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Happy early birthday Nas! Tomorrow the Queensbridge legend turns 40. We've been celebrating all week with all of our Nas week content. We're sure Nas will get a ton of gifts for his birthday, so we figured we'd give his loyal fans a gift: We dug through our archives and found our classic Shotcaller interview with Nas from our December 2006/January 2007 issue (which had Lil Wayne and Travis Barker on the cover and featured a classic Lil Wayne interview). Below, you can read an uncut, raw 7000-plus word interview with the one and only Nasty Nas.

The interview took place right after Nas had signed to Def Jam but before the release of Hip Hop Is Dead. In the interview, Nas talked about how he was offered the presidency of Atlantic Records but passed, why he always fell out with artists he tried to put on, and what it was like recording "Black Republicans" with Jay Z...

Interview by Toshitaka Kondo (@ToshitakaKondo)

With you over at Def Jam now, what’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed since you been there?
Everything is on the up and up. You know Sony is a beast, [it's] a big giant huge company and their front shit ain’t rap music. Def Jam is more hands on hip-hop, its a lot more on the up and up, a lot more real if you will.

This year obviously we’ve seen a bunch of really good albums come out of Def Jam, Ghostface, The Roots, Method Man dropped an album a lot of people say it’s the best in years, it really hasn't gotten the support from the label, does that worry you at all?
Nah, this is the music business and the music business is about crossing your fingers no matter where you are or what label you are on. Some labels can pay attention to a certain artist more and really make it pop and some have the money and everything. But if the stars are not aligned stuff like that happens.

 

I’m above him, everybody is above Jim Jones. Who’s not above Jim Jones? Who is Jones?

 

You almost make it sound like the artist has no control it just kinda happens whether their projects work or not.
Well it depends, if an artist is totally involved in marketing and if he uses all the tools he needs to use to bring in money to support him and get himself out there. You can have your record company spend and have other expenses paid, but everybody’s doing it, not just rappers. And they find unique ways of selling their shit. It takes a long time and a lot of work. It’s not like 2001 or ‘98 or ‘99.

It’s a whole new game. You can’t put a record out and expect the people who used to buy records in ‘99 to react to records the same way now in 2006 or 2007. It’s a whole different world so it depends. It’s going to be up to the artist, they have to be totally involved on all levels to understand what’s going to make his record move. Other than that, you can basically go in blind and just say, ‘Here is my shit’ and it should be enough. The music should be enough but sometimes things slip through the cracks and it doesn’t happen the way you wanted.

You were talking about how during The Firm Album days Jimmy Iovine actually wanted to send you on a plane to try get you off Sony. Did you ever consider going over to Interscope when you were making that decision?
Definitely. I was offered to be president at a record company, so it was just basically what I felt would be a challenge, what would move me.

When you’re talking about a president at Interscope were you talking about back in The Firm days or?
No, I was talking about another label that wanted me to be president for them, so it’s different places that I was thinking about going to and do my thing. But you know Def Jam is the move right now.

Can you say what label it was that wanted you to be president?
It was Atlantic Records.

So they wanted you to come over there and be the president overthere?
We’ll yeah, and Craig Kallman.

What was the exact deal? What was the exact title?
To be the president.

Was it President of A&R? President of what area?
President. Me and Craig Kallman.

What made you decide not to go over there if they offered you a presidency?
Why would I go?

I don’t know, it seems like a pretty big position.
It is a big position for Craig Kallman or for Irv gotti, but I rap. A president is something to do when you’re in somebody like Jay’s position. Jay had hit a moment where he felt he needed to take the time off, so then it’s a great position. That’s not where I’m at. I don’t want to deal with artists, artists are fucking crazy. They want to blame me for shit and I can’t deal with that right now.

 

I rap. A president is something to do when you’re in somebody like Jay’s position. Jay had hit a moment where he felt he needed to take the time off, so then it’s a great position. That’s not where I’m at. I don’t want to deal with artists, artists are crazy.

 

You know you also would have been Jim Jones’ boss right?
No, I'm still his boss.

[Laughs.] Why you say that?
Why wouldn’t I say it? Why wouldn’t I be his boss?

