Interview: Logic Talks New Album, The Biggest Misconceptions About Him, Being Biracial

Looks can be deceiving—just ask Def Jam signee Logic. The 24-year-old MC has fought against misconceptions most of his life because of his cream colored skin aka he’s biracial. Logic grew up in surrounded with poverty, violence and substance abuse which forced him to have to use his better judgment at a young age. Now he has escaped the madness and is gearing up for his major label debut—slated for a fall release. During his last press run in New York City, the Maryland native stopped by the VIBE offices to talk about his upcoming album, misconceptions about him, his worst job and more.

VIBE: You’re from Maryland. What does the hip hop scene look like there?
Logic: I think it looks like a lot of other places. Just like in New York everybody is in their own different worlds there are people who are known but its hard to break out on a national level. [In Maryland] only a few people who can do it. There’s a lot of love, there’s a lot of hate. There’s a lot of grinding. There’s a lot of people who never make it so I find myself very fortunate. So when I think about it the only other rappers that have really made it out so far are myself, Wale and Fat Trel. Shy Glizzy is doing a great job too. So yeah, its kind of crazy to know that I’m repping my state which is really cool.

How did the DMV inspire your sound because when I listen to your music it doesn’t sound like go-go or Baltimore Club Music?
I grew up on Wu-Tang and Tribe and Nas , all the raw, very New York driven music. Then when I got older in my late teens early twenties and that’s when I started to listen to Drake and J. Cole and so it wasn't just East coast. Now I was trying to make really cool songs and something melodic and something fun and listening to Wayne and just all of these different people and really opened up my mind and I guess that made me it less regional and more universal. So it was something that everyone could enjoy, just innovative music. So it definitely does not sound like where I'm from where there’s like a lot of go-go. My dad played with Chuck Brown and EU and all them out there.

Listening to your music, I hear you talk about there being a lot of misconceptions about you. What's the biggest one?
The legitimacy of my story and who I am. I think a lot of people look at me and--first and foremost not take into the account that I'm biracial. There's a lot of soul to the actual flow and shows how much I love this genre. Not to name drop but like how Wale is from the same city and I can talk about narcotics and the guns in my household and all these things I witnessed as a child growing up people might think its not be legitimate just because of how I look. The fact that I look 100 percent white or because I carry myself in a honorable manner-- which is really funny to think that if you're positive or a good person and that's what you're about its almost of corny or not cool but if you're talking about semi-automatics or degrading women and all types of shit. I definitely think there's a difference between a bitch and a woman but its just weird to think that that’s more co-signable or believable than someone who looks like me and went through shit that's just as bad as some of their favorite rappers sometimes its even worse. I think that's something I face but I think its something that people are going to get over. Another person who I feel went through that is Eminem . He's from Detroit. He witnessed a lot of things, went through a lot of things and at the end of the day I think his perseverance not only through his music but his talent is undeniable and that's how I feel about myself as well. By all means I'm not trying to sound arrogant but I've worked for 10 years and I'm a student of the game and I'm still learning everyday and I know how good I am and I think that that is going to overshadow everything at the end of the day.

Speaking of hard work, at a young age, like 16 you had like two jobs and you were living on your own.
Yeah, long story short I was living with my dad and he was getting social security checks and he was on welfare and food stamps as well.

And he wanted you to pay rent?
Yeah!! He wanted me to pay rent and I was like 'Get the fuck out of here!' You’re getting assistance from the government and he was like ‘it’s my house my rules’ so I moved out. I didn’t have my own apartment because I was still working jobs that suck so I wasn't making that much money so I had to rent a room out.

You worked at Jiffy Lube, right?
I’ve worked at Jiffy Lube, a flower shop, a day care center, Giant which is the supermarket where I’m from, Safeway which is a supermarket, Joe’s Crab Shack, I’ve worked at a lot of places man and it really fucking sucked. Wingstop with the chicken. But I was kind of like the cliche’. I was in cooking the fries and rapping and shit like on some 8 Mile shit.

What was your worst job?
Probably working in the supermarket because I had to work in this bakery and we worked with this bitch. We all called her the ‘bread Nazi’. Have you ever seen Seinfeld where they joke around about the ‘soup Nazi”? It’s funny because she was just like this real bitch unfortunately. Like she was such a bitch that like I would be doing my job and putting the bread together or whatever and there would be a woman next to me and that’s my co-worker so we would be having conversation while were doing our work and she’d be like ‘you cannot talk to each other!’ and I’d be like holy shit! Bitch!

Wow! It sucks when you have a terrible boss.
But you know what? It makes this that much better. I think about how we just did this tour and I have a lot of things going on in my life that people don’t see behind the scenes and there’s no reason for them to see. When there’s a Behind the Music on me they’ll know one day. But now its like I’m dealing with a lot things from personal to business to shit that’s so overwhelming and it’s kind of hard where the person that’s leading the pack because by all means I feel like I’m partners with everybody on my team. Everybody is there holding their own with what they do but at the end of the day I know I’m the leader of this circle. So you have to be strong all the time which is hard because you just wanna let everybody know that everything is gonna be okay and that everything is fine. I say all that just to say my worse day doing what I love couldn't even compare to my best working at some regular fucking job. You know what I mean?

