Beanie Sigel “Justify My Thug” (Originally Published January/February 2004)

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XXL: Do you believe that you have a temper?
No more temper than anybody else.

You don’t think that you’re quicker to flip than the next individual?
It all depends. What’s the situation?

Okay. You go to a club tonight and a total stranger approaches you and says, “I’m not really feeling you, Sigel!” Could you walk away?
I would be like, “And you’re saying all that to say what?” That would be my reaction: “You saying all that to say what?”

That would be your reaction? Real talk.
What I’ma do? See, I’m under a microscope so hard right now that it’s really hard to answer these questions. You know how I would act. You know. I’ma answer it like that. I would handle it like a perfect gentleman [winks]. I’m not that dude who’s out looking for shit. But when you so used to doing stuff a certain way, it’s hard to change, especially where I come from. That’s what I do. I can’t isolate myself like that. I’m not gonna be stupid and just do dumb shit. But I’m not Martin Luther King. I’m not gonna keep turning the cheek so you could slap me on the other side. Nah, man. I don’t know nobody who can do that. I mean there’s people out there who do, but not me.

Do you think it’s difficult to step away because certain instincts have been instilled in you from growing up in your particular hood?
Jay tells me that all the time. He said it on his record. I think it was The Blueprint: “Beans, I ain’t tryin’ to change you/Just give you some game to make the transition/From the street to the fame.” I fuck with Jay for that. That’s what’s up. But it’s a process.

Are you close to completing the process?
Yeah. A couple of years ago I wasn’t trying to hear none of that. When Jay first said that shit, I was like, Damn, I can’t believe this dude put me out there like that. Fuck! But then after a while, you respect it.

You’re not hurting financially, yet you keep an apartment in the neighborhood that you grew up in. Does the fact that you spend so much time in the same place where you caught your first charge prolong the transition?
That’s where I’m from. I was already a man when I came in the game, and I was still doing whatever I was doing. If I came in the game at the teenage age, it would have probably been different. But it’s been instilled in me so long, so that’s what I know. I like being able to walk to the Chinese store and get me four chicken wings and fried rice. That’s in me. I like that shit, man. That’s also where the kids are. I used to be them, so that’s the main reason I’m in the hood. If these kids see me in the hood it gives them hope.

Being an example to these kids is worth all the potential drama you could walk into at any given moment?
Yeah, all the stuff I go through, whether it be good or bad, is good. The kids can learn from me what not to do. They love being able to walk around the corner and go to the schoolyard and see me. That means a lot. My main problem is, I guess you can say, when I’m in the hood, I got friends that can’t do what I do. They only know how to do what they do. So I try to give them another outlet, like, You should do this or do that. Because I love ’em. I grew up with these dudes. So I can’t just be like, Aight, I made it out, I’m gone. It’s on y’all. Y’all gotta do what y’all gotta do. That ain’t it. At least, not with me… I feel where they come from, because I ain’t think that I could make that change, but I did. I’m not just a rapper. I got a clothing line that I started. I’m doing the movie thing. My own sneakers. Cartoon. I’m like, Look, this is what I’m doing. You can do it too, come on.

Can you remember the first time you got a gun?
I can’t even talk about that. Damn. That shit was crazy. Young. I was young, though.

Some kids view guns as a prize and never have any intent to use them. You, I’m guessing, had a gun at an early age out of necessity.
I never [looked at a gun as] a prize. I don’t glorify that. Look at the murder rate in Philadelphia. It’s off the hook, man. And the guys that ’s committing the murders is getting younger and younger. We don’t make guns. I’d be a fool not to protect myself, or anybody else. Not just me. If that’s where you’re at every day, and that’s what people are doing, why not be in a position where you can protect yourself?