FEATURE HIGHLIGHTS ’08: Al Be Back: For My People

[Editor’s Note: With the new year around the corner, XXLmag.com looks back at some of our greatest stories and video features of 2008.]


There’s a method to Albert “Al Be Back” Daniels’s madness. What you see isn’t necessarily what you get. More known for his scene-stealing role as Brooklyn in the Chris Robinson-directed ATL than his bars, Al Be has actually been performing poetry for years, even landing a spot on HBO’s Def Poetry back in 2005. Though it may seem like he’s been quiet since his last flick, Al has been busy behind-the-scenes. In addition to prepping his untitled solo debut, which is set to feature guest spots from KRS-One, MC Lyte and Q-Tip, he’s been writing and co-producing for everyone from pop princess-in-training Natasia Pena to Kanye West (Graduation’s “Good Night”). XXLMag.com caught up with Al to discuss life as Big Pun’s cousin, the importance of lyricism and his numerous film projects.

XXLMag.com: What were you doing before ATL?

Al Be Back: Before ATL, I was doing poetry and I was writing. I’ve been writing since the 6th grade. I remember I lied to this girl about me being in the 7th grade. To make a long story short, I couldn’t participate in the class, ‘cause I tried to continue to lie to my teacher, so my teacher just gave me a pen and paper and said write something. Since then I’ve been writing, writing, writing. I was on Def Poetry. Being under Mos Def and watching him, it was easy ‘cause being on stage at the Nuyorican Poets Café, or being onstage at the Bowery [Poetry Club] and going all around New York City, on the east coast, the stage is so easy, so when we did the movie, it wasn’t really that difficult. It was like, “we get to do this again, take two?” On stage, you can’t do a take two. But to answer your question, I was just writing. I infiltrated that into ATL. As you see in ATL, I was doing poetry. I look at ATL like one big flyer.

XXL: Is it fair to say that acting is a tool for your music?

Al: No. I think acting is an art and a craft in itself, but because of the money and the fame, people just wanna get into it for that and don’t want to take it as a craft. Music is a whole different craft and a whole different tool. I think it can help. I think to some extent that any rapper that has charisma can find a pocket in acting, but they’re two totally different worlds.

XXL: How did you get the ATL role?

Al: I knew Chris Robinson since I was 15. Pun used to bring me around Chris Robinson. If you watch the old “Don Cartagena” video and watch the end, you see me. I’m like 15 with a Miami Dolphins jersey on. Big Pun put me in it. When Chris Robinson saw me on Def Poetry, he looked at me and said, “I got this movie that would be perfect for you. Come down to Atlanta.” I didn’t even have no bread, so I was doing poetry on the train to get my paper to go to Atlanta to audition. I ain’t never been to Atlanta. Kim Harding, who is the Casting Director was like, “Can you sing, can you do a poem?” I was like, “Yeah, I can do a poem.” So I just did this poem and everybody in the casting was crying, ‘cause I did this poem for my mom.

XXL: You came off so Brooklyn in ATL, but you’re from the Bronx. What’s the difference between BK and BX dudes?

Al: Brooklyn has a lot more culture and life. The Bronx is a home. Nobody leaves the Bronx. My mom ain’t never even been to Brooklyn. People from Brooklyn usually work in New York City. They came from the West Indies. They travel. They’ve been around. Brooklyn is like the fly ass crib that everybody go to, but the Bronx nobody really leaves it. It’s so boxed in. It’s just nothing but buildings and highways. There’s no trees in the Bronx. At least there’s a tree in Brooklyn.

XXL: Do you have any other films lined up?

Al: I’m writing my own stuff. I wrote a show called, Purgatory. I wrote my own feature film. Right now, I’m writing the script which is my album. I don’t think people do concept albums anymore. I mean, Hov did it with the American Gangster and with College Dropout and Late Registration, Kanye has done it. But, that was the thing…This is my experience and my life. Now people are dropping 16 singles together. So, there is a script in my album and you’re gonna see it unfold on the big screen. I’m writing this musical with my group Saks Fifth, my homeboys Curtains and Styx, who were signed to J Records. Then, me and Chris Robinson got something in the works.

XXL: Do you plan on capitalizing on the fact that you can call on Kanye West or T.I. to guest on your records?

