For some artists, “album mode” is a period of time dedicated to music creation without distractions, which ends when each project is finished. For 03 Greedo, it’s a relentless cycle that never turns off, even when a long prison sentence is looming.
In July 2018, Greedo, born Jason Jamal Jackson, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for drug and firearm possession charges. But even in the midst of the ordeal, he remained focused on creating music.
“I’ve been battling this case for a while, so even before I’ve been sentenced, this has always been on my mind,” he confides to Complex from behind bars. “I wanted to make music that reflected the things I was dealing with, and so it inspired me to be more creative.”
Before his incarceration began, Greedo made a promise: build a vault of 30 albums to be released throughout the duration of his sentence. Nearly one year later, he appears to have kept his word, delivering multiple projects (including one of 2019’s best releases so far, Still Summer in the Projects) despite his absence. But his final tally of recorded material is far beyond his original projection. In fact, Greedo confirms he has “more than 30 albums in the vault” and “over 3,000 songs.” He adds, “But the way the music is released now, some of the albums will just be broken down as singles or loosies.”
there were times I recorded in my cousin's closet in L.A., because that's where I did my biggest songs. Once Wolf of Grape Street dropped, I would go record with Migos at their session. Then with Uzi at his, then with Ty Dolla $ign, all in the same day.
Greedo compares his own passion for music to an athlete’s love for their game. “I make music because I love it,” he says. “Money doesn’t motivate me. I want to be the best at rapping, melodies, and work ethic. It’s like how LeBron James and Kobe Bryant just love the game and want to show out. I want to do some 360 dunks and shoot from half court. I got something to prove. Ain’t nobody from my projects made it. I want to be the top at everything.”
With his long prison sentence looming, Greedo got to work, making as much music as possible while he still could.
“I would record anywhere,” he remembers. “Sometimes it was in studios, but there were times I recorded in my cousin's closet in L.A., because that's where I did my biggest songs. Once Wolf of Grape Street dropped, I would go record with Migos at their session. Then with Uzi at his, then with Ty Dolla $ign, all in the same day. I recorded in all of the big studios in L.A., New York, and Atlanta.”
Greedo attributes his “balls to the wall” mindset to observing Lil Wayne’s ultra-prolific era in the mid-2000s. “I used to watch Lil Wayne documentaries when he was on his mixtape run and Tha Carter II, and he’d just be in there working,” he recalls. “That inspired me to keep going. I’ve really been recording since 2008 or 2009, and when I first started recording, I had a set-up in the closet of my apartment. That was regular for me. If I wasn't recording, I was making beats. I was never not working. I would go until 6:00 in the morning. I want to be there as much as possible.”
Preparing a vault of thousands of songs, Greedo often recorded all night, finishing around 15 songs each session. Beyond his tireless energy, agility was on Greedo’s side: It doesn’t take him long to piece a track together. “It probably takes me as long to record a song as long as it takes you to listen to it,” he points out. “I just go in the booth, and when I come out the song is done.”
He clarifies that he does dedicate more time to some of his favorite tracks, but his team has grown accustomed to his persistent production schedule, nonetheless. “If you have been with Greedo for two days, you know how his mind works,” Zeke Hirschberg, Greedo’s A&R at Alamo Records, tells Complex. Admitting that even more music may have been released this year if he wasn’t behind bars, Hirschberg adds, “I think we would have put out 60 albums if he was with us right now.”
Alamo Records founder, Todd Moscowtiz says Greedo’s devotion to creating “consistent, amazing music” makes his job easier: “You just say, ‘thank you’ and then you do your job and market it as thoroughly as possible.”
Despite the legal troubles and incarceration, Greedo has been able to keep his momentum going over the past couple years, drawing praise from fans and critics alike. On 2018’s The Wolf of Grape Street, his first major label release with Alamo Records, Greedo marries brutally honest storytelling with the soulful romanticism of R&B, deftly switching from singing to rapping to rap-singing. Still Summer in the Projects, his 2019 project with DJ Mustard, is his latest full-length effort, and it’s just as important to his discography as past other bodies of work, if you ask him. “[It’s] two of the biggest people in the game coming together from the same area,” Greedo previously told Rolling Stone. “Mustard’s from the West side, and I’m from the East side [of Los Angeles]. It’s important to the people.”
Giving fans an update on how things have been going since the sentence began, Greedo says, “The time goes fast. I'm not in California where I have to worry about the gang politics that are involved in prison.”
When I come out, I’m gonna be talking about more glamorous things. When I get out, I’m gonna write more and take more time. The release process won’t be the same.
Doubling down on his Instagram post from late June, in which he said people are profiting off him while he's behind bars, Greedo adds, “On the negative side, people be on some lame ass shit. Family members read the articles and think I'm rolling in millions or something. I'm gonna speak on it when I come home. People want to say, ‘Free 03,’ but they're not writing me or sending me pictures. People just be asking for money before they check on me. It hurts when people are asking for money when I'm the one who is serving 20 years. People are just weird, man. I can't wait to get home."
The 32-year-old rapper is already thinking about the music he’ll be making when the sentence is over. “When I come out, I’m gonna be talking about more glamorous things.” He adds, “When I get out, I'm gonna write more and take more time. The release process won’t be the same; I won’t flood the industry. It’ll be more precise.”
For now, 03 Greedo is focused on the positives, and what really matters: his craft.
“Being able to release music and be on a label and feature on other albums and still being talked about [is what] keeps me going.”