Man, I’m feeling good, man. I’m blessed I’m able to do the things I want to do and hopefully I’ll be able to change some of these kids’ lives that are seeking the right knowledge.
You said recently that you were not going to curse in your music anymore. What motivated that decision?
Al Sharpton and Oprah Winfrey really motivated me to the point where I said, “I have to take action now.” It’s like when you see things on TV that say, “You need to change your life.” Some people do and some people walk right past it. I’ve definitely been a part of the problem and I feel even better about myself knowing that I can help teach kids something else.
You admit that you’ve been a part of the problem.
I am! I’ve done everything you can think of. I’m like the person who just got out of jail and I’m saying, “I need to go change my life and do something with my life.” I need to save some of these kids so they don’t have to live the way I lived.
Is not cursing in your music anymore a sign of you maturing?
I just want to get to a point where now I don’t have to cut the music down if I’m with my kids. I’m mature and I’m growing up. If everybody else is not growing up, that’s their problem. I’m not telling everybody in the hip-hop industry to change. I think my mission is different from Curtis Jackson’s mission. My mission is to change these kids’ lives who want another opportunity.
Do you think artists who clean up their language will make more money in the long run?
It’s going to translate to more money because if you’re on the streets, you’re doubling up now. Instead of just selling to the mom and pop stores, you can sell to corporate America, where they buy music. They’re bootlegging in the ‘hood.
Now you can get your music in places like Target and Wal-Mart, where you couldn’t get it in before. Talk about whatever you want to talk about but take the cusses out. You have to make a clean record for the radio and for your video anyway. So if you’re saying artists are selling out by not cussing, if you ask me, they’re selling out already by making a clean record for the radio.
Think about this – you might have a song that the radio really likes, but it’s dirty. Now you have to go book more studio time to clean that record up when you could have made it clean already.
What hip-hop artists have big endorsement deals? Nobody! Corporate America is not investing in hip-hop because they’re afraid. None of us are educating ourselves with the knowledge. When Romeo comes out of college, he’ll probably be one of the most successful entertainers in the world. Not only will he be talented, but he’ll be educated and have the knowledge.
There is a group of artists and fans that say censoring hip-hop is not right.
What do they mean by that? Every song on the radio is a clean version, so it’s already compromised. Every video you see, if it’s a street record, it has to be the clean version. People have to be responsible for their own actions. I’m not telling the hip-hop game to change. I’m just telling you what I’m doing. It’s like I’m not telling people to go to church just because I may go to church all the time. When I was out on the street, I kept my mouth closed. If I saw somebody that was positive, I kept my mouth closed. I thought they were positive and I congratulated that man, but I had to do what I had to do to feed my family and I hoped I could get to that point in my life where I could make that change.
There are other problems besides foul language in music, like poverty and poor education. Is cleaning up your language the first step for you?
The thing about it, when you look at this level of the game, you have to realize that you can only change yourself and your family. This is the first step. When you accept that it’s about more than money and that it’s about knowledge, then you’re going to see why education is so important. That’s why I’m making sure my kids are going to school. You can always have a college degree to fall back on if the music doesn’t work out. Plus you learn what to do with your money.
Do you see yourself as a role model today?
I come from the streets and I’ve done all that can be. I can only be an inspiration because I’m not perfect. My son can be a role model because he didn’t have to do the things I did. I can be an inspiration and that’s what I’m talking about for the next generation. The next generation can actually be role models.
What is your responsibility as an MC today?
To showcase the other steps that we need to take to let the kids know that there’s a bigger picture out there. My responsibility it to try to change some of these kids’ lives.
Do you see kids today being negatively influenced by popular hip-hop?
If you think about it, networks like BET, you’re talking about how they won’t allow rappers to talk about the b’s and h’s in music videos, but it’s on College Hill all day. Hip-hop is just stereotyped right now. Look at when 50 made the statement, the gatekeeper at BET laughed at it. People have to understand what their job is and not want to be a celebrity themselves. That’s where we need to start making these changes. This dude at BET has something that Cam’ron and Curtis Jackson wants. If a song doesn’t blow up on BET, then the radio will not play the record. If he steps up to the plate and say, “Hey, we need to stop all this and come together,” he could. But these guys don’t want to hurt their pockets.
