The last album was considered a classic by XXL. You guys were upset because sales didn’t reflect the rave reviews, and the hard work you guys put in. How do you guys try to capture the same magic that made it a classic, but this time, get the fans to go to the store to cop the tape?
Well, in all honesty, I’ve given up on trying to make you go to the store other than the music. I’m all about creating you know what I’m saying? We can put out those records, and make those records that are impactful, but if they don’t go out and cop it, then so be it. I’d still know that I made a good product. That was the lesson learned from Hell Hath No Fury. I mean, you could do everything you can do, but you can’t try to control everything beyond your control. Like we’re on the road now and we’re killing these shows. We’ve been killing these shows. We’ve made an amazing album, and that’s it. We try to keep it real for the true fans that are searching and looking to find what’s hot. We try to keep it true with them. Other than that, that’s it, man.
You guys have had your share of problems as well. With you guys shifting from different labels, do you feel that the companies today lack a strong understanding of what rap essentially is?
Oh yeah! I think that they understand what it is, and they understand how marketable it can be, but they don’t know how to work it, and groom it. To me hip-hip is like fashion. It’s like boutique clothes and shit. It’s like a boutique clothing line. You have to talk to the tastemaker. You have to make that tastemaker love it. In music, that would be to me the streets. You have to make that tastemaker--you have to make the streets love it. You have to make the net love you. You gotta make them love it. And after you make them love it, you’re gonna have them screaming loud. Then, the suburban kids are going to want it. Then, they’re going to start coming to the hood, and sneak their way in, or, they might just go on the net to get that fix, and to see what’s all that fuss is about, you know what I’m saying?
Or like I was saying about fashion, the kid who’s seeing the guy that is fresh, he would probably shop in that mall. That suburban kid might go downtown versus that little mall or whatever that is local. You have to create demand to make people move. That’s how you do it. You do it by keeping it true to that base. That takes time to groom, and a lot of labels can’t wait because they want money now.
It’s interesting because you guys are able to make that switch from doing records like Birdman’s “What Happened To That Boy”, To Justin’s “Like I Love You” without losing appeal from your fan base. What do you accredit that to?
I don’t know. I never even looked at it until people started saying it. It’s just like, damn. I mean, my concerts are going to be my concerts. I mean, damn, I don’t know. I really don’t know. I think our fans are bright enough to know that we could turn it on and off. We could almost do anything. We could talk about anything. We like to talk about what we talk about, which is real. Half of our fans recognize that and they give us a shot, where as they aren’t so open in giving everyone else a shot.
You guys have had religious type of titles like Lord Willin’ and Hell Hath No Fury, how important of role does religion play in not only your music, but more importantly your life?
I’ll have to say for me, religion has always played a role in everything in my life. Now, whether I adhere to practice it or living that way is totally different. (laughs) It’s always a thought. It’s on my conscious. It’s always there. You know what I’m saying? It’s like Big Brother. He’s always watching you and you know it. You think about it. Sometimes you think too late, and you reflect on why or whatever the case may be. It’s always been a part. I think for Malice—I think you guys could even hear it from Malice. I mean, I don’t want to speak on it for him, but you could hear in him how deep it is with him.
Speaking of your brother, I was curious. Do you think its harder going against different rappers when doing features in terms of having a better verse or when you’re with your brother Malice?
I find it harder with my brother.
Yeah because I think me and brother write from the same perceptive almost. Like I might do it one way, and he might have a different take on it. But I think the intellect is in there. It’s in there in both persons. I feel like with other rappers I can almost always say that even if we’re talking about something like cars or whatever, we’re on some gratuity shit. It’s whatever. Fly shit, it’s whatever. I could always think like “Damn. I might be saying that goes over the head of whose listening.” I don’t think that ever happens with anybody. There’s not too many dudes that happens with, but my brother. When we rhyme together, he’ll tell me a verse, and nobody is going to get it. I’d be like “Man. Fuck that. That shit hot. I don’t care. Let ‘em figure it out later.” I think with other rappers, they do clever shit, catchy shit and things like that, but with Malice, it’s deeper. That’s what I like to hear.
