“I knew that [Havoc and I] had something different than everybody else because our lifestyle was different. The things that we were doing; the people that we went to school with and hung out with; 80 percent of them was not doing what we were doing. So we were different like how we carried ourselves and how we were moving around and our slang; the way we dressed…the little trends that we created.
[When we got our record deal with 4th & Broadway], we wanted some gold teeth; we wanted to buy some leather jackets…I got a $1000 in my pocket [laughs]. We chilling. Our little video is playing on TV. We superstars. That was the attitude we had. We didn’t understand the importance of longevity and saving money. We didn’t understand the importance of mastering the craft and the business side. There’s a lot that comes along with it. It’s not a joke or a game. It’s a serious business because there are people that are ready to snatch your spot from you at any moment. So you have to really be on your job.
Preemo (DJ Premier) was one of the only [big producers] that we could afford. We were trying to get Pete Rock for the first Juvenile Hell album. There were a couple of different other people that we really couldn’t afford what they were charging. But DJ Premier and Large Professor were the ones that really stepped in and said, ‘We got y’all.’ So I guess they heard the music and they felt our vision. Because we really couldn’t afford the production from other people that we wanted it forced us to make our own beats. [Havoc] became a better producer. We were pushed into a corner like, ‘Damn…we don’t have no other choice. Where the hell are we going to get our beats from?’ It pushed the creativity out of us.
When we got dropped [from 4th & Broadway], we didn’t even know it was going to happen. We got a phone call while we were doing a show saying, ‘Yeah, they dropped y’all.’ It was like, ‘Wow…Okay…they just dropped us???’ It was crazy. It was like, ‘Fuck ‘em!’ So we were like, ‘Wow, we have to take this seriously.’ That really hit us hard when that happened. We really got our heads together like, You know what? This can’t happen again. This is what we are trying to do with our life. That can never ever happen again.
We really had no choice [but to improve from Juvenile Hell to The Infamous]. It was either do or die…it was, Do you want to do this as a career or what? It was time to step up and prove ourselves. We had guys from our Queensbridge neighborhood like Nas and Cormega, and they were a big inspiration. Just looking up to them and seeing how they were rhyming—they were like superstars before Illmatic even came out; before Juvenile Hell; before The Infamous. Cormega, Nas and Tragedy, they were like celebrities. It’s was like, ‘They are the best in the world.’ That’s how we were looking at them. So that helped catapult us and push us to be on that level of quality.”