While many lament with a cry of “Bring New York back,” some say New York never left. And they’re not entirely wrong. Many seem to forget that the best-selling rap albums of 2005 were from a humble Queens native known as 50 Cent. And the year before that, his childhood friend and fellow Jamaica, Queens denizen, Lloyd Banks, topped the charts with his freshman outing, Hunger For More. Now that he’s proved he can push a few units on his own, Banks is ready to step out from underneath the expansive shadow of Curtis Jackson and bask in his own limelight with his new set, Rotten Apple. But with 50 picking up artists left and right and G-Unit’s sales stranglehold on the game waning, is there still a spot left for Mr. Gang Green to shine? XXLMAG.COM caught up with Blue Hefner and spoke to him about G-Unit’s taste for beef, getting that Playboy money and how he’s still having fun with hip-hop.
What are you trying to say about New York with a record called Rotten Apple?
I think New York is really going to appreciate this album. I’m giving them New York City: the yellow cabs, the frank stands, the big lights, the tourist buses. But at the same time, I’m giving them the Rotten Apple, the sour part of it. I’m giving them the homicides, the teen pregnancies, the broken homes, the kids with no fathers, the police harassment. It’s crazy because 2:30 this morning, I just got a phone call telling me one of my own boys got murdered. The shit don’t change for me. People [ask], What keeps you motivated? That shit keeps me motivated. It’s bigger than me just rapping. It’s me rapping and keeping me off the street and keeping all my niggas off the street. I’m tired of having to pay for funerals. I actually have a tattoo on my arm of the Statue of Liberty and she’s kinda covering her face like she’s scared. That’s because I got shot the same day the buildings fell down, so I woke up in the hospital watching the towers. I was going through my own life and death situation at the same time. These are things people just need to know and identify with, man. The state of hip-hop in New York City is overlooked because a lot of the new talent is following in the footsteps of everybody else instead of just being individual.
Who are you collaborating with on the album?
Outside of the crew, I got Scarface on the album. I got 8Ball on a record, I got Rakim on a record. I wasn’t in the studio with him. I had a record and I said, “I want Rakim on it.” I sent it to him, he sent it back. I really went for the legends. I was trying to get co-signed. It ain’t no telling how long they’ll be rapping.
Did 50 have a heavy influence on this album as well?
I think 50 feels like he’s already created the monster. He gave me the confidence and the know-how to do what I’m doing today and he lets me breathe. He gives me my own lane. I recorded my own album, I wrote every song, even on The Hunger For More, but now it’s even more separate because I’ve got my own studio at my crib. I still look up to 50. I look up to his lyrical capabilities, and musically, and what he does. I like to play him my whole record at one time as opposed to him seeing my every move. I don’t have to be babysat at this point, and I think that makes him happy. I’m pretty sure there’s other CEOs who wish they had artists like that. I don’t want to put any added pressure on 50. He has enough pressure with own career.
That track “Cake” has gotten a good response. Will that be on the album?
I’m about to shoot a video for that. I wrote that record in about 15 minutes, no exaggeration. That’s the fastest record I wrote since “Warrior.” It’s just when I heard the beat I heard the song already, and it just came out so good. That’s actually one of my favorite records on the album.
I heard there’s another track on the album aimed at Fat Joe and the Lox called “Death Wish.” How long do you plan on keeping this beef going?
I can’t even say the record was aimed at them because I only made references to them one time. It’s not like I sit there and write a whole song about niggas. I wrote this record hearing all of the shit that was going on. It’s like, You dissed me, you dissed 50 and you dissed our record [label] and I can’t forget that. We always get looked at like the troublemakers, like we can’t let shit go. What do you mean I can’t let shit go?! I’m from the street. I got street principles. We don’t let shit go like that. Once you cross me, you crossed off, period. A lot of these artists, they’re from the streets, and it shouldn’t be that hard to understand why we can never be friends.