You have a lot of guys with power that aren’t using their power. These guys want their videos played on TV. Not everybody wants to step up and do the right thing.
What do you think motivated 50 Cent’s comments about you at the BET press conference?
It would have to be pure ignorance. If a guy like me says, “Hey, I want to make changes” and he speaks out, that’s just ignorance, right? I’m not telling him what he should be doing. I’m just saying this is what I’m doing.
You funded 50 Cent’s first southern tour…
You know what? Some people get to the top of the mountain and then they start talking crazy. This is not about me. God has blessed me and my family and some people don’t appreciate their blessings. For some people, it’s all about them. I’m blessed and hopefully I can help a lot of people and do something positive and give more money back than most people will make in their lifetime. We all have to do our part.
Is the hate Oprah Winfrey and other major media outlets receive from the hip-hop community justified?
Look how people act to her. You have somebody trying to do something positive and somebody comes back and criticizes that person. We’re crabs in a bucket. That’s why Oprah is saying what she’s saying. That’s why her comments inspired me. I’m showing that we can make changes. I want to show people that we are making changes so they can understand us better.
Is it Oprah’s and the mainstream media’s responsibility to cover hip-hop?
We have to give people like that something positive to look at. That’s what I’m trying to do, so they can see that some of us are trying to make changes. A lot of us are thinking about their own selves and not thinking about anybody else. For Oprah and Dr. Phil to say something positive about us, we have to do something besides trying to kill each other.
Some people would say hip-hop is not meant for the mainstream media. How do you respond to that?
To be honest with you, hip-hop is for anybody who wants to be a part of it. You have 50 year-old hip-hop fans. Look at Kool Moe Dee and all them. They weren’t cursing. Take some curses out. What’s wrong with that?
When big artists have albums coming out, sometimes they say they’re going to leak the clean version but that you’ll have to go to the store for the dirty version. It seems as though they are placing an extremely high value on the curse words. What do you think of that?
To be honest with you, they still are growing up. There’s nothing wrong with that. They’re still growing up.
Do you want other artists to follow in your footsteps?
To be honest with you, I want artists to follow in their own footsteps and do what’s right for them, not what’s right for me.
Romeo is going to USC after he finishes high school…
Think about it. How come that’s not on the front page? That’s positive. That would make more kids want to go to college, wouldn’t you think so? We are not showcasing the positives and I think that’s why there’s stereotyping in hip-hop.
Who do you blame for the stereotyping?
This is just how we do it. That’s why I’m taking a stand on it. If I can help change one or two people, I’m good. Everybody doesn’t have to make this change, but if it can help one or two people change their lives, then I did the right thing.
How important is it to you that Romeo graduates from USC?
That’s important. That’ll be on a different level than everything we’ve done in hip-hop. People are going to see that we’re getting smart and preparing for the next generation. You have to prepare the next generation of bosses to be smarter than the current generation.
Romeo’s also going to be playing basketball USC, a program that just landed the No. 1 recruit this year in OJ Mayo. Is USC basketball on the rise?
Yeah. Definitely. I think Tim Floyd is turning it around. I think it’ll be good for him. And it’s not a publicity stunt. If he couldn’t ball, they wouldn’t be giving him a scholarship. Not only do you have to be a good athlete, but you have to be a good student to get into an institution like that. It’s a great situation for him. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas went there. This is a great situation for him. He could be the next Will Smith or better. Going to USC, he’s getting the best of both worlds.
How do you see your influence on the independent game today?
It’s scary because now kids don’t have that opportunity. If you don’t go and sign with a major record label and get your video out there, you’re not going to sell any records. There’s no outlet right now unless you’re with a major label. You have to sign a bad deal with a major label because you can’t be your own boss no more.
How is your new album coming?
It’s coming good, man.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists?
Believe in yourself and invest in yourself. And if you stay focused and if you do the things that you need to do, you’ll be all right. Just don’t give up on your music.
What do you want to say to everybody?
I just want to thank all my fans.