I know you talk about what you go through a lot in your music especially with your family with the substance abuse.
Yea like I never really delved into that. I smoked a little weed but it wasn’t really crazy. I think I witnessed these things going on in my household with my brothers selling it and even selling it to our own father. I think that had a great effect on me in a positive way because I’ve been through a lot of shit and a lot of people are like I can’t believe you’re not fucked up mentally like for real. I think it just comes down to God and what I saw. I was just like ‘let me not do this dumb ass shit that everybody in my family is doing’. It just happens.

Watching them just makes you not want to do it and makes you want better for yourself.
I think that’s rare though.

Definitely because substance abuse can be genetic.
Oh 100 percent! That’s why I never delved into it. I’m just weird. I don’t know I just never really wanted to take any drugs because who knows what could happen because its so deep in my genes.

You talk about your biracial heritage in your music as well.
I was raised in a black household. I am the only one who looks white in my entire family besides my mom. I was raised with this beautiful culture around me. Everybody has culture, even white people have culture but its different with me. So in high school I was hanging out with the black and Hispanic kids. I’m not hating on white people. I hang with white people too but that’s where I felt most accepted because I could relate to them more. Especially here I’m from in Montgomery County. Its like multimillion dollar homes and you go down a little bit and there’s Section eight housing. I was the kid that was over there. So when we went to school I couldn't really relate to the kids who had summer homes. I related to the other kids who have never left--like I’ve never really been on vacation. I’ve never really been to any other state until music. For awhile I didn’t want to talk about it because it was so annoying but then I embraced. I was just like I think people should know this. I remember one day, it was like a year ago, I tried to find other mixed people like myself and its like impossible, totally insane.

Mixed Rappers?
No just mixed people who look white and its really hard to find and its so funny. I just try not to think about it too much. I know who I am and I know my story and the things that I talk about are authentic and real and I always say this: I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not.

Yeah it doesn't define who are, it’s just a part of you. It’s really not a big deal, like look at Drake.
Yea look at Drake! He’s Black and Jewish and even Cole. I think my situation was a bit more dangerous in the household as far as my brothers and the things that they were doing. But for the most part white mother, black father. Black dad was no where to be found and I was raised by this white woman. My family is big so I had the other brothers and sisters at a different time because I’m the only child between my mother and my father. So all my siblings are different moms and dads. They weren’t there for a majority of my life because they were with their father over here or with their mother over here. It was just me and my mom growing up and then they came into my life.

So Dad came in later?
Dad was peppered into the years. Dad never really lived with me and when he did live with us he would steal things. I remember one time he stole my identity. My name is Sir Robert Bryson Hall II and his name is Robert Bryson Hall and he used my social security card and got like 10 credit cards under my name and was buying and doing all these things and potentially could have ruined my credit before it even began but I was 10 years old and the government realized it. But its insane man. There’s a pre-release center back home and when you are released from jail you go there. I remember I would go visit my father and even my stepfather. I don’t know why I’m bringing this up but there was this pre-release center where I lived where the drug addicts are and I went and played chess there while my mother was visiting her mans (laughs) I would visit with these other criminals at seven and eight years old and eventually learned to play chess. I don’t know why I’m bringing this up but I’ve never told anyone that. I guess what I mean by all this and this story is that the dark times and the negativity when I grew up I always did my best to find good things there so its like I learned to play chess at seven at the pre-release center. I try my best to look for all the good in every situation. That’s why when I look back my childhood was terrible like it was so fucking bad but in hindsight when I look back it was great too.

You mentioned people having misconceptions and being accepting of you because you’re biracial. There are gay rappers on the rise...
I support everybody for the most part as long as they are positive people and what they’re doing is positive and they’re not forcing shit on other people.

Do you think its going to be hard for gay rappers? Because now in hip hop people are allowed to be themselves. Do you think they will be able to comeup?
I feel like if someone is able to market themselves the right way then they could do it, you know what I mean? Not every homosexual man is flamboyant.

Right. So let’s talk about the music. When’s the While You Wait EP coming out?
That should be coming out. Honestly, I am so focused on the album and the fans are so focused on the album that I’m probably going to drop it but who knows. Certain samples could get cleared and we could just drop the first single for the album and ain’t nobody gon’ care about the EP because its the free songs I’ve been putting out anyway. So hopefully that should be coming out. That’s the plan but the album is my main priority right now.

Do you have a name for the album yet?
I know what I’m going to name it but its a surprise right now. The only thing that is not out there is the album title and the release date but its looking like fall and a lot of things in between.

