yeah, I think it slowed me down a lot. A good friend of mine passed away from Hollis named Rhythm aka Xandman. He’s a big reason why I spit like I do Prior to ’95 ’96, we all did a project together called the Toughskin Raiders. with me him my boy Legacy, Solson and Storm and Mike Myers of the Body Snatchers And the boy Masta Ace, he wanted to sign Us Me and my brother were always sharp about our business. There was a New York Giant player named Lee Ruson and he hooked us up with a lawyer Jeffeory Jones He looked over our contract and told us it was straight bullshit. I don’t know what would have happened if I had been signed to Masta Ace and paid my dues. And then when I was interning with Def Jam, this chick there wanted to manage me and took me to Dave Lighty at Jive and he wanted to sign me. I said it was cool and I wanted my brother to be a part of the project because he was like my RZA and they said no. I turned that situation down. I don’t know if it was my stubbornness or whatever, but this is my life, man. I see all these artists sign their life away to a contract and not be able to get out of it and have all these other people reap the benefits of their hard work, I never wanted to go through that. I always wanted to be a business partner and not a worker. I was pretty naïve at first. Every MC in New York or anywhere think that being a rapper is being fly and having a car and my naivety was there but once I got into the game, I saw that was only one element. A deal doesn’t mean you’re coming out. It could be a tax write-off or filling a quota for a label. I’m not going to name any names but this one young brother has been signed for five years and still hasn’t come out yet. He’s up under powerful people and he still hasn’t come out. I do it myself and I’m going to do it myself. If it doesn’t work out, I tried.
I’m thinking of 10 different rappers it could be.
Yeah! There’s so many people that’s signed and they think just because they’re signed, they’re good. It’s bigger than that. Most of the artists who are signed come with the cosign or they’ve generated enough buzz that everyone wants them bad. It’s like when Big Pun came out, nobody knew what he looked like. We heard that song “Firewater” and he just bodied that shit. Back in those days, to me, hip-hop was better because you’d get on a track and you’d get a chance to rhyme with a lot of people and earn your respect. Now it’s “I’m so-and-so’s cousin.” You don’t earn your shit. I see a lot of family deals and a lot of buddy deals going on. It’s about following the format. There’s also no more albums with themes anymore. Ludacris’ Theater of the Mind was the last one to me. It’s just a bunch of albums with filler and radio songs and it’s been fucking up hip-hop since 2000. They just want to package songs together like robots. It’s sad.
You also spent a lot of time out west with JT the Bigga Figga. What’d you learn out there?
I met people like San Quinn out there, Keak Da Sneak…See, out there…New York is ill because New York has always been at the forefront of hip-hop, but the Bay was always fighting for their spot in hip-hop and I was out there when the hyphy movement was popping. I learned they have problems out there but there’s always support in the Bay with each other everyone would be on each others projects I could go out there and press up my pieces and they stores would buy it for $5 a piece. It’s always about skills but I learned how to be a businessman and how to put projects together as a businessman, how to put a CD together and get the artwork done and all of that. Me being out here, spoiled New York artists have the label reps do all the artwork and all that. I learned how to be independent out there. At that time New York artists were very spoiled because they didn’t know how to shoot their own video or how to get their own distribution. They just sign the contract and let everybody else do the work. Now due to the internet a lot of New York MCs def have that Indy Spirit and is making a lane .Prior to that all we had was mixtape buzz wit DJs
That shit kind of turned me into a ‘Pac, type Dude God bless his soul. I’m not trying to be like him or emulate the god, but ‘Pac was a New York dude and he went to the Bay. He learned game out there Its a whole another level out there,. That shit was really a big experience. Shout out to JT the Bigga Figga and San Quinn and everyone out in San Francisco, Oakland and Vallejo. They embraced me and I got a lot of love out there.
One of my favorite visuals you’ve done is the video to “Golden Era.” How did that come about?
I put a project out a few years ago called Say Hi to the Bad Guy. That song was on it. I was talking about how I was a bad guy from a political aspect and I kicked that concept around. That song is an Alchemist beat off 1st Infantry where him and Twin were reminiscing about growing up. When I heard that song I was talking about my life and hip-hop and that song just gave me an idea. I didn’t know I was going to do a video for it years later. My whole process, I was sitting there listening to the song and thought it was ill and I wanted to incorporate everything I was talking about in it because people didn't know all of that, it would be ill. I started editing it and getting old video clips and old Beat Street clips. It was really hard but that’s one of my babies to this day. It got praised and it got a lot of respect and I did it myself. “The Golden Era,” I just wanted to show everyone my life. I wanted to show you who I was. That video is a reflection of who I am and I just wanted to give you the visual aspect.