I mean there’s no real structure there that would make you his boss. But if you were president of Atlantic, there would be a structure you’d be above him in a flow chart.
I’m above him, everybody is above Jim Jones,

[Laughs.] Why you say it like that?
Who’s not above Jim Jones? Who is Jones?

I mean, I don’t know what context you’re talking about when you say everyone’s above Jim Jones.
I don’t know who he is, I really don’t know any of his records. I’m not even being funny. I know he got a record called “Ballin’” out. I hope it’s hot, I hope it sells some records. I don’t know his stuff.

A lot of people say that record is the hottest record in New York right now.
Everybody is telling me that I swear to you, I’ve never heard it.

You’ve never heard it once?
Never, and I hope it is hot, I’m not saying I don’t want it to be.

Right.
Hope it is, New York niggas need to bring it. And I think he wants it, he’s one of the main niggas that want to bring it so, I hope there’s just certain shit I don’t hear. Real talk.

When you were talking about ‘Yo I can’t work with artists I can’t deal with that shit’ Do you think Jay has been getting a lot of the brunt of that? LL made some comments because he wasn’t happy with his album, so did Method Man. A lot of artists at Def Jam have been kinda blaming him, whether it’s unfair or not. Has seeing that made you be like, ‘Nah I don’t need that’?
I don’t know these situations, I’m sure their situations are very sensitive for them. I don’t really know how their situation is structured, I don’t know their relationships with Def Jam or anybody and all the stuff like that. I really have my own thing up there so, I don’t really know how their shit has worked out. I don’t want to say nothing for them or against them.

[Def Jam publicist interrupts]: Yo no disrespect, I’m sorry to interrupt, but all you’ve done is ask him about Def Jam, Jay, problems with other artists, Jim Jones. If you want to talk to him about his artists, tell me now, we can do that or we could just bounce. If you have questions regarding Nas or his record coming up, if you want to get to those we can move forward but the only questions that you’ve asked so far have been referring to Def Jam. Ok so let’s get there now. Nas you still there?]

That was really unnecessary.

[Def Jam publicist interrupts]: No. It was totally necessary I don’t like that interview.

You want to start it all over? Let’s start all over. [Laughs.] Let’s start this shit all over, cause honestly it sounded more like a conversation than an interview. Let’s scrape all of that. I don’t mind answering those questions, let’s just do one at a time, I have no problem with any question. Let’s just deal with it smoother than that.

 

One of the essential themes of God’s Son was the relationship with your mother. Then Street’s Disciple shed light on your relationship with the police. What are some of the essential themes that you’re talking about with Hip Hop is Dead?
First I want to say I love Jim Jones, I love everybody in rap music and this record is for all the rappers and all the DJs who I love. The rap game is coming to an end. This is not nothing new, it’s just an artist fucking the shit. The difference between it is the vibe of it, the feel of it. Whatever I want to do, it doesn’t matter, nothing matters.

Why do you say it like that?
Say it like what?

That nothing matters.
It doesn’t matter, the groups I like and the things I like about the rap game have nothing to do with the way things work and the way records sell. Like you said there’s some artists that are not happy with their album and it’s probably their best album. But why aren’t people supporting it?

 

The rap game is coming to an end.

 

Yeah.
Because it feels like people are caught up in the hype, they caught up in some fake shit, so that’s what’s really killing this is shit. This shit is over the top mainstream, which is good and bad. Artists live for that, they love hip-hop so they might as well be like, ‘Fuck hip-hop.’ Do what you want. And then you know what, you might start being more creative.

You feel like you’re more creative on this album, more people say that. Street’s Disciple is great, you were really moved do you feel you were able to extend on that with this album?
You know what that record did? That record was that record, it was personal. With this record it's another moment, it’s a place niggas ain’t gone yet. It’s brand new ground, every time I put out a new album. That’s the excitement and the joy I get out of it.

With this project it’s with you and Jay, how close did you guys work on the album?
I think we started out fucking with it, it was just cool, getting that connectivity in the studio and then we just went off and did their own thing.

When you say started out you guys were actually in the studio? Kicking out deals around and stuff together?
Yeah.

Ok, so was it like him helping you pick beats or anything? Yeah if we’re in the studio, we’re helping everything, we’re brainstorming so where there’s a beat or idea or whatever there was some brainstorming done definitely.

