N.O Joe Interview (UGK)

N.O Joe Interview (UGK)

The potent knock of Scarface’s 187 raps. The blues inspired swang and bang of UGK. Though his name might not be immediately recognizable, N.O Joe helped shape Southern hip-hop. As Rap-A-Lot’s former in-house producer, the man born Joseph Jackson spread his “Gumbo Funk” sound across the globe. Like Organized Noize in their Georgia basement, Joe was inspired by his country upbringing to mix West/East Coast flavor with the influence of soul music and church instruments. The underrated Louisianan is considered among the first to add organs to rap and counts Dr Dre, Jay Z, Biggie and 2pac as fans.

Weeks after producing Scarface’s latest album Deeply Rooted with help from Spuf Don, whom Joe mentored along with Travis Scott, the production savant gave one of his most in-depth interviews. Jackson spoke beforehand of his photographic memory and said he can recall every instrument played on The Diary. But, he’s only half-joking. For almost two hours, he retold working with LL Cool J, his initial chance encounter with Scarface, meeting Mike Dean and his feelings towards J. Prince. Joe also does one of the best Pimp C impressions ever and shared memories of his close friend as well as tales of his decades behind the boards with UGK. This ain’t no 2015 listicle containing nothing but disappointment, settle in for a wealth of rap history.

Sleepy Brown Interview

Sleepy Brown Interview

Organized Noize emerged from a dirt floor studio with underclass tales that resonate in every neighbourhood from Bankhead to Brisbane. Sleepy Brown, Rico Wade and Ray Murray fused hip-hop, soul and funk to produce records for Outkast and Goodie Mob that are divine rap canon. Proudly Southern at a time when many Atlanta artists mimicked Miami bass for commercial ends, the trio were among the first to shift attention below the Dixie. Dubbing their collective “The Dungeon Family” as a tribute to their dank beginnings, Organized Noize’s run surpasses two decades and their contribution to quality music can’t be overstated. With credits including TLC, Future, Killer Mike, Bubba Sparxxx and Janelle Monáe, it’s fair to assume if you enjoy rap, you’ve heard a Dungeon track.

Characterized by a scintillating grin, oversized sunglasses and Superfly persona, Sleepy Brown is the trio’s retro futurist. The 45 year old’s musical ambitions were inspired by a childhood spent watching his father Jimmy perform in Atlanta funk-staple Brick, and he’s always paid tribute to the 70s. Aside from production and writing, Sleepy sung falsetto on Outkast’s No. 1 hit “The Way You Move, ” their universal player’s theme “So Fresh So Clean” and “Saturday Ooh Ooh” with Ludacris. He also maintains a solo career, which is four albums deep and includes lover’s decree “I Can’t Wait.”

A friendly and open interviewee, Sleepy didn’t exhibit signs of being jaded or arrogant despite his lengthy achievement list. He laughed while describing how Busta Rhymes influenced the conscious side of Organized Noize and shared Future’s nickname when he was still a “knucklehead.” The Isaac Hayes lookalike also described working with Curtis Mayfield as well as Pimp C, why Outkast’s 2014 tour is their last and almost every other Dungeon Fam query I had.

Wendy Day Interview (Part Two)

Wendy Day Interview (Part Two)

Wendy Day has seen it all. The 52 year old has spent two decades using her knowledge of the rap business to help create dozens of millionaires. 2pac, Pimp C, Eminem, and Slick Rick are just a few of the many artists that have trusted her expertise on industry politics. After being inspired by X-Clan and Rakim being jerked by their labels, she set up the Rap Coalition to negotiate deals, break unfair contracts and provide career advice. Some of her first deals were the biggest in music history such as Cash Money’s $30 million distribution deal with Universal and No Limit’s signing to Priority. In the first half of this interview, we chatted about what 2pac planned for his next album, Freddie Foxx putting a gun to Birdman’s head and 50 Cent crushing Young Buck. In part two, Wendy drops gems about Pimp C catching the New York subway, her role in Dr Dre discovering Eminem and the undisguised greed she’s witnessed in the music industry.

A strange pattern I’ve noticed is artists who’ve been screwed over become CEOs or label heads and then do the exact same thing to fellow artists.

