What you know about the Dirty South? Well James Prince knows a whole lot. This weekend his Rap-A-Lot Records 25th Anniversary box set hits stores. On this limited edition CD and DVD collection you can hear the Houston rap mogul's friends at Cash Money, Young Money, Maybach Music Group, and Def Jam celebrate J.Prince's success in building one of the first independent rap labels outside of New York or Los Angeles.
Now the man who put Texas on the rap map gives Complex a rare in-depth look at how he started a music empire and why he's always considered himself the fourth Geto Boy. So listen closely as a true street legend recalls how he discovered Scarface in a parking lot, how he bought his own island in the Caribbean, and what he hears when God speaks to him.
Interview by Rob Kenner (@boomshots)
You’ve been doing this a long time. One of the younger Rap-A-Lot artists, Trae The Truth, was five years old when you started Rap-A-Lot.
Ain’t that something?
What were you doing when you were five years old?
See I don’t even remember when I was five. You know what I’m saying? So that’s the difference, his memory is a lot better than mine. Now if you take me to about six or seven maybe I would start remembering.
What kind of things comes to mind?
At that age? I’m living in Houston. I was from the Fifth Ward. Let’s see, the things that came to mind at seven years old was... At seven and eight I was about a dollar. You know what I’m saying? I was trying to figure out ways to keep my pickets full. Cutting yards, shooting birds, huntin’, shooting birds, selling birds.
You could hunt in the city?
Legally you couldn’t, but I did anyway. [Laughs.] You know what I’m saying? I hunted more in the city than I did out here [in the country]. I was always about trying to figure out a way to keep a dollar in my pocket, even at that age.
What is the date that you mark as the beginning of Rap A Lot? Was it a certain record you put out?
Well 1986, it was more of a reaction from other people. It was the beginning of me planting a seed for my brother. You know? His name was Sir Rap-A-Lot. And then there were a couple guys that, when I would come home for lunch breaks, I see a couple guys, which was Raheem and Jukebox, skipping school. So I made a deal with them, y’all go to school, I’ll support you in rap.
They put me in a position where I had to honor my word because every day after school they would show up at my grandmother house and be performing on the porch. So grandmother would call me and say “You got these boys over here.” So I had to honor my word. And I tell everybody that it was from keeping my word and honoring my word that brought me where I am today.
The roots of this Houston hip-hop scene run deep.
Yeah, the roots are very deep. And you know, I always enjoy being a quiet storm. I like to make a lot of moves and not create a lot of noise in the process of making them.
When you first started there weren't a lot of people doing this thing. Who else was really making waves in hip-hop?
You had Def Jam, Run-DMC and all those guys out that way. That was basically it. Then you had Ice T, he was the only other guy that was on the scene from the West Coast at the time.
When you came out you must have inspired a lot of these independent labels to pop up outside of New York.
I always enjoy being a quiet storm. I like to make a lot of moves and not create a lot of noise in the process of making them.
Yeah, most definitely. I inspired quite a few. On the DVD in the package, a lot of those guys spoke about the inspiration and everything from Cash Money to Master P to Tony Draper to Swisha House. Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen, Run of Run-DMC, all of them spoke about myself and gave their opinion. Even Jay-Z gave his opinion of me and the inspiration that I brought to hip-hop.
We’ve seen big empires rise and fall since you started Rap-A-Lot.
Also I’m real proud of what’s happening with Cash Money. They standing strong and they’re relevant today. So I have to salute the homies for holding it down like they are—definitely, being from the South.
Before you got started with your brother and your friends, was there anybody making rap in Texas?
Not here in Texas. I mean, there were some guys always trying to rap but they wasn’t known. There wasn’t no one who had put out a record before or had a name at the time. Other than rappers that was doing like diss contests.
Doing the dozens.
Yeah, the dozens thing. Romeo, Royal Flush & them, dissing one another every week.
That would go on in clubs?
