Starlito and Don Trip released the first Step Brothers mixtape in 2011 to small but passionate critical acclaim. Both artists had grown modest underground followings. The former was a longtime Nashville rapper who'd built regional buzz and had become involved, for a time, with Cash Money records. The latter had a viral story song that went viral, attracting the attention of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine at Interscope.
Neither of these relationships would last. Despite receiving some high-profile attention from the press—'Lito, then known as All $tar, was written up in the New York Times, and Don Trip was put on XXL's Freshman cover in 2012—both have remained, by and large underground favorites.
Last week, Step Brothers 2 was released, and garnered more attention than their previous release. The album was bankrolled by an independent Step Brothers tour this past spring. "Probably 75% of the shows we put on ourselves," 'Lito explained. "Booked the venue, sold the tickets, promoted the show." Being independent isn't so much about an identity for the duo, as it is a financial reality of the era in which they work.
We spoke with Starlito and Don Trip about being the new face of the underground, independent hustle, the recording of Step Brothers 2, and what happened to Don's deal with Interscope.
As told to David Drake (@somanyshrimp)
Do you think the kind of music you make is undervalued right now, relative to how it used to be?
Starlito: Hell yeah. I think there's a wide open market for it.
Why do you think it's like that?
Don Trip: Because it’s honest music. And in order to make honest music, you have to the audacity to say, "Fuck you if you don’t like what I’m saying." Period. And a lot of people don’t really have that bone. That’s something you can’t grow, that’s something you’re born with. I think that goes everywhere, it’s not just music, it’s just how you are.
And two people I can speak on personally, Star and Kevin Gates. Those are two people that, no matter what, if he feels like saying it, he’s going to say it. And Gates is the same way. If he felt like saying it, he’s going to say it.
In that regard, I’m the same way. If I feel like saying it, it’s going to get said. And when it comes to the music, that’s pretty much how we take it. I can’t give you no other story than mine. Me giving you so and so’s story is watered down already, because it’s his story. I couldn’t tell it like he could tell it anyway.
Starlito: I think the lane is wide open, also, because so many people have achieved massive success doing the opposite. And I’m not taking away from no one else’s success story, but a lot of people have made names for themselves, established careers, made hits, made tons of money off lying, off giving half truths, off commercializing the whole hood experience, or giving some jaded perspective.
Everybody’s not rich. Everybody I know that had bricks, the majority of them are locked up. None of them are rapping. None of them are running around, fresh as hell, driving around foreign cars and shit. That’s not my reality.
That’s to say that some of that music isn't good, but when we pan across and show you the rest of the picture, I think it’s like, "Oh shit, what is this? What are they talking about?" You’re not going to get a “Leash on Life” from a whole host of other street rappers. You’re not going to get “Caesar and Brutus” from street rappers that talk about the same types of things.
I don’t think we talk about the drug trade nearly as much as a lot of rappers. But a song like “Caesar and Brutus” is about two dope boys—this is a dope boy song. The difference is we sprinkled that reality in, that’s about how a bitch that can undo that whole tie. Like everybody else’s song is, "I got this, I got this, we got this—"
We offer the ugly part of the picture. Because everything’s not cute. And we don’t have Lamborghinis, so I can’t—I hate to keep saying Lamborghinis, but the fact that I’m not rich in that regard and I don’t have all of this, I can’t speak about all of that. - Don Trip
Don Trip: We offer the ugly part of the picture. Because everything’s not cute. And we don’t have Lamborghinis, so I can’t—I hate to keep saying Lamborghinis, but the fact that I’m not rich in that regard and I don’t have all of this, I can’t speak about all of that. And really when it comes to music now, that’s pretty much how they approach it. They take the pretty element of what’s going on and give you that, but that’s not really what’s going on everywhere. That’s really not going on nowhere that I’ve ever been.
Starlito: The disconnect is finding the audience that would be the most receptive to it, so they gravitate toward what we’re doing. And I think the disconnect is that they’re not online. The people that our music would most closely appeal to aren’t searching for a download link, don't probably don’t have a clear understanding of how to get digital music.
So it’s a wide open lane, we just have to meet in the middle of that demand curve. We have to find that audience, because you have to filter through the noise that is just music everywhere. But we’re right there next to—our music is going to be right next to somebody who’s not making the same type of music or aesthetic.
