Ink Tone Swep Images Ariya Akhavan Looks Alex Clough Lines Fantasia Levi Custom Designs Clive Aden Location Rudy’s Barbershop, Silver Lake, Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA
Let’s talk LA politics. Los Angeles, your city. Are visitors still required to check-in when touching down? Some would consider it friendly extortion, others necessary relationships. What’s your take?
It was never like an official requirement thing, but I mean, as an artist of a certain scale and caliber it’s something you should want to do to remain secure when out of town. You should focus on building relationships and establishing yourself in other towns as part of your career. That should be a focus, then you can let people know ‘Yo I’ma be out there such-and-such dates’. Now, there will of course be certain ones with they own agenda that’s planning on trying to extort you, or rob you, and do certain things against you to negate what you’re trying to accomplish. Because you’re going big in the club, making millions of dollars, so some knuckleheads are going to press that line and try to get something out of it anyways. Then you have to decide if you want go the relationship route and check in with family and move like that, or maybe you can not do the event, you know. You have to decide because that’s what it is. But that last option is going to fuck up the money.
How do you feel about the ambitious gentrification plans in LA? Mayor Garcetti seems to be signing off on anything billionaire related, from mansions to corporate expansion. But where does that leave the working class, worse yet the homeless?
I feel like it’s every city. It’s a skid row and a big percentage of homeless everywhere, especially in major cities. I get up every day and handle my business, and those homeless people could have, too, but fell into jails, drugs, etcetera. Maybe they could have, or should have, done more with their time; been focused more on being productive than self-destructive. Hard to just say that though when society may have set them up to fail from jump, feel me. With us having all this money in California you would think there would be an action plan to respond to some of the poverty, but you can’t tell other companies what to do with their money. We should want to help a large percentage of the people, as many as we can, with some type of homeless scheme. That may be a ways off because it takes so long to get so many different factions and entities and political parties on the same page.
You’ve been making rap money for a long time. Music and apparel product, live shows and features. Has the money changed you, or the people around you, more? In what ways?
It has changed my patnas and certain people that I deal with more so. They see the little jewelry, couple cars, and it’s ‘let me hold this and hold that’. Now, my homies?!?! They know if I mess with you – I’ma look out and try my best to put you in positions alongside me, or through relationships I may have, to where you already gettin’ money. Anyone else feelin’ a way like I’m not being generous enough, we’re going to have to meet with each other face to face; try to figure out why you feelin’ as though I owe you something. Everyone knows I have a good heart and share what I have depending on who it is.
I interviewed Mozzy recently, and I asked if he felt gangs are still beneficial to the black community and culture in some way. He does, citing youth homelessness and a sense of family most gang members wouldn’t otherwise have as reasons why. Do you feel gangs are still necessary, still important?
It’s prolly like a fifty-fifty on that, because back in the day you would go out to gangland and see all the big drug dealers. They would have the cars and the money, and you knew it was from bangin’ and hustlin’, and what we do comes from that history; from witnessing that and being part of a legacy that extends from it… Turkey giveaways, toys for the kids on Christmas, backpacks and school supplies, Halloween costumes in October, money to families for bills and rent, sh!t like that, and it was coming from known kingpins. You feel me, everyone was coming to the park barbecues and house parties, and that type of thing inspires and motivates people in those communities who may not otherwise have much to look forward to. Like, this is our squad and our section taking care of their own.
Those are the relative pros, what are the cons? The other half of the 50/50 split you gave bangin’.
At the same time, when you sign up for this life you have to know the consequences. Fights, murders, robberies, prison time, just a lot of street sh!t and all the stress that comes with it is going to be part of your daily life. And that life may get cut short.
You are originally from Compton, what other parts of greater Los Angeles do you like to spend time in though? Whether conducting business or just to chill. Do you kick it in the valley? Silver Lake? Venice Beach? Orange County? To get away from the activity, you know. The mayhem, especially being a known face and name.