Yeah, you would go in clubs and they would just criticize each other from A to Z, you know, break each other down.
With music playing?
Yeah, music playing in the background. It was watered-down instrumentals and stuff like that. But that’s about it. There wasn’t anyone that—shit, I don’t even think there was no one thinking about making a record.
So what was the first record you put on wax?
Let’s see the first record I put on wax, I think it was “Car Freaks.” That was Sir Rap A Lot and the other two guys I was telling you about. It was a 12-inch single. “Car Freaks.” And they was happy just to have their voices be on wax. What we did was there was flooded the clubs. We were more excited to get it played and see people respond to it at the end of the night.
Were people from Texas glad to hear their own slang on a record?
Yes and no. Because “Car Freaks,” it wasn’t a hit record. You know what I’m saying? Everybody didn’t embrace it. And Houston, believe it or not, was a hard nut to crack back then. Just because you put out a record, everybody didn’t embrace you. We had to come with that record before we was able to kick in all the doors and not only get Houston but the world to embrace us.
So what was that record?
That record for the world, globally, was “Mind Playing Tricks.” Now before “Mind Playing Tricks,” the one to really get us a lot of street credibility was Scarface “The Dope Game Cocaine.” Mr. Scarface song. And that’s the song, from a street perspective, because we didn’t get radio or video with that song, but it was huge. It was huge enough to take us gold, just off of that one song. It was so strong, it was a street anthem.
I would go to Def Jam and me and Lyor Cohen would sit there and he actually opened up check books and showed me the numbers that really grabbed my attention. And there was LL Cool J checks and Whodini checks. I went to see all these checks and this money, so I was like “Whoah—it’s some money in this shit!”
Half a million units for the single?
No, no, no. Not vinyl. That was the album.
Did you know Scarface was going to be such a prolific artist when you first met him?
I didn’t know how big he would be, but you know, I shook the town inside out after leaving New York. Let me go back and tell you how a lot of this unfolded. When I first started Rap-A-Lot—maybe the first year or two—I wasn’t as involved as I should have been. I was doing other work. You know, I was making money doing other work. And it was with my last piece of money that I decided to get involved and do everything my way.
I had moved the company to New York for like six months with my partner Cliff. And things didn’t go too well out there. But I went out there like the last 3 weeks of the last month in New York and I had the opportunity to clear my head and focus.
I would go to Def Jam and me and Lyor Cohen would sit there and he actually opened up check books and showed me the numbers that really grabbed my attention. And there was LL Cool J checks and Whodini checks. I went to see all these checks and this money, so I was like “Whoah—it’s some money in this shit!”
So I went home that night and I remember saying to myself—and I told the staff and everybody—I said we got to uproot and move back to Houston. And they was like, “What are you talking about?” Because they were following the New York movement.
You got to realize, New York was a powerhouse back then, so everybody wanted to follow that movement. And it was up until I was able to clear my head and see what was going on. I said “Naw.” I say, for my last piece of money, y’all gonna have to listen to me. I told the artists this, I told everybody. I said, “I want to go back [to Houston] and finish my Geto Boy mission.”
“Naw.” I say, "For my last piece of money, y’all gonna have to listen to me." I told the artists this, I told everybody. I said, “I want to go back [to Houston] and finish my Geto Boy mission.”
Because I had tried it with the “Car Freaks” one time before then. So that trip enlightened me to come back to Houston. And I met with the Geto Boys that I had and they couldn’t see my vision. Because I told them. I said, “I want to write this shit.”
I know what y’all are trying to do, I’m living what y’all trying to do. I said I want to write a lot of this shit and I just want y’all to make it rhyme for me. So they told me I was was too deep, you know, the members. They said “You too deep man... Woop woop woop.” So I got rid of all of ’em.
That’s when I decided to shake the city inside out. Every part of town. That’s when I came up with Bushwick Bill on the East side. He was from Bushwick, New York. But he was out here at a club and I saw his talent dancing. He was a dancer for the Geto Boys originally.
