I’m good, man. Today is a beautiful day.
Your album Carte Blanche is about to drop. What’s going through your mind right now?
Man, I’m excited about it. I’m pleased with it. The project is the way I wanted it to be and I’m just happy the people are finally going to be able to hear what I’ve been working on these past years.
Are you happy with how Carte Blanche came out?
Yeah. I’m extremely happy with the way it came out. It was all me. I had control over everything. I’m extremely happy with the way the album came out.
You kept the production very consistent throughout Carte Blanche. What sound did you want?
I just wanted the album to bang from the beginning to end. I just wanted people to snap their necks on this album from the beginning to end. A lot of albums coming out, people aren’t getting their money’s worth. I just wanted to give the people some quality music that they would feel good buying.
From listening to the album, I didn’t feel you had any reaches on it.
Thanks. That was the whole thing. I couldn’t be reaching because this was all me. I had control of everything. I had the last say-so in the process of the album and that’s what you got.
Did you do anything different on Carte Blanche from your debut album Undeniable?
Yeah. It was always the same formula, but it just had to be fine-tuned from the whole selection process of it and the whole sequencing of the album. That plays a big part in creating it. That’s what it was about in this album.
You don’t hear too many artists talking about the sequencing of an album. How important is that and how much time did you spend on the sequencing?
After we finish all the songs, I write all the song titles down and then I listen to them. I’ll sit with it for a few days and let my people that I listen to listen to it. I listen to everybody’s opinion when I’m doing that. I listen to the people that I respect. Then I’ll go back and switch it up again. It’s a real tedious process when you’re sequencing the album because the way you have the order of the songs affects the whole feel of the album.
On True Story Part 2, you talk about J.Dilla and how radio stations didn’t appreciate him until after he passed. Why do you think that is?
To a lot of people, it’s just a fad. It’s just a fad to a lot of people. It’s funny. I just look at it like it’s a big joke to me.
Did you get the beats from Dilla that are on Carte Blanche before he passed?
Yeah, actually I did. We did the European tour right before he passed away. I got the beats from him in Europe. He gave me a beat tape and said to get whatever I could off it. That’s what I did.
What will you remember most about Dilla?
I just remember that we used to always have a lot of inside jokes. (laughs) We used to just laugh. There are a lot of funny stories.
You and Black Milk have always done dope work together. What’s it like working with him?
I’ve been working with Black from day one, when he started making beats. It’s just a beautiful thing to see his progression. He just keeps getting better.
You’ve already accomplished a lot in hip-hop. What is your place in Detroit hip-hop?
I’m that guy that’s been there from the beginning when there was no scene. That’s who I am. I’m just me. I can only be me. I’m nothing more than that. I’m just a blue collar MC that always stuck to his guns and never compromised what I was doing and never kissed nobody’s ass. That’s the example that I set for everybody else – do you.
Do you get the respect you deserve or is that not even an issue?
I get it. As long as I’m respected by my peers, that’s all I ever wanted. It depends what people call “respect.”
You also have Guilty Simpson on the album. Between him, Black Milk and yourself, is that the future of Detroit hip-hop?
That three right there is the past, the present and the future of what’s to be of Detroit hip-hop. We’re really just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot of dope MCs and producers in the city that haven’t been heard yet.
Is now a good time to be coming from Detroit?
Oh yeah. Now is a beautiful time. The world is finally starting to look at what we’re doing. The thing is, we’ve been doing this for years. There’s a lot more of this to come.
There’s always been a movement but now people are starting to wake up and realize there’s more strength in unity. That’s how we’re trying to move, in unison. You’re going to be hearing a lot of good music coming from Detroit.
Why did you choose to shoot a video for “Cold Steel”?
I just wanted to give people a visual of where I’m from and in the same sense just bring back that raw essence to hip-hop that we’ve been missing over the years. I wanted to bring that raw, no watered down, bling-free environment. I wanted people to focus on my music. I didn’t want to camouflage my video with cars and girls. I didn’t want to be typical. I wanted to shock people.
On “Nightmare”, you and Guilty Simpson talk about being a major label’s nightmare. Are you better off as an independent artist?
Yeah, man. I’m way better off as an independent artist. I don’t have anybody telling me that they’re not going to put my record out because of something I’m saying. I guarantee you that song would have never come out on a major. That’s the whole thing about being independent. I can stand on my own two, say what I want to say and I don’t have to answer to anybody.
Killer Mike told me that there is no substitute for a major label because of all the money that comes with the fame. Are you happy doing what you do or do you want to reach that larger audience?
I’m happy with being Phat Kat. Can’t nobody be Phat Kat better than me. I’m happy with that. It’s never been about the money to me. I’m still surviving. It’s never been about the money and I would never compromise what I’m doing just for a couple of dollars. Respect goes a long way and I would rather have that than a few dollars. Respect can always get me money.
Is Carte Blanche already a success to you because you made the album you wanted to or is its success going to depend on sales?
It’s already a success because it’s all me. I was able to create something that I wanted to create. I look at it like it’s already a success. If somebody comes up to me and tells me they like what I’m doing, that’s a beautiful thing.
Is Carte Blanche your best work to date?
By far. I listen to Undeniable and it’s a real good demo. It was a real good demo. I look at Carte Blanche as Phat Kat’s first album.
It’s been three years since you dropped your debut album. Have you been busy the whole time?
Yeah. I’ve been busy the whole time with touring and recording. I’ve just been getting everything together with the label situation. I’ve been busy the whole time.
How important has touring been to your career?
The road has really been extremely important as far as surviving, monetary-wise and as far as staying connected with your fans. It makes you know that what you’re doing still has substance to it.
How important is it for you to continue working with Slum Village and producers like Young RJ, who you’ve been down with for awhile?
That shows in the music, the people you work with. Slum Village is my family and they’ve been fam from day one. And with producers like Young RJ, it’s not like somebody just gives me a beat and I rap over it. You have beatmakers and you have producers just like you have rappers and you have MCs. I deal with producers.
What’s the difference between Ronnie Cash and Phat Kat?
Ronnie Cash is the businessman and Phat Kat is the MC. Ronnie Cash is talking about getting money. He’s talking about getting money and traveling. Ronnie Cash is over in Belize having breakfast or in Sweden with a chick named Suzanne. That’s Ronnie Cash. Phat Kat is the person you see on stage.
Do you have any regrets over the group First Down not taking off?
No, I don’t. That situation had people looking. I looked at that as an accomplishment really. We were signed to a label with all these great MCs in 1995, at the height of hip-hop, when you had Jay-Z, Wu-Tang, Showbiz and AG and Jeru the Damaja. We were a part of that time. I look at that as a big accomplishment.
What do you have to do from here on out to make Carte Blanche successful?
The tour starts this Friday, May 11. I’m just going to be on the road, building up the awareness and doing a lot of shows. I’m going to be showing people that there’s still good music being made out here. I’m going to be doing more touring and shooting more videos, trying to get that awareness built up.
As someone who’s built up nice underground following and has been able to tour a lot, what advice would you offer to up-and-coming artists?
Don’t focus so much on the local radio. There are all types of other avenues out there to get your music heard. Just learn from the greats and do your homework. Dig into the archives of hip-hop and learn your roots and you’ll do better out here.
What do you want to say to everybody?
What up, though? Y’all just go out there and listen to the Carte Blanche and you be the judge. I wish MCs could put money-back guarantees on their music. That would make artists make better music because there’s still good music being made out here and I just want people to get a taste of the Carte Blanche.