Since G-Unit officially reunited last June at Summer Jam, Young Buck has been on top of his game. The Nashville MC has had the most arduous journey through the music industry of any of his crew brethren, so much so that his lowest moment is actually debatable. But since his release from prison in October 2013 on weapons charges stemming from an IRS raid of his home, he's been one of the hungriest rappers in the game, both with G-Unit on their two comeback EPs and on his own.

This month, Buck released his second mixtape of the year, the DJ Whoo Kid-hosted 10 Bullets, announcing in the process that it was the first of what will be 10 new mixtapes in 10 months, a project he's calling his Ten-A-Key mixtape series, feeding the streets while he waits his turn in the G-Unit production line. 10 Bullets is purely a Buck tape, with no features and the Southern wild child testing out different flows and diving deep into his own psyche on some more personal offerings. But the unpredictability and street sense that endeared Buck to a generation of hip-hop fans across the nation still rings true.

As Buck starts readying his next installment in the Ten-A-Key series, XXL hopped on the phone with the G-Unit soldier to talk about 10 Bullets, his future projects, his status with G-Unit and why 50 Cent is making his best music since Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. Roll up. —Dan Rys

young buck 10 bullets mixtape review

XXL: When you were putting together 10 Bullets, did you have a concept behind it?
Young Buck: Honestly man, I never had a concept nor a direction for the mixtape. All I knew was that I worked hard and I had a lot of records. And at this point I felt like I just wanted to at least make a statement with a mixtape where there was no features. That was the most important thing for me was to kinda give the world Young Buck real quick, because the last product they got from me as far as a mixtape for me was Before The Beast, and that had a lot of different features, as well as the two EPs I dropped with my brothers. So I just wanted to give the fans a quick check of what it was to hear Young Buck by himself.

I guess the whole title of the record came about through me. I felt like I wanted to do something different with the game, make it exciting a little bit. You know, it's kinda boring to me; there's a lot of good music but there's not a lot of consistency, it's kinda here and there. I know I'm one of the most consistent artists in rap; I fight for that and I feel like I deserve that. I might not be your favorite, but I'm damn sure consistent. So I wanted to do something that showed my work ethic and consistency and then to give myself a challenge at the same time. And that's when I came up with the Ten-A-Key mixtape series, 10 mixtapes in 10 months with 10 different songs. And the 10 Bullets was just basically the kickoff for the mixtape series.

I did all of this without sitting down and actually talking with a 50 Cent. Contractually, I'm obligated in certain areas, where it's just that whatever fulfills my agreement on his behalf I will have to do. But I'm real impulsive and I'm a guy to really, you know, if I see something that I feel like Fif is gonna give me the green light on it, sometimes I act on it before even saying something to him. And this was one of those situations, but I still brought it around like, "Yo, anything and everything, you know." And he was like, "Yo Buck, man, at this point the streets is wanting you and they loving what you doing and so am I. I'm behind you 100 percent with everything that you're doing. So let's see where it goes."

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It did seem like a surprise release; you Instagrammed it and then within a few days you had put it out. Was that the way you intended it?
Right, it wasn't meant to have no promotional dollars involved in the project. Most of the production was done through my producer who's signed to my company that goes by the name of Bandplay, he produced the majority of the tracks and then you got my brother Drumma Boy, of course, and then my other brother Ensayne Wayne who produced a track on there. So it was one of those projects where I really kept everything in-house, you know what I'm sayin'? Like I say, it wasn't like I pre-planned this, it was just that I woke up one day and was like, "I'm sick of this shit. Let me get the world right." And that's exactly what's happened.

You know, it's doin' what it's doin'; it's fresh but at the same time, men lie, women lie, numbers don't. In my situation, I created a product where I gave it to the world for free featuring Whoo Kid, 10 Bullets, you can go get the no-DJ version from iTunes. So for me to actually have a free mixtape out to see it do anything from a selling standpoint but it really wasn't targeted as that is really just a win for me and those who participated in the project. Most of all, man, it's just a stepping stone to let the world know that G-Unit, we here. I'm just one of my other brothers that's to come, just really putting that ground work down and really doing what it takes to make the people understand that we here and we here to stay.

I tell 50 all the time, "Yo, bro, my work ethic is based off you." I'm surrounded with a dude that works, if not just as much, but 10 times harder. I feel like he's done his job when it comes to Buck. I'm a grown man and my own man, so I don't really look to 50 to provide for me financially in areas that I know that I can provide for myself, I go out here and provide for myself. Sometimes you may think, [Raps his verse from Lil Scrappy's "Money In The Bank"] "50 bought it for me, shawty, but it's still mine." But really, "Buck bought it for me, shawty, and it's still mine." So I'm off that kick, you know what I'm sayin'?