Any collaborations on the album?
No collaborations on the album just because I wanted to tell my story and I didn't want anybody to tell their story on what I’m doing. I kind of wanted to “Illmatic” it for the most part. However, that doesn't mean that they won't be any dope ass features on the deluxe or the bonus. Just because it’s a very raw hip hop album doesn't mean there isn’t going to be anything for the radio on the deluxe.

Dream collaborations?
A lot of those are happening and have happened which is really cool. But definitely Nas.

You met him and he was a really big fan, right? You’re one of his favorites.
Yea he’s a really great guy. Very honorable and he has like the presence, you know what I mean? And he looks 22. I’d love to work with Drake, I’d love to work with Cole who is also a homie of mine, Kanye obviously. More than a verse I want a Kanye beat.

Speaking of beats who are some of the producers on the album?
The main producer is Six who is my in house dude. I’ve known him for years and we started together on the mixtapes and everything so he’s done a large majority of the entire album by himself. I did a couple of records on there which is weird to think about.

That was your first time producing?
Well I produced a little bit here and there but to this extent yes it’s like the first time. NO ID has a joint on there and S1 who did the song “Power” for Kanye. Tae Beast from TDE is on there too.

How will the album be different from your previous projects?
On the mixtapes I told you my dad smoked crack, I told you my mom has been stabbed I told you I grew up poor but now I’m going to show you. I’m going to open up that dialogue and explain what it was like to view this or to be here or experience that and paint that picture of that bedroom or the street that I was living on or the gunshots going off outside as a child and just explain that and depict in a way where you feel like you’re there and you can just close your eyes and do that in a coming of age story of me in my adolescence and childhood into my manhood.

So it’s going to be a story sort of like how Kendrick did it on GKMC?
Its not all over the place but it definitely shows different points. So the story is all there but its not like how Kendrick did it. Where it was literally a day from chillin with his homies to being in the backseat on “Backseat Freestyle” to the “Art of Peer Pressure” so no it’s not like that. But it does have that feel of that honesty and its very grand and its very musical with the live strings and basses and guitars and pianists and there are very few samples on the whole album. It’s very musical. The album has been done for almost six months. I didn’t want to rush. I wanted to make sure everything was perfect.

What are some things that the fans would be surprised to know about you?
I love movies. I own like every movie ever.

I sensed that you like comedy from your last mixtape.
I love Sci-Fi , like that’s my shit. I’m a fucking nerd. I think the reason I love Sci-Fi is because of time travel and distance and visiting other planets because that’s something I wish I could see so fucking bad.

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Future Keeping His Sobriety A Secret Says More About You Than Him

On Tuesday (Jan. 16), Future made the revelation that he was sober. Who knows, maybe he traded the lean in for alkaline water and fresh juices. While this may have come as a shock to fans who have often linked the rapper to heavy drug use, what was even more astonishing was that Future concealed his sobriety for weeks or even months—not because he was diligently working on weaning himself off of the dangerous drug of choice without distractions, but because he feared how the announcement would affect his music stats and fan base.

It’s certainly customary for fans to tie a characteristic or specific subject to an artist’s music or brand. For instance, Mary J. Blige makes breakup music, Trey Songz markets sex, and Lil Peep frequently made emo, drug music. Future’s artistry in particular is deeply rooted in drug use as a method of self-medication to cope with heartache, pain and suffering. He’s arguably recognized as the godfather of this new generation of mumble rappers, who romanticize drug use as a form of self-care. Percocets and molly not only served as the tools for a catchy chorus in 2017’s “Mask Off,” but also provided a lens into Future’s real-life pastime.

When messages such as a breakup, sex and addiction become the primary focuses of an artist’s narrative, we inherently expect them to continue with those trends, especially if the music is a success. Future’s DS2 debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Mary J’s 2017 studio album Strength of a Woman—which discussed her public divorce from manager and husband Martin “Kendu” Isaacs—debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. But Hendrix’s inability to share such a positive transition in his life says more about the negative effects of fan culture and the music industry as a whole than it says about him.

“I didn’t wanna tell nobody I stopped drinking lean,” Future admitted to Genius. “I didn’t tell because I felt like, then they gon’ be like, ‘Oh, his music changed because he stopped drinking lean.’ It’s just hard when your fans [are] so used to a certain persona you be afraid to change.”

The weeknd needs to get back on drugs and make some good music like he used to

— alaina (@lalalaina_) January 13, 2017

Fans naturally equate spiraling and unhealthy behavior with good music and would rather see their favorite musician continue to spiral for the sake of their craft and our entertainment. Although there are new movements promoting mental health awareness and self-care within the hip-hop community, fans still praise the destruction of the genre’s biggest artists.

When The Weeknd split with his girlfriend Bella Hadid in 2016, many prayed for another dark, narcotic-fueled album comparable to 2011’s stellar House of Balloons, which was released during a time when he was deeply involved with cocaine and pill-popping. Twitter users seemingly encouraged such behavior, leveraging musical satisfaction over the well-being of the XO artist.