Absolutely, I’ve seen that so many times that it doesn’t even shock me anymore. It’s almost like child abuse or domestic abuse where a child grows up getting beaten by their father and then when they have children they turn around and beat them even though they swore growing up they would never do that. It’s almost that same mentality and it happens more than it doesn’t happen. It’s more prevalent than you think.

Do you think labels manipulate rappers because sometimes their upbringing means they lack the required business savvy to be involved in the music industry?

You know, it could be. I wish I knew the answer to this because if I knew the answer I could solve the issue. I don’t exactly know what causes it because there’s a lot of guys that came from nothing to build real estate empires to pay their bills. It’s certainly prevalent in the music industry. Maybe it has something to do with fame, where somebody is such a narcissist that they desire the fame of screaming fans. Maybe there’s something involved in that narcissistic personality that says I’m not going to pay anybody. I don’t really know and I don’t know if that happens in the tech world or the world of people who make widgets. I can only speak for the entertainment world because that’s my world, but it’s prevalent and it’s definitely a problem.

Fall Mixtape

I made a fall mixtape for Passionweiss. Just a fun playlist of groovy jams. 

Rather than opt for songs emotive of grey scale weather, blocked-guttering and shrinking daylight hours, I’ve compiled this fall mixtape as a snapshot of music I’m currently digging. The track-list reveals 2014 was the year I delved bellbottom-knee deep into funk’s luminescent depths. Prince, Zapp, Luther Vandross, Lakeside, The Isley Brothers and Teddy Pendergrass are all here, as is the jazzy trio Steely Dan and RZA’s go-to sample inspiration Baby Huey. The lack of great rap releases this year has also provided time to trawl through synth inspired raps and to discover Moe-Man, G. Dep and Fat Pat, all of which are featured on this set. So enjoy, but don’t expect the songs to match the dampness of your surroundings. This playlist is for those wanting to continue the party indoors. Perhaps most importantly, it will inspire you to consider if a “Big Pimpin'” collaboration happened between UGK and Tha Dogg Pound, would it have caused a tear in the Thot space continuum?


1) Zapp – It Really Doesn’t Matter
2) Tha Dogg Pound – Big Pimpin’ 2 (Interlude)
3) Tha Dogg Pound ft Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg – Big Pimpin’
4) Moe-Man – Is It Like That?
5) DJ Quik – Dollaz + Sense
6) Yowda ft YG – That’s How It Goes
7) Fat Pat – Peep N Me
8) G. Dep – Doe Fiend
9) UGK – Swishas and Doshas
10) Baby Huey – Hard Times
11) The Isley Brothers – The Heat Is On
12) Steely Dan – Peg
13) Lakeside – Raid
14) Luther Vandross – I’ve Been Working
15) Teddy Pendergrass – I Don’t Love You Anymore
16) Raekwon – Hey Love
17) Prince – Time

Undergravity - Believe Me (Paystyle)

undergravity group

Originally written for Passionweiss

Along with Passionweiss’ favourite Dixie trippers The Outfit, Tx, Undergravity are moulding a sound outside of trap’s limitations. Earlier this year, Atom Bomb and Mastermind After Cash released Southern rap throwback “The Freshest MCs” with fellow Houston MC Dante Higgins. The album featured summer-time production as well as fun rhymes for those of us who prefer car stereos and barbeque sessions to MacBook speakers and screen glare. This time around however, the duo issues a more serious statement of intent.

Despite being purveyors of the vintage Southern sound, the underdawgs show their versatility by ditching the organs and giving funk a quick breather. Instead they rhyme over the sparse drums of Lil Wayne’s attempted comeback track “Believe Me” featuring your favourite Canadian child actor. They’ve dubbed it a “paystyle” rather than a ”freestyle,” to let you know their focus is on the cash. As long as it’s better than the original, they can call it anything they like.

“You already know who you ain’t fucking with, manoeuvring in the coupe, sitting crooked like the government.” Undergravity rhyme with furrowed brows and vehement brags. M.A.C plays quarter back like Any Given Sunday’s Willie Beamen and Atom Bomb is getting picked like a plum tree. Undergravity knows they’re overlooked, but they’ll keep working without your consent.

