Taxstone Has Something to Say

Taxstone, the popular voice behind the Tax Season podcast who is currently in jail, speaks about the current state of hip-hop podcasts, prison reform, and more.

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Complex Original

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taxstone tax season podcast

If Daryl Campbell, better known as Taxstone, wasn’t in jail, he’d probably be a top contender in our Hip-Hop Media Power Ranking list. Campbell was one of the first to present off-the-cuff commentary on life, hip-hop, and hot topics with his Tax Season podcast that launched in 2015 as part of the Loud Speakers Network, a platform founded by the late Reggie Osse, better known as Combat Jack, and Chris Morrow.

Taxstone cut through with his gravelly voice, direct yet funny opinions, and outside-of-the-industry perspective that many could relate to—along with his signature catchphrases like “Be Safe Tho” and “Beloved” that peppered his podcast and Tweets. At one point his podcast was receiving up to 300,000 listeners a week and he was starting to draw in guests like Meek Mill, The Lox, and Lil Uzi Vert until everything came to a screeching halt.

On May 25, 2016, a shooting at a T.I. concert, which took place at Irving Plaza, left three wounded and Ronald “Banga” McPhatter, rapper Troy Ave’s security guard, dead. Shortly after the shooting Troy Ave was arrested and charged with attempted murder and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon. Weeks later he was released on $500,000 bond, and Taxstone was then arrested and charged with the murder of McPhatter, which he has pleaded not guilty to, and two federal weapons charges, which he has pleaded guilty to. He’s been in jail on Rikers Island for the last five years awaiting his trial, which recently ended on March 23, 2023. He was found guilty of manslaughter in the first degree, but not guilty of murder and attempted murder. He will be sentenced on April 19th

The trial, and the incidents leading up to it, spoke to many things, but it emphasized how the hip-hop media landscape has shifted and certain personalities, not just legacy platforms, started to become highly influential. Being cosigned by Taxstone was a stamp of authenticity that artists wanted.

Right before the trial started, we caught up with Taxstone, who was in good spirits.

“Mentally, I stay sharp and I stay on point because Rikers is a jungle. It’s probably one of the most unsafe places to be. And I’m from East New York, Brooklyn, and it’s like the wild, wild West. Being able to survive there, I feel like Rikers Island is like a cake walk. But it becomes a mental drag,” says Taxstone over the phone.

Despite being in jail, he’s well aware of everything that’s happening in the world, including the podcast space. He says he regularly listens to Gillie and Wallo’s Million Dollaz Worth of Game, and he’s heard what Noreaga has said about him, Combat Jack, and his IP on Joe Budden’s podcast.

“I didn’t really address it because that shit is not even true,” says Taxstone. “Like if you really do your due diligence to look at the Tax Season podcast, I didn’t post videos on YouTube. And that was intentional because I wasn’t getting paid from it.”

Here, we speak to Taxstone about the state of hip-hop media, podcasts specifically, his case, the importance of prison reform, and if he would return to podcasting once he comes home.

What’s your media diet currently? Are you listening to podcasts and keeping up with what’s going on?
Yeah, I still listen to Million Dollaz Worth of Game. I still listen to Breakfast Club. I’m very much into pop music right now.

Oh, really?
Yeah, so I like a lot of Dua Lipa. I like Harry Styles.

OK. Did you think he deserved that Grammy, though?
No. Not at all. Lovely song though. 

What do you think of the current voices and personalities within hip-hop media?
I like where the genre is going in that people are able to be compensated more in their careers. Back when Combat Jack, Charlamagne and Kid Fury helped put me on, they were the only guys that were really monetizing from it and getting ad money and stuff like that. The genre has grown so much stronger, you know, because of guys like Chris Morrow who pushed podcasts to all these corporate companies to help them recognize that long-form podcasts could be profitable. So I like that part of it. I think that some people should not speak, but that’s just an opinion. I think some people can’t speak. I think some people might be trying to infiltrate intelligence to the masses and they are actually not smart.

