You already know what it is. 1 p.m. yesterday, 30th floor conference room, sitting slumped in big leather office chair, head down resting on the wood conference table, crew sitting bored and silent off to the side. Crisp white T-shirt, oversized all-white Yankee hat, watch and chains and earrings glinting under harsh office lighting. Tiny scar under left eye, looks a lot like Jadakiss. Smaller than you’d think. Voice soft and low and raspy. Indescribably weird to be sitting across from this guy I’ve thought so much about over the last couple of months, seen on TV, snowman logo on T-shirts of Italian kids outside my corner store. The only Southern rapper with New York love. The guy who made the best rap album of the year. Young Jeezy the Snowman.
You just played your first New York show last night; how’d it go?
Crazy. lot of folks came out with me, my man Fabolous came out with me, Jim Jones, Juelz Santana. I heard that people normally only do maybe fifteen, twenty minutes, and I ended up doing like a hour.
Are you getting the reaction you expected to get up here?
Yeah, because I speak a universal language. So no matter where I go, it’s some trap boys, some street cats, some hustlers, some gangstas in any city, so that’s what I had out last night.
I moved up here two weeks ago from Baltimore, and going to mixtape spots, you’re pretty much the only Southern rapper you can find. What do you attribute that to?
Just being real, man. Just being real about what I’m saying as far as my street credibility. You could do the research, you could ask anybody who know of me, heard of me before this, before rap, anybody gonna tell you that that’s who I am.
But at the same time, it’s not like Hitman Sammy Sam is a big deal up here.
My movement is different. I motivate the thugs. I’m a part of people’s everyday rituals that they do. When they get up, they might throw my joint in, and that’s how they get their day started before they go out and do whatever it is they got to do.
It can’t just be thugs, though, if you’re selling what you are.
At the end of the day, it’s still good music. There’s a message, and everybody from working people to corporate people to college people to street people, we all speak the same language. It’s like a translation for the people who really don’t know about the life, I translate it for them, make them understand why certain people do certain things.
It’s interesting to me because your album, part of the reason why it’s so strong is that it sticks to one concept the whole time; it’s you talking about selling drugs and about coming up. And I think the problem with a lot of rap albums is the Cassidy syndrome where they try to do the R&B song and then the club song and all this stuff.
I do music for guys who like music. It’s different, though. My music is more like ghetto gospel; there’s a message in my words, so people listen. Sometimes you might here different things; it depends on how you feel. You might feel down, and I might be the cat in the same sentence saying, “You need to get up and do your thing.” And then I could be the same cat, when you at the top of your game, telling you, “It feel good, don’t it?” but with the same words. I ain’t a rapper; I’m a motivational speaker. I don’t do shows; I do seminars. I really talk to people.
Yeah, you seem to be one of the only people around who is willing to be larger than life in a way that I feel like rappers should be; it’s what separates a good rapper from a great rapper, the willingness to take on that mantle.
It’s basically saying, “Look, this is what it is.” Even with the kids, that’s why a lot of people don’t really trip on the kids. That’s reality, that’s what really happens, so why would you hide it from them? I take it as they listen to the music and then say, “I didn’t know it was really like that out there. I might don’t wanna be out there. I might want to go to school so I can go to college because that ain’t what I want to go through.” And then for the people that’s out there, that’s going, “Damn, you right, maybe I should step my game up. I been content for a long time; maybe it’s time to go for mine.” There’s people in the corporate world that got good jobs with drug habits and shit. But at the end of the day, if they got someone telling them, “Hey man, fuck that, let’s get money,” that might be a good reason for them to be like, “Fuck it, I’ma get money and worry about that other shit later on.” People who are sitting right now in the projects going, “Damn, I might can’t go buy a three million-dollar mansion, but I can get my family up out of here and get us a nice house that’s comfortable for us until everything else work out,” at least give them that inspiration and motivation to want to do that instead of just being content, being like, “This is life, that’s how it is, it’s going to be like that because ain’t nobody tell me no different.” You have people that stay in they hoods all they life and don’t go nowhere else. But you get a cat like me that been to damn near every hood in the world and got down with the best in the city telling you. I don’t give a fuck if you Bloodin’ or Crippin’ because at the end of the day red and blue make green, and that’s money. If you gonna sit around killing a motherfucker just because you feel like that’s something to do, at least be trying to get money out of the shit some way. Having beef with cats in your hood, why would you do that? Understanding is the best thing that ever were.
But you’ve been involved with public beef before.
Yeah, and I learned from that. I would never do that again. It makes me look like a hypocrite. It goes against everything I stand for.
So you’re not going to respond to DMX?
No, hell no. We labelmates, man. I’m not crazy. And at the same time, he apologized like a man. I don’t really think that was a beef shot. His people know my people. It’s nothing. Trust me.
So did he talk to you face-to-face?
They got in contact with me through several of my acquaintances. I never met the dude, was never properly introduced, and I think he didn’t know. He is one of the pioneers of rap. He has a right to be arrogant, just not with me. We gangstas out here, and his people know mine, and I know his. I wouldn’t never respond to another rapper that say anything about me. I’ll see them in the streets, and that’s just what that is. We labelmates; how this gonna look on Def Jam?
