How are you?
I’m good. I just got rid of somebody measuring my windows because I’m getting window treatments tonight.
You left Philadelphia’s 100.3 right before Christmas. What happened?
My contract was up and we were negotiating for some time. We weren’t able to reach a middle ground so we went our separate ways.
Was it all about the money?
No. Radio One was very generous with their offer and they were very good. It was an absolute good experience. As far as I’m concerned, any experience is a good learning experience for me and that’s always a plus. I can’t say that it was a money issue at all.
Do you think Young Jeezy walking out on you in the middle of an interview had anything to do with you leaving the station?
Obviously from a talent and creative aspect, I don’t see that as being a problem at 100.3 or any radio station for that matter. Coming from someone who worked at three different communication companies at this point, that being Hot97 for nine years, Power105 in New York for two and a half years and then 100.3 for two years, I can’t say from the talent aspect that me leaving had anything to do with Jeezy walking out of the studio. That’s not the first time an artist walked out of a station during the interview and it certainly won’t be the last. It makes for great radio. I would guess that had nothing to do with management’s standpoint.
What are your thoughts today on the Young Jeezy interview and how it went?
I’m a lot disappointed about how that went. I was looking forward to talking to him after I heard he was coming in to do an interview with us. I had my serious hip-hop questions ready. I’m one of those who helped build this foundation for every rapper to stand on, good, bad or indifferent. Whenever we have artists come in the studio, I think, ‘Great, we can talk hip-hop!’ without possibly thinking that there can be some type of disconnect where hip-hop can mean different things to different generations of people. I wasn’t thinking about that at the time.
I was looking forward to having a great conversation with a hip-hop artist. I didn’t anticipate that Jeezy would not be listening to me. He wasn’t listening to me and you could hear that. He was not being blamed for anything like he thought he was. The disconnect between him and I might have been from the fact that a lot of interviews and a lot of focus have been put on the South taking over and people being bitter towards the South.
It’s been a year-long thing where artists and DJ’s from the North diss the South and that totally wasn’t the standpoint I was coming from because a lot of great artists and great friends of mine come from the South like T.I. and his whole camp. His producer Khao is actually my son’s godfather. Me and T.I. are cool. Forget about Outkast. Those are my brothers. They’re a completely innovative group in hip-hop. I don’t even have to go on and on and on with the disclaimers about how non-anti-South I am. And if you listen to the interview, you know that’s not where I’m coming from.
It’s interesting that the questions I was asking him were about Jay-Z, who is his boss at the end of the day, and a Complex Magazine interview with Lil’ Wayne who was throwing daggers at Jay-Z. We were talking about what Lil’ Wayne was saying and I was asking him what his opinion was on that. He gave his opinion on that and then he got into that whole “hip-hop is dead” thing.
When he started ripping into Nas, I was like, “That’s not what I was said. Nas isn’t here right now. I’m talking about hip-hop” and so on and so forth and he said, “I can’t say hip-hop is dead.” The standpoint that I’m in, I can say that the original concept of hip-hop is dead and I said, “I respect you enough to explain it to you” and he would not allow me to explain it to him. I practically begged him to let me explain partially because I didn’t want him to feel offended at all. Maybe he had this conversation with other people who were down on the South so he was on the defensive and that’s where he assumed I was going. It just took an ugly turn.
At the end of the day, I was enlightened by the fact that after everything he said about Nas, he did reach out to Nas and they had a discussion and he apologized for everything that he said and his statement included that he was coaxed into saying what he did and his words were twisted. All of which I found totally hilarious. How does a grown man get coaxed into saying anything he doesn’t want to say? So basically you’re getting coaxed by someone else to say something that’s not in your heart? I don’t believe that.
How frustrating was it when you could tell Jeezy wasn’t trying to hear what you were saying?
It didn’t frustrate me. It proved my point. At that time, it clicked in my head that this is why the original concept of hip-hop is dead, because he wasn’t even hearing me right now. I pick my battles and this isn’t one that I wanted to fight. I said, “If you want to leave the room, leave the room. It might matter to other people but it doesn’t matter to me. Peace!” You heard me say “Peace!” on the mic. Peace!
Do you think Jeezy is aware of your history in the game?
Honestly, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. But I will tell you one thing, I would like to think that ten years from now, somebody will remember who he is and where he came from.
How big of a problem is the newer artists’ lack of knowledge of who came before them?
That all depends. See, you can be in the music industry and make music and put records out and sell millions of records and still not really respect the art. It’s possible. And on the same token, just because of that one, I didn’t leave work saying, “None of these kids respect the art and screw it!” I didn’t leave like that. I left like, Damn, that didn’t go how I wanted it to go and that didn’t turn out how I heard the interview played out in my head. That’s just one person.