Why do you think certain people shouldn’t speak? Because they’re not educated enough to speak on the topics?
No, not even that they’re not educated on certain things. Let me give Nore for instance. Nore’s Drink Champs is a legendary podcast. I still like it. I have my little issues with Nore, but I don’t hold on to shit too long like other people do. But I still enjoy his podcast because I like hip-hop and I like rap legends. But I don’t like when a person tries to act like they’re intelligent and they know what they’re doing all the time and somebody that tries to act like they’re supportive of the culture. Like if I was to interview Kanye West, once I seen that Kanye was saying everything that would destroy him, I would’ve never put it out. Yes, it would’ve helped my numbers. Everybody wants to see people say the most controversial things, but you gotta understand the impact of certain things being said. And I felt like that was like a real help to disrupt Kanye. You didn’t help him by putting that out. If you listen to what he said, you knew the words he was saying…We’re in a cultural setting where we know that there’s certain things that are highly sensitive. You can’t be sexist. You can’t be racist. You can’t be anti-Semitic. There’s certain groups of people who we know have more strength than others. And when you say certain things that could shake up the world. Some of those things that he said, it was offensive. Some of it wasn’t true. And some of it was maybe intentional, but a lot of it was out of him being a little off his rocker. So when you see that your brother is in that type of state and Kanye West has such a humongous cultural impact in the world and coming from the hip-hop world, he’s one of our top representatives. I felt like that should have been a moment where Kanye had got protected and it was like, “Yo, it’s my brother. I’m scrapping his whole interview.” And Kanye might have been mad at him for doing it and might have did it on somebody else’s platform, but that’s what you let him do. That’s what those white platforms are for. You don’t allow our culture to bring down our culture. We are here to uplift and to progress.

"If I was to interview Kanye West, once I seen that Kanye was saying everything that would destroy him, I would've never put it out."

Speaking of Nore, so I’m sure you heard he mentioned your name on Joe Budden’s podcast. He alleged something about intellectual property and that he’s getting paid on YouTube and you weren’t under your deal with Combat Jack. 
Yeah. I heard about it. I didn’t really address it because that shit is not even true. Like if you really do your due diligence to look at the Tax Season podcast, I didn’t post videos on YouTube. And that was intentional because I wasn’t getting paid from it. So if you really see my podcast, it’s only clips of them. It’s only one full interview of Tax Season ever on video. And that’s the Meek Mill interview I did in Atlanta. So that’s false because I didn’t even post videos on YouTube of my podcast. I actually have all of my videos on my hard drive because I knew that that was a different form of revenue that I could get. But as far as getting paid and stuff, yeah. Combat got us ads. That’s how we got paid in the beginning. That was the very beginning of podcasts. You know how hard it was to even get a company to believe to put an ad [on the podcast]. But they seen these podcasts is doing 300,000 a week. And that’s when we started selling products like Casper mattresses and Bevel blades. And they seen the products really moving, and they was like, “Yo, this is another place to promote and advertise.” 

I actually introduced Nore to a lot of those ads and he got in touch with them through me. So a lot of the things he says is out of frustration. You know how somebody get caught doing something wrong? Then they don’t know how to just say, “Yo, I’m sorry I did something wrong.” So now they gotta lash out ‘cause the other person is mad at what they did. And they got a right to. So it’s like with him, he’s dealing with an ego. It’s a lot of 50-year-olds that still got 17-year-old mentalities, and he’s one of them. He got like the brain of an infant. I’m happy that he has his IP and he got all his business straight because that’s what this is about. It’s about feeding your family and pushing the culture forward. But it becomes a clown show when you see stuff like, “Oh, I’m happy that all the rappers didn’t succeed.”

It’s like, wow. Why are you happy that somebody didn’t succeed? Like why would that be a part of your agenda? This is your agenda and happiness? Like when you go to sleep at night, you speak to God or whoever you speak to and say, “Yo, I want happiness. I want help for my family, you know, wealth and I want to make sure that nobody else survives in this genre?” That just seems like one of the weirdest parts to be happy for. I have such strong opinions that I deal with people that try to use my strong opinions and turn them into something else. Like the notion, oh yeah, I’m a hater. No. I’m not a hater. I tell the truth. And the truth is an uncomfortable place for these people to live in. So a lie is like the best pillow on earth for these people. And it’s like when I say my truth, they get so mad ‘cause they don’t move me. It’s like I understand what’s going on. You’re not gonna insult my intelligence. What’s the point of enlightening yourself and trying to be smart if you could easily be manipulated? These guys are manipulators and they’re not even good at manipulating. It’s all see-through. It’s all transparent.

