I feel good. I just finished working out, so I’m feeling good.
The “Pain In My Life (Remix)” is finally out. Are you happy with how people are responding so far?
It’s too early to tell. I always thought it was a good song and I’m happy with the remix. Everybody stayed in their lane and did their thing.
There’s always been controversy surrounding Game being a fake gangbanger and you did “The Color Purple.” Why was Game on the remix?
Because I just thought he would sound good on the beat. I thought he would sound good on the beat and the opportunity presented itself. Plus, he’s Global Gangsters all day. We had met and we had chopped it up for a quick second. When I meet a person, I go by vibe. I don’t go by what other people say. I don’t give a fuck if he’s a real gangbanger or not. In California, not every gang member shoots people but they’re a part of the gang. I don’t really care. I hope he’s not out there shooting and killing other black people. I hope he’s not doing that. At first I thought it would be crazy because I was very opinionated about Game because of the whole glorifying the gang shit, but I spent some time out in Compton with Quik and I learned that’s really a way of life out there. Everybody in a gang isn’t active. There are mothers that raise their kids to be Bloods and Crips.
Why did you want B.G. on the remix?
I thought B.G. would sound good on the beat. B.G.’s been through a lot. I’ve been following his story as far as having to overcome drugs and he lost a lot of shit in the hurricane. I just thought it would be a good fit. He has a lot to say on that track.
The label never got behind the original version. That’s what people don’t realize. People love that song. Ludacris came up to me at Hot97 before his record came out and he told me he loved the record. This was before “Runaway Love” came out. This was in like August when I first put the record out. He never said, “I got a record similar to that.” If I would have heard his record first and I had my record, I would have told him I did. But I’m glad he put his record out and it did well. Even though they’re similar, it makes the label look crazy because they didn’t put anything behind my record. A record doesn’t go without money behind it, I don’t care what they tell you, unless it’s a novelty record. Ludacris has say-so at his label, but these motherfuckers at Atlantic are so slow. I’ve told them already that not everything has to be a club song, but they didn’t get the vision, but now they know I was onto something. It made me feel good to see Ludacris perform his record at the Grammy’s because now I know I had the right idea.
Are you getting more support at Atlantic now?
I don’t think Atlantic sees my vision. You have to understand, I’m probably the only East Coast artist on Atlantic Records besides Puffy because they just try to follow what’s hot for the moment. They don’t want to be creative or innovative. Look at the artists that broke the mold. They do very well and then there’s a bunch of clones that come out. I’d rather them drop me then try to make me a clone. That’s also a very small part of why my project is taking longer than normal.
I have a fantastic album. My album is one of the most fantastic albums in the history of music. It’s big. But when you’re breaking new ground, they don’t get it. DMX fucked with Columbia before he was on Def Jam and T.I. was on Arista first with his album I’m Serious. Jay-Z was on Priority and he had a gang of money so he could do certain shit on his own. Def Jam didn’t believe in Kanye so he had to go do it on his own. When you’re an artist like that, you have to do it on your own and it takes longer, but the rewards are greater. By the time they get it, it will be too late because the power will have changed. And if it works, they still get the credit.
In our last interview, you said all you had to do to get a release date at Atlantic was play them your album. Did you ever play them your album?
I never played them my album. I know they heard a few songs, but they never heard the album in totality. They don’t care. They want a jingle. They want a ringtone song. Fuck if the music touches people’s hearts and if it comes from the heart, they need something catchy for 3 year-olds to sing along to. I’m not that dude. This is art. They have to understand that not everybody is meant to do that. I’m not meant to do that. My music has relevance and substance. I don’t care if 3 or 4 year-olds can sing along to my music. I don’t make music for 3 and 4 year-olds. What happened to Nickelodeon and Barney and shit like that?
You went into the studio with Tre Williams this past weekend. How did that go?
We did a classic, classic song. The label probably won’t get it. The only songs they really even liked a little bit was the song I hated the most, which was “Don’t Do That.” I’m glad. I hated that song. That was me trying to cater to what they wanted me to do. It was a reach and I didn’t really even feel that record. That record didn’t come from my heart.
Does Just Blaze have pull with Atlantic in terms of getting you a release date and more promotion?
I’m sure he does, but he doesn’t work at Atlantic. He’s not on their staff. We’re just there to make the music. It’s up to them to push the product. These execs don’t hang out in the streets. They don’t know what the kids in the street want. They’re targeting it to a certain demographic and that’s why it’s not working any more. They’re targeting it to the wrong demographic. They’re not targeting it to the ‘hood anymore because they figure the ‘hood doesn’t buy albums. Maybe not, but the ‘hood still validates what’s hot and what’s not. That’s why it’s not working. I have to get this album out. Then I can take the game from a business standpoint. But I have to get The Greatest Story Never Told out as is. I have to get it out how I want it to be.