I be in Inglewood because my uncles are there, I like to chill with family, do a little cookout, roll up some good ass marijuana and just relax. I’ll go to Lakewood, that’s kinda high scale and has always been known for White folks, Asians, and a few Blacks with money. I might be out there if I want to just tuck off. If I’m in the OC, or Cerritos, or IE somewhere it’s for business. We might be filming a video out there, or maybe I bought a car or something else and need to go meet whoever to go get that. But that’s probably the extent of it, because truly bro the murder rates are higher out there than in Compton. And that’s because people from these known LA hoods have been moving out to these outer areas of Los Angeles for over 10 years, I guess trying to get away from the bullshit; instead they end up carrying the mentality and what comes with it out there with them, sorta transforms those areas into a place they didn’t intend it to be.
You’ve had albums, tapes, singles, always good music out. And you’ve always had the street’s ear and not just in LA. But in the last year or so your career has turned a corner, you’ve expanded your sound and due to that your fanbase is larger. To what do you attribute your growth as an artist?
Just staying consistent and keeping up with the trends on some songs instead of just sounding super-super LA on every single song. So that’s the music part, and the other side is me speaking for the culture in a real way and certain people relating and gravitating to that. If I feel someone disrespecting the culture, it’s my obligation to step in and communicate to whoever is bringing that negativity. And not in a negative way, because we’ve seen what meeting negativity with negativity accomplishes – nothing. I can keep it positive but at the same time be assertive and tell you not to get outside your character. I may not speak on everything, but don’t play with my culture or my people. Many of them are doing life, doing decades, or probably died for this shit. My main message is this: The positive shit will take you way further, so be positive and respectful.
High Off TTreez is your best album to date. What are your expectations for the project?
For sure. ‘Preciate that. To the next level in my career. But I want to stay humble and move forward without negativity, without people always saying ‘he’s a gang member’ or ‘he’s from Compton’. I like to keep people motivated. I’m involved with people from my situation, and I’m going to keep doing what I do with the music and other moves, so naturally it’s just going to keep expanding and progressing. That’s all a n!66a can hope or ask for.
What’s up with Ice Wata? We see the merch and music, the eCommerce site, but it feels like even greater moves are being made with the brand. What’s in the works?
It’s basically turning into my label. I just recently finalized all the documents and paperwork, you know, to make it a company and brand. Ice Wata means being a cold n!99a, like a cool-under-pressure type of person who doesn’t let anything get to them. Certain people can take what other people say to them, or about them, and as long as they aren’t touched or violated in any way, they aren’t really bothered by the situation. That’s what the brand is symbolic of and that’s what I hope people take from it and incorporate into their daily lives. Stay down, don’t let anyone play you out of your position. I’ma be cold about mines. Stay solid about yours.
When you get this hot and start generating the type of buzz you have of late – the majors come running. Having said that, dozens of artists have chosen the indie route as you have; works better for them. Are you interested in partnering your Slim 400 brand and Ice Wata imprint with a Universal, Atlantic, Interscope, or Capitol?
All I’m looking for is a good marketing budget. High scale record label money sounds good, but somewhere down the line two things happen – they own a gang of your work and you owe them a gang of your money. A record deal is a loan, you are paying all that back, plus interest. Give me a cool percentage of what we earn during our partnership, I don’t need the deal money. Come with a great marketing plan, have me on the major platforms that mean something to the world.
What’s the end game for you? When the dust settles, when all is said and done decades from now, what do you want your music career to represent?
I want to be able to move on to the next thing. I’m doing a short film now, and I have other screen projects I’m considering. I like to rap, love to make music, but truthfully bro it comes with too much bullshit. I want to move on to movie roles soon, go from music to the acting shit. I will always love my city and rapping about what we do and been through, share our LA mentality and my message with the world. I’m going to continue to do that through whatever vehicle I’m involved in. I’m a LA n!99a so no matter what that’s on me, that’s in me, that is me. I’ma always add my positive spin on things from a real position.