Did you have any deals on the table before you went away?
Yeah, I had a lot of shit on the table. Like a lot. Well, you know, if you listen to Drink Champs, you’ll hear Nore talking about deals that I had. I never spoke about my deals. I’m not into that part. I’m into the art. This new thing where everybody wants to be like they’re the best business person and they’re lying anyway. So you know, it’s cute. Like on Instagram everybody is like the CEO of such and such. But it’s like, yo bro, you the only person that work there. Like of course you the CEO.

So this whole thing like where everybody gotta have the LLC and I got my ownership and it’s like, yo, that is always great if you made a great negotiation. That’s what contracts are for. See Nore doesn’t like Combat Jack because he said Combat Jack jerked him or something like that. But he didn’t jerk him. He gave him a standard contract like most people get when they are new artists. So, you know, Combat was an entertainment attorney. So he always says stuff about the deal. But no, what happened was you were a kid when you signed a record deal. You can hardly read things ‘cause you read with your finger. We see it right on your show. So you signed a bad deal back then, or a deal you thought you maybe should have gotten more from, and now you don’t like the guy. But it’s like, yo, it’s cool that you finally figured it out. It took you about 30 more years. I didn’t sign anything bad. Everybody paid me like I wasn’t a podcaster for free. I came from the streets. And I came straight into a genre where I was like, I’m going to change my life forever. I knew I had a voice. I knew I had a strong opinion and I knew that I had vast knowledge on a vast amount of subjects. Tax Season was in the comedic section. Tax Season wasn’t in the hip-hop section.

Do you think the landscape would be different if you were out and able to consistently podcast? Do you even think about that?
Oh yeah. I think about it sometimes. ‘Cause I know I would’ve been big already. But big wasn’t really it for me. I just wanted to talk and put out good content. If you listen to my show, I’m having fun. I do episodes where I’m not interviewing any artists. It was never based around interviewing artists. It was based around pushing the culture forward. Whether it be events that we all like to attend. Whether it be a dope music executive just busting moves. Whether it be somebody new, up and coming. If you look at my show, you’ll see people that were on it are everywhere now. I was supporting Drink Champs when Nore wasn’t around. I had Drink Champs shirts on in pictures when Nore was nowhere around. I had no problem with promoting other shows. Even if you look at Baroline [Diaz] that just got her situation. She was always around me working with me. I had her on the show. There’s so many people that came through just on some like, “Yo, you dope and you like to work, let’s go.” You don’t need nothing else. I was not the person that was like, you couldn’t come in the room unless you got 16 chains on and stuff like that. A lot of these people that was around didn’t even have $2 for Chinese food. So to see these certain behaviors, I’m like, wow, this is crazy. Like, to become these bourgeois podcasters now? I never shitted on other people’s podcasts. I always promoted people’s shit. I didn’t even care.