And of course we had the DJ Reddy Red, which is from Jersey, some part of Jersey, but he was our DJ. And then you had Willie D, which is from Fifth Ward, and you had Scarface which is from the South side. So I had to tap into all these three talents, and my last talent I tapped into was Scarface.
So how did you discover Scarface?
Actually, I used to own a club, I walked out the club and Scarface was playing his music for one of my DJs, and I heard it. Nobody knew I was standing there, and I heard Scarface, it was in pre-production, it wasn’t finished, and he's playing that song. And I was like “Whoah—this is my other Geto Boy!” So I got him that night and kept him with me until 6 or 7 o clock that morning.
I said, “I want to write this shit.” I know what y’all are trying to do, I’m living what y’all trying to do. I said I want to write a lot of this shit and I just want y’all to make it rhyme for me. So they told me I was was too deep, you know, the members. They said “You too deep man... Woop woop woop.” So I got rid of all of ’em.
What I had to do though, which was a major decision, was—I had to figure out a way to replace my brother with Scarface. Because his talent was that overwhelming, right? So I told my brother, I said, “Man, looka here, we gonna get together and go to Reddy Red’s house and I want you to compete with this guy—and whoever wins this competition is going to be the Geto Boy. Of course he felt he was the hottest shit ever. And I took them there man, and they went to flowing back and forth. And my brother looked at me when they got to going into them deep topics. He looked at me like, “Damn, I understand.”
So he gave you the blessing?
I had to have it. Whether he gave it to me or not, it was the right thing to do, business-wise. Now personally it was a different thing. And then you know, family—nobody understood that decision until houses and cars came later. It was just that deep. You mention Scarface, I saw his talent. And it was... He had overwhelming talent, man, even back then.
I’ve never heard you were writing some of those lyrics.
Even on tunes like “Mind Playing Tricks”?
Yeah man. I mean, it’s something that I agreed not to reveal back then, because you know, artists don’t like it. But I’ll say it this way, I won’t even go to deeply in that right now, because I don’t want to discredit nobody, but, I’ve always been like one of the fourth members of the Geto Boys that didn’t rap. So I just played my role on the side, but I was definitely creative in the topics.
I’ve always been like one of the fourth members of the Geto Boys that didn’t rap. So I just played my role on the side, but I was definitely creative in the topics.
The first thing the outside world heard about Geto Boys was how crazy what they were saying was. This was when you got dropped from Geffen Records over controversial lyrics. The press buzz was “This group is even crazier than NWA.”
Yeah, and my strategy behind that was—first of all, when I came back to Houston I came back to do us. I wanted to be us. I didn’t want to be nobody else. I wanted to be country. Everything that we was and we represented, that’s what I wanted to do.
My strategy behind songs like that was, the majors had video and radio monopolized back then. And you got to realize we were in the revolution stages of rap back then. It seemed like everybody was against what we were doing. Back then none of the majors wanted to look at me. So I had to create something that would cause controversy and get publicity in order to sell records. We became masters at that.
But then the label got freaked out. What happened with that Geffen deal?
Well, what happened was we done a deal with Rick Rubin, and Rick Rubin with Def America—he had a deal with Geffen. And David Geffen was putting out all of the rock and roll heavy metal acts that was much worse than what we was saying at the time. That wasn’t a problem.
But then the black man come along with the black-owned company and the rappers—the new movement—and he got real prejudiced about it. He got so prejudiced until he released Rick Rubin from his whole deal. Rick Rubin was able to get out of his whole deal with David Geffen because of us. And he went done a $10 million or so deal with Warner Bros.
I guess he owes you a thank-you note or something.
We were in the revolution stages of rap back then. It seemed like everybody was against what we were doing. Back then none of the majors wanted to look at me. So I had to create something that would cause controversy and get publicity in order to sell records. We became masters at that.
