Your new album Grey Hairs is dropping in August. Your last album that was promoted was Along Came the Chosen, which was released in 2001. What have you been up to since your debut album dropped?
I pretty much spent that time working on my relationship with my wife and son. I was dealing with personal life issues. My second album Rekless had dropped and I was just going through a lot of changes with my family situation. I just had to make sure that things were right at home before I realistically got back into the fold and came out with another project.
How have you grown as an artist as you were going through your personal issues?
Back then I was extremely, extremely, extremely new to anything outside of rap. When Chosen dropped, it was a tremendous experience. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t ready for doing this kind of project and the magnitude, even at that level, even at that underground level, I wasn’t ready for the magnitude of what was happening from the shows to the interviews. I don’t think I was fully prepared at that point in my life. I was really immature. And I was close to burning a lot of bridges back then. My ego was out of control.
Having my son and dealing with my wife and believing in God and just, like, getting with my man Statik and jumping into this next project, I understood how much I had aged and how much hip-hop had aged in that process. And so because those two things tied in so eloquently, my perception was Grey Hairs. Over the years I feel I’ve become a more mature artist who’s doing it from an O.G. perspective, not because I put so much time into the game but because I’m somebody who’s so experienced that I can help out the younger fans.
Can you reach the younger fans that never heard Along Came the Chosen as well as your older fans with Grey Hairs?
Oh, yeah. I think the music doesn’t just gravitate towards the audience that would have been Along Came the Chosen fans back then or my age group. A lot of cats will hit me up and respond to my music through online sites. I see they’re younger cats and they’re just looking for something refreshing. And that’s not to say that I’m their only piece, but I feel that I’m a piece of that puzzle. They’re looking for something that doesn’t just cater to the BS that’s being offered. I really feel like the tracks that I’ve been leaking have been dealing with topics that have been controversial issues. That’s what I’m trying to touch on and I’m not going to hold my tongue on what I feel. And I feel that cats gravitate towards that unabashed and unashamed mentality.
It sounds like you’re pretty happy with how Grey Hairs came out.
Oh, yeah. I’m ecstatic. I owe a lot to Statik Selektah, obviously. It’s funny because he called me up when I was Miami. Statik has been family for a long time. He’s always held me down. He hit me up when I was in Miami and he was like, ‘Look, I want to get this project together. Let’s make it a classic. I’m doing my album. Make a trip up. Come up.’ I went up and that’s when we did the “Hardcore” record with Termanology. We banged that joint out and the “Big Dreamers” record. We got started on a couple of records for Grey Hairs. And from then on I was back and forth to New York for two weeks every month. I was spending time there and in Boston and Miami. I’m really excited about this album and I owe a lot to Statik.
Don’t you and Statik go back to the days when he was making mixtapes with no covers?
Oh, it’s a long period of time. I mean, Statik was just a young upstart. We’re both young upstarts, but he was brand spanking new and he was just hungry. I had never seen the fire in the eyes like I saw with Statik. He would come around and he was just a kid but we seen something special. He would come around. It was funny because Statik booked me for my first show and he had to be 15 or 16 years-old.
Over the years we built the friendship. He was DJing for me for Along Came the Chosen. When I had no place to stay I would sleep on Statik’s couch. That grew into me one day getting a record from DJ Premier and us building with the greats in the game and us doing what we love. It’s a great feeling and Grey Hairs falls into that.
What was it like recording “Say Goodnight” with DJ Premier?
Amazing, man. It was a humbling experience and very humbling. For me and a lot of people, Premier is the GOAT. And to see his status and to see how humble he is and what an easy person he is to be around, it’s humbling too as a person. It was an amazing experience to be in Headcourterz and to record with someone of his caliber. I’m glad the record came out the way it did. I really feel like it’s a solid record.
Were you happy with the feedback to “Say Goodnight”?
I am. And I’m going to be happy to build on that. People are really gravitating towards the music and they’re coming in and responding to me. They never heard my music and they’re saying that it’s amazing and they’re checking for other material that I have. I’m getting an influx of individuals based solely on that track. It’s a great feeling.
In “The One” you talk about a lot of important social issues. It sounds like you got a lot of anger out on that track.
Oh, I had to. I wanted to address issues not completely on a biased level but I wanted to go to those extremes that we feel as individuals. We have a tendency not to say the things that we mean. Like, a lot of individuals hold their tongue and you know, you get comfortable with your situation and with the music you’re making and the acceptance that you receive from the fanbase that you got. Me, personally, I will be more than happy to stick with the fans that stick with me when I’m being myself. I have to say what’s on my mind and get that off my chest.
How did you come up with the concept for “All In One (5 Mics)”?
When I first heard the beat, I said I was going to get five artists to come together and each individual would represent one of our fallen soldiers and they would all incorporate the abilities that each individual had for them and why we had respect for them. Me and Statik spoke about that and that it would be dope but that it might pass off for another good record. It would be more amazing if I went off and represented each of those artists. I did a verse to introduce it and I represented each artist in some capacity. And to have Lil’ Fame on it was just the icing on the cake.
What was it like working with Large Professor on “Stages”?
You know, it’s another one of those humbling experiences. Large Pro is an amazing artist from a producer format and from an MC format. I just have the utmost respect for the dude. We hit him up that we needed him for the album and from the minute that he sent the beat it was a no-brainer. It was dope and I’m just glad the track came out like it did. When you’re getting in the ring and you’re boxing with these dudes, you’re trying to hold up your part of the game and not falter and I feel like I need to step my game up to even be in the vicinity of these cats and be in the same room.
Along Came the Chosen had a lot of features on it. Did you not want to work with as many artists on Grey Hairs?
I didn’t want to have that many features. I didn’t want to focus on who we were going to get to rock specifically on the tracks. When I came up with a record and I felt like it needed an additional verse or an additional hook or something like that, our mentality was “Who do we feel is going to body this to the best of their ability?” I like what Skyzoo does and to get him on this is a real great feeling and he’s a real cool cat. I just wanted to get individuals that I felt would portray what I wanted to portray.
How does it feel hearing Along Came the Chosen today?
I definitely think it’s a solid album. For a debut album, I definitely feel that it’s a solid, solid album. It wasn’t constructed from a real detailed mindset. It was more so for us to come in with some raw ass lyrics, some banging beats and just throw it together and let it land where it may. It just so happened that we got a positive response off of the album.
Have more people gone back to that album today as a result of songs from Grey Hairs being released?
Yeah. I get hit up by cats on a regular basis that tell me they never heard my material but they’re seeing the new material and they like it and they just checked out Along Came the Chosen and that it was dope. It’s dope because of this project, that album can piggyback off it and we can take it back to where it all started.
Over the past few years was there ever a thought in your mind that you might not drop another album?
Well, not that I wouldn’t have another album come out but I did feel like the last pieces of sand were slipping through my fingers. I felt like I would never have the opportunity that I wanted to reach for. It felt to me like my platform was disappearing. That was because I fell back from the hip-hop music and focused on my family. If I had to do it again I would do it the same way. I had to make sure I took care of my son and made sure I did the things that would make me a good man. As an MC, I could do the things I wanted to. But I wouldn’t have the respect for myself if I wasn’t able to support my family from day one. That’s what I did before I decided to get back in the ring.
Where do you hope Grey Hairs takes you?
I feel like Grey Hairs is the beginning. I feel like it’s the start of the path I’m about to embark upon. I feel like Grey Hairs is going to reach a new audience and reconnect me with an audience I lost. And I just want to use this as a platform to lead to later successes. And I’m not going to let up. It’s not going to be another span of three years before you hear from me again. People are going to have to tell me that I have to slow down. I’m going to continue to do that. I’m going to continue to make sure that the music is there. I’m going to continue to make sure that I’m out there in the game that I love. Grey Hairs is the start of what I’m about to embark upon.