“Daughters��� was an emotional record. It hit me hard, just now. What made you so honest about it?
Well, this is the first time I’m dealing with a teenage daughter, and it blew me away. I don’t know that you’re ever prepared to be a parent. Once you become one, that’s your responsibility. It’s more like me talking to myself, about how I could have been there a lot more. I guess. I kind of beat up myself, in a lot of ways, for not being the best I could be. A lot of times, I would ask her: “Am I a cool dad?” or “Am I good dad? Am I OK? Did I fuck up?” And she would be like, “Nah, you’re good.”
She would tell me that, but it’s something that’s really important to me: just being the right parent. That’s important to me, because I started as a teen. I was a teenage parent. I was around 19, when her mother was pregnant, and probably 19, maybe 20 when she was born.
How can I be mad, when I still have something else to say and the opportunity to make music? That alone...That’s why my Life Is Good.
What’s interesting about “The World Is Yours”—and she wasn’t pregnant when I wrote the words—"Thinking of words best describing my life, to name my daughter/My strength, my son, the star, will be my resurrection." I couldn’t control what I had.
Right now, they have all kinds of drugs to alter the gender of your baby, but I never had that. For me to say this in my music, before it happened, it really blew me away. So all these things are segues back to what the most high laid out, before we were born. She means a lot to me, man. It’s just a record that came from the heart.
You talked a little bit about regrets, and looking back. I always wondered, do you feel like you got punished for surviving, on some level? Like, Big and Pac have this untouchable thing now, and as you and, say, Jay, get older, there’s a lot more hate on your image and on your legacy, in a sense, because you’re still here. I always wondered how you felt about the expectations after Illmatic, and your life as an artist.
My thing now is that, I think I’m really blessed to be here and that I can go into the studio and record another album. If someone has a problem with how I’m doing my thing, how I’m living my life, how they see a legacy of mine going down, that’s none of my business. They’re free to have that. How can I be mad, when I still have something else to say and the opportunity to make music? That alone...That’s why my life is good.
So do you ignore the internet?
What do you mean?
What’s your relationship with the blogs, the commentary, Twitter?
I hear people get mad at things that people say, and I don’t really get that. If I was on Twitter, talking about an artist, than that’s just what it is. I don’t understand how artists get pissed off at people on Twitter. Me, I’m someone who appreciates a good joke. I grew up, we joke. I think people should do what they do.
I mean, who are you? Not to say that people should have the toughest skin, and nothing bothers them, but how do you really...? Maybe it’s just my age. Maybe I just don’t get it. I love anything someone’s saying, because if someone took the time to think about what I’m doing, I’m in awe of that—still. Even if it’s negative, man, because they’re talking about me. That to me is amazing. I mean that.
Even now, 10 albums later?
Well, the thing is also that I know who I am. I know what I’ve survived, and I know what I’ve done, and I know that shit wasn’t easy. So for someone, who doesn’t know anything about that, to make a comment on it, you can’t be mad at them.
I don’t understand how artists get pissed off at people on Twitter. Me, I’m someone who appreciates a good joke. I grew up, we joke. I think people should do what they do.
You shrug it off.
Of course, they don’t know any better. They’re supposed to say those things.
Talk to me about how you were initiated into hip-hop. When did it go from something fun to something very serious? I remember when I first heard “My Melody,” for example, my world shifted. And it wasn’t just music to memorize or have fun on the bus with. It turned into something that was of value to me, on a deep, kind of spiritual level. I can think of certain basement parties, where I felt initiated into a secret knowledge, almost. Do you have those moments?
For myself as a fan?
Yeah. I guess it was 92 KTU, jams in the park, DJ Hot Day, the Orr brothers, who lived in my building. They would build speakers so big they couldn’t even bring them outside their apartment, so they would just blast it. The whole building would be rumbling, from inside the apartment. Different people, man.
Different people. Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, Run-DMC, the “Rock Box” video, and of course, MC Shan. MC Shan was everything to me. “Marley Marl Scratch,” all of that shit, “Beat Biter,” of course “The Bridge,” the anthem. Marley Marl and MC Shan were probably the hugest influences for me in hip-hop.
Rakim shows up a lot, in terms of influence. In a weird way, Slick Rick.
What was special about them for you? Kool G. Rap, Rakim and Slick Rick.
They were the illest. They were just the illest. I think when I heard Rakim say, “Marley Marl synthesized it.” that let us know that we were listening to QB music. Me being from QB, and him mentioning Marley Marl, and Marley Marl having something to do with his first record, to us, we felt like we owned it. “Eric B. Is President,” we felt like we made up the wop in Queensbridge, because the record was recorded there. When MC Shan said, “This is a place where stars are born,” it didn’t just mean people from the neighborhood. People would come to Queensbridge, because of Marley Marl, to start their thing off.
Hip-hop music was educating America, and Rakim adding seven-times-seven-times-three was such a big deal. It showed you how his mind worked. It showed you the intelligent side. That appealed to me.
And you listen when Rakim said, “You take seven emcees and put them in a line.”...The human race has developed nicely over the years, but in the ‘80s, there was a lot the human race was ignorant about, and that was multiplication, STD’s, so on and so on.
Hip-hop music was educating America, and Rakim adding seven-times-seven-times-three was such a big deal. It showed you how his mind worked. It showed you the intelligent side. That appealed to me. With Kool G. Rap, his wordplay was the most incredible thing I’d ever heard in my life. Slick Rick was Dr. Seuss meets Sherlock Holmes meets the Bronx.