You rocked some great verses on The Roots’ How I Got Over. What was it like working on the album?
It was like working on all the rest of them. Maybe I haven’t described what it’s like working on the rest of them, but they are pretty intense. I want to say they’re consistently aggressive every day. It’s like a job, but it’s a good job. But it’s more thinking than anything. You know? And a lot of trial and error. And you just come up with the finished product, but this one, I think it got easier but it’s still a difficult process to get on a Roots album anyway. So many things have to be in the right place, but for me, I understand the situation better than the last time we talked.
What changed in your understanding?
My understanding of music as a whole and just what the business side is and the difference between the business aspect of it and the artist aspect. That’s probably what I learned the most, or the understanding of both and how the knowledge that I had actually helped me to cultivate that understanding.
What was it like writing your verse on “Walk Alone”?
(laughs) Somebody just asked me that the other night! Nah, nah, they asked me about “Radio Daze.” “Walk Alone,” I was trying to do something. I have mad different styles that I do. See, that’s the thing about The Roots’ joint. It allows me to be a little more creative. It’s just a funny thing. Even though you can’t be too creative…I mean, even though you have to make something that a lot of people are going to like, it does allow you to dig into yourself and find things and I have mad different styles and mad different things I be trying and at the time, I had that particular style and when they played the beat, it just worked out. In the process of me writing my rhymes or writing a song in whole, in general, it’s just a crazy process in itself, but once I heard the track and then I heard the hook, it was already defined so all I had to do was just come up whether the mood and texture of my voice and that’s what I was thinking when I made that.
Is it ever tough rapping after Black Thought?
Nah. Not for me. I consider myself at least…I’m pretty good. Sometimes he wins and sometimes I win. (laughs) It be like that sometimes. Like, I can’t get mad. If I come in second to somebody who’s legendary, I’m not tripping at all. Just because he shines doesn’t mean I don’t shine also. I mean, he’s the blueprint of everything. It’s not a problem coming after Black Thought or coming before him. Anytime, just to be on a song…It’s a collection of perspectives and my perspective is what it is. My wordplay is pretty tricky. I have nothing but high regards for him, but anytime that I’m on a song, I very rarely get overlooked. I’m not mad.
What have you been working on solo-wise and outside of your Roots affiliation?
Well, solo-wise, because I’ve been working so hard on the last couple of Roots albums, I was more or less finding myself, so that’s what I went and did. And now I’m getting ready to put out a mixtape album hosted by Rich Medina and Mike Nice. And that should be coming out in the next two months.
What kind of sound should fans expect on your solo material?
It’s gonna basically have to stand on its own. I have some songs on there that fans of the Roots might like. The people that know me from The Roots, I don’t know if it’s necessarily their type of album but The Roots are not my only fanbase. It’s not that I’m trying to disassociate myself from them, but I can only be me. Whatever works for The Roots works for The Roots with their parameters, but when I’m out there by myself, I’m not fortunate enough to have their parameters back me up. If I only get 1,000 fans, it’s all good. If it becomes more than that or less than that, then it’s all gravy. But I’m sure once people start to see what my contribution is and if it’s in the right light, then I should get some shine. The rhymes didn’t fall off. That’s for sure.
How do you change as an artist working with The Money Making Jam Boys?
Less pressure. It’s less pressure. It’s more about going in there and having fun. It’s more of the stuff that we don’t get to do for The Roots album. Now we can basically take more chances and dig in our bags a little more.
When do you feel most comfortable recording your music?
I like just being alone where it’s just me. I mean, I like that. I think when I can just be me and I don’t have to worry about a lot of other people in the way, I like it better. I like it better when I’m by myself.
Do you feel like fans have a certain expectation for you because of your association with The Roots?
50/50, probably a little bit of both. Sometimes it sets up expectations or it sets up what people perceive you to be and sometimes it allows me to expand and grow. It just depends on the type of person that you’re dealing with at that very moment.
Are you happy with where you are in the game today?
If you listen to other people, yeah, you could get frustrated, but I just had to tighten up my circle and do me. I played some music for you already and you could hear the growth. It’s not like it wasn’t worth it. It was super-worth it for me. (laughs) I’m in a better place and I’m much more consistent and I just learned how to control the gift that I had instead of always depending on other things. It’s the difference between knowing you have a jump shot and being a streaky shooter.
At what point did you know you had the jump shot?
I don’t know, when I made couple of songs…When I felt like I didn’t have to play my songs for anybody anymore. Like, I was just satisfied enough. I didn’t need anybody else to really critique them. When I started to feel like that, I knew I was in a better place. I didn’t have to look at other people to see what they were really thinking because you know, when you make a song, you can ask other people if they like it, but very few people are going to tell you they dislike it while you’re sitting in front of their face, so you just kind of go off the vibe you get from them and that can be body language or the overall vibe and how they describe things off the questions you ask them. But when I started playing my new stuff, I didn’t have to say anything. The energy changed in the room and I knew my stuff was pretty good.
You still must have always had some belief in yourself to get to where you were.
Yeah. I had a lot of doubt too. (laughs) All artists are self-conscious and sometimes that fear of failing drives you. It’s just a process of learning yourself and maybe I didn’t record anything or work on anything for awhile and then the first thing I tried to work on was straight garbage and I’m wondering if I lost it. And that’s scary to me. And then after a couple of days of knocking the rust off, I got better and I noticed the pattern and stopped taking breaks.
And to be honest with you, people have been asking me to put out stuff for years and now I’m ready.
The last time we did an interview, one of the comments was that I forgot to ask how you got your name. How did you come up with the name P.O.R.N?
That’s funny. The acronym was People Only Recognize Negativity. My music kind of defines that. I’m also going by the moniker Gregory Allen. Gregory Allan is almost going to be an alter-ego and the P.O.R.N thing started off as a nickname around my neighborhood because they caught me in a compromising position with this girl. It was a nickname and it just stuck and it just grew and blossomed into more than that.
They didn’t catch you with porn?
No! I was actually in the room with another girl. It was something crazy! (laughs) At the time, everybody was like, ‘Whoa, you’re kind of young.’ It was just some craziness.
That’s better than getting caught with a crate of VHS tapes under the bed.
Yeah, it wasn’t that type of porn! To be honest with you, I didn’t even know anything about porn until I was well into my 20s. I didn’t even have the opportunity to be around it.
Do you look at it like you missed out on a valuable adolescent experience?
(laughs) I don’t know! It’s always a positive thing! Shoot, it’s only negative if you make it negative.
When you finally discovered porn, did you have a lot of catching up to do?
Nah, nah, nah. I don’t know no dude that don’t like porn, straight up! (laughs) To be honest with you, everybody has their own particular fetish or whatever. Shoot, who don’t?
And I mean, we were ripping and running back then. When I was 16 I was getting into the clubs that you had to be 21 just because of the type of people we were so there wouldn’t be no trouble. That’s why it took me so long to come out now. That’s why my rhymes have so many stories and so much life. I’m not ashamed of nothing. Everything happened when it was supposed to.