With the mixtape, you felt like hip-hop was ready to come back to a deep lyrics, hardcore, really nitty-gritty tape?
It’s totally against the grain of what’s happening now; there is a demand for people who just want to hear lyrics instead of hooks. Now everything on the radio is all centered around choruses and hooks, and I just went the other direction. I tried to be a little different with what’s happening, and my career has never really been built on radio hits anyway, so it’s not like I’m going out of my lane. People know me for that underground, gritty rap stuff, so I just stayed in my lane with that.
You have Rah Digga, Busta, M.O.P., Too $hort, Action Bronson, Willie The Kid; how was it collecting all the artists for this tape?
It took [the] longest out of any project I’ve ever done, whether it was the Piece Maker albums or 50 MC’s; it took me almost two years to put together. It was a little time consuming but not difficult. Just getting the right beats and, you know, as far as the artists are concerned, I maintained relationships with everyone through the years, whether it’s touring with them or them coming to my radio [show]—it’s not like I popped up out of the blue five years later calling people. I kept my relationships pretty intact. When it was time to put it together, cooperation was incredible, everybody just wanted to be involved, so it’s great.
Back when I was doing 50 MC’s or Piece Maker projects, it was a little more first come, first serve, whoever I could round up at the moment. This one was a little more targeting certain people, so [I] had to wait on their schedules. It’s a different time now because everybody’s traveling, so a lot of stuff was done [virtually], like sending beats to people, it wasn’t as much in the studio like I used to be with folks. A lot of it was done, “Here’s the beat, send it back,” that kind of thing.
How much fun was it making this album?
It was fun because I took my time with it. I knew how I wanted it to come off, so it was fun. Probably not as fun as some of the other ones because again, back in the day it was more you and the artist in the studio connecting, and nowadays, to get 50 MCs to do that is pretty tough with everyone’s schedules and tours and their itineraries. So, it was fun, [but] I can’t say it was as fun. But the results—definitely, exactly where I wanted them to be.
You got a favorite track on there?
I try to go in and out of different zones—some of it might be slow, some of it might be a little faster, some hardcore, some consciousness. [There’s] something in it for everybody, so I couldn’t really pick a favorite. I would say that it’s always for me an honor to have KRS on anything I do, so I would say that if I had to pick something [as a] favorite, it would be just having my favorite artist on there. KRS means a lot to me, being that I’m a big fan of his.
That goes right to my next question. Would you say that’s your favorite memory during the process, recording with KRS-One?
He’s left the strongest impressions with me. Just his whole demeanor, his whole history and longevity and his relevance—it’s always been intriguing to me, and it’s always been an honor working with him. I’ve had the opportunity to DJ for him on the road, so [he’s] definitely my top [MC].
What inspired you with this artwork? It’s like Wu-Tang mixed with Anime mixed with New Age.
All the original 50 MC’s mixtapes had animation on them. They were all cartoon characters-kind of covers. So I went back to that element and also [was] just inspired by the whole comic book movement and with the success of The Avengers and shit like that. That movie played a part too, the whole Avengers theme, people coming together, so I went with that.
These 25 songs look epic. I can’t wait to listen to it. “A Queen’s Thing” was a crazy track.
Yeah, that was a big deal because the track definitely defines the album a bit. It’s got the new school and the old school together—G. Rap, who has worked with me in the past, and Action Bronson, the new blood right now.