RNN: Was there anyone maybe a family member who first encouraged you to start using your rap skills when you were young?
Nah man, I think I just started rapping because I was just starting to enter 10th grade in the summer time and rap music was a new thing. All my childhood of learning how to play instruments in the school and marching band, I knew I could do this. As a drummer I immediately challenged myself to try it. The first little raps that I did, people liked them so I just kept doing em.
RNN: Who did you admire when you were young and just starting to rap?
Rappers, when I was first starting out I would have to say Melly Mel. I think my favorite rappers when I was first absorbing hip hop was Melly Mel from the Furious 5 and no doubt he was very influential on the type of rapper I wanted to be.
RNN: Any non rappers you looked up to?
Oh deffinately. I come from the 70ís with the funk. Thatís what I grew up on as a kid. Before rap music I was in love with the funk. Ohio Players Cameo, (?) Funkadelic, it was my world at the time.
RNN: Was it your parents who exposed you to the funk music in your house growing up?
Actually in my world, I was always on my own page as far as getting music. I was a child who purchased music out of record stores at a very, very young age. I would go purchase every record that I thought I liked. The same money that someone else would be buying candy with, I would spend on a 45. Back then a record was probably didnít even cost a dollar.
RNN: The album ďGangsters and StrippersĒ is a CD/DVD combo which features a group called ďThe Up All Night CrewĒ. Explain who the ďUp All Night CrewĒ is.
Some of the guys are rappers from groups that I was doing stuff with previously around 1998-2000 with a label called Short Records. And then some of them are new guys that just joined on to the crew since we up-started everything again in this last year. I was taking some down-time on the whole production/label thing because I felt like I needed to regroup before I started an independent label, which was what I truly always wanted to be was an independent label. (I felt ) I should do a little bit of homework and come back the way I really wanted to come back instead of what I was doing before which was just thinking that you had to goto a major label and you get the hook up. They put the records out for you. It was more of a dependency thing than I needed or should have even been try to do like them deals with the major labels. Where I come from, the independent atmosphere. I got with the new guys and put a little crew together early 2005 and we sat in the studio since January and kept recording music all year and now there is a super extensive library of good music. We got producers in the click, singers, musicians. We just sat in there and made a lot of music. To this day, we are still in there each week adding to the extensive library. With this independent label we are going to break a few groups but we are going to consistently put out records as our crew. A crew might put out an album once a year, just like any other group. But Iím gonna put them out like every 2 or 3 months. And Iím not pushing for these albums to go platinum or anything, this is strictly independent, underground music. We are going to put the ads out there, shoot the video and all but after a while people are gonna catch on. People are gonna say, ďDamn they keep putting it out and it sounds damn good.Ē Iím not going to try to hypnotize you with a million dollar marketing campaign where it seems like you are being brainwashed to go get it. We are gonna do a nice decent push of the singles, videos, and albums. I like some of the new cats out there like Young Jeezey with his underground mixtape hustle, how he came in the game. Dipset, with the mixtape hustle and then coming out with the independent albums. Iím understanding where I come from, but at the same time I have been in the game so long, its good to see the new hommies putting the hustle down. Its motivation for an OG.
RNN: Are the latest additions to the ďUp All Night CrewĒ mainly ATL cats?
Actually its probably an equal mix of Atlanta, the Bay Area and people from Chicago. I donít know how it ended up Chicago. Then I got sprinkles of Houston Texas affiliates and thatís pretty much the circle.
RNN: Tell me a bit about this CD/DVD combo you are releasing? Is it a full audio CD or is the main attraction the DVD?
No, itís the CD. Itís the album. Thatís something that you are gonna see that after a while the third the fourth and the fifth independent release. You are gonna realize that every release that I put out from here on, started with Pimpin Inc. as the first one as a mixtape, sorta a little advertiser for whats to come. The Up All Night Crew and Pimpin Inc. are gonna have a little infomercial type thing. Every CD that I put out is gonna have a free DVD with it, and weíre not charging anything extra. Itís the new digital age, its not very costly to turn on some cameras and film a lot of things that go on around you, and its not extremely costly either. Adding another CD to the package is something that I want to do to help break the label. Not only do you get a chance to hear some underground music that isnít necessarily being shoved down your throught like the mainstream stuff. Its real, authentic, underground hip hop music and you also get the visual because a lot of times with underground music, weíre black balled from MTV. They donít want no Too Short on MTV. So when you buy the CD, you get the Too Short in there. I plan on putting in a certain song, like one from back in the day like Freaky Tails, itís a classic, I love it. Its 15 years later, but I can make a new video because itís a classic. So weíre going forward with the videos, you might see some titties, you might see a gun, even though I ainít really into that, the violent thing. Some of the guys on the label, they talk about shit. The way the new hip hop is going now, it might just be sexual, it might be the fact that words donít get bleeped.