Al: No. I think people are gonna love the music. It’s about the people right? It’s about making the people go, “Yo, I believe today. I’m not focused on, “Yo, I think Saigon would help me get this message across.” I can do that. Now, me and Saigon could get together, or me and Lupe could get together… I think I’m lyrical enough and Lupe is lyrical enough, that something conceptual would be crazy. I was fortunate, cause I got a chance to see T.I. do the King album. Classic album right? I watched what he did. We in his Ferrari doing about 140, we passed the cops. They don’t even chase us. On the way to the studio, Manny Fresh is there…that beat down low is in there. He said to me, “You should see me before I had kids, I was even crazier.” And then he says it in his rhymes: “Polices try to pursue me it’s nothin but gas given/Addicted to fast livin, yes I’m one of my dads children/Think I’m bad now shoulda seen me before I had children.” Watching a lyricist, I soaked it in. For Kanye’s Graduation, sat back and soaked it in.

XXL: Are you concerned that people will write your music off ‘cause they see you as an actor first?

Al: Maybe it’ll work the other way around. Maybe they’ll be like, “It’s that kid from ATL, let me hear what he’s saying.” They might be like, “That nigga is rapping too, or give it a listen.” If it’s wack, it’s wack. Tell me it’s wack. I’m not even concerned about that. I’m concerned about my people. I do song for my homeboys to go crazy. Whatever you feel, that’s cool, but I was talking to the people. I want you to hear it, though. If you hear it and you like it, that’s dope. But, I was talking to people. You was just eavesdropping.

XXL: You seem to take pride in your lyrics, how much does that have to do with your cousin Big Pun being one o the best lyricists of all time?

Al: I was around him. He pushed me. I was in church. Before he died, I was into Christian rap hardbody, saving the world. So I’m spitting to him and he’s spitting, all diabolical shit, “Cannibalism into my metabolism/giving me spasms, aneurysms, and baby baptisms.” Like, he’s going at me, pushing me, pushing me. One time I stole his rhymes out of his notebook and he smacked the hell out of me. He said, “You’ll get sick when your pen is healthy. You’ll be good when you just keep writing.” This is a man who dropped out of the fifth grade, but you’d never really guess that. This is a man who just started rapping when he was 20. That was his second rhyme ever. You would have never guessed though. He pushed me to be the illest and to find the word that goes with that sound, to lose yourself in that rhythm.

XXL: How close were you guys?

Al: I lived in the attic. I used to go to the store for him. I used to be in the videos just getting him sodas. You stupid, you getting smacked. You go to sleep, bucket of water. We would walk and it was 20 below degrees outside and as a little kid I would ask somebody, “Do you know where Hunts Point is” and then they would open the van and soak this whole bucket of water on somebody and then drive off. He was a big kid. He was a video game.

XXL: So, you’re working on your album. Are you looking to sign a major deal, or release it independently?

Al: Independently, right? My music is too ill first of all. I’m loving it. I don’t know if they can do that on a major. I don’t wanna have that headache. You know why I love a major, to some extent your concept is dope, you got a family of people, you got a street team, you do songs with other artists on the label, you guys talk, V.I.P., clubs, you guys sit together. It’s cool. But I wasn’t that kid in school. I was by myself. I wasn’t in a clique. So, the concept is cool, but I think we can rock like this. Q-Tip shows me a lot of love. You got KRS-One saying, “Yo, I love your verse.” I got Mos Def and Kanye West vouching for me. I think it would be a hot situation as opposed to me being a slave on the plantation. My M.O. from day one has been, I’m not trying to bring hip-hop back, I’m just gonna be hip-hop. -Carl Chery

Al Be Back “Love You More”
[Audio:http://www.xxlmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/03-love-you-morebangers.mp3]

www.myspace.com/albeback

  • RiCo

    Sounds alil arrogant.But the lyrics is there. and the music. I wanna hear more. I heard this joint he did with game over youtube called “worldwide”.

  • http://www.HipHopSince1976.Com HipHopSince1976

    No Doubt…
    Bring The Heat…
    http://www.HipHopSince1976.Com

  • jonathan

    jealousy is the root of all evil! and pride destroys legacy’s! all your takeing you could have had legally! dumb bitches jealous idiots and envious haters! its all it is! you understand! they not gonna let it go! you destroying the economy and they know its being stolen! open your eyes! you could have had the same shit minus the crimes! jealous envious and scared criminals worried about what they have done! its your dumbness! its not on me! its on you! do you understand! congratulations! do you understand! goodluck!