Do you guys have a sibling rivalry?
No because I think we’re like in two different spaces.
Really? Well let me shoot you a few questions in regards to you two being competitive.
Who’s the better ball player?
Who’s the better lyricist?
(Pauses for awhile) Malice.
Who’s the better Madden player?
Oh, myself. I’ve been playing all morning.
What team you go with?
Whoever is the hottest for the year.
Don’t tell me you’re a bandwagon fan. (laughs)
Man, I don’t have a football team. Shit, I don’t even have a basketball team, but I have players that I ride with. (laughs)
How do you feel about your fellow Virginians Chris Brown and Mike Vick in their quest to overcome adversity?
I think those dudes are strong. They’re talented, and I think they’ll always overcome anything thrown their way. Our talent helps us out a lot. Can you imagine doing this shit and not being talented? (laughs)
It’s like what’s the point?
Let’s get back to the music aspect. How did it feel linking back up with the Neptunes for this new album?
Its always good, man. It’s what we know. That chemistry was like right on point. I can’t wait till you guys hear the album. It’s like weirdo Neptunes to me. You know I’m saying? Sometimes it’s like a fight. You sometimes hear the Weirdo Neptunes—and they hate when I say this—but Weirdo Neptunes is like a “Grinding ” Neptunes. There’s like no rules or nothing with them. You know “Grinding” had no hook. There’s real Neptunes and there’s Neptunes in which there was a formula to making that hit. When they made that hit, they did. Weirdo Neptune is like the organic bone crusher crazy shit. That’s what I like them for. I think we got that. We got the unorthodox from them. We got nostalgia shit from them as well. We got it! They fucking made it. They made it.
So do you think it’s safe to say Till The Casket Drops will top the Hell Hath No Fury?
Definitely. I don’t question that at all.
That’s major for the fans to hear. Aside from the music aspect, I know you and Pharrell are cool, so I was wondering; did you ever rock a pair of his Ice Cream sneakers?
I would have never thought that.
You mean the sneakers right?
Yeah. I would have never thought that.
Hell yeah. I actually have all the boxes and shit. What people don’t really get man is when you create the mold, only you can create the mold man. He’s an innovative dude, man. He’s very innovative, and I have to say he definitely put us on to a lot of shit. He put us on to a lot of shit. It’s like I can honestly say, I support anything he’s done, especially in fashion. Yo listen! People don’t be recognizing like they should! Motherfuckers been dressing like P for a long time. Like they better cut that shit out. He’s always first. He’s always first. Me rocking Ice Creams is like my brother coming out with some shit, and I’m like, ‘No.’ We riding. We riding all the way. We wear the clothes, the clothes don’t wear us. We do what we want.
For a second I thought I was the only one.
Oh nah, definitely.
As for the “Kinda Like A Big Deal” record, in your opinion, which female do you think is kinda like a big deal in terms of looks?
Who do I think is kinda like a big deal in the music industry? (pauses) Latoya Luckett.
Definitely. Alicia Keys, definitely. Ummm, yo I could go all day. My respect in the game is wild. I got earthy Alicia. I got fucking sweet and innocent Latoya. I’ll go wild with Trina. (laughs) It depends what day it is. Who else is out there?
You got Keyshia Coles?
Yeah, Keyshia Coles a cutie, man.
You got Keri Hilson.
Listen. Her on that Complex cover greasy as hell is definitely a big deal!
I know you guys had done a record together. Did anything pop off?
Nah, nothing popped off, but she’s amazing to look at. I watched her sing like she was on American Idol.
If you seen her live shows, she could get freaky.
Really? I haven’t caught one of those.
Like every time Wayne and Kanye performed with her they got to smack her butt.
Wow, lucky guys.
Never know, if you guys perform live, that could be you doing that to her.
Hey, I don’t know. I mean she’s kind of tough. I ain’t gon’ try to go there. (laughs)