RNN: So this is a full album, and you also have an album coming out in June, right?
Yeah, my solo album. These independent albums are not going to be me solo, its me and the crew. My last solo album is on Jive.
RNN: How do you feel Jive has treated you over your 16 album career?
I feel that Jive, and Jive feels the same way, Jive just backed the fuck away and neglected the entire urban division once they started making money off Britney Spears, The Back Street Boys and N*Sync. They did it on purpose. They got a couple of power groups, super power pop acts that were selling 10 million albums each time out and they channeled all their priorities right to that shit. If you check those years like the last 90ís, early 2000ís they just basically jumped out the game. The only thing that kept me in there was the way I get paid. I didnít really focus on the neglect, I was working on the independent thing trying to do this, trying to do that. I always gave my best attempt to be an underground artist and no so much as a mainstream artist. As long as I get the ads, the commercials, the magazines, they are like little presents, Iím like cool. At the same time, it started being very obvious that Jive didnít like rap music and R&B at all. I feel like now-a-days, with my last album for the first time in 2006 I feel like 10 years ago with Jive. The staff is actively juiced up about an urban product.
RNN: Do you donít feel like you were singled out to be ignored?
No, no, no, Jive shut down on the urban division all together. The only thing that is forcing them to get back in to the game is taking over Aristaís roster and then the Sony merger and all the Sony artists came over. There is so much talent under that umbrella now that is worth too much money, they canít ignore it anymore. I donít think they ever forgot how to do it.
RNN: What was your inspiration for this release? Was there any particular theme or message you are trying to get out there?
Its sorta similar to what we are talking about right now. Iím an artist who is extremely established, nothing has gone away as far as credibility. Everybody is putting out like platinum, platinum and then I put out a few records that donít go platinum, a few records that donít go gold and its like, what happened, what you gonna do, how you gonna do it again. So my motivation really is like that I donít personally feel that the material I have been making has not been up to par, I feel like I was put on a label, that I probably should have left a long time ago, but I ended up on a label that jumped out the urban game and stopped going to bat for the urban artists. Right now my motivation, not knowing Jive was going to merge with Arista and Sony, knowing this was my last album and when I leave here I gotta leave on top of my game. I canít be bullshittin, so I went in the studio with Lil Jon, who I know has been making a lot of hits lately, and (?) and I just told them, I want you to do my album, I need fuckin hits cuz this is how Iím tryin to go out. I went in there motivated by the events of what have taken place between me and Jive in the last 3 albums. I dropped 3 albums that some of my hardcore fans donít even know about. In my later years in my career, I get paid on the front end, not the back end but I couldnít leave and let them handle me like that. That was my motivation, to say watch this shit, you canít discriminate on age, these stats for the last few years, which is your doing, not my doing.
RNN: You have teamed up with Lil Jon on recent projects. How did you first meet Lil Jon and what was the first collaboration you guys did?
The first song we did was ďCouldnít be a better player.Ē Which was the first song that anybody ever rapped on. There were records that he produced before this and the only record out he had was Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz and that was ďWho You With,Ē which was a single. I heard that single and it was really hot in Atlanta. And I really like that song as a rapper, I said I really want to rap on that track cuz no one had rapped on it, and thatís how I met Lil Jon. We moved around the same circle and I just got at him and said, man, let me rap on that track. A rap version of Who You With, and he said nah, nah, lets just do something new with a whole new song. So the new song was ďCouldnít Be A Better PlayerĒ and weíve been making songs ever since.
RNN: What kind of business ventures are you currently involved with?