I just don’t think they know what to do with it. It’s something so new and so different. It’s unfamiliar territory. Lyor Cohen gets it the most, but he’s not a part of the everyday thing up there. Lyor broke artists, so he gets it. While everybody else is trying to run away from that NY shit, we’re running with it.
Will The Greatest Story Never Told be successful?
Of course. I know one thing, the critics are going to love it. I can guarantee that my album will get a XXL and 5 Mics in The Source. I don’t think any album has done that, but it’s still all about the push you get from the label. Once your shit starts going, you need the label’s support and you need marketing dollars. You need that shit. They’ll just throw the shit out there and don’t work it if they figure they’re not going to get the money back.
The original version of “Pain In My Life” came out this past summer. Why have you stayed with “Pain In My Life” for so long?
When I walk down the street, people come up to me and tell me, “Yo, man, I relate to that song so much.” Between the streets and my interaction with people online, there are too many people that love it. It’s not just the lyrics or the beat, it’s the song. They relate to the song. That’s why the more people that hear the shit, the more effective it’s going to be because the most effective form of promotion is word of mouth. It’s not radio promotion. If you keep hearing about something from people, it’s going to arouse your interests and you’re going to want to find out who this Saigon dude is.
Even if there are similarities between Ludacris’ “Runaway Love,” you have to be happy with how the video came out.
Yeah. They told me the video was going to be a straight-to YouTube video. They only gave me $20 grand to shoot the video. That video cost a little over $20 grand and it’s on Fuse, MTV, BET and I hosted a week of BET’s Rap City and now I got a remix with Game and B.G. I overachieved with that song. It’s crazy. They don’t get it.
You know how much they spend on a regular video? $200 grand. I got 10% of a real video budget. All those actors are my friends and Abdul Malik Abbott came down so low on the costs. I don’t think he’s ever done a video, especially in ’07, for that cheap. It is what it is. It’s an overachiever. That song was not my single. That was a street single because I was complaining about my lack of music out. There was no money put behind that record. If that’s how they’re going to treat my single, I don’t want to be on that record company. I do more shit on my own. I’m turning down tours in the UK right now where I could be making hundreds of thousands of dollars off the songs I’ve done up to this point. I don’t need the label to eat.
Is The Greatest Story Never Told done?
I never stop recording until it’s packaged. I just let my man Sharieff Clayton hear my album so far. He just came home after doing 15 years. He said, “This is it. You got it.” He’s a stand-up dude. I don’t keep yes-men around me. I got motherfuckers around me who tell me if this shit is crack. If it was anything less than phenomenal, they would tell me I needed to go back in.
Will the album come out in 2007?
I hope so. (laughs) Nah, I know it will. I know the album is going to come out in 2007. I’m sure of that. Probably around May or June. That’s why we put the remix out now. You have to understand that it is a business at the end of the day. I’ve been doing this before it was big business and I would still be doing this if it wasn’t for money. Game is my first look with a really big artist besides Kool G. Rap. I worked with him because he’s one of the greatest of all-time, but he’s not that popular with the kids now. Game is popular with the kids now. With that alliance, more people are drawn to me.
Atlantic didn’t get Game. Hip-Hop Since 1978 did that and Just Blaze did that. That would have cost Atlantic so much money to get Game on that record. It’s a love thing between him and Just Blaze. I met him and he seems like he’s got a good heart. I don’t give a fuck about how many people he’s shot or ain’t shot. That ain’t how I judge a nigga’s validity, I know niggas who shot up dudes because another dude made them do it. That don’t make you gangster. There’s a lot of niggas like that. You know when a nigga is straight pussy and when a nigga has some courage and a backbone. You can tell by a nigga’s ways and actions if they got a backbone or if they’re hiding behind a persona.
In an interview with Allhiphop, Prodigy said he didn’t like you or any other rapper and that they can all suck his dick. How do you feel about those comments?
Prodigy must look in the mirror and say, “I hate myself.” He would have to at this stage of his life. He would sell his ass for a peanut. I’ve had an altercation with them before and I don’t expect him to like me. I’m a real nigga and he’s not. We can’t relate to each other. He’s not supposed to like my music because he’s been rapping about my life his whole career. He’s been signed since he was 15 years-old. When were you this super tough person you personify? You can’t be a popular rapper and a gangster out busting your hammer and still be around this long. Nah, that doesn’t make sense. 2pac was like that. He’s dead now…
I wasn’t mad that he said he didn’t like me. But every real nigga knows you don’t invite another nigga to your dick. That’s fighting words. You might as well say you want me to punch your face off when I see you. I’m not going to run into the booth and make a Prodigy diss and I would lyrically destroy Prodigy. But if we run into each other and he doesn’t have ten security guards or a pistol around him, I will beat him like a piñata. Just for that “suck my dick” shit.