You said this is just the first in 10 installments over the next 10 months. Do you have a plan for each of them or are you just gonna feel it as you go?
Nah, man, I feel it as I go. I will give you this much: I know I've had some of the most amazing things happen for me very, very quick with this preparing of the mixtape series. A lot of guys I didn't know were fans of Buck have been reaching out, like, "Yo, I gotta be part of this series." Or, "Yo bro, you really fuckin' shit up. In fact, I'm producing this whole shit." And then it's like, woah, woah, shit, man, I'm finna have to sit down with 50 because this shit is getting really really real. Even from a producer standpoint I got a couple major guys that stepped out, like, "Yo Buck man, what you're doing is kinda crazy and I wanna be part of it." I think it would be interesting for the game to see me work with some of these producers, and then for them to actually have a lot of the hit records that you hear out here today, it's interesting for me to go down that lane. And then to be able to do it for a mixtape series, it'll be exciting, not just for me and the people working, but for the fans. All I can say is stay tuned at this point, stay focused, and if you ain't got 10 Bullets you better go get that, because it's like the kickoff.

I will say that the next one I'm working on, it's crazy, man. I won't give you the title—I do got the title ready and I do got four out of 10 songs for the next one that I know I'm going with—so I'm getting ready. I'm gearing up to shoot the video for the single off the mixtape, gonna be "Let Me See It," and that's produced by Drumma Boy. So we gonna go with it the right way and push that product as much [as we can] and get ready for the next one coming next month. So that's where I'm at with it, man.

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Photo Credit: Tom Medvedich

I was listening to the tape and it seems like you were kinda testing out different flows, rapping more disciplined, almost. Flows you're not used to hearing from Young Buck, but that made it seem more fresh.
To be all the way honest with you, everything that you've heard from Young Buck since I've been out of prison, I have yet to pick up a pencil and paper. So I haven't sat down and wrote anything, nothing. So anything you hear from me—throughout the EPs, Before The Beast, any freestyles, anything—it's really just me walking in the booth at the time and giving you me. I've been playing around with my flow because I've always felt like, the exciting thing about hip-hop for me and the artists I love is watching them reinvent themselves each time they come around. I don't think you can stay in the same pocket, and I don't think the fans want to hear the same things, they want to see the artist evolve and grow and try different things. So I'm in that growing process, man. I've never been scared of trying different things with the music, so I'm in the process of growing and still trying to actually really find my sound. I've came into my own as an artist but I'm still trying new things.

I don't think I'll ever find my sound because I'm a guy who was born and raised in the South. But what makes Young Buck who Young Buck is is the mixture of the different cultures that I've been a part of throughout my life. I've been a real part of the East Coast, I'm a real part of the West Coast, I've laid my head and lived at these different places and they've became a part of me. So even though my birthplace is the South, I've developed this sound of music that's almost a mixture of everywhere. And there's only a few artists that get that, that you're gonna hear on the West Coast rotating to the South, or the East Coast rotating to the South. No disrespect to the culture or anything, but some cultures are driven on certain sounds of music or certain ways that they receive the music. And if you don't give it to them in a way that they're able to relate to you then it doesn't work. I can't go be like you, but I can give it to you the way that I can, and if you can relate to the way I'm giving it to you then you can relate to me. And that's Young Buck, bro.

I think that's the void in hip-hop, is that music doesn't really have a lot of the Buck's, meaning the individuals that give you the reality, the mixture of it all. I'm one who can get on a record and tell you, "I'm gonna bust ya fuckin' head" and mean it. Then I can get on another record and tell ya girl, "I fuck her like I love her," and then I can get on another record and say, "Lord, forgive me," you know? It's all real, though. And the fact that I'm really from it and really out here in it—I'm in the middle of the cut as we speak getting my car washed talking to you, homie—I'm washing the police hit the corner right now. So what I'm saying is, I'm different as a person than your average artist, and it reflects over to my music. My music is a reflection of the environment that I'm from and I'm actually still in. So when you get it from me, you're getting it from someone who is really there, [even though] in the eyes of the fan, I'm really not. I'm so much away from here. I shouldn't be where I'm at right here.

