and Mirrors" is about to drop, how satisfied are you with the album?
Being an artist, I'm real critical with it. It's a good album. I'm looking
forward to recording a new album already.
your state of mind on this album?
have any state of mind, I was just doing songs. I hooked up with Domino
later on and gave him songs that I already had done, so it was more just
records that I was trying to get back in the groove of recording. That's
why I'm ready to move on to the next album, because I've got a whole scheme
and plot in my head about the next record.
you want us to take away from "Smoke and Mirrors?"
I want people
to listen to what I actually say from beginning to end, when I'm talking
about contradictions and being a hypocrite. I say that to say look at
the traits of a human being, because this is not what people are not trying
to make you focus on. Everyone's trying to make you focus on some gangster
shit and how hard their life was. People aren't really giving themselves.
I want people to listen to this and understand me, and understand that
I'm not perfect.
about your flaws isn't too popular right now
It is something
that's needed. If you look at my past history of making records, I've
never tried to put out what I thought was popular. I always did what I
did and went against the grain. I don't need the industry to say "that's
a dope party record." I'm not a party-record type of dude.
like "Shorty" are dope because of that. What did you want to
accomplish with that record?
don't listen. I just liked the beat because it was a nice groove. But
let me say something about what's really going on in the game and in general
in the clubs. There's a lot of people talking to young girls in the clubs,
and vice versa. But it's not looked at as bad if a young man is hit on
by an older woman. But for an old man to talk to a younger female that's
a big deal, especially if she's underage. People don't like to talk about
stuff like that, but I'll talk about it because that's what's happening.
feel like maturity is seen as a weakness in music today?
I tell this
to everybody. The problem with somebody like 50 is that people don't listen
to him as far as when he says something that he wants you to understand.
There's been magazine articles where he talks about how getting shot wasn't
pretty and how he could have avoided it. Younger cats, in general, are
taking it as a stripe. You have to get shot or stabbed to get a stripe,
and hopefully live through it, to be a gangster or a soldier. 50 is saying
that it's something he wishes he never went through. Who wants to get
shot? As many records as he's selling, they only focus on negative stuff.
I have to commend dude for his business sense. People don't listen to
him when he tries to put out something positive. I pay attention to things
and I read between the lines. Homeboy doesn't want people to get shot.
They don't say "50 doesn't want us to get shot," they say "50
got shot in the mouth and chewed on a bullet." That's not cool.
do you have on the kids trying to come up in the game today?
things I wouldn't do today, and there's things I wouldn't do as a youngster
coming up in the game. I still look at myself as a young guy, but not
as a youngster. It would be foolish for me to try to make records like
cats in they 20's. I'm not in my 20's anymore. I make records according
to my age and what I'm going through and the wisdom I have in me. I'm
not trying to keep up with the Joneses and I'm definitely not trying to
keep up with the younger dudes.
of the term "smoke and mirrors" means deception. What are you
trying to get across with that title?
point! You're the only interviewer to catch that, and I want to thank
you for that. The album means deception. I don't want people to say "damn,
that's a dope album, he's being so positive." It's not that. I'm
really revealing my flaws in the album. If you listen to the intro, I'm
telling you what to do from beginning to end on the record. It's urban
legend that if you stare into the mirror long enough, you see things you
could have never seen before. "Smoke and Mirrors" is for me
and my consumers to just have it out. There's many contradictions. If
you can pick it apart and talk shit about it, that means you're listening.
I purposely tell people that there are a lot of deceptions in the record,
and you're the only one that caught that so far.
that doesn't have the album, what should they look for in the album?
A lot of people criticize how records are made. I got mad flack on the
"Bon Appetit" record. They said I was trying to be gangster.
I was like damn. I took the quiet approach like Rakim. If you saw articles
in my past, the jewelry, the gold teeth, I had that but I never talked
about that on my records. Same thing as Rakim! He had the Rolls Royce
on his album covers, the big dinner plates, but he didn't actually talk
about material things. That was his lifestyle. Same with me! I'm a hood
dude, but that doesn't mean I have to be ignorant on my records. I just
want people to listen to my record and say "I understand what he's
saying because I've seen that or been through it." I might make a
promise to my wife and not fulfill it. That is something that human beings
do all the time. This is no fugazi shit. You might tell your chick "I'm
coming over at 8" and fall asleep and never show up because you were
probably tired from work. I just want people to look into the album and
see the nakedness of it. It's not so deep for you to not understand. Just
listen to the records and see what you get from it. One record I might
be talking about standing in front of the club with your rims gleaming,
and then I might be talking about how friends are deceptive, and then
I'll have "Shorty," which is a pedophile records. R.Kelly is
a pedophile to me. Duke ain't even going to court for that anymore, why
is that? It's a lot of things man. Just listen to this album, there's
nothing so deep that you'll have to rack your brain over. If you listen
to each song, each song is contradicting each other, point blank.
much of daily life do you take at face value?
man. Right now, I'm real conscious of my health. I don't smoke cigarettes
anymore, I don't smoke weed, I drink red wine instead of Hennessey. I'm
34 now. At this point and time, I've seen people drop dead out of nowhere.
