What’d you do differently this album to make your raps more lyrical?
This time around I did a lot of research. I received a lot of constructive criticism, listened to different people’s opinions, and then I sat down and bought a whole bunch of different albums, and listened to them all the way through—really listened to the lyrics. I just wanted to hear what they were saying. I took from all of that and mixed it into one and I went ham.
Who were some of the people who gave you constructive criticism?
When I was in the studio with Kanye, when I was in the studio with Jamie Foxx—I’d just spit a verse and say, “Yo, what you really think about that? Give me you honest opinion.” After I got that, I really found out that my shit hot, and people are not saying it just to say it. They really think it’s dope.
What exactly was Kanye’s reaction?
Kanye said my shit was dope, man. I played him my second single, it’s called “Speakers Going Hammer.” Jimmy Iovine loves this record. He plays this record every day. So I played it for [Kanye] and he said, “Those were some dope fuckin’ verses.” I said, “OK, that’s all I needed. [Laughs] I got the stamp.”
“I don’t want to kiss ass, but pay homage the right way. The older rappers, would respect that and be proud. Like, ‘Soulja Boy doing it right'”
What were some of the albums that you picked up to study and model yourself after?
I studied a whole lot of 2Pac: “Dear Mama,” “Ghetto Gospel” is one of my favorite ones, “Changes.” That was one of my favorite rappers of all time. And then a lot of people tell me I should listen to Nas, so I bought Hip-Hop Is Dead and listened to each song all the way through. I really dug Pac’s message. If more of the new-school rappers knew the history—because we was like, 9 and 10 when these dudes were in their prime—we could really make our older peers proud of us. Know our roots and what we’re rapping about.
Wow, that’s a total 180 from your spat with Ice T. When did you gain this newfound respect for your rap forefathers?
Let me think hard about this. It was like, the end of ’09. After I did the Wayne tour, I chopped it up with Busta Rhymes. He was like, “I fuck with you, man.” I looked up Busta Rhymes and [realized] it’s so many people I meet on a daily basis that I don’t know at all, that used to be the shit in 1995. If I could learn about this whole game, about the past, I’d be more advanced as a new-school artist. I don’t want to kiss ass, but pay homage the right way. The older rappers, would respect that and be proud. Like, “that nigga Soulja Boy doing it right,” you know what I’m saying?
Who put you up on 2Pac?
To be honest, my moms put me up on Pac. But that was earlier on. My moms used to play Pac all the time. So I was like, “I came from my momma, and Pac is her favorite rapper, so let me just go do my research.” I’m in this game now and I ain’t goin’ nowhere, and I gotta be consistent with the hits, so let me do my knowledge.
Looking back at your first two albums, do you think the rhymes were wack?