Yeah. But even bigger than that, I saw that that would be our last record with Rick Rubin. Because originally really I had done that deal to have access to that machine that David Geffen had at the time. So, when we done that one record with Rick Rubin, I got with him and we had a meeting and I told him it would be fair for us to go our separate ways.
And that’s what you did. Your label has stayed independent. You’ve never sold to anybody. Why is that so important to keep independent?
Well I consider myself a lion. You know what I’m saying? I’ve done it for a lot of reasons, you know? It’s a lot of my younger brothers that look up to me that I want to inspire. And I feel like and I know I’ve inspired a lot of them—from Master P to Cash Money to Tony Draper—and a gang of others that I don’t know about. By me keeping my independence and showing that I can survive in the midst of it. So all of that had a lot to do with me wanting to keep my independence even up to this day.
All artists I speak with today have a vision of their business model. They’re not just learning to rap, they’re learning to be CEOs.
I think the whole movement is bigger than Houston because the floor plan that we laid at Rap-A-Lot, I saw everybody duplicate it. From P to all of them—all independents. Because before we started releasing records like that, no one was doing it.
None of them was releasing records back-to-back like that. So it’s a floor plan that we originated and that movement in Houston is major. And it’s definitely all of it inspired from Rap-A-Lot. And shit, I feel proud to see these guys exercise their entrepreneurship the way they are, and knowing they got inspired by me just a little bit.
Five years ago Houston was the hottest thing in hip-hop. What happened?
My job here in Houston is to try and keep everything balanced. I don’t want anyone to destroy the foundation that I laid, so my job is to try to keep it balanced where the scale isn’t too tipping in any of these different areas. So we all can keep on eating in peace.
It’s harder with people that hadn’t had no practice with money. It’s your first time. Here you’ve been sitting on the sideline waiting for this opportunity all of your life, and then hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars drop in your lap.
You start feeling all kinds of shit. Which could be expressed in a lot of good and bad ways. My job here in Houston is to try and keep everything balanced. I don’t want anyone to destroy the foundation that I laid, so my job is to try to keep it balanced where the scale isn’t too tipping in any of these different areas. So we all can keep on eating in peace.
So what went wrong?
Well what happened was, the Houston artists didn’t take advantage of opportunities. You know what I mean? They didn’t apply their hustle aggressively when the spotlight was on the city. I mean, a lot of 'em got comfortable and started going in the club business. A lot of em started going in the grills business.
You know, they was going everywhere but the studio and performing and dancing while the spotlight was on the city. As if it was going to stay there waiting on them to finish all of those other activities and just be there when they got back. During their break, during their vacation, Miami really turned the heat up, and BAM. That’s what happened. The spotlight moved on Miami.
You’re also involved in boxing. How did you get started with that?
Well first of all boxing was like my first love before hip-hop really.
You were a fighter?
No I wasn’t a fighter but I wanted to be. Well, yeah I was a fighter—not in the gym. But I used to fight all the time. I wanted to be a fighter in the gym, but there wasn’t a gym in the ward that we had access to. I was inspired by Don King. I used to watch him all the time as a kid—and I used to wonder about this man’s hair that stuck up straight like that. After learning how to read, I was able to read up on him a little bit and got more inspired by him.
I was inspired by Don King. I used to watch him all the time as a kid—and I used to wonder about this man’s hair that stuck up straight like that. After learning how to read, I was able to read up on him a little bit and got more inspired by him.
So I wanted to tap into the boxing world, you know, and I got distracted by the hip-hop thing, which was a good distraction for me. But eventually I was able to, after being attacked by the Feds and all them different people, I had to show them that I wasn’t one-dimensional, to the extent where I diversified my portfolio into the boxing arena. And while they was out here planting them traps and setting traps for me and trying to destroy me, I showed up on their TV in their living room, on HBO. [Laughs.]
What were you doing on HBO?
I was in the boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather and one of those guys I was managing. [Laughs.] So you know I had to diversify my portfolio, man, and just really let them know. Because with brothers from the street, they think it’s either by luck or by accident that these things happen.