Like Trip said, I don’t think we’re afraid to be ourselves, I don’t think our music cares at all for acceptance. I think our music will be accepted because of that. But we’re not seeking out a spin, we’re not seeking out a positive review, we’re not seeking out a certain type of fan. We’re not catering our music to just this demographic or that one.
Like we’re being ourselves and we’re already a part of this one particular demographic because of who we are or where we come from and we’re just trying to let the reality of that come to the surface. I think that is it’s own lane and it's underpopulated.
What was the process like for recording the new tape?
Don Trip: For this tape we took more of a thought-out approach. The first tape was done in three studio sessions. [This time] we didn’t want to go in and say "Hey, let’s do it in three sessions and call it an album." We wanted to work at our own pace, so to speak. Throughout the recording process, we’ve been on the road, together and separately.
So we were doing a lot. The traveling time had to weigh in, too. And for the most part, we booked the majority of our sessions to record this album out of town. When I say out of town, I mean out of Nashville, and out of Memphis. The first tape we recorded one session in Memphis, one in Nashville, and one in L.A.
Starlito: We finished the album and mastered it in L.A. It was just three sessions. This time, I say we started in April—this Spring we did an independent tour, Step Brothers Tour. Probably 75% of the shows we put on ourselves—booked the venue, sold the tickets, promoted the show. Don Trip and Starlito, not a staff. Literally an independent tour. That allowed us to finance the album. We scheduled sessions around our travel schedule. But the ultimate part of it was that we were traveling together.
It was super cool that we released Step Brothers on July 25th, 2011, and here we are this July, still performing songs from two years ago. It allowed us to really take in how much demand we have for a new project. For crowds of people to still be screaming word for word, the first one, it gave us the energy and put us in the right creative space to make a new one, because it’s tangible.
The people that our music would most closely appeal to aren’t searching for a download link, don't probably don’t have a clear understanding of how to get digital music. - Starlito
It’s one thing when people respond to it, it’s another thing to see it and actually feel it. That was the difference. The time before, we were just picking up on the good vibes we had working together. This time, it’s like okay we’re on to something, we need to do it right, we’re going to take our time, and also within taking our time we learned a lot from the business side of things, what you get from throwing your own tour, what you get from going to seven or eight different states together as friends.
A lot of these shows we were having to balance the books and throw a good show. Sometimes we were just getting booked and getting paid and pulling up. All of that just made for a better album. It made a more complete project, as Trip said: thought-out. We were able to outline where we were trying to go with the project, as opposed to just rapping, which is the easy part for us.
What do you guys see as the big hump for you to get to the next level?
Starlito: Awareness is the biggest hurdle. It feels worthwhile to be doing this interview, considering you got caught up to speed with my music from something similar, a sit-down interview [Ed. Note—he's referring to this article] where someone took the time to ask me some questions, get some insight into what I had going on. And that turns into a fan or someone that gravitates toward us. I had made 20 CDs before that interview. That CD was done, out and had been for a month. I sold thousands of copies of that CD that week. You know, hand to hand, from my website, just because there was an awareness for it.
Same way with this project—I released three CDs that year, but when this one came out, we had the three videos serviced, we had writeups from publications such as this, and before you know it it was like, ‘wow, who are these guys, what’s up with these guys?’ You are able to make the decision on whether or not you buy into it. I feel like our body of work will do the rest.
Don Trip: I mean it’s on the list, of course, of course. Radio would be vital. I think it helps a lot with records being in rotation. But that’s the thing. Even with radio, there’s more to it than just being on the radio. Cause if we just in mix shows, then that don’t really do nothing for us. But once it’s in rotation—and to get to that point in our music, that’s a whole other hurdle, that’s a whole other ball game. That’s not just awareness, that’s when politics comes in, as well as other variables. But I think that the radio is something that is very important. I think that if we can get radio, that will maximize what we’re doing.
Starlito: I think radio just adds to presence. The awareness is there, people know that you’re good. It’s like, what is your calling card? What do I have to do, as a regular fan, to create more of a stir? What can I say—"Don Trip and Starlito are the truth"? That may mean something as a reference. But: "Have you heard that 'Life' song on the radio, the one where they talk about this?" It substantiates what you’re doing. It makes it real. Because that is, for some people, the only place to get music. It creates a presence that accelerates the rest of it.
