Do you really think we wait until artists are hyped to cover them and over-criticize them at times?
Fact. I mean I didn’t know y’all covered me. When I came into the game Complex jumped on my dick. I didn’t ask Complex to cover me. I was selling my music out my trunk on Crenshaw and Slauson, and Complex asked me can they get an interview. I didn’t ask them to write about me. I didn’t invite them into my world. I ain’t never need ’em. But I granted them access. So I let them have some cachet value. 'Cause the streets was fucking with me.
Like I said, we reached out to you earlier in your career. We gave A$AP Rocky his first cover. We gave Chance the Rapper his first cover.
It’s different, bro. I’m not them niggas at all. And it’s no disrespect to Chance or A$AP, but I’m different. You can’t compare me to A$AP Rocky or Chance the Rapper. No disrespect, I’m different. Go ahead though.
Let’s get into the Crenshaw tape. You have a lot of dope beats on there. Tell us the process you went through in putting that together.
I’m not really into talking about it. It’s on www.iamproud2pay.com. It’s $100. Whatever you need to know is out there already. If niggas ain’t aware of it, it’s not for them. If the magazine ain’t up on it, it ain’t for them. They could put their ear to the street and they can get it from the people. It’s the first hundred-dollar album in the history of recorded music. That’s it. I ain’t really tripping off Complex’s opinion.
My truth is gonna be what they connect to. I touch people when I go to my shows. I see my lyrics tattooed on them. But I’m not a fame junkie. I’m not into trading ownership of the only asset I have, which is my intellectual property.
Well, I listened to the tape a couple times. I just want to talk about it a little bit. You don’t want to talk about the tape?
Go through every album, every song and then point out one lie. And then go through these other artists, whether you like them or not—who you consider my competition and whatnot—and go through their albums and compare record to record, line for line, from what the culture is, what hip-hop is, and my shit better than these niggas’ shit. You can quote me on that. Period. My shit realer. My shit ain’t got no lies in it. My story’s real. I ain’t supposed to be here. You can quote that. I’m supposed to be on the level with my homeboy Little Shady Blue. That’s where I’m supposed to be. By me standing here, and having an international audience for what I got to say—salute that. And you can quote me on that. Again, that ain’t no disrespect to you. I understand through your emails you’re probably a nigga like me so you probably understand where I’m coming from.
That’s why I wanna talk, just getting into the tape a little bit. Where did you come up with that idea? Were you worried that it wasn’t going to work?
No, I knew it was gonna work because I saw the stats on my website. I know that people in New Zealand spend $600 with me a month. I see that I’m shipping out a package that costs $400: a hat and T-shirt, mixtapes, a beanie, I see that. I got people in Toronto that spend $500. I see that. My fans are engaged to that level.
I’ve been fucking with you for a while and I realized early on that you resonated with people. You kind of have a cult following. Why do you think you resonate with people so much?
Because I’m real my nigga. My story is real. There ain’t no rap niggas in the game like me at all. Especially from my generation. There ain’t no nigga that stood up to what I stood up to. Went through what I went through. Thought how I thought. Didn’t give up. Stayed down, stayed in the shit. Built for his community. Stayed local and inspired his area. Came from a treacherous area like the Rolling 60's. Went toe to toe and head up with killers. There ain’t no nigga in the game like me. So that’s what they’re connecting to and the fact that I express my truth via my music. I don’t need a Dr. Dre beat. My truth is gonna be what they connect to. I touch people when I go to my shows. I see my lyrics tattooed on them. But I’m not a fame junkie. I’m not into trading ownership of the only asset I have, which is my intellectual property. I’m not into trading that so people will understand why I’m the realest thing in this shit.
You do a lot of records with Dom Kennedy. Did he have any influence on you in terms of how to make moves in this business?
You could say that.
Curren$y too. Those are guys that stayed independent and are making money and being successful.
I got respect for Curren$y, that’s my nigga. I got love and respect for Dom. I’m influenced by real niggas that’s doing real things. My strategy and my campaign is understood by the generation and the era we live in. Why would a nigga sign to a major label and give up the only thing you have? They be famous, but they don’t own shit. Once the marketing money wears off and you ain’t getting no check, and your single ain’t being marketed to radio no more? You don’t got nobody who really cares for you, or really loves you, or really connects to what you’re saying. So it’s over. I was on a major label with a lot of these niggas. I’ve seen niggas with No. 1 hits come and go. You feel what I’m saying? I’m still here my nigga.
It was a big co-sign when Jay Z bought a bunch of your CDs. How did that make you feel?
I respect a real nigga making a real nigga move. I wasn’t even gonna say nothing about it. The stories started getting out and people started acting like niggas was lying about it; so I confirmed it. I’m in it for doing what God put me here to do. That’s my job. I ain’t tripping on no co-sign. I respect Jay to the utmost, he’s a real nigga. I respect all real niggas. Fuck rappers. Fuck magazines. I respect the move. That ain’t why I did it and I don’t think it was successful because an artist of that caliber bought into it. I think that Jay understands the truth and he understands life like I probably understand life. In 2013, niggas is fools for signing with other rappers. Niggas is fucking clowns for signing these 360 deals. You can quote me on that. As a fan of hip-hop I want you to point to an artist that represents what I represent in the game right now. It ain’t got nothing to do with the move that just happened. I’m saying in general. I represent a real nigga that came from a real place that runs his own situation.