    • iLL G

      damn jon u need to stay off that crack man!!! u be on sum other shit lmao jonathen on xxl comments section = that guy on the subway all the way in the back preachin bout the end is near lmao

  • Dre Poeples

    Step yo Rap name up! please!

  • Mo Diddy

    Bitch

  • Sterling

    LOVE it! Can’t wait to hear more from Al Be Back. Feel a huge connection with him. “LOVE YOU MORE” is my jam of the summer and ’08 relationships.

  • BraZen$$$

    i LOVE that fucking song! where can i get the song?? whats his myspace?

    • http://myspace.com/platinumsprinkles Brit

      his myspace is http://www.myspace.com/albeback

      nice interview, al.

      he isn’t arrogant @ rico. he just stands by his work. if you aren’t 1000% behind what you do, who will be?

  • HurtsMeSoul

    song is nice….seems determined

  • A.H.L.O.T.

    Word! I’m so excited to hear and feel real music. Let me co-sign this cat Al Be, by saying that “he is an absolute lyrical genius,” flat out. I feel bias, because I’m smart. Lol. He’s one of the reasons I look forward to the next 20 years of hip-hop music.

    Yessir. That’s my word.

  • Lyric

    Al Be Back is an amazing inspiration. His clever and intelligent wordplay makes him refreshing to the new generation and the old. Research the Kid, He’s Dope!

  • T$

    Yo this joint is really hot. I heard this before and now it sounds even better for the second time around and I cant wait to hear this cat come out with his own album cuz the other joints he also did are crack and not because he is Puns cuzo but because the dude got mad heat and I think he’s ready to light some stages up on fire with his ill word-play.So keep doing your thing AL-BE and It doesn’t sound like hype it sounds right. T$…

  • YOUR MOTHER

    LOVE IT !!!!!!!!!!! SO PROUD OF YOU KEEP DOING YOUR THING >>> MOM

  • Melissa Daniels

    Ahhh Ma Favorite SONG !!!!!!! ii love it !!! You doin ya thang Brotha…ii love you..>>Melissa

  • GOODNIGHT MOON

    PLEASE STEP YA GAME UP. TOO COMMON OF A SOUND.

  • Todd “Strick” Strickland

    Maaaaaaaaan! is this cat spittin pure unadulterated FYRE, or what!!!! And I don’t even think the world has seen a glimpse of what is next to come!!! Keep em comin Al, and Y’all need to check out his DUBUT video for his song “COME ON” on YOUTUBE. The wordplay and subjuct matter is extremely ill!! Somebody please name someone that has gone from the silver screen to wax (not wax to screen) this effectively? Keep speakin on what the people are thinkin Al, and you will be a legendary MC……1 luv bruh, StRiCk

  • DD

    you qott it;; keep qoinq && you’ll end up far! song is hott;; cnt wait to be bumpin to it on my i-pod! ;]

  • mike

    yo al be keep spitin dat piff n i herd about that game son cant wait 2 ply it 1

  • LuckyLanza

    I’ve been followin’ this kid for a minute. I got songs he did from a year ago that would flip your mind. Someone mentioned ‘seems determined’??? This kid will NOT BE DENIED. Incredible talent. Impecable work ethic. Infinite charisma. Watch out for the movie. It’s real!

  • T$

    This track is hot. I heard this joint before and this is the second time im hearing it and is even better then the first time heard it.I can’t wait for this dude to drop some new heat. This cat got mad flavor from this track to the others that are lurking around.I dont think just because this cat is Puns cuzo that he’s hot nah.This dude got he own swag and needs to be on the stage lighting it up with he carzy metaphor he spits.Also he’s involved with ROBOT IS THE FUTURE and those dudes got some fire gear. So I say hommie got skills and needs more burn on the air with his sickness… T$…

  • Nantambu

    Al Be is what the game need right now “Yo He’s the perfect NYC Mc, period.”

  • whosane

    keepin it movin oc, dats wazup Gettit

  • http://www.myspace.com/daartist001 Da Artist

    Sounds good…. Keep doing your thing.. For the NYC to tha ATL to the West Coast… I hear you … You are doing big things… Get at you soon…

    Da Artist

    Jerry & Jackie Rice Entertainment

  • cali lovin’

    everything he spits is the truth. you don’t get diamonds and gold with al be, but you get real shit. respect that…truth is…spoken word!

