I’m feeling great, man. It’s a dirty, rainy New York City Monday afternoon. Other than that, I’m feeling good. Everything is good right about now. The mixtape is finished and we’re starting to mix it down over at Dan the Man’s spot over on 31st. Right now, we’re just getting ready for the release of Reaganomics.
Your name MaG is short for MacGyver. Can you go into the studio with a book of matches and a paperclip and come out with a song?
(laughs) I definitely have done that! The name was just the idea. A lot of people used to watch the show MacGyver and I was a fan of the show. MacGyver could really take anything, like a toothpick and bubble gum and make a bomb out of it. As an artist, I want to be able to make a song out of anything you throw to me. Whatever the situation calls for, I can do. That’s where the idea for my name came from. “MaG” sounded hotter and it avoided having people ask me a lot of questions about it.
How did the Reaganomics mixtape turn out?
Great. Right now we’re in the final stages of it. Reaganomics is hosted by DJ Vega Benetton of the Coalescence. He definitely produced a lot of tracks on the CD. I really call it an album as opposed to a mixtape. I’m calling it “Reaganomics: The Album.” It’s more of a concept album than a mixtape but it has the feel of the mixtape because of how hardheaded the music is and what we were trying to do accomplish with the mixtape. I was born in the 80s and I know a lot of people can identify with what I’m speaking about. We’re just putting the finishing touches on things and getting ready for the release.
What do you hope Reaganomics does for you?
Really, this is my first mixtape. I’ve been recording seriously for three years, trying to put out music and build up my catalog. I run in a pretty good circle with Torae and Skyzoo along with some others. I’m just hoping that I can touch bases with the fans and expose myself to a wider audience. A lot of people know me through my other collaborations but they don’t really know me as a solo artist. This is my opportunity to show my skin a little bit.
Looking at your family history, you had one brother who went to jail and your other brother turned out to be your manager. How did that affect you?
My older brother was locked up on some street stuff. I know a lot of brothers, me being from the ‘hood, in the same situation. They got caught up in the Rockefeller laws and all that. They got caught up in the system. Some people go the same route and some people go a different route. I didn’t want to do whatever I had to do in the streets to get by. I was in a situation where I didn’t really have a father present. I saw that my brother gained a lot of wealth but it didn’t pay off in the long run. It really inspired me as a person and as a writer. I write about what I see on the streets, what I want to avoid and what I want to see other people avoid when they’re coming up in the street.
How does it help having your brother as a manager?
My other brother, D, played my father. He’s my best friend and then he became my manager. They always say to keep family and business separated but it’s a different situation for us. No one knows my music better than D does and nobody understands how to market my music like he does. It’s hard to know who you should trust in the industry and to be able to trust him is great. He believes in the music as much as I do. It helps me as a person to have somebody you trust as your manager.
How did you come up with the concept for “Gazelles”?
”Gazelles” was produced by Eric G out of Seattle. When I write, I write what I hear. When I heard the track, it had a really good 2007 feel to it but it also had a very classic hip-hop vibe to it. I wanted to create a very universal song. When you hear about Gazelles and high-top fades, you think of a certain time period. I don’t want to bring the East Coast back; I want to bring music back.
Everybody talks about how the South is taking over, but they’ve forgotten how it was cool to have funny songs at one point. Biz Markie had some really simple-ass songs that we could enjoy. It wasn’t about being from a certain region. I think we’ve forgotten how to do that. No one knows how to do songs that can inspire you while not knocking the other man. We’re all like crabs in a barrel when we should be eating together. That track was also a shout-out. I shouted out LL and a lot of the artists that inspired me as a musician. I really wanted to do a dedication track to all the hip-hop artists that inspired me growing up.
You’ve done tracks with Skyzoo and Torae as well. How does it help having a co-sign, even if it is from another up-and-coming artist, when you’re coming up?
Man, that is unbelievably important. For the mixtape, I worked with Chaundon, Torae and Sky. Those are people that I admire not just as humans but as artists. Having them be able to vouch for me is definitely a good look. When you take somebody like Sky, who is making so many moves, or Tor who is recording tracks with Premier and Hi-Tek, it kind of puts you in a different league, like, ‘Oh, he’s really serious.’ I got a track with G.O.D. from Pitch Black and that was crazy for me because I think he’s ill as fuck. But being able to have these dudes hear you and say they fuck with you and tell other people about you, that just adds more fuel to the fire. It forces people to say, “Why haven’t I heard of this guy?” It helps having dope MCs around you.
You recorded an album While You Were Sleeping. What happened to that?
We pulled While You Were Sleeping because of Reaganomics. Reaganomics was such a huge venture because of the recording for that. We finished the mixtape but then there were other little things that we needed to get taken care of. I’m still pretty much holding onto the tracks from While You Were Sleeping and I’m still recording and I’ll probably add a couple of tracks to it. Look for that in 2008 because we’re going to drop another mixtape by the end of the year.
