Gillie Da Kid
Behind the Music
By now it’s no secret that many MCs get a little help with their lyrics. Icons like Diddy and Dr. Dre have been upfront about the practice of ghostwriting, yet hip-hop purists still gasp when they hear about artists collaborating on a hot 16. Even though other musical genres have always used outside songwriters to craft the right words, hip-hop’s extreme individualism makes the practice seem a little more flagrant. Still, thanks to ghostwriting, an entire group of MCs who are otherwise unknown to the public can make a living behind the scenes doing what they love—writing lyrics.
One such MC who might be more known for his words than his face is Philadelphia’s Gillie Da Kid. After his crew, Major Figgas, moved major local units of their independent release, Figgas 4 Life, in the late ’90s, Gillie landed a solo deal on Tony Draper’s Suave House Records, and the Figgas crew prepared to release a re-vamped version of their debut nationwide on Warner Bros. While Gillie’s solo record never materialized, the Major Figgas’ lead single “Yeah, That’s Us” became the #2 rap single in the country in 2000, even garnering them an ASCAP Songwriter award. The album’s sales never matched up, so Gillie soon found himself signed as a solo artist to Cash Money Records.
Forced to play the background while Lil’ Wayne became a star, Gillie eventually fell out with the label. Since then, he has been fielding constant rumors that he was a ghostwriter for the Cash Money family. After being shot in Philly last month, Gillie has been focusing on landing a new deal as he works on his new solo album, Get It How You Live (which, coincidentally, is also the name of the Hot Boys’ 1997 debut). And after linking up with DJ Drama to record a new Gangsta Grillz mixtape called King of Philly, Gillie seems more eager to focus on bringing his city together that dwelling on the ghosts of his past.
You got shot last month. Beans got shot just before that. Why does Philly seem especially violent these days?
We were the murder capital last year, and right now we have more homicides than we had at this time last year, so that’s how Philly is right now. Philly is doing a lot of head bumpin’. The streets are starving and everybody trying to get to it by any means necessary. But a lot of it is unnecessary. A lot of it’s the young bucks—16,17,18. There’s no such thing as old heads no more. A young guy who is 17 will call somebody who is 20 an old head. When I was coming up, I was 20 but my old heads was 35,40. All the old heads are in jail now, so these young bloods out there just guiding themselves
You and Beanie have had your problems in the past. How did it get resolved?
It was a disagreement. It was really something that went farther than it should've went, because it ended up with one of my homies in prison and with somebody dead. It didn’t have to go as far as it went, but it went there. Both sides lost somebody. But right now, me and Beanie Sigel are cool. We had a sit down. We see each other all the time. He had a private birthday party and his wife invited me. He come through to my parties too, so it’s all love. We politickin’ to do a record together. Hopefully, it’ll go down in the next month or so. It’ll be the biggest thing the city ever heard when me and him do a record.
You have a quick cameo in Clipse’s “Mr. Me Too” video. How did you first meet Pusha and Malice?
Yeah, shout out to Clipse and Pharrell. When I signed to Suave House back in ’98, me and Pharrell did three records together. One of the records that we did never came out, but it actually ended up being a T.I. record. Remember when T.I. came out with that record with Beanie Man [“I’m Serious”]? That was it. After Suave House lost their distribution, we weren’t doing nothing with it, so he must have sold it to T.I. I still got the actual record that I did with that beat. So I also did a record with Clipse back then and Ab-Liva was with me. Liva hooked up with Re-Up and he been cool with them ever since. Liva still always with the Figgas, but we get down with them. There was an opportunity for Liva to eat over there, so it’s all family.
How did you initially end up signing with Suave House?
At the time, before the Suave House deal, we was talking with Jay-Z for a situation. There was a bidding war going on and [Tony] Draper heard through his sources that there’s this kid up in Philly who has the streets on lock and has a tremendous buzz. He flew me out to Houston and he put the best situation on the table. At that time, he had Universal backing him. He had 8Ball & MJG. They had sold platinum, so it seemed like a good situation. But I didn’t know that Draper was having a fallout with Universal even before I got there. I was on Suave House for abouteight months and Draper lost his distribution with Universal. I was free, I called Bun B up, I Called Baby from Cash Money up and he flew me out right away. We had a situation done with him in a week.
How did you know Baby at this point?
I had seen Baby in Philly, backstage at the First Union Center. Cash Money was headlining and we came out right before them. After we performed, Baby told me, “If you ever get off Suave House, I got an ‘S’ for you,” pointing to his chain. So when I got off Suave House, we got the situation done. But they wanted to just get me signed as an artist on Cash Money so bad that they just rushed into the situation. After I had [signed], he tried to buy some of my publishing. I didn’t want to sell any of my publishing, but they just assumed that after we got the label deal done they could just make me blink into selling them some publishing, but I wouldn’t do it. So that’s why they basically had me playing the background
So you’re saying since you wanted to keep your own publishing, Cash Money didn’t want to put your album out?
