“You Write From Your Soul and They Try and Make It Into A Minstrel Thing”: Our Interview With Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire


Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire is Brooklyn’s rap superstar-in-waiting. He released a new EP (Passion & Power) on Universal yesterday, and we interviewed the venerable eXquire for this week’s print edition of The Voice. Here’s the bonus beats of the chat, which includes eXquire revealing the song that snagged him a major label deal (hint: It’s not “The Last Huzzah”), the possibility of doing key bumps with David Bowie, and plans to start his own book club.

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When I spoke to you a year ago you said that lots of labels wanted to sign you, but you were going to stay independent. What changed your mind?
My mother. We’re super close. I asked her, “What do you think I should do, sign with a record label or stay on the indie grind?” She said, “You’re very talented and you should let your star shine as bright as it can. Don’t short-change yourself. If you wanna play basketball, you wanna go to the NBA and do it to the highest level. So why shouldn’t you sign?” It’s all I needed to hear.

Why Universal over other labels then?
They showed the most dedication. Every label tried to sign me. These guys [waves around the Decon office], they tried to sign me.

What actually happens during a meeting with a label when they’re courting you?
You sit there and they tell you you’re great and you believe them or you don’t. It was funny, not necessarily over-the-top. They had my face mad big on the wall, I get off the elevator and onto the floor and “Huzzah” is playing. That was at maybe the third meeting; it took a while. I just wanted to see how dedicated they was to the idea.

Did you get the feeling that they only knew you from “Huzzah” and the remix?
We sat and listened to my whole album together. I actually got signed off a song off my Christmas mixtape, “The Gold Watch.” That song got me a record deal. They didn’t even fuck with the “Huzzah” remix. Everybody thinks that though.

You have a line on the EP where you’re ranting at “cracker-ass bloggers trying to downplay my intelligence.” Why do you think people try to do that?
I don’t know, ’cause I like fat ass, and them niggas like trying to magnify and be some silly shit. People try to make out I’m some wild dude; you meet me in person and I’m calm. That’s just the Muthafuckin’ part of me, being in the street. Everybody has to vent, everybody has the night when you go out with your people and such and such happens and you drink too much and you get in a fight. That’s my music, that’s me venting and telling my life story. People just try to take one aspect and take one need.

People don’t look beyond the Muthafuckin’ part.
Yeah, and that’s kinda what the album’s like — it’s real frustration. Everybody was kinda magnifying one aspect of my music. They don’t talk about “I Should Be Sleeping” and “Build-a-Bitch,” those records that are really deep. They’re like “Huzzah”! But [that song] ain’t about drinking and I can’t even drive. People like the simplicity. For me, it was frustrating, ’cause you write this thing from your soul and they try and make it into a minstrel thing.

Does that ever get you down?
For every person who don’t get it there’s ten who do. I have people coming to my shows crying: “You touched me, you made my life better.” I chose [this path] and it comes with the occupation: you’re putting your art out there to be judged. I listened to EL-P and Kid Cudi every day going to work. People need to hear me and make their life better.

Where did you see the fan crying at a show?
It was in Virginia. I know the person’s name but I’m not gonna put it out there. I’ll say hi and shit on Twitter. Nigga cried at my show like two weeks ago. He brought me books to sign, a Nietzsche book and two Dostoyevsky books. That’s the intention. It’s not just to have people jumping up and down, it’s to say, “I’m bleeding too.” That’s the desire for a song, you want to affect someone so they cry.

When was the first time you heard a song that made you cry?
Damn. Maybe a Marvin Gaye record. The first song that really touched me was “Everyday Struggle” by Biggie, like just the way it came on: [raps] “I know how it feel to wake up fucked up/ Pockets broke as hell…” I heard that album three years after Biggie died.

How did you manage to avoid hearing Biggie for so long?
I was a child when Biggie died. I was 10-years-old! [Laughs] I don’t have an older brother. Who was playing Biggie? My mother wasn’t playing Biggie. My uncle was the first to let me hear Biggie.

Why did that fan bring those specific books for you to sign?
That’s what I rap about. They think I rap about liquor, but I don’t. That’s like me and my fan’s kinda little thing.

The Mr. eXquire book club!
You know, I was thinking about doing a book club.

What would the first book be?
Where is this person in their life? What do they wanna read?

