Sunday, March 8, 2015

Evolution of a Man: An Interview with Imperator (Part 2)

Old Dog New Tricks

You've rhymed about battling Eminem on a couple different songs. Can you talk about that?

    That was 1997 Rap Olympics. That started off with me at the Project Blowed and it wasn't even a Project Blowed night. We was just there at the Project Blowed and all these rappers were comin' in there. I dunno if they were just comin' there to see the Project Blowed or whatever or to see, like, "Oh, these the dudes we battling tonight." So I was there. Nobody else was really there, maybe one other person. And we ended up rappin' and I did pretty good. I was freestyling and everybody was like "damn, Imp! You served him and you ain't even in the contest." I wasn't even really in that rap contest initially, but I was like, "Okay, I'm goin' for the thing." So I went to the place - I think it was called The Proud Bird. And I just went there for the festivities. I was there to represent and see the homeboys do they thing. But while they was battling, they start callin' some rapper. And they're like, "Hey, you better come up here! Going once, going twice..." and I'm like, "Oh, here I am! Here I am!" So I wasn't even supposed to be in that battle! And I remember I battled a girl and maybe two or three guys, so it was kind of extensive. So I beat all of them and then I battled Eminem. And when I battled Eminem I remember he came off sayin' - I mean, from me bein' old school, I know a lot about rap, so if you're imitating somebody, I can kinda tell what you're goin' for. So he came in and he was doing this KRS-One thing. So I came off, my opening line when we battled was "White boy, first off, before you come in here biting Kris Parker, you gon' have to get a whole lot darker!" That's the only thing I kinda remember but the crowd just started rolling and I went in at that point and they told me I won. "You won. Go backstage. You gon' have to battle Otherwize." So I'm like, "Cool."

    So now, Wendy Day. You can look her up. She got a lot of people millions and millions of dollars. Master P, Cash Money, Tung Twista, David Banner. She's very helpful. She has a very helpful website and everything. But I guess at that point she didn't understand battle rap. So she thought I was racist. So she came, tellin' me, "You're a racist! Why you have to say that?" She was upset because he had lost. But Eminem came and shook my hand and he was cool. He was like, "Man, I understand." He wasn't trippin' and he gave me his cassette and I was like, "Thank you."

    So backstage, me and Otherwize were high fivin' like, "Man, we did it! Cool!" So maybe five minutes later they call me back, like, "Ay, you gotta battle this kid Eminem again." I'm like "I already beat him! Why I gotta battle again?" So we battle again and he was determined to be the winner and they sent him to finals. So now, I know I wasn't supposed to be in this, but I'm upset because what kinda arrangement is this? He won one. I won one. Shouldn't that be a draw? But they said, "No, he won." So he went on and Otherwize ended up beatin' him, and the footage is on YouTube but they only show what Eminem said. They don't show what any of the other rappers said. And the guy videoing it, I knew him because I used to work for him! And If I ever see him I'm gonna ask him, "Do you have that footage?" 'Cause man, I would love to see that 'cause I remember that night. The guys from Project Blowed were picking me up in the air like, "Imp, you did it! You did your thing!" So it was a good feelin' that night, even though I didn't win. As far as I was concerned it was still a victory.

    And then, even in the contest, here's another thing I had to deal with! I had to diss the host 'cause he said, "Old dude, you old. What you gonna do?" (laughs) And the funny thing is, I never looked old! So that was my whole thing. I never looked like I was an old dude but if you don't look like you twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, I guess. Back in the day, I guess if you looked twenty something, they'd say you too old to be in this game! So I had to diss the host 'cause he tried to clown me. And people were sayin', "Man, you don't know who you talkin' to!" But he was cool. Once I checked him, he was cool.

    But I believe in myself. If I ever thought I was garbage, and sometimes I sit back and just from me not havin' any real success in this game, it makes me question myself. 'Cause I have some friends and when they rap to me, I be like, "That nigga old school. He really old school." 'Cause they don't wanna step outside of what they've been doin' the last twenty years. At least I try to step out the box. If I'm rappin' over a different beat, I'm thinkin' it's gonna make me evolve and create a new style or something. Like some people tell me, "Oh, I want you to rap like this." Like, I already did that! Why would I go back and do that? I mean, I might go back and do that sometimes and no matter what I do, you're still gonna hear the old school with it. But I'm always trying to find something new and innovative. I really wanna do a project that's different, that's really different, you know?

In 2005, you dropped an album called Family Ties with your son and a guy called Goldie. Is he related to you as well?