While fan approval shouldn’t necessarily dictate an artist’s creative process, the possibility of negative feedback that comes with “switching things up” can often be too loud to ignore. In an interview with VIBE, A Boogie wit da Hoodie also reiterated his hesitation with stepping away from his usual themes of relationships and heartbreak on his No. 1 album, Hoodie SZN. He ultimately included both versions of himself—the heartbreak and the new A Boogie—in order to appease his loyal fan base and evolve as an artist. “I feel like all my fans saw what I was doing, but they just didn’t care. They loved how I started so much that they didn’t care about the switch up. They wanted me to be heartbroken.”

Going to jail unjustly was the best thing to ever happen to Meek Mill. Greatest resurrection story since Jesus Christ pic.twitter.com/EXiOKoT72v

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The association of success and pain doesn’t only revolve around drug use or broken relationships. It was suggested that Meek Mill’s brief incarceration for a probation violation set the foundation for his 2018 comeback and No. 1 album, CHAMPIONSHIPS.

“Going to jail unjustly was the best thing to ever happen to Meek Mill. Greatest resurrection story since Jesus Christ,” one user wrote on Twitter. Despite the frequent protests for his immediate prison release, it’s almost as if some fans approved of his demise once it was over because it somehow forced him to make better music.

There is a danger in requiring artists to stick to their brands, especially when it focuses on abusing and glorifying a harmful lifestyle. Fans have to be willing to allow artists to evolve because that transformation extends far beyond the music; their art mimics life. You will not die if artists like Future or The Weeknd pivot the focus of their music away from chronicling drug use, but they could, and that should be the only point that matters here.

If we can support artists like 21 Savage as he explores other subjects besides his chains (Nipsey Hussle cosigned 21’s decision after DJ Akademiks suggested that he didn’t want to hear anything else from the artist) or salute Jay-Z as he's evolved into talking about investing in stocks and collecting priceless artwork, then it shouldn’t be difficult to endorse the Future's new chapter—whatever that may be—as well.

Future is gearing up to release his new album The WZRD on Jan. 18, and if you can seriously criticize his music not because of the quality but because it doesn’t sound like his typical doped up brand, then Future was never the problem—it’s you.

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Tragedy Khadafi Talks New Music, Juice Crew Memories, And Evolving With The Times

When speaking on the lineage of hip hop, Queensbridge is integral to the conversation, as the public housing complex is regarded as fertile ground and the home of some of the greatest MCs in rap history. While Nas, Mobb Deep, Capone-N-Noreaga and others are among the first to come to mind when looking back at QB's most renowned exports, Tragedy Khadafi can be credited with helping bridge the gap between the neighborhood's legendary run during the late '80s and its golden era of the '90s.

At a time when rap had yet to fully find its footing, Tragedy Khadafi displayed lyrical abilities and techniques that were beyond his years as one-half of the Queensbridge rap duo, the Super Kids. Tragedy was scooped up by Marley Marl, who inducted the teenage into his Juice Crew collective. However, Tragedy, who was notorious for his exploits in the street, would be incarcerated during the late '80s, returning the to game as Intelligent Hoodlum and releasing a pair of albums during the early '90s. Since settling on the name Tragedy Khadafi around 1995, the rapper has not only made a name for himself, but others, helping usher C-N-N to the forefront of New York City hip-hop and serving as a conduit between Queensbridge's plethora of poetical thugs and the rap game.

In 2018, Tragedy Khadafi was as prolific as ever, releasing the solo album The Builders this past September, as well as Immortal Titans, his collaborative project with producer BP. A seasoned vet with the willingness to adapt to an ever-evolving rap landscape, Tragedy Khadafi is preparing for the next phase of his career, expanding his brand with a new podcast, and a pair of new releases slated for 2019.”We're working on a Drive-By's album for the podcast, “Tragedy reveals. And I'm working on a new solo album, Uniform Garments.”

Tragedy Khadafi hopped on the phone with VIBE to chop it up about his new music, lawsuits against iconic rap figures, being the prototypical Queensbridge MC, memories of the Juice Crew, making the plunge into the world of media, and more.


VIBE: You recently released your solo album, The Builders, this past September. How has the reception been to that project? Tragedy Khadafi: I got a lot of good responses on the project and honestly, I kinda did that real quick. I didn't even really concentrate. I don't wanna take away from it, but that was nothing in comparison to what I'm doing right now.

What would you say was your goal or mind-state with while recording this album? I was looking at the climate and I was looking at the terrain and I wanted to make an album I wanted to hear. And I wanted to give my fans and supporters something that I know that they look to.

One song on the tracklist that jumps out at listeners is "Stacked Aces," which features a guest appearance from Havoc of Mobb Deep. What was it like working with him again, with the QB connection and your history with one another? It's always interesting when me and Hav’ hook up ‘cause we're like brothers, we’re like family. We got our ups and we got our downs and we go through different things, but we always seem to keep a line to each other, so it was interesting to get back with him because I hadn't seen him in a while. It just always works well when we come together.