With him talking reckless out the side of his face, he’s just doing it. Nobody believes Prodigy. He could shoot somebody and he still won’t have street credibility because everyone would know he did it because he was trying to live up to what people think he should be. It’s not in his heart. He doesn’t matter. He’s irrelevant.
I fucks with Alchemist. That’s my homie. It’s sad to see that he always gets caught up in this little nigga’s situations. Alchemist is cool. I hope he doesn’t involve himself in anything stupid.
It seems as though a lot of fans are getting tired of these beefs…
I would hope so. All it does us is remind us that no matter at what level, black people just always have to be at each other’s throats one way or another. We diss each other and try to tear down each other at any cost. It’s almost unbelievable. You would think there would be more diss records towards white rappers considering we’re black people in America, right? Nah, it’s that fear that’s still instilled in us. Slavery left a pretty strong, long-lasting effect on us. It’s too easy for us to tear one another down. A rapper will go as far as to try to end another nigga’s career, like you would rather see this black man struggling trying to feed his family or even having to go back to the ‘hood…For what?
Going back to Prodigy, I take the “suck my dick” comment personally. We were about to get it on one night in a club. I told Prodigy and everybody in his crew that I would cause them physical harm. Ask Sickamore or Gotti. They were there. These niggas said they had guns. I said, “Not you, Prodigy, you’re too small, I’ll beat you up with one hand. But I’ll fight any one of y’all niggas one on one.” Nobody wanted to fight. This was when the Tru Life situation was going on. They kicked us out of the club and nobody in his crew wanted to pop off. He’s just hiding behind the niggas around him so he’s got his little bird chest poked out, but he’s pussy and he knows it.
Was there ever a point where you might have jumped into the Tru Life/Diplomat situation?
Only if it got off wax. I knew that wasn’t about nothing. I think rap beefs are corny. If I had a problem with a nigga, I’m gonna say, “Lets meet at such-and-such and get it in. Besides, Tru told me not to. He knows I don’t do rap beef. But seeing all of them throw darts at my nigga wasn’t cool though. Notice how you said Tru Life versus the Diplomats? That’s one dude versus a whole crew. Tru can really, really spit. Son don’t need me.
Listen, this is why I don’t do rap beefs, because I bump into these rap niggas a lot. It’s not like I’m going to see them and just ice grill them if we got so-called beef, Hell no! We’re going to get it on and I’m going to expect you to want to get it in too so I might just throw the first punch.
It doesn’t have to be shoot ‘em up, bang bang. We can shoot the five. We used to take pride in that. We’d get our boxing skills right. Shit, we could even slapbox. Niggas coming up now would rather get the gun than shoot the five with you because they’re pussy. They’re scared to get some lumps. Even Mike Tyson got knocked out. You win some, you lose some. That’s life. I just happen to win most of mine. These young niggas want to run to get a gun before they square up because they’re pussy. That’s cowardice and that’s a reflection of the rap game today. What niggas don’t understand is if you use that gun, you go to jail and there’s no guns in jail. Then we’re going to really see what you are made of. There’s no hammers in jail, so when you’re hiding behind that hammer, be ready to knuckle the fuck up when they get you.
Do you see that respectability coming back to rap music?
I like the fact that people are going independent because they’re able to do what they want. Maybe I need to go independent. If I could still have Just Blaze I might. I’m not saying I’d prefer Koch over Atlantic, but I need my creative juice. “The Color Purple” could have been a big movement and I presented to them as one. Now there’s a new HBO show Bastards of the Party. I did that in music three years ago. “Shok TV” also, “Pain In My Life” and “Come Again.” The ‘hood loves them but you need more than the street love to get on another level.
Radio is killing these artists and the labels just don’t get that. NWA would have never done anything if they had come out today. Could you imagine them trying to come out now in an industry that’s so radio-driven? They never got radio play and were selling millions of records. If they came out now, we would have lost out on that much hip-hop. It was unheard of for a rap song to be played 10,000 times in a week back then. That was unheard of. Look at these artists with these big radio records and they’re all flopping. Look at DMX. DMX was selling five or six million at a time and he wasn’t a big radio artist. He did “Slippin’”. If I give that same record to Atlantic, they’ll say, “This can’t be a single. You can’t play this in the club. This won’t bump in the club.” But DMX is one of those artists that broke the mold and all the clones came after him.
