What the Game’s Been Missing
August IX, MMV. Fairton, N.J. A blanket of gray clouds hangs above a desolate country road as a 20-deep gathering of family, friends—including Dame Dash, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, and their DDMG employees—and reporters and cameramen from MTV and XXL await the release of one of rap’s most respected from the federal correctional institution here. Philadelphia’s Beanie Sigel, born Dwight Grant, is seconds from completing a 366-day sentence for a federal weapons charge. (He served 10 months and owes two-year’s probation.)
Needless to say, it’s been a tough run for Beanie. In April 2003, police caught him driving with a semiautomatic .45 handgun, a bottle of prescription-strength cough syrup and 40-some pills—Percocet and Xanax. That July, he was arrested again and charged with shooting a man named Terrance Speller outside a Philadelphia nightclub. The Feds got involved, and in October ’04, he was convicted of the gun charge and locked away.
Then, three months into his bid, the news broke that Jay-Z and Dame Dash, the cofounders of his label, Roc-A-Fella Records, were severing ties. The fissure spread to State Property, the seven-man collective Beanie assembled at the Roc five years ago. While Beanie was expected to go with Dash, four of his fellow Philly MCs stayed with Jay, offering some less-than-brotherly words for their jailed group leader. The B. Coming, the solo album Beanie recorded last year while he was out on bail, was released this past March to little fanfare.
Though many feel it’s the best work of his career, it has sold fewer than 400,000 copies.
9:58 a.m. A black Benz roars up the road, horn blaring, and pulls to a stop. The passenger-side door opens, and Beanie steps out rockin’ a Kool-Aid smile. “I’m tryna’ get as far away from this place as possible!” he says, mobbed by his welcoming committee. The party crosses state lines, and heads to Bean’s favorite hometown eatery, Sadiq’s. After a couple bites of salmon-topped Caesar salad, the 31-year-old rapper sits down with XXL to discuss the turbulence of his recent past, and the tenuousness of his future.
Today, Beanie’s skies are clear. But his most serious charge looms: the attempted murder of Terrance Speller. Are there more clouds on the horizon?
You were actually supposed to be released from prison earlier, but you got an extra month for assaulting another inmate and breaking his jaw. Why would you do that so close to your release date?
’Cause I got away with it. It was like a month [before I got caught]. It was when I was about to get out that people started running they mouth, you know how it go. But dude was really a victim of circumstance, it really wasn’t for him. It was for other people who even thought...
What prompted you to make an example out of dude?
I ain’t wanna listen to his raps, so I guess he felt some type of way. He wanted to be the dude who battled Beanie Sigel while he was in jail. He was talking crazy, and I was telling him that’s not what I’m here for. I’m in jail, dawg. Beanie Sigel is gone, I’m 57613-066. So I guess when he knew that I was leaving, he wanted to make it an issue, so… You not gonna do that, dawg. It ain’t one negative story about me in jail, so you wanna have one? Well, I’ma give you a story. Instead of you being the dude who battled Beanie Sigel, take this. Now you the dude that Beanie Sigel did whatever he did to.
It seems like every time I interview a well-respected MC, whether it’s T.I., Young Jeezy or Jadakiss, when they discuss their current favorite rappers, your name’s always mentioned. Are you aware that your peers view you as one of the best out right now?
Nah, I ain’t aware of that. I think a lot of people look at me and see they self. The people you named are real people. Jadakiss never lost any integrity, he keep it gully all the time. I ain’t never been around Young Jeezy, but just from me being in the box listening to [his music], that dude brought it back for me. I’m like, Okay, somebody out there still talking that talk. I’m sitting in the hole and listening to the music that’s [on the radio], and it’s like everybody partying. Everything is a good time—it ain’t no hustle, no grind no more, and that’s what hip-hop is about. It’s about making something out of nothing, telling our story. When you listening to the music, everybody got the money, jewelry, cars. They poppin’ champagne, partyin’. But that’s not everybody’s reality. If you open a book about somebody’s life, they go from A to Z. But everybody talking about Z, the end result. Where’s everything in between?
You have a gift for writing very visual lyrics, and a lot of the scenes are very violent. Are your rhymes gonna lose any edge now, because of your charges?
