Cormega visited you in prison, among others in that brotherhood of Queensbridge artists. How often are you in contact with him, IM3, Noyd, Littles, N.O.R.E., Tragedy and all of those guys who grew up with you?
I mean, we older now, so everybody doing they own thing, have they own life, so we not in communication that much. But obviously, I see IM3 and Noyd and my side of the team that’s directly involved with me. I see them a lot cause we’ve got a lot of things that we’ve got to take care of all the time, video shoots. But as far as people that’s not directly involved with the inner circle, like N.O.R.E. or Trag or some other people, I might not see them for years. Years might pass.
What’s your relationship like with them when you do talk?
I was just talking to Mega the other day. He did Rock the Bells with me. We definitely see each other, kick it, re-hash old times, whatever, whatever.
You put out your book My Infamous Life. Everyone has dissected that thing, read through all the flashy stories, the surprising stuff, the negative stuff. I liked how you added a lot of things in there about those core people that have always been around you, and you were honest about their bad sides, and yours as well, to an extent. What was that ultimate goal of the book?
The ultimate goal of the book was to share my life with my fans, and with young troubled youth in the street globally, around the world. Because I knew that my story will be one where a kid that doesn’t read will pick up my book and read it. A kid that never read a book in his life will pick up my book and read it because he feels like he can relate to that shit. Maybe he been through the struggle, he been through the street shit, like he's going through some poverty situations or health situations or just hard times, however it is. And he can find his story within my life, something that he can relate to, in my story. Do you know how many parents came up to me and said, "My son’s never read nothing," and my book was the first one they ever read and it helped change they life, as far as decision-making and choices they make with friends, and things they do in the street and health and diet and career decisions and all kinds of shit?
My ultimate goal was to share my life story with my fans and to share with the rest of the world that hopefully they can get the help, or help some kid that’s in trouble like I used to be. I was a f**ked up individual. I was a f**ked up person. That was the whole reason I wrote that book.
So my ultimate goal was to share my life story with my fans and to share with the rest of the world that hopefully they can get the help, or help some kid that’s in trouble like I used to be. I was a fucked up individual. I was a fucked up person. That was the whole reason I wrote that book. I went through a major transformation in my life and people needed to see that and know that. The shit that I used to do was wrong. [Laughs.] You’re not supposed to do that type of shit, but it happens and that’s just the reality and it’s going to keep happening. But you know, my book may be able to help somebody make a right choice.
Instead of doing 25 years in prison, you read my book and decided not to pull the trigger. That’s how I see it. It’s a real story. I’m not making myself look good in the book. I talk about losing fights, getting beat up. I talk about getting robbed. I talk about my sickle cell health problems. I talk about pissing in the bed when I was young. I talk about all foul shit. So it’s not like I painted myself in some picture where I’m like this perfect, nothing ever happens to me, I’m the toughest guy in the world, or the realest rapper. That’s not what this book is. This book is very fucking real and there won’t be a lot of artists that’ll write a book like that because they’ll be too scared to tell people real shit, like what I told them. They be too scared to divulge their own personal dirt and their personal fuck-ups and mistakes, and they don’t wanna tell people that they got fear and they scared.
You know, you could get beat, too. Like rappers got this tough guy persona that they wanna fuckin’ put on and that’s all it is, like there’s nothing else to the story. I’ve read reviews about my book that said I tried to paint myself in a picture that says nothing happens to me like I’m the illest. Just bad reviews, and you can just tell that this person never read my book. If they did read it, they would see that that’s not true.
You started writing the book before prison and you released it after. Did you ever change your life outlook during the process?
Oh, hell yeah. I was a fucked up person before I went to jail. Like, I started changing a little bit before I went to jail. I started trying to change a little bit but jail is what really changed me permanently. Jail fixed my problem for real, because I don’t wanna go back in that motherfucker. I’m not trying to be sitting in a cell for three years losing out on hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tour money. I’m not trying to do that no more. So that shit taught me major lessons in life, when in prison. It taught me about patience. It taught me about being kind to people. It taught me about making the right choices. It taught me about being more social with people, a lot of things man, a lot of shit, good, positive shit I got out of being in jail. That was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life, getting locked up.
That’s ironic. Many would think that that’s a negative situation.
I went in with the intention of coming out with positive change. See, most people get locked up and they don’t go in with those intentions so it just doesn’t happen for them. I had the intentions already to make a positive change. That’s why it happened for me. I had a goal to reach. I went in and I reached my goal and I did it. Normally most people that get locked up, they don’t have no fucking goals, and they don’t have no good intentions, so they go in and come out worse than when they came in. Because jail will definitely toughen you up and harden you and make you a worse person if you let it. It will make you a very bitter, angry person.
Where are you at this point in your career as an artist and as a person?
I see the future. Like, I see 20 years from now. I’m not thinking about today’s money or tomorrow’s money, even though that’s important, of course you gotta pay the bills, but I’m really thinking about 10, 15, 20 years from now money and I’ve got long-term goals now.
You look at an artist like Tech N9ne, for example. Tech N9ne been out for years, many years. When he first came out, it was a time in hip-hop where his particular style of hip-hop music, it wasn’t really that popular. What was popular was what was on MTV, BET, the platinum, the diamonds, whoever got songs on the radio, the clubs, whatever was trendy, whatever people were feeling. He was still on the come-up, on his grind trying to make a name for himself. But it always seemed like he never got over that hump where he could be as popular as the other rappers, and it seemed like a lot of people probably laughed at him.