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Where are you with Joe Budden? What have you thought about his rise, and Rory and Mal leaving?
I think Rory and Mal finally figured out that Joe was a master manipulator. They was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and Joe manipulates everybody around him. Even them dudes sitting with him now are being manipulated. But you gotta understand some people are alright with manipulation as long as they get something out of it. So I think them dudes know that. But I think they just cool with the situation. Sometimes people don’t got nothing going on in their life. They need to be a part of something. I’m not one of those people. I always tell people if everybody jump on that ship, it’s gonna sink. So I’m always the person that’s like, I’m gonna stay with the land. When y’all get over there y’all write me and tell me what happened. I don’t jump on ships. I’m like a home ranger. I’m not the person that’s trying to be cool with artists so I can try to get an interview. If I genuinely like your music, I could pull up to you and tell you. I’ll ask to interview you or you’ll hit me up and vice versa. There’s many people that ask me to interview them and I wouldn’t. And a lot of those people are the people that’s talking about me now. I got the emails. So, I’m like, oh, you ain’t write this email to me? Oh, now I’m missing on that. I’m like, that’s crazy. Why you want to talk to me before then? So now that I don’t have the platform that I had before, it’s like, “Oh, yeah. When I wanted to get on your platform…” Get on the platform and talk about what? You have people who want to be on podcasts and talk about nothing. And that’s an issue. If you have nothing going on, why do you want to be on a podcast? It’s fools like the people who interview Troy Ave. They interview him ‘cause they know he’s gonna talk about me. He has nothing going on. This dude gets on there and puts a mirror up and describes what he has on. He’s gonna tell you, “I’m the cutest guy. I’m the realest guy. I’m the strongest guy. I’m so loyal. I’m so this.” He gives his job résumé every podcast and then talks about me. I don’t even understand what’s going on no more. And it’s sad that people are so easily manipulated by the poppycock.

Because you know, a lie told 1,000 times becomes the truth. But it only becomes the truth to whoever wanna believe it. So it’s like the podcast game when I see what was going on. Like with Nore. He was on my podcast. And then for maybe two, three months straight, we was on the phone every day, six in the morning, five in the morning, two in the morning, putting together the ideas for Drink Champs. Talking to the lawyers. Everything. Getting things done for him. So for you to put somebody on your podcast that’s insinuating that I killed somebody so they could be free from the crimes that they were arrested for. That’s fucked up. I would never do nothing like that. I would never give nobody a platform to make an accusation like that. I was thrown for a loop. At first just summed it up to Nore’s looking for numbers. He don’t care. Like, he’ll sacrifice anything. That’s why when what happened with Kanye, there was no shock.

How are you feeling about everything with your trial? When does it start?
Jury selection starts next week. I feel strong about the outcome. I feel like when people really see the evidence and all the things that people did in the case to try to thwart the attention towards me. But, you know, it doesn’t even make sense. And in certain contexts, like you’ve never seen somebody get into a serious incident of this effect and lose every single one of their friends after. Why did every single friend that you came with that night not deal with you no more? Why do you keep trying to spin the narrative that they didn’t help you and that was the reason that they’re not your friends anymore? Half the people that didn’t help you was not even in the room. So how could they help you? If you are on the outside of the room and you hear a gunshot, you don’t know who’s shooting. So you run. Isn’t that the procedure when a gun is going off? So when you try to make the narrative that, “Oh, this is why this, that, and the third.” It’s just so silly. None of it makes sense. If you really piece everything together, it doesn’t make sense. It don’t make sense. Even his own family will tell you, the family of the deceased, that he didn’t want to bail the dude out of jail. And then he gets out of jail. He wasn’t even hanging with him, but you’re going off the narrative that this was your best friend. It does not make sense. None of it makes sense. 

Why would every one of your friends stop dealing with you directly after an incident of that effect? Why? You can’t explain that. And it’s like everybody would stick together at that tragic moment. Why did all your friends stop dealing with you? It doesn’t make sense. You trying to hide something. The issue here is that you got the government using a witness for the sake of just winning a case. When you are able to just sign a cooperation agreement and say, “Yo, I’m gonna tell you this. Whatever y’all want to hear to fit y’all narrative so I could be free from the crime.” You gotta understand something. My DNA is on the gun. Troy’s DNA is on the gun. The deceased’s DNA is on the gun. Then other unidentified DNA is on the gun. So when this guy says stuff like, “Oh, his DNA is on the gun.” It’s like, this guy’s crazy right here. Like yours is too. You also got caught with it and you also got caught with two other weapons and you’re on camera shooting. But I’m in jail.

So jury selection will start but do you know when the trial will actually start?
The trial should probably start around the 20th February. Jury selection has been hard. Trying to pick these jurors. So many people don’t do jury duty. That’s another thing that needs to happen. In the Black community, a lot of people speak on justice reform and criminal justice reform and prison reform. But a big part of reform is that we need Black people to participate in jury duty. Because if you have a 15-year-old son who just got in trouble for the first time and now he’s being judged by a bunch of 85-year-olds that aren’t of his culture, they don’t understand. This is how a lot of times people get locked up. They don’t have the full support of their community and you aren’t really being judged by a jury of your peers.