How did that song come together? Well actually, I had reached out to him because I wanted to try to get him another situation. What a lot of people don't realize is I brokered the deal and A&R'd Havoc's first solo album with Nature Sounds, which is The Kush. And the plight was for Hav to be given that decorated honor as the East Coast Dr. Dre, so we wanted to make that album Havoc's Chronic, so we called it The Kush. So I wanted to reach out to him again and create another situation. It didn't exactly turn out that way, but we ended up exchanging some tracks, going back and forth, and I actually liked that one a lot. And he was just like, 'aight, go 'head, rock with it' and we took it from there.

You collaborated with producer BP on the album Immortal Titans this year as well. What's the genesis of your relationship with BP and what sparked the two of you to team up for this project? Well with BP, it was interesting. He initially reached out through me through a business associate and manager who actually runs Deep Concept and works very close with Erick Sermon. He reached out to me through the manager for a feature and I told him, 'look, I'm not into doing features no more, I’m into doing whole projects. So he was like, 'word,' so he actually came up with some more beats and we worked out the situation where I would record more songs for the project and it went together well. His production was very high quality and it seemed to be a marriage with my lyrics, so it wasn't hard work, it was all natural. I actually did the whole album in seven days.

The whole writing and the recording, too? Everything, yeah.

You recently filed a lawsuit against Master P. What was the genesis of the lawsuit? My attorney is helping me put in a lawsuit, which we got back a response from Master P's attorneys. We're basically suing him for copyright infringement and things of that nature due to the fact that he took the title and concept "Intelligent Hoodlum" and actually dropped an album called Intelligent Hoodlum (in 2017). It went over a lot of people's heads because I guess people concentrate more so on his other ventures. But he came out with an album and it came across my attention so I approached him on Instagram and tried to open a forum to have a courtesy talk, opposed to just suing him. Then I waited seven months and he left me no choice but to go at him legally, at that point.

What’s the status of the lawsuit, at this moment? We just got response back from the label and they're basically admitting fault, to my knowledge. We're also suing Ice Cube for doing a similar act by coming out with a song, "Arrest The President," and not acknowledging who the originator of that is, which is me. So we're suing him, too, right now.

In a recent interview, Marley Marl said that he feels the style of rap coming out of Queensbridge during the '90s can be traced back to your song "Live Motivator" from Marley Marl's In Control compilation. Would you agree with that statement? Yeah, I would definitely agree. And that's not to take nothing away from Nas or anybody else who came after me out of The Bridge, but truth is truth. You definitely see that there, that was pretty much the archetype and I just think they took it and modernized and made it their own, as they should.

You were also the youngest member of The Juice Crew, which was the hottest rap collective in New York during the '80s. What was it like being around superstars like Roxanne Shante, MC Shan, Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane and how would you describe your interactions with them? The best way I can explain it was like a young Kobe [Bryant] being under Magic Johnson and Earl The Pearl and Wilt Chamberlain and have them as standards to hold yourself to, but actually in your life, you're having interactions with him them. Because I’m sure those players were a standard to Kobe at some point in his life, with Jordan or whatever, but the difference is that I actually had Jordan in the room with me, you know what I'm saying. Having Kane, having Rakim and having Shan—and Marley, to be honest. That was like having Jordan in the room with you. It wasn't me watching Jordan on TV or watching videos, it was me being on the court with Jordan. So to equate that feeling or try to imagine that as a kid out of the projects, off the streets and now you're amongst rap's elite. It had nothing but a great and positive impact on me, the whole way, even to this day.

A lot of rap fans are aware of your solo career, but are unaware that you got your start in rap as part of a duo called The Superkids as a pre-teen. What are your memories of that group coming together and being one of the first kid rappers with street credibility? It was all organic. It was fresh off the streets, it was born the streets it took form in the streets and it grew off the streets. It came by way of a relationship I had with a DJ named Larry Panic. Larry Panic was an ill graffiti artist, DJ and street fighter and he introduced me to Hot Day and me and Hot Day formed the group the Super Kids. We was trying to get on for a long time and it wasn't happening fast enough, so we kinda put ourselves on. We went and pressed our own records up, at that age, we went and made our own mixtapes. And I followed the same template when I got with C-N-N because it was like nobody wanted to put us on the mixtapes at first, so I was like, 'f**k it, let's make our own mixtape.' So I got that from being a Super Kid.

I believe I had just turned 13 and that's when it started. Hot Day was a DJ at a local skating rink called USA, located in Queens, and I would go there and perform. We actually did our first record, it was called "Go Queensbridge / Live At Hip Hop USA,” and we rocked there and actually took the tapes and pressed it and made a record out of it. And we actually used "Take It Off" by Spoonie Gee. It was on Tuff City Records and when we brought it to radio it got more spins than the original record.