Like, who is this guy with the paint on his face? Who’s this guy doing all this crazy shit? I never heard of that shit, guy's wack. But he was consistent and he was being a shrewd businessman. He was diligent, he was consistent, and he kept going and he didn’t let nothing stop him, frustrate him, stagnate him, or nothing. He just kept going, kept going, kept going and finally you’re here in 2012 and he got one of the most successful independent underground labels. He does tours, makes a shitload of money, got a big ass compound, warehouse, manufacturing, awesome studio, all that, everything he need right now because he kept going, moving his little numbers, signing his little artists and doing his whole thing and staying independent and keeping focused on his goal.
So I say all of that because I admire that. I admire what he did. I admire that route that he took and that’s sort of what I am doing right now. It’s not the same thing at all but it’s definitely similar, because I’m seeing 20 years from now. H.N.I.C. 3 came out, it sold maybe about 10,000 copies right now. For an independent label with no promotional money into it at all, no videos on MTV, BET, no song on the radio at all, everything that I do for this label comes out of my pocket, my budget, I create the budget. I create my own budget and release schedule and all that so people might look at that and be like, “Ha, this nigga only sold 10,000. How much the other nigga sold? Oh, this nigga sold 200,000 copies first week. Oh, Prodigy’s washed up. His career is done.”
See, they got the wrong idea because they fail to realize that first of all, Prodigy knows how to be consistent and survive. So as long as Prodigy keeps doing what he’s doing in the next 10-15 years let’s see what happens then. Let’s see how many albums Prodigy got out and let’s add up all the sales of it at the end of the day. Let’s add up the whole catalog, let’s add up all the artists that he got and then let’s make this judgment of what that man did 'cause right now, this is nothing, this is just the beginning. If people could only see what I see in my head, the plans that I got for my label and myself they would understand and say, "Okay, I see what this nigga doing. That nigga smart as hell." It’s nothing short term about this shit at all.
You were on a major label back when you were with Loud, later with Jive for Amerikaz Nightmare and then with G-Unit and Interscope, but now you're gone independent so you've had experience with both. To you, what is that difference?
When I was on a major record company, I would sell 500,000 copies and put an album out every two years. Now I sell between 10,000 on a bad day, maybe 40,000 on a good day and maybe I’ll drop four albums a year instead of one album every two so it adds up to the same as selling gold. [Laughs.] If you sell an album every two years that sells 500,000 or you drop four or five albums every year that sell 40,000 copies independently, you do the math. That’s the only difference to me. It’s just a different structure. The math is just structured different but it adds up to the same and on a great day it can add up to way more, making way more money.
You mention putting your own money into this and the pride of not having people telling you what to do. Do you feel a better sense of accomplishment being an independent artist and doing things on your own?
Oh, yeah. I love it, man. It’s not like I’m forced to do this. I’m not forced to be in this position. When I came home from jail, do you know how many labels was courting Mobb Deep? I was like, "I’m not doing that no more, sorry." I’m sorry if you wanna see Prodigy on Def Jam selling whatever but I just can’t do that, I did that already. I was raised to own and operate my own business. That’s how my family raised me so it was hard for me to see, you know when we came up we made Loud $60 million in maybe like five years. We made them 60 million dollars and it was hard for me to digest that in my mind like, "What, we made who and where did this money go?" [Laughs.] That made no kind of sense to me after I figured that out 'cause you know we were like kids when we came into the game. We was like 15 or 16 and didn’t know any better really. We had to learn.
I don’t wear that suit. It don’t look good on me. That shit don’t fit my character so it was only right that I put my foot down and say, 'F**k this, I'm doing this shit independent. Whoever with me, with me. If you’re not with me, f**k off.'
So once I learned that we made these muthafuckas $60 million and like 99 percent of it or 95 percent of it did not go to us, I couldn’t do it anymore. It just didn’t sit right in my stomach, man. It was like each time we would make these deals, I would be pissed about it. I would still do my job, still go into the studio, do the album and make it dope, but I would be fucking pissed. Like, I’m doing all this hard work, busting my ass trying to come up with good lines, good bars, do the songs so these niggas can get rich and put they kids through college and they grandkids and shit. Like, fuck this shit, man. I’m on some other shit. I’m a leader. I’m not a follower. I’m a trendsetter. I’m not an employee. I’ve got a boss mentality. I’ve got a boss attitude. I’m very aggressive with certain shit so it’s like I’m not supposed to be in a position of a prostitute. That’s not me, dog. It just doesn’t fit.
I don’t wear that suit. It don’t look good on me. That shit don’t fit my character so it was only right that I put my foot down and say, "Fuck this, I'm doing this shit independent. Whoever with me, with me. If you’re not with me, fuck off."
As someone who's always been honest and spoken your mind, what's up with the other half of Mobb Deep? Where do you stand with Havoc?
All you got to do is look at what I’ve done while I was in jail. I put out two albums while I was locked up, I created a skateboard company called Blood Sport, I put a skateboard out, I created a sneaker deal with Supra, all this stuff while I was locked up. Then I get home and look what I’ve done.
You know, I’ve put the book out, I’ve put out projects with Complex, EPs, I just dropped an album. My work ethic doesn’t make sense. I’m going around to colleges, doing speaking engagements at UConn, at Penn State, and I’m talking to little kids about health and diet. I’m doing big speaking engagements where I’m talking to kids and doctors about health and just doing positive things so look at all the stuff I’m doing. I created a label, I found a distribution deal with Sony, got a nice label situation, dope distribution deal set up. I’m out here grinding, I’m doing great things and that’s all I got to say about that. Just look at what I’m doing and take it from there.
Do you feel like Havoc’s not on board with that at all?
I can’t even say. All I can say is what I’m doing. I’m all about Infamous. I’m all about the team. I’m a team player, not only a player, I’m a team leader and I lead this motherfucker. Somebody gotta lead it and that’s what I do. I’m in a leadership position. I got leadership qualities. Anybody can see that. I play my position and that’s what I do and that’s all I can speak on.