I’m from Philly. At one point during this summer, Philadelphia averaged, if I’m not mistaken, two-point-something homicides a day. We had forty-something homicides in two weeks. I gotta talk about this. You know how they say good news ain’t no news? When you turn on that television and you look at the news, it’s always about negativity. It’s a lot of good that go on in the world, why they don’t put that on the news? It’s either this crime happened, this person got killed, we going to war. So I’m just informing the people.
When you were inside and you heard about the Roc-A-Fella split, what was your first reaction?
It hurt, man.
Did you see it coming?
Yeah, I been seeing it coming. You hear the rumors. I talked to Dame and Jay like, “What’s up?” And it was always brushed off like it wasn’t nothing. But you could tell it was coming. And when they just couldn’t fake it no more... To me, it’s a personal thing and it hurt me, ’cause I love both of them. I don’t love one more than I love the other.
Really? That’s very interesting.
Really. To anybody that was around and chose a side, you never really represented what Roc-A-Fella represented. We was Roc la Familia, the family.
How do you not take sides though? They’re split.
Right now I’m not with Damon Dash Music Group and I’m not with Roc-A-Fella Records. I’d rather back away and try to help mend my friends. Like, even if they could never get together on the business side of things, just the relationship. I was hurting. Jay and Dame come to court for me, and when I see them and how they mingle, they never really did. It was like fake handshakes and all that. I’m looking, like, What the fuck is going on?
So you feel the split was definitely due to personal issues?
Yeah. I mean, that’s just how I feel. It made me not even want to do this shit no more. When that happened, I wrote Jay a letter and told him [he and Dame] was the parents of Roc-A-Fella. When two parents separate and leave it up to the children to decide what parent they going to live with, you destroy the natural bond between the children, that natural bond you have as brothers and sisters. That’s destroyed because now they’re gonna be goin’ at it, ’cause they only gonna hear the story from the parent that they with. It’s like, Man you over there with Daddy and he did that. Now you got people over here and they don’t like Jay. What Jay ever did to you that’s bad? Now you got people over here who don’t like Dame. What did he ever do that’s personal? I couldn’t ever be that dude, ’cause that’s no loyalty. A lot of people think I’m rolling with Dame. Dame is around, we hanging ’cause it’s not just business. Dame only had to be the business mind. Jay gotta be business minded and he’s an artist and do so much that his down time is just his. So we can’t really hang like how me and Dame hang. Jay never came to Rocawear. I got a clothing line, I got sneakers, so I’m around Dame and Biggs more. So when the people see that, it’s like, I went over here. No, we doing business, and Jay doing him. Just ’cause I’m not hanging with Jay on his off day, does that mean that Jay don’t love me? Does that mean that I don’t love Jay? No, that don’t mean that. Because you seen Dame with me throughout my whole trial and Dame rolled with me this whole bid—I should be fuckin’ with Dame?
That would be the natural assumption.
And whoever think that ain’t got no loyalty. If a nigga was to roll with me because I’m doing things for him, then that ain’t no true friend. I wouldn’t be a true friend to Dame if I was to say, Man, I’m ridin’ with you ’cause you held me down, instead of me making the choice that would mean better business for me. That’s two separate things: business and friendship. When I told Dame I couldn’t make no decision, he said, “I respect that, and I’m going to help you get your own situation.” He didn’t feel no way. So I’d rather step back and get my own situation. This way I could still have my same relationship.
Gotcha. But besides the letter, did you ever speak to Jay after the whole separation?
Nah, the last conversation that I had with Jay was when I got sentenced. It was real brief.
Hmmm. Okay, switching lanes, is it true that only two State Property members holla’d at you throughout your entire bid?
Oschino and Sparks.
You’re basically the nucleus of State Property. That didn’t fuck your head up?
Like I was saying, when two parents leave it up to the kids to choose who they gonna ride with, you destroy their natural bond. I don’t know what people was thinking, but it’s like Dame Dash or Jay-Z? They’re artists, so they want to be on that level as Jay. If that sways your decision, then that wasn’t cool. To me, without it being all three [Jay, Dame and Biggs] it ain’t the Roc.
So right now, who is State Property?
I’m State Property.
I represent what State Property is.