After your release from prison, you reintroduced yourself as Intelligent Hoodlum, which saw you being to rap more about enlightenment and knowledge of self. How would you describe that period of your life and career? Initially, when I came home, I can hold Big Daddy Kane responsible. Big Daddy Kane was one of the first people to introduce me to knowledge of self and at first I was like, 'man, I don't wanna hear that sh*t.' And it was an incident where he got into a situation with one of G Rap's entourage. The way he handled it I was like, 'son, this dude is tough.' Not only is he nice on the mic, but he's tough, too. So once that happened, it made me—in a sick way, at that time 'cause I was on my street sh*t—respect what he was saying in terms of knowledge of self and that was my first introduction to it. And I had just came from and I started going through Marley's phone books looking for certain people to talk to and I came across Chuck D's number. Chuck D would talk to me before he even knew me and put me on to certain literature and certain books about certain icons in the revolution, like Huey Newton, H Rap Brown and Assata Shakur. And I started getting interested in it because where I came [from], I was under the ignorance that black people was only hustlers, shooters and killers. And from there it just kinda took off and I took on the moniker Intelligent Hoodlum, which I got from Malcolm X's book after I read his autobiography by Alex Haley. And there's a chapter called "Hoodlum" and I put "Intelligent" in front of it 'cause I saw myself moving in a more different direction and being a better me. And I kept the "Hoodlum" 'cause I was like, 'I'm never gonna forget where I came from, but I know where I'm going now.

One of the more underrated aspects of your career is your track record of helping break new talent, particularly acts like Capone-N-Noreaga. What made you take such an active interest in the careers of others while in the midst of your own? I saw a lot of talent in those brothers you mentioned and one thing I learned from Marley is how to cultivate talent and bring out the best in people. You know, like when Marley got with LL, it brought out a better LL. Of course it had to exist in LL, but it took Marley to see it and be able to help him direct it and channel it in the right way and that's what I see. I consider myself like the Cus D'Amato; Cus D'Amato brought out the best in Tyson and he understood Tyson. I love hip-hop so much that I understand the MC. I understand, not only his rhyming ability, but I understand his plight and I understand his origin. I'm able to see that in a person the minute I meet them, so it's only natural that I help bring that out in other artists. And like I said, I love hip-hop and I never wanted the MC to die. No matter who it comes through or what form it comes through or what vessel it encompasses, I always want the MC to be alive.

When those relationships didn't always remain amicable, did that ever leave you bitter or disillusioned from collaborating or working with artists in any way? That's one of the best questions anybody's asked me, straight up and down, 'cause it's true, and it had for a long time because there's a gift and a curse in loving the culture so much. You can't help but become emotionally attached and it's still a factor that it's a business. I was able to cultivate the talent, put myself in it, but I had to learn more to balance in terms of the business aspect and keeping things on a certain level business-wise and keeping certain boundaries business-wise. Now I'm at a place and space within my mind and in my mindframe that I have now, I'm able to do that, but it had to come with maturity. Did it leave me bitter at first? Of course it did, I'm not gonna lie and say it didn't. But like I said, it took time for me to grow and get past it and not hold it against individuals because ultimately it's on you when you have certain expectations of people. People are always gonna be the human nature of people, so you gotta learn to work through that and it took me time to realize that and kinda conquer it within myself. And that's why I feel great about where I'm at now mentally, because I'm able to become emotionally attached to a project or to an artist, but yet still keep that boundary of business with respect to myself and the value I bring to it.

Do you feel your street cred or rep hindered your career? At times I did, but I realized of course I want more, who doesn't? Jay-Z wants more, Rick Ross wants more. LeBron James wants more, Nas wants more and these are some of the upper echelons in the game. And at first, I felt that way, but I'm exactly where I need to be at this moment in my life and I'm not gonna have any regrets cause all that's gonna do is stifle my growth. I just feel like I am what I am and who I am and to some its means a lot, to some it may not, but to me, it means everything. And that's what's more important.

With 30 years deep in the game, what would you say are your biggest milestones and lessons learned? The parting of C-N-N taught me a lot. It taught me a lot about people, human nature and myself. The passing of my mother, the passing of Big and Pac, and I can honestly say when my son fell out the window and almost died, those are like the biggest milestones of my life.

In addition to staying active on the music front, you've also jumped into the world of media with your new podcast, DBWCC. What does that acronym stand for, and what sparked your interest in starting a podcast? It was initially my brother's creation. It's funny because when I went to do the Lessons album with N.O.R.E.—and this is us getting back together after the wars, after “Blood Type,” after "Halfway Thugs," the back and forth, the rumors, the blatant attacks on each other—we finally got back together and developed some form of relationship. And I drove from New York to Miami with my sister and my brother Chris Castro and that's what DBWCC stands for, Drive-Bys With Chris Castro. So we all drive out to Miami and while I'm out there recording with N.O.R.E.— we did the album in like two days—my brother is telling me that I should create a podcast. And this probably like year or two before Drink Champs and my brother is like, 'the new thing is podcasts;' he told me and N.O.R.E this and we kinda brushed it off.