What would you say with this album was the difference? What difference did he bring to this project, since obviously he wasn’t involved in any of your other projects?
He’s on it.

Right, “Black Republicans.”
Yeah.

How was that like? What was it like recording with him? cause you know that’s something people have been waiting a long time to see or to hear.
That shit was fun, it was exciting, the studio was like a party.

It was like a party in there that night?
Yeah.

What was the session like we’re there a lot of people in there?
Not a lot of people, but definitely a few people there, it was like a party.

Describe the vibe of it. Where you guys playing video games for a little bit then went and did your verses? What were you guys doing in there? What was it like in there?
I'ma let that just be. Whoever was there maybe talks about it later.

How did you guys come up with the concept for “Black Republicans”? I heard is real political.
It just came. It just happened. It’s something that niggas need to listen to, it’s real shit, probably the realest shit we’ve heard in years, some real shit.

 

There’s been times where girls chase my car down the block causing traffic jams but this was early in my career.

 

Everybody see’s how happy you are with Kelis and everything. You had a real personal song, I think this was recorded during the I Am... time “Poppa Was A Playa,” where you talk about him being like a rolling stone. And you talk about when you first started being a rapper you kind of started seeing the same things, does that ever worry you about your ability to be faithful? You were talking about how you and your father were both playas?
Yeah that came about seven years ago. When I think about that time, I was definitely in that space, that was years ago. And then again you start feeling yourself, it is what it is. And from the moment I got in the game, I wasn’t loyal or nothing. I couldn’t have just one girl, that wasn’t my style. I wanted that but I couldn’t, I was everywhere.

Would you say that there’s anything in particular you learned watching your parent’s relationship that helped you with you and Kelis? Your relationship with her?
Yeah they had a strained relationship. They separated when I was young, so I see how it affects the family and all of that. I had my own ideas on how I wanted make my situation different. And especially me, something public like this, they didn’t have to deal with nothing public. So it’s just how you do things, it has to be done right.

Yeah I feel you. One of the things a lot of people say is that whether you’re famous or whatever, is that it’s crazy once you get girl mad girls trying to get at you. Then you’re like ‘Yo I’m going to break up with her, I got all these girls and I want to break up.’ So have you noticed that since you’re married, more girls are trying to get at you?
Nah, not really I can’t say that, there’s been times where girls chase my car down the block causing traffic jams but this was early in my career. But now this is laid back, it’s not like people are chasing my car like that. I could live, I’m a little more relaxed now, everything is easier for me, my whole shit is a lot toned down. They’re at ease, nobody is after me.

 

Who are a couple of the new artist you’re trying to bring on this album?
T-black, Trey Williams, Sinner, that niggas crazy he is on my joint. I was trying to get a few artist that Quan signed at Atlantic, I was trying to figure out what’s going to happen with that , so I was trying to see if I could fit this shit on the album.

Have you recorded with Quan for that one?
We got something that we’re trying to put together for that one so, I don’t know if it’s going to make it.

Really?
Yeah, just trying to figure out that situation. A lot of times I don’t fuck with artists because...same reason I probably won't be a president until I’m about three years from now probably, if that’s the case. If record labels are still the same way they are now. Cause you’re going to see a lot of changes within the next years in the industry. But the only way I could deal with artists, is not going to be close unless them niggas is on some real shit.

 

So many artists crave too much attention, they want to microwave and speed themselves up to your career overnight and they get upset with the negative trying to help them. I'm always putting ni**as in the game but I'm also quick to say, ‘F**k a nigga’ because I don't have the time in my life for bulls**t.

 

Cause so many artists crave too much attention, they want to microwave and speed themselves up to your career overnight and they get upset with the negative trying to help them. So my mode is: ‘I can’t turn my back. I’m always putting niggas in the game but I’m also quick to say, ‘Fuck a nigga’ because I don’t have the time in my life for bullshit. If we’re friends, niggas think we supposed to wake up in the morning and think about them niggas, that’s what you have management for.

