Pedro Zayas has lived a life worthy of his own celebreality TV show. Before MTV Cribs and Flavor Of Love, there was only one show that mattered in the game—Roc-A-Fella Records. Zayas, also known as Peedi Crakk (or Peedi Peedi), was a part of hip-hop’s Rat Pack, with Jay-Z, Dame Dash, Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel, and Freeway as comrades-in-arms. The drama came when the two men that stood at the head of the table decided to break up the band, leaving the North Philly native at a crossroads.

The Roc’s crumbling trickled down to Peedi’s State Property collective, whose members scattered across the industry. Crakk seemed poised to build his own buzz, but a parole violation sent him to jail early last year. Quietly released last month, the former Roc artist is ready to get back to the business of music. caught up with Peedi Peedi to discuss his newfound freedom, the possibly working with The Roots again and his candid feelings about Jay-Z moving on to the next one. As someone who was on the inside, could you see why business-wise things went the way they did between State Property, Dame Dash, Biggs and Jay?

Peedi Crakk: For him [Jay-Z] to graduate to that next level it was a must for him to get rid of his thug image. He had to get away from State Property. He wanted to go corporate and that was the only way that he could do it. Jay did everything possible there was for someone to do in the streets. It may have hurt him to do that [Roc-A-Fella break-up] personally—he’s a human being. He takes a liking to people. I know that at that time he loved Beanie Sigel. Did you and Jay have a decent relationship?

Peedi Crakk: I was the last one signed to State Property, so he probably didn’t know too much about me, but he admired Freeway. He loved Young Chris. And like everybody knows Beans would’ve went to jail for that man. So I’m sure he’s not that cold in his heart to totally off people like that. He uses his head and it’s business to him—nothing personal anymore. Me, I’m not able to do that. I have so much compassion that it wouldn’t allow me to do people like that. I’m not mad at Jay at all. He is trying to do his thing just like I’m trying to do mine. Folks who have worked closely with Jay were surprised to see how he could "change clothes" so quickly. Shouldn't the crew know at some point this would've happened?

Peedi Crakk: If anyone was surprised then they don’t know what’s going on in this business, this game, and how it transitions. Jay moves. I knew that him leaving was the next thing and I was just wondering when he was going to do it. At the time you’re wondering how he could be messing with [State Property], make his own moves, and still be a CEO. But you have to understand while Jay was running these companies and succeeded, he was becoming more than a record company owner; he was a mogul. But Jay was right there in the hood with us filming the “Flipside” video. We were right up the way from my grandmother’s house. I know better. You can’t live both ways. Jay couldn’t keep doing what he was doing with us if he wanted to take it to the next level. He did what he had to do. I don’t think it was right, but it worked. Personally, that’s not what I want out of life. I’m happier around people who I can be comfortable with and who I can trust. Let’s backtrack for a second. Can you explain why your debut album, Prince of the Roc, never hit shelves?

Peedi Crakk: Ah, man... That whole situation is real vague to me now. I can’t even give you an exact reason why [it never came out]. From my perspective I wasn’t as sure or as confident in myself at the time. Remind you I’m living a life that I had never seen before. Back home folks used to tell me all the time about what was going on around me, but I’m from North Philly, that’s me to the core. I didn’t know who I was at the time. The confidence wasn’t really there and I didn’t believe what was going on around me. Dame was mashing and the game was open to us young cats. I went from being a for real nobody to being on MTV and on the Paid In Full soundtrack. I’m meeting celebrities when before it was just my family and friends. Do you feel you have a better grasp of how the game works now?

Peedi Crakk: It took me a second to get to my bearings in the game and I can say I’m ready. Nowadays nobody is paying for a bunch of CDs on the shelves. The major labels are in search of real talent and the artist is now in a position to dictate their career. I have my shit together. I’m working with Amalgam Digital and they’re really good guys over there and the project is that fire. I’m calling it Peedi because every time I Googled the name I was the only thing that came up [laughs]. Everyone from the ’hood to the boardroom knows me as Peedi Crakk, but we’re doing business over here. You had an opportunity to join The Roots at one point. Does the offer still stand?

Peedi Crakk: The offer still stands. [Laughs] I was just in a session with Jill Scott because she’s in the lab working on her own project. I love her. She’s super-supportive of Philly artists. Her mixtape is coming out and you’ll see that she’s doing her thing. Being in the studio with The Roots is incredible. We’re fans of each other. Black Thought knows my raps word for word. They bang my shit all the time on the tour bus. Anything they need me for at anytime they know that I’m down for it. I remember getting the phone call a few years back about doing the song “Long Time” with them. Black wanted me for another album and then after that we just got on some shit! I guess it goes unofficially that I’m a part of The Roots because of the appreciation and love that they give to me and my music. If I were to go and join them in their vibe and rock out with them they’d get a chance to see where my head is at and they could decide to call me in. I know if I was to put my effort into it I know I’d be down. Through all your trials and tribulations what have you learned about the game and has it left you at all jaded?

Peedi Crakk: I’m more aware that the game is bigger than rap. I’m not at all jaded after learning this. To me, being involved with hip-hop was always about rap to me. If you were nice, to me, that was all that it was about. Today, it’s much more than just rapping and rhyming over a beat and for all of what I’ve learned I appreciate the bumps in the road. In the end, it’s all a memory to me, a bad one that sticks with me, but it prepares me for the future. The things that happened to me personally from the drinking to being arrested for firearms and professionally are all lessons learned. If I didn’t do two years in the county; if I didn’t have to be rushed to the hospital, then I may be on a different path. I’m on a different path though nonetheless. I know exactly what I want to do. Recording my own music, managing my own situation, throwing my own parties, and I’m more in charge of my destiny. I depend on myself for everything. Dame Dash recently said that he'll be bringing back Roc-A-Fella Records with Curren$y as their flagship artist. Could you see the rest of the State Property gang or even yourself as a solo artist returning back to the label?

Peedi Crakk: I could see that happening... but do I think it will? Doubt it. I could visualize it like it was a beautiful comeback or something. Dame is always for the artist. He tries to make his artist as big as they should be and he tries to work with whatever they give him. He’s an artist in his own right, but getting the band back together would not happen because myself and others are really enjoying their own space. I love Dame as the boss of Roc-A-Fella at that time, but I was too young to really appreciate what was going on, business-wise. You don’t realize it until you meet some new real assholes that you want the old asshole back. How do you feel now that you’re able to navigate the industry now as an independent?

Peedi Crakk: The game is so wide open now, which is a good thing for myself and others like me, but I also believe that consistency is what breeds success. The major labels are going out of their way right now to support the independent artists. While they still just create people out of a factory. When a company like an Amalgam Digital deals with a Peedi Crakk you won’t be getting any cookie-cutter music from the kid. I can honestly say that musically I’ll be consistent, which will help out the culture as well as the business. Being independent doesn’t mean no money, so I get a chance to give the people music that they’ll be able to appreciate! After that I’ll let the product speak for itself. —Kevin Clark