Dante Higgins and Undergravity - The Freshest MCs

dante higgins

Written for Passionweiss

Introducing Undergravity, the self-proclaimed “funkiest duo in Houston” consisting of Atom Bomb and Mastermind After Cash. The Space Jammers recently joined forces with local freestyler Dante Higgins, who you’ll recognize by his higher vocal pitch. In the process, they released a video for “My Town” the other week, which drew my attention for several reasons: the jammin’ beat, catchy sung hook and thanks to M.A.C. the most fun line I’ve heard all month (“You might find a n*gga on a horse, you might find a n*gga in a Porsche.”)

Excellent equine references aside, their throwback Southern sound is a welcome oasis from trap’s current bass-knocking dominance. On first listen the trio may draw lazy comparisons to 3rd Ward alumni UGK and while neither residing at that level or sounding identical, it’s a safe bet they’re fans. “My Town” comes from last year’s mixtape The Freshest MCs which features Atom, M.A.C and Dante trading bars over soulful or funky beats with horns and keys to drive slow to. 

“Goin Live” boasts more fun lewd raps, with Higgins again proving that the collaboration was a good idea. His imaginative nurse fantasies detail why having a medical expert involved with your escapades is a safety conscious decision. (“She hooked me up to a jumper cable, pulled out a defibrillator, Looked at me and said don’t be scared, I’ll shock your ass if your heart ain’t stable.”) A luxurious saxophone similar to a La Musica De Harry Fraud beat plays throughout and between songs like this or the 2Pac-sampling “Yellowstone B,” you can tell these guys are sure-handed at selecting their production. 

The Freshest MCs serves more as a taste of the group’s versatility than a complete album. That said, it’s strange to hear lines about having no money during the humble “Fly On The Wall” and then braggado directly afterwards on the unimaginative “Did You Miss Me.” The bottom line is that these guys rap well, their music is solid, and they’ve got chemistry. If they don’t ditch Dante and keep rapping over funky beats, they’ll keep rising.

DJ Paul Interview (Three 6 Mafia/Da Mafia 6iX)

da mafia 6ix

Written by Jimmy Ness and originally published at Passionweiss

DJ Paul and Three 6 Mafia’s influence on modern rap music is more prominent than ever. From “Street Goth” being the latest fashion trend to rappers liberally borrowing the Mafia’s iconic rapid-fire flows, screwed vocals and purple drank obsession. Of course the Memphis legends weren’t the only ones to drink cough syrup and rhyme over dark production, but they undoubtedly played a huge role in putting Tennessee on the map and bringing the South to the mainstream.

Founding members DJ Paul and Juicy J helmed an empire after rising from humble beginnings slanging tapes at local stores and schools. The pair met while DJing in local clubs and later brought Lord Infamous, Koopsta Knicca, Crunchy Black and Gangsta Boo into their crew. Paul Beauregard used his passion for horror films to inspire the group’s trademark menacing sound that included references to the occult, heavy violence, drug use and all of the other cool stuff that would make a conservative’s head spin.

Thanks to lucrative distribution deals they released dozens of albums, kick-started several solo careers including that of Project Pat and Lil Wyte as well as making films and clothing. In the mid 2000s members began going their separate ways, which Paul attributes to their sudden fame at a young age, excessive drug use and money disagreements. One of the most classic chapters in Three 6 Mafia’s history is the group beating Dolly Parton to win a 2006 Academy Award for their song “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp” off the Hustle and Flow film. They are the second rappers in history to win the award after Eminem. Seeing the awkward expressions on a mostly white audience and hearing the group shout out George Clooney for showing them love is PRICELESS.

After their win the group featured on Jackass 2, Paris Hilton’s New BFF and also had their own successful reality show Adventures In Hollywood, which wasn’t renewed. Around 2009, Juicy J and DJ Paul went their separate ways to concentrate on solo work. If you’re reading this article it’s fair to assume you already know Juicy’s affiliated with Taylor Gang and has rebranded himself for the tripster generation. DJ Paul’s not slacking either, he’s releasing three projects within just weeks – the Clash Of The Titans mixtape with Drumma Boy, the joint Black Fall EP with Yelawolf and the Mafia 6iX mixtape, featuring a re-formed Three 6 Mafia sans Juicy.

