I'm on the grind. It never stops. I've been in the industry for a minute
and it takes more than one hit. You just have to keep grinding.
it like growing up in Little Haiti?
For me, it
was a beautiful struggle regardless of the crime problems you hear about.
Every neighborhood across America has their good and their bad aspects.
Little Haiti has its own identity and culture. It helped me become an
individual. Not to say anything bad against other cities in Miami, but
I rep for my city and I think that gave me the chip on my shoulder to
make the music I make. I didn't have to go out and find trouble, trouble
was everywhere. I dealt with all aspects of ghetto life, but I ended up
graduating high school, going to college, going out to LA, becoming a
successful songwriter and now I'm a successful recording artist. It gave
me what I needed. It wasn't just a plethora of negative shit. It's a beautiful
college like for you?
It was cool.
It opened up my mind. I only saw my block. That was all I saw growing
up, so I didn't really understand there was a whole 'nother world out
there. I didn't know about everything else. The world was bigger than
I thought it was. That's when I started traveling. I didn't go to college
for the education, although I did get educated. I didn't go for the grades
or the GPA, but socially, I understood what it took to be a successful
businessman. I did that through music. I became a more universal artist
because I wasn't just rapping about where I was from. I could rap about
places like Chicago and Texas. I wasn't necessarily an academic scholar,
but college definitely grew me up.
your experience in California and how did you meet up with Dr. Dre?
I was doing
my thing and I had a hustle going on in college like every black man.
I said I was going to take what money I had and go out to Cali for a summer,
and if something happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I was
out there working, working, and working. I made friends and I kept going
out and kept going out. Eventually opportunities came. I heard about the
filming for The Wash and my friends set it up. I got my opportunity to
spit for him and I never looked back. The next day, I became a songwriter.
and Dre do some more work?
I hope so.
We have a funny relationship. Dre told me he was going to sign me, but
it never happened. I'm pretty sure he was going through a lot at that
time with Rakim and other artists. I ended up getting a deal and he flew
me back out to work. Me and Nate Dogg were in the studio and we did a
song. I was sitting out there at Universal City waiting on them to work,
and he never really apologized for not signing me, but he saw me develop
as an artist, he helped me develop as an artist, and he gave me the name
Smitty. Things happen for a reason. Me and him have a special bond. He
helped develop me to a certain point. He taught me how to get my sound
on the mic, but he has a lot of writers. I'm not focused on writing. I
have a lot of other things going on with other things. We're going to
cross paths again and I really want to cross paths when he's ready to
go with me. We did a lot of work in '98 and '99. Just because you write
a song for Dre in '98 doesn't mean he's going to be there in 2005. He's
real meticulous. I want to make sure one of my songs make his album as
Dre, you went to Puffy. How was that?
It was a
whole different program. It was more like a machine. It was less musical.
They were less focused on the quality of the music, not to say their music
isn't quality. They were like, "This is a hot beat, this is a hot
verse, let's put it out and make some money." Dre would rather figure
out how you could be playing a song four years from now. Puffy kept the
money flowing. I wrote four or five songs a day working with Puff. It
was a machine. I had the best of both worlds. How many artists have been
able to have been cultivated by two icons in hip-hop? I can't say I'm
their teachings influence the music you make today?
In a big
way. Look at my track record. I've put out two mixtapes in the same month.
It's obvious that I have so much quality music. "Diamonds on my Neck:
was such an impersonal song that no one expected the other music I had.
People are starting to see that this kid really has music. At the end
of the day, it's not bullshit music. I know what I have to offer to my
fans. I'm special, man. I'm blessed.
put you in a box with "Diamonds on my Neck"?
what music does. That's why I'm grinding now. The song gave me a name
and it made me somebody in the industry. I'm glad it did what it did.
It's not my only style. Diamonds on my Neck definitely gave me the opportunity
to get my music heard. It put me in the eyes of the MTV's and the BET's
and places of that nature. I'm in a good position right now. I'm working.
hard for people to take you seriously after Diamonds on my Neck?
hard with the mixtape game. Before the mixtape game was out, it was very
hard. The mixtapes are another way to make the music and get it out. Back
then, it was very hard. If you had a single, you couldn't follow it up
with a mixtape. It's easy to put music out now. Just put it out and see
how it goes. It is what it is. It's going to do what it does. They're
going to love it or leave it alone. Just put it out.
you consider that you took a risk with "Diamonds on my Neck:?
not a risk, because you can put out something that's safe and not get
the exposure I got. You could put something harder out and nobody knows
you. I said just enough for them to say, "Who is that?" They
never heard of me and they wanted to hear more. Everything happens for
a reason. There's no disappointment from that song. Kids stop me for autographs
at the mall because of that song.
you have to offer the game?
that I give. It's the passion I have for music. That's what's missing
in the music. There's no passion in the songs. People are rapping just
to rap. Rappers are so impersonal with their music. They tell you about
their cars, their guns, and their girls. I do get belligerent, but I also
have songs that let you know what I've been though. They'll know my pops
was a drug addict and I came up in a single-parent home and things like
that. The fans have to know about you.
your album dropping?
We're going to shoot this video and drop the next single with Jamie Foxx.
Clive Davis is spending a lot of money on me.
the deal with J Records come about?
I had two
number-one's on the chart so they took a chance on me. I had a bidding
war going on and once I got interest, everybody jumped on the bandwagon.
Clive showed me the most excitement about my project and it made sense
to go there. Clive knows how to break rap and he knows how to spend money
to make money.
been doing any ghostwriting recently?
I got some
credits for a couple new songs. It's a hard grind as an artist because
you don't have time to write for someone else because you're writing for
yourself. I only do it for Puff or for artists that really know what they're
doing and where they're going. It takes a lot of energy. I'm used to getting
checks for my writing so I'm not just writing to write.
it being managed by Jimmy Henchman?
He's been very important in getting J Records to understand what rap music
is. He knew my situation. I needed a strong rock in New York and he's
one of the best at making things happen. We kind of found each other.
We had mutual friends and it worked out. It just happened.
finally getting the recognition it deserves?
some recognition, but not the recognition we deserve. Once everyone sees
our videos on BET, then we'll get the recognition.
we be watching for next from you?
the movement. I'm with the 305 movement, but watch for the Little Haiti
movement. It's a whole new look. It's a whole new kind of music. I have
some new songs that's going to hit the internet. I have a song with Chingo
Bling coming out and a song with Bun-B and a song with Pimp C. I have
an artist coming out on my own production company Close Range. I'm just
trying to be a business, man, not a businessman. I'm putting Little Haiti
on my back. It's a hard job, but somebody's got to do it.
you want to say to everyone?
an artist on your hands right now. I hate to disappoint all my haters,
but it's not over after "Diamonds on my Neck." I read all the
hate. I learned from the best. I appreciate the love and the hate. Holler