It's like "damn, they're my age." I don't look 34. I still get
carded at certain clubs, and the shit feels good because I'm taking care
of myself. I'm very conscious about my health right now. I'm not an unhealthy
dude. I'm conscious of that. I think more about things because of my age.
For example, I'm married now. I've been with my wife for 18 years, but
we've been married for four. We've been together since high school. I
used to not think about the repercussions of cheating on her in my mid-20's.
Now, if I were to cheat, it would weigh heavy on my mind. I'm a different
dude. I think about things like that, I think about other people's feelings,
and I wear my emotions on my sleeve.
ever hurt you?
They say you are the person you are at 25 for the rest of your life. There's
certain things that I've changed, but I understand what people say when
they say that, because there are some things that I'll never be able to
shake because that is who I am. But in regards to my health, I can change.
But as far as attitude, that's there and it's not changing.
of change, how have you changed in the way you put albums together today?
changes the record. Each record, it's like Nas says, "at this stage
in my life, I'm in my second childhood." My first childhood, I was
in my 20's, I was making records, running the streets more, spending money
more, wearing the jewelry and diamonds. That was the stage I was in. Not
because it was possible, but because that's what me and Showbiz did. We
always had cars. We didn't sell that many records, so it wasn't from royalty
checks, so you do the math. Today, if I was looking at a pair of jeans
for $300, I would say "damn, I could pay my bills in advance or even
give it to someone who needs it." Today, albums are therapy for me.
freedom did you have on "Smoke and Mirrors?"
have freedom in my records. No one can tell me how to record a record.
My problem with labels is always with promotion. I could say I'm a self-promoting
machine. My first record sold about 150,000 records. That was with two
bullshit videos, really no promotion. If you consider stickers and flyers
promotion, them I should have went platinum. On my second album, I probably
sold more. I just did the records. Labels were looking for what was hot.
I wasn't trying to do that shit. That's why I never had a gold or platinum
album or single. I always did what I wanted to. Even if it cost me, I
always did what I wanted to anyway.
have any regrets?
That's why I'm still here today. If I went platinum ten years ago, I probably
wouldn't even be on the phone with you. People who go platinum have a
hard time getting that momentum back after three or four years of not
putting a record out.
always made intelligent music. How do you feel about the music coming
one or two people who are actually like "this is what it is, this
is what's going on." Kanye, I like his records. He's very cocky,
but who's not. KRS was cocky. Kanye makes very good conceptual records.
I just like people with substance. Even if you're not a lyrical dude,
that doesn't mean you can't put a world and a day inside your music. I
look at a lot of the kids today that's following. They don't dare to be
different. I tell them "dare to be different," but they don't
know what that means yet. They don't know what it's like to have an industry
the advantage to working primarily with Mike Lowe on "Smoke and Mirrors?"
record, most of these songs were done. I did maybe three or four records
after signing this album with Heiro. I was doing these records at my leisure.
If you listen to my album, everything is "tomato and tomotoe."
The songs don't really coincide with each other. If you listen to an album
like "The Great Adventures of Slick Rick," from beginning to
end, that record made sense. This album to me, it's a declaration of independence
in my mind and doing music. I did these records at my leisure. I didn't
do these records according to a deadline. That's how I always used to
put albums out, with deadlines. I didn't do it this time. I was recording
out of my own pocket. I met up with Domino, the situation sounded good,
it was a financially sound deal to do with them. I just came off the road
on a tour of 43 cities with the Hieroglyphics. In my whole career, I never
did a tour in the states like that. If I would have done these states
years ago, I might have sold a lot more records. Everything is brand new
to me right now.
your reception in places you hadn't been?
For the most
part, nobody knew me, plain as day. It's a different generation now. The
closer east I got, the more people that knew me. But Southwest, Midwest,
nobody knew me. To me, that's a good thing. I'm starting from scratch.
