Congratulations on coming up so fast in the game. Does it feel kind of surreal?
Man, it’s definitely been a journey and thank you for those wishes. It means a lot. It’s been a long, hard journey and we’re still on the road. We’re not even halfway there. We’re going to keep on grinding and making it bigger and bigger. I’m having the time of my life and I’ve seen so many things and learned so much about this industry. It’s made me the man I am today.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the game?
That you can’t wait on anybody else. You can’t wait on promises from labels or anybody, man. You just have to do it yourself. You shouldn’t mess up anything that you have going on with people but you have to do as much as you can. I’m glad I learned it the hard way and when I was young. Being 22 and where I am is priceless.
Are you happy with the response to Finally Famous Volume 3?
Man, it’s really dope! I came up putting music out on mixtapes. The viral game, to me, is everything. My label and management wanted me to focus more on the album, which I was. The album is great and it’s sounding good and we got all our singles and songs in general, but let’s work double-time and double-hard. I know how hard it is to do a mixtape and I don’t think people understand how hard it is to work on two or three projects. Man, it’s really hard and I don’t think people understand how hard it is to get 17 songs together for a mixtape just to put out for free, just for people to ride to and listen to while fulfilling all the label obligations. I’m excited that people are really embracing it and taking the time to download it and listen to it. And it just came out. We’re going to keep making music and keep grinding. But the response is priceless, man. And I’m thankful for everybody who just takes the time to listen. I’m very receptive to what people say.
Do you ever feel bad giving music out for free when you knew you could sell it?
It may hurt different people. It doesn’t hurt me at all because this is what I do. I can write a thousand raps and each one will be better than the next one. This is what I do and this is the profession I chose. It doesn’t hurt me at all because people are still gonna listen to it and people are still gonna hear it. It just makes my fanbase that much bigger because people are still going to listen to it and still gonna hear it. I actually like putting out free music because people are going to hear it, especially when it’s album material. I love putting that out to the people. When this is what you do, this is your life. Giving away music and people want to actually hear it and listen to it, that’s all I can ask for. It’s the perfect setup.
On “Final Hour” you say, “The new school appointed me to lead the way.” When did you start feeling like that?
Man, really just the state of the game, you look at people like Drake and the Freshman 10 and Chip Tha Ripper and all these cats that are just really killing it and are doing sold out shows, man, I just feel like we’re the leaders of the new school and I felt like I had to address it on that song. The intro to the mixtape is probably my favorite track from a rapper’s standpoint because I adders so many lines and so many different things. People tell me I’m the leader of the new school and that’s an honor for me. I’m going to take it all the way. I’m not gonna let up. I’m working harder and harder on new ideas and we’re working on getting viral videos shot and the album. I’m just really excited. I’m not letting up at all. Yeah, man, the leader of the new school. That’s just what it is.
It seems like a lot of the younger guys work together. Are you all pretty cool?
Hell yeah. That’s like my family right there. I’m cool with everybody, especially Chip. We were talking about doing a mixtape later on down the line. Man, it’s just like my peoples, man. There’s nothing better than doing this alongside your peoples. They’re like my civil rivals. It’s all competition and they keep me on my toes and they tell me I keep them on their toes. It’s exciting. The new generation in hip-hop is really coming up.
How did “High Rise” come together?
Writing “High Rise,” I heard the beat and really got straight to it. I’ve been doing a good job of getting my rhymes done quickly and making sure it’s thorough. Cannon sent me the beat and I heard it and it just is what it is. It came out really dope.
Do most of your songs come together like that?
Yeah, man. It’s pretty organically. Some songs take months. Sometimes I’ll have a beat for six months and not be able to come up with anything to it and then six months later I’ll hear it and come up with something instantaneously. It’s pretty organic. I just sit down and put my mind to it. I feel like as an artist, I can do anything I put my mind to and if you just focus in on something, it’s gonna get done.
Going off of “High Rise,” you’ll really make the girls sit in the backseat, right?
Man, everything I said is real! Hell yeah! That’s the funny thing because my homies really always called shottie no matter what girls is with us and it’s so hilarious to just have them ride in the backseat and shit. But that’s real life, man.
Do the girls ever threaten to get out?
Oh, man, I’m a gentleman too. I don’t go super-hard on the ladies like that all the time. But if it just is what it is and we’re just having fun in the city and its some girls we just met, obviously I’m going to make them sit in the back if my homies called shottie. That’s the rules. That’s how shottie is played.
How far do you have to be from the car before you call shotgun?
It’s whatever. If you’re going to the car and you call shottie, it’s a wrap. That’s just a rule. That’s how we grew up.
I always thought the car had to at least be in view before you called it.
Hell nah, man! You can call that shit two hours before you leave. You can call it as soon as you hop out of the car. You can call shottie to get it when you come back, as soon as you hop out.
I could never roll with you; those rules don’t make sense to me.