Have any other rappers hit you up saying, “Damn, I wish I thought about this?”
Yeah, a couple of my niggas that I fuck with and respect are like, “I’m with you. I wanna sit down with you and I wanna campaign how you campaign. I wanna get in on this 'Fuck the Middleman,' 'I Am Proud to Pay Shit' too.” And I’m like, “Let’s do it my nigga.” I salute it because this industry ain’t built for us to win. This industry built for niggas to be broke at the end of their careers. The Internet changed it. Before they put a nigga on an “Underachieving” list, let’s look at the metrics. Let’s look at the real mechanisms of gauging an artist’s impact on culture. Because if you’re telling me that all y’all gauging is Soundscan and Billboard, we don’t need y’all. Y’all getting an eviction notice. Complex outta here. We cooled on y’all because everything’s gotta go. Y’all the middleman, fuck y’all. What I’m really offended about is that Complex acted like I don’t remember. They emailed me like, “I’m a big fan, I fuck with y’all, let’s get an interview.”
But that was me though.
It was on behalf of Complex. They’re using you like these labels use these rappers. Listen to me real quick. Labels put rappers in front of their company to attract other rappers. Look at every label my nigga. Warner Bros. got their artists that they signed urban shit through. Atlantic got their artists they sign urban shit through. Def Jam got their artists they sign urban shit through. And one artist that say, “This is my nigga. I’m gonna let my nigga eat.” Then all the other niggas gotta sign through him. That’s the business model of these major labels. Niggas too stupid. Niggas is too reliant, getting caught up in the ambition of the artist to understand that this shit is disrespectful. If you’re a black man, if you’re a nigga from the struggle, you should be offended by that.
I know Kendrick deserves everything he’s got because he works for it. And that’s how I feel about it. I know that he raps what I rap. And the bigger he gets, the bigger this category that I’m in gets.
Niggas should ride with me. Niggas should have no other opinion about it. And it’s offensive. Or they’re not paying attention. If they’re not paying attention I’m here to wake them up. I’m here to tell them. I’ve been to every major label my nigga. Who does Interscope have? Dr. Dre. You wanna come to Interscope? Sign with Dre. What you think Warner Bros. and Atlantic got? They got niggas that they like and say to them, “We’ll let you get your money but every deal’s gotta come through you.” What you think Def Jam’s doing? Look at every artist they got on the platform recently. The labels are upset about it like, “Damn, we gotta deal with another nigga with some power now. Damn, another one slipped through.”
People were saying, “Why am I gonna pay $100 when I could just download it for free? Y’all stupid for paying $100 for it.” How do you feel about that?
We can criticize a street nigga, but we can’t be aware of the mindfuck that’s going on with these corporations and these motherfuckin’ giants. It’s a problem that Nip still values his product at $100—I get backlash from our culture. From the niggas that look like me. Most of these niggas rap for their damn selves. But when niggas go into the mall and buy $600 iPhones—and everybody’s got an iPhone—and stand in line for $1,000 shoes, and pay $5 a gallon for gas. That’s why I’m mad. That’s my objective and niggas gotta wake up. It’s a misinformed critique.
You were planning to drop Victory Lap first, right? So now that’s gonna be an album instead?
Yeah. I’ma tell you about that. I was in negotiations with a few major labels and we were almost close to a deal. So I started promoting Victory Lap as a mixtape before my album, because I was gonna drop Victory Lap, announce my deal, and go into the album; but I realized that the structure of these companies aren’t built to give me any type of ownership. They wanna give you a check. I told them keep the check, give me an asset and just market and distribute my shit. I don’t need a check. They wanted to give me all this money up front but I’m like, keep the money. Let me be involved as a partner. And niggas couldn’t do that. And it’s not because the people at the label didn’t want to help me. It’s because the corporate structure of their companies would not allow ownership. And I’m offended by that. I called an audible and I withstood social pressure. I believed in my heart that I would be less of a man to not stand up for what I believed in. I felt like it was racist. Like, I don’t deserve some shit I just built by myself? You want to give me some money? Oh, because you don’t think I know what the asset is? You think I don’t understand where the real value is? Well I’m offended by that and my goal changed. I didn’t do a press release or tell nobody about it. I just let my demonstration speak. And now they’ve seen the first part of it with the Crenshaw shit. That’s just a small piece of what my plan is.
When can we expect Victory Lap?
It’ll be the next project I release. The first single is ready, it’s called “Rap Niggas.” That’s coming soon. That’s really the most concrete information I have right now. I don’t wanna give out information that the fans hold onto, and get let down. So I’ma leave it at that. Completely independent and it’ll be under the Fuck the Middleman pay model.
I just want to get your opinion. Kendrick’s at the forefront right now, repping the West. What were your thoughts when you first heard the “Control” verse?
I’m a fan of Kendrick as a person and as an artist, and I respect the Top Dawg movement. I know them niggas, I know they come from the projects. I know we were on tour together and we were beating shit up in the club together. I know that they are genuine niggas. I know Kendrick deserves everything he’s got because he works for it. And that’s how I feel about it. I know that he raps what I rap. And the bigger he gets, the bigger this category that I’m in gets. And I salute and I respect it as a real nigga.