What did Havoc really mean when he called out T.I. and the South last month? The Mobb Deep producer sparks The Kush with xxlmag.com and airs it out.

Once deemed “infamous” for his signature brand of melancholy boom bap, Havoc's notoriety, as of late, is mostly the result of two words: “Fuck T.I.” Last month, in an interview on Sirius satellite radio's Shade 45 channel, the Queens native chided T.I. and the South for their perceived arrogance. “Fuck T.I., right? Yeah, fuck T.I.,” Hav said. “He's a good artist. I love him to death as an artist, but he can't fuck with M.O.B.B. I don't got no problems with the South, but them niggas need to get off their own dick.” Needless to say, Hollywood Hav's comments came off as pretentious, especially since Mobb Deep's G-Unit debut, 2006's Blood Money, sold less than 300,000 copies. Nevertheless, controversy isn't stopping Havoc from releasing his long awaited debut solo album, The Kush. Following in Prodigy's footsteps - who released his solo LP, Return of the Mac, on KOCH Records earlier this year - Hav went the independent route for The Kush, joining forces Nature Sounds Records. XXLMag.com spoke with the producer extraordinaire about his new album, the disappointment of Blood Money and whether or not he's hating on the South.

How would you characterize the sound of your new album, The Kush? Is it similar to previous Mobb Deep efforts?
The Kush is that smoked-out New York sound. It's an album that just came together through chillin' and smokin' in the studio with my people. The same thing you might expect from a Mobb Deep album, you can expect from The Kush.

Was it different recording your first solo album without Prodigy in the fold?
It wasn't done intentionally to leave out Prodigy. We all just need to do our own thing sometimes. He was in the studio the same time I was in the studio. I had a little bit of time, so I was like, Fuck it, let me just put something out real quick.

Were you inspired by Prodigy's success with his independent album, Return of the Mac?
I encourage that kind of stuff. As an artist, you wanna be consistent. But you also want to give people different things. You can't always rhyme on a Havoc beat. He's not married to me as an artist. He gotta do this thing and Alchemist is my homey, so most of the time, I was in there anyway, judging it with them. I prefer to let him do him and I'm proud of what they did.

How did this deal with Nature Sounds Records for The Kush come about?
It came through a friend, Tragedy Khadafi. I'd never even heard of the label and I'm always the type of person where I don't want to follow the flock. I wanna go in my own direction. The situation, to me, is the same on any label. Independent or major, they're all labels. You gotta stay on top of them. You get your promotion money, your video money, you do your promo runs and do whatever you can to get it started. They're a small label, but they're gonna work their way up like the rest of the big independents did.

Do you have more creative freedom making an album outside of the G-Unit brand?
To tell you the truth, there wasn't no creative differences with G-Unit. There may have been like one or two songs [on Blood Money] that maybe I wasn't feeling, but it wasn't even an issue because [50 Cent] really gave us a lot of control [over] the project. On The Kush, I worked with Tragedy Khadafi and since he's my mentor and has been for a while, I had similar freedoms.

Blood Money was released to a lot of expectations, but some fans and critics felt it didn't live up to the hype. Since then, you and P haven't addressed the criticism. Why not?
I don't go into the studio with my mindset like, This is what I'm gonna say about this situation and this is what I'm going to say about that. It was more like, whatever vibe I got in the studio, that's what I was going to say. On this album [The Kush], I'm not really airing out any kind of situation that maybe fans want to hear 'cause I don't get fan mail like that. But I do hear people saying, “Why'd they sign to G-Unit?” In my heart, I feel like it was a good move, so I don't even feel like I have to address it.

Does it upset you that 50 vented his frustrations with Blood Money's disappointing sales and the crew not wearing his G-Unit apparel?
Nah, I'm not upset at that at all. That's how he feels and that's what he saw, so that's what he's going to say. So if I don't have on a pair of G-Unit sneakers, I know he's not talking about me. He's talking about everyone on a whole. He's just trying to say if you're down with a crew, support your crew. If I was him, I'd feel the same way.

What about his criticism over Blood Money's disappointing SoundScan numbers?
I mean, numbers don't lie, so if he loses money with any kind of artist, it is what it is. If he says he lost money with Mobb Deep, at the end of the day, he lost money with Mobb Deep. I can't be mad at him. All I can do is continue to make my music.

During an interview on Shade 45 last month, you said, “Fuck T.I.,” in response to the South's popularity in hip-hop. Why did you call out T.I.?
When I made that comment, it came out the wrong way and people took it out of [con]text. My issue is that New York needs to get it together. The problem is not T.I. and the South, at all. They're making beautiful music. They need to be looked at like a reflection of us, like, “We used to do it like that.” Right now, I'm like, “Come on, what's going on here?”

Do you regret making that comment then?
I regret that people took it the wrong way, but I don't regret bringing certain issues up. I admit, I was a little juiced up when I said it, but anyone that knows me knows I don't have no hate for the South. I'm not a hater. I could appreciate a lot of energy that they're coming out with. I don't make that kind of music, but I can appreciate it.

Have you seen T.I. since then?
I actually saw T.I. at the Screamfest [tour]. We gave each other a pound and kept it moving. I got love for T.I. It's just a friendly competition thing.