How long have you been rapping? Man, I been doing this since I was like 13 or 14, back in the day when Skinny Pimp was real hot and Three 6 [Mafia] was just starting out on the mixtape circuit. When I was around 15 or 16, that’s when we first started releasing albums. I put out three indie albums, mostly through Select-O-Hits. Did you mostly listen to Memphis rap? I listened to some rap outside of Memphis, but I was most inspired by people like 8Ball & MJG and Skinny Pimp, people that were right around here. When people talk about Southern music, do you feel like Memphis doesn’t get the proper respect it deserves as compared to, say, Atlanta or Houston? Memphis played a big part as far as the Southern sound. I ain’t a person who really dwells on that. I just wanna take it to the level that it should’ve been. How would you describe your music? I know people are probably gonna put it in the gangsta rap category, but I call it reality music. I ain’t talkin’ about, “Kill kill, murder murder,” I’m talkin’ about stuff that happens every day. It’s real life, so people everywhere are gonna be able to relate to it. You put out three albums independently? Two through Select-O-Hits and one through TVT, the Life album. We had a distribution situation with TVT but it was still indie. From the Dope Game To the Rap Game was the first album, and Self-Explanatory was the second. Those were my solo projects. I put out a host of other indie projects. For anybody else who’s indie and struggling with distribution, would you recommend Select-O-Hits? Yeah, I have a good relationship with them, and made a lot of money with them. Did you decide to stay independent because the situation was better for you financially? Probably not all the way, but that was part of it. With a lot of indie rappers, it comes to a point where you have to expand to even be hot down here. It’s like, you’ve come as far as you gonna go in Memphis. When I put out my third album I had money, but I wanted to go to the next level. I felt like I had put in enough work independently. Now, I’m trying to take it to the next level and get the shine for Memphis. I want to take Memphis to the next level. That was the main reason I wanted to go with a major company – I could do stuff that other artists around here didn’t do. It ain’t all about Memphis not getting the credit. I think a big part of it is that the rappers who were able to do it didn’t. If you’re from Memphis, why are you shooting all your videos in Miami and Atlanta? Everything we do, we wanna be right here where we come from. This is where I grew up. Who exactly are the Block Burnaz? Block Burnaz is the group that’s signed to my label. I got a production deal with Cash Money, so we’re able to put out different acts through the Cash Money/Universal situation. Block Burnaz is one of the first groups I took that way. I’ve also got a solo artist, All-Star, out of Nashville.
It seems like you’ve got good business sense. Where did you get that from? Did you read up on the music industry before you got into it, or just a natural hustler? I didn’t really read up on it. I took the hustle mentality from being in the streets and just took it to the music industry. To me, it’s common sense. If you how to add and multiply, it’s not too hard to figure out. If you’re getting $8 per CD through Select-O-Hits and you sell 10,000 CDs, that’s $80,000. It’s just common sense. You’re your own boss. I guess you just have to have the money in the beginning to do what you have to do. I just took the same street mentality, the hustle format, and did it with the rap game. It’s the same game, really. You look kinda clean-cut. Is that part of your image, to separate yourself from people’s perception of a Southern rapper? It ain’t really that I try to do it, it’s just how I am. I would always stay fly, but I ain’t never believed in tryin’ to look rough. Certain people do that – they try to look hard and shit. We wanna stay fly, stay fresh, look good. We on some playa shit. What other parts of Memphis culture do you plan on exposing to the world? I wanna show them how real it is down here. People associate Memphis with the club. They think we in the club all day jumpin’ around, getting buck, sweating and wearing big straw hats. It’s all about pimpin’. It’s real life down here. People getting money, people looking good, having common sense. It ain’t no country shit. It might be a small city on the map, but it’s equal to New York, Atlanta, any other city. It’s real down here. It ain’t what their perception is down here. I wanna show that to the whole world. What’s the name of your new album? Back To The Basics. We got Baby on there, Bun B, 8Ball, All Star, Block Burnaz, you know. You have deals with both Cash Money and TVT, and there have been rumors in the past that
they don’t like to pay people. Have you had any problems getting your money? We got lawyers, managers, people who stay on top of that. Me coming from the streets, it’s part of the street code. I heard stories about Cash Money and TVT, but where I’m from you don’t get in other people’s business. That didn’t bother me when it came to making my decision. I was taught not to get in other people’s business. I ain’t thinking twice about what they done with former artists. I’m worried about my money and my money only. I stay out of people’s business. Once again, a lot of shit is on the artist. If you ain’t on top of your business, it’s on you. Some people put themselves in a position to get done like that. I just use the same strategies to get my paper. I stay on top of my game and don’t leave no hole open for anybody to get over on you. That’s just life. If you just wanna be a rapper and all you’re concerned about is girls and getting high, you ain’t paying attention to your money ‘til you wake up. I ain’t sayin’ it’s cool for companies to do artists like that, I’m just sayin’, you have to do you and stay on top of your business. What other projects are you working on? I do this Blackout Squad CD, where I take all the Memphis rappers that I can work with and put it together. We do the Blackout CD every so often. We’re about to release Volume 2. We’ve got another indie act called V-Slash that’s about to drop too. What do you look for when you sign a new artist? We’re looking for a person who can do them, who doesn’t need me in the studio with them all day. Kinda like All-Star. Dude was hot in his own market before I even heard of him, so it ain’t hard work with him. He just like me, he run his own situation. I just help him add gas to his fire. It’s the same situation we have with Cash Money. The let us do us 100%, and when we’re finished they do what they do. - Julia Beverly, firstname.lastname@example.org OZONE AUGUST 2005
Ozone Mag #37 - Aug 2005