But this is the thing. I'm not an individual that's here to say, "I'm from it," or, "I'm still in it." I'm only in this shit by force, not by choice. And when I say I'm here by force it's because I've created things within this environment where I have no choice but to remain here, whether it's my restaurant that is still in the middle of the gutter, in the hood. I'm still active with the sports and things like that for the youth throughout my city. All these things are dealing with the people and the children of the hood. So it's like, you can have success and say, "I'm not gonna be there," but if you come from it and you build something in it then you're gonna remain here forever. So I'm one of the guys who will always be involved and part of the hood, I just may not be involved in the things that go on in the hood.

One song on this mixtape that stuck out to me was "Craccin And Poppin," which seemed like a very personal song for you. Was that tough for you to put on wax?
Nothing's tough for me to put on wax at all, because when I'm speaking on that microphone, that's my comfort zone. If anything it's exciting for me to get you to hear it. It's exciting to hear the way you're gonna take this shit. That's what excites me. But I'm just giving it to you the way it really is and I hope that you receive it the way it really is. There's people like 50, Em, even the 'Pac's and B.I.G.'s, the reason why the world is so in tune to who they are and feel like we're a part of these dudes' lives, is because in their music they speak so much on real life, it's so based on real life experiences, that you feel like you're apart of it. So I follow that trend.

Of course, you can't really speak on some of these things that we speak on as artists that we be doing and expect to actually withhold life or freedom if that's not what you doing. You can speak on the things that you're actually doing if that's really what it actually is. That's what separates me from these dudes, bro. And at the same time that makes the fans enjoy listening to you, appreciate when they get the chance to speak to you and meet you. And then when you're a down-to-earth individual, that makes it hard for the other dude who might be just like you, because I look at the world and this game and this music shit, the same folks you see coming up, homie, might be the same folks you see coming down. So why am I gonna change up who the fuck I am? Nah, man, I'ma give you that same respect and love when I was up or even when I'm down, man. 'Cause hey, man, we all got one thing in common, right?

What's that?
Death. We all gotta go. We might have different colors of skin, you might like fat women and I might like skinny women. Whatever it may be. [Laughs] One thing we both have in common, homie, is we all got that day that's gonna come by. So knowing that, live it to the fullest, bro. Live it righteous as you can. We've all had unrighteous moments, but once you realize you're living unrighteous then change that shit up, my G. This shit does not determine that you're gonna make it 'til 2020, you might hang out and it might be over. I'm gettin' my shit together and I'm not playin', I'm dead serious about this, man, me and my kin and what we got goin'. And I'm not the only one. So you can imagine, if Young Buck is like this, what the fuck do you think 50 Cent is at? I am a product of my environment, but I'm also a sponge and I'm also a little bro to this man. Remember that. I'm little bro. If little bro is like this, that mean big bro gotta be triple times this, man. I'm just preserving the ground because big bro is on the way, man. And when big bro come through we're gonna have a clear understanding with the streets and with everything else out. I ain't really gotta say too much for big bro, he gonna come to get it all right.

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Now that you and G-Unit have put out the two EPs that you had promised, how do things feels now?
The bond that we have is the strongest bond that I've ever had in my life with my brothers. We're closer than we've ever been. You know... Let me tell you something, man. When you have success the way we have had success and so quickly of how G-Unit got where we at, somewhere down the line in the middle of that, somewhere you become un-humble. There's no way you can remain humble all of the fuckin' time, so somewhere we all became un-humble, including 50 Cent. And I think what happened with our separation was that God made us realize that and he humbled us all. And when he put us back together, man, we so excited for what's to come, we know what to do from where things is at in the game. We've been and done a lot of different things. But most of all, we grew and matured a lot in a lot of different areas, not only as us as artists but as a team. What people don't realize is that an artist is only as strong as the team, the people that you don't see behind the cameras. I tell 50 this all the time; our team is special because even over the seven or eight years that I was away from 50—you know, we never had a conversation or nothin'—but when I came back around not only did I realize the growth of us as men and as brothers, but some of the same individuals that was there to help make my career from the beginning with G-Unit are still there. And they've grown into better men, better businessmen as well.

What we're heading into, number one this is all God's Work, because you'll never see nothin' like another G-Unit or another 50 Cent again, in my eyes. But we've all matured over the years, man, we've all been humbled and now it's about going to get what we deserve. It's not about so much of fighting a battle. A lot of these dudes, it's kinda senseless to fight a person who's got his own gun to his head. Why would I fight you when you're [trying] to kill yourself? But we're not ducking no wreck over here at G-Unit; if you want a problem you can come get that shit, easy bro. But we not looking for no shit. But you can come get it though; we got open arms for any of that type of shit.

You guys have never been afraid of that.
I think that's understood.