    Goldie is my nephew from Baltimore. That's my sister's son. But I hadn't been in his life 'cause he was in Baltimore and I was in California. So I went to Baltimore one day and he was rappin'  and I could see he was tryin' to hold back. And I was like, "Joey, do you, man. I'm your uncle and everything, but I'm not trying to come here and pop up in your life and demand things from you. I mean, I'ma watch you, and if you doin' the wrong thing, I'ma let you know." But he was tryin'a act like he didn't smoke and he didn't drink. But I was like, "Do you." But anyway, prior to that we did the Patterson Park album. I recorded that down there. Then once he came to California, we did the Family Ties album. He didn't wanna do it. I wanted to do one, just him, but he said he wouldn't do it unless I was on it with him. I wanted to push him. But he refused. He was like, "Nah, if you ain't doin' the album, I'm not gon' do an album." So we did the Family Ties. My son wasn't rappin' then. He was more a producer then. He was very sharp. He switched up on me, but he was so sharp. He was like, "No, the producers get the money. I'ma be behind the scenes. I'm takin' care of the business." So he did a lot of the beats on there and he's actually not rappin' on no songs on there. That's just me and Goldie.

    I mean, I've got stories. We went on tour. I've got hours and hours of footage of stuff when we went on tour. Down south, after Hurricane Katrina, in 2004, 2005, we went on tour. Just promotin', gettin' out, doin' things. And we actually had some momentum but things, people, you know, when you see anybody, any group, that's been together for a long time, you gotta commend that because it's real hard to get a group of individuals to focus and actually meet a goal. So that whole situation ended up goin' down the drain. I ended up busting a u-turn at Texas and came back home. That pretty much ended Family Ties.

After that, you released the Team B.A.M.M album, which featured a lot of tracks with Otherwize. Was Otherwize ever a part of By Any Means Music?

    He wasn't really a part of By Any Means Music. He was just part of that project. I was livin' in Palmdale at the time and he was up there and our goal was to make an album in one day. That was the goal. We challenged ourselves because we had two different producers. We had more, but me and my son were the main producers. I dealt with hardware. He dealt with software. He done the Fruity Loop thing. I did the MPC thing. So he's in one room. I'm in one room. Everybody's writin'. The house is crazy. People doin' this, doin' that. We ended up gettin', I don't know, six or seven songs done. And, you know, I started thinkin' it was a bad idea. Later, a guy from New York came out who supposedly did an album in one day. We was ahead of the game on a lot of stuff. If you listen to the freestyle on Patterson Park, we got a freestyle called "Alphabetical Slaughter" and Papoose ended up making a thing like way, way later. So a lot of stuff I see going down in the underground circuit, whether it was the Project Blowed, the Good Life, Straight Off the Streets Productions, By Any Means Music. You know, we did it, we just didn't have the backing to get to that level.

    And I think about that all the time. What I'm doing and everything I've done thus far has been out of my pocket and out of my grind and out of my hustle. I've never had, really, besides Freddy Fred, and even in that situation I paid for the studio time. I actually paid him, still, to do beats for me and everything. So all of this stuff was me and a lot of the knowledge was me and my intuition and, like I say, my hustle! And I always think, "Man, If I did all of that and for whatever the quality is, or however good it came out, just imagine what that would sound like if I had a chance to be with a producer, with a Kanye West, a DJ Premier, a Dr. Dre, a Timbaland, or anybody!" I've never had that. One time, with Family Ties, I was in a real studio 'cause I had some money and we had to take it somewhere else to get mixed 'cause the guy was trippin'. But I would love to do that. Hopefully one day I can have a budget. Somebody who says, you know, "This guy's good. Let's do it right," you know? But I've never had that opportunity. But I never let that stop me 'cause if I did, where would I be at? If I said, "I'ma wait until I get a deal," nothing I've ever done would be anything! It wouldn't exist!

In 2011 you released Suicide Note, which is a pretty unique album in your catalogue. Was that album inspired by stuff you were going through in your real life?

    Part of everything I do is life. If you listen to the actual song "Evolution of a Man" I talk about putting the gun to my head. "I put the gun to my head and ask the Lord why was I ever born." A lot of thoughts come in my head, like everybody else, but the thing is do you act on those thoughts? I mean, I would never act on it. All of the suicide that was goin' on, and that whole album, to be honest, is not what I intended. It's part of what I intended, but when I hooked up with a guy - I actually did get a little help on that one - and he thought it was too dark. I wanted to make an album that you would be scared to listen to by yourself. But I was persuaded to not go that route. It ended up being a lot lighter. Even the album cover. The album cover I had, they was like, "No, you can't do that." My album cover was gonna be crazy!

That's a shame. That'd be cool to hear an album like that from you.

Yeah, the album cover I had in mind was gonna be, like if you look down at it, you see a skull, and stickin' up through the mouth of the skull (laughs) is a double barrel shotgun, and the head was blown out, but lookin' out through the skull you can see the hand on the desk writing [a suicide note]. So I had a cold, cold album cover, and even when I did the bear, which I pretty much jacked that from the internet and had a friend add some blood and stuff, but I got a friend, he's like Snoop Dogg, he's a pimp, and he called me up, like, [in Snoop voice] "Hey man, I like your music but you cannot have that album cover. My ladies, they sleep with a teddy bear! How can you do this to the teddy bear?" (laughs) But he had me rollin'. He had an issue with me cuttin' the teddy bear's head off. 