My whole thing right now is the independent label, this truly independent label. Right now, I love music and you can talk about movies and all that shit. Iím gonna put 100% into getting back to where I came from with an independent label. I feel like I can do a lot of things in life, but I can do something that I love. Making music and being in the studio and putting out albums. I know Iím not going to be an artist until Iím 50 fuckin 60 years old. I donít know what hip hop is going to do. I might grab the mic until the day I die, but I know Iím not going to be stuck as just an artist and thatís the only thing I do. This is what I wanted to do. I started with an independent label, I donít know why the fuck I stayed there, but Iím glad that I went on my journey around the world through the major label doing the big thing, and Iím glad I did that shit. But in my heart of hearts I probably would have been better off as Too Short the independent rapper forever and never signed to a major. Iím trying to end it like I really wanted to go.
RNN: In your off-time, what are some of your favorite things to do?
Since I was a child I would jump on my bike and just roll around to many different places and just keep moving stopping and just fuckin with people. As an adult, I do exactly the same thing. I get dressed, I leave the house. There is never enough time in a day to do what I do, but I still go from spot to spot to spot and just enjoy the day. Its been a fun life for me, doing this shit since I was a kid. Just having fun, enjoying life.
RNN: What are the top 3 CDs you play while driving?
I play them now with the playlist. Lately my favorite playlist is called ďMellow Raps.Ē Through out the entire history of hip hop rappers have been making these softer, some of them are sensitive songs about loving ladies, other songs like like pimped out songs that talk that player shit and its just like a pimp ass track with a bass line and a guitar or something. And then you got a lot of hip hop thatís not ďrah-rahĒ, wild or dance music or something. A lot of laid back music. From making my playlist I found that a lot of the hip hop that we love, the hit records that we have heard over the years are the nice little mellow songs singing hooks and shit. When I listen to it in the car is almost soothing like hip hop and shit talking, cussin and everything and everything wall all mellow beats. And everybody is on that list because everyone has one or 2 songs on their album, that song they made for their girl or something, for their mamma, that sexy song, the emotional song. Everyone got that one mellow ass song. What I come to found out was that those songs talk about the real shit. The emotions of the music, like when your in the studio making music thinking this is that smooth shit, that real shit because itís the emotions of the music that wanna make you write something real.
RNN: What do you think about the rap game now compared to where it was 10 or 15 years ago?
Ainít nobody gonna lie. The major difference in rap now is the allowance of bitting. Nobody seems to be bothered if you bitting now. Youíre not labeled a fake rapper for bitting another rappers style or his phrases or his words or whatever or his look. You can do anything now, if you got a hot record hit, nobody gonna call you a fake ass bitter or copycat or whatever. Nobody is gonna call you names. It was strict when I got in the game. You gotta come up with your own thing, you had to find you own way in, you couldnít sound alike, look-alike, you couldnít dance alike. Everything had to be different on stage or else you were out of there. You would be slashed and slandered and outkast or cast out.
RNN: Lets be real, if you put a major label behind an artist, as long as they are willing to pay enough, anybody can buy the #1 spot on all radio stations.
Guess what though. I am a firm believer in the new hip hop. This shit is much better. I donít give a fuck you talking about my precious hip hop. If you give me my way, I would say make it what it is right now. This shit is like gold, like diamonds, its like selling oil, its like selling dope, its like pussy, its like hip hop is a drug. Itís a mother fucka and it makes motha fuckas rich. Itís a beautiful thing, itís a new game. And you sittin there, you can analyze it all you want but can you get in this shit and make some money. Thatís what Iím sayin.
RNN: No disrespect intended in that last statement.
Nah, Iím just telling anyone thatís reading this that Iím on both sides. I love the fact that the old hip hop, how precious it was but at the same time Iím glad it is what it is now. Cuz now you can fuckin make a million dollars way faster than back in the day.
RNN: I suppose my real point was that Jive could have thrown a million dollar campaign for you and the rest of the urban division and given you that top radio spot all over, but they slept on their urban talent.
Yeah, you right. I would have thought that at a time when you slippin on Britney Spears, N*Sync and the Back Street Boys, at the same time you have R. Kelly, Too Short, Joe, Petey Pablo, UGK, they always had a roster. I would think you would channel some of that pop money. You can hire someone to be urban. You have so much money to say that you donít have enough money for this shit over here. It was a fuckin crime that a label that came up urban would turn its back on its urban department when they made that big pop money.
RNN: What were your thoughts when you found out 2Pac was dead after being shot in Las Vegas?
