Your $5 Cover mixtape is now out and it’s been produced entirely by producer G.C. How did you guys first link up?
Kevin from KevinNottingham.com, we had established a cool relationship and he really dug the music and set up an interview and he mentioned his producer and they had this project, this beat sampler and he was trying to get all of these different MCs together and it was a real hassle. I can’t remember how it happened but somewhere along the lines he asked me if I would want to spit over all of them and I said I would. I heard his stuff and he’s dope and he gets down so we’ll do it. I listened to the beats and I was just blown away and I started writing immediately. I laid each one out and I just kind of created the story from there and just made it happen. It was cool. It was definitely the time honored producer and MC tradition. I think that’s what was important, to make sure that we kept that in tact and stayed true to that. It’s been done before but I wanted to make sure that the rhymes were reflective of the dope production I was given.
Why is the producer and MC combination so rare today?
I think it has a lot to do, man, with jumping on what’s hot or what’s next. I think it’s who’s the hottest producer right now and who can I have? I have Just Blaze and I have Pharrell and I have Nottz on one of my albums. Then people are going to gravitate towards that, the idea of having different sounds and people want to “experiment” and I think it’s a lot different, too, where we’re in an age where people send tracks to each other. Even with this project, I would record the tracks and send them back to G.C. but it was still in the sense where he was very proactive and asking if I wanted anything changed. Nowadays there’s a lot of fear involved in that and people are afraid to be honest with themselves. I would just send you a beat that’s dope and you’ll write to it and the producer won’t hear it until the album drops. This was very much more so where we were talking about how we liked the tracks and what would we change. It was back and forth conversations between myself, G.C. and Kevin. I think now with the way the art is going, it’s very much informal and I think people are more comfortable with that because they don’t want to hear what the truth is and people telling them they don’t like how they came off on something. It’s still their beat and it’s their production so you have to be honest with each other. I think that’s kind of lacking and cats are kind of afraid of that.
What did G.C.’s beats bring out in you as an MC?
It all ties along with it being the title The $5 Cover. I wanted each song to feel like a performance. I hope that’s what happened. I want people to feel like every song they heard was a story. I want them to feel involved in the performance and that’s what the music was supposed to be about. It was very performance driven. It was interaction between me and the listener and that’s what I wanted to convey. When I heard the “Rich and Famous” beat, me and wifey were chilling and there was this exceptional view we were looking at of the New York City skyline and the beat was playing in my iPod and it was so dope. It made me feel like I wanted to be rich and famous and that’s what came out along with the perils of being rich and famous. That’s what the beats did. It was cool, man. Everything that came from it was definitely inspiration and it definitely wasn’t forced.
You have a lot of dope lines in there, like how you “never make a mistake and you never mis-take.” Does it ever bother you that you’re using dope lines on a free download?
(laughs) It’s funny you asked me that, Brian. I think about that all the time. I think about that with every single project I make. Even with Reaganomics and before Reaganomics, I was thinking if I had just wasted the best lines in my life! (laughs) After awhile I just kind of convinced myself that I’m blessed and I have the gift to write and I never lack inspiration as long as I’m doing things that inspire me. I’ll always have inspiration to write stuff. If I hear a dope beat it’s inspiration. If I wake up it’s inspiration. As long as there’s things around me, I feel like I’ll always be blessed enough to write this stuff. As long as a person like Lupe still exists…People keep me on my toes lyrically and that’s important to me and that’s what keeps me writing and keeps me inspired. That’s funny that you asked me that because I think about that all the time with every project.
If I was a rapper that would bother me.
At least for me, I kind of get over it after awhile. It becomes one of those things where it is what it is and there’s always this hope that I’ll have a better song than the one I just wrote. That’s the hope. I always hope that this song is better than the last one. I feel like I’m a pretty objective listener with myself, or at least I try to be. I can see where I’m kind of forcing the issue and I get rid of those songs. It’s just about growth. The worry is always there but I think it’s a good worry. It kind of motivates me and keeps me writing and making good music.
What’s your favorite song off The $5 Cover?
Really, “Rich and Famous,” I think. It’s between “Rich and Famous” and “No Hands.” I think it’s “Rich and Famous” because of how organic creating the track was. I can’t remember how I landed on that mindstate but I heard the beat and I heard a melody in my head and I needed it conveyed the right way. I got exactly what I needed and it’s very storytelling, how people say they want to be rich and they want the fame but they don’t really know what comes along with that. “New Orleans” is also a favorite track. People forget that people are still struggling there and they’re still living in trailers. I got family down there. There’s definitely still aid that needs to be delivered down there and it’s not happening so that was a big deal for me to write that track. It’s between those three. And “No Hands” was a dedication to my mom, so that was kind of important.
Your buzz has been getting bigger in the last year. Is all the hard work starting to pay off?
I think so. I’m nowhere near where I want to be or where I can be at this point, but it’s definitely a sign how people are reacting to The $5 Cover. My last project was Reaganomics in 2007. It kind of feels like I came full circle with this project. The response has been really great and people have been really receptive to the music and I feel like I’m in my lane and I’ve kind of found my comfort zone. It definitely feels good. I’m not where I want to be but I’m definitely on the path for where I want to go. It does feel good and I feel like I’m working hard. There are probably things I should be doing that I’m not but it’s a learning process right now and I’m happy.