But once you know that formula of success it can be applied to anything. All you gotta do is know the forumla. And that’s what I was able to do in the boxing world, take it over there and apply it and I became manager of the year the first year I got into managing.
What is similar about rap and boxing?
Well the overall business—not only the rappers and the boxers—but the overall business, it’s a lot of resemblance there. First of all when you’re dealing with a rapper and boxer, both of these guys is from my hood. You know what I’m saying? These are my people. I grew up with both of them. They’re not separated in no aspect other than the sacrifices they’re making with their talents and whatnot. And both of them had a lot to do with who I became.
I listened to these rappers, they was influential with certain things they said, then I had to fight some of these guys that’s boxing in the hood to be as tough as I am. So we all was there in the struggle together. So I have no problem communicating to my people that I knew all my life better than the others can. You know what I’m saying? And they had no problems communicating with me, because they knew where I came from. And with them knowing where I came from gives me an edge. They know where I started from the gutter mostly, trying to get to the utmost.
So Willie D used to do some boxing, right?
Yeah, he was boxing.
Any other MCs that could box?
I think all of them could box if they get in shape. A lot of them talk a good boxing game, but if they all put their mind to it and made the sacrifice, they would be able to do it—at least a few ass whoopings.
You mention different traps and tricks were thrown at you over the years. What are your reflections on watching Irv Gotti and all that he went through with the Murder Inc. case?
I talked to Irv Gotti all the way through his case because I was totally familiar with how the government, and the devil, want to destroy the brothers that make it. It’s just as real as me and you sitting here right now. They’ll take a little lie, and make it so big until you’ll be like, ‘Damn!’ [Laughs.]
My reflection was, I think I was the first one—you know what I’m saying—and my reflection was I’m glad they got a lot of support. Because a lot of people came together. And you know I didn’t have people coming together. Definitely a lot of people came together out there in New York, and I think that was major for all the brothers to come together and show up in court and let him know that I’m with him. I even flew out there.
Yeah I even flew out there. So, that’s the difference. Together we stand, and separate we fall, you know? And I talked to him all the way through because I was totally familiar with how the government, and the devil, want to destroy the brothers that make it.
It’s just as real as me and you sitting here right now. They want to do that, there’s no doubt about it. So with us knowing that, then it’s certain things we have to do. To not leave them different doors open for them to come in and tell that big lie. Cause they’ll take a little lie, and make it so big until you’ll be like, ‘Damn!’ [Laughs.]
So don’t even give them a reason to start.
You can’t do that. I tell everybody you can’t. A lot of people want to straddle the fence to the extent that they can have 99 percent of it right, and leave one percent where you—you know, straddling the fence, doing a bunch of other shit. And they’ll take that 1 percent and contaminate that whole 99, and destroy everything you built. So you gotta keep the shit clean.
And you have to have a made-up mind that “I am going to keep it that way and I’m going to separate it from all this extra shit that can contaminate it.” And you’ve got to do it, make the sacrifice. Don’t work for free though. Don’t do 99 percent and then let them come in. And that’s what they was trying to do to me, that’s what they was trying to do to the Inc.
When you say traps, I’ve read different things that there were hundreds of agents in Houston trying to infiltrate your business. How bad did it get?
Well when I say trap, I mean this—this is what I believe. They put a hit man on me. And I done got to believe this is true. The records will reflect this to be true, as far as the amount of people that he killed. This guy killed eight or nine people, which is highly unusual for an officer to have to use his gun and kill that many people. He’s probably one out of three. You do your research and you may not find one officer that killed that many people. So this is the guy they put on me.
And you know this because you saw him?
They put a hit man on me. And I done got to believe this is true. The records will reflect this to be true, as far as the amount of people that he killed. This guy killed eight or nine people, which is highly unusual for an officer to have to use his gun and kill that many people. He’s probably one out of three. You do your research and you may not find one officer that killed that many people.