"No. I'm not a hater. I tell the truth. And the truth is an uncomfortable place for these people to live in."

Yeah, it’s true. Most people do try to avoid jury duty.
Yeah. Nobody likes it. But if you understand the civil duty of you hearing something and understanding it better than someone that’s like 50 years of your age and really doesn’t understand what’s going on outside at all. It’s different. As a culture of Black and brown people, we gotta start doing it more. But that’s all a part of the system too. They know that poor people need to work and a job isn’t going to pay them to be on jury duty. So they’re gonna avoid it. And that’s also a part of the system. So mostly, you get rich Caucasians, Asians and Indians, that’s OK with being on a jury ‘cause they make $300,000 a year. They don’t even mind taking off some work.

So what is your plan when you get out?
I’m gonna be me.

Are you going to get back into podcasting? 
I’m not sure yet.

It’s such a weird place. Like I remember years ago, a whole bunch of dudes were wearing the same sneaker. And I seen the dude that I knew and he was sleeping on peoples’ couches. Like couch surfing. He had the same sneakers as me. And that day I stopped wearing them sneakers. So like I told you, when I see everybody on the ship, I try to not get on it ‘cause it might sink. Not saying that podcasts are gonna sink, but I just don’t even be wanting to be put in the same group of certain people. It’s like, it becomes nasty. I’m gonna smell like you if I stand next to you too long. I know that I’m smart enough to figure something else out and do something else. I don’t really got a passion to like, really do it. Like I might talk to the people, but I don’t even know if I want it to be named podcasts. Podcasts for hip-hop have become nasty. Everybody’s copying each other. Everybody’s following the same subjects. It’s no original voices. Like it’s corny. It’s like the tweet stealers. Like y’all so unoriginal. Y’all like messing yourself up between different characters. It’s like the weirdest shit ever.

Well that’s interesting. Because people do want to hear from you. But you are on Rikers Island right now. Do other inmates look to you for your opinion? Do they want to hear what you have to say as if you are on the podcast?
Yeah. I feel like sometimes they say I’m having a podcast in the day room. I try to just do different hustles. When I learned how to podcast and learned that it was an industry that I could eat from and not have to be in the streets… I think a lot of people don’t understand what the streets are. The streets is not a place that people like. Streets is a place that people have to deal with because of their circumstances and they’re not able to leave yet because of whatever financial circumstances they might have or any issues. When people find out how to make money legally and they can make a good amount to survive in an expensive city like New York City, that’s a blessing. Because a lot of people where we come from in our culture, we only know the quick, fast ways to get money. And our educational systems don’t really push the other places where you could use your brain to get money. Or your hands. So we have limited resources. So with podcasting, if they knew how to talk or they were funny, I always was with trying to help people do it. Like, “Yo, you need a podcast. This is safer than standing on the corner waiting to get shot. It’s cool as shit.” I remember the first time I got a direct deposit. I never had a job in my life. So that was a great feeling just like changing my life. Like, yo man, this shit feels good that I don’t have to go get the money or worry about the police trying to take it from me.

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Have other journalists reached out to speak with you? 
Yeah. I’ve spoken to certain people. For the most part I don’t really speak to everybody because I don’t understand their agenda. Recently I was just talking to the correction officer. She came up to me and she said, “Oh, I see they posted you on Shade Room and they like posted the ugliest picture they could find of you.” And I said, “Yeah, that’s on purpose.” Anytime I see certain things, I know they are done on purpose. It’s never my mistake. It’s always the intent behind certain actions. But I don’t get moved by shit because I don’t accept the love. So I don’t accept the hate.

