I’m good. I’m chilling. You know, I’m grinding it out. I’m still doing the music. I’m a lab rat. I don’t get out much. I’m always in the lab.
You’ve dropped a lot of mixtapes lately. What have you been working on lately?
Besides the reality show, I starred in Freeway’s movie What We Do as Bernard. He’s one of the goons. There were a couple of shooting scenes and I was being a real nigga. Freeway comes home from jail and he’s trying to get his life together and he keeps slipping back. I’m just one of the soldiers that come to enforce things when they go wrong. That goes along with my name Elliot Ness the Enforcer. We’re looking for that to come out soon. And I’m just trying to break my record. You know how political is it as far as radio is concerned. So I’m trying to get my weight up there and have some presence on the radio.
How important have the mixtapes been to keeping you relevant?
Well, it’s been a slow grind. When I dropped my Gangsta Grillz, it didn’t get that much attention because it dropped unexpectedly. It was supposed to drop in March and it didn’t drop until August and there were a whole bunch of other mixtapes out then, like Lil’ Wayne’s. It kind of got overshadowed. But the reorders are still coming in. The people still want it. It takes awhile to get people into the mixtape.
You also have a new reality show coming up on MTV. How’s that coming?
It’s basically in the editing process. We shot two or three episodes. Diddy did a show with us, then a girl group and then a guy group. Now we’re trying to come back. It’s just me right now, but hopefully he’ll pull Babs into the situation and show people the process that we’ve been going through in recording our music and trying to stay relevant and keep our voices out there.
Do you feel like a new reality show is a good look for you at this point or do you need to get away from that?
Nah, man. A reality show can give me a lot of exposure that I need. What other way can other people get up close and personal with the trials and tribulations of the music industry? I think it’s good. I had time to learn the game and sit back and learn from my mistakes. It’s better for real hip-hop to see real artists going hard at it and trying to make something pop off as opposed to the first situation where we were just put together and we were traveling and we didn’t really mix with each other. I think it would be a good look for people to see us do a 360 and for people to see us on our grind. Reality TV is like passing out 10 million flyers every time it comes on. TV and film is the best promotion nowadays.
Is there anything from your experience with Da Band and MTV that you regret today?
I’m a lot hungrier than I was before Da Band situation because I had a taste of the life. I did shows, I did The Source Awards and I did The View with Barbara Walters. I was on ESPN’s Cold Pizza. I got a little taste of the life and what it was like to be an artist and be a working artist. I got the chance to promote my music in other towns. From the show, I got to learn how everything works behind the scenes and what footage they take and what footage they don’t take and what makes good scenes and episodes. I’m like the executive producer of this new show. Diddy gave me the stamp and the cosign to go ahead and do it.
Have you stayed in touch with the other members from Da Band?
I’ve talked to Fred and Dylan. I haven’t talked to Sarah or Chopper. As far as I know, Babs is still a part of the Bad Boy family. I don’t know her whole situation, but I know that she’s still a Bad Boy artist. Dylan is doing his thing with his label and I heard that Fred was signed to SRC. I don’t know if he still is. The last I heard about Sarah was that she was signed to Royce da 5’9”’s publishing company, but don’t quote me on that. But I have been talking to Babs, Fred and Dylan out of the group.
For the record, you’ve always been signed to Bad Boy since the airing of Making Da Band.
Yeah. We were signed to Universal and after they switched to Warner Music and Atlantic, I had to wait until that panned out and they got their money and their new distribution deal. On the East Coast side of things, I’m bringing the hard, crazy, edgy street rap back. That’s what everybody has been looking for from me.
How’s your debut album Nessessary coming?
It’s coming along crazy. I got production from will.i.am, Chad West, Just Blaze, 9th Wonder, Khrysis, Doe Fat, Stevie J and the Bad Boy Hitmen. I got stuff from Yogi. I got stuff from my man Black Keyz. I got tracks from Matrax. Bink! gave me some stuff. He did “1-900 Hustler.” It’s diversified. You’re not going to hear the drug dealing and the shoot ‘em up, bang-bang that you hear from every other street artist that’s coming out. I’m really thinking deep. I got the jackhammer. I’m more than just an artist. I’m a father, I have a clothing line, I have other websites…I have my hands in a lot of things.
How frustrating has it been waiting for your debut album to come out?
It’s real frustrating because of course as an artist, you’re hungry and you have the talent and you want to showcase your talent. It’s really inspiring to me because it just makes you want to get out there and it makes me want to let the world know what I can do. I’ve been off for four years but a lot of that was just the politics and making sure the paperwork was straight. I had to make sure that everybody was going to keep their word and now everything is official. So now I’m ready to rock and roll. The whole staff is behind my record and Diddy is one of Ness’ biggest fans. He’s really the main reason why Warner Brother gave me the deal; because he spoke so highly of me. He just has faith in my music that it can make money out here.
What do you want fans to take away from your album that they haven’t gotten already on the mixtapes?
There are basically a lot of concepts on the album. There are a lot of songs about the struggle. I’m talking about my problem with drug addiction and the drug addiction that runs through my family. I’m talking about being incarcerated and starting all over. I’m talking about the wear and tear that the game has on you from a personal level and from a business level. Your friends try to condemn you and bring you down and at the same time they’re rooting for you but they don’t really want to see you blow up because they’re afraid that you may forget about them and that you may leave you behind. I’m talking about a lot of topics that the average rapper can talk about but my songs and my topics are much more vivid than the other rappers.
You said Diddy was one of your biggest fans. Was there ever a time when you felt like Diddy didn’t believe in you?
No. I think Diddy is one of the biggest Ness supporters that Ness has ever seen. In the auditions for Making of Da Band, he saw that I had that edge to bring Bad Boy back to the streets. I had that edge. I wrote “Diddy Rock” on Press Play. I ghostwrote for Diddy. He gave me a lot of situations to make money. The bond is still there. He’s got so many different things that he’s out there producing and it’s hard to catch up with him. When I do catch up with him, I have nothing but exceptionally-good music to play for him and that helps to get the wheels turning on my project.
When will we see the Ness debut album?
We’re shooting for the first quarter of ’08. We’re looking at around March.
How’s your clothing line coming?
The clothing line is coming good. We have it in all of the major department stores in Philadelphia. We’re having talks with some stores in southern areas because they liked what I was wearing. I’m the biggest supporter of the brand. I’m a businessman and we’re having a lot more talks with trying to get it in stores. There’s six-figure deals on the table for Merc Material.
What’s the next move for Ness?
Basically, man, I just want to make this mark with my album. I just want to pick up where I left off. I want to make sure my music is out there so that I can venture out into other things. That’s all that is on my plate right now. I’m working on this reality show and getting that up in production and making sure that this album comes out. The reality show might be the promotional tool for this album. I don’t know. Everybody will have to sit back and wait and see.
Throughout all of your trials and tribulations in the industry, what’s the biggest lesson you learned?
There is nothing guaranteed and you have to work for everything. I don’t care if you sign with Puff Daddy, Jay-Z, Jermaine Dupri or anybody else. Your career solely lies on your energy and your hard work. Nothing is guaranteed. You’re not promised a deal and you’re not promised to come out with an album. It’s on you.
What do you want to say to everybody?
The Lockness Monster is still here. It’s still Bad Boy. It’s still Rush Ya Neck. And it’s still GunLine. When the album, Nessessary, comes out, you won’t be disappointed. I promise you.