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Ab-Soul And Jay Rock On New Projects And What Makes TDE Tick From XXL’s Oct/Nov Cover Story


That’s interesting. [Rock], you do have the very slow, structure thing about you—from the way you move to the way you rap; it’s very methodical. These guys are more bouncing all over the place—[ScHoolboy] Q in his voice, Soul is more in his topics that he deals with, Kendrick more in his flows—they’re kind of ricocheting all over the place and you’re always the one that’s sort of like step, step, step—like he said, that foundation. Do you think that’s a good assessment of your personalities or is that just some shit that I’m making up?
Jay Rock: That sounds about right. [Laughs] I want to elaborate on what Soul was talking about earlier: A lot of people don’t really know that I was the foundation. Everywhere I went, they was with me. A lot of people don’t really understand how long it took, the grind that we did in a 12-passenger van, driving from California to Maine in this one van with all of us. It’s still crazy. I’m still learning. Even though I was the forefront, I’m still learning, too.

What do you guys read? I’m sure [Ab-Soul] reads a lot of crazy shit or watches a lot of crazy documentaries. Do you guys share books? What’s the response when you give him a book and say, “Here, you need to read this”?
Ab-Soul: [Smiles] I’m probably the only one reading. He probably won’t even read it [if I give him a book]. I don’t want you to think—I’m not quite a cornball, but I’ll pick up a book that somebody suggests. The last book I read was Seat of the Soul. That was a good one. Honestly, I just feel like a lot of literature for me is further confirmation. And it’s important for me to use new words or words that I don’t hear because I learned a lot from rap that way, too. It’s important for me to do that same thing for the generation behind me. I learned so much from Jay Z’s songs—my vocabulary, in general, just from his songs. I knew words before I knew what they meant, from listening to rap music.

Jay Rock: I remember growing up, just me and my cousin listening to rap music when we was little kids. We didn’t even want to do our homework—all we wanted to do was watch the Box all day. We knew every rap song but didn’t know how to read words. That was kind of weird.

[Ab-Soul], you strike me as somebody who always wanted to be creative, to be an artist. Jay Rock strikes me as a reluctant person that didn’t necessarily want that, or kinda got forced into it. What’s the benefit of having the TDE infrastructure and access to the studio and rules and guidance? How’s that informed who you are today?
Ab-Soul: I just think it’s cool that you can spot an immediate distinction between the two of us; that you don’t think we’re so similar. We’re both from LA—but he’s from Watts; I’m from Carson. It’s like different boroughs, so we are completely different. The way we talk, our dialect is different—from where he lives and vice versa. To one person, Jay Rock may come across as “this” or someone who does “this” and to others he may be telling their story. It’s dope to me that you at least spot—whatever your opinion is, pick your poison, whatever’s your flavor—I’m glad you spot an immediate difference, that we both have different fingerprints. That’s very important.

One of strengths of your entire crew is that you share certain DNA strands. Everyone has some sort of relationship to rap but its very different; everyone has a relationship to gang culture but it’s a very different relationship to gang culture.
Ab-Soul: Right. Like, I wouldn’t be able to walk through Jay Rock’s neighborhood if I wasn’t cool with him. If I didn’t know somebody over there personally, I can’t just go over there.

Both: And vice versa.

What are your plans for the future? Say, 5 years from now or 10 or 15 years from now—rapping is over. What are you? Do you want to be businessmen, do you want to be other types of artists?
Ab-Soul: I’m just optimistic, man. I don’t have a 25-year plan or nothing like that. I couldn’t sit here and say,”I wanna be a scientist when I’m done.” But that sounds interesting to me.

Rock: You could be one though, dog—if you really wanted to.

Ab-Soul: That’s just a wild example. Just me, personally, I live for today.

How often do you guys rap for fun?
Ab-Soul: To be honest, bro, I really wrote a rap everyday, give or take, since I was 12 years old—I’m 26 now. Rap to me is kinda like drinking water, at this point. It’s not something that I gotta “do.” Sometimes it tastes great, if it’s at the right temperature and sometimes it’s bland.

Is it still fun for you guys?
Rock: Absolutely.

Ab-Soul: Of course, man. It’s the funnest game ever—this is Scrabble in motion.

Sometimes when it becomes a job or it’s tied in to how you pay your bills, it’s like, “Yo, this ain’t fun anymore.”
Ab-Soul: You don’t wanna treat it like it’s a job but I do wanna say that this is a job. People are actually spending money on us. They’re probably going to spend money to pick up this issue or buy my album, come to my show. They’re gonna spend dollars, so this is a job. It’s my responsibility to get out here and do these things and holla at y’all and give back, reciprocate this energy—that’s what HiiiPower is all  about. It’s not that it feels like a job—nobody wants to have a job—it’s just the greatest job. I love getting up and going to work.

Rock: I seen fans wait out there all day, from early in the morning for us to pull up, waiting in the rain and the snow. It is our job to give them people a good show.

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