So is that what ultimately landed you in jail?
Yea, I had got caught up again in a Commerce Bank with some checks, and man I was just sitting in jail waiting to see the judge—all these ups and downs, heart racing—I just got tired of it. So after I got blessed with a [case dismissal] and beat another probation violation case, I knew that God let me get away for a reason. I was all fucked up, man. I was out of town hustling just to pay for my lawyer. I was really playin Russian Roulette. So for me to make it through all that, I realized God has me here for a reason.
You definitely lucked out…
My right hand man got locked up around the same time. Shout out to Gutta and this is my partner, we did the same exact stuff. And he never did a bid in his life, but he got hit with five years. Honestly, he hit me with the D-Roc type of message when he was telling Biggie he was taking the bid. My slime told me, “just rap, that’s it.” So I got people I got to look out for now.
Aside from the corporate gangster imagery in your rhymes, you’re also heavy into Italian Mob culture that was big in the '90s. What makes you relate to the Mafia?
I like that whole mafia code—the vision they had. Dining at Peter Lugers. [Laughs] I was just infatuated by it. I got every single Mafia flick, I ain’t playin. I love the principals and loyalty that people are missing that these days. That’s my era from when Nas, Big were talking about
Did it bother you at all that even in Mob flicks like Goodfellas they are blatantly racist towards African Americans?
They racist, but respected Bumpy Johnson. He was a black man from Harlem that let them know “y'all just not coming to Harlem and making money.” If you come to Harlem, pay homage. They didn’t like him, but they stayed down with him. Everyone respects Money.
You’ve actually been mistakenly associated with another groups of mafiosos of sorts—the Lo Lives—due to your obsession with Polo. Can you clear that misconception up?
I’ve never claimed or said I was a Lo Life. I just wear Ralph Lauren because I love it. Remember, I’m all Rugby. I didn’t bring Polo to Harlem, I brought Rugby and the change in fashion up here. Everybody has been on Lo. Shout out to Young Dro, he kills them with the Polo. But the Lo Lives show love for the most part, the young ones at least. The older ones might feel a way.
Speaking of the change in Harlem, what's your opinion on how gentrification has changed Uptown in the last five years?
It’s for the better, we needed a change. It’s no Harlem anymore, man… it’s Soha [laughs]. It’s all love though, I was born in Harlem Hospital and raised here my whole life, so I’m just glad people want to move here. We might have Memorial Weekend for Harlem here soon. [laughs]
What’s the best thing about Harlem in the summer?
Cookouts. We throw the best ones in Harlem. July 4th Most Hated Cookout—me and Jae Millz been doing since 2000.
Your neighborhood 142nd and Lennox holds a lot of clout in the street. Who was the biggest star you’ve witnessed come through your block?
Probably Jay-Z, he used to come through my block 142nd back in the day
What year was this?
Around 2000, when he was coming through to fuck with Dame. When they was the Roc, he’d come through and show love to everyone out here. I was just a kid but I was under all Dame’s people. That’s another reason why Harlem is so much behind me, all the hustlers seen me come up. I been watching and learning, now it’s my time.
Do you still speak to Dame?