I called DJ Paul while he was running around preparing for a well deserved week trip to the Caribbean island Aruba. He was kind enough to give me almost an hour of his time despite there being a million more questions I could have asked. He also seemed more humble and friendly than a lot of other less successful artists I’ve spoken to. Instead of talking about his relationship with Juicy, which you can read about in every other recent interview he’s given, we chatted about his musical beginnings, flamethrowers at The Gathering Of The Juggalos, Pimp C, getting five members of Three 6 Mafia back together and him not knowing what an Oscar was when he first heard the news of their nomination.

Three 6 Mafia is known for rapping about darker themes like horror and the occult, but you actually grew up performing in the church.

Yeah, I did actually (laughs). I used to play church music on the organ like Amazing Grace and different stuff and Lord Infamous would sing it.

Was your obsession with horror films a rebellion against your Christian upbringing?

No, no, no. Hell no. I just liked horror movies. It was nothing rebellious. I just liked horror movies and horror music. I guess everybody does when you think about it. I just probably liked it a little more than other kids.

What made you get into horror?

I don’t know, just as a kid with my sister and family watching Jason and Friday the 13th and all those movies growing up. We never know how we get into that kind of stuff, it could be friends, parents and older brothers and sisters, whatever. My older sister, I know for a fact, was always into scary movies cause we used to watch them a lot with her.

How did your family feel about the dark content matter? Juicy J’s dad is actually a preacher isn’t he?

Yeah, he’s like a missionary so he goes to different countries to preach. But nah, our parents didn’t trip or anything because they know how they raised us. They knew that we weren’t devil worshippers. They knew we were raised good. It was just a show you know, like Robert Deniro or Al Pacino or something like that. Well maybe Robert Deniro, Al Pacino might really be bad (laughs). But you know it’s just for show man.

Were there any protests or people trying to stop your shows because of your demonic lyrics?

No we never had a problem with any of the weird shit that follows with the cult or any of that. I guess the people that are into protests and stuff like that never got a wind of us or our songs because our songs that are on the radio that every person hears don’t have anything like that. Those are the album cuts.

Did you ever get curious and actually experiment in the occult?

No, we just made those songs about it, but it was nothing that we were into. We weren’t devil worshippers or anything like that for real. We just made records.

You were DJing around local places like Club 380 and that’s how you met Juicy?

Yeah Club 380 and some other places, that’s the first place I DJed at back in the day. He was a DJ as well, in some of the other clubs around Memphis. I didn’t want to be a DJ, I wanted to be a producer but to get into production I had to start Djing first to kind of learn the ropes on how to use the equipment and work from there.

For those who don’t know, tell us about the influence of DJ Spanish Fly?

DJ Spanish Fly was a big influence, him and the late DJ Sonny D who just passed away from a car accident about a month ago. I still talk to Spanish Fly a lot, that’s like my brother – we got the same birthday as a matter of fact. He was a huge DJ in Memphis, he’s been super super known. The thing that made Spanish Fly stick out so much is that he was the first DJ in Memphis to mix in his own songs, so that’s what made him so popular. That’s how we all got started. We would mix in our own songs in the club, especially with me. We would take our songs and mix them in between other people’s hot songs so I would play NWA, DMC, Public Enemy whatever and slip in one of my records.

Why did you decide to pursue music?

I grew up with it in the household and my family. My uncles had a popular gospel group and they used to teach me a lot about music. I was just always a fan of it, you know Michael Jackson, Prince and all that. Then earlier rap like Public Enemy, Eric B and Rakim, LL, 2 Live Crew, Geto Boys.

How were you getting your music out there early on?

I was selling cassette tapes at high school. Selling a whole lot. We were making thousands. We were selling them for nothing but $4.00 but we were selling so many of them. Selling thousands and thousands of tapes and making a lot of money. Then we took that money and put it behind going into the studio to make a real album and we put it out through Selekto, and that was Mystic Stylez.

