It’s been awhile since you dropped an official project. Are you feeling overdue at this point?
I wanted to do it for so long. This is the debut so this is what everything leads up to. Everything leads up to this moment. I wouldn’t say it was hard waiting, I just couldn’t really wait to start working on it and get it out. I was a little anxious. I wanted to get it out.
You’ve been talking about The Salvation for a long time. Do you feel like you accomplished the vision you first had for the album?
Absolutely. The records that I made, when I make records, I go in the studio, I hear the beat and the beat talks to me and tells me what to do. I still make records like that, no matter what the project is, but I knew there were records I wanted to make and certain concepts I wanted to touch on that I had to wait for the right beat, like “Shooter’s Soundtrack” and “My Interpretation.” I didn’t have the beats but I had the titles nad I had to wait to write them. I knew I was going to do a song called “For What It’s Worth” but I had to find the beat and start writing it. But I definitely did what I wanted to do and then some. There are some of the records that are my favorites that I didn’t know I was gonna write, like “The Opener.” I think it’s perfect, man.
At this point everyone’s probably most familiar with “Beautiful Decay.” What did you want to bring out with that song?
I wanted to know what it would sound like to update “The World is Yours.” I wondered what a 2009 version of “The World Is Yours” by Nas would sound like. That’s where the concept started from. The goal wasn’t to redo the song, but that was the starting point, updating it 15 years later, talking to a new generation and talking about the different things that are going on now. I was wondering what it would sound like nad how it would flow and what it would be like and “The Beautiful Decay” is what it came to be.
You have a lot of vivid lines in the song. What’s your writing process like?
I always wanted to be that type of writer. From day one, I always wanted to make it where when I said something, you could see it. I always wanted to be as vivid and visual as possible. I wanted people to be able to see through the speakers. I’ve been saying that since day one and people thought I was crazy. I purposely write stuff in that way. You see all of it and if you don’t listen, a lot goes by you. Hopefully once you buy the album you’ll hear it and it motivates and inspires you. And it’s all done on purpose. It’s not really hard. I’m definitely blessed. It’s not like I get too much writer’s blocks and I don’t go through too many dry spells. We all do at some point or another but on this, I was able to zero in on what I wanted to do and do it. The album is exactly how I wanted it to be.
I really enjoyed the video for “The Beautiful Decay.” What was it like shooting that?
We shot it with my man Artemus Jenkins, who works with DTP and Ludacris in Atlanta. I knew him for awhile and he heard the record and wanted to do the video when we did it. We kept it right and flew him up and visually, I got what I wanted. I didn’t know how it was gonna come put when I was shooting it but it was perfect. I wanted to go to different boroughs with it and I think it came out perfect.
You’re also doing a video blog series to promote The Salvation. What made you want to start that?
I came up with that a long time ago. When you see the marketing and the promo for the album, I came up with that myself. I came up with that before I signed the deal. I knew how I wanted to present the project and how I wanted people to get it. The album is not going to be super-easy for the people to get at first. It’s going to take a couple of listens and you can’t listen to it while you’re running around and doing whatever. You have to listen to it when you’re driving or zoning out. You gotta really listen to it. You can’t just whatever with it.
I knew I had to do whatever it took for people to get it and I knew a series like Saving Our Grace would do it. What I wanted to do was draw people in. A lot of people in my camp, when they heard my idea, they loved it and they said I should be the characters but I didn’t want them to see me. They weren’t going to see the emotions and the story being told in the first two and a half minutes. I felt if I got complete strangers who nobody knew, not actors or rappers, but these complete strangers to tell these stories, the people wouldn’t see me. They would see themselves. They don’t see an actor or Skyzoo. They see themselves. There’s so many people that relate to those stories and the goal of them is to draw people in because each story, each episode that comes out, is something that’s on the album. The first episode with the 9 to 5 worker, that episode deals with two or three records on the album. There’s records on the album that specifically zone in on all of those topics.
And I think those have been extremely successful. I thought by the first couple, people wouldn’t get it and later on they would start to get it, but people were hitting me after the first day telling me it was amazing and that no one has ever marketing an album this way before.
When you look at marketing albums, how has it changed from when you dropped Cloud 9 with 9th Wonder?
Everything is more viral and digital. Cloud 9 dropped in September 2006 and websites were big and mixtapes were going online. Now it’s more about the blogs and digital this and digital that. It’s changed tremendously and you have to go with the times while at the same time do what you’ve always done. You’ll still see the stickers like it’s ’95 but you’ll see 2010 digital marketing all over the place too. It’s just about putting the two together and working it the best you can.
Most blogs have similar content and aren’t really creating anything original themselves. What do you think the blogs’ place is in hip-hop media today?