Man, it’s cool. Usually the people who sit in the back are cool too. It’s all good.
You also said in “High Rise,” “When you’re legendary, everything is quotable.” Are fans less judgmental with your lyrics when you’re established?
People are very judgmental, just all the time, period. But that line means when you’re legendary, they take every little thing you say and turn it into what they want it to say. It’s with me, Kanye and people in general. That’s where I got that line from. They can take anything out of context and turn it into something else. For instance…Nah, I don’t envy want to say anything. Somebody might take that out of context.
Are you more careful with what you say now than you were three years ago when you weren’t as well-known?
I just never really gave a fuck too much. I always stayed true to myself so if I really have something to say, I’ll say it, as long as it’s not dumb. I try not to be high or drunk in my interviews but sometimes people just say dumb shit. I always do speak my mind and if I feel passionate about something or I want something to be different, I’ll say it.
Is it hard doing interviews high?
Sometimes they’re the best ones! And let me clarify – I’m talking weed and nothing else. I don’t want people thinking I’m like Soulja Boy and fucking with cocaine and shit like that. No crazy shit! (Laughs)
I don’t know if that makes me feel relieved or disappointed.
The “Made” leak had to be a frustrating process to go through. Are you able to see the good and bad in that situation today?
Actually it used to get me angrier but you have to learn to look at the bright side of everything. What it made me do was it pushed me to make bigger and better songs. It was a tragedy that it leaked. I was very aggravated. It leaked prematurely when it wasn’t all the way done or mixed. My verses were completely different but when songs like that leak prematurely, it’s frustrating because first of all, you don’t know where it comes from and how people got it. And secondly, it just messes up a lot of plans. I’m signed to a label and I have a contractual obligation to deliver these songs and make it right and it messes up that. It’s sad that people will mess up your career over a blog post but you just have to take it for what it is – hey, people did get to hear the song and they got to enjoy it and I made more music from that experience and I definitely learned my lesson. There was some good that came out of it.
Did you lose any respect for the hip-hop media after that situation?
No. I didn’t lose some respect. I just saw it for what it is. Blogs need content and they want the hottest, newest shit. It just is what it is. I can’t be mad at the blogs because they posted it or didn’t post it. I look at the blogs and if I ask them to take something down and they do, that shit means a lot and I remember it. I keep that in mind when it comes time to see who to give the exclusives too. There’s that respect and I really appreciate that. It lets you see how people really are and how blogs really are. But it’s blogs. They’re not my friends and shit.
What were your plans for “Made” before it leaked?
We were going to have somebody else on there with me and Drake and the verses were going to be completely different. My verses were going to be brand new and it was going to be way better. We were going to drop it after we had dropped another single. But fuck it, though, we just have to take it and live with it.
What made you go with Don Cannon to host Finally Famous Volume 3?
That’s the homie from around the way. I was in the studio with him and the idea came up and we decided to do it. And it just is what it is. We have that relationship. We did work together and I’m all about doing as much work with people I respect and I feel like Don Cannon has done some of the most respected mixtapes of our time like Trap or Die. It was an honor to work with him and I think he did a great job hosting it. I loved listening to him talk shit. He talks shit better than everybody.
What goes into being a good shit-talker?
I have been getting good at my shit-talking recently. I’ve been practicing. You just have to make it believable and let people know what it really is. It’s real-life. The shit we’re talking is real-life and as long as everybody keeps it real, real will never go out of style. You just have to keep it so that all people can respect it.
The album was originally supposed to come out in September. When are you looking to drop it?
We have big plans for the album. We’re working on a couple of singles. We were aiming for September and it never happened. We’re going to put it out at a time when it makes sense the most. We’re not going to rush it. I actually had dinner with a couple of friends, including No I.D. and we were talking about when would be a perfect time to release it and he was saying it would be perfect at the end of the year. We’re really trying to look at maybe later this year but probably next year is more realistic. We really want to take full advantage of this mixtape and get all the viral videos out and let people know how it is. We have a lot of stuff coming up and a lot of big surprises for G.O.O.D. Music.
How’s the album coming?
Oh, it’s coming great, man. We have the majority of it done. We picked out the singles for it. We have to send it to the radio. I’m very happy with the album and people will really get a good soundtrack to live to, way better than anything I’ve ever done. It’s 10 times better than any mixtape. This is the first time I’ve actually created a mixtape like a mixtape as opposed to trying to make it like a mini-album. I just put a lot of songs on there and straight rapped on it and talked shit on it as opposed to trying to make it be like an album. There were no skits and I was rapping straight raw. The album is really an album. It’s theatrical and we took our time on it. You’ll see the detail in it and me, No I.D. and Kanye really took our time to produce the records out. I feel like a lot of people just get beats and rap over them and that’s it. I’m fortunate to have people like No I.D. and ‘Ye who are able to make it theatrical. I’m really excited to have people hear it. It’s going to be better than anything I’ve done times 10.
What are you most proud of on the album?
A song called “What Goes Around Comes Around” and a song called “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” which I’m pretty sure is going to be a single down the line. They’re really personal songs and I’m anxious to let people hear them when it’s time.
How involved was Kanye in your album?
He got pretty involved, but of course he’s his own artist and he didn’t walk me through everything. A lot of it I did on my own. The majority No I.D. did and he’s definitely been a big mentor and a big help to me on this album. But Kanye definitely did his part and we’re working on other projects too. You’ll see a lot of work with me and Kanye and me and No I.D. and the whole G.O.O.D. Music family in general.
What other projects are you guys working on?
Oh, man, they’ll kill me if I say so. There’s always some stuff going on. It’s going to be big through. It’s going to be dope. It’s going to be good for the music as a label.
What have you learned working with Kanye that’s made you a better artist?
Work harder, man. You can either take the setbacks like it hurts your pride or you can use it as fuel. It’s gone from “do better, man” to “that shit is dope, man. Hop on this and do this.” And it’s just great to see the evolution. Hard work really does pay off. People have no idea of how much stuff I’ve been through as an artist. From the outside looking in, it’s like why are you taking so long to drop your album but really, man, I’ve just been going through life and improving as an artist. I’ve been finding my own style and my own avenues and my own everything and getting out of the shadows of other people and doing what is necessary for an artist to do.
You’ve been wearing a lot of Taz Arnold’s brnad. Are you involved in the design process at all?
We have some collabs and stuff coming soon, but nah. I’m just really a fan of his brand. I’m trying to make a mark as far as rocking high-end brands. I’ve been doing a lot of photo shoots and we’re really just getting everything together. I’m from Detroit and Detroit has some of the best style in the world. I just really want to let people know that this style shit is really serious and Detroit is that style city and that I’m bringing that fresh style to the game.
When we did an interview three years ago, you talked about how you weren’t into the whole high fashion thing. What changed?
I don’t know man. Just living. Being around people like Kanye and Taz and Verbal and Migo and Pharrel and all these people, man. I just want to milk that part of the game as much as I can because the ideas I have for style and shit, I just feel are priceless and I just want to let everybody in on it so they can know what I’m talking about.
You came up at a time when the internet was the main spot for artists to be. How do you use the internet and the accompanying gadgets to help your career?
Oh, man, it’s the best platform to get your music out to the masses. That’s something the labels have to understand. It’s the best way to get your music out and the viral videos, viral music, it’s the best thing an artist can do. I’m just so thankful that I’m one of the people others are checking for and that I have respect on that level. It’s really important for artists and you know, we’re just getting started.
The way Kanye has mentored you, do you see yourself returning the favor to someone else?
Hell yeah, as I get older and get more established in the game. It would be an honor to return the favor. I definitely have people who I feel I can help now. I have people now I think I can put on as artists.
You’ve grown with producers Wrightrax over the years. What’s it like still working with them?
Well, we haven’t been making as much music together as we used to. That’s the thing about this game – you have so many relationships and one of the hardest things to do is to maintain relationships with people. Me and Wrightrax, we still do music together. Like, they produced “Made” and a couple of other tracks, but we haven’t really been working together and that’s one of the personal relationships that I really wish had worked out better but this game, it changes people, man, and you can really see true colors and how people really are. They used to be some of my best friends, man, and I haven’t talked to them in months.
What changed to allow you to sell out a venue that first booed you off the stage?
Man, I worked hard. Every little thing I’ve done is about working my hardest in the music and trying to make my songs as good as possible and having people enjoy it. They’ve gotten so excited about my music that they go and spread the word. I worked to get them so excited to buy tickets to the show and that’s so unbelievable to me. Now we’re going ot so many different cities and performing at The House of Blues and touching markets like Texas and to be able to sell out shows and rock crowds in N.Y. and L.A. and in the Midwest and down South, it’s crazy, man.
What was it like performing at Rock the Bells?
Man, I have a lot of great moments there. There were so many, man. So many. It was just dope to be around people like Lauryn Hill, Snoop Dogg and Tribe and the new school cats like me, Wiz and Yelawolf, 9th Wonder and so many different people. It was just an honor. I went on so early, like around 1 pm, and man, it was just so packed at that time. That’s the best shit ever. D.C. was probably my favorite performance though. Everything about that show was just perfect. It was sold out at maximum capacity and I was just catching the vibe and rocking out.
What are your career defining moments up to this point?
Being on the cover of XXL was definitely one of the defining moments for me. Selling out venues. Rock the Bells was a defining moment for me. Hearing my song on the radio was a defining moment for me. Getting people like L.A. Reid and Kanye excited after working so hard, that’s been a defining moment for me. There’s been so many. It’s really emotional and I’m thankful for that.