You’re launching your entertainment company Brooklyn Hit Factory. How far along are you with getting it up and running?
We’re at 90% right now. We’re hiring right now and we’re running good right now. It’s going good. We’re at a point right now where we’re working on landing a deal for two of our artists, maybe three. That’s Finesse, TL Cross and EZ $kywalker. We’re looking for homes for all three right now. We’re going to send them somewhere really nice.
What made you want to start an entertainment company in this climate when you’ve had such a successful boxing career?
I think it’s the music. It’s the love for the music. Me being from Brooklyn and Brownsville, growing up, it was B.I.G., Big Daddy Kane and all that, Rakim…You know, guys like that, me just growing up around that kind of atmosphere and me being a professional athlete and a boxer at that, you know, music is my thing. Hey, why not? I got a passion for it anyway, so hey, I love it.
Being that you’re a BK representer, do you find yourself more drawn to Brooklyn artists than artists from other boroughs and regions?
No. We don’t discriminate. We love to hear music. We love to hear different kinds of music, whether it’s a southern style that might be from down south and deep in the country. If you’re good and you got what it takes, you belong with the Brooklyn Hit Factory.
AJ (Brooklyn Hit Factory): We only have two artists signed to the label from Brooklyn. Everyone else is from Queens, Harlem, L.A…We got another dude from Alabama. Brooklyn is a small place and a small borough but it’s so impactful all over the world. You can go anywhere and ask if Brooklyn is in the house and Brooklyn is always there. We decided to name the company The Brooklyn Hit Factory because it’s such an impactful place. Zab is from Brooklyn and you think about him and people like Jay-Z, who rep Brooklyn 100%. Out of all the artists we work with, only two of them are from Brooklyn.
What drew you to singer TL Cross?
Just his style. I had saw him on a showcase and he had the band playing and everything. I was like, ‘Okay, this kid got what it takes!’ I talked to my partner about it and he just did it live. He checked him out and he was what it was. He was the business.
EZ $kywalker is one of your main hip-hop artists. What’s going on with him?
EZ’s project is coming along good. He just left Vegas. He recorded three songs out here. One thing I like about the kid is that he has a great work ethic. I like that about him. He was in the studio for five hours and he knocked out three songs. That’s pretty good.
When do you think you’ll be able to finalize some deals for your artists?
We’re actually weeks and maybe a month away from signing a real big deal. Right now everything is about structure and just having everything in place so that when it’s time to sign on the line, all the t’s are crossed and all the i’s are dotted.
What do you listen for in new artists?
I like different styles. I like people who are original, originators, not just the same old boring stuff and people who are doing just what’s hot right now. I listen for what it’s going to be in the long term.
Do you want to bring established artists into Brooklyn Hit Factory as well?
I prefer to work with people who want to work hard, whether you’re an old-timer or a new-timer. If you want to work hard and you have goals, definitely, that’s what we want. We don’t want anybody that’s lazy and feeling like they’re Jay-Z already.
How does it feel when you hear artists like Jay-Z and Inspectah Deck using your name as a punchline?
It’s just something that in my professional line of work that I inspire somebody out there to be like me or say, “When I go in the studio, I want to have my right jab be nice like Zab’s jab.” That’s a compliment to me. To have guys like Jay-Z and Inspectah Deck and Raekwon and G-Dep and Jim Jones and Lil’ Kim and a lot of these guys that mention my name in a song, it’s cool. It’s kind of good.
Have you been able to meet a lot of those artists as well?
Kim is like my sister. I met G-Dep. Inspectah Deck is my homie. Jay-Z, that’s my big homie. You know what though? I don’t think we ever sat down about why they did that. We talk and it’s cool and we keep things moving.
When you spoke to AllHipHop you talked about how you knew Biggie and ‘Pac. What was it like hanging out with them?
It was good. At the time, it almost feels like myself when a young kid is coming up and they want to meet Zab and they shake my hand and say, “What’s up, what’s up?” It was the same thing for me coming up then with the whole Biggie and ‘Pac movement. I was like, ‘Get the hell out of here!’ Everything was cool.