  • http://www.BEATZANDLYRICS.PODOMATIC.COM N-turn

    We had AL Be Back on our show a year or two ago! He’s a very talented artist musically & lyrically

  • Danielle (RichB)

    i don’t think we understand what Albe is actually capable of… he is absolutely amazing!!!…genius if u ask me…he’s a poet.. he creates amazing beats and he puts together beautiful lyrics lol… his lyrics and energy is up there with the greatest… including jayz… nas… kanye.. and lupe… his lyrics arn’t just words put together but their words that are put together that create deeper meaning that makes his audience think… his rhymes are beautiful… check out his music page on myspace… u will fall in love with his music… the beats r tyte… lyrics r hot…i mean what else could u ask 4… all i kno is we NEED him in todays rap game…

  • danielle (RichB)

    i don’t think we understand what Albe is actually capable of… he is absolutely amazing!!!…genius if u ask me…he’s a poet.. he creates amazing beats and he puts together beautiful lyrics lol… his lyrics and energy is up there with the greatest… including jayz… nas… kanye.. and lupe… his lyrics arn’t just words put together but their words that are put together that create deeper meaning that makes his audience think… his rhymes are beautiful… check out his music page on myspace… u will fall in love with his music… the beats r tyte… lyrics r hot…i mean what else could u ask 4…hes truly an inspiration and very hard working… all i kno is we NEED him in todays rap game…

  • Twin

    “Ayo I miss you like/Paper misses rainforests like/I came for You in another life”

    “This aint the way it’s supposed to be/This’s not what we about/We never quit/We never ever take the easy route/Look at how we hold hands and we slow dance/In the middle of a war there’s romance”

    “It should be pumpkin pie for Our ribbon in the sky right?/But it’s not it’s a sky dive/It’s a lie it’s a fight it’s a blah blah/Now our rainbow is faded like a tie dye/Cause of your my my and my I I”

    “How could you ever say it’s not fair? You was who you was before you got here”

    And my favorite…

    “It’s somethin’ I thought I’d never see like was it meant for me or meant to be/Hopefully/But Even Hopes chokin me/Like get a brick Kid and Pray Your Kids Get “FREE”

    Al Be Back is the Epitome of Poet meets Rapper. An intricate way of speaking to his people. A tornado of Powerful Energy with a Creative Flow he keeps going and going…

    He’s more than hip hop, rap, acting and a poem or two…He’s an enchanting Movement never to be stopped.

    Sit Back and listen to his testimony, His Life and I promise…You’ll relate…

    ~ Love aka Nunie ;)

    • m

      “Ayo I miss you like/Paper misses rainforests like/I came for You in another life”

      “This aint the way it’s supposed to be/This’s not what we about/We never quit/We never ever take the easy route/Look at how we hold hands and we slow dance/In the middle of a war there’s romance”

      “It should be pumpkin pie for Our ribbon in the sky right?/But it’s not it’s a sky dive/It’s a lie it’s a fight it’s a blah blah/Now our rainbow is faded like a tie dye/Cause of your my my and my I I”

      “How could you ever say it’s not fair? You was who you was before you got here”’

      WHAT SONG IS THAT???????????

  • http://www.sexymilani.com Sexy Milani 2008

    AL BE Back FOR PRESIDENT

    WoW!!!!!!!!

    I “Love You More”
    this track is SUPA NOVA
    You got skills my dude
    I can’t wait to get the ALBUM !!!!!!

    SEXY MILANI WAS HERE…

  • Jack

    man people are lovin this guy already this is the only song I’ve heard from him and I’ll admit he’s talented but before i can rally judge him as an artist I’m gunna need to hear more. and i wouldn’t have even recognize him from atl if they didn’t ask him about it so i don’t think that will have any affect on his rapping carrier.

  • GOOD MUSIC

    Yo im feeling the track. My only issue is the hook. the beat is nice but i dont like mc’s singing the hooks. sounds mundane. but its as real as hip hop gets!

  • RisingSon

    Greatto hear an MC take his craft seriously…the kids bravado is justified..he’s on to summin’ and only fool wouldn’t ride with it.

  • rg762001

    Yo dude sounds hot and hes workin wit greats already get right an Peace to my boy bladesharp for putn me on

  • Sophia

    AlBe sounds like a well rounded artist. I cant wait to see his album unfold on the big screen. He has talent! The music is dope.
    Finally an artist that can give Jay-Z and Kanye and run for their money in the music business.

  • Best one so far

    Best one so far, but the beat and style is played the fuck out, why all the hyphy rappers gotta have the same damn blueprint ?