No matter what people say about classic records, a lot of kids don't know
about "Time's Up." I was selling my merch on tour, from my old
albums to my new albums. People were saying "if you're down with
Hiero, your shit must be dope. Plus your live show is dope." I was
like "wow." It's a good thing to be associated with Hiero though,
but those comments come with the territory when you reinvent yourself.
feel like the new generation of fans need to go back and learn the history?
in general, you need to know "was it done before" and "does
it have a past?" Somebody like DMX goes back as far as me, he was
signed to Columbia probably when Big L was signed to Columbia. It's crazy
man. Honestly, I don't try to figure things out anymore. I do what I can
with the kids and try to educate them as much as possible, but you can't
force-feed them something if they don't want it. I bust my ass on stage
so they go back and learn my history. At the end of the night, during
the end of the night, when they go to the merch table, I want them to
pick up my record. Not just for money in my pocket, but so they check
out my first record and see what it's about. I want people to know my
stuff. That's what I want people to take away.
any reason why there's no Finesse, Diamond D, Showbiz, or anyone else
from D.I.T.C. on this record?
No. No bad
reasons. It was therapy for me to do this record by myself without the
help of my crew because I needed to do it. I needed to see if I could
do it without them. They've been with me since day one helping me to record
albums. Mike Lowe's been around for a long time. I actually met him through
Finesse and Buckwild. I didn't want to get any music from Finesse or Show
for a reason. I wanted to see if I could do this shit on my own. That
was something I did subconsciously. And they're not sweating that. They're
not asking me why they're not on my album. They know if I didn't ask them,
there's a reason. That's just how we do. No hard feelings. We're going
to do records together, that's nothing.
going on with Diggin' in the Crates?
3rd, we're going overseas, me, Finesse, and Diamond. When we come back,
I think we're going to do S.O.B.'s and let people know we're here. We're
going to do an EP first. We have to get this chemistry back because we
haven't recorded a record together in a few years.
does the loss of Big L affect the chemistry of the group?
It's a crazy
loss. He was one of the main processes behind us making our records. It's
been hard. That was the great thing about our music process.
any beef today between you and Prince Po?
no beef, but I don't fuck with that dude.
working with Pharoahe Monch today?
He was my
neighbor when I was growing up in Queens. I grew up in Bushwick, Brooklyn,
and when I moved to Southside Jamaica, Queens, he was my neighbor. I've
always seen him as my mentor. He's the closest thing to an anti-yes-man
that I'll ever get. How does this sound? "I don't like that shit!"
He'll tell me straight off the bat, and it's something I won't get mad
about because it's not like he's hating. I know if he doesn't like the
shit, something's wrong with it. I take his word like a knife.
making of "Time's Up" a gift or a curse?
people base me around that record. Honestly, I know I've made records
better than "Time's Up," but it was just at the time, it was
a record to the left. It was something different than what everyone else
was doing at the time. I didn't like the record. For one, I didn't like
the way it came out. For two, that was Pharoahe's record. I begged Pharoahe
for the beat. I worked on the record for a year and half because it was
just so awkward.
get frustrating when that's all people associate you with
'Time's Up,' he caught a body with that!" That's it? That's all I
caught a body with? I had "Constables" on that album, I had
"Point of Views," I had "No Name Topic," I had "Ma
Dukes," I had "Let it Slide," I had a lot of shit on that
record. I used to get mad that people based that song on who I was, but
I don't get mad no more. I don't sweat it.
at "Starchild," being that it's an international release, can
you track all the sales on it?
not. Dude said he put out a couple of joints on it, and I have to take
his word for it. I bootlegged that shit myself (laughs). He knows it.
I pressed up a lot of those shits and sold them on the tour, so touché.
We're all cool though. They just put the record out prematurely. I was
mad at him about that, but we're cool now.
of rappers are talking about how they run Brooklyn, showing guns on DVD's
that even possible?
I don't pay
attention to that shit. They just talking out their ass. Gangsta niggas
don't talk shit, that's how I look at it. Gangsta niggas don't talk shit.
You're incriminating yourself waving your guns on those DVD's. They got
the Hip Hop police watching those. You waving automatic pistols and machine
guns on TV is not a good look. Not a good look at all.
survived this game longer than most, how do you make sure that you stay
fresh and relevant?
I don't know.
I say it on some records, it's a gift, not a talent. For me, it's a gift.
In the music industry's eyes, I'm not even supposed to be around. I didn't
ask for this shit, it's just something that comes natural to me to make
music. Jay says everyone falls off, but it's not happening to me yet.
When I feel it happening, I'll step away. I stay fresh because that's
the person I am.
is out now, what's next for you?
Hit the road.
Right now, I'm working on a new album already. I plan on putting out records
in the next few years. I got a lot of stuff that I have to do right now,
so I'm working.
you want to say to everyone out there?
for the new albums coming, just new music in general. Look for me to flood
the streets. I want to say to the people who have always supported me,
even when I put out albums two or three years apart, I want to say thank
you and I appreciate it that you still have patience that you even give
me a chance to put out records again. For the new fans that I'm going
to gain from this record and so forth, "Smoke and Mirrors" is
not going to disappoint. Trust me.