I think there is a place for the blogs. I think when everything becomes about one thing, it becomes a problem. That’s why Jay-Z made a record called “D.O.A.” When everything’s focused on one thing, it becomes a problem. You have up-and-coming artists who feel like if they’re on a blog every day they made it. That’s wonderful, but you have to get a good interview up on HipHopGame and you have to do the shows and get your presence felt and really touch the fans nad make that connection and not just be on the blogs all day. I know a lot of up-and-coming rappers nad they feel every day they have to put out a new song or freestyle and it’s overkill. I think the balance has to be put in place yourself. You have to figure out that line and then walk it.
Do you feel like a lot of artists are making disposable music today?
Absolutely. And that’s why people’s tastes change and why people get over stuff so quick. They’re so accustomed to getting something new or different every day. I even did one like that where I put out an old joint every few days. But people get so accustomed to it that it’s not special anymore. If they missed No. 12 in the series, they’ll just get No. 13. And sometimes artists work years on an album and they’re over it in a week because they’re trained that they have a few favorite songs, a few they don’t like, and they’re good. What’s dropping next? Back in the days you would cherish that music and it’s from the internet. I can’t knock the internet because it’s done wonders for me but there’s pros and cons to it and people have to look at that.
What made you want to go with Duck Down for this album?
As far as Duck Down, they hollered at me and they said they wanted to get a situation going and they were interested. We were talking to a few indies and majors but they were definitely in the lead. And then I spoke to 9th and it was about something totally unrelated. It was about the beats on the album and I was asking him what he needed and we were putting all of that together. He told me he was going to look out for me but better than that, he had a label situation going on and I would be his first artist. He has the distribution through Duck Down so it only made sense. It was done and once we had that conversation, it was done. I know with Duck Down, they’re easily the most powerful indie in hip-hop. They put the work in and they made themselves present like a major. I also knew I wouldn’t have to wear any handcuffs and I wouldn’t have to do what I wouldn’t have to do.
As far as working with 9th, has the chemistry changed at all?
The chemistry is the same as always. We’ve been working for years now and we always get up and we always make joints. We’re family so we always come to the table and get going. It’s never business and it’s never weird. We’re not getting upset with each other. He knows my sound and I know him. I know what beats I’m gonna get and he knows what I’m gonna talk about. I love working with him. I could work with 9th every single day. I don’t think I’ll ever release a project where he doesn’t do one joint. I plan on having at least one joint from him on everything I do.
How did you get Nottz and Just Blaze down for The Salvation?
I think it’s the same thing that was always on from day one. People always showed me love as far as production. People always gave me beats and always looked out on a major scale. A lot of people heard my production on mixtapes and they would think I was signed to someone. I was always able to get the type of producers I wanted and the types of beats I wanted for my project. I wanted this to be like a major. I went after the people I always wanted. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t on Atlantic or Def Jam. I wanted a Just Blaze record and I worked as hard as I could to get it. Same with Nottz. I actually got two from Nottz. They respect my talent and they dig me as a person. I could be the most talented dude in the world but if they think I’m corny, they’ll fall back. I was cool and humble but at the same time, they respected me and my music nad it made sense.
You talk about Stack Bundles on The Salvation. How do you remember him today?
I just really wish he had the chance to get it the way he wanted to and I wish he had the chance to really live it out. he started to, when he did the tour with Jim Jones and Young Jeezy. He was able to get out some records and get some notoriety. I just wish he would have really, really gotten to see it more. He really wanted to live for hip-hop and as much as people want to talk about the type of music that he made, you couldn’t deny how dope his music was and the thing about it was that he was so different that every song was different from what they heard. His music was just about life, Far Rockaway and how he got down. I wish he was here to see it and there’s a lot of people I lost but he’s definitely one of the people I ride for whenever I get in the booth. I know he has a lot of music waiting and I wish something would come out. I know Dramills is trying to get something out. I just want an album to come out. I just want to see an album come out and celebrate and be able to ride around to it.
What do you think of Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 so far?
I haven’t heard too much yet. I heard a few of the leaks but I left it alone. I didn’t want to ruin what was left when I got the album. I wanted to wait. I heard “D.O.A.”, which I thought was incredible. I heard “Run This Town,” which I thought was really dope and then I heard the three Timbaland joints. I thought they were cool. I wasn’t mad at all of them. They definitely had dope elements to them and it wasn’t the Jay-Z and Timbaland combo that people wanted but it had elements to it and I wasn’t mad at it. I left it alone after that so I would feel like I was buying an album. But I’m excited to hear the rest. I do plan on getting it this week and I’m excited to hear the rest.
How are you gauging the success of The Salvation?
It depends how people label success. You want to do your numbers nad sell and get your money. You definitely want that but I don’t think that’s it, completely. I think the fans, the people, will love it and the people that will talk about it. That’s what it’s about. I want people to want the album and to come up to me two weeks after it came out and tell me the album is special and it gets them through what they’re going through. That will really determine success for me, when people are touched by it.