    Refreshing though compared to last weeks nonsense.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/biggdamage Bigg Damage

    Wow, this song definitely has some strong potential.
    Can’t wait to hear more!

    -Bigg Damage-

  • ppls

    Hot track.Cant wait to hear more from ALBE.Keep making them hit playa..ROBOT IS THE FUTURE

  • ppls2

    My boy told me to check this website out and im really not into doing the comment thing but I have to say that yo TEE it was worth looking into ya boy ALBE.This dude is straight up fire.I will be looiking out for more hit from this cat.GOOD MUSIC allday

  • ppls3

    Im checking this out threw the greatvine.Yes the song is on point.Someone let me know when this dude ALBE drops more hits.I agree T$ is hot,ya boy got mad skills

  • connected

    Wow I didnt know that Brooklyn can spit.He’s got the acting down and it sounds like he also has the talent to spit.YES SIR T$ this man is someone to look out for so I will be waiting for new music from this guy.Go Brooklyn I mean ALBE.

  • Music

    Crazy flow and I heard someother tracks and all of them are hot and just to add with the new faceses that are out there in the game right now that this cat has a serious future becasuse all his tracks sounds like hits and them other artist have one good track and then they fall off.Not ALBE he has more then skills to make it in the game.Good looks T$

  • LiLRED

    HIS TRACK IS HOT.
    HE’S SPITTIN ABOUT REAL SHIT.
    I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR MORE FROM HIM.

  • *CurT@!n$*

    Incredible talent! Get yours kid.
    -*DoPE!*

  • Muse

    Albe’s passion and drive is what other artist can only hope for. He lives and breathes his music and lives by his words. A true gift to the world.

  • MONEY

    ALBE-CRACK thats what they should call him cuz after 1 verse you want more.Big up to my dude T$ for putting me on to this.So whip it hard no homo…

  • DMONEY

    This is the hottest shit i heard all week, better than Nas and Lil Wayne’s new stuff.

  • TWISTED TUNES

    ALBE BACK !! I KNEW THIS SONG WAS GONNA GET GOOD FEEDBACK ONE OF MY FAVORITE SONGS SO FAR … ALBE’S DEFNITELY GONNA IMPACT THE HIP HOP GAME …LETS DO THIS ROBOT IS THE FUTURE AND SO IS TWISTED TUNESSSS

  • R$

    Fire.This dude gots lots of it.Keep up the good work.

  • Rae Tha Great

    I didn’t even realize that was dude from ATL he was in another movie too I can’t remember. He is dope on the mic give him props. Peace He sound like Young Chris

  • shawn t

    not bad. do your thing.

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  • mIKE

    “Ayo I miss you like/Paper misses rainforests like/I came for You in another life”

    “This aint the way it’s supposed to be/This’s not what we about/We never quit/We never ever take the easy route/Look at how we hold hands and we slow dance/In the middle of a war there’s romance”

    “It should be pumpkin pie for Our ribbon in the sky right?/But it’s not it’s a sky dive/It’s a lie it’s a fight it’s a blah blah/Now our rainbow is faded like a tie dye/Cause of your my my and my I I”

    “How could you ever say it’s not fair? You was who you was before you got here”

    WHAT SONG IS THAT????

  • michael

    “Ayo I miss you like/Paper misses rainforests like/I came for You in another life”

    what song is that from please????

  • michael

    “Ayo I miss you like/Paper misses rainforests like/I came for You in another life”

    “This aint the way it’s supposed to be/This’s not what we about/We never quit/We never ever take the easy route/Look at how we hold hands and we slow dance/In the middle of a war there’s romance”

    “It should be pumpkin pie for Our ribbon in the sky right?/But it’s not it’s a sky dive/It’s a lie it’s a fight it’s a blah blah/Now our rainbow is faded like a tie dye/Cause of your my my and my I I”

    “How could you ever say it’s not fair? You was who you was before you got here”

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE TELL ME WHAT SONG THIS IS

  • http://www.jujuthepoet.com Judy

    So proud of You Albe… Check him out… His Mira Mira joint with FAB is hottt and humorous…

  • http://www.32weekspregnantultrasound.com/is-it-normal-at-32-weeks-pregnant-to-have-cramps-after-having-sex/ 32 weeks pregnant tired

    Very nice, gives me a lot of inspiration being right in the midst of a redesign. It¡¯s all in the details and comment forms are definitely overlooked more often than not. Time well spent on this post.