Aren’t you meant to suggest the book?
Let’s say somebody is 19. They need to read The Art of Mackin’. It’s the rules of the game in an appropriate manner. It’s an old book so you have to interpret it now.

Who wrote it?
K. Flex wrote it. He’s a mack. I’m also a mack so I can relate.

What’s the first lesson in the book?
I can’t tell you, man. You have to give me a dollar. [Yells at his friend] Yo, you got the Paypal type thing? He wants some game. He can’t have no free game!

You gonna add tax to that dollar too?
Yep, tax it!

Going back to the music, what artists were you listening to while you were recording the EP?
I don’t listen to no rappers like that. I listen to Prince. And I was listening to old shit. Bobby Womack a lot, Eddie Hazel. We went upstate to do the album.

Where abouts upstate?
It was Woodstock, for the sake of the article. We stayed up there for a week, me and my two best friends. We cooked for each other, smoked weed, drank liquor, drove around the woods, looked at deer — they had a farm with pigs and llamas and sheep.

Llamas can be feisty.
I heard they will whip your ass!

Did you ever think about staying up there?
Hell no! I loved it up there, but you can’t move up there until you’re older. I’m too fast for that now.

What sort of stuff did you cook?
Pork chops, steak, spaghetti, fried chicken one day; pancakes every morning, leftovers for lunch, then a new dinner. We just had a good time up there. I cooked once but I burned my shit. I made breakfast one time and that shit ain’t pop off! We just chilled. It’s not bitches and an orgy — none of that going on. Just the brothers.

You have SpaceGhostPurrp producing on the EP. How did that happen?
For that song, “Aggin Laer,” me and Goldie Glo took the slogan “real nigga” and flipped it into something new. People get the term mixed up, like, “He a real nigga ’cause he shot somebody.” You’re not a real nigga for dumb shit, you’re a real nigga for being upstanding, keeping your shit solid. So Purp sent me a beat, but he didn’t have no say in the direction of the record.

Do you know if he likes the song?
He’s heard it. He was supposed to be on it! There’s gonna be a remix…

Who’s gonna be on the remix?
Can’t tell you.

Does it feature anyone you’ve worked with before?
One person I worked with before. But I’ma do an extended version that’s gonna be a bit different.

You also have a song named after Cari Zalloni.
Yeah, the Cazal guy. [eXquire leaps up off his stool] Ah, cramp! Fuck! [Pauses] You can put that in there, tell ’em I had a cramp, eX had a cramp, had to get up.

You’re a fan of Cazal glasses, right?
Big time, it’s all I wear. I just like ’em, they have a different feel. I know I’m ready; I know I’m me when I put them on. Originally the song was called “Visions,” but I thought about how I put the glasses on before I go on stage. It’s like Prince with the button pants on — he’s ready to be Prince now.

When did you first come across Cazals?
I seen this book, A Time Before Crack by Jamel Shabazz, and I seen everybody wearing them. I knew about them, like Run-DMC wore them. But my mom was like, “You had to have a lot of clout to wear them or else you’ll get them slashed off your face…” I feel like I’m prestigious so I can wear them. It’s what I represent, the passion, what I do.

So what’s been the biggest difference about working with a major label?
Caring about shit I don’t care about. I don’t care about Twitter and the Internet. Even though they say I was born on the Internet, I care about meeting people, interaction, fuckin’ with you, talking to you. I don’t care about the statistics out there. I’d put a song out there and never retweet that. But the label are like, “You have to retweet it!” But I’m very shy, I don’t talk to people.

Have the label tried to get you to work with artists you don’t want to?
Big shit. They want me to work with them. I’ve met a lot of people who are big and into my shit. I just don’t like twit-picking.

If you had a wish-list of artists to work with, who’d be on there?
David Bowie! I love Bowie. [Starts singing.]

What would the studio session be like?
That’s spiritual, so we got to do like some key bumps [laughs]. Me and David Bowie doing key bumps and it’s on!

That should be a mixtape title.
David Bowie Key Bumps: Volume One!

Anyone else?
Probably Erykah Badu. I’m trying to get close to that. I don’t know, it’s people like that, legendary, not, “I got Soulja Boy on my shit!” Even though Soulja Boy’s an icon in his own way.

He’s not the hippest right now.
Yeah, they like Chief Keef now. [Pauses] Chief Keef’s like the thugged-out Soulja Boy.

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