You also do spoken word. How does that interact with your hip-hop music?
Rapping is poetry in itself. If you take anybody from the Last Poets and go into the Beatnik era, you have artists who were really speaking poetry to beats. That’s really what a real MC does. You’re a poet on wax. The spoken word is more like an evolution for me of some sorts. I look at it as an opportunity to really stretch my arms a little bit. I feel right now that hip-hop is very much is in a box form. There are so many labels and it’s very constricting with what you can make at times. Spoken word allows me to express what I want and that’s what I’m appreciative of. There’s a spoken word piece on the mixtape. I’m trying to separate myself and show why I’m different. I’m still doing spoken word and I’m going to try and line up some shows this summer along with the hip-hop showcases we have coming up this summer.
You have a background in theater as well. How do you use that today?
I’ve been rhyming since I was 5. I’ve been freestyling in my mama’s bedroom for I don’t know how long. Everybody, especially if you were in the ‘hood, there were always plays and shows and stuff, especially if you went to public high school. I didn’t take acting seriously until I went to LaGuardia High School. I graduated and got my scholarship award. I was featured online. Theater is something that I love to do and it’s just something that I’ve always been very passionate about. It’s another way for me to express myself as an artist the same way I use spoken word as a vehicle.
It really helps with my music as well. I really talk about my theater a lot when I’m making songs because that’s another big part of me. That’s something I plan on doing and pursuing. My goal has always been that person to be the Langston Hughes or Gordon Parks type of person. I want to express myself through more than one opportunity. I don’t want to be that person who limits himself to doing one medium. I do pretty much everything and I love being on stage. Any opportunity to do anything, I’m there.
Does that mean you’ll be in the next Master P film?
Probably not. (laughs) I was just in a Broadway play that went on a three-week run. I’m actually going to be going on a tour in early fall and going into maybe early 2008. It’s a high school tour and it’s a play about HIV awareness in minority communities. When we did it off-Broadway, a lot of people loved it and we’re going to take it on tour. Between that and just finishing up Reaganomics and working on my next mixtape, A Day In the Life Of, with DJ Vega Benetton, those are my main focuses right now. I’m just getting ready for the tour and all that.
As someone who’s really studied their craft, what do you think of all the acting rappers today?
You’re really putting me on the spot! I’m not going to call anybody out, but I’ve seen TV and I’ve seen interviews where MCs say they want to “get into acting.” Acting is not something that you can just “get into.” It’s an art form and it’s something that you have to appreciate. I see that a lot of people see it as a vehicle as a way to get more exposure. I don’t see it that way. I didn’t start emceeing to flip a dollar and get more money. I feel that people make a mistake in doing that. You see a lot of rappers either playing themselves, which doesn’t really mean anything, or they’re doing films that go straight to the ‘hood.
There’s nothing wrong with that and get yours, but if you’re really going to act, I suggest that you take a class or classes and study it. The same way you don’t just drop a 16 in the booth and come out, you have to show respect to the art of acting and take it seriously. Don’t disrespect any art, whether it’s acting, rapping or spoken word. If you’re going to be an actor, get a monologue book and study. Practice. If you’re going to rap, know who Big Daddy Kane is. If you’re going to be an actor, act. Don’t act like you’re acting. Really do your thing.
You have a lot of interests. What do you want to accomplish in the future?
Really, my goal is just to be the best artist that I can possibly be at the end of the day. My biggest inspiration at the end of the day is people like Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Diddy…African-American businessmen who make moves. Quincy came from very humble beginnings, but at the end of the day, he always remembered what was important, the music, and he ventured into so many other things. That’s what I want to do. I don’t want to run a record label, but I want to get into photography one day and I want to learn how to read music one day. Sometimes that sounds corny when you’re an MC and a hip-hop artist, but you have to be able to spread your wings and do what you want to do as an artist. That’s what I want to do as an artist. Maybe one day you’ll see me compose a piece and produce a play. I want to be able to put my people on and be able to take care of my family. I just want to make great music and great art for the people. I want to be here ten years from now. I don’t want to just have one hit and be out. I want to be up there with Jay-Z, Nas, 2Pac and Biggie. Longevity as an artist is what I look forward to.
When is Reaganomics dropping?
We’re looking at a May drop. Myself, Chaundon and Tor were all going to drop our mixtapes together. Tor’s is Daily Conversations and Chaundon’s is Chaundon for President. We wanted to drop them all at the same time and really bring the music back to the East Coast at the same time. Everybody has a mixtape, but what’s going to separate me from the pack? We’re looking at an end of May release. We’re also trying to get some more shows. We’re going to hit the streets hard with this. The release date is tentative right now, but mid-May to late-May.
What do you want to say to everybody?
When Reaganomics drops, go cop it, please. You can check out more of me on MySpace. You can check me out. I thank HipHopGame for supporting good, quality music and shout-out to all my peeps. Check for Reaganomics! 2007 is going to be a good year for music.