For the last three years I’ve prided myself on pushing my career off the fact that it’s people—it’s not politics, it’s not a system, it’s not something I’m programmed into or accepted—it’s people latching onto my music. - Starlito
Me personally, I hate to say it like this, but I don’t cater and I don’t concern myself with radio programming. For the last three years I’ve prided myself on pushing my career off the fact that it’s people—it’s not politics, it’s not a system, it’s not something I’m programmed into or accepted—it’s people latching onto my music. They’re finding it, they’re seeking it out, they’re crossing paths in a natural, organic way. And it’s growing. And it means so much more to me than to have a song with 400 spins or a song with up to 500 spins. Where, yeah, I may be noteworthy here or there, but the connection is a little bit thinner. I could go to the city and perform, they go nuts over this one song on the radio. But I like it way better going to the college, and they go nuts for every song on my last three mixtapes, and none of them are on the radio. Because they’re locked in to my artistry and not the song.
I don’t concern myself with it, but like Trip said, it’s definitely a plus. I wouldn’t shun it. If someone in that programming world said, "I want to take this song and take it here, or we’re going to add this song or come play our show," I’m with all that. I can’t get wrapped up in it. I did that. I’ve spent a lot of money chasing a hit, trying to turn a song into a hit as opposed to serving music and letting people choose hits for you.
How important is touring for you guys? Is touring the bulk of your income?
Starlito: Touring is the number-one income stream in commercial music these days, period. It’s not his number one income stream [points to Don Trip], so I guess he could tell you how it’s different. But for me, for the last two and a half years, touring has been the bulk of my income. Different people have different routes. There’s a million ways to eat within music. You gotta think—and this is just more insight—I was running with Yo Gotti from 2004 to 2011, the beginnings of 2011. I was in the company of an artist I watched—his blueprint was release a single, get shows for days, and when that single starts to tail off, you come with another one to stay afloat. And I watched this guy become a millionaire doing that.
Now true enough, I also watched him get three different record deals, so don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if he’s making music strictly to do shows. But that was definitely a part of his business model. And even that was part of what helped leverage those label situations, because it’s tangible. You can see it in black and white—a song is moving at this point, and so will the show price. The thing is, like I said, you can hit or miss with those songs. So that’s not going to be every artists’ formula. His situation, he’s fortunate enough to keep making those songs to keep him on the road. And in that way, shows will probably stay consistent as an income stream, if you’re writing. If you’re a writer and you’ve got money coming from here you may have publishing situations.
Like you said, now that I’ve got a couple distribution situations and I can actually put my music out for sale and maybe even see a profit off of that. Now I’m starting to balance out my income stream. I want to seek out more consistency on the touring front. In 2011 I did eleven shows in December, that’s the month of my birthday. I made like $60-70,000 in three weeks, you know on the road. But then there’s been two or three months where I’ve had no shows. Like 90 days making no money off of my number-one income stream. So that’s where it comes to like, "Alright how many units could I sell? How much do I have to spend on an album to sell it and see a return on it?" When you start letting your business model evolve and conform to what’s going on, you start seeing—I’ll put out an independent album for a profit and it does okay, but then the shows pick up. Or I get added to a 15 city tour.
It means a whole lot to me to, not to stay independent, like "I don’t need anybody," not to exclude anybody, but to stay an independent thinker, to stay a free thinker. - Starlito
And that’s what I’m trying to get to, working with agencies, doing more festival-type shows, and more traditional hip hop concerts. You know we play nightclubs. I’ve done a nightclub for $15,000 where it was hard to tell if anyone was even there for the rap part of it. You know what I’m saying? It’s my show, it’s a Starlito event, but just the same, I’ve done a free festival show where everybody was there for the raps.
Don Trip: By the same token, we’re men before we’re rappers. So of course, he’s got priorities, he’s got responsibilities as well as I do, so we can’t do it for the fun. We can’t put records out just because we love putting records out. Of course, at the end, there’s got to be some kind of incentive. It’s got to flourish some kind of way. I can say that we’ve become fortunate enough for us to have different avenues for it to actually work out. At this point, I can feel like I can speak for both of us, we’re at a point where we don’t need a major label to do anything. We do what we do, especially when it comes to finances. When it comes to finances, we take care of ourselves. You know, we don’t need that. And I think that’s one of the most important things about our craft. We get to create and just genuinely create. I’m not going into the studio and saying, "I’m going to make this record for the club." And he’s not going in to do the same thing. We go in and we work. If this is what pour out when I go in, then so be it.