I heard you have quite a broad taste in music.

You know being a producer and a DJ, you have to listen to everything. Especially being a producer, you got to have a broader ear with your production so I listen to everything. A lot of 70s, a lot of 80s and even some 60s. I listen to a lot of techno, EDM, dubstep. I love dubstep. I don’t listen to a lot of rap that’s the funny part about it. I listen to a lot of rock as well. Duran Duran is my favourite band.

You also sample Portishead on a few songs?

Yeah, I listen to everything man. That’s a great band.

Willie Hutch is another one of your favourite artists, plus you got to work with him?

Yup, we actually brought Willie Hutch to our studio back in the early 2000s. We redid one of his songs called “Mark of the beast” and we never put it out, but it was a great record though man. We got the chance to work with him and shoot the shit and we sampled him a lot throughout and paid him off the records. We probably sampled him on two records off every album we made and the one that hit was “Stay Fly.” He passed away like five days after that record came out and that record was huge. I had two samples from him on that album as well. That song sold I don’t know, maybe 3-4 million copies or so.

What is the music that people from Memphis refer to as “Pimpin?”

Pimpin is the 70s music, the soul music and all that. That’s what all of us grew up on, we call it “Pimpin’” in the south. That’s the straight good stuff.

How is it playing at the Gathering of the Juggalos?

Is that a crazy place to perform? Hell yeah! Craaaazy. Mad house. I love it though, it’s fun. Man I saw a guy in the audience with a flamethrower shooting fire in the air. It was fucking crazy. I was like “what the hell!” I got a little nervous man.

You’ve hung out with the Jackass crew and filmed a few skits with them. What was that like?

They are my guys man. They are just practical jokers. They some wild dudes, I like hanging with them. I was asleep and knocked out drunk, and they walked in with two trashcan tops and started banging them together. I think I didn’t wake up straightaway, but after a while I finally did. It was funny. It’s on Jackass 2.5.

Why did you decide to make the movies Choices 1 and 2?

We did it just for the fun of it. We wanted to make something like Death Row’s “Murder Was The Case” but funny, not super funny, but a little funny. We went in and made a 20 minute version of Choices and it came out good so we started thinking “man we ought to make a full movie out of it. Let’s put a little money behind it.” So we went on and made the full length one and it came out and it was double platinum in DVD sales and it did really great so that’s when we decided to make Choices 2 and go from there.

You’re also quite into cooking. Did someone teach you?

Nah I just learned it when I moved out of the house and started living on my own. I had to learn how to cook because I didn’t have my mama cooking for me anymore. So it was cool man, just having a chance to do that.

How’s your range of BBQ sauces and seasonings going?

Yeah, it’s selling pretty good. It’s not even in stores, but we sell a lot of it online. We’re trying to get it into stores once I can sit down and have a chance to focus on it a little more.

Tell us about the Sizzurp drink company you’re involved in?

It’s a liquour. It’s Sizzurp liquor, but yeah I’m part owner of that.

Does it taste similar to the real thing?

Oh nah, it doesn’t taste anything like it. One of them is a purple wine, one of them is purple champagne, one of them is a purple brandy.

Cam’ron and Jim Jones are also involved?

Well what happened was we made the song “Sippin on some sizzurp.” Then Cam’rom and Jim Jones went to a liquor company with the idea then made a liquor called Sizzurp. That lasted a couple of years, then the company went out of business because I think some inside guys weren’t getting on or whatever. They closed it down for about a year, then when they brought it back they asked me to be a part of it and I came in. I’ve been knowing them for a long time, they real good guys.

Speaking of “Sippin’ on some sizzurp,” what was Pimp C like in person?

He was the best. He was super super cool man, and a real real good guy. Rest in peace to him you know, he was my brother. We did a lot of stuff together back in the day. He was real funny man, he spoke his mind about everything. He wouldn’t hold nothing back, everybody knew that about Pimp C. He specialized in that.

When he passed away, did that put you off drinking lean?

Well you know it was never proven that was what he passed away from, but I had already taken a break because I had seen a lot of people that was getting sick from it.

