I feel good, man. I feel good. I feel like it’s a new beginning for me. I’m doing everything with a whole new focus. My mind is so sharp, man. I’m amazed at myself with some of the shit that I’m thinking about and some of the plans that I’ve got. I’m very, very active and I’m very involved in my career. I just think that I’m thinking way sharper from anyone else. I can’t even draw inspiration from anyone else. That’s not even a diss. I’m just being honest.
Do you have a new state of mind now that you’re officially released?
I’m back with a new mindframe. Today is the 17th. I’ll be spending the night at my own home tonight. I’ve been going home every day while I’m on work release, but I haven’t slept in my bed or done any of those things because I’ve been working. I’ll be sleeping there tonight and I’ll be able to wake up with my son. It’s a whole new start for me. I’m in a whole new mindframe. I can’t even put it into words. It would be hard for me to explain it to anybody, but it’s a whole new focus and a whole new feeling. I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the studio, getting a lot of shit done and doing a lot of traveling. I’ll be networking here and I’ll be networking there. I’m going to make sure my shit takes off pretty fast.
What will be going through your mind when you go back to prison tonight to pick up your stuff?
I’ll be going in at 10:00 and it will be a long two hours. My bunkie is Joe Barnett, a fighter out of Philly. We talk about boxing all day. We’ll probably talk about boxing for a couple hours and then when 12:00 comes, they’ll be sending my name over to the main jail to get the clearance and they’ll make sure I don’t have any holds or fines. I’ll be walking out the door and my man will be out there waiting for me to take me to the crib. I’ll get some much needed rest and I’ll be able to get back in the studio without having to work on that timeline, because everything I’ve done while I was in was me having to work with their timeline.
Joe Barnett must have loved “Ding.”
You know what? He’s kind of an older guy. He’s 49. He used to fight back in the day and he fought a couple of pro fights. He’s not really into the rap shit. He probably learned more about rap in the last three months than he knew in his whole life. He’s not really familiar with any of my records. The respect that he has for me has changed because he didn’t know anything about me. That’s probably why we kick it so much, because he doesn’t know anything about rap. Plus he's very smart. That’s why I fuck with him.
How do you put this whole experience, from the drunk driving arrest to your release, in perspective today?
It’s just a learning experience. You have to accept being punished for your actions. That’s how I look at it. It was pretty much my life that I had to give the system because of something very immature that I did. I don’t look at the situation like, ‘Oh, man, I went to jail!’ There’s nothing cool about it. There’s nothing cool about 10 months being taken out of my life because I was drinking and driving. I definitely think that it was a stupid mistake. It’s one of those things that you have to put behind you but you can’t forget it. You have to use that to remind you that you’re human, that you make mistakes and that you pay for those mistakes. It takes a big man to admit when he makes a mistake. I’m manning up to it. I dealt with it and I didn’t cry about it.
I went through a lot to try to keep my family situation in order. A lot of people were affected by the mistake but I made it through and I was able to bounce back relatively fast. It’s over with. It’s time to move on and make classics and just stay focused and not make the same mistake again. I bounced back from it and I have to keep it moving.
It’s very clear that you don’t want your stint in jail to be looked at as cool or that you just got more street cred.
There’s nothing cool about that. There’s nothing to brag about. I was drinking and driving. That’s corny. A lot of people do it, but to go to jail for drinking and driving and to come out of it like it’s supposed to give you some kind of credibility, that’s corny. I’m nowhere near that zone. I’m somewhere else. If anything, I’m trying to show motherfuckers that it could be them because it’s so common. All of my niggas do it and it’s not that uncommon.
If you’re 21, there’s nothing wrong with drinking, but when you drink and jump behind that wheel, you’re putting your life and other people's lives at risk. I know a lot of motherfuckers do it, but if I can get caught and they put me in jail for the misdemeanor, imagine what they could do to you. It’s just something to think about. I didn’t know how serious this shit was until I went through it. When I got behind the wheel, I didn’t feel like it was any big deal, but when they pull you over and you breathe into that Breathalyzer and it’s over the legal limit, they’re going to get your ass. As far as I’m concerned, man, there’s nothing cool about it. I’m not trying to glorify it. I don’t need any street credibility from it and I don’t need anybody to look at it like that. Just don’t put your hands on me and we’ll be cool.
