A decade ago, Juelz Santana burst onto a rap scene that didn’t know it needed him, rapping about trapping out of Harlem crack spots and moving weight for the goon demographic (and delusional, escapist hipsters too) but he also made pop friendly, sing-along raps for the MTV and the now defunct 106th & Park crowd. Santana was, in every sense, what the game was missing in 2005, the last time he put out an album. Unfortunately, he’s hit a few bumps in the road in the form of his collaboration album with Lil Wayne I Can’t Feel My Face never seeing the light of day and of course the much publicized dispute with Dipset founder Cam’ron over the deal he’d signed.
The Weezy collab is still in music label purgatory, but at least he and the rest of the Dips have reconciled. So now Santana is ready to resume his place at the upper crust of rap society. But is this still Santana’s Town? If the title of his new album is any indication, God Willing, it is.
– The Ten Best New York City Rap Albums of 2012
You decided not to release music while you going through some issues. Do you think that was wise?
Well, I took some downtime but I didn’t stay away from my fans until it was like, “What the fuck? Where the fuck did he go and where the fuck did he just come from?” My presence was still felt even though I was out there like that.
That’s true. “Beamer, Benz Or Bentley” was huge and so was that joint you did with Chris Breezy. That did keep you somewhat in the mix.
Exactly. It’s just now instead of just spoon feeding my fans a little bit at a time like I’ve been doing I’m putting out the whole brick. These are album songs, all original. It’s basically a free album. I feel like my people deserve it. They’ve been beyond patient. And [Dipset] always treated mixtapes like albums, we’ve been doing it like that, before all these other guys.
So you named the mixtape God Willin’. Why’d you chose that as a title?
God Willin… it just came to me and it felt good, it felt right. After I announced the title people hit me on Twitter, reminding me that Clipse first album was called Lord Willlin’. Honestly though the title just came to me. I didn’t even think of that album. It just came to me. Originally it was going to be called Reagan Era and Kendrick Lamar got a song with that title but I been screaming “Reagan Era” for years. Or like Jay naming his album The Blueprint after KRS had an album by that title. It’s all good at the end of the day.
What’s different this time around?
I’m gonna treat the situations like I’m a new artist. I’m just hungry again. God Willin is just gonna be the start of a new chapter. I got a new label situation called Anything’s Possible. But it’s still Dipset, Skull Gang. I’m still on Def Jam. I already got the second mixtape done after God Willin where I’ll be rapping over other people’s beats but we’re just going to talk about God Willin for now. I’m just happy to be back in business. I want to enjoy working and go hard and be where I need to be. Right where some of these niggas ain’t supposed to be. I’m still lookin better than a lot of niggas who just dropped albums though. They looking lost out here. It’s time to follow the leader again.
You mentioned being where you need to be or feel where you belong. Do you regret the time taken off? True you stayed somewhat visible but it did impede your momentum, no?
The time off was definitely a long time. I know people are looking like “Damn.” I wasted time that I can’t get back and I blame only myself. And I said it’s where I belong because hard work beats talent. Niggas outworked me so that’s why they’re where they are but they ain’t got my talent. So it’s time to just get right back into working. And right now it feels perfect. It just feels right. Besides, there’s always room for a real nigga.
I saw a blog post of you and Un Kasa smoking blunt after blunt. Do you think weed hinders your output?
No, not at all. When I was putting out the most work I was smoking heavy and drinking lean heavy. I’m going to use Wayne as an example. He had some of his biggest, brightest years when they was saying he was on lean and how it’s the worst. If you’re smokin’ weed and you doing nothing all day, that’s not ’cause of the weed, you just lazy. Weed can make some people lazy, but I just got used to working on weed. You train yourself because you gotta work. But really it’s about knowing your body and knowing yourself. Learn what you can do and what you can’t. I don’t do liquor. I do the bubbles, maybe a little Ciroc mix on occasion but that’s it. It’s all about willpower too. That determination like “I’ma do this, I’ma conquer this, high or not.”
True. So when can we get another song with you, Cam and Jimmy on it?
We’re working on making it that happen. I’m with whatever. We’ve been talking about things. It was always more than music with us so we all just have to get back into that space. But again, I feel like the time is just perfect right now. This is the time for everything.