Has everything been moving at DTP as fast as you wanted it to?
We’re right on time with everything. I’m doing four mixtapes at one time. I’m doing one with DJ Skee, Green Lantern, Don Cannon and Smallz. We just put shot the “Body Marked Up” video and we submitted it to all of the websites. We’re going to get the radio spins up and we’re going to submit it to MTV and Rap City and 106. That’s everything. That’s the whole plan right now.
How will you have enough quality material to do four mixtapes at once?
I got it, man. I’m in the studio every day. I know what I’m going to do tomorrow. I finished Don Cannon’s mixtape in the last week and I’m working on Green Lantern’s and DJ Skee’s. I’m doing six songs a day. This is how I do it – I wake up in the morning, I hit the gym, I go back home and a nigga will start writing for that day or the next day. I’ll use that time to write instead of watching daytime TV. When I go to the studio, I don’t want to write. I want to know what I’m already going to lay down. So as soon as I get in there, I get it in and go to bed early so I can start the next day. That’s every single day.
On “Body Marked Up”, you say, “I spit club bangers and clap at gangbangers.” You know as well as I do that everyone’s saying that and has been saying that. What separates you from everybody else?
What separates me is that “Body Marked Up”, that’s real good record and that was a real good buzz record, but that record was recorded two and a half years ago. That’s what got me signed. My album is what you’re going to get. I’m much better and my album is more than a gangsta album. There’s struggle and hustle and pain in it. I’m stepping out the box and I’m doing shit that people wouldn’t even think of doing. There’s so many creative songs on the album and I’m an excellent storyteller and there’s a lot of songs with subject matter and there’s songs that people are going to laugh and cry about. That’s what I think the game is missing. I’m not rapping like anybody and I’m not trying to bite anybody. I rap to the beat and if the beat sounds like it deserves to have a New York twist to it or something hard, I’ll do it. If the beat sounds fun, I water it down and do that. I pick my own beats. DTP lets me pick the beats and it comes from the heart. I think that’s what really separates me from other artists.
How important is that creative control to you?
Very important. I was passionate about that. See, the thing was that when I first got signed, they really wanted to push beats on me. I’ll tell you straight out that I’m a beat selector, honestly. I rap over beats that make sense. I don’t care who produced it. “Body Marked Up” was produced by a 15 year-old kid in Canada. I don’t care who made the record as long as it sounds good and for me to have creative control over the whole album, that was important to me, man, and I don’t think I could have it any other way.
We got 30 records right now that we’re debating on. Everybody likes certain records for certain reasons. It’s a good argument. We’re trying to figure out what 13 or 14 records we’re going to roll with. That’s the whole argument right there. The head A&R is saying what he likes and the CEO is saying he likes others and I’m saying what I like. You could throw it all up in the air, but I’m really going hard. I’m treating these mixtapes like it’s my second job. My album is a wrap.
How have you grown as an artist since “Body Marked Up” was recorded two and a half years ago?
I grew for the better, man. I pray a lot. I ask God to make my talent that much better every day. “Body Marked Up” is a part of my life. I am tatted up and I was a gangbanger in the streets. I think I’ve grown tremendously. The video is a good way to show you Arizona and to show you what goes down in Arizona and that there is more to down South than Texas and Cali and there’s other ‘hoods that haven’t been mentioned and there’s untapped markets. That video right there, for me, was the perfect blend to show you the grittiness and the griminess of Arizona instead of horses. That’s why I took the record so personal. That’s the record that had the city loving me before I got signed. It had to be on the album. It had to be.
And that’s another record, the record took nine to 10 months to get it cleared because of the Wayne sample and he used that sample on the “Soldier” record with Destiny’s Child. He had to approve it. T.I.’s people had to approve it. Beyonce’s people had to approve it, but for me to have “Body Marked Up” on the album is like me paying myself back, like buying myself a car. That song is for me, man. That’s my personal song.
Do you think people outside of Arizona have misconceptions about your state?
Arizona’s beautiful, man. It’s a beautiful place to live in, man. You have your ups and downs and the places where it goes down, the places where I grew up at. Arizona is also a beautiful place. You got a lot of retired cats moving here like Flagstaff, but where I’m at, it’s all city and my thing is I think that it is very important that I show that.
When you think of Arizona, you think of the beautiful desert, but what they don’t show you is Broadway and 24th, where I grew up. They don’t show you everything else and that’s where I come in. And it’s not even in a negative way to say that I’m putting my ‘hood on the map. It has nothing to do with that. It’s just to show you other voices in Arizona.
A lot of people don’t expect me to rap the way I do coming out of Arizona, but I can’t get mad at them because that’s all they see. It’s my job to open the door for other artists and dance crews to come out of Arizona and for it to look cool. For us to come out of Arizona, I have to set a certain trend. My job is to let the listeners know that it does really go down this way in Arizona. I’m really from Arizona, born and raised. I’m the first artist in the industry that’s signed from Arizona, period, that’s born and raised. Period. And you know what I’m talking about. I’m just letting you know what it is. And that’s why the city is depending on me to do what I do.
Do you feel that you rep Arizona better than guys like Juice and Hot Rod?
Of course I do. I have nothing personal against them dudes, but neither of them dudes was born and raised in Arizona. That’s why I feel like I rep it better than them. It’s nothing personal, but anybody that’s from Arizona is not going to say that they’re from the West Coast. I love Cali and I went to school for Cali for a year, but Arizona is not the West Coast. We’re the Southwest, the Original Gun Slingers. We are the West, but we’re not the West Coast. That’s strike one.
The second reason…To me, it’s a friendly competition, but it’s a passionate competition because I really was born and raised in Phoenix on the southside. I can pull cards on niggas but they can’t pull cards on me. I appreciate them saying Arizona, but Hot Rod moved from Sacramento when he was 21. Juice is from Pennsylvania or some shit and came here when he was 16 or 17. They’re repping my city and I respect that, but I’m from the streets of Arizona. If MTV wanted to do my block, I could show them where my block is. Ask anybody else from Arizona if they could show you where their block is.
On top of all of that, I have no problem with that. It’s a friendly competition, but yes, it is a competition. My job is to come out on top. This is where I’m from.
Is it easier for artists to say they’re from Arizona because it’s an untapped market and not as much competition?
You can’t do that. See, Arizona is not like Cali. Cali is so big and it’s so broad that a cat can say he’s from Cali and people wouldn’t know. Arizona is not that big. If you’re making any kind of noise in the streets, the people will know. You can’t come out saying you’re from Arizona because if you do, you’ll have to show what streets and blocks you’re from. We never had shit so we take it personal. We take it personal and you can’t come out and just say you’re from Arizona like you could if you were from another state. You’re going to have to show that shit. I’m not calling anybody out, but I’m letting niggas know that if you came to Arizona, I could show you my ‘hood and real street niggas. Your name could be Krusty the Klown and I don’t give a fuck, but I take it personally. If you’re going to rep my state, you’re going to have to do it right.
What made you want to sign with DTP?
I think DTP is a good look for me. I think it was a real good look. I have a couple of other labels that I was looking at, but I really chose Disturbing Tha Peace because when I visited them, it was that southern hospitality. It wasn’t a bunch of niggas with their faces screwed up. Dolla from Playaz Circle had fish on the grill. It’s like a real good family over there and I respect them. They’re lenient with what they do and they let me do what I want to do as an artist. I’m not a puppet. Chaka don’t act like he’s this top head dude. He ain’t trying to son his niggas. He’s just really trying to let me be the best artist I can and Chaka’s the type of person where he’ll give me his opinion and if I don’t agree about it, we’ll talk about it. He’s definitely that type of dude and he’ll get his point across. That’s like Luda. I respect them cats. On top of them being business partners, they’re good friends. That’s why I’m happy I’m on DTP.
Does DTP have to do anything different with your project because you’re their only artist from the West?
No. That’s the whole purpose of these meetings we’ve been having. This shit takes time. It takes time to build this plan. With everything that’s going on with Disturbing Tha Peace and out there, you have to have a tight plan. That’s why I’m out here and that’s why I’m knocking out these mixtapes. I’m doing mixtapes with DJs from all the big markets and I’m actually flying out here and actually fucking with them and getting to know them. I went out to the Core DJ Retreat. I’m building with them. Wherever there’s business, I’m there.
I got a single with Ne-Yo. I’m going to put the single out, bubble and then make it super fly. We have to get this business part right. Personally, if I don’t feel like my shit is right, I’m not coming out. I’m not letting myself come out. Right now I feel like we’re on a good path and we’re pushing it. I really feel like we’re on time and we’re shooting for this August release.
How much grind goes into trying to break into the game right now?
Look, man, as far as the artists that really want longevity in the game, this shit takes work, bro. It’s more than a motherfuckers saying rap over this beat and we’ll put it out. Everything has to be right from the music to the business to staying focused. If you’re not losing friends and you’re not having haters every day, then you’re not doing your job right. I’m experiencing this shit as I go. I’m growing as an artist. I’m really, like, a lot of niggas will probably do coke or smoke weed or drink their head off because they can’t handle the pressure. I handle my pressure by praying, working out and going hard in the studio. That’s how I handle my shit, man. So all of what you see is what you see, but I’m telling you it’s not easy.
Once you get signed, that’s when your grind starts. Everything you did in the past is irrelevant. That’s when the grind starts. You might be big in the city you’re in and the cities surrounding you, but you have to impress the whole worked and that’s what niggas don’t understand. It’s bigger than just popping in Atlanta and Phoenix. I have 49 other states that I have to pop in and I’m acting like I’m not signed, bro. I’m grinding like the label don’t exist and I let the label do their part. But when I look up and I’m super successful, I can say it’s because of what I did and it’s because of what they did. If I come out and I flop, I can at least say it’s because I did my best and they did their best. What else can you say about a nigga who tried to do everything the right way, every day and all day and staying consistent? I’ll still feel like I succeeded.
What else can you tell us about your debut album?
The album is crazy, man. I know a lot of artists say that their album is crazy, but I promise you, my album is crazy. We just sat in a room of 10-15 people and we’re all arguing because the album is so hot. I can make the album gangsta and there’s so many things that we can do with the album, we just have to do it the right way. I got a record with Ne-Yo and I got a record with Luda. We’re working on an album with Akon. I really didn’t want too many features. I really wanted to show my versatility and come out the right way.
When will the album drop?
It depends on my response and I don’t want to throw out anything, but one of the CEOs said we have to get everything tight before August. I am the next artist from Disturbing Tha Peace to put my face out there and I’m trying to bring DTP back to where it should be because it’s a real good fucking label. We got one of the best rappers in the world on the label and multi-platinum albums. We got a team. We’re just getting ourselves together, man. I’m from the West and I’m different from everyone else on the label because of where I’m coming from. I have a whole new following and all that shit.
What’s the next move for you?
We’re about to hit the road again. The main thing I gotta do is finish all these mixtapes that I’m doing. I’m doing four mixtapes at a time. I’m doing all of these mixtapes and you have to understand that every DJ wants 15 new records, not the same shit the other DJs have. But it’s nothing, man. We live this shit. All I got is time to do this shit. But my next big move is getting the single out there and pushing the single out and making sure that my internet game is hot. That’s what I’m really focused on right now, my internet game and my radio game.