You’ve said that drugs and all of you being a young age was part of the reason Three 6 Mafia broke up the first time around?

Between being young and making so much money at once and drugs and alcohol. Man that’s an explosion just ready to happen so it was bound to happen that way.

Do you still party as hard?

I party from time to time. But not like THAT. That was ridiculous. I still get down. Back then it was seven days a week. It hasn’t been seven days a week for a while.

Wow, did you feel permanently hungover?

We weren’t even really that hungover because we never went to sleep. We just stayed awake so when you stay awake you don’t get hungover.

How hard was it getting everyone back together for the Mafia 6iX project?

It was easy man, all of us were still friends for the most part. The only people I wasn’t really talking to were Gangsta Boo and Koopsta Knicca, but I had talked to Crunchy Black and Lord Infamous is my brother for real so we were in touch with each other. He was talking to Koop and Crunchy was talking to Boo and I just told them to get in touch. We talked on the phone and we just hit it off and were laughing together straight away. We went in the studio and did like 40 songs in three days.

You’ve been really busy lately. Da Mafia 6iX project, the EP with Yelawolf and your joint mixtape with Drumma Boy. Do you have anything else coming up?

Oh yeah, we released the Clash Of The Titans mixtape, which is doing real good so make sure you all check that out. Everybody loving that and um… in music there’s nothing else I’m working on. Shit I just did three projects in a couple of months that was a lot right there. Actually Clash Of The Titans I’ve been working on for a long time but I’m releasing all three of them in a month so that was a lot of work. I’m going to take a break for a week then go in and start working on this Yelawolf album. Trying to get that tight, as tight as I can get it, then after that I’m going to start working on Da Mafia 6iX full length album.

You recently released a five track EP with Yelawolf called Black Fall. Why did decide to work together?

We got connected when he came to do a feature with Da Mafia 6ix for the single “Go Hard” and he was listening to some of my beats that I was playing in the studio that had rock music in them. He was like “I always wanted to do a project with classic rock mixed with rap, and I think you’d be the perfect person to do that with.” I was like “cool, let’s do it. “ So I started sending him tracks and he knocked them out in like three days, the whole project.

Are you guys going to work on a full length?

Well, he’s got an album coming out next year called Love Story and I’m going to do some production on that.

When you won an Academy Award in 2006 you weren’t even sure what an Oscar was?

Yeah I wasn’t. It was early in the morning and Juicy woke me up and told me we were nominated for an Oscar. It was so early I was just like “oh really, ok cool” and went back to sleep. Then I was just lying in bed thinking “what’s he taking about?” Then I Googled it and I was like “oh shit, it’s the gold man” and that’s when I called him back. We were still living in Memphis at the time and we went to LA and had the meeting with the Academy. There are so many rules that they make you learn before you can even take your place in the Academy Awards.

Like what?

One is if you win, you can’t sell the award. If you do sell it, you have to sell it back to the Academy. I think it’s worth like 2 million dollars or whatever. You have to sell it back to them and it just goes back in the museum.

You damaged your Oscar statue?

I was partying and I bumped heads with Frayser Boy’s one. So now mine has a little scar on its head, it’s real small and if you look closely you can see it. I’m probably the only person with a Scarface Oscar (laughs). 

I bet you partied hard that night. 

Actually to be honest with you, I didn’t party hard because I was too nervous I would drop it or something because I didn’t have a bag to put it in. I didn’t party too hard, I just had a couple of little wines and that was it. I wasn’t on my usual vodka and all that man.

Killer Mike Interview

By Jimmy Ness and originally published at HiphopCanada

Killer Mike destroys outdated clichés that Southern rappers are terrible lyricists who mistake swag for talent. The Atlanta MC covers strip-clubs, Reaganomics and police brutality without losing any of his ferocious delivery. Mike’s potent lyrics push the listener to improve themselves, and it’s tough to ignore his wealth of life experience.

After being taught the intricacies of selling drugs by his mother, Mike was making a living hustling until issues with the law forced him to turn his efforts toward music. His first break came from OutKast’s Big Boi and he’s since worked with numerous third coast legends including UGK, T.I, Three 6 Mafia and Dungeon Family.

