My favorite rapper at the time was Missy Elliot. She was stupid creative. Nobody could fuck with her. There’s a difference between saying you on the block, knowing how to put what you did 10 years ago in a rap—that’s cool. But how about a person—not knocking Missy—but how about a person not having all the glitz and glamour of another muthafucka, but you on your block and they making you love what they say about themselves. At that time—and she still do—she rap about her style. She might throw her clothes in there or her money in there.
It seems that you started getting better when you had different influences come into the crew, like Gillie Da Kid and Boo & Gotti and them. Different people for inspiration…
It wasn’t really Gillie never. ’Cause at that time, I wasn’t doing the Cash Money thing. I was on my Sqad Up shit. Baby wasn’t too fond of us at the time. At that time, they had all them ’cause a nigga wasn’t around. But they had this one rapper, Mickey. If anybody had me really get on my shit, Mickey. By the time Gillie and them came, I was just a hi-andbye nigga. I’m just stopping by, “What up my niggas, blazay-blah.” Smoke one or two, talk about some shit and be gone.
Mickey, where was he from?
He from the Chi’.
What was it about his style that made you get on your shit?
You know them niggas from the Chi’. Like Kanye say his words right, you can understand exactly. But it was really a mental thing, ’cause after the 500 Degreez album, I was trying to fi gure out how the hell I ain’t getting recognized and I’m spittin’ better than every nigga I know. So I simplified all my shit. Like, [before] that shit would be jumbled. I’d listen to a song and be like, I totally didn’t have to use that word.
The “A Millie” beat has a million different MCs spittin’ on it. How does that feel, to hear everyone else go over your track?
It’s glorious. I like every last one of them, too. I’ll let you in on a secret: If you pay attention, I never say nothing about a mill but one time: “A million here, a million there…” I just keep saying, “Muthafucka, I’m ill…” I thought that bitch was saying “I’m illy.”
Tha Carter III doesn’t sound like a southern album. There are hardly any Cash Money references. The style is more reminiscent of projects associated with your new managers, Gee Roberson and Hip Hop, former A&Rs at Roc-A-Fella Records. Were they big influences on this album?
Yeah, they were. Them and Tez, they worked together like a threeheaded monster. But my [manager Cortez Bryant] was picking the songs, and I would record every night and just email him the songs. That’s why it’s easy for him to pick it, ’cause he’s not in there when we recording. Now if you in there when we recording, you gonna feel like every song should be out. But I look at it like my dream has been fulfilled. I just want to be heard.
How influential was Kanye on the rap side of things? During the BET Awards, y’all were like best friends.
Kanye is very influential; he’s in the same game I’m in. To play in the same game that ’Yeezy’s in, you have to play hard like he play.
Jay-Z passes you the torch on the song you did together, “Mr. Carter.” What’s it like getting that kind of accolade from him?
I was just speechless when I heard the verse. I can’t explain it. But to get the torch, I gotta maintain that focus of the eye-of-the-tiger. Thank you for the acknowledgment, but let me get back to work.
With all these newly formed alliances, is your business relationship with Baby solid?
Oh, it’s all love. When Universal gave me my own shit, Young Money, about two years ago, within that deal I didn’t have to depend on [Cash Money] to pay me. Now I can get paid through my own. You know how good that is, knowing they just had three people, four people that left and that’s what the big thing was? So, of course, they were quick to get that shit settled like that.
What kind of weight was that off your shoulders? To feel, Now everything is coming to me. That’s a big change, too.
No, I deserved to get my own money. I deserved to get more money. I deserve to make a hundred million dollars to a billion dollars throughout my lifetime. As a kid, I knew I was gonna be filthy rich, when I ain’t have shit. If you don’t think like that, you won’t be like that. Straight the fuck up.
Are you feeling like you’re on a different level now?
I am on another level. So rappers be scared.
It’s been reported you’re working on collabo projects: a duo with T-Pain called T-Wayne. And of course, I Can’t Feel My Face, with Juelz Santana, has been in the works for years. With all your solo work, how are you going to do them all?
It’s like you saying to me, “How did you walk over here?” How? The same way I did Carter I, Carter II, Carter III and any other song that you like, or may not like… The answer to how I’m a real musician is: Me. I am how. I can’t write it down for you.
Is that why you don’t write lyrics down?