What artists do you see doing what you’re doing on another level? The first one that occurs to me is Macklemore. LA Reid had even approached him and said that he'd distribute Macklemore's record for free if he'd just consider signing with them.
Starlito: I think it’s inspiring. To know that it’s possible to create your own line, to do your own stuff your own way, to do it yourself, and there’s no ceiling for it. But in terms of following, I think we just follow our own lead, not to sound cliche. It means a whole lot to me to, not to stay independent, like "I don’t need anybody," not to exclude anybody, but to stay an independent thinker, to stay a free thinker.
Don Trip: To stay in control.
Starlito: Yeah, definitely that. To maintain control over what we’re doing. I’ve been relatively sheltered, as far as other artists’ situations. Like the Macklemore thing is relevant to me because like I watch the NBA All Star game, and his song is like the theme song for it and his videos are popping up everywhere and he performs at events. Things like that—where music crosses paths with my lifestyle, things that I enjoy—especially rap music—slaps me in the face. I start paying more and more attention.
Like Wiz Khalifa, when he had his rise with Kush and Orange Juice, that was a situation where I was forced to pay attention. Because in one way it seemed like it came out of nowhere, and in another way—I study trends, I study statistics, I pay attention to things really close. So when I’m seeing 50-something city tours, 60-70 city tours and shit, I’m having to figure out like—what is he doing to go to 60-70 cities without being on the radio? Same as what I was saying with Macklemore. Those kinds of things let me know, "hey this is possible." I may be able to do this the way I wanted to and not have to conform to things being so systematic.
Don—What was the transition like coming from Interscope going back to being independent?
Don Trip: The basis of the Interscope deal was with Epidemic/Interscope, so it was more than just Interscope involved. It was more than two parties. It was a three-party situation. And actually it had become a five-party situation. But just saying that I’m sure you understand how that got a little difficult. I learned a lot, being involved with the major labels just because I got involved. I study what’s going on, and I learn new things everyday. And being with a major label, there was a lot I didn’t know. There was a lot I already knew, but there was much more that I had no clue about. I learned a lot from it. I can’t say it’s the same as being independent, but I think it’s better for me because I have the control. And there's not so many people in it that don’t belong in it. Not doing no fingerpointing, none of that. But I think for the most part, the fact that I have control of what’s going on. If it fails it’s my fault, if it succeeds it’s my fault. I feel like having that burden is the best for me. Other than that I think it was a great opportunity. I think any situation with a major label is a great opportunity if it’s structured in the right way. With that one it was just unfortunate that—it didn’t work out for either party.
Did you guys have rap star dreams as a kid? What was the moment that you realized that recording music might not be like the fantasy you had in mind when you were younger?
Don Trip: As a kid, you know, I grew up watching Cash Money. To become a rapper, you have Ferraris and Bentleys. But shortly after my later teenage years, it was time to provide. So I learned early on that being involved in the music business wasn’t going to guarantee me four Ferraris, for the most part. I just wanted to get to a point where I could provide for my family and not need it. For the most part, that’s what I did. I sought out to do that. And even now I’m seeking to do that even further and to become a bigger artist, and of course make money on a bigger scale. And for the most part, I’ve become a larger artist. Even when the money does come and I can buy 19 Ferraris—I think for the most part, everything that’s happened to me now and the fact that it’s happened at 28 and not at 19, I think that’s a great thing for me and my family. The fact that I didn’t get the opportunity to blow $40 million when I was 19.
So being the age that I am now, and having a family and kids I have to provide for, I think that gives me a better mindframe when going further with this. And for the sake of not even wanting those things. Like when I wake up I’m not saying, "Hey, I want the Ferrari that Rick Ross got." I’m waking up thinking that when I’m 75, my kids are still straight. With that, I think that’s the best aspect of growing up and actually seeing success while you’re growing. I think it makes for better finances for the most part. Because we know a lot of people who got it when they were young, and they don’t have it right now.
Starlito: I can remember the first time I recorded myself—or the first time I went to a recording studio—and I wasn’t that good of a rapper, and I was just making beats. And strangely, I got invited to get on the song. And after I delivered a verse, there was no thrill like people telling me it was good. Even if I didn’t feel like that, I was probably even then, just like now, extremely critical of myself. But being able to go play that for somebody else, riding around and calling myself like, "This is me on this CD." That thrill, the rush of that, that original feeling is still the feeling I get today.