At 37, Mike’s an outspoken individual with a passion for church, family and politics. But he’s no ageing hip-hop scholar reminiscing over dusty boom-bap records. His newest release R.A.P Music is a strong contender for album of the year and shares similarities with the Ice Cube classic AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Mike’s bellowing social commentary is backed by production from Brooklyn’s EL-P, who is a renowned underground rap figure himself. HipHopCanada spoke to Killer Mike before his Into The Wild Tour with EL-P, Mr Muthaphuckin eXquire and Despot,which touches down in Vancouver on Monday 2nd July. We chatted about meeting Notorious B.I.G, his new album and his friendship with Pimp C.

EL-P produced your latest album R.A.P Music, which is an interesting pairing considering he’s known for an underground East Coast sound and you’re from the South. How did you two link up?

I met EL-P through Jason Demarco, who works over at Williams Street Records and is a mutual friend of ours. He also had done some business with us, like putting me on a single, matching me up with Flying Lotus to do a song. He just asked if I would be willing to do a record over there. To do a record over there would give me the kind of freedom you don’t really get with other record companies. He asked if I wanted to do some cool experimental stuff and I said yeah.

The first producer he put me with was EL-P. I just quickly kinda fused with El and we started working on a whole record. Within that we became friends and made a classic record. We are probably going to continue to make music for most of our careers. 

Tell us about the creative process between you and EL-P making this record.

I had rented an apartment close to where he lived. I went to his house every day. We smoked our weed, he made beats and whatever came into my head I stood up and said on the microphone.

Your grandmother marched with Martin Luther King and your grandfather was a union member. Is politics something you’ve always been interested in?

I’d say from the level of social politics. Just doing what’s right for the community, so yeah in that aspect. My grandparents weren’t shmoozers in any aspect to any particular politicians, but they were very supportive of African American rights, worker’s rights. They made sure that we were politically aware and that my sisters and I were into voting, being part of the political process. It just made me more aware of the world around me.

One of my favourite quotes from R.A.P Music is “I believe that government should fear the people and not the other way around.” Tell us a bit more about this idea.

I honestly believe that unless the government is scared about the will of people, their moral compass is always off. I’m not saying that the people always have the right answers but I definitely think that the government is a representative of the people, for the people. If it’s only working on the behalf or for the interest of a small group, I don’t see the value in that government.

I believe the people should always be vigilant, making the government aware that at any given time a vote could happen. Revolution could happen. It doesn’t mean everybody picking up arms and wilding out, but it does mean we will vote for someone else. It won’t be the typical we will choose between the lesser of two evils. So I’m interested in seeing people grow that and just focus more on liberty instead of making a choice and joining political parties and their ideologies.

You also mention some unique subject matter like your father being a cop and loyalty to your wife, that’s not something the typical rapper would put in their music.

Well it should be. You know, I’ve never really learned how to be the personification of something I’ve created. I’m just me. I’m lucky enough to have people interested in me. And they like me. It interests people that my wife and I smoke weed, do business, take care of our children and still find time to go to the strip club and fuck around with girls and talk shit. You know, that’s some cool shit so people are interested in that. I don’t have to figure out a weird ass persona or other shit to give you. It’s just easier for me to give you me. I’m a man of complexities and contradictions and people are always looking to see how I balance it, because I believe everyone has certain inclinations that I have. I don’t hide. I just put me out there for people to see and it interests them, I’m fortunate in that.

What happened on the first night you recorded with Big Boi from OutKast? I heard you also met Gucci Mane.

We went to an old strip club. I had a homegirl that was dancing out there. She was helping me get the demo money and shit together. We all just went out there together on one of the first nights we hung out. They saw that I got treated like a man of respect. We got cool after that and I think I did “Snappin and Trappin” with Big that night and then later we did “Funkadelic.” Those were the first songs two we did together.

Gucci was there, he was rapping too. I mean everybody was in the streets but everybody was rapping too, trying to get out of the streets.

You decided to pursue music because your crew was facing major criminal charges?

