Surviving the rap game is simple: Go hard or go home. With almost 20 years under their belts, 8Ball & MJG know this better than most. After parting ways with Bad Boy, signing to T.I.’s Grand Hustle, and a long gap in between albums, the Memphis duo are gearing up for their forthcoming release, Ten Toes Down. It’s far from a swan song, but Ball & G are going all in to remind fans, critics and everyone in between why they deserve their props.

The two veterans chopped it up with to talk about why they really parted ways with Bad Boy, clearing the air on Alfamega’s open letter diss, why retirement is not such a bad idea after all. Ten toes down means giving it 100-percent. So is this album a reaffirmation of your commitment to music?

8Ball: I think, for both of us, our love for music and for southern hip-hop music—just that love for it. We had our ups and downs in doing this so it was about reassuring our fans who love what we do and that we gonna move forward and still be us.

MJG: Basically, [with the title] we’re saying stay true to what you do. If you just a hardworking person then take care of your family and live a regular life then don’t get deterred and turned around from what you trying to do. Speaking of staying true to yourself, was there a point where that was a serious challenge for you?

MJG: Yeah, everyday is a challenge to continue to stay yourself and to stay right and humble. Even though it’s something we love to do it’s a challenge, but that’s part of it. You guys were last with Bad Boy. Why did y’all end up parting ways with Diddy?

8Ball: Long story short it was the best thing for both parties at the time. We never had super crazy stuff happening but just people in general and fans when they heard we went with Bad Boy they were happy. Some of our core fans didn’t feel like it was a fit and a lot of them voiced that. In a 2007 interview, 8Ball stated, “We never get mentioned as a part of Bad Boy, you know, unless we mention it. So, I don’t think we fit.” Was there some disconnect between you and Bad Boy that led to the parting of ways?

MJG: No, that’s not the reason. We really just moved on because it was time to do something different. It was never really a long-term thing. It was a mutual agreement to move on and we went on to the next business venture. So, Ball, do you take back that quote about how you two felt about Bad Boy then?

8Ball: I wouldn’t say take it back ’cause at the time that’s how we felt but that’s not the reason we not on Bad Boy. We felt like our relationship ran its course and we did what was necessary to end the relationship. Now y’all are partnered with Grand Hustle. Last summer Alfamega issued an open letter to T.I. and in his P.P.S. he appeared to be referring to 8Ball when he wrote: “The fat dude in the group you recently signed ran up on my 15-year-old daughter while she was at the skating rink. He had a camera and was talking sh** to her about rather or not there was beef between the two of us.” What’s your official response to that?

8Ball: I don’t live in Atlanta so it couldn’t have been me. I don’t get involved with none of that shit. So anybody asking that question should know. I don’t live in the Georgia area so it couldn’t have been me and that’s my answer. In another one of your interviews y’all said that one of your keys to success has been consistently learning from your own mistakes. So what have you learned the most over the past 20 years?

MJG: Basically trying to be more in control of our destiny and more business minded and understanding how everything works. That’s one thing we learned more ’cause we always been musically inclined. What’s your perspective on Yo Gotti and other hot Memphis artists coming out now?

8Ball: They all tight and I love everything Memphis artists have to offer. I think the world should shine more light on them as artists. After all these years in the game do y’all ever consider retirement?

8Ball: I definitely see some form of retirement in the near future for me. Of course I still want to be involved in music any kind of way I can but maybe as far as rapping and getting on stage and stuff like that retirement is one of the things that’s coming. Hopefully, I’ll be able to develop my label into something that can be a staple of southern music like a So So Def or Po’ Boy Records.

MJG: I feel more or less the same. I plan to be a part of music in one way or another and to be taken seriously as an artist or musician [after I retire]. Things might change a little or slow down or shift into a different way. Speaking of being taken seriously as an artist, do you two feel as if you get enough credit for helping to pioneer the Southern hip-hop sound?

8Ball: It gets difficult when they do the documentaries about hip-hop or whatever. Even though we are a big part of the birth of Southern hip-hop to the people who do it and to the fans, it’s like real minuscule to whoever the big people are that makes the top rappers lists and who do the history of Southern rap. It’s minuscule to them but just because that one critic isn’t a fan of it means we don’t get put in that place we should.

MJG: Yeah, it’s all good. That’s how it is. We are more with the underground and the underdogs. Everybody roots for the underdogs because we are an example of not being the most popular guy, having the most money and looking the best to have a long career and to be respected by your peers. —Souleo