We were riding earlier, stuck in traffic, and I started playing my Fried Turkey album, because I’m finished with it and I’m proud of it for being finished. I’m sharing it with people whose opinions are valuable to me. And the first time I got paid to rap was just the same. I hadn’t had shit out, I had no CD out. I was the guy that could rap real good at Tennessee State University. I had no music out in like, "here’s my CD" kind of thing, but people knew I could rap real good. Rapping out loud for whoever would listen, or I had little demo type CDs. And somebody paid me $500 to get on their song, it was 2003 or something. I’d do a whole lot of other stuff to make money at the time. So like, the fact that this $500 is pure profit? I don’t have to do anything but pull up to the studio and rap on the song? I was like, "Oh shit, I wanna do this.I want to put out my music for people to hear it and enjoy it. I want to get paid from this."
These were landmark moments. I’m in New Orleans at Birdman’s house, and Lil Wayne’s upstairs recording and it’s like, "Okay, I’m a whole lot closer than where I used to be to where this tangible success is." In the same way, like hearing Trip express how he’s grateful that he’s reaching and achieving what he’s doing now at 28 and not 19. Strange thing is, and one of the things that makes our situation work, is that I was doing that shit when I was 19. You know what I’m saying? Like we’re the same age. We grew up different places, but experienced probably similar things at similar times, and I was 19 doing what I did today, jumping on and off planes, having people like court me as an artist, wanting me to sign with their record labels.
Cause at 19 or 20, a lump sum would probably breed complacency more than drive. You get a lot of money at one time, it’s like okay this is the way it’s supposed to be, it’s going to keep coming. - Starlito
I got a decent sized check to rap when I turned 20. But I didn’t really have the wherewithal to know what to do with it. I got a check to rap and all I could think about was what to spend the money on. On a personal level, if I had had the insight that I do now, I would have multiplied it by ten, just because of where the game was then. Or I would have never got the check to begin with. Cause at 19 or 20, a lump sum would probably breed complacency more than drive. You get a lot of money at one time, it’s like okay this is the way it’s supposed to be, it’s going to keep coming.
I’ve got a different appreciation. I’ve got a check right now for Cold Turkey that I refuse to touch until I put out my next solo album. This is discipline. Yesterday that shit would’ve been gone twice. You know what I’m saying? Those were the moments that stick with me and I have to remind myself of that. Even now in the space that we’re in, I have to approach this shit like nobody’s heard of me. Like I have no audience, there’s no awareness, there’s no presence. That’s the only way I stand out is to have that same edge about myself because that’s what made people reach out to me at 19 and 20. I was like, "Fuck it, I’m putting out another CD. It’s going to be better than my last one." And I’m going to go further in trying to sell it. Because back then, I had a backpack or a trunk and we’d load up the van and go where people were going to be. Now it’s the internet. Now I have to figure out ways to make our 5x5 CD cover stand out above yours.
How competitive are you guys on Step Brothers 2? Who won?
Don Trip: I think that’s what makes our records as great as they are.
Starlito: The competition—I’m sure he’s going to bring it. So the competitive energy is that I cannot sell myself short. I cannot sell myself short because I’m gonna get killed.
Don Trip: It goes both ways. It’s the exact same thing. When we go in the studio, I get asked the question a lot: do we hear each other’s verses before we record? And we don’t. If he came up with the idea first, and it’s an idea we can both agree on and correlate with, then he goes in to record. And while he’s recording, I’m working on what I’m working on. So by the time he comes out, I’ve got something for him. Even the “Leash on Life” song took forever. Not because it took forever to write it. But when I heard the “Leash on Life” record, the only thing that was on it at first was Lito’s verse. So when I heard his verse, that put me in the space of where I thought I needed to go with it. Because even with that record—we had a rapper vs. rapper kind of competition with that record. He gave you the perfect story. How can I give you a second story that’s the perfect story? It’s almost impossible to do it without keeping in mind that he actually is great at his craft as well.
So I couldn’t go in there and do the dah dah dah dah dah dah. I couldn’t just go in there and do the simplest thing. Of course, I got my fan base, he’s got his fan base. The fan base is going to be biased no matter what. There’s going to be people who say I’m better than him and vice versa. The way I look at it, if anything, he’s equal to me when it comes to doing what we do. Because when I go in the studio with him, he’s not in there just chilling. He’s in there trying to work too. Even when we’re not paying for studio time, even when we’re in our own studios, we go in as if every second counts, as if we’re paying for every second in there.