Later on, N.O.R.E. obviously got into it, but he put this seed in my mind then because he's always been immersed in the now culture of hip-hop, as well as the true era of hip-hop. I looked around at the world I'm in and looked at the marketing and said, 'you know what, this makes sense because people aren't buying records anymore, they're buying experiences. They're buying cultures and they're buying brands,' so we came together on this. And I executive produce it and I'm a co-host on the show and we kinda wanted to take it in a different direction from a "Tragedy" thing 'cause like you said, I have so many titles and labels attached to the artist that we wanted to give DBWCC its own start, its own lane, so to speak.

Away not from Tragedy, per se, but to give people another side of me because people are so used to me being serious on tracks that they don't realize that I have a humor side, that I'm a funny motherf**ker. This particular forum allows me to be that person I am, that other character my family knows me for, but my fans and supporters in the world doesn't necessarily see that from me because I'm always coming at issues. But with this show, I'm just able to be more comfortable more to speak. Not to say I'm not comfortable with my music cause I am, it's just a different side of me and I'm not gonna lie, I love it. It's growing. I'm getting a lot of good feedback and we want our show to be an organic show. We don't want the regular bio-link interview, so that's why we get you in the car, we get you in the seat and we come at you from an organic way, an authentic way. It's more so conversation, opposed to an "interview."

With Noreaga, Fat Joe, Joe Budden and other veteran artists expanding their brand in various ways, do you feel the shelf life for a rapper to be relevant in hip-hop is longer than ever before? I feel like we live in a different time and KRS-One said something some time back that I'm seeing come to fruition. He said, 'we're off the plantation now, but ni**as don't realize we free.' This technology, it levels the playing field; you don't necessarily need a label, and it allows you to be more direct with your fans. Your fans want to grow with you, they want to walk with you, they want to see into your life. And sound is one thing, but visual helps bring it all together and through this particular forum, it helps to do that. Now your music or your records are more or less like commercials, they're not the pillars of your career or the pillars of your climb, not they're more like commercials that should segue into your visual, into your medium forums. That's what they should be and that's what I see them as.

What would you say is the next step or level for Tragedy Khadafi, musically or otherwise? The next step, otherwise, is I wanna come out with a series of books as opposed to just looking at hip-hop as music and I wanna touch on these certain things that we're talking about. l wanna touch on media, I wanna touch on diversity. I wanna touch on overall growth and building social value and allowing to create wealth for artists; that's something I'm very adamant about and that's something that I'm very proactive in doing. Musically, I'm just gonna keep making the music I make and giving the fans what they want from me, what they need from me, and that's where I'm gonna keep growing and evolving into. But more so concentrating on my social platforms, in terms of marketing and branding and really just creating more wealth around my brand and within my brand.

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Ed Buck And The Black Queer Lives That Don't Matter

The saying goes “history often repeats itself” but for those who are black and Queer, that history is often violent and unprotected.

A déjà vu moment for the LGBTQ community happened last week when reports surfaced of another black gay man dying in the home of wealthy Democratic donor Ed Buck. New and disturbingly fresh to some, the story isn’t only stranger than fiction but proves gay black men are fetishized in plain sight.

Let’s back up a bit. On July 27, 2017, police were called to the home of Buck in West Hollywood, Calif., where the body of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore was found unresponsive. The Los Angeles coroner's office would initially rule Gemmel’s death an overdose of crystal methamphetamine—a growing problem within the LGBTQ community. However, there was an immediate outcry from the black queer community, as the narrative between Moore and Buck raised more questions than answers.

Today would've been Gemmel's 28h birthday. Instead of celebrations and Instagram posts from friends, Gemmel's legacy in the public sphere is that of a sex worker—a stirring attempt to discredit his worth while subtly blaming the victim for his own death. We have seen this occur many times when discussing the LGBTQ sex worker community. Transgender women are also painted as such in stories to devalue their worth. Far too often, sex workers endure victim blaming and shaming. A societal standard that contributes to the notion that sex workers are partly liable in their own deaths because of “risk” involved with the industry, intersected with mainstream views about sex work, not fitting standards or respectability.

Questions began to arise about why Buck, a 65-year-old white man, and social-political butterfly to Democratic party members like Hillary Clinton would have someone 39 years his junior in his home doing drugs. As more reporting by activist and journalist Jasmyne Cannick and others continued, a tale of privilege, wealth, and sexual exploitation became the new narrative of story many simply tried to bury.

Reports were coming out from other young black queer men who had dealings with Buck, many of them detailing his drugging of them with meth by needle—a technique called “pointing.” Entries from Gemmel's journal were also published by Cannick, revealing just how much pain and madness he was subjected to, including Buck, reportedly getting the 26-year-old hooked on drugs for sexual pleasure.

