One thing that I found quite interesting is that you’re from Montclair but you spent some time in Newark. You didn’t have a father, you talked about getting shot and there’s so much stuff that happened and we’re going to touch it later. Was music your motivation?
Well as far as the living situations I’ve lived in Montclair and Elizabeth. Due to my lifestyle and certain choices I ran around in Irvington and Newark so I got a different taste of different lifestyles. Music was just an out for me, I would use it to get out my frustrations towards people who had an authority figure over my life at the time that I couldn’t really let them know how their actions was affecting my life so I would put it into music. I guess you could say I was venting with music at first but then I got older and I started to get around more people who were in the music business and creating music and they saw a natural raw talent I have, it helped me mold it into a vision of me doing something with it, plus helping other people who have similar stories that I’ve overcome in life.
When you’re in Montclair and you would go to Newark and Elizabeth, do you automatically have an “X” on your back because you’re not from the area?
Nah, I mean it’s more off your demeanor I would say. Certain people can read you. That’s where the saying “real recognize real” come from. Real also recognize fake as well. You know when someone is playing. The thing with me is I’m always going to be the same person no matter where I am. If I’m in suburbia, the hood or the country I’m always going to be me. It’s not I had an “X” on my back it’s just certain people might have felt that I had an easier life or maybe I wasn’t as rough; but actions speak louder than words.
When you’re getting into these fights did you ever want to join a gang?
Nah, I will never say that I didn’t want to join a gang but when I was younger certain people around me had an affiliation with the Rollin 60 Crips, so it was talked about. If I ever wanted to join it wouldn’t be for protection it would be more for a brotherhood type of thing. That conglomerates of having people who was there for you. Although, I had certain family members and things like that I valued their opinion as far grandmother and grandfather and shit like they would have been heartbroken to find out if I joined a gang. Plus, I’m strong enough to stand on my own two feet. So, I ain’t knocking nobody who go to that life or who do bang or whatever, it’s all about what you choose to do with that lifestyle. To answer your question directly, I never felt like I had to run to a gang for protection.
I also bring up the gang lifestyle because you grew up without a father. Did that affect you or did it make you have a closer bond with your mother?
It definitely affected me. It made me and my mom bond stronger but then my mom and I had our own situations that made it a battle between us. That’s what built the “all I have is me” mentality that I had for a long time. With my pops, it was just different emotions I guess every young black man without a father faced. At first you question why he’s not around then you feel unwanted then angry. You just go through different emotions.
Who did you look up to around that time? Who was your big brother or father figure?
My grandfather and my uncle. That’s pretty much it. The people I was around we tried to hold each other down.
You bring up your Uncle. Is this the same Uncle that was making music?
Did he inspire you to start making music or was it the escapism of everything?
I won’t discredit seeing what he did. He played an influence but it was my whole city. I saw people come and go from my city. I saw the whole East Coast/West Coast thing kick-off and it just got infectious. I was just speaking with my grandmother and I found out that back in the slavery times one of my cousins was hung so that he wouldn’t go sing at the Apollo. I feel like music is just in my blood. God put things around you so that you start to embrace your gifts.
What type of music did your uncle do?
He raps. He was outside too. He was rapping about stuff going on in his life.
Did you always have a love for rap or did you want to explore another genre?
I always wanted to make music. Then I hit a curve of I wanted to make timeless music.
Did you ever want to pick up an instrument or is it strictly rap?
Actually, growing up I didn’t want to rap, I wanted to drum. I would drum for a matching drill team. I’m real nice with drumming. So, I really wanted to drum. I wanted to be on someone’s band on tour.
Would you incorporate some of your drums into music?
I have little schemes that I’ve been thinking about doing. I’m just waiting for more eyes to be on so that it will make sense of what I’m doing.
Do you make your own beats?
I tried. I sit with certain people who make beats.
Do you think you’re a perfectionist? For instance, if you learn how to make beats you won’t stop until it’s perfect?
Yeah, I would say that’s my gift and my downfall. What I had to realize is the business that I’m in is scary. I heard a lot of remarkable records that gotten nowhere. And I’ve seen a lot of people who just put time into smaller quality things hit a bigger plateau so it’s all a personal thing I guess you would say.
Did you ever want to quit music?
Nah. To me, life is all about knowing the right people, taking your chances, and not letting a “no” deter you from what you’re trying to get to. I look at life like we’re all on a mission. But it’s not a person to tell you yes or no. it’s about you and the drive and the hunger that the creator put inside you. The way I see things is that I’ve gotten many no’s for many different situations. I never let it stop me.
Your first project Friend or Foe you recorded it in your apartment and at that time you’re not in a studio. Did you feel comfortable that you’re in your own space or did it put pressure on you that wasn’t in a professional setting with an engineer?