Will you be raising more awareness to kids about the seriousness of drinking and driving?
I have a lot of plans to do that. I actually want to do something positive in the community I wanted to develop something like that when I was in the Camp, but when I got out on work release, I found out that I didn’t have enough time in my day to put something like that together. But once I have the time and I have some extra money, I will definitely do that. That will be my angle to giving back to the community. I want to give back. I’ll be targeting kids around the ages of 14 through 18. That’s the age they want to drive and that’s the age they want to drink.
I think a lot of people drink and drive just because they don’t know the seriousness of it. It’s not stressed all the time by the people that they think are cool. It’s definitely on my radar and I’ll be dropping little jewels in interviews because the last thing that I want people to think is that I just did 10 months for that and I’m cool now and I have more street cred. If anything, I have less street cred. It’s corny and it’s not cool and that’s what I’m stressing.
What are your plans for your music right now?
Well, I have to go in and finish up working on my album. There’s no rush with that. Preem is real busy. He’s overseas. I want to go to New York and spend a lot of time with Preem and get right in his face. We need more time working in person and less time on the phone. You can’t rush where I’m going on this project. I just have to take my time and make sure I have that album that’s going to make a dent in history. I want to give all the elements. I want to have a song that radio can play. I want to make a complete album like Biggie gave to the underground and the mainstream. It’s just going to take me recording more records without the limitations of time.
In the meantime, I’ll be doing mixtapes and I’ll be way more active on mixtape tracks. I’m going to be focusing on just staying more consistent. Everything that I put out, people will be saying that it’s incredible or that it’s as solid as anything else that’s out. As long as I’m under those guidelines, I think I’m doing good.
“The Return” just leaked. What inspired that track?
I just liked the beat. I have a real political, intelligent mind. When I’m rhyming, I’m trying to come up with new words to use. I don’t want to sound dated. I want to sound fresh. I think a lot of artists are sounding dated. They’re using the same words and they’re using the same flows. You’re hearing them aging but you’re not hearing them grow. I don’t want to fall into that category. I’m just trying to stay fresh with it and you’ll hear that when you hear me rhyme because it sounds like a new Royce. On this new album, I have stories that I’ve never done before.
Looking at how I rhymed in the past, I feel that I left myself a lot of room to try new things and now it’s paying off for me because I can compete with the young motherfuckers that don’t know what I can do and the old motherfuckers are getting old. It’s wide open for me and I’m just going to take advantage of this moment.
Can anybody in the game mess with you right now?
I don’t feel that anybody in the game can fuck with me. That’s just my personal opinion. The motherfuckers that are the very, very incredible MCs, it just sounds like it’s hard for them to find inspiration. It’s nothing. The people I look up to, it’s not that I feel like I can get on a record with them and not be spanked. I just think it’s hard for them to find inspiration and they don’t know that they’re making subpar records. They don’t have the time that I have. They don’t have the time to spend to perform to their highest abilities and to spank me.
Everything that I’m doing is me performing to my higher abilities. Everything may not be to my highest ability, but I’m performing pretty close consistently and I don’t think the other guys have the time to perform to their highest capabilities. I have the time and effort to do what I’m doing. They don’t have the time and effort to spank me right now. No, they can’t fuck with me. They can’t at all. Put it like this – the illest motherfuckers that are in the game right now can hear me and they’ll be like, ‘Nah, there’s no way I’m going to go at him.’
After all these years, how do you manage to stay hungry?
It’s setting those goals that I’ve never really reached. I’ve never really reached the status that I wanted to reach. I’ve always been highly respected by my peers, but I really, really want to connect at retail. That’s a big goal of mine. I’ve connected at radio before, but I want to connect at radio again. I want everything to fall into place at the same time. I want to be on those charts. I want to really be successful. I want a crack at being the type of artist that’s involved in the media. I want to be in the media. That’s what I have my sights set on because I just feel that I can appeal across the board.
I’m way more in tune and I’m paying more attention to the directions that people are going. I’m seeing an opening. I think I’m seeing something right now that a lot of people aren’t seeing with the condition that rap music is in. Sales are down in hip-hop because the creativity is down. Sales aren’t down across the board. It’s just applied to rap artists. It’s going back to the ringtone thing and it’s going back to when artists just had a hot single. It’s about when you have a record and four or five records to follow it up with and you have a hot album and you have the opportunity to be a big star.
I think it’s the perfect opportunity right now because everybody’s settling. What they don’t realize is that the fans don’t settle. The fans don’t settle for anybody. They may buy your ringtone, but that will be all they buy. I think it’s the perfect opportunity to come in and show people that if you put all the work into becoming a big star, then you’ll get everything you want out of it. I just think that people aren’t working hard enough. I’m seeing something that I think a lot of people aren’t seeing. I’m going in.
How’s your album Street Hop coming?
It’s coming good. I was working at it real slow. I really had a lot of time to compile concepts and write and rewrite. It’s coming along real good. I have a real solid foundation. Starting tomorrow, I will have all of the time in the world to really go in and really start banging out joints without the time limitation. It’s going along really well and I’m definitely excited about it. It’s definitely better than all of my other albums I’ve done put together. It’s better than all of my albums put together and I don’t even have any real singles yet. It’s very creative and that’s just me competing with myself. If I was competing against other people, I would probably be saying some things that would offend them and I don’t want to do that. Now everything I say is me competing with everything that I’ve done in the past.
Will DJ Toomp be co-executive-producing Street Hop?
That was just a rumor, man. That was just a rumor. Toomp is a real cool dude and somebody that we’ve been talking to, but we haven’t talked about adding him as a producer. I’ll probably do some work with him. I think he’s a real dope guy that doesn’t get the props he deserves, kind of like the same way I feel about Primo in a way. I definitely want to do some work with Toomp.
When will Street Hop drop?
Right now, man, it’s hard to say. I don’t even want to start putting a date on it, because once I put a date on something, then I’m working on timelines again. This is my baby right here. This is Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt and Nas’ Illmatic. This is my most important album for my career. This is the most important. There will be others after this, but there will be none that will be as important as this album because this album that I’m doing now is a turning point for my career and it’s a turning point for music. My career is in the same condition that music is in – the turning point. I don’t want to put a timeframe on that. I just want to take my time to do it. Anybody doing anything is not going to change the state of music right now, so I feel that there’s no rush.
Is there any chance that Street Hop could be released through Nas’ Jones Experience label?
I’m open to many possibilities. I would love to fuck with Nas on any level, but as far as finding a home for the project, that will be the easy part.
The Bar Exam has been out for a few months. Are you happy with the fans’ response to The Bar Exam?
Yeah. I’m real happy. I’m real happy for how successful it was when you base it off of the work that was put into it. A lot of those rhymes, I just had sitting there. Statik Selektah did a lot more work than I did. A lot of those verses, I just had sitting there and Statik went and put new beats behind them. I feel that if I actually sit down and do a mixtape, song for song, then it’s going to be incredible. I actually plan on doing another one even before I put Street Hop out. That’s another thing that’s in the works. It will probably take me about two weeks to do that, so I’ll let you know when I start.
It’s going to be called It All Lies On Me. I have a vision for it. The whole thing, for the next few months, is just going to be geared towards reviving hip-hop. I’m not going to do too much talking about the state that it’s in. I’m going to take a way more proactive approach and do something about it to help keep it breathing.
What’s the best part about not having to go back to prison to spend the night?
Being completely free. I mean, shit, you can think about a whole bunch of things that can make you happy because all of your thoughts are free. You don’t have to deal with hearing a whole bunch of DEPs disrespecting people. A lot of the guards talk to people like you would talk to your son. It’s hard for a grown man to go through that if they can be broken. I’m just glad that I don’t have to deal with that and have myself in that environment. I don’t think that myself and that environment is a good fit. It’s corny to find yourself in that environment. You have to sit back and think, ‘How did I get myself in this and did I really have that much fun?’ You think, ‘I could take care of my family easily and I could fix my problems, but I can’t because I’m in here.’ It matures you fast, man.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Just be on the lookout for all of my projects, man. I’ll probably start doing the It All Lies On Me mixtape very soon. Be on the lookout for all of my projects. I’ll probably be leaking more freestyles too. Thank you for all of the support. To all of the MCs out there, get focused. I’m very competitive and I’m on some real competitive shit right now.