In what way did Proof’s death affect your work?
There was, like, a two-year period where I couldn’t write shit. With what was going on and shit, I just couldn’t. I was so cluttered in my mind that everything I was writing wasn’t worth recording. I’d record it, and I’d get through half a song and be like, I don’t like this. I’d get through a song, and the next day I’d be like, Nah, that don’t sound like me. And then I started going in the studio and trying to freestyle. Like, I’d do a line at a time and be like, “Stop the tape,” and be like, “Okay, I got a line here.” You know, kinda like how Jay-Z would do it. Obie did a lot of that, too.
You know, so it was almost like, I don’t know if I was challenging myself to see if I could actually do it or if I was just being lazy with writing because I wasn’t feeling what I was actually writing… So it was like, going through them time periods, I could spend more time and feel good about recording music just making beats. But then when I came out of my writer’s block, I went into the studio with Dre… My first trip was in Orlando. We had planned the trip for, like, two weeks, and I called him on the phone, and I told him, “I don’t know, man, I might be coming out of this writer’s block.” And he was like, “Uh oh! That’s what I want to hear!” I went to Orlando, and I think I wrote, like, 11 songs in the couple weeks that we were out there. Dre kinda caught fire right around the same time that I was comin’ out of my thing… Once we started getting that chemistry back, it just went so crazy that I did two albums in, like, six or seven months. I was literally writing songs faster than I could record them. I’ll take a day out to do vocals, and then my voice will be gone for, like, the next two days. So I’ll have to rest my voice. So, in between, those two days that I’m resting my voice, I’m writing two or three more songs. Before I knew it, we had two albums’ worth of material.
Your new single, “We Made You,” heavily references Amy Winehouse’s sound. How did you keep up with new music during your time off? Were you on the Internet a lot?
Nah, I wasn’t. Either I go buy CDs or I have Paul or somebody sending me something if I hadn’t heard it yet.
I stayed up on the music, and obviously I watch TV and saw what was going on. And without naming any names, it just felt like hip-hop was going downhill. And it seemed like kinda fast. You know, in them three years, it was like everybody just cares about the hook and the beat; nobody really cares about substance. But with this new T.I. album, with this new Lil Wayne album of recent, it seems like things are looking a lot better now. You can appreciate Lil Wayne using different words to rhyme and actually rhyming words that you know. Or T.I., where you hear shit and you’re like, Whoa, ah, I wish I would have thought of that! You know what I mean? Or you hear all the compound-syllable rhyming and all that. It just seems like now the craft is getting cared about more.
XXL featured a new generation of MCs on the cover recently: Charles Hamilton, Wale, B.o.B, Asher Roth. Have you heard their music?
Yeah. Well, B.o.B we actually have a publishing deal with. So I’ve been up on him for a while. But he’s insane. Like, talentwise. He’s, like, 20 years old, and the dude, like, fuckin’ plays guitar, he plays keyboard, he writes raps. He’s not only good at writing songs in the sense of just raps, but hooks. He’s fuckin’ insane. He can sing… I just worked with him a few weeks ago in the studio, and I’m like, “Do you fuckin’ dance, too? Jesus Christ!”
Charles Hamilton I’ve worked with a couple of years ago, toward the end of 2007. I just made the beat to a song, but, you know, I think Charles Hamilton is dope. Asher Roth, I haven’t had a chance to, like, really get into everything, like, really get into what he’s about, because I’ve only heard a couple of songs. There was talk about people saying he sounded like me, and he was doing this and that and, you know, trying to take what I do and do it. You know, shit like that. I’ve heard things. But the stuff that I’ve heard from him—honestly, which certainly isn’t enough for me to make my own opinion and say, “Yeah, he does sound like me” or “No, he doesn’t.” But the couple of songs I’ve heard, I don’t really think he does. You know what I mean? He’s doing his own thing. I can respect it, too, because, at the end of the day, I think he’s dope.
I think people were looking to see if there was going to be any kind of friction or whatever. Because you’re both White. You know, like the “White rapper spot” has to be reserved for one person.
Man, that’s stupid.