Oh it’s no doubt about it. He not only let me know, he let everybody know that he was on me. The world probably knew that, all the way up until they had a hearing almost at the White House or somewhere where they had this hearing on me and everything.
But anyway, this is who they put on me that stopped me about 4 o’clock in the morning and asked me to pull over in the dark at a service station. And when I pulled over, they had a DPS officer that stopped me on the freeway. It wasn’t him, but he was under the authority of him. He stopped me on the freeway, told me where to exit, and told me where to go.
They had it all well planned.
Oh it was laid out. When i got to the corner, and the McDonald’s that used to be kinda lit up, was black dark over there. I see two or three cars parked over there. So I come to a stop, I said No.
“Pull fuckin’ over!” is what he tells me. “Pull fuckin over.” And I point this way, so I go across the red light and pull into a Shell service station, which was lit up.
And the officer get out and say “Where are your guns?” Now he ain’t even supposed to know I got a gun. I got a gun license, right? But shit, before I can give him my drivers’ license, he’s asking me about guns and this and that. And I said, “Man, why are you asking me about my gun? What are you stopping me for?”
He said “Oh, you were swerving.” This is the lie they tell when they want to stop you and do something to you. All they got to say “Oh, he was swerving. He was drunk.” The world know I don’t drink or smoke. If they don’t, then write it. Okay, so at that point I got out of my car, I said my guns is under the floor mat. I had two guns. That’s why they call me Jesse James. I keep two of ’em with me.
I didn’t know they called you that.
I said my guns is under the floor mat. I had two guns. That’s why they call me Jesse James. I keep two of ’em with me. And I can shoot well, so let the highjackers know that.
Yeah I can shoot well. So let the highjackers know that. I shoot well. So he passes the floormat up and go over to the passenger side. By this time I’m in the back of my car. So I scared him. I walked up on him and scared him. I said, “Man, why you searching my car?” And he jumped. “Why are you violating my rights man? He said, “I’m looking for the guns.” I said, “Man, I told you where the guns were.”
So anyway, to make a long story short, he got back out and came back where I was, and asked me how much money I got in my pocket. I said, “Man you need to borrow some money? Why you asking me about my money?” I’m watching his eye contact. He’s looking over there at the other two officers. By that time, one of them from across the street came over in army fatigues.
Not in a police uniform?
No. In army fatigues and in a Cutlass—unmarked car. And I recognized who the officers was. He whispered something in his ear, and then he took off.
By that time I got about 10 or 15 people swarming around the thing too. Cause I had somebody following me anyway—because they had sent me all kinds of threats. So I got my soldiers riding with me 24/7. So by that time they’re making these circles, and the police decided to leave, and the officer said, “Well I’m gonna give you a warning and I'm gonna let you go."
I was under attack from a lot of people in high places. They went as far as attacking me in church and when Al Gore, the Vice President, showed up to the church, they wanted to make a connection. Because they had wrote where I had gave him $400,000—all this crazy money.
When I got home I noticed that they took one of my bullets with them. Cause I counted. And I was thinking, “Why was they trying to pull me in that car?” Because this was before I done the investigation on this man and found out he had killed all those people and stuff. This was what prompted me to do that move. I said, “Man, they took my bullet. What the hell?”
And I couldn’t figure it out so I just came up with, Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. So that led to me doing a lot of things as far as protecting myself, you know what I’m saying? And shining the spotlight on them to let people know, here’s what’s trying to happen, and I’m in a position where I have to protect myself.
And there were hearings about Rap-A-Lot but you finally prevailed.
Right, I was under attack from a lot of people in high places. They went as far as attacking me in church and when Al Gore, the Vice President, showed up to the church, they wanted to make a connection. Because they had wrote where I had gave him $400,000—all this crazy money.
Is that true or not true?