I was a hustler, they were robbers. They robbed people. They got caught with someone in the trunk and they spent a year and half fighting the case. And they beat the case, it was like 40 years to life. I just used that time to get my mind sharp, start grinding. Forget about everything around me and get busy. It was at that point that I wanted to get out of the streets. I just knew that while they were gone, it wouldn’t be long before I ended up in someone’s trunk, you know.

OutKast, Bun B, Three 6 Mafia, Dungeon Family you have worked with some of the South’s most famous talent, was there anyone you were particularly impressed by?

I would just say you know being able to call 8 Ball, and being able to call Bun B and reach out to Pimp C and have MJG acknowledge my verse, it’s dope. It’s just an amazing feeling. It’s what I sat at high school and day dreamed about, rap. For me, getting that opportunity to be in the studio with Paul and Juicy and seeing the process of making a beat and putting cuts on records was just an honour for me.

I just feel like I’m a very fortunate fan and I’m a very capable MC. I brought a lot of honour to the South and I appreciate the slang, and I appreciate the respect I get because of that. Basically I’m just a rap fan and I get to compete, contest, to make music and to have fun with my heroes. That’s an amazing feeling every day.

You met Notorious B.I.G when you were younger?

Yeah like standing at the back of a warehouse when they were walking back. I was literally just like “oh shit, Biggie! What’s up? What’s up?” He gave me the blunt roach before he went into the club. I had to be like 17-19 maybe. It was at like the end of high school and beginning of college. It was before he had like all the way blown up, you know what I mean. It was when him and Nas were talked about in interviews, Puff was running around with Faith then. It was around the same time he was at one of the barbecues. He had popped and had a presence in Atlanta.

[Killer Mike is referring to a performance Notorious BIG did in Altanta in 1994 at OutKast’s Atlanta Barbecue music festival. Mike would have been 19 at the time.]

You also wrote to Pimp C while he was in prison and he visited you when he got out?

Yeah I wrote him while he was in prison and he wrote back and he visited me. He gave me a verse, but I don’t know if I’ll ever release it. I really felt love from him. He gave me some advice. I asked him “do you have any advice from me?” He just said “whatever you do man, it’s about how you rap. Rap like a drowning man fighting for air. You just gotta be on it. Be cool and all that. Nothing else matters, not your age, how long you been going or any of that. What you gotta do is just keep at it and keep going.” I appreciated him for it you know, I really do. He took time to talk to me. He helped me.

How do you feel about the growing popularity of the South? Earlier it was considered the downfall of rap music and acts like OutKast were famously getting booed in New York during the Source Awards.

I’m just glad that hip-hop is open to all possibilities. When that was going on in the South, it was like that hurt. It definitely hurt your feelings, but we knew what we were doing was dope. Same for the West Coast, same as I imagine for New York kids who started hip-hop when they were rallying up under disco. I’m just glad that some of the regional differences are gone. But with that said, I think it’s important that we maintain some of our regional differences so we don’t have this one homogenous style. We had to honour our greats and we did, and now we’ve reaped the rewards.

You haven’t been on a major label since your first album with Columbia in 2003, how was the transition into being independent? The internet wasn’t quite the music marketing success story it is now.

I’m happy. What I’ve been doing has been working for me so I’m fortunate. I don’t really put a lot of thought into what I was or how that experience was. I was what I was and I am what I am. What I am is respected and revered and in control of my own destiny. Rapping like a motherfucker. I like where I am, I appreciate it.

You decided to invest back into your community by opening a barber shop. What made you get into this business?

I think that the music is there and that our culture and society is there, so what better place. Rappers need to do something other than making new rap records and music, and start reinvesting in their community. And part of that reinvestment is owning things like barbershops, car washes and small stores. Paying back to where we are from. I’m very proud to be part of a group of people who has done that.

Tell us about the Into The Wild tour you’re bringing to Vancouver?

Yeah, the Into The Wild tour is Wild! Despot, Mr Muthaphuckin eXquire, Killer Mike and EL-P. We are just having a ball, we are all good friends and just going from city to city. I know that we just love the audiences out there and they get a chance to see, touch, taste and smell the music that they love.

What’s next after this tour?

Relax with the family and put out another album!