That’s very interesting. You invest a lot of yourself into the Conglomerate movement. What inspired you to start another team after going through the situation you had with the Flipmode Squad?
The Conglomerate was a new platform that I felt was necessary to provide for new talent and be able to show them that there was a new way to provide a support system for new talent from the ‘now’ timeframe. The way we did things with Flipmode was the 90s way of doing business. The Conglomerate is the ‘right now’ way of doing business. It was a time for a pressing of the restart button. Busta Rhymes reinvents with new business, new deals, Cash Money/Young Money, and Google. I needed to have my new infrastructure as well. The Conglomerate is my new infrastructure of business as an entertainment company and a record label. Being that I was coming across new talent that I saw being worthy of being a part of this new movement, I just wanted to make sure I introduce them to the new way of doing business and the new way of being a fully packaged, well-rounded artist. The Conglomerate is a company with designs specifically to facilitate that.
Based off your ties with Baby and Slim, do you think it has the potential to be the next Young Money?
Absolutely. I mean, I wouldn’t exactly say the new Young Money. We’re gonna be the new Conglomerate. Young Money is Young Money. You can’t have a new Young Money because Young Money is still new. What they’ve been able to accomplish as Young Money is so profound with Nicki [Minaj] and Drake. And you got to think, Nicki and Drake are only on their second albums. Those two new artists have outsold every new artist in the business. They’re outselling motherfucking veterans! There’s not gonna be another Young Money. You gotta let them stand alone and respect the kind of monumental movement that is. Cash Money is the parent company to that. There’s nothing in the industry like Cash Money neither, and there’s not gonna be a new Cash Money. You have to respect what that is. I’m trying to build something that’s being embraced thoroughly by Bird, Slim and Wayne with my Conglomerate. Me and Bird talk frequently about what we’re going to do with the Conglomerate once I do what I gotta do with my Cash Money debut album when I release that. We’ve been building such a wonderful momentum with the Conglomerate and the “King Tut” record with J-Doe & Reek Da Villain. Reek’s been with me for 6 or 7 years. If you look back in the “New York Shit” video, you see Reek running around in that with me, and that came out in 2006. J-Doe’s been with me for 3 years. My dudes have been patient, dedicated, committed, loyal and now it’s their time. They got momentum, records in the street, and records on the radio in rotation. Everything feels like it’s supposed to feel. The dots are connecting, and everything is happening organically. Everything’s going exactly how it’s supposed to go. By the time they come out with their debut projects, this momentum that we’re building and continuing to build is gonna be really powerful coming from the Cash Money/Young Money/Universal system.
When it comes to social issues in the industry—like Nas’ ghostwriting claims for example—who do you believe when it comes to things like that? With the media, the Internet, and even the streets all claiming the facts, who do you look for to give you the truth?
I kind of just look to the facts for the truth. You got to research the facts. You can take a little bit from everywhere, but you research it and you get the facts. Fortunately I have access to a lot of resourceful information and people, so I base my shit on that. But speaking on the Nas ghostwriter thing, I think that’s really funny because I’ve known Nas from before he put out a solo album. I sat in Large Professor’s house, and he actually made the “Halftime” beat for me. The “Halftime” beat on the Illmatic album was originally for Busta Rhymes. I didn’t know what to do with it. I gave it to Nas and he sledgehammered that. Back then, Nas recorded in Power Play Studios [in Queens]. Power Play was also where Leaders Of The New School recorded some of the first Leaders’ album. Nas never needed a ghostwriter in his life—and I don’t have to ask nobody to confirm that. I know what I saw with my own two! I’m not taking away from nobody and what they do. I’m not even knocking ghostwriters. To each his own. Get your money how you live. Whatever way you got to live, get it the way you got to get it. I don’t knock nobody’s hustle, but Nas needing a ghostwriter, using a ghostwriter, or having a ghostwriter—for me to believe that, a nigga would damn near have to swallow gunpowder, swallow a match, blow himself up and float around on some Daffy Duck shit [Laughs].
Perfect answer. So to wrap this up, you had a monumental set at this year’s Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival—specifically with the Leaders Of The New School reunion? Why did you choose now to reunite with the Leaders? Why the BK Hip Hop Fest?