When you’re ahead of your time, it’s a gift and a curse. I consider myself ahead of my time as an artist and as a human being. When I’m walking around the ‘hood, I feel like I’m walking around a bunch of zombies. For the record, I still go to all my ‘hoods. I bumped into Mo Rilla, who’s down with Murder Inc., right in Brownsville and son was surprised to see me out there like that. I don’t go anywhere with security. I still go to the clubs in Spring Valley where niggas get shot all the time. Niggas ask me what I’m doing there. I’m in house parties. They think they won’t see me because I’m on TV. You have to keep the respect of the people. Once you lose that, you lose who you are.
You think money makes niggas happy? Once you get money and you got it, then you get used to it, just like everything else. What happens when you’ve driven every expensive car, been to every country and fucked every exotic butch? When you want to go back to your ‘hood or any ‘hood and go to hang out every once in a while, you can’t do that anymore. Those are things you can’t do anymore when you lose that respect because instead of being of the people, you were putting it out there like you were better than them like you’re a better individual because you’re in a different tax bracket. Now it’s more like, Fuck you. You can’t do nothing no more.
See, I don’t look at these dudes like competition. If a nigga is doing something positive, I’m happy for them. What’s wrong is that life itself is a big competition to these niggas. What are we competing for? That ain’t my goal. I don’t see niggas as competition. I don’t give a fuck. If a nigga wins, he wins. More power to you. That might be the dude who pulls me up one day if he’s thinking in the right frame of mind.
However, if you’re talking about lyrical competition, I have none whatsoever.
I’m going to tell you what the fans have become. Have you ever noticed that the diss songs on your site get twice as many hits as regular songs? If you put “Saigon Dissing Anyone” the hits on my song would double. Those are the people who whenever a fight breaks out, they always run towards the fight. They don’t want to be in the fight, they want to see the fight so they can have something to talk about. If I have something personal for a nigga, I’m going to go see him. I’m not here to entertain those people or make it look cool to go at someone on a record. Like the shit with Prodigy. Him not liking me is cool. But where I come from, you don’t tell anyone to “suck your dick.” You can say my music is wack, but you don’t say that. If he was a real nigga, he would know better than that. That’s how I know he’s a fucking phony.
What do you have to do to make The Greatest Story Never Told successful?
I have to get on the road and touch the fans. I have to keep myself relevant. My album is going to be successful because the quality of music is so good that the word of mouth will spread. The music is going to sell itself, period, whether the label gets behind it totally or not. This is going to be one of those joints you’re not going to be able to control. My name stays relevant, whether it’s a TV show or me being on the news or something like that White Rapper Show. I keep my relevancy out there without putting out a million songs. People are waiting. It’s like a volcano waiting to erupt. I got another crazy record about to drop soon. We’re not staying on that remix for too long. We got a megaton bomb about to drop. Then watch everything change. I’m changing the game. I’m not going to just put out one single, I’m putting out three.
I was surprised to hear you did that show.
You have to understand there’s a lot of people watching. People forget the Beastie Boys were in Run-DMC’s era and white rappers are not a new thing. Before I even did the show, I hollered at Serch and made sure it wasn’t a mockery. Because if that was in any way a mockery, I wouldn’t be down with that. He said, “No, it’s not like that.” Me knowing Serch and Prince Paul as hip-hop cats, I knew they wouldn’t make mockeries of hip-hop. They gave me a rundown of what the show was about and it was entertaining. It was a good look for me because the people who watched that show and never heard of me know who I am now. Anything that’s not compromising myself is a good look. They said they needed to get someone with real thug experience. They couldn’t get a phony thug. I only said one sentence, “It’s not cool to glorify thug shit if you’ve never lived it.”
What do you want to say to everybody?
Get ready for the hydrogen bomb. D-Day is coming. If you fuck with me, tell a friend to tell a friend. Word of mouth is the best promotion and I don’t do the corporate thing. These labels are more concerned with selling a ringtone instead of changing somebody’s life. Imagine if they did that with the blues or old soul music? There’s no Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, none of that. No “Mercy Mercy Me” or “We Are The World.” I don’t hear those ringtones on people’s phones now and they’re available in that format. Those are songs that touched lives.
I love Akon and Akon is a good dude, I don’t knock him for following the formula, but he had the No. 1 and No. 2 songs in the country. He had “Smack That” which was talking about bending a chick over smackin’ that ass and the second one was “I Wanna Fuck You.” Those were the top-2 most played songs in our nation? We have issues, bro. I mean, there is nothing wrong with some sexy shit but you would never expect songs with that content to be the two most played songs in the country. But every great empire falls and America has to be on its way out. It has to be. No civilization that’s this corrupted and is so out of tune with nature can last. We fucked up.
Basically you don’t have to be afraid to not be a clone and step out of line. Abandoned Nation is coming. D-Day is coming and I hope 50 Cent and Eminem come out because they send motherfuckers out to the record stores. Except for Jay and Nas, there hasn’t even been a reason for motherfuckers to go to the record store. When’s the last time you’ve been excited about getting an album?