Then niggas start calling me like we aren’t best friends, like I’m deliberately doing something to them and it’s hard for these niggas. If you can make it around me, you a stone cold motherfucking real motherfucking nigga cause I intimidate a lot of motherfuckers. And it’s hard, their brain gets scrambled if they come around me and their shit isn’t right, suddenly they shit falls apart, if they start fucking with me, because there’s nothing but realism over here.

So I hate to say they couldn’t survive a third of a third of a third, of my career and that’s not to diss them. It saddens me when I see they’re not built for it. I try to tell them but motherfuckers want fast rewards not just money. But these niggas want to be Diddy tomorrow. So they have unrealistic goals. So it’s hard for me to deal with a lot of artists if they try to be up underneath a nigga. But I’m trying to get this nigga Quan’s shit together and there’s some niggas that’s hollering right now that I’m feeling.

I know for a short period of time a lot of people thought you weren’t dealing with Quan anymore, so are guys working together again?
Nah, I don’t deal with it hands on quite frankly. He works with me, he deals with the artists that can’t get to me till’ they get some strife, then we could hang.

There was talk that you guys don’t speak anymore, are you guys back on talking terms and everything is cool?
I mean there was never a time niggas were speaking it was just, in terms of music, let’s speak through music. Niggas seem to be getting beside themselves when niggas start speaking, they think in their mind you’re supposed to be this way or that way. Niggas let’s put it down let's make history, lets make music and we could speak about forever but if not let’s do cool shit not some funny shit, I don't have time for shit.

Yeah I feel you. You were talking in a recent interview about how you were thinking about putting records to rest, you’ve never been that dude to be about going into endorsements and stuff some people have said that you haven’t been as much about your business as you should have been. Do you think that’s something fair for people to say about you?
People will have the right to feel what they want to feel about whatever, but you have to realize all the rappers that you see complain about their careers, you ain’t heard Nas complaining. [Laughs.] You don’t get to hear this fucking-around-bullshit. This shit is real, shit that I deal with I don’t know what these cats are thinking about.

If Snoop Dogg makes a flute or a flute dog, now Nas got to make one. If Jay makes fucking pillars for helicopters now Nas got to make pillars. That's where they get it a little twisted and start judging each other about status, it’s corny shit. It’s slave mentality shit because yeah all the races do envy each other and business and shit, but us we envy each other on the littlest achievements. It’s cool man. If I decided that I wanted to do movies, I’ll do them. If I want to do clothes, I’ll do them. And none of the shit out there is rocket science trust me.

 

I never remember these artists talking about any white executives. And this is not some racist s**t, but I never heard any artist say, “Well this guy, this guy.” They would talk about me if I was president. That’s some slavery s**t. So if Nas is president and ya records isn’t blowing up all the way, they going to publicly try to destroy me. But you’re not publicly trying to destroy nobody white, or anybody that’s not black.

 

Is there never a case where you look around someone like 50 or like Jay and be like, ‘Oh man, I should’ve got money like they did I should be where they’re at financially’ or nothing like that?
Only if I see them doing something I think embarrasses us young black men then I feel like then I should’ve did it because I could have been the one showing niggas how not to be cooning and fooling. So only if I see those niggas. But if what 50 is doing is easy, they'd be a million 50s. Everybody wants to come in the game and be 50, everybody wants to come and be Jay.

Those brothers were smart with their hustle with their particular situation. Everybody can’t do what they do. Of course, Nas can do whatever he wants to do. And Nas is doing what he wants to do. But again, if I see anybody with the opportunity that’s in the limelight, that’s representing us young black men and I see them cooning off, then I wish, “Ah shit, give me that and let me show you how to it and not be disrespecting yourself and your people. Then here, take it back cause I don’t need all that.”

But there hasn’t been anything specific you can think of in the past they’ve done maybe like a finance move where you’ve thought, “Damn I wish I would’ve done all that?”
Sure, I’m definitely sure because they are really inspirations for all of us, I want them to go all the way. I want to see 50 own the Empire State Building, I want to see Jay own fucking 12 basketball teams, that’s what we need. And that’s the problem with the rap game, niggas is jealous over, like you just said something no disrespect that was kinda ignorant it was, “Would you rather be the president or this guy’s boss or that guy’s boss?”