How have you grown as an MC since Reaganomics?
Man, I think musically I’ve grown. I’ve kind of stretched myself out. What I tell people is that I loved doing Reaganomics. That was so important to what I do but it was, like, one-sided. I would always tell people that when it comes to music, people always want to show one side of themselves, even with gangsta rap. You don’t shoot people and sell drugs 24/7. Maybe you do but you probably have a mother or you probably have a girl or you probably have a story and Reaganomics covered one side and The $5 Cover covered another side and the album coming up is more personal. It’s like I’ve almost found myself in between now and Reaganomics. I’ve learned a lot about honor and family and I feel like I enjoy life more, man. My focus is really just about music and nurturing relationships and making sure I represent myself in the music as much as possible. I don’t want people to be confused and there’s a lot of that going on. People meet the artist after hearing the music and they’re confused and I don’t want that to happen with me. I don’t think that’s fair and that’s not how it should be.
Where are you on the official album?
I hope they are ready. I’m waiting to drop it too. The official LP, I Ain’t Going Back to Retail, we’re looking at a tentative date of the 22nd. I want people to be on the lookout for that, man. It’s a real personal project. Next week I’m going to start the mastering process and it feels really good. I’m the executive producer on this project and I got all the producers I wanted and the songs are all written by me and I feel like it’s probably the best representation of myself right now that I could possibly get. Me calling it that is that I’m basically not going back to retail. Retail is a state of mind and don’t feel limited or constrained to that. Pursue your dreams and pursue your goals because that’s what I’m doing now. I’m saying you don’t have to go back to your old life. Live your life now and don’t be constrained to that. And the project is free!
Where do you see yourself fitting in when you look at the spectrum of new artists?
That’s a good question. I don’t even know if I do fit in. I’m trying not to. I kind of hope that I am the outcast and I’m playing the role of the underdog and I’m kind of enjoying it. I feel like there’s certain representations of the art. I’m a fan of Drake and I think he’s different from other artists but I feel like my growth is so much more different because you’re seeing it from the beginning to the end. You’re seeing me work a day job and going to the studio and still making music. I’m very true to that and you see that. I think you don’t really get to hear that. Artists may touch on that sometimes but I feel like I wear my heart on my sleeve a lot and I think that’s kind of hard to do in this day and age because people are scared to. You’re scared of people clowning you and making fun of you but I’m confident in the music I make and I think that should show when people hear it. I’m just looking forward to people hearing the music and they hear me talking from a place they recognize and I always want to represent that whether I’m in the booth or the boardroom. I want to make sure I’m always there. My objective is to make sure that I’m always a representation of the people. I’m not Obama or nothing but I feel like I can make a change in the music. I’m not a backpacker MC and I’m not a conscious MC. I’m just an MC trying to make a change in the music.
What’s the best way to make sure the most people can hear the change you’re trying to bring about?
I have a show coming up at the Bowery Poetry Club on the 12th. 2010 is really about trying to get in SXSW and the CMJs and all the major festivals and try to get the name out there and build a fanbase. I just think about myself as a fan. I’m really stingy when it comes to my money, especially now. If I’m going to put money into an album or into a CD, then it better be worth it. That’s my thing with the free music. I’m going to keep giving free music and I’m going to build my fanbase and I’m going to start touring and start creating a bigger fanbase because I want people to feel like once they make that big investment into my CD, there’s no question in their mind that it’s going to be worth it. I’m going to give them all of me and it’s going to be worth it. I just think that we should all just approach it that way, whether you’re an artist, a painter, a writer, an MC, a beatmaker or an actual producer-producer. It should always be with the idea that everything you make, it should feel worth it and not just for you. I always think what I like and at the end of the day you have to realize what works and that doesn’t work. And not what sells, because what sells and what works aren’t necessarily the same thing. They’re two completely different things. What sells doesn’t really mean anything. It’s money and it’s revenue but there’s so many politics into what sells a record and what actually makes a record work. That’s Quincy Jones’ history and Jay-Z’s history. It’s not necessarily fame that I want but I want to strive for that creativity and notoriety. I want the fans to know that they’re getting the most out of a MaG project, consistently, whether it’s free or it’s $12 at Best Buy.
Where do you want to go in 2010?
More shows, more promotion and more music. Damn, really, that’s my main focus, man. My main focus is doing as much promotional performances that I can and get it out to places where people may not be familiar with me. I have a lot of music that I want to share with people and I’m just hoping that people be receptive to it. I’m just really building a fanbase and growing with the fanbase and having them see me grow as well. I want to be the artist that people can say they watched grow because that doesn’t happen anymore. I draw a comparison to a Common. I remember when Common started with “Beats by the Pound.” I was there for that and to see him go from there to Forever, that’s growth and you don’t normally get to see that no more. You don’t get to see the Nas’ and the Jay-Z’s. It’s a flash in the pan and they’re in and they’re out. I want 2010 to be vey fruitful for me and my family and for people to see the growth from 2009 to 2010 and 2011. It’s only for the best, man. A lot more shows and a lot more music.