Did you just do another video?
Yeah, I did the “Soul Survivor” joint. I wrote it, Benny Boom directed it. I did it like Paid in Full because that’s one of my favorite movies. Everybody came out: Foxy Brown, Carmelo Anthony, Akon, Jay-Z, Dipset, Beanie Sigel.
With Jay, with the remix that’s come out now, all of a sudden it’s the jam of the summer. Jay’s been doing this thing lately where he does a verse and it’s an event. It’s like he’s coming down from the mountaintop to bless a song, and it almost sounds like you’re just the guy on the song before him. It seems to me like you’re better than that.
You talking about on the verse?
Being the guy on the song before him, playing that role, being that guy.
No man, the streets know what it is. He’s a pioneer. People just love Jay, and I’m the dude who did a song with Jay. He did 32 bars on there. If it was just another dollar sign, he’d do sixteen and be done with it. But 32 let me know he was feeling what I was talking about. I think I probably brought some of that old-school shit out of him, too. I was definitely on the street level with that. The song speaks for itself. When I got him on the song, it was more for people to see that I can fuck with cats like this and they will bless me with a verse. But you gotta think, instead of being just a guy on a song, I was a guy who never sold a album as far as a national release, and he did a song with me. You got people around here that sold millions of records that he would never even get on a track with. I definitely don’t think I was just a guy on a song.
Did you do “Go Crazy” as the East Coast track on the album?
I heard the track and just loved it. I don’t look at the world as East Coast, West Coast, Dirty South. It’s not like that anymore. It’s the world.
But you jump out as a Southern guy that’s acceptable up here in ways that other Southern guys aren’t. A lot of it might be that you use punchlines more than a lot of other Southern people and your accent’s not as thick.
I just think it’s me, man. I don’t think it got a lot to do with the music. People just want to know you real. Even in New York, if you real, they’ll fuck with you. They got the ability to see through a lot of niggas. I could hook up with the cats. I don’t walk around like I’m this, I’m that. I’m a everyday person, a street dude. I know the lingo. When I go into a place, minus the chain and the watch, I don’t stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t carry myself like a rapper; I always carry myself like a real reputable dude. That’s why I win. I ain’t arrogant. I don’t say things that shouldn’t be said. I think before I speak. That’s why I don’t do the whole beef thing. It’s just stupid. Come see me and we’ll deal with it. I ain’t finna be rapping against you. That’s for the birds; that’s old-school shit. We could fight dogs, race motorcycles, shoot it out, box it out, however you want to do it.
Beanie Sigel just said that when he was in jail, you were the only thing that caught his ear. Are you going to do anything with him?
Definitely. Cats in jail, when people got time to think, it’s like the whole prison system is running for me right now. I’m like they spokesman. For him to be locked down and have time to think and hear me and have me touch him like that, he a real dude. We saw what he was in jail for, so now why would he listen to some cornball-ass rapper? I had a part to do with his life. So when he came out, he went and got in my video; that’s one of the first things he did. This is a dude I grew up listening to. It’s that much respect. He took the time to tell somebody else that he’s digging my music. I listened to The Truth when I was growing up, when I was in the streets.
What else did you listen to growing up?
Like 8 Ball & MJG, UGK, NWA, shit like that. I listened to music when music was an everyday part of your life, not the way shit is now. Now it’s Cristal, ballers and bitches and cars and shit like that, and that’s it. I’m trying to take it back to day one, when music was an everyday part of your life. You grew up listening to UGK, Master P, 8 Ball. Cats from up here, they grew up listening to Big L and cats like that. That’s how they really feel. Now it ain’t like that; everyone wants the big video with the dancing. Who the fuck can relate to that? Who’s that going to help? How’s that going to make someone feel better about theyself, about what they do? It don’t make no sense.
Is “My Hood” going to be a single?
Definitely. But “Go Crazy” is taking off so much now, we might have to shoot a little video for that. I did “Go Crazy” because I want cats to know I can get down if I want to. Ain’t nothing I can’t feel. Gangsta music doesn’t have a certain rhythm or a certain tone. It’s how you get across. I could’ve done that shit a cappella, and it would’ve been the same feeling.
With the Boyz N Da Hood album and with Let’s Get It, you just did two albums basically just about dealing drugs and coming up. And they’re great albums. But can you keep doing that?
I’m a hustler, and I wouldn’t never say what my hustle was because that ain’t for everybody to know. But I got 25 years of this shit in me; what else am I going to talk about. I mean, you a interviewer, right? If you come up in the interviewing game, you gonna keep your same edge, do it without the paper and the pen because you know how to do it. You don’t have to write your questions down because it’s in you; you know who you are, you know how to interview, you know what questions to ask, you know what people want to hear. I’m a hustler; that’s what I been doing all my life. I got more training than you do as an interviewer because you’ve only been interviewing so long, but I’ve been a hustler all my life. So I ask you: you think I’ma get tired of talking about it or run out of shit to say? Never. That’s what I am. It’s even better because maybe now I’ll have more positive things to talk about and more people will want to hear. I can talk about the good and the bad now instead of just being about the bad.