Your new music has been doing well. Are you happy with how it’s being received?
Oh yeah. Actually, I feel real good because I’m more confident when I perform. I wasn’t as confident before. I always knew I had the gift and the talent, but being humble holds you back from a certain aspect of performing to the highest level. You don’t have to have cockiness, but you have to be comfortable and I’m getting a lot of positive feedback. It definitely feeds you. That’s Like when Biggie dropped the first album and then when he dropped Life After Death, he was so comfortable because he knew he was that dude. I don’t need people to tell me I’m that nice because I don’t want to be that dude. I know who I am. I definitely feel like I’m making better and better music and I’m all about improvement. I can be here another 15 years, easily.
What have you been working on lately?
I’m about to drop two mixtapes in the street. One of them is The Golden Era Volume 2 where I’m tearing up the illest beats from Milkbone Keep it Real to ODB “Brooklyn Zu (Remix)” that people can’t find and I just bodied them shits. It’s like a homage. And the second one is called Most Wanted with the illest beats out now. I’m on a wanted poster and the concept is that I’m the most wanted MC and the inside is a subway map of New York. I’m going to re-release my project Rhyme and Reason. It’s dope. The cover is me standing holding a microphone looking at a brick wall and on the wall is the Def Jam logo, Zulu Nation logo, Wild Style, Beat Street, Nas, Mobb Deep…All of those are the reason why I rhyme. I got my brother on there and Sa-Ra. Rahsad Tumbling Dice Smith Statick Selektah, I got Apollo Brown. I found his beats online. He’s an up-and-coming dude. I have Charlie Brown and Moss and Baby Paul. It’s a dope, solid project. It has a theme to it. It has skits. It has intros. I think people are really gonna appreciate this. I don’t want to keep saying New York but this is where I’m from and this is an album that’s going to define what it means to be a New York MC to the fullest extent. And after that, shout out to my man M7, he’s a producer from France, I’m about to do a street EP with him. That’s going to be dropping next February. To be honest, I have hundreds of songs and I’m just going to keep recording. I don’t plan on stopping no time soon. All of these projects, those are the next projects that I’m releasing in the next couple of months.
And the mixtapes, I’m going to do for free because I still believe in that. I’m about making money but if people don’t know you, they’re not going to buy no music. I don’t want to OD with it. I’m going to give fans enough and then sell my shit like street albums. I’m going to do a mixture of both. It’s coming along and I feel good. I got brothers like Capone-N-Noreaga, Prodigy, M1 from dead prez, Russell Simmons, Rev Run, Riggs Morales, Q-Tip, Sway and Rich Nice, Sen Skid at Bad Boy, Shawn Pen, even the big homie Jim Caparro. If you don’t know him, Google. My brother Sha Money…so many to mention. All of these people support me and I just have to keep grinding. Not for nothing I even got LL Cool J following me on Twitter. I don’t know how that happened but being from Queens and him paying attention is a blessing! Over the years I’ve done it myself but I’ve had a lot of good people support me and give me feedback. It just keeps me motivated to keep doing it and if it wasn’t for that, I would probably go crazy and be in the nuthouse. I don’t know what else I would do and I can’t do nothing else. I don’t want to work for nobody else. Its unfortunate that the only opportunities we have coming from poor neighborhoods are being athletes or artists and I just want to help other people’s dreams come true once I make my dreams come true. It’s about keeping all of this going. The cycle! There’s a lot of executives but nobody wants to pass the torch and once we show that unity and how to keep the shit going, I think we’re going to be all right. I’m going to be one of those people that gets in the industry and helps others that deserve it. I definitely believe in that because there's so much talent out here. I want to rap forever but I also want to play the executive role. I know what to do and I still want to be the best artist that I know I can be, ya dig! Peace To HipHopGame for this Interview! And shout out to Termanology. I got to rock at S.O.Bs for the first time. If anyone in New York know about that place then you already know! Peace!