So back to hip-hop media personalities. What do you think of Akademiks? 
He’s a smart guy. In the sense that he understands how to push buttons and how to get reactions out of people. I think that works for him. And I think people fall for it a lot so it gets traction. It works in his favor. I don’t really watch everything they got to do with like certain things because I don’t like people that are highly opinionated, but they don’t ever look in the mirror. Like when I talk on Tax Season, I speak of my flaws. I’ve spoken on having STDs before. I speak of all the wrong things that come with me. I have an issue with the people who never look in the mirror. I don’t wanna hear your projections if you can’t project upon yourself either. You gotta know your flaws before you can point out others’ flaws. That’s called throwing stones and living in a glass house. My mother told me as a kid, watch your mouth or watch your mouth bleed. I watch my mouth and in most instances where I know it doesn’t serve a purpose when I speak, I could be speaking the truth that might hurt, so sometimes I’ll hold the truth back. But sometimes it has to be revealed because it’ll benefit us all in the future. Meaning if Nore would’ve told Kanye West, “Yo bro, I’m not putting this out.” And he would’ve said, “Nore, you gotta put it out. You putting it out.” And he said, “No, I’m not, I’m not putting it out bro. Scrap the interview it’s over.” You might be mad at me now, but two years later down the line, you know, I did it to help you. So with the moment, you could have been passionate about one to get that message out, but once everything settled down…

You know, I always used the Styles P reference on the “Niggaz Done Started Something” on DMX’s album. He said: “Sitting at the table planning, plugged the fan in, let the sweat dry off and then grab the cannon.” That bar always stuck out to me because what it means basically is calm down and don’t react off your emotions. A lot of people react off their emotions immediately and then do something stupid that they didn’t wanna do. So, you know, it’s like you gotta understand that. Like even in my situation, I remember I did Queen Radio when I was in the Feds and one of the officers, when I got off the phone, she was like, “Oh, I heard your interview and you sounded depressed.” And I said, “I sounded depressed?” And I said, “I’m not depressed.” And she said, “You’re not depressed that you threw your life away?” I said, “I threw my life away. I’m alive.” And she said, “Oh, but you like lost everything.” I said, “I lost everything? My life is everything. I’m alive. I am alive.”

You gotta understand something. If you listen to Shanduke McPhatter, the activist. This guy is like a nutcase activist in Brooklyn. This dude said on Clubhouse that they came to Irving Plaza because somebody called him and told ‘em I was there and they wasn’t ducking no wreck because they them dudes in New York. But then you got this dude on the other podcast going around talking about how I came there to kill him. Like that don’t make sense. Your friend says that y’all got the call that I was there. I was there an hour before y’all got there with an artist who actually was on the bill. It doesn’t make sense to the narrative. And it’s sad that people are able to get in the deep trouble that they get in and then they could get off the trouble just to fit the narrative. 

"Prison does not fix people. It makes them worse. Especially if you not giving them the resources to become better."

You were talking about you don’t wanna get on a sinking ship, what do you think is the future of podcasting within hip-hop?
I think it’ll get bigger. I think it’s going to be more mainstream. It’s gonna go on the bigger networks and stuff like that, which is cool, you know. It’s only gonna be a couple survivors out of hip-hop podcasts. Because I feel like I’m a critic of music. I’m a fan of music. So I would always big up when something is hot or when it’s not, I feel like it’s hot. I don’t feel like I should be in a space where I say someone’s song is wack, and then the next thing you know they are trying to kill me because I said their song was wack.

Was that how you felt? 
Yeah. Like, like does Garth Brooks go through this? Like are there some critics out there that Garth Brooks got hits on or something out there? So what if I said your music was wack 100 times. I say people’s music is good 100 times. So why can’t I say your music is wack 100 times without getting busted upside my head? It don’t make sense. It started with the writer from Noisy. Drew Millard. Drew Millard wrote an article about New York City: The Album, Troy’s album. He said that it was horrible and the New York engine was pushing Troy after making it seem like the streets fucking with him. It was so funny when I read the article because it was true. I knew the guys who was pushing it on radio. I knew everything. So at that moment when this guy was getting pushed and he has “Your Style” out, Bobby [Shmurda] dropped, “Hot N*gga.” “Hot N*gga” was blazing in the streets. We wanted him on radio. I was one of the people who championed for it. ‘Cause I’m like, “Yo bro. Y’all playing Troy Ave like twice an hour and nobody cares about this song. This is what we fucking with out here.” So when I said it they thought I was doing it in a hateful way. It was like, no we really not jamming to that, bro. We are at the barbecue schmoney dancing right now. So when I say this and then the people, it is all on Twitter, was like word we fucking with this. Then Ebro and them dudes start playing it and stuff like that. But you let them tell it, they gonna say they found it on their own. One of the reasons I like Twitter is because we can document what we’ve said. That’s why I like it. Cause I love people catching people in their lies, because it’s all on the timeline. 

