Calvin “40 Cal.” Byrd is the ideal diplomat; he’s calm, cool and careful with his words. Raised in Harlem on 140th St. and Lenox Ave., Cal. used his slick punch lines and witty metaphors to defeat countless competitors throughout his Uptown stomping grounds and by 2003 he signed to childhood friend Cam’ron’s Diplomat Records. From there, 40 appeared on various Dipset-affiliated releases, including Diplomatic Immunity, Vol. 2, DukeDaGod’s More Than Music, Vol. 1 and 2 and Cam’s Killa Season. Along the way Cal. also became a mainstay on MTV2’s popular Fight Klub series, where he earned the title of “Mr. Rewind That” for his notable bars. Last year, 40 independently released his debut mixtape, Broken Safety, through Diplomat Records. Earlier this week, Babygrande Records put out his follow-up effort, Broken Safety 2. While the Harlem native is trying to further his career, Hot 97’s gossip queen, Miss Info, recently reported an internal rivalry brewing between Dipset head honchos Cam’ron and Jim Jones. Capo allegedly wanted to kick Cam out of Dipset, but since the initial reports earlier this month, both sides have been mum. XXLMag.com caught up with 40 Cal. to find out about his new album, battle career and what’s really going on between Killa and Capo.
Let’s cut right to the chase. What’s the official word on this alleged riff between Cam and Jim?
Right now, it’s just family affairs. I don’t think it will escalate to the point where it’s really affecting me. I don’t even know the full story myself. It seems like there’s a lot of miscommunication going on. I can’t say I fully trust Miss Info’s website, so the facts are still shaky to me. No matter what, I’m reppin’ Dipset all day. As an artist, the beef might affect my career—the business side of things. But as a person, I’m keepin’ it movin’.
Keeping it moving from Cam or Jimmy?
Well, I’m biased because I was signed by Cam and I grew up on the same block in the same building as him. Cam and me have a different relationship than Jimmy and me. Cam and me chill all day. Lately, I don’t even spend too much time with Jimmy, so that’s that. Truthfully, I think it’s just two brothers fighting. It’s family beef, they gonna duke it out and then give each other pounds and hugs at the end of the day.
How would you characterize your new project, Broken Safety 2?
I followed a format with this album. Every album should have that one hard joint, like, “Stick ‘Em.” That’s just to show you my credibility, that I’m really a lyricist, that I’m actually nice. Ever since I heard [the Notorious B.I.G.’s] Life After Death, I feel like every album’s gotta have one of those Southern bounce joints. In between all that, there should be a few singles. On this one, I tried to study classic albums and their formats.
What albums did you look at?
Cam’s S.D.E., Biggie’s Life After Death, Nas’ It Was Written, Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt…
Jay-Z? With Dipset’s long-running beef with Hova are you even allowed to say that?
I’m not gonna front like the nigga wasn’t nice. You already know what it is. My whole thing is, I got morals. I’m with my brothers [whether] you right or you wrong, man. I like Jay-Z, but if he was to say, “Yo, 40, let’s do a joint.” I wouldn’t do a joint with him. I wouldn’t jeopardize what I got going on right now for that. But I do respect the dude lyrically.
You’re known for your Fight Klub battles. While you were working the battle circuit, were there any rappers that impressed you?
Yeah, there were some cats out there. I’d rather not say their names and give them shine. [Laughs] A few years back I went to All-Star weekend and [there was] this cat Iron Solomon from Fight Klub. They brought us out there to battle some niggas—Carmelo Anthony’s brother, or some shit. We really shut the whole shit down together. Solomon’s freestyle off the top was crazy. That was pretty impressive to me.
How would you describe your battle style?
My style is more ’hood. My punch lines is like some shit a nigga in the ghetto or the ’hood can relate to. It’s like, “Niggas down on your hard luck/You must be takin’ birdbaths/’Cause we can all see you washed up.” I got a feel for what the streets wanna hear, so I try to provide that. I’m from the same block as Big L, McGruff and Cam, so that’s who my rhymes are influenced by.
How can you tell the difference between a nice MC and a dude that’s just connected in the industry?
The nicest niggas are unsigned. They’re probably performing on the subway right now. They just don’t know the right people. There are definitely some older dudes where you could just tell they were nice. Redman was always someone like that for me. He’s definitely in my top 10.
Who else is in your top 10?
Jadakiss… I mean, after Dipset, there aren’t too many spots left.
You’d put every single Dipset member in your top 10?
Nah, truthfully, I wouldn’t put everyone in Dipset in my top 10.
Who wouldn’t you include?
Nah. [Laughs] I wouldn’t want to name them ’cause somebody might come up to me like, “Word, I’m not in your top 10?”
Would any of the up-and-comers on G-Unit make your list?
Truthfully, I’m cool with the dude Mazaradi Fox. But the other dudes, I don’t really see no competition. I don’t even hear their music. I couldn’t tell you a single song from Spider Loc or Hot Rod. If I go by what I’m hearing on the streets, I’m hearing Dipset all day. As for 40 Glocc, I feel like he’s my son. He got my first name. I just don’t feel there’s room for two people with names so similar. It’s like a nigga named Juelz Bandana or Jim Johnson. I’m done pickin’ on that nigga, but if he still wanna talk, eh, whatever.
Do you ever feel you’re competing with everyone else on Dipset to be that next dude?
Nah, we’re all family. We’re competing with everybody else. Amongst ourselves, we compete on a professional [and] personal level. You probably hear it on a few songs. Each person tries to go harder than the next person.
Let’s say two years from now you’re still in the same position career wise. Would you be content with that?
Nah, truthfully, I couldn’t see that. If I’m in the same position I’m in [two years from now], I’ll quit. I wouldn’t even do this no more. I need growth.