Nah, not true at all. I’m just trying to start to vote. So ain’t nothing real with that. But this is the lie that they told. And they tried to get a picture with that lie. But I just left because I didn’t feel like all those people with black glasses on was there for Al Gore. My intuition had me feeling kinda funny that day.
So you didn’t go to church that day?
I went to church, but I left immediately after. I normally hang around. I just bounced. And a few days later I found out that that whole situation was being monitored—by video tapes everything. From when I pulled up until I pulled out. [Laughs.]
So you say nobody came to your aid when you were under investigation.
Well I can’t say no one came because the world know Maxine Waters took a stand where I was concerned. And I wish she would run for president tomorrow. I would do everything I could. Every dime I’ve got I would put it behind her. Because I know when the pressure is really on, and your back is against the wall, she’s gonna take a stand. And I call her the soldierette for the hip-hop culture. Yeah, that’s what I named her. The soldierette. Cause she’s gonna represent when it’s time to represent.
She was the only one in congress to speak out against that whole CIA crack connection.
Well I can’t say no one came because the world know Maxine Waters took a stand where I was concerned. And I wish she would run for president tomorrow. I would do everything I could. Every dime I’ve got I would put it behind her. Because I know when the pressure is really on, and your back is against the wall, she’s gonna take a stand.
A lot of them other people talk about what they gonna do, but this one I done saw in action. You know what I’m saying? I done saw her in action, so that proves it. As long as you right. You know what I’m saying? She ain’t gonna stand up for no wrong. But if you right, she gon’ ride.
We’re coming up on  years since Tupac was killed. Did you make an effort to stop that East/West beef? Cause I heard you were making moves behind the scenes to broker a peace.
[Laughs.] Yeah, now you heard that—right? Tell me what you heard.
Okay I’ll tell you exactly. I heard that there was an attempt to get Big and Pac to sit down and talk man to man, instead of talking in the press or talking about each other on records. And that you were the neutral party who could make that happen.
Well let me say this, because I think I read something that wasn’t that accurate about that situation. As far as me making the move to bring them together, that never happened. That never happened. I think if I would have, it could have happened. But that never happened, because when I met with one side of the program, you know, two plus two equals four all over the world. Right? It didn’t equals four.
Not that time.
No. It didn’t add up to equal four. So with it not adding up, I had to put brakes on it. See I’m like this, when I speak, I got to be in the right. It have to make sense. I have to feel real genuine when I speak. And I can’t speak—if you wrong, then I got to tell the person that you wrong. I can’t do it.
So when that picture was presented to me, I had to go back into neutal. And it’s hard for me to be able to say to any man, “Don’t feel this way,” or “this and that” or “go and explain your story,” and it ain’t no validity there... I know I’m speaking real vaguely right now. [Laughs.]
Well maybe there’s a reason you are. But it’s important to understand what you are saying.
Yeah, you know what I’m saying? But see I couldn’t speak on it cause I woulda handled things differently. I woulda handled things differently when that happened to Pac. When he got shot I woulda handled it totally differently.
Are you talking about New York or Vegas?
New York. I woulda handled it differently in Vegas too. You know what I’m saying? I would’ve handled it different in both areas. So right now I won’t speak down on neither one of them, because everybody got their own style. But I will tell you I woulda handled it differently. But I couldn’t speak on it, because it had gotten to a state... I couldn’t say what they wanted me to say. [Laughs.] You know what I’m saying? My credibility is too strong for me to go on record with this shit that they’ve tried to do.
So what are your plans for the future?
Both times 2Pac got shot, I would have handled it differently. But I couldn’t speak on it, because it had gotten to a state... I couldn’t say what they wanted me to say. [Laughs.] You know what I’m saying?
I’m gonna still keep trying to keep building up my empire. And who knows what that will turn into?
And it’s not an Enron empire that can just vanish overnight. It’s built brick by brick.
Brick by brick. Twenty-five years of bricks. So I’ll continue to add em on, piece by piece and make sure they’re strong.
From the Fifth Ward to the lake house, you’ve come a long way.