It is not easy to live at the intersection of being Black and Queer. It’s a double marginalization where we often find ourselves devoid of allies. On one side we have our own community which like all others, deals with homophobia. That homophobia often times bleeds into social justice work around black queer people. People who feel race should come first and be the only concern.

Black queer people are often fighting for others who would never fight for them. We have been conditioned by white supremacy to fall prey to respectability politics that makes us see anything other than cishet as an attack against our own community.

Despite the painful evidence, media began doing what it does with most black victims—painting them as the deviant and the abuser as the one being victimized. Gemmel was painted as a drug-addicted sex worker, an attempt at dehumanizing his value.

The views of sex work in the United States intersected with Gemmel being from a marginalized community was a tactic that saw many blaming the victim, rather than the manipulative predatory Buck, who was being protected by his wealth, whiteness, and proximity to those in power.

Following the LA coroner’s report, social media outrage eventually forced the LA Sheriff’s department to give the full investigation into the matter that it deserved. Unfortunately, after several months of getting statements and going over the evidence, the LA prosecutor's office refused to indict Buck, leaving the family and black LGBTQ community feeling hopeless that Gemmel would ever get justice.

However, last week news broke that a second black gay man by the name of Timothy Dean was found dead in the home of ...Ed Buck. This time around, media coverage was immediate as multiple major outlets covered the story about the 55-year-old victim, a significant change from the first death. With circumstances surrounding the incident much like the first time, the story was hard to ignore with national coverage happening almost immediately. Responders arrived at Buck's home to find Dean unresponsive by an apparent overdose.

Immediately, Buck’s lawyers issued a statement removing him of all culpability and once again blaming the victim for his own death. “From what I know, it was an old friend who died of an accidental overdose, and unfortunately, we believe that the substance was ingested at some place other than the apartment,” said Seymour Amster, Buck’s attorney. “The person came over intoxicated.”

With this being the second occurrence of death at his home, investigators were more eager to look into the situation—as was the media who showed up to the home of Buck that evening looking for comment. What most were greeted by was outraged citizens, many of whom were from the black queer community that has remained steadfast since last year.

Dozens of activists and community members protested in front of the home of Buck following the second death. During the rally, several citizens spoke out including Cannick. She challenged several city council members who showed up to the rally about how disengaged and harmful they had been the first time this happened, and how their support now was questionable at best. This is an important sentiment in the story because much of Buck’s protection came in the form of those he donated too, on both a micro and macro level.

When the first death occurred in his home in 2017, politicians refused to release statements about the situation. There were some rumblings from GOP members, but only because he was a donor to the Democratic Party, not because of who the victim was—partly why the buzz died down as media coverage went away.

For his political allies, there was too much at stake. With President Donald Trump creating more turmoil between the major political parties and the #MeToo movement surrounding the behaviors targeting those in Hollywood, there seemed to be limited space to care for black life–an aspect we’re used to these days.

On a micro level, these same city council members who accepted funds from Buck in the past were silent in the first death. Not wanting to ruffle feathers with the wealthy donor, choosing allegiance to secure funding over the life of Gemmel Moore. But now, the political climate has changed. In November of 2018, the Democratic Party took back the House of Representatives, all about removing any shielding Buck may have from the party. Once word broke of a second death, those who were silent are now issuing statements and sending money back that was donated by Buck.

Black lives, in general, are not protected in media nor community. White people are more concerned about preserving power and privilege then every affording us equity and justice. This sentiment bleeds into the white queer community, which has also helped to oppress black queer people.

Most recently, comedian Ellen DeGeneres spoke up on behalf of a community she did not belong to offer forgiveness to Kevin Hart for his comments about the gay community. However, when it is someone from her own community causing harm to black queer people, (ie: Buck) she like many other white queer people are nowhere to be found. It only adds to people who love to partake in our culture while turning a blind eye or aiding in our oppression.

This is a challenge to all communities witnessing the atrocities that black queer people are facing in this country. Your silence has become complicity in our death. It should not have taken for a second dead body to be found at the home of Ed Buck for people to join in solidarity with us. We have experienced this type of violence against our community for far too long with no justice in our plight.

Ed Buck is using his wealth, class, and power to manipulate black queer men who are vulnerable. Men who are sex workers or struggling to make a livable wage to sustain their own existence. Men who are already caught up in the meth epidemic and fall prey to sexual exploitation in return from drugs. How many more lives must be lost before a stop is put to this?

In the coming days, it will be more important than ever that media coverage does not let up and continues to press the LA Sheriff’s Office to not commit the same mistake twice. If black lives truly matter, then we must be more vocal and fervent in our fight when they fall among the most marginalized. This is a continuing story, one that we will not only cover but see through till the end—an end that looks like justice for Gemmel Moore, Timothy Dean, and the black queer lives that continue to go unprotected.

George M Johnson is a journalist and activist living in Brooklyn NY with features in over 40 publications including Vibe, Essence, VICE, and Buzzfeed. His debut YA memoir “All Boys Aren’t Blue” is scheduled to be released January 2020 through FSG.

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