What’s the state of Roc-A-Fella Records at this point?
Um, I won’t call it reunite ‘cause we never really went anywhere. But, the perception of it is we did. We’re still here—Kanye’s album came out, my album came out last year, regardless of how your view is of Kingdom Come, double platinum album, you know what I’m saying? Kanye had a triple platinum album, so you know, we’ve still been doing what we been doing, we just didn’t have that run. People used to that run, you know. So I want to put that back together. Kanye just came out. My album comes out then Freeway and Beans to end the year. And then you know, maybe start up next year with Chris and Tru Life and everybody together and take that run at it again. Everybody is clicking on all cylinders.
The thing about Roc-A-Fella is when we had what we had; it was a bunch of hungry guys. You got a bunch of hungry guys, throw ‘em in a pit you going to get some amazing music. You know, think of all the stuff that came out of Baseline. You know, all them records came out of one place. Them records were descended around Blueprint. Like, I was doing that album and people was peeking in and everybody was like, “What did you take?”
People were coming to studio before I got there after I left. I would walk in the studio and be like, “Nah you should say the hook like—boom, flip it like this on this type of shit.” Everybody was inspiring each other. So it’s hard to get that thing again ‘cause everybody is everywhere. If I had advice for any crew, I’d just say, “Yo, go somewhere together.” If you go somewhere together and you put a new crew of hungry guys in one place the results are going to be there.
Let’s talk about Tru Life and Uncle Murder. What attracted you to each of them to bring ‘em to Roc-A-Fella?
It was more on who they are. I’m attracted to superstars. I think they both stars in they own right. Tru Life is an absolute superstar. I think you can figure out the rest. Snoop Dogg is a superstar, however he rhymes. He’s going to be a superstar forever. He couldn’t ever had a punchline his whole life, but his flow is… He could just talk over the record. I think what Uncle Murder is, is a movie. Like he represents the come-up. That Brownsville, I-will-never-go-around-there type come-up. Like, what’s going on around there?
I think people were surprised that you signed Murder cause his image initially overshadowed his skills. But I think people see him developing—
Yeah, that’s what happens. And that’s another thing about people now. People don’t process things. They don’t let things happen. Everything has to happen now. People listen to a song one time and they have an opinion on you. How? How? You can’t process a song the first time you hear it. You gotta—you definitely don’t know what the guy is saying all the way. Right? It could be some things you miss. I think it’s too fast. You gotta let people grow. He’s a star. Like, Rhianna. She wasn’t Rhianna when I signed her. She definitely wasn’t that girl. She actually wasn’t the girl that’s on TV now. But I seen the star. Right? That’s the skeleton, right. The foundation. You take that and you let them grow. Let ‘em grow. You let ‘em grow. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing and you know, some people fulfill there expectations, some people crash along the way. And that’s why we have tough love. We’re building the tough ones. We’re not just putting it out—overnight. Nah, you put in your work. At least here you do. It ain’t never been any different.
So are you saying it wasn’t that you didn’t believe in Kanye, it’s that he just had to pay dues? Are you shocked that Kanye ascended to a superstar in his own right?
As a solo artist? Yes. But not after his first album. When I first heard the album, I was like, “Oh, he’s good.” When the album starts coming in. Before the album start coming in he would just rhyme—you don’t understand… He would, rhyme, rhyme, rhyme. And he had great music and I seen that so many times. So my advice to him was like, “Yo, you can make seven albums a year. You don’t have to make one. You can be on everybody’s album. That’s what I want to see.” But he wanted to be an artist. So we was like, “Ok, let’s keep him close, he’s genius as far as making music, and we’ll figure that part out.” He started making the College Dropout album, it was like, “Whoa. We’re not just appeasing this guy. He’s making a good album.” So, that’s us. Our relationship is like that because that’s us. That’s Roc-A-Fella Records. If you know anybody, you know how we are; it’s tough love, bruh. You’re not going to be given anything. And if your personality can’t handle that, you’re going to have a problem with that. And you’re going to hear the truth of what people think about your shit.
Obviously everyone keeps asking you about your reaction to the “Big Brother” song. When he first played it for you was it a lot for you to take?
No, it was great. I was actually—I was like “Shit.” It was emotional. Not emotional like crying, but song cry.
I was more so, “Wow, he made that record. Like, how big of a record.” For me, it was a big thing. People aren’t confrontational and they don’t want to confront their problems and they don’t want to admit certain things and say certain things. I was taken back, like, “Wow.” And the hook is outrageous technically. “My big brother was Big’s brother/Used to be Dame and Biggs’ brother.” It was a string of how he put the hook together, “Who was No ID friend, and No ID is my mentor now let the story begin.” It was big on so many levels. I think it’s the second best record that he wrote since “Jesus Walks.” Anytime people dancing about Jesus in the club with champagne in their hands, I don’t think anyone’s ever done that.
But what’s brilliant about the record is that it helped him grow. Because it was going in the wrong. It coulda went the other way. He coulda just been behind my back talked about it and been upset but he put it out there. And it made us tighter. It made the relationship stronger. It was like, “Wow,” come give me a hug. It was like a big thing for him—and for me too. He was saying a lot of great things too. You don’t say that in hip-hop we don’t love our brother! [Laughs] Wow, he loves his brother. It’s not very hip-hop, but it’s actually more gangsta than anything because it was his honest and true emotion. That’s why you let everything out as an artist. Right, wrong, or indifferent—you know, whatever it is. Even if what he’s saying is not completely accurate. It’s ok because it his truth and he’s letting it go. And we can talk about it now.
So with the whole 50 thing, were you surprised he won the SoundScan battle?
I knew he’d beat him the whole time. What 50 didn’t know was that Kanye is an artist. There’s no way he could lose. If 50 won, it wouldn’t have made a difference. The album that this guy made—I knew it was going to be hard to beat that album. So whether you beat the sales figure or not, there’s no way around it. The guy’s an artist. At the end of the day people are going to look at the albums. That’s it. So I knew there was no losing in that.
It was Kanye who came up with the idea to go head-to-head right? Were you with the idea at first?
To be honest with you, Kanye called me and I was like, “Man, you ready for that?! ‘cause I know 50. He’s liable to trip ya girlfriend in the party. You ready?’” You know, I thought it was great. Fantastic. Took me 2 seconds. I mean, no one’s going to get hurt. 50 Cent sold a gang of records. You know what I’m saying? Maybe his ego is bruised a little bit, but he sold 700,000 records.
I think people are surprised Beans is back with the Roc and got a single featuring R. Kelly. What happened? You and Kells made peace?
Nah! Nah! I don’t care about none of that. I’m not that guy. I’m not the guy that’s going to try to stop anybody or stop anybody’s way of artistically expressing each other. He’s on Jeezy’s album. Ross. I mean everything is everything. Like, our relationship is not in the right place. That has nothing to do with Beanie. Beans wants to do a record with R. Kelly—fantastic. I hope it’s great. We ain’t gotta have dinner at the studio together, but make the record.