I thought 50 Cent was going to be on this call. He wasn’t. But hey, Banks and Yayo! That’s something, right? To be fair, I do really like “I Like the Way She Do It,” especially the part where Yayo says he makes money every time he breathes on a track and then he just breathes. Also, I’m intrigued, though not entirely convinced, by the idea that bad-guy rappers are now underdogs. And I got Yayo to talk about his bucket hats. I’m pretty proud of that last one.
I have to ask you guys about this Young Buck situation. I’m sure you’ve been answering questions about it all day.
Tony Yayo: Aw man, you know what’s crazy about it? What you say your name was again?
Yayo: Tom, you know what’s crazy about it to me? This the most media Buck ever got in his life. Like, every question be about Buck, and the only reason people is asking questions is because him and 50 ain’t getting along. So to me, it’s like it makes him want to do it more. Because he’s still on the label. He’s still on G-Unit Records. But I think the media and people around him and just the industry period is fucking with the guy’s head. Because he feels cool. Like, every question is about Buck because he’s going against 50, as well as Game. That’s why when we drop a XXL cover, Game is on the next one. So like me, personally, I’m just tired of the Buck questions. I just feel like he made a lot of mistakes. He’s still on G-Unit, the label. And we got an album coming out July 1. He’s gonna be on it. We gonna let him eat. And, you know, ain’t nothing changed. We still gotta get this money.
Have you spoken with Buck since…
Yayo: I don’t speak to Buck period. He doesn’t even know what my new son looks like. It’s really nothing to talk about. I feel like the relationship I have with Banks and 50 is way different from the beginning because Banks live right around the corner. I’ve known him my whole life. I know his mother. I know his grandmother. I could go over there and get a slice of cake when he’s not there. 50 as well. I know his grandmother. I know all his family. Buck, he was put into a good situation while I was incarcerated, and I feel like he should be more appreciative toward Banks and 50. To me, those are the two people that made him. When he was on a bus with Juvenile on UTP, you didn’t know Buck. Sometimes I just look at it as a smack in the face when the media is like, “Yo, why y’all kick him out the group?” Because he’s making it seem like we’re the bad guys. That’s the only reason why I will be totally honest with you and tell you how I feel. Why are you the bad guy when you collectively made over five million dollars? How are we the bad guys when you owe 50 $300,000 right now because you have tax problems? How are we the bad guys right now? How are we the bad guys when we was focusing on the album and you was running around focusing on yourself? Sometimes people let media get to their head. Me, I’m not going to let it get to my head. Because I say eff the media, I say eff Interscope. I say eff everybody except for Banks and 50. It doesn’t matter to me. That was the circle. I think they forgot that me and Banks helped make this empire before Buck was around, on the first beginning mixtapes. So when he goes around pleading for sympathy from the media, it kind of upsets me because he shouldn’t be pleading for nothing. Your house in Cashville that you have is because of 50. The girl that’s braiding your hair is because of Banks. The babysitter that you got is because of G-Unit. Everything that you have is collectively from the Unit. A lot of people is making it seem like they feel bad for him.
Obviously the three of you are the core of the group and always have been, but when Buck was with the group, he seemed tight with all three of you.
Yayo: I was incarcerated, so he was really more tight with Banks, and Banks could explain to you their relationship. To me, I knew him, he was cool, he screamed Yayo so I had respect for him. But I lost a lot of respect for him.
Do you want to talk about that, Banks?
Lloyd Banks: I mean, what do you want to know, specifically?
It seemed like the three of you were a very tight unit. How does it feel to lose an element of that? Do you feel like you’ve lost anything?
Banks: Well, you gain and lose. It was a time when it existed before him, and it exists after him. Of course, it’s evident, the groundwork that he’s put in while he’s been around. He’s been around five years. But the comment that you just made, you said it seemed to be a hundred percent OK, right? So when you say that, it makes you wonder. If it seemed that way to you, then how the fuck did it just go left-field so fast? It seemed that way with Game too, right?
Yeah. Well, it didn’t seem quite the same way with Game…
Banks: All right, so my point is that if it seemed that way, then why did you hear things that made you feel like he’s been uncomfortable for so long? I can’t put my finger on it because you just said yourself that it seemed OK. Nobody planned it this way. Nobody planned and said that when we wake up, Buck is not going to be with the group.
What do you think of the record he made, “My Interview”? It doesn’t seem like a dis record against the group; it seems like he’s admitting his faults.
