Thanks to a roster that has included the Geto Boys, Scarface, and Devin The Dude, it was almost impossible not to be influenced by James "J. Prince" Smith's Rap-A-Lot Records if you grew up listening to rap in the South. The Houston native started the label in 1986, and has released more than 100 albums since, including all the classics we counted down in our latest feature, The 25 Greatest Rap-A-Lot Songs Of All Time. With J. Prince getting honored at this year's Hip Hop Honors, we got the current King of the South, T.I., to talk about the Rap-A-Lot legacy and his first memories of the Geto Boys...
As Told to Toshitaka Kondo
"My first memory of [Rap-A-Lot] was hearing the Geto Boys' 'Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me.' People everywhere were bumping that. Scarface, too. I was on Mr. Scarface Is Back, the first one. [J. Prince and I] see each other. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration. The first time I met him face-to-face, oddly enough, is when I got into the situation with [Lil Flip] out in Houston. He went through the troubles and the extremes of trying to sit us down to squash it. I might have spoke to him on the phone before that, but that was definitely the most memorable. It was right after the day I showed up in Cloverland.
"[With Scarface] I just reached out and told him how much I respected his legacy and his ability [when I was making Down With The King.] After that I did [a song with] him that wasn't released, and he did one with me, him, and Keri Hilson for T.I. vs. Tip. I actually met Bun when I was working on my first album, I'm Serious. He was on the remix for [Killer Mike's] 'Re-akshon' with me. After that, we got cool. Then we did '3 Kings' and 'Front Back.' That was a really special record, to have a UGK feature and re-make a UGK record, and they gave me their blessings. Down South, UGK was to us, if not Run-DMC, definitely EPMD. Geto Boys was equivalent to N.W.A.
"In Texas, [Rap-A-Lot] is the best to do it. J. Prince showed niggas how to run companies. What Master P did, he did first. What's I'm doing or Baby and Slim, that model came from J. Prince and Rap-A-Lot. It's just a matter having your own company, running your own shit, cutting your own checks, counting your own money, and being your own boss."