But we gotta get off this slave shit, we should all be these things, I don’t have an issue with anybody in the position of growth. It’s only when they’re cooning that I get embarrassed because you’re embarrassing me if you’re black. What are you doing? And some of these niggas is really buffoons.

I want to see niggas go all the way cause they pulling more niggas and they pulling more niggas. And I pull in more niggas when I do. I’m pulling in niggas right for the job that can do the job. Cause niggas can’t come in here with some Suge Knight mentality cause that shit is played out and Suge Knight is a genius. You can’t come and just go off on everything, you have to really represent who we really are.

We not only project niggas, we built this fucker, we’re the ones with the universe so let’s act like it. It’s time that we stop acting like, “Oh he ain't got his.” Even with the people being mad at Jay, it’s corny, it comes the fuck off as corny. Cause if you really wanted to know what was up with your shit, these are the guys you gotta look at them and say, “Yo, you’re not on your game” especially someone like L he’s too old of an OG to be mad at Jay. He’s been at Def Jam when we were kids dreaming about being at Def Jam.

That’s crazy so we gotta get off this bullshit cause I never really remember these artists talking about any white executives. And this is not some racist shit, but I never heard any artist say, “Well this guy, this guy.” At the rate, they would talk about me if I was president. That’s some slavery shit. So if Nas is president and ya records isn’t blowing up all the way, they going to publicly try to destroy me. But you’re not publicly trying to destroy nobody white, or anybody that’s not black. You gotta think about that.

I feel you, it’s easier to blame someone who is your peer or someone you can relate to.
Let me make it better for you, it’s easier to blame somebody black because that’s the problem with niggas we don’t respect. If Nas has to go to sleep and wake up at a certain time catch a flight and do this and that to get his shit together they don’t care. They just say, “Nigga why you don’t put me on? Why aren’t you making me rich? You could have brought me with you.” You don’t see a bunch of blind singers going, “Stevie why didn’t you put me on? Why you didn’t help me? I’m blind at the scene too, I used to live in your neighborhood, you a sucker.”

 

It wasn’t Jay, Jay didn’t sign Nas, this is what I had to do to maneuver my career.

 

That’s insanity, but that’s what happens with these microwaveable opportunists, the mentality these rappers got and that these people have. I have no excuses, my record comes out and go wood, I can’t blame Jay, this is my joint. Can’t blame L.A. Reid, this is my joint. I sat in there and worked my contract with Sony to make this situation work for me, this is what I had to do, I took these meetings.

It wasn’t Jay, Jay didn’t sign Nas, this is what I had to do to maneuver my career. These things I’ve done as a businessman, this is serious shit. I don’t relate to a lot of artist’s situations because I don’t know their situations. What I’m saying is we have to stop blaming each other over idiot shit cause these motherfuckers is buying YouTube and we renting yachts that they own. Come let’s think about where we are and we’re talking about he’s shining and I’m not, that’s slavery talk, we really have to think about the big picture.

It seems like when dudes get into serious relationships they realize that a lot of beef shit is petty and all that stuff, do you feel your marriage has had the same effect on you?
I think when my daughter was born it had that effect on me first, and it made me really nervous on what I said on wax and what I did. I cared if I lived because you want to be there for them. And the marriage thing was definitely the icing on the cake as far as a nigga on some cool shit.

 

Who does your daughter like listening to, in terms of rap?
My daughter is a Tupac fan and Black-Eyed Peas fan, she listens to Z-100. She says dad, ‘If you want to make something for the kids make it for Z100.’ She’s not current with what’s going on in the rap-scene right now.

Is she excited you’re working with will.i.am on the new album?
I’m the coolest dad in the world to her right now, she hung out in the studio with Will and all that.

She got to meet him?
Yeah.

That’s fly. One of the things that 50 has said was that when you guys were still close, one of the problems was when you played him “Ether,” and then he had told you it wasn’t it. Was there any truth do that?
I don’t remember playing him “Ether.” 50 was one of the ones that wanted to ride on the rock Whitney, but I didn’t see his story as a stand up guy story, I felt like he was a wild dude. He come in there and he had guns and he was talking about this nigga and that nigga, but the thing about his music was he was talking about niggas as if he was doing the stuff that they were doing and he was putting himself in a lot of situations.