I was the only artist on Cash Money that had 100% of my publishing, so just imagine their mentality. You got Lil’ Wayne, who has three albums out and has never seen a publishing check and you got this guy coming around and you know he has the talent but he not willing to give you 25% of his publishing. Publishing is everything. Publishing is how you eat. If you make a hit record, you'll eat forever off your publishing. Those guys, they making show money, but when you not hot, it’s all over. No money pouring in.
It seems strange that Wayne could not own any of his own publishing, yet also now be the Vice President of Cash Money. Were you around when he was threatening to leave for Def Jam?
At this time me and Wayne were still cool. Cash Money owed him a shit-load of money. Wayne wanted to leave, but Stunna wouldn't let him out of his contract. They owed him like 17 million dollars, but they settled out of court and shot him 4 or 5 million dollars. [Being Vice President] really don’t mean nothing. Wayne can't call no shots over at Cash Money. It’s really just a title. It’s all mind games like, "I'm going to make you the youngest CEO ever."
It’s pretty noticeable how differently Wayne raps today compared to how he rapped when he first came out in the ’90s. What do you think brought about the change?
You don’t go from being “Wobbly, wobbly, wobbly/Drop it like its hot”…You don’t go from being mediocre to being exceptional. You don’t go from rapping a certain way all your life and then this: “For fuckin’ with the bol!” I'm from Philly and I know Philly is the originator of that word “bol” and “nahmean.” New York is known for what it’s known for: “son” and “word to mother.” They got a bunch of slangs they known for. New Orleans was “whoadie.” When I got around there, I changed the whole direction of Cash Money. Not just the ghostwriting part, I’m talking about everything. When I got around there, they was wearing FUBU jerseys and soft-toed Reeboks. I come around there with the Polo button-up shirts and the Prada sneaks. Now everything is Prada, it’s Roberto Cavalli this, Roberto Cavalli that. I’m just being all the way real with you. I changed the whole face of Cash Money. They was always running late. At one time they had an attitude with me because I wasn’t wearing them Reeboks. That was what they was known for down there, so they wanted Cash Money artists to dress like that. If you didn’t dress like them they felt as though you was different.
So you’re saying you’re responsible for Wayne’s dramatic change in rapping style. Do you think there could have been other factors aside from your influence?
As far as me tutoring this young cat, he really just sat down and soaked up game. Do you know how many people have been asking me this for three years and I never ever exposed shorty because we were cool. I used to fly him in to my parties. Even after I heard his diss record, I still didn’t expose him. I reached out to him. I called him first ’cause I got love for you. So you went as far as to diss me in a record. I want to know why. What that was about? I wanted to give him a chance to say, “You know what dawg? I was trippin’. I’m sorry,” and we could just let it be. I called him twice, three times, he never gets back at me. So that’s when I felt like, Fuck you then. I don’t owe you nothing but I thought we was cool.
The diss track directed at you that you’re referring to is “Problem Solver” off of the Like Father, Like Son mixtape?
Yeah, that old bullshit.
What do you think prompted that?
I think what prompted it was everybody approaching him. Is it true? He [must have been] saying, “Fuck it, he not around Cash Money no more. I'm platinum. I’m bigger than him. Fuck it, I’ma go at him.” He feel like he got something to prove, but you don’t got nothing to prove to nobody, shorty. Just keep doing you ’cause this could be your downfall. You know you can’t fuck with me. You don’t even have enough charisma. You a clone. I look at you on the videos and you be trying to emulate everything I do in the studio. The faces, the look, the glasses. Like, did you ever know Lil’ Wayne to wear glasses? I come around there with the Christan Dior frames and the Prada frames and the Chanel frames. But it was never seen because I was always in the background. But I had $150,000 up front from Cash Money. I was cool, I had some money. I put out six appetizer mixtapes on the streets, and when I get the correct response from Philly, I said, “I’ma holla at y’all. Y’all in breach of contract.” Stunna offered me $250,000 to stay around. I mean, I was writing all of Stunna’s shit. It was a lot coaching, writing, laying a verse first.
Do you remember a specific verse you wrote for Baby?
Perfect example: “Brrrrrrrr! What happened to that boy.” Clipse was in the studio when we wrote it, they seen that I wrote it. They seen Stunna in the booth like, “Gillie, how you say that?” I would rap a verse and he might take a word out to make it sound New Orleans, but it’s my pen. And I been around New Orleans so much that I know what they talk about. And I know Stunna he can't say too many big words, so you got to make it as simple as possible
Were you straight writing verses for Wayne, or was it more of a coaching thing?
No, Wayne had good breath control, so it was really more of a study thing.
I heard you might be dropping a diss track to Wayne.
Yeah, next week.
Can you give us any details about how you’re gonna come at him?
I’ll say it like this…
Listen To Gillie spit his diss track to Wayne acapella:
So it sounds like you’ll be spitting that over the “Cannon” beat.
Yeah, believe that.