Yayo: Like I said, Buck is letting the media get to his head because this is the most media he ever got in his life. It’s like, dude sit around and want to be 50 while Banks and Yayo just want to be theyself. I don’t want to be 50. 50 is his own entity. Eminem is his own entity. Dr. Dre is his own entity. I don’t want to be them. I would love to sell as much records as they did. I wouldn’t mind. But a lot of statements that Buck made in his career was dumb. A lot of what he said in the media was dumb. When he said he’s gonna sell more than Eminem, he’s gonna sell more than 50. It’s good to think that, but sometimes the things that you say in the media, you should think before you talk. I don’t understand how people just can’t see the situation for what it is. The guy, I guess, is tired of being who he was in his career, tired of being around the Unit. He wants to focus on his self. Let him focus on his self. It’s not like it was a disrespect, like we told him, “Buck, get out of here.” He’s on the radio complaining that 50 doesn’t call him. Jay-Z doesn’t call Beanie Sigel or Freeway when he tells them that he’s dropping them off Roc-A-Fella Records. Some of them guys on Def Jam didn’t even know what his couch looks like. As for the relationships with 50, 50 brings everybody, from M.O.P. and Mobb Deep to Hot Rod and Spider Loc. They all got love. They all came to the house before, popped bottles and did what they did.
G-Unit Records seemed to expand a whole lot a couple of years ago when you had everybody signing. Now, for a variety of reasons, it seems like it’s shrunk back to the three of you.
Yayo: Well, contractually, everybody is still on G-Unit, from Hot Rod to M.O.P. to Mobb Deep. Prodigy, shout to him, he’s incarcerated now at Downstate Correctional Facility with my man El Dorado. Shout to them. Havoc, he’s still making beats. M.O.P., they just have to deal with their own issues. They have to get theirselves together, but they still contractually still with G-Unit, along with Hot Rod and Spider Loc, and everybody else. It’s not shrinking. It’s just going back to the original formula of just me, Banks, and 50 in the studio going hard. And Buck, he’s contractually under G-Unit too. He’s still on the label. You could believe anything you want to believe, but he’s still on the label, and he’s still under the Unit. Nobody did anything to disrespect Buck. These are all the moves that he wanted to make. He complained about royalties. I never had a royalty problem, a publishing problem, ever in my life. I never had no complaints about it. I live in a million-dollar home. I own numerous properties. I have nice vehicles. I live the life that you supposed to live, being on G-Unit.
My newspaper interviewed Prodigy a couple of months ago, and he said that when he got arrested, the police were trying to get him to cut a deal by setting up 50.
Yayo: That’s very unbelievable, but a lot of people, the stuff that they hear in the lyrics that the fans believe, the police believe too. You hear 50’s name in a lot of stuff. Sometimes hip-hop police concentrate on the wrong things. They pull me over, harass me. They pull 50 over, harass him.
So you’re feeling that glare on you?
Yayo: Of course I feel that glare on me. Hip-hop police, sometimes they know me personally. They know 50. One of them pulled Prodigy over and tried to set him up. Sometimes that’s how police play.
Banks: Fuck the police.
Yayo: Banks know what hip-hop police is. They follow him. Matter of fact, I think G-Unit is number one in the hip-hop police book. We definitely on the radar. Banks and them got arrested at Madison Square Garden, leaving the Garden. We’ve been pulled over and harassed, but it is what it is. The police just shot Sean Bell fifty times, and they got a not-guilty verdict.
Banks: Fuck the police.
Yayo: That’s why we got a tribute on our album called “Straight Outta Southside,” a tribute to Sean Bell. So rest in peace to him and shout out to his family.
What else can you tell me about Terminate on Sight? I don’t know anybody who’s heard the album yet.
Banks: The album is wrapped up. A lot of different things stand out on this project. It’s dealing with personal things, with issues in the group, our separate issues. Buck is on three or four records. But it’s touching on a lot of different perspectives, and it’s real aggressive. It’s a good album for the time in hip-hop right now, and it’s a good album for us. We need this album right here to open the doors for all the other rappers out there, aspiring rappers, that come from the struggle. It’s kind of hard for an artist that comes from the vein that we come from to focus and know what to do next when you hear, like, when people think that Kanye won. Everybody doesn’t fit in the Kanye bracket.
The kind of music you guys were doing was absolutely dominant for a while now. Do you feel like you’re the underdogs now?