 

50 was one of my soldiers at the time so of course, he was ready to ride [against the Roc] and I give that to him because the other ni**as were shaking in their boots.

 

He made songs about different murders that we knew about in Queens that never came out. I know he probably got them when I was talking about, “Supreme King/Jamaica, Queens thing, Uptown was Alpo.” Nobody was talking about the streets like that in records before ever. Unless they were apart of that time.

So that would kinda open that shit up to say, “Fuck rap is real, watch these herbs stand still never talking to lames cause words of man kill.” So the words he saying he’s put out there about people that have been killed, you have to be careful with that so if anything I don’t think he heard me, but maybe I’m wrong, but how wrong was him for saying that wasn’t it.

Did it bother you at all that he had named his mixtape the same as your album?
Could you explain to me what that meant? I really don’t know I’m honestly asking myself, “Am I in tune with what’s going on these days? When I hear these songs, I don’t hear it or I don’t get it and that’s no different.” I don’t know was that good or bad?

It was just seems like he just did it to be petty, like “I’m just going to put out a mixtape that a lot of people hear before this dude puts out his album,” just to be petty just to have that same title.
Yeah that’s the first thing I thought. But he didn’t say anything about me on it. Did he? I don’t know. I thought it was cool. I’ve always been the one that kinda leads the race. Whether they say it or not. “I hate Nas” and all this shit is cute, but I really know that they paying attention, I guess that’s what it said.

At the time with the old-beef, 50 was actually coming to you being, ‘Yo let’s go after Roc’?
Yeah I mean he was one of my soldiers at the time so of course, he was ready to ride and I give that to him because the other niggas were shaking in their boots.

When you say the others who are you referring to?
Niggas around me niggas that rather make a diss song about me than about a nigga that’s against me. One of the niggas that, rather than go after other niggas that’s going against me and that right there is, whoa, scary. He was one of the dudes that was like, “Yeah let’s get it on,” he’s a cool nigga for that.

It seems like for someone who is from Queensbridge and reps it really hard, it seems like a lot of people around you, like QB dudes, eventually end up going against you, having words. Why do you think that is?
I grew up around savage goons and mobsters. That’s the Queensbridge shit, these niggas be my loved ones, you feel me? Me and a lot of these dudes is cool, but you know they have their issues with niggas getting their hair.

It’s unfortunate, but it’s the goonish mentality. It is what is it, we still get together, when we see each other we back each other up niggas squash a lot of shit. Niggas know how I move. When you a nigga like me, never got robbed, never got played, never got this, never got that being from Queensbridge; so many people went through some shit out there.

 

Hip-hop is dead, just get your money. You look at these ni**as that really love hip-hop, they’re broke or they’re a frustrated artist, and that’s not putting them down. We all been broke we’ve all been frustrated artists and it’s cause we love this so much. So I’m just pissed off with hip-hop.

 

I know about a lot of rappers that can’t go to their town. This or that, shit like that happens. So they don’t know what they talking about. But that’s never happened to me. I’ve always had such a low profile that when people say things, I’ll hear about it a month later and I’m like, “Damn should I clear that up?” but I don't really feel the need to because by then niggas are trying to apologize and just move on. It’s just nigga’s shit and niggas will be niggas and that’s who we are for life, fuck it.

Since you’re talking about that hip-hop is dead, how long do you plan to do it?
Oh, hip-hop is dead. I’m just going to do whatever I want to do now, until it starts coming back or until I feel like not fucking with it. Shit is dead, just get money. We love it forever so we’re always going to hold on to it and make these albums, but at the same time this shit ain't what it was. I don’t even know what it is. This shit is too big for me to understand, I need somebody to explain this shit.

Hip-hop is dead just get your fucking money. You look at these niggas that really love hip-hop, they’re broke or they’re a frustrated artist, and that’s not putting them down. We all been broke we’ve all been frustrated artists and it’s cause we love this shit so much. So I’m just pissed off with hip-hop, I’m mad at it right now. I been mad at it for years, so this is just the album that expresses it and the next album I’m sure I’ll love it again. [Laughs.]