I was one of those people that thought so much shit happened with Pac between the time when I first heard of him was when he ran into the Berkley Police department who assaulted him and he sued the Berkley Police department and he won. Thatís the first time I ever heard of a 2Pac sensational incident. But from that time until before he got shot and killed, I was one of those people who said, this motha fucka can walk the earth crazy as hell and he can do anything he want. Heís just gonna be an old man, its just him. He didnít seem invincible, more like lucky. Or someone with an angle on their shoulder. When I found out that he got shot, never did I have a thought that he wouldnít pull out of it. I just knew the whole time, that ďoh shit, we gonna be kickin it againĒ and whatever thatís just how its going down. But when he passed, you think back on it like an Elvis fan. You just find the conspiracy theory and say they didnít do an autopsy, they didnít have a funeral. The man is in Cuba chillin, they put out the movie Resurrection, he had on the new shoes, you can see he got older, gained weight. Iím with the conspiracy theories all the way.
RNN: Did you have a favorite memory of 2Pac?
My favorite 2Pac memory would be the moment I saw him doing interviews on BET. I knew Pac from Oakland, I had been around him, I knew his homeboys and I knew the people he hung out with all the time so I knew of his character and I knew that he was a comedian, cool, funny dude. The kind of guy everyone wanted to be around. All the girls like him and shit and I knew him as that. But I never knew he had these political/radical views about the system and shit. Iím sitting here watching BET and they are sitting down with these little girls asking him these entertainment questions and he went off into this Black Panther mode. And I was like ďwhat the fuck?Ē Iím like one of those people who are interested in whatís going on around me in the community with social issues and shit and he was making sense. I was like damn, I didnít know he knew it like that. So from then on, I kinda always paid attention to what Pac said in his songs and what he said in his interviews. It opened me up to what direction he was going to as a rapper. From rapper to rapper I was seeing where he was going with it. He was highly regarded as this thug with the tattoos, but if you really listen, people that know it word for word, the man was educating the whole time. Like every song was a handbook. A lot of people learned the words, but they werenít really listening because they took out of it ďthug till I dieĒ and I think he was preaching about survival. You gotta make the best out of this situation, not just be as negative as you can. This shit can be better if you make it better.
RNN: Was there anything that stood out in your mind about 2Pacís work ethic when you were in the studio with him?
The few times Iíve been around him in the studio, everybody says the same type of thing. He wrote the fuckin verse faster than anybody else and he just said it. He wouldnít stop the track sayin ďlet me say it again,Ē he would just keep going. The Outlawz gave me the best insite saying that Pac would be like ďwe gotta goto the studio and make songs all night.Ē Engineers would be talking about as fast as they could pull it up Pac would be spittin and that just how it went. I ainít never in my days of being a workaholic ainít never did it like that.
RNN: You were featured on a track on E-40's new album, is he or his brother B-Legit featured on your album(s)?
I got E-40 most definitely. We just did the last song with me, Pimp-C and my man Rick Ross in Miami. I got Snoop Dogg and Will.i.Am did a track with me.
RNN: Is B-Legit one of your hommies as well?
Oh yeah, B-Legit thatís my seat on the pavement homies. Me and B-Legit, we actually really hang out and be moving around like from city to city. If he is somewhere, you better believe we be rollin together. We tight like that, and its been that way. E-40ís crew have always been super tight with my crew, always.
RNN: Would you turn down an offer to be featured on any upcoming ďThe ClickĒ release?
Oh yeah man. E-40 got probably like 10-15 verses of mine over there in the studio. Shit, in the Protunes. He can use those any time he wants and he can call me up to do a new one. He already knows that. D-Shot know it. B-Legit knows it. They all know it.
RNN: Do you have a message for those who look up to you and want to become a success in life like you?
First thing you gotta do is put your super hustle down to get your foot in the door. Just to get your first song on the radio and first record deal, whatever you gotta put your super hustle down. And then once you get in the door and your record is playin on national radio and you got a record deal, and you see yourself on BET and someone calls you and wants you to go on tour with them, once all that happens, thatís when the shit starts. Most people think they made it when they raise their hands up and 10,000 people scream, you said I made it, actually thatís where it starts. The success story is not told about how you came up and then the first time you made the crowd scream and thatís the end of the movie. In my life thatís the beginning of the movie.
RNN: If you have any kids, are they involved in music like you?
If I have any kids, nobody told me yet. I ainít got no baby mamma drama.
RNN: Do you see any feature films in your future?
Most definitely. Educational films about the game. Not the drug game or street game. The knowledge of being a young urban kid surviving the obstacles that come at you every day in life. The game that you need to get through that shit.