For Kendrick Lamar to push me competitively, is just the same, reminding me that I can make an album that tells my story and represents my region. - Starlito
And that makes me appreciate our music more. And that’s why, of all the artists I’ve ever worked with, I’ve worked with him the most. Even outside of our Step Brothers projects, we might have enough records together to do two extra Step Brothers without going back in the studio. That’s just how we work. But I think that comes from us being competitive with each other, not in a personal sense. I know he goes in and he’s going to give it his all, so I have to give my all, period.
Starlito: The people I’m most driven by competitively are the same people that inspire me directly. So even if there were an artist I didn’t know—for Kendrick Lamar to push me competitively, is just the same, reminding me that I can make an album that tells my story and represents my region. I can redefine the times for my area because I just watched him do that. It’s not like I got to sell this many, I got to get this look or that look. It just reminds you that it’s possible. Rather than trying to compete and keep up, I think that’s what people would take out of the competition. It’s like, ‘just give me something to strive for.’
We were talking about OJ Mayo and Michael Jordan, talking trash at a basketball camp, like nowhere in OJ Mayo’s mind should he have felt like he could fuck with Jordan, but where are you in your game if you don’t feel like that? If you don’t push yourself, like, "I’m just as good as that guy." That’s natural. But it’s more knowing what we’re trying to get out of this shit. I think we’re probably most competitively driven by each other. Because the harder I push him, the harder I push myself, the further we’re both going to go. So just the same, I think we demand excellence from one another by default.
What was the first rap tape you ever bought as a kid? Mine was by Kris Kross, ha.
Don Trip: When I was younger, my mom’s boyfriend was a bootlegger. So I got all the tapes, of course, you know before they came out. I didn’t buy any of them. I think the first cassette tape I acquired was NWA. I don’t remember which exact album it was, but it was the first time I heard somebody cuss and shoot so many times and it was thrilling. "I fucks with this. I think I’m gonna rock with this." And after that of course, you know more and more genres of music. And Kris Kross. It was an awkward blend to put Kris Kross and NWA together, but you got to keep in mind I was like, what, seven or eight or some shit. And Kris Kross—that’s what gave me the admiration of wanting to be a rapper, because I saw kids do it. This is 20 years later, but you know. That’s what instilled it in me. I saw kids doing it. I wanted to be a rapper right then. So I had been doing it since then. And really, like I said, the NWA tape was really—I guess that’s the reason I cuss now.
Starlito: I can’t remember the first tape or the first thing that I owned, but I remember getting in trouble for trying to scratch a Kool Mo Dee record. Probably from my uncle or somebody like that. I’m sure I was listening to NWA and all of that, but the first tapes that I can remember being a fan of were The Chronic and the Menace II Society soundtrack. If it wasn’t my tape, it might as well have been mine, because that’s what I prefered to listen to. The strangest part about it is that artistry made sense to me. I was a child, but the things that they were talking about was my reality. Or it was the people I was growing up amongst, raising me. First of all, my mom was 19 when she had me, so like when stuff like that hit, it was what she was listening to. Menace II Society and Boyz in the Hood, all of those movies, none of that shit was hidden from me, because that’s what was going on outside.
So hearing those projects—like, The Chronic, even looking back, that shit was just put together really really well. The skits were nowhere near age appropriate for me, but in terms of how it felt, in terms of the sound of it—it was just a feeling. The thing about Menace II Society soundtrack is that is introduced me to artists from UGK to Spice-1, E-40 might have been on there. I consider that one of the my first times falling in love with rap and gangsta rap especially. Even though it was West Coast-themed, it wasn’t just limited to that. It was about culture, it was about lifestyle. And these cats in Texas were living just like these cats in California. You know, like you said, Kris Kross, you know—cause I was a fan of Kriss Kross too, obviously. Seeing kids do it made me feel like I could do this too.
One of the things that I was always drawn to was people telling their story. Like even if your story ain’t the good story, it’s like, I can make this shit rhyme, I can make this shit real to you, even if it’s not where you live. That was always my rap. That’s the way I always thought rap should be. So when the tide started changing, as a fan of the culture you just rock with it. Even to now, I like my music because it’s somebody’s story. It’s not just music to sell. It doesn’t just have commercial integrity to it—it means something to somebody. And that’s what I get, that’s what I get from my audience.