I’m in the Texas Hamptons now. You know I have to do this man. I love land, I love water. This is how I keep myself balanced. I got to come out the hood every so often and keep my scale balanced.
Do you still have a ranch?
Yeah, yeah. I have a ranch. And that's a business that deals with black angus cattle. More so than the business for me, I like because of serenity purposes. I'm big on serenity places. Actually I'm just closing on an island in Belize. So I have another serenity spot outside the US to go and be creative.
You said the whole island?
Yeah, it's an island. It's called the Prince Island.
Wow. I guess if you own the island you call it whatever you want.
M-hm. I got to have access to a lot of different things. It elevates my mind, man. I think God speak to me when I come out here.
What’s the last thing He told you?
[Laughs.] Let me think of the last thing. Well—I thought about saying something, but... Here it is: A lot of people say they love money, right? I tell people I don’t love money. But I like it so much till it’s hard to tell the difference. [Laughs.]
Well you would always do more for love...
Yeah, most definitely. And here’s something else that He put on my heart—and that’s to give back to your community. I can’t understand these brothers that make it, and they know they can run like they can run, they can shoot like they can shoot, they can play like they can play because of all these guys they played with in the hood. You know what I’m saying?
That competitiveness that they had in the hood is what shape and mold them and make them what they are. They know where they come from but through selfishness they disown the hood. And for them to disown where they come from to me is a major slap in the face. So that’s a message from God.
What are some of the things you can point to that you’ve done to give back?
I know you built a boxing gym.
Yeah but it’s deeper than that. I built a lot of things in the community. I contribute to a lot of things in the community. But what’s more important that that to me is the wisdom that I share in the commmunity. Because at the end of the day that’s more imporant than money and gold and silver and rubies and all of that. You can feed a man a fish or you can teach him how to fish. When I give wisdom I feel like I’m teaching them to fish.
That comes back to your artists, like Trae, who’s running his own business.
Trae gonna get there too, cause he’s got a work ethic that’s out of this world. In the hood they say “game recognize game” and I’m saying entrepreneurs recognize entrepreneurs.
That’s what made America great, right? It worked for the Bush family.
What about the Kennedys? Before the Bushes. Joe Kennedy was a hustler. I can’t knock it. He figured out a way to diversify his portfolio. And boy I love it. Working together works.
Speaking of diversifying, I’ve been seeing posters for Strapped condoms. What can you tell me about that?
First of all, Strapped is two things that I like to do. I like making money and I like giving back to my community. Of course you know we’re not condoning sex before marriage and all of that. But the reality is people gonna do things.
And with our race being the number one victimes of AIDS and HIV, I came up with this vision to stay strapped. I think I was looking at a condom and my pistol when I came up with the name. Stay strapped. Because the gun used to be the number-one killer. But now we gottta look out for the AIDS, the HIV, the teenage pregnancy and all of that. So I think it’s an excellent tool to contribute to the safe sex thing and to the hip-hop generatino. I wanna put it right in their face where they can relate to it. I hope that every artist athlete and everybody will come and contribute to this movement where Strapped is concerened, because we can make a major difference and save a lot of people’s lives.
And the life you save could be your own.
That’s heavy brother. That’s heavy right there.
What do you listen to when you’re relaxing at the ranch or just chilling on Prince Island?
[Laughs.] I do more talking and brainstorming than I do sitting listening to music these days. I don't really have to hear music, you know. Like when I'm at the ranch and places like that, I'd rather listen to the crickets and the frogs and the birds [Laughs.] and things like that. You know what I mean? Sounds of serenity. But I jam sometimes, I jam and tap into everything that's hot today to keep balanced. So I'm not out of sync, but it's not all day every day like it used to be.
Did you hear Watch the Throne?
Yeah. I definitely heard that album. I liked that album a lot.
How about Tha Carter IV ?
Yeah, I hadn't heard Wayne’s complete album but Wayne always hold his own, so I know he jamming.