 

Next week Ice-T puts out his album and he’s 48. How much longer do you see yourself being that dude, when you’re like 50, 60?
I'm trying to learn from BB King. I'm going to be rapping when I’m 80, any niggas that says they won’t is a fucking liar. We can’t get out, we’re trapped. There’s no way out of this shit. So let me tell you this. If a nigga says, “Yo you shouldn’t rap at that age” and then niggas get a call saying “Here is some paper we need you to perform” and you’re 50 something years-old and there are 50 years-olds in that audience that love you to death, you mean to tell me you not going to get that paper? You a fucking liar. We in this music shit for life, you ain’t learn that shit from the niggas that came before us? From Marvin and Stevie? You in here for life. There’s no way out of this shit.

On one of the songs on Street’s Disciple “These Are Our Heroes” you talk partially about some African-American role models in the community, do you consider it selling out to marry a white woman?
No, absolutely not. Richard Pryor is one of my heroes and he was married to a few women and one of them white. Her name was Jennifer Lee, and I don’t know her but from hearing and reading and seeing television and books she’s my favorite wife that he had. So absolutely not, who you fall in love with is who you fall in love with. You know love is blind. It doesn’t matter how pro-black you are love is blind.

One of the people you obviously talked about looking up to a lot is Pac , I read an interview where Snoop Dogg was talking about that during the VMA’S you and Pac had had a meeting in Central Park, can you talk about that?
I saw Pac he was going to walk away from me and I said “Yo come here nigga.”

In Central Park?
No, at Bryant Park, MTV after party, MTV music awards.

Was that what was he referring to at the 96’ VMA’s?
Yeah.

 

I'm going to be rapping when I’m 80. We can’t get out, we’re trapped. If a ni**a says, “Yo you shouldn’t rap at that age” and then you get a call saying “Here is some paper we need you to perform” and you’re 50 something years-old and there are 50 years-olds in that audience that love you to death, you mean to tell me you not going to get that paper? You a liar.

 

Cause he said it was Central Park and you were up there with 30 dudes and you guys were just talking and he was telling you about how he was about to out the record and you were like, “Nah I don’t have a problem.” He said, ‘Ok, this record is about to come out and it’s talking about you, but if you don’t respond it’s going to be dead.’ Was that the incident you were talking about at Bryant Park?
Actually what he said was that he’ll change the lyrics. He’ll take out my name cause me and him were supposed to never have any beef, but he heard I was dissing him at a show, which I was because he was at his shows dissing me. He was rapping about me on the “If I Ruled The World” beat, going after me. So I was going after him at my shows and he heard it and he just assumed it was beef. So when we talked he was like, “Nigga let’s meet in Vegas.” But he died in Vegas and I was scheduled to fly there. But Jimmy told me he passed away, that he was shot and was in critical condition actually.

Okay so you guys talked in Bryant Park kinda deaded it and never got to really meet up again?
Right.

During his shows you said he was going over “If I Ruled The World,” during your shows were you going on his beats?
I was just going on some, “Fuck Pac, fuck Pac.” I can’t remember what I was saying it was so long ago, but it was “Pac said this to you” and I was like alright.

Certain people say that “If a dude wasn’t cool when he was alive he shouldn’t do songs” is that why you feel comfortable doing “Thug’s Mansion” and stuff , cause it was like, “Yo weren’t we cool?”
Honestly, I probably would have done it even if we didn’t meet, who cares what somebody says? We inspire each other. You listen to “Me And My Girlfriend” that was inspired from my song “I Gave You Power” and so on. I start talking about God and 44 and that nigga used to scream that shit at me “I wait for GOD with the 4 4,” that was the shit after that. I heard a lot of Gods in his lines and he inspired me in many ways. I got a God’s Son tattoo in honor of the nigga. God’s Son has meaning for me, but that tattoo shit he started it, every nigga in the rap game got tattoos cause of Tupac. Every nigga. Every last one period. Including B.I.G.

I know people that have heard this album I actually know a couple of people who are not as critical they’ve been. Like, “Illmatic was the shit” they have said “I have to give it up this new album is crazy.” Are you happy with how it’s came out?
Yeah this is what I live for, to do this shit. This shit is beyond paper. Paper is important, you have to get your money, but when I get into the studio the whole drive is beyond radio and charts. This is what I live for, for a few niggas to say, “Yo I’m bumping that shit right there,” that’s what it’s all about.

