Your new project, arguably your biggest to date, Next Generation, is dropping this week. Were you able to do everything you wanted to on it?
I would have liked to have had more original production. That’s probably the only thing. I have a couple of beats from 6th Sense. He had put out a beat tape and I used some of his. I used some industry beats but I did a lot more than I thought I would do with this project from working with Royce to Tanya Morgan, so it feels good.
When you call yourself part of the “Next Generation,” that can be a good and bad thing, depending on how fans feel about the newer artists out there. How are you going to separate yourself from the other new artists out there today?
I think mostly just my appreciation for the culture and my appreciation for those who have style. I’m a big fan of Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Boot Camp Clik, all of the older music. I’m real influenced by some of the old school music and I incorporate that into my music as much as possible and when people hear the mixtape, they’ll hear it, like my joint “I Owe You” at the end. I feel like I owe it to all those legends to not just sit back and mess with the game.
It’s gotten to a point where a lot of underground artists talk about how bad the game is, but actually make some good music and then you’ll have a right to say how bad the game is. I also don’t think I sound like anybody else out right now.
Are you happy with the feedback you’ve been getting from the songs you’ve released so far?
Oh yeah, definitely. The “D.O.A” freestyle, that did pretty well. It didn’t get as big as we thought it would because we came in kind of late with it, but the Tanya Morgan joint got a good, crazy response because people said it gave them the old school feeling, which is cool, and people were going crazy for the Royce joint. They were saying it reminded them of some hardcore ‘90s stuff and it was lyrically out of this world. That felt good. That was the reasons why I got Royce on a joint. I wanted to blend that old school and new school flavor. I’m only 21 so I grew up listening to Royce in high school and when I was younger. I got Tanya Morgan on one side, which is newer, and then on top of it I got Royce Da 5’9”, who is a legend and a veteran, and I’m going back and forth with him. That was probably one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my career.
How did you go about making these collaborations happen?
I reached out to Ilyas with Tanya Morgan. A friend of mine had met them at some after party for the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival that was put on by Brooklyn Bodega and he got his information and he got his management contact. I had talked to Ilyas and he said to get at his manager. I did that and his manager is a real cool dude and real down to earth and we made it happen. With the Royce thing, I just reached out to him as well. I got his contact information from somebody and we had corresponded through Twitter and we just made that happen. It was pretty fluid, both of them. They’re both really cool acts that are down to earth and we just got it popping.
Has the fact that those two songs have gotten the most attention let you see firsthand the value of coming into the game with some features?
Yeah. You know why? I think sometimes people don’t…It gives them that extra incentive to listen. I have friends and people that I’ve worked with for a long time. Shout out to my man Andrew Lewis from Cali. He’s been on a bunch of blogs and it’s hard to get over that hump of getting blog posts and not being pushed over the edge. When you get a feature more people will check you out. It’s just like a fan thing. It’s a digital age and everybody’s rapping right now. It’s hard to convince somebody that you are worth listening to because honestly, I’m guilty of the same thing. I’ll go on a lot of websites and a lot of this and a lot of that. I’ll think this new cat is crazy with a feature but sometimes I’ll keep going. I’m guilty of the same thing everybody else is but the features definitely open a good door.
Do you feel like the magazine-type websites or blogs are more valuable today to a new artist?
I still think that the magazine websites, I still think they hold a little more credibility because at the end of the day, a blogger can sometimes influence people with the things that they say. I appreciate every blogger that’s ever posted any of my stuff. I’ve never received any bad feedback on anything. A lot of these dudes put my stuff up when nobody else was caring, so that’s really cool, but the HipHopGame’s and the HipHopDX’s, I feel like they hold a little bit more water because they’re posting news as well as music and it kind of gives people more of the culture overall. And at the end of the day the blogs are not, I don’t want to say real journalism, but it’s independent journalism, so it’s obviously not as “credible” as something from a bigger site.
When you put Next Generation up for free download, does it bother you at all that you’re giving out the music for free or do you look at that as something that you have to do at this point in your career?
That’s a really good question. We’ve been going back and forth on this and I tinkered with the idea of doing iTunes and doing what a lot of artists do, but at the end of the day, right now, with the way that things look with this project and because the project is so dope, the whole thing straight through is a crazy mixtape. I don’t think there’s anybody that’s really going to be skipping over any joints. At that point it was really hard to do and it was hard to add the features and we were wondering if we really let this go for free. This was kind of a big deal. At the end of the day, it kind of just came down to this could catapult me to the next level where I need to be and instead of selling something that we’re not sure if my fanbase is really ready ot purchase something yet, we might as well test the waters and put this out for free. All the eggs are in the basket and if you don’t download a joint with Tanya Morgan, Royce and a new artist, then something is wrong with you because you really don’t have anything to lose. That’s really what it was. Let’s put all the marbles in and give them nothing to complain about. People are going to think that if I gave this away for free, then my album must be crazy. It’s all a part of the game now, unfortunately, but it’s cool.
If you had no features on the album, how would you tell people they needed to have this project?
That’s another part that’s good about the free download. You can download more than one project. But let’s say hard drive space is limited and you had to really choose, I think people would really just be happy to hear somebody younger and in this new class of dudes. I think they would just be happy to hear that somebody appreciates the way that this thing went down and overall, at the end of the day, this music saved my life. If I wasn’t doing this, I don’t know what I would be doing. For everybody out there that’s like me and really has a connection with this music, it’s going to inspire some kind of faith that okay, maybe things really can go back to the way things were. It’s about trying to inspire people and bring back that feeling that we had in hip-hop. It’s really not there anymore and I’m not tooting my own horn or anything, but the project is crazy. I think I really got my point across with this one and I think the people will see that.
You’re also coming from Jersey. Have you had a good experience building with other Jersey-bred artists?
I’m in Jersey City so right now, from what I know, the underground scene is not too popping. I mean, there’s some people around here, I think Joe Budden said it on one of his joints about having a few local legends that the world will never know. You know their names because you live here but nothing ever really popped off and it probably never will. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t know too many dudes around here that are really doing it. I’m sure that there are so shout out to them, but East Coast hip-hop is in a crazy space just because there’s so many people doing it and it’s hard for anybody that’s dope to even get out at all. I think the internet is probably one of the only ways that a dope New York or New Jersey rapper can get out anymore. You don’t have the Treach’s and the Redman’s around here anymore. It’s a hard business right now.
You have a buzz slowly building now with Next Generation. How are you going to keep it going?
We still have unreleased joints. We’re trying to book as many shows as possible and then when the mixtape drops, we’re going to have a video dope. We’re trying to figure out which one, but it’s most likely going to be “Bad Guy.” I don’t want to say too much because I’m not sure with the finality of it, but I already have another album in the vault ready to go. It’s actually mastered and that’s pretty much it. I could put that out in November if I really wanted to and just bomb the people with music. I came out with Vintage Vibes in April and I produced all the songs and made every beat on there. That came out on April 20 of this year. And I’m coming out with this in September and if I wanted to drop this other album in November or December, I’d be closing out the year with three projects. We’re not really sure what we want to do with it, but I definitely have enough stuff to keep the buzz going and I’m always writing and recording new material, so that’s the least of my worries right now. (laughs)