I actually didn’t choose to reunite with them for or at the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival. I don’t even think it was a choice then. Sometimes the universe has its way of working things out when it’s supposed to work itself out. Me and [Charlie] Brown broke up 19 years ago, and it was a big blow to me because I loved the group and I loved the opportunities that it created for me in my life. I never wanted to see it die, but it died at a time where I needed it the most because I was the first one to have children in the group. But when the group was over, I had my first son and I didn’t know how else to make money. I was really scared. The mother of my child was living with me because her mom wasn’t feeling the fact that she was pregnant, and my mom didn’t want me to have no bastard child in my crib, so my girl had to move in. I had to get engaged and shit. I wasn’t even ready for that, but my mother was such a Christian at the time that she just wasn’t having that shit. In the Bible you can’t have no kids out of wedlock, so the closest thing to marriage that my mom was going to make us do was get engaged. She knew I wasn’t ready for no marriage neither. It was a rough time. I was forced to do shit that I wasn’t ready to do, forced to become a man quicker than I was ready to be, and forced to find ways to support my child and the mother of my child when that source of revenue was just cut off because the group was over. So I held it against Brown for a long time. He was the demise of the group at that time, so I blamed him for not just breaking up the group, but he fucked with my living conditions. That’s some deep shit. That shit wasn’t just damaging to me. It was damaging to my son and it was damaging to my child’s mother. It trickled down. I really resented him for that for a long time. Time had to heal that.
About a week or two before the show, I didn’t feel [animosity], but I just wasn’t ready to get with him. I had to wrap my head around actually being ready to go see him. I wasn’t ready to talk to him. I didn’t have the same feeling as when we first stopped speaking, but I just had to get myself prepared. It was like if I get with the bro, and it brings back old feelings and old shit, I’m not trying to go back to that. I moved on and everybody moved on. I’m in a different space in my life and I don’t want to bring back no negative shit in my universe. My shit is functioning very beautifully right now. It was a little nerve-racking for me because I didn’t want to revisit old shit. But when I got with him, it felt so good. It felt like a weight was finally off a nigga. I missed my bro, I was happy to see him, and niggas shed a tear or two. We took a lot of pictures because the family was so happy to see that. The family and the friends that grew up around us, they didn’t see us embrace in 19 years. That shit was a big deal to us, for our family members, and for the friends that lived on that block that were around when we would go into Brown’s crib every day to write rhymes. As shorty’s, we were able to drink and smoke in Brown’s crib. We couldn’t do that shit in my crib or Dinco [D’s] crib. We were always at Brown’s crib. It was the fun crib to be at. We were drinking, blowing trees, smoking cigarettes, just fucking around at Brown’s crib because that’s where shit was able to be live at. We were able to have our action over there. It was just so good to be able to lift that shit off of you and leave happy. It’s great that we could be in this space. I spent a lot of hours that night, going down memory lane and reminiscing on all of the shit. Niggas was just being happy and alive. It felt so good that I was like, “Yo I’m headlining this festival. What y’all think about coming out there and surprising these niggas with me?” Once they said they were with it, I was like, “Wow.” Then I called Q-Tip. I said, “Tip, you headlined this shit last year, but you and Phife [Dawg] weren’t on the stage together. I came out with you and Kanye came out with you. How about we get Phife this time. Niggas ain’t seen y’all together since the [Beats, Rhymes, And Life] documentary. It was just so much intense shit going on between y’all in that documentary, that niggas would be really happy to see y’all on the stage together again too.” I just thought it was monumental. We ain’t did “Scenario” in its entirety since ’92 either. We ain’t did that shit with all of us on the same stage in 18 or 19 years neither, so it just felt like we got two milestone groups reuniting at the same time. It just felt like something that was Godly, man. I really cherish that moment because it was definitely probably one of the happiest moments in my life—my whole career.
Just the way you describe it sounds like a monumental occurrence. As fans watching that, we just felt it. It was awesome.
I ain’t gonna lie, there were moments where I was fighting hard from shedding a tear in front of y’all. That shit was just so crazy. Slick Rick is another one of my inspirations. He’s so iconic to me. You would’ve thought I had a shrine on my wall of that dude. I had too many Word Up! and Blackbeat magazine pictures on my wall of this dude, with his jewels and different pictures of his custom outfits with the eye patches to match. His swag was always on ten trillion. For me to be able to have him come out for me, and the whole Duck Down movement with Smif n Wessun and Buckshot, plus [Lil’] Fame from M.O.P., it was just a real golden moment, man. It was just beautiful and special. I’m holding on to that one. That probably is the biggest highlight of my life next to establishing a deal and getting my first advance.
Year Of The Dragon is available now for free, via Google Play, by clicking [HERE]