The week before I interviewed Chamillionaire about this party he went to for Nas and it was saying how it was so dope for him because he saw all of his favorite artists and there was this really dope girl on stage. I was like, Chamillionaire, that was me. He was like, Oh my God, that was you! There are a lot of young people putting records out and they don’t research what they don’t know and they know only what they grew up listening to.
Do you think that being in the game for over 20 years puts yourself in a better position to debate the “hip-hop is dead” argument versus somebody like a Young Jeezy, who’s only been in the game a few years?
I think that with anything, not just hip-hop, being an elder gives you more hindsight because a lot of times, people don’t learn things until they look back on stuff. That’s just the way life is, unfortunately. Sometimes we look back on people’s mistakes, but we usually look back on our own mistakes to learn from them. Being here before somebody else gives you an edge on anything in life, and yes, that does include hip-hop and the trials and tribulations of the business of hip-hop and everything that encompasses being a part of the music industry. Being here before someone else definitely gives you an edge.
At anytime off the air, did you and Jeezy have any problems?
The other young lady that I work with hit Jeezy with some pretty tough questions. It really depends on the sensitivity of the person being interviewed. Some artists are more media-briefed than others. Some people go through media training with a media coach. If they didn’t know how to handle things, they go through the training with a media coach and they learn how to handle questions of a serious nature. Every radio station or interview an artist goes to is not going to be the interviewer stroking his ego.
After the first break, he must have realized that we weren’t going to suck him off and we were going to ask him real questions. I asked him what the snowman symbolized and he danced around it. I wasn’t like, Hey, you got an album coming out! We’re such fans! On the same token, he wasn’t being dissed either. It depends on the person you are that depends on how you tackle the tough questions.
What’s that line you walk as an interviewer between asking tough questions versus talking about what the artist came to the station to promote?
The way I draw the line is I focus on not being disrespectful. As long as I act respectful, I can ask anything. As long as I’m not coming from hatred, I feel like I can ask them anything. There’s a level of diplomacy that you have to be able to adapt when you’re interviewing somebody. If you want to ask somebody, “What does the snowman mean?” don’t say, “How long were you dealing coke?” That’s disrespectful. Instead of saying that, I said, “What exactly does the snowman symbol mean?” Then it’s up to him to answer what we already know what it means and from that, your fans can tell how real you are at the end of the say and how much of the “keep it real” concept you really adopt at the end of the day.
You deal with a lot of artists face-to-face. How real are these guys?
I would say that there’s an even balance of people who really are who they say they are and came up the way they say they did and truthfully speak about it. Jay-Z is a very respected figure and he came up rough on the streets. He was on the streets, had his fair share of living the fast life as a young man on the streets slinging and scrambling and hustling and all the rest of it and he speaks about it in his records about not wanting to be in that lifestyle and getting out of it and becoming the multi-millionaire entrepreneur that he is. It’s honest and that’s why it’s respected. One of the reasons he was able to turn his life around is because of his love for hip-hop culture and his ability to maneuver in hip-hop culture and get himself to a level of corporate respect.
What’s the best thing to do as an interviewer when you have a disconnect during an interview?
Just be honest to the best of your ability. You can not control somebody else’s feelings. You can control yourself. So all I could do in my case with Jeezy is ask him to allow me to explain. At the end of the day, when he stood up to leave, I was like, Well, you don’t really deserve to be here anyway because you are not ready to be spoken to on that level.
What artists are great interviews?
Diddy, Russell Simmons, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige. Look at the caliber of people that I’m speaking about. Mary, flat out, has the ability to say that she had her experiences with drugs and how she had to pull herself out of those circumstances to be the great singer that she’s supposed to be. She’s the first person to get into retrospective and it makes for a great interview and a great connection for artists and fans.
Are you looking for another radio gig right now?
I’m fielding all the calls that have been coming in. Based on being let go from 100.3 and based on the big blow-up in the Jeezy interview, it’s like I’m being bombarded with telephone calls and emails from all kinds of radio stations from all different kinds of markets. Right now I just want to regroup. I don’t want to move my living arrangements right now. My kids are finishing school and I’m quite comfortable being home.
I’m working on an album with 9th Wonder and we’re still working on our True School parties with 9th Wonder that’s almost like a traveling circus that travels from state to state and it’s basically bringing the music back and the trueness of hip-hop and music back where people can go and hear the stuff they don’t to hear on commercial radio. We still do that and I’m happy doing that and working on my project. I’m in the process of writing a book. A lot more will come to light about hip-hop and all the ways that they’re connected.
In your blog, you said that radio is a dirty job and somebody has to do it. Do you think if listeners launched a protest against what the programmers choose to play it would have an effect on what gets played?
I think that if the listeners had a choice, then they would come to understand what they’re missing from commercial radio. And that’s really about to happen because of the internet. That really is about to happen because of the internet. People don’t know that they have choices. People are starting to learn that they have choices and that will then start to have an effect on what gets played on the radio.