There is a pattern of this dude beating up people who don’t like his music. Then you got the time when he remixed ILoveMakonnen’s “Tuesday.” A fan tweeted him and said, “Yo, Troy Ave just remixed your song.” He [ILoveMakonnen] said, no thank you. He responds back, “Oh yo, you know me from somewhere?” ILoveMakonnen said, “Oh, no thank you.” And I think three weeks later when he performed it at SOBS, the dude is beating him up off the stage. He’s dragging him offstage at SOBs. The same dude that they alleging me of killing. Then maybe two weeks before the incident happened with me, the same dude got arrested in the nightclub for trying to hit the rapper Manolo [Rose] with a gun. And then they like wrestled him to the floor and security held him there and he had a gun and like a girl got shot and that’s what he was in jail for. And then it’s like, how the hell you gonna make this narrative that y’all are this humble group from New York that’s just out here trying to push y’alls music. And I was like the hater who was trying to destroy y’all. Like, I don’t know the narrative they trying to paint, but it’s like, no. The narrative is that you don’t like nobody to say anything about your music and if they do you coming after their ass, period.

"I don’t feel like I should be in a space where I say someone’s song is wack, and then the next thing you know they are trying to kill me because I said their song was wack."

Like, you know how many people say, “I hate Tax Season.” I’d be outside fighting every fucking day. I gotta take that with stride. Some people are going to like my shit, and some people not. And that’s just what I don’t like, is that it’s alright for people to try to portray the image of why they don’t like something or why they did something and how real they are for doing it. Shit don’t even make no sense man. Somebody died and you sitting here trying to capitalize off of a murder by trying to look tough and trying to look like a real nigga. Like this shit ain’t even about that shit no more nigga. Somebody just died and you sitting here trying to pump fake ‘cause you know you did wrong. You sitting here trying to quiet everybody up about it. You are sitting here trying to completely paint the narrative that it’s something else that’s going on. And it’s sad. It’s corny. It’s like you a selfish dude. You don’t care about nobody. 

Hovain did everything to that dude. Hovain was the dude that reached out to me like, “Yo, fall back man. We just trying to put on for the city.” And I’m like, “Yo, bro, no problem.” A hundred times I have said, “Yo, I’m sorry, I’ll stop.” Then this dude starts going back in again or telling somebody to do something to me in the street. So it was like, Nah, I’m gonna keep joking on your music. Because I think it’s wack and I’m gonna have fun doing it. 

We hear all these stories about Rikers. How are you doing in there? How is it?
Mentally, I stay sharp and I stay on point because Rikers is a jungle. It’s probably one of the most unsafe places to be. And I’m from East New York, Brooklyn, and it’s like the wild, wild West. Being able to survive there, I feel like Rikers Island is like a cake walk. But it becomes a mental drag. You get harassed by the staff. Nothing gets done here. Like we go without tissue sometimes for two days. Then they telling you to wipe your ass with the hardest paper towel they can find. It’s so crazy the type of stuff that goes on here that shouldn’t. The most minimal things. The hot water not on or the heat off for two days. They turn the heat off when it’s 2 degrees. It comes on when it’s 85 degrees outside. Everything is so bad. It’s so many complaints. I don’t even know where to start. 

