You used the movie King of New York for your first visual. Was that a solely a salute to a classic flick, a statement on your rap status or both?
That’s one of my favorite movies, especially from that era. There’s a lot of classic gangster flicks in the 90’s. As far as where it comes into play is New York and him returning back to Frank White [after] coming home from jail back to the streets. So when we shot the trailer that was one of the scenes we shot to say we’re coming back with this project. With the whole King of NY play, there’s some symbolism with that because there’s always been a thing in the air about who’s the King of New York, whether it was Jay or Nas or Biggie. Even 50 Cent made claims. Now the moniker is so self-proclaimed and so used that there is no King. Jay is iconic, Diddy is one of the biggest moguls of our culture, but that title doesn’t mean as much anymore. I don’t know if that’s the influence of other regions or what because New York used to dictate what was hot.
"I’m not the King, but I am a King of New York because I’ve been here and pioneered and outlasted. Kings have their time and fall too...
Well that’s it. You guys are at the top but as a region we’ve slipped. So wearing the crown is like averaging 30 points on the Sixers.
Right. You did your numbers on a bum team. Now there are still Kings of New York. You can look at certain people and say, “that’s a King of New York.” So I wanted to make that known. I’m not the King, but I am a King of New York because I’ve been here and pioneered and outlasted. Kings have their time and fall too, but its great to still make music and be appreciated without ever having to compromise who I am.
Some artists make 12 millions dollars in a few years then fall off, when the key is to make a consistent couple million for 12 years. What’s your recipe for longevity and success?
It’s a little uncanny. There’s a lot of guys who couldn’t keep themselves from becoming stale. It’ hard to say what the recipe is because I could write a recipe and it may not work for you. Maybe it was a move that I made or some moves that I didn’t make. Like I had an offer from 50 to join G-Unit for my own record label, but I didn’t think that was the right move for me. I could’ve easily jumped on the bandwagon because this is when he was handing out deals to Mobb Deep and M.O.P. I’m just a guy that always looks towards the future.
You’ve often been criticized for not showing enough personality and now social media loves you. Specifically how do you plan to continue raising your brand?
With social media I give a little taste but I always want to keep a little mystique to myself. I don’t want people to look at me like I’m a social media personality. That’s the problem with reality TV. Once you go on reality TV that becomes your personality–you’re a reality star or whatever you’re acting like you are on TV.
What about Street Fam the label? Any plans to build a roster?
I definitely want to work with new artists more. What I’ve done through music, low key, is give a lot of new artists opportunity. Like those guys that help me do the mixtapes, I’m still rooted with them. So when it comes time for the real project like Young OG they get first dibs. I’m not gonna have them be with me for the tape then when it’s time to do an album say Ok let me go over here and get Pharell or Timbaland. I love to open the door for new talent.
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From the music to your visual campaign, Young OG is inspired by the 90’s era. Is this album also Soul Tape inspired?
Actually, I was working on this project inside of Loso’s Way 2. The songs kind of helped create the project. They all sonically fit–either they’d have a 90’s vibe or an influence or a flip of an actual 90’s song. There was so much of that vibe that it kind of made me go there. Another thing with these albums is the sampling clearances almost take the fun out of it. There’s this song I did with Nicki Minaj…we did LL’s “Doin It” over but they didn’t clear the sample. Trey Songz was on the hook.
"There’s this song I did with Nicki Minaj…we did LL’s “Doin It” over but they didn’t clear the sample. Trey Songz was on the hook."
But that’s in house! That’s a Def Jam record.
It’s in-house but one person who’s involved with the song would not clear it. I listened to Cole’s album and at the end he went on a rant about people not clearing samples. I was like ‘Yeah Cole! Let’s go to the Supreme Court with this.” [Laughs] But can you imagine if I had to go through that with the Soul Tapes? It would take me seven months to just clear it and then I wouldn’t make a dime off of it.
You mentioned King of New York as one of your favorite movies from the 90’s. If that makes the Top 5, what’s the other four?
Juice, New Jack City, Boyz In The Hood and Menace To Society. If we go past the five, I gotta throw Carlito’s Way in there; Bronx Tale, Good Fellas. I love gangster movies that weren’t just gangster flicks, but had a story. That’s what I loved about Carlito’s Way. You saw that he had a love interest; you saw that he went home and lost a relative; you saw that he went to chop it up with his old boss; you saw he had a friend that fucked him over, then you saw how another friend fucked him and got him killed. Then after that dramatic shootout scene in Grand Central we thought he was on the train to paradise, but he wasn’t. Just crazy.
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That’s how I feel about Blow. I hate what that ending does to me. And I know it’s coming, but it still messes me up every time.
Nothing hurt me more than when his moms turned him in at the house. I said “Oh my god!” The 90’s era was just a golden era for so much from music to fashion to movies.
I see you took the ‘90’s theme all the way there with the white BMW 850 purchase. Car is nuts.
Yeah it’s a ’92 model. I copped it in October. I knew I was coming into play with the 90’s thing so I wanted to come with it in full theme but organically. I didn’t even announce the project until after I had the car. That was a dream car because in that era you didn’t see anybody driving that who wasn’t making a lot of money. I remember going to Sunrise Cinema in Queens and seeing LL pull up in that. Now that’s some 90’s shit for you.