It goes beyond the artist. Anybody behind a desk can find somebody to rap and throw Autotune on their voice and say the hottest shit that people are saying in the club. People talk about record sales being down. But why should they spend $12 on your album when you are doing bullshit? I’ve never said this before, but I think it’s time for me to say it. And some people will get mad at this. But we have to admit in America that there’s not many legal ways for a young black man to become powerful before the age of 25 besides selling drugs, basketball, football, and rap. In the sports arena what did they do to all the sports that were populated by black people? They required us to go to college while white kids who play tennis, baseball, hockey and golf can go straight to the pro game.
Those are strong words…
Well, am I wrong? Think about it. There is no more money in rap because we allowed it to be downgraded to a download. So it’s virtually impossible to be successful as a young black man except for sports and slanging crack. This is our fault. We have the power to make our music important again. But because we want to be cool and famous and not smart and rich this is going to be the result of it if we don’t change it. It’s not dead yet…But this will be the death of a pop star if we allow it to be that way.
You’ve always run the show when it came to producing and coming up with the concepts for your albums. How hard was it giving up some of the control to 9th Wonder during the making of Death Of A Pop Star?
It was hard initially, but what I realized is in order to be a great leader you have to be a great follower. A lot of people are saying David Banner is better lyricist on this album because of 9th’s beats. But it’s not really that. The thing is 9th takes away the pressure of me having to do everything. I don’t have to produce, be the bodyguard and carry all the guns [laughs]. I can totally concentrate on my rhymes. I never had that freedom before. I was doing all the beats back when I with Crooked Lettaz. It’s great to have somebody who has a Grammy award and somebody else who has gone through the pressures I go through, comes from a smaller market and knows the pressures of being from a southern place like Mississippi. And more importantly, somebody that believes in power for young black people in general. I actually trust dude.
It seems like 9th Wonder has mellowed you out, huh?
[Laughs] I don’t want people to think that I’m switching up and I’m going to do just this type of music for the rest of my career. This is just an album. I hate the way people try to put artists in boxes. I’m not just a conscious rapper or a gangsta rapper or a southern rapper or a philanthropist or a revolutionary…I am everything. And I can still do “Like A Pimp.” If we are truly supposed to be artists, the art is supposed to be seven days of your life. You aren’t killing niggas seven days of your life; you aren’t trapping in the ‘hood seven days of your life. You go to church on Sunday, right? So you should have one song about God. The old David Banner is not gone. But we have to show different sides in our art. Remember back in the days when everybody had African-American medallions on? That wasn’t a total representation of what was going on in the ‘hood. So we needed an NWA. But the difference between back then is you had NWA and A Tribe Called Quest.
So what does it say if an album like Death Of A Pop Star does not perform commercially?