But overall with corrections, with the prison system, there’s reform that needs to take place. Why would you name something corrections? Let’s say for instance you live on a block and a guy snatched your purse. You called the cops on him and he went to jail and now he’s getting out of jail two or three years later for snatching your purse. But when this guy gets outta jail, he’s the same person or he’s worse. Prison does not fix people. It makes them worse. Especially if you not giving them the resources to become better. When they had those college programs in prisons it was actually working. These guys were going out getting jobs because they don’t understand these crimes are not done out here because people…

Like Jay-Z said, “We not doing crime for the sake of doing crime, we doing crime ‘cause we ain’t doing fine.” So once they get the education to learn other things, these dudes are working. It’s all about lack of education with the system and how the prison system works. So you get in here and it’s like an industry. So if we make sure that this dude goes out way dumber, he’s gonna commit a crime again because he’s gonna need money to feed his family. He lives in an expensive city. He has a girlfriend. He needs somewhere to live. And then they put restrictions on certain things. So they’ll say “I got a job today and I get off at 11 p.m. Can you extend my hours because I’m supposed to be in the house at 9 p.m.” And they’ll say no. If this is the only way this guy could feed his family and stay outta trouble, what happens now? The guy goes back to his natural habitat because he has no other choice. So he’ll go back to his buddy who got weed or whatever. Then he’s back in prison.

Don’t send people to prison and just expect them to be alright. They got drug treatment programs, so it should be violent treatment programs. Why are you not trying to fix the people that are being violent? You got serial rapists out here that can’t stop raping people. So why are these people not getting help? If you don’t help that person, they’re gonna get out and do it again. So I think the rate of recidivism is also because of the system. Something that needs to be done to keep the system going. Why would we fix these 30,000 men who came through this prison system this year and now they going into the workforce? We need them to come back to jail.  

We already labeled you a low life. So you’re gonna stay a low life. You’re not gonna be a high life. But my thing is this, in New York City specifically, why isn’t the governor or the mayor, why aren’t they telling these new tech companies coming in here to put those programs in the prison to help these guys learn how to work at these tech companies. Give the companies some type of tax incentive and then give them some type of training. If you think about it, imagine you taught STEM in prisons. And these guys got 10 years and now this dude studied STEM research. He starts working for these on probation. It says listen, “You won’t get the same amount that this person is making it free, but after a year, if you’re good you’re gonna get the same pay.” These dudes might come out sharper than everybody, because they got so much time on their hands to learn. And a lot of them wanna learn and they’re not giving them a chance to learn. They give them no resources so they can be savages. They keep certain educational books out. Like what’s going on with Critical Race Theory. They wanna miseducate you. So I think they just need overall reform, period. Give them education and change the law. How about you change the law that says these companies can hire a felon. Because you said you sent them to a board of something that’s called the corrections. So they should be correct now, right? Why are they not allowed to be acclimated back into society?

Do you think that will be a big part of what you do when you get home? Focus on prison reform?
Yes. One of my goals is to come home and really fight for those who can’t speak. And be around guys that are around 40 years old and have good spirits but they can barely read and they gotta take care of their kids and their family. And the only reason this guy’s in crime is because of his lack of education. He’s not a criminal. A criminal does crime because they wanna do it. A poor person does crime because they’re poor. Understand the difference.  

Some of what’s going on in New York City and the train station and it’s just like, yo, these people are not criminals. They calling them felons. But a guy just ran through 34th Street and hit a whole bunch of people with an ax. That dude’s not a criminal, he’s insane. He needs mental health help. So it’s like a big homeless and mental health issue going on in New York City that’s out of this world. And like all of these homeless people are sitting here on Rikers Island right now. It’s like a humongous shelter.

Oh that’s because of Mayor Eric Adams, right? He’s enforcing this new policy with homeless people, right? 
Yeah. You know, to clean up the train station. I guess a lot of the crimes might have been coming from homeless people that were on the train. But imagine losing a home? A lot of these people had homes. They weren’t always homeless. Imagine losing your home though. So now you lose your home and you lose your mind. Your home is your place of comfort. Every time I see a fire on the news, I damn near cry. Because if a fire happens, you lose everything. You might lose your mind. I feel like look at all the money they giving to migrants. Like this could have went to the homeless to improve crimes in the train station. So cool, this is Asylum City, but show some respect for the people. 

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