It just seems that every time a G-Unit album comes out, some sort of beef arises…
The “Death Wish” record, I’m not sure if that’s going to make the album. At the end of the day, I don’t want people to say that my career was fueled based on controversy. Bottom line: I’m not in it for them niggas, but I don’t want to be friends. You not going to see me shaking hands or hugging nobody. I don’t care nothing about them niggas and I just want it to stay that way. I’m not promoting violence or anything, but them niggas aren’t even predictable, so I can’t stand next to something that’s unpredictable. One day you wanna squash it, the next day a nigga got a diss record. Ja Rule got another diss record—the nigga’s dead and still making music.
The G-Unit roster has become pretty bloated lately. How do you feel about all the acquisitions?
It was never in my plan. I didn’t know how big it was going to be. I was just satisfied to become a household name. It started as me, Yayo and 50 and it blossomed into something beautiful. We went and got Buck from Nashville. Buck is like my brother now. Buck was welcomed with open arms, as well as everybody else who came into the crew. That’s part of 50’s entrepreneur style. These are the visions he had before I even acknowledged it. It’s the same way he envisioned me as a solo artist. I would’ve been comfortable being in a group. I didn’t care; I just accepted it. I played my part and everybody is treated equally.
So, you’re not bothered by it?
No, if anything it’s going to help me. If I’m on stage and I look to the right and see a familiar face, and I look to the left and see a familiar face, that gives you a whole new [level of] comfort.
Does it worry you that Mobb Deep didn’t sell very well?
No, it doesn’t worry me. It’s a time and place for everything. Sometimes the record business is a funny business. The record sales will be up one month, down one month. I can’t dwell on that. If anything, it just drives me. We’re all different. I put my sweat into it and if it’s received the way I thought it would be, then cool. If it’s not, then that’s how the ball bounces. I’m just hoping everybody take it in that way and let the record sales do it for their selves. Everybody’s career is different.
Where does the whole “Blue Hefner” persona come from?
When I came into hip-hop, I didn’t want to be the ladies man. I didn’t ask for that shit but 50 was like, “Yo man, the ladies have a certain attraction to the way you rap, the phrases that you use.” Catering to the females, that shit catches on, so he was like, “Man, trust me.” Before you know it, the “Smile” record came out, the “Karma” record came out and I started hearing a lot more screams at concerts. I used to look at 50 like, Nah, nigga I’m the punch line king. I want the street to be on my side. So the Blue Hefner shit is the lifestyle that came to me unexpectedly. When I’m 19 years old and I got two or three girls coming out the room, after a while I got that image. I ain’t got no wife, I ain’t got no kids, I got the bachelor life.
You had some success in the adult film world. Are you going to be the Black Hef?
I’m in talks right now with Playboy, trying to get this big digit deal. I had the Groupie Love thing that I was doing, and I was nominated for four awards at the AVN [Adult Video News] Awards and I won two of them. After I received the awards, I got a call from Hugh Hefner and I’m like, Damn, this nigga Hugh Hefner on the phone! He was congratulating me and letting me know how big it was for me to walk in there for the first time and walk out with the biggest award of the night. So right now I’m serious with them following me around, kind of like a Girls Gone Wild. When I’m going on my promo tour going to Philly and Chicago and Milwaukee and all these places, I’m going to be looking for the best women they have to offer. I asked my mother what she thought about it and she told me to go get the money.
Young Buck was recently positioned as the president of G-Unit South. Are there any plans for you to step into a bigger role within G-Unit?
I can’t say. But I will tell you one thing, I’m not going to make a move prematurely. I don’t want to have a label with no talent. Otherwise you’ll be like Game. He left prematurely, [and] now he has a record label with a bunch of niggas nobody knows about. Could you name an artist on his label?
Isn’t Charli Baltimore supposedly on his label?
[Laughs] This is what I’m talking about. I want my protégé to be talked about the way I was talked about. I’m not going to throw my foot in the water if I can’t swim. People ask me why I haven’t done movies yet. I’d rather be a little piece of a big movie than a big piece of a little movie. I don’t want to rush this. I just turned 24. This is my second album. First, I’m trying to get my spot solidified in hip-hop. Let me handle hip-hop first and then I’ll do everything else.