You feel like it compares to Illmatic?
Nah. Illmatic, I could never touch that. Shit is always going to reign supreme because, why would I want to...The same way this album will always reign supreme on its own level and shit like that. There’s no way I’d be able to top Hip Hop Is Dead. The excitement of this album has me so excited for the next one. And the next one. I’m going to let it go and I’m just waiting for a little bit more niggas to spit my name and I’m going in.

It’s possible that I’m so energetic after this that I’m not going to stop recording after that, once I’m in the zone I’m not stopping recording. The next one is going to be huge. This one here is beautiful. But the next one is going to be more beautiful.

 

You remember in a song when Biggie said, “It was all a dream I used to read Word Up magazine/Salt N’ Pepa and Heavy D everyday in the limousine?” He said in an interview that he really thought it was like that. The rap game is a different type of thing.

 

So you feel like it’s energized you so much, that in spirit of competition you might start going back at dudes?
Anything is possible. I know I’m being a role model and I’m being a rap leader right now and so what I do affects the community. There are still possibilities though, I can’t front. It’s still in me for the niggas that forgot. It’s in me, it’s just there aren’t any real niggas anymore. Nobody really to go at it with. I still will stoop down to these nigga's levels. It shouldn't be like that, I know I’m years beyond niggas.

Niggas are on their third album, fourth album, fourth year, rapping so they’re new and taking shots at main niggas. So I really give niggas passes because they want me to immortalize them when I say their name, but they are not worthy of it yet. So I might skip the rules and bend the rules a little bit just to spite somebody. I don’t know I’m trying to figure it out but right now, I’m chilling.

So there’s no one out right now that speaks your name that deserves a response?
I got a quote that says, “Oh you went platinum? Yeah that’s nice/Let me see you do the same shit twice/Three times four times then a couple of mo’ times/Pre-amateur night is show time.” They’re not there yet and people think if you have a record or a hot moment that you’re really there. You’re really no where near it. No where close to the audience and to that excitement that when your record is hot you really feel like you are, but when it cools down and you’re back at the studio and you have to re-create it and you have to realize you’re not even in one of my shoes yet. So no there’s absolutely nobody.

Are you excited right now? Is there anyone out there that has you excited right now?
I try to listen to what’s popping. I try to hear it as it comes. I was excited about Papoose now I’m waiting for the album, I’m excited about this nigga Aasim, I don’t know. I like Game, I like Kanye West and I like Chamillionaire and T.I. And of course, the legends, like Outkast, Scarface, and Jay. Other than that there are a few niggas I don’t know. I danced to Dipset, I like everything that’s going on I just don’t hear it that much. I like to zone out with it in the car and there’s not a lot of shit that I could ride to and zone out to. My ear’s open. Nigga's going to have to bump my shit at night, I want it at night. Smoke ‘till they eyes bleed and bump my shit.

It’s been over a year since the big thing when you came out with Jay for the concert. Over the course of last year, building with him and working with him, do you feel like you guys have built a genuine friendship?
Nigga is artist. I don’t think niggas are here to be friends or buddies or nothing like that. Niggas are artists, when niggas see each other niggas see each other. It goes for everybody. So my friends have been my friends and these nigga’s are my niggas, other than that were related through music.

So you wouldn't consider him a friend then?
That’s a serious question right there, that’s not a fair question.

It’s not to be unfair, people tell me, “Yo, after college you don’t make any real friends because all the people then are fake.”
You know what’s funny. You remember in a song when Biggie said, “It was all a dream I used to read Word Up magazine/Salt N’ Pepa and Heavy D everyday in the limousine?” He said in an interview that he really thought it was like that. The rap game is a different type of thing and I don’t really know how to describe it.

What do you mean when he said that in the song and that what he saw is a different thing?
You seem like you’re looking at it the way Biggie looked at it, the way I looked at it. Motherfuckers out here are trying to get their hustle on, their grind on. There’s a lot of snakes and a lot of bullshit, a lot of fuckery, so I don’t think anybody really trusts anybody like that. But other than that everybody’s cool. I’m really cool with Jay he’s a really cool motherfucker actually.