Slowly, there’s a revolution happening on radio and people are realizing that there is a whole group of people not represented on radio and what they get to listen to and that’s the people who grew up buying the early Jay-Z albums and buying all the albums before Jay-Z and going to the Fresh Fest shows…All those kids who were teenagers then are still living. They have jobs and children and responsibilities and they like to listen to the radio too, but when they turn on the radio they hear kid-oriented radio so they don’t listen. It’s mothers, it’s fathers, it’s people who were in college when the Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” was out. There is a whole audience that’s not represented on radio and that’s just being represented.
When you came out with singles, you always had important messages like in “Monie in the Middle.” You didn’t just make songs to dance to. How do you feel about the lack of content in a lot of singles today?
Honestly, there are some things that come out and they don’t necessarily have messages but they have a catchy groove. Everything has its day and time and with the albums from Jay-Z and Nas, there’s much more of an emphasis on content matter. There are a lot of people who feel that with these guys coming back, they now have to step their game up. That’s what hip-hop was about before. When you listened to other people’s records, you knew that you had to come out strong. Maybe that’s unnerving some people in the industry because not everyone is equipped to keep up with a Jay-Z or Nas.
Do you think hip-hop as a culture will come back to the forefront?
I really see hip-hop as a complete culture coming back to the forefront in the form of expression and free expression. You have people like Pharrell who are putting out records the way he wants to put it out. He’s not pressured by what the radio wants to play. So is Nas. So is Hov. There are all types of kids out there getting on the internet and searching out the music that they want. Choice is just becoming a bigger thing and people are feeling less tied down to terrestrial radio and being balled and chained to that.
Do you see any young females in the game being capable of making powerful songs like “Ladies First” today?
I absolutely see that there are women out there who have that capability. We may not know about them yet, but they have that capability.
What do you think of the “Ladies First” video today?
I think it was a work of art. Latifah and I sat down and put that treatment down in a hotel in Germany.
Do you still talk to Queen Latifah today?
I haven’t spoken to her in quite some time, but as we all know, she’s doing well.
Do you still speak to members of the Native Tongues collective today?
Some members. I speak to Pos every now and again. I was with Dres over the summer. We bump heads in bits and pieces. Lyte and I stay in touch more than anything. I also have not spoken to Bam in the longest time and I wasn’t able to go out to the Hip-Hop Honors because I had to work, so I wasn’t able to be out there for that. Whenever we see each other, we catch up.
You said earlier in the interview that you were working on a book. How’s that coming?
Very well, thank you. I’m three weeks into it so it’s still a brand new baby.
Can gossip books by Karrine “Superhead” Steffans or Carmen Bryan damage hip-hop literature?
Neither one of them are women in hip-hop culture. I don’t consider them that. None of them were b-girls or graf writers. Honestly, the only people who would think they were writing hip-hop books would not have read the book. I think any half-blooded person with half a brain will tell the difference and will understand that the gossip books are not hip-hop books but they’re about men in hip-hop.
How’s your album with 9th Wonder coming?
It’s in the beginning stages.
9th really knows his history of hip-hop. What’s it like working with 9th?
He’s a walking, talking, breathing example that you can’t generalize what happened in the studio with Jeezy. I haven’t lost faith that there are babies out there that totally get hip-hop in all its dimensions and have appreciation for all the music and the art and the culture and are true fans. He is a living, walking, talking, breathing example that true fans do exist. I’m in awe of this guy. He’s so amazing. He’s so young and he just gets it. He’s so amazing to me.
Looking back on your entire career, are you happy with where you are now?
It played out exactly how I wanted it to. I’m very, very happy. I’m happy with my time. I’m happy with my time I spent as a forefront artist and I’m happy with my time spent being nostalgic and being an icon. I’m happy with being looked upon with delight and that people remember what they were doing at the time one of my songs came out. I enjoy it and I relish in it. I settled here and I’m pleased with the fact that I pledged allegiance to an art and culture and it moved me from one country to another. It made me start my family someplace where I wasn’t even born. I’m totally delighted with how it played out and with how I’ve become a voice in hip-hop journalism and hip-hop media. I’m absolutely delighted with how everything played out.
What would you say to all the females coming up in hip-hop today?
In the words of Jermaine Stewart, who said, “You don’t have to take your clothes off to have a good time,” I would say, “You don’t have to take your clothes off to have a good rhyme.”
What do you want to say to everybody?
I’m very grateful to all the well-wishers that sent me emails wishing me luck and telling me I would land on my feet. I’m very grateful to those people and I’m also grateful to the people who did not agree with my standpoint on the Jeezy interview. Good, bad or indifferent, what it did was it opened doors of discussion. At the end of the day, I just want to jog somebody’s brain juices so they can have open dialogue about stuff. The difference of opinion makes life beautiful. It takes all forms and everybody has an opinion and it’s beautiful to agree to disagree. Look out for surprises. Surprises are always good and there’s definitely one in the works.