Banks: Oh yeah, most definitely, because it’s not the year of the bad guy anymore. It’s the year of everything else, agreeing to disagree. Think of the things that hip-hop was based off of. Just think about the message, of where hip-hop came from and the things that were being said in the music from the beginning to where it’s changed right now, to the glamour and glitz and gold and all that shit that it’s came to now. It’s a big difference, and I think we’re a breath of fresh air for the new artists that’s coming up, showing them that they could do their music, music that expresses where they come from as opposed to just doing what everybody else is doing. You could have a hit record in the midst of a fad, but you have to be truly talented in order to have three or four or five successful albums.
So this is going to be a real grimy record then?
Banks: You heard Beg for Mercy; it’s in the same vein of that. But at the same time, we are creative. We make records like “I Like the Way She Do It.” We make records like “No Days Off,” like “Death Around the Corner,” “Party Ain’t Over,” fun records like “I Get Down,” the Swizz Beatz record. You have to be creative and able to make a complete record. Ladies listen to music too. You got to have records that cater to all kind of markets. For the most part, the bulk of the album is aggressive. And like Yayo, said, it’s the time. Crime is up. Murder is up. Everything’s up. The economy is down.
Yayo: Yeah, there’s a struggle everywhere. When we got to markets like Angola, these dudes is bopping to joints of my album and 50’s album because it’s aggressive where they from. When you go to Africa, they not snapping and popping out there like that. They going through the everyday struggle. They fighting for shoes and hats and stuff like that.
Yayo: So when you see three dudes that came from the bottom, they the number one rap group in the world. And don’t forget what we did for LA and down South because we created artists like Game, we created artists like Buck. So for us to branch out over the world, you know G-Unit’s going to give you some good product July 1. You know that for a fact. You already know, “Rider Part 2,” whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. That was a mixtape record that went straight to radio on its own. And then “I Like the Way She Do It”? Everybody loves that. It’s got a new producer, Stereo. We giving new producers chances. I mean, come on. Look what we did for the mixtape game.
Yayo, you seem to be doing some different things. You’re making jokes more now than I remember you doing, like the breathing on a track thing.
Yayo: Because in this rap game, you go through transitions. And Banks, I learned a lot from Banks. Now I’m more laid-back with it. We don’t have Jimmy Iovine or one of them big-head executives over our shoulder telling us to try to make these ringtone records or whatever. That’s number one. Number two, I’m more relaxed with myself. I’m not wrapped up into the industry thing. I’m not going to Puff Daddy’s all-white parties or none of that. I’m happy where I am. I’m chilling. And I’m happy with where I’m from. Where we live, we live in a nice neighborhood that’s probably a half an hour or an hour away from the hood. So I get to jump in my cars and go to the hood and see what’s going on. The same people still on the corner. So for me to be where I’m at, I’m happy. I’m good. If I die tomorrow, I’m good with where Tony Yayo’s career is at and where G-Unit’s career is at. We’ll always be remembered no matter what.
But if you look at, like, the lineup of the Hot 97 Summer Jam this year, it seems to be mostly artists who’ve had problems with you guys. Do you feel that as pressure?
Banks: It’s not pressure. You just making them want to see us more.
Yayo: Yeah, it’s cool. G-Unit been hated on from the beginning. 50 got blackballed from when he did “How to Rob,” when Ja Rule and Irv and them was on top. Banks always talks about the resistance, and there’s always a resistance from G-Unit. Our records always gotta be the ones that are super, super clean. We get different treatment than everybody. But when I wake up in the morning, I always look at it like it’s G-Unit against the world. It’s been like that since I came home. It’s been like that since the beginning.
So on Terminate on Sight, you’re not going to be reaching outside your camp at all?
Banks: For the most part, it’s just G-Unit artists. The artists that make up G-Unit, that’s enough right there. Me, Yayo, and 50: that ain’t enough? We don’t really compromise with what everybody else is doing. If the record’s hot, it’s hot. We’ve been touring and we been on the move a lot, so it’s not really time to go fly to Miami or fly to Atlanta to sit with producers. Those beats, with the exception of Swizz Beatz, all the other records got done with us in the studio right there. We not going to force any features or anything. Just stick to the core.
My friend would kill me if I didn’t ask this one last question. Yayo, I wanted to ask you about your hats. You kind of brought back the bucket hat. It was gone, and you brought it back.
Yayo: Aw man, I love the bucket hat. You gonna see me wearing them. I had one on BET the other day when we dropped the video. I had a Gucci one. I just like them, man. I like to wear different things. I like to be a little flashy sometimes. A little different.