Well I had an engineer actually working with me at my home studio. The only thing that was difficult for me working at home is I got kids and I got a family. When I was locked in and really started recording the project they knew what I was doing and I got to that project so fast. It felt good and clean. Looking back there were somethings I could have changed but it was my first project so I felt good about myself.
When you dropped your first project did you drop it under the name Verbal Assassin?
Where did the name Verbal Assassin come from?
Well in my family my mother is known to have a sharp tongue. My mother has a way with words to make you feel small. Also, I sat down and just started putting things together that went with my characteristics. Even my label name “don’t trust anybody” comes from the childhood I had. Then I switched it to “developed thru adversity” just because of certain things that was going on within my team.
Take a Stand was your next tape and I like it because it tells a story. Was that your idea or did it happen on accident? Take a Stand is a dedication to one of my people I grew up with. Basically, my brother. He was sentenced to 43 years in prison.
What did he do to get 43 years in prison?
What they say he did? They said he committed murder. I personally don’t think he did it. I’m just going to say New Jersey needs a self-defense law; that’s it. I ain’t trying to stir up no old emotions because I don’t know who might see this but respect to both sides I wish the situations didn’t play out like that.
How old were you when this happened?
We were kids, about 18 or 19.
Were you writing Take a Stand while his trial was going on?
Nah he was already down. We were trying to go through the appeal. I was trying to find appeal lawyers and different court situations that happen previously.
Do you think that’s your most emotional tape?
Yeah, I think that’s the tape that I really was like hurt. I was letting out my pain in the most positive way I could.
Do you think the audience is my therapist?
Yeah, I’m just going to record and talk on this mic. I’m just going to put it in music.
What is your writing process?
I go in the studio, I listen to the beat for a while. I’ll come up with the chorus or the hook. Once I got that down I’ll work on my verse. Whatever needs to be chopped out ill chop it then I’ll do my adlibs and extra layers in one take. I don’t really write unless I’m writing for someone else.
Why do you think that method is better for you?
I think it’s an energy thing for me. When I record most of the time it’s just off the vibe. I feel like it’s easy if I go home and write about something. I like to challenge myself. I like to go in with no canvas and paint the picture myself.
After you drop Take a Stand how did you feel mentally? Did you have an idea of what was going on?
On the mixtape circuit, I knew what was going on but on an industry level I didn’t. Industry and mixtape are two different worlds. So, I knew what was going on through mixtapes but my engineer was dealing with the industry. So, I got a little taste from him.
When did you start to get more of a feel for the industry world?
I’ll say 7 to 9 years ago.
Would you say you want your kids to be a musician being you know how the industry works?
I would never try to kill my kids’ dreams. If my daughter came to me and said hey dad I want to record music I don’t know if I would tell her no. I would school her to the game. I would find a good manager and I would be on that manager’s team.
My favorite project by you is Play Time is Ova. The reason why I liked it is the smooth feeling of the tape. Songs like “gotta go get it” and “fly as me” really had a good vibe to it. What made you want to branch out?
Some of those songs was a challenge by my engineer and my lady. It was a challenge because I was making Verbal Assassin songs not songs for females. Around that time, I was learning more about the industry so I decided to make “worldly” music for people to accept it more.
How long have you and your wife been together?
She’s your business partner with DTA and your advisor. It seems like you guys would get into arguments.
I had her on stage with me performing, video shoots, strip club. We been together for 20 years because everything is on the table you feel me. There’s no room to be arguing. Everything we trying to build is an empire.
Would you and your wife ever drop a collab project together?
We’re working on one now. We trying to put it together. We want everybody to get a taste of what they’re looking for. So, it’ll be in the works.
Gabos is an EP you dropped last year. It has a New York vibe. The song Back End reminds me of the late Pop Smoke. How did you prepare for this EP?
This was my first solo project since I got shot. When I got shot it slowed me down from putting out music. Mentally it was a lot to come back from the person I am today.
Talk to me more about getting shot.
I got shot six inches away from my heart. That was pretty traumatic and then the fact that I thought about my kids, mom, and lady not having me around. That’s what was scary about it.
What town did you get shot in?
Was this a setup or a stick-up gone wrong?
Mix those two things up and you’ll come with the perfect scenario. I just came back from Denver.
What do you think the highlight of your career is?
Just being in the mental state to create music. Going on stage to have the courage to be the person I am now.
Give me your 5 favorite albums
Get Rich Die Trying
Ready to Die
Talk to me about DTA (Devolved Thru Adversity), you have a clothing brand and some videos of you and other artists.
Yeah anyone associated with my team I kind of link them to my website but the website is primarily linked to the clothes.