I feel great, man.
You were born in Tehran and then moved to Sweden. Do you remember anything from your time in Tehran?
I don’t really remember too much. I have some images in my mind, but I was too young.
How was Sweden?
Sweden was cool. At the time we moved there, it wasn’t really packed with immigrants. They weren’t really accepting a lot of immigrants at that time. I guess the ways of the country changed because nowadays it’s packed with immigrants. We were the only ones we knew from Iran out there. It was a peaceful place and that’s why we moved out there. My parents wanted to get away from the wars and live in a more socialistic country. That’s why we chose Sweden.
You moved to America when you were 14. That couldn’t have been easy.
Nah, it wasn’t easy. It was a big transition. My mom wanted me to come here to the Land of Opportunity. We came here and school didn’t go that well, so I chose music.
How aware were you of hip-hop in Sweden?
I came to America in ’99, but I got into hip-hop in ’96, ’97 with 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me when I was in Sweden. I didn’t really start taking it seriously until I got here. I realized I had skills when I was 15 or 16 when I would freestyle-battle cats at lunchtime. The reaction I was getting from people told me something was there. Then I started making tracks and my producer, Komplex, started making beats. We had a music class together. He started making beats on the MPC and I started writing rhymes and they came out hot. That’s how we started.
What influenced your decision to sign with Treacherous Records?
I wanted to sign with a West Coast label and Treacherous was an up-and-coming label. I was the first artist to sign there, but I knew they had connections to Big Syke and that they were coming up in the game. Plus the owner is Armenian.
What are you learning working alongside guys like Crooked I, Big Syke and Knocturnal?
They’re all vets. They’ve been in the game for years. I learned to stay on my toes, be consistent, don’t be lazy and grab the ball while it’s in the air. They taught me to know what I’m doing and not to be just an entertainer. You can also be a businessman behind closed doors. They taught me the essential things I needed to know in this business. I wasn’t aware of all that when I was young.
Your new mixtape, New Day, New Money, is finally out.
Yeah. The first mixtape, we were just handing it out for free because I just wanted to get a buzz on the streets as quickly as possible. It worked out. The second mixtape is a bigger thing. We’re throwing a release party for it and Crooked I and Big Syke are going to come through. It’s definitely a bigger experience and I’ve gotten a lot of attention from this one already. It’s a little different than High School Dropout (One-2’s first mixtape), and it’s been getting great response so far.
What are your goals for New Day, New Money?
A lot of the tracks were recorded months ago. It was supposed to come out a long time ago, but it got delayed. Now that it’s coming out this late, all I’m trying to do is have a lot of shows in the West Coast area and just present myself with it more. I’m on the grind. I’m not in the position where I can just shit out mixtapes and not do anything. I have to hustle and grind because I have a lot more to build. This is only the beginning chapters.
Are you happy with the musical quality of New Day, New Money?
Yeah. I’m happy with it. It’s just a mixtape. It’s not really a big deal. My mixtapes, they do sound like albums because they’re mostly original material, but it’s still a mixtape at the end of the day. I’m excited by the fact the world is going to have a chance to listen to the music. I haven’t reached my potential yet and it’s going to go further. Once I have the listener’s attention, it’s on. I’m just trying to get more attention.
You show a lot of different styles on New Day, New Money. How important is that to you?
The thing is, I’m still young and I’m still expanding. I still feel fresh and I am still absorbing. I absorb the MC’s around me like Crooked and Jayo. That’s also why I’m releasing mixtapes. When I release my first album, I want to have a more direct, determined style instead of it being as versatile as I am now. The reason I’m being versatile now is because I’m trying to see what people like. I’m all about pleasing the listener. I’m still flexing my skills and seeing where it’s going. Whatever people like, then that’s what I’ll put my focus on. I don’t know where it’s really going yet. I’m still young.
On “Get It Jumpin’,” you said you’re “what the industry’s been lacking.”
I feel like I’m a piece of the puzzle that’s been missing. There’s not an MC in America’s mainstream that has Middle Eastern heritage, been all around the world and seen three different continents before 21 years. I feel like I am that MC and my background is different. Any MC is going to tell you that they’re different, but my story is real. I feel like my story is different and I’m bringing something different to the table. That’s why I say I’m what the game’s been lacking. I feel like I’m a breath of fresh air.
“Fly Away” shows you at an emotional low where you’re talking about all the bad things that happened to you and the people you know. Are those songs hard for you to make?
Everybody goes through hard times and I have the ability to really capture pain on a track. A lot of MC’s aren’t really doing that. ‘Pac and DMX were like that. I like to do that too. I think I got that from ‘Pac. You have to show pain because people go through pain everywhere. People who listen to that track can relate to it.
Those tracks for me are easy to write. They’re a lot easier to write because it’s natural. At this point in my career, I avoid doing tracks like that because I don’t want to give too much to the listener yet. I want to save my tracks with concepts and meaning for later. I just give a little of that right now. Those tracks come natural to me.
What are the advantages and disadvantages to being Armenian in the hip-hop game?
It can hurt me because it’s a predominantly African-American music industry. It’s hard to get in. I’m brown. I’m not really a white person because I’m Armenian. The only challenge is being judged before you’re even given a chance. That’s probably the only way it can hurt me.
The way it can help me is because it is different. The fact that I’m a minority in the industry could be a positive thing because it’s something different.
Have you started working on your debut album?
I don’t feel like it’s time right now to release an album. Right now I’m just holding back and working on the mixtapes. I have to be way more well-known before I release an album. If I release an album, I want it to be all over the world and I want it to be marketed. It’s just not that time yet. I also want to find myself more as an MC because I feel like I have a lot of potential to grow.
What are your goals for 2007?
Just to keep developing as an artist and to try to stay focused and consistent. Hopefully I can release more material quicker. Maybe even towards the end of the year I’ll start working on an album. I’m going to be making a bunch of tracks that are going to be album material, but if we’re going to drop an album or not is another question.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Thank you for your support from anybody who supports the movement. It’s international hip-hop and something people haven’t seen yet. We’re opening doors all over the world. This is a monster, a movement. The world has never seen anything like this. I want people to pay attention to it because it’s going to be very big one day. And go cop that New Day, New Money mixtape. It’s got Crooked I on it. It’s going to be nice.