Do you see any parallels between the top rappers and boxers?
Oh yeah. Definitely. When Jay-Z and Biggie grabbed the mic, you could definitely tell that they were different from everybody. I don’t want to offend anybody but some of them are on the 1-2-3-4 beat and when Jay came out he mixed the whole count up and brought a twist to it and plus his lyrics is dynamite. What he talks about is insane.
Is everything cool with you and Busta Rhymes today?
Oh, Busta’s my big homie. Everything’s cool. Matter of fact, I was in L.A. shooting a movie and he stopped by because he was shooting a video. I was just over there with them and kicking it with Spliff Star and Busta. Big shout out to Busta. That’s the homie right there.
Are you happy with how MCs are repping Brooklyn today?
Definitely. Any fame that I get, everybody that’s known me for years knows that I shout out Brooklyn. Miss Jones used to call me Zab “Brooklyn” Judah. I shout Brooklyn out, always. It’s just something about growing up in Brooklyn in the environment you grow up in. I’m pretty sure everybody has their own Brooklyn where they grew up at but when you look at who else grew up here, like Jay-Z, B.I.G., Zab Judah, Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan, come on. The list goes on. Guys are celebrities and stars that have come out of Brooklyn. It’s a beautiful place. I just don’t want to live there. (laughs)
What MCs can carry the torch for Brooklyn in the future?
One guy I know can get it is EZ $kywalker and Sin Thorough is still up there. Young Geo is still repping for Brooklyn. Desperado. Maino. Yeah, Maino's going to hold it down for Brooklyn. Red Café and Fabolous. We got an all-star team. I want to put together some type of concert where it’s like a New York concert. Right now, I mean, I must not lie, the South got the torch right now. They got it and they’re holding it. They got their little 1-2 stuff going on but hip-hop originated up top and we have to snatch it back. Guys like EZ $kywalker are going to get it back.
How much easier is it for artists like EZ $kywalker to get features and publicity because they’re affiliated with you?
Well, you know what? I think that just being myself doesn’t even count like that. Still, at the end of the day, you gotta have talent no matter who you’re signed with. If you walk in the gym with Michael Jordan and you don’t have Michael Jordan skills, then it doesn’t matter. You can walk in the room with Jay-Z and you might get an interview but when it comes time for you to spit your 1-2, that’s where it stops at. So at the end of the day, whether you’re signed to me or not, it’s about talent and what I try to show people is that whoever we work with, they have talent and this is why we decided to work with them.
Have you spoken to your cousin EDI from the Outlawz lately?
With our schedules right now we’ve been missing each other but that’s family. Whether we talk every five years or 20 years, when we’re together it’s like we didn’t even miss a day. But I haven’t spoke to him in awhile. But definitely you’re going to hear some Outlawz features on the EZ $kywalker project.
You’re fighting Jesus Rodriguez on May 1. How’s your training for the fight coming?
Oh, the training is excellent right now, man. The training is excellent. It’s going really good. It’s funny, when people always ask me how I make my transition from working with musical artists to training, I don’t know. It doesn’t seem hard for me. I do it very easy and very good.
How much time do you have to train each day to really be effective?
You know what? I train all the time. Even when I’m with my artists and we’re on the road and stuff, I still work out. I work out on the road. I’ll never stop that.
What music are you going to enter the ring to on May 1?
I don’t know yet. I don’t know. EZ $kywalker is putting together something now and for the National Anthem you can definitely check for TL Cross.
When you’re entering the ring, can you even hear the music because you’re so focused on the fight or do you pay attention to what’s playing?
It depends on the fight. It depends on the fight. Some fights are more emotional and some fights you just go in there and you can get it done without even thinking about it.
Are there any rappers in the game today that could last one round with you?
A rapper? With me? Ha-haa. Boxers can’t hang with me. Picture a rapper. (laughs)