Your most recent project Old Dog New Tricks featured Konvick, Medusa, Mister CR and Ellay Khule among others. Was that an album or more of a mixtape?

    It started out as a mixtape but when you go to sell it, it's an album so I look at it like - people tell me, when I said it was a mixtape, "Man, that's an album." Like, okay, it's an album. Whatever you wanna call it. But yeah, once again, that started out as a concept of me embracing the old. Like, yeah, I'm old but I've got some new tricks. You know, I can still do what's happenin'. I've done shows and when I'm finished I get the young people tellin' me, "Man, I can't believe you that old and doin' this and rappin' like that." And the older people be like, "Man, you motivate me. I was gonna quit but you inspired me." So I get that and I like that, I appreciate that.

    But yeah, I downloaded a lot of the beats. If I really, really liked the song I went ahead and bought it. So some of 'em don't have the tags on 'em. The one with me, Medusa and Konvick, we recorded that at Medusa's house in Leimert Park. I think I had the verse done and I had the beat and Medusa came up with the hook. I had some part of it but she added her flavour to it. Then Konvick threw his part on there. Rifleman and CR, we recorded that at Rifleman's house. You know, I had a little mac laptop and a mic and I would just take that around, if I had to. I think pretty much most of it I did in Palmdale. I had a real nice studio up there.

    My brother really likes that one, the guy who got me into rap. He called me two days ago like, "Man, what're you doing with that Old Dog New Tricks? I think that's your best album!" I deal with that a lot too. People sayin' I'm not doin' it right. Man, I'm doin' everything I can do! A lot of these people are not even in the game. I got an open ear to what they sayin'. I'm not saying just because they're not in the game they don't know what the hell they talkin' about. But they don't know I already did that and I'm still doin' that. But with my brother, I'm like "Man, I did that in 2013." He like, "I be playin' your CD again. Why you ain't doin' this? Why you ain't doin' that?" I'm doin' all of that! Some of what they askin' I can't do!

And Old Dog New Tricks 2 is coming out soon?

    Yeah, I was just playin' it in the car. I think I have about fourteen songs. I got a song called "Dreams." I think I put one on Youtube called "Hear My Story." It's about my life, about how my father was abusive, about me getting beat up in New York, running away to Baltimore. So it's about those three cities: New York, Baltimore and L.A. New York was the abuse of my father. L.A. was the gangbangin'. This was the murder capital! L.A. was crazy! Me and my friend were talkin' the other day and he was sayin', "Man, this was the wild west!" It was a whole different mentality. It was a different code of rules. A lot of people are doin' stuff that would've got 'em killed back then, and that's good. I'm glad it's not like that anymore. But some people doin' stuff that would've got their cap peeled. Baltimore, when I lived there, the house I ran away to was full of war vets and some of them had been in a mental institution called Crownsville 'cause they was war vets, they were traumatized and this, that and the other. So I had moments back then where uncles tried to stab me. I had uncles stab up my cousins, my sisters. I woke up one night and my cousin had a mirror and they stabbed him in the head with a mirror. I woke up one night and my uncle was standing over me with an axe. There were shootings and everything. So for me to be who I am and as cool as I am I think that's good considering all I've been through. I sold heron in New York was I was twelve. My brother, a half brother, had me selling heron. You know, I did it for a little bit. And I think about it and it's like, man, that's not cool. Gettin' your little brother to sell heron.

    So I've been through a lot. I've been through the gangbanging, hustling, selling drugs, violence and at the same time I used to walk alone. I always walked alone. New York had gangs. The Black Spades, The Peacemakers. They had different gangs in New York. Baltimore had gangs. The Marshall Gang. L.A., the Crips, the Boods, the this, the that. I never joined a gang. I've also been solo bolo for the most part. And I'm not a tough guy or nothin' but I'm a thorough dude and I pretty much go where I wanted to go, do what I do and pretty much never had any problems. I had more problems out of family and friends, the people that supposed to love you. I get more disrespect and more things outta them than killers (laughs).

The last thing I wanted to ask you - we kind of touched on it already - but what's planned for the future?

    The thing about being an artist is I have million damn ideas in my head. I got concepts and everything. But I stay with my roommate now and some of his characteristics aren't that cool but then some of the things that I think aren't that cool, I'm starting to understand why he's that way because I've spent a lot time rippin' and runnin', doin' all this in hip-hop. And it's taken it's toll on me physically. It's taken money. It's taken time. It's not bein' able to sleep. And he don't want me to stop. He's just tellin' me to slow down so I'm startin' to listen to him and I'm starting to see some of the stuff he does. So I wanted finish up Old Dog New Tricks 2. And I have to stay focused, 'cause I'll be all over the place. But If I ever had a budget, I'd make some shit work. I could definitely do a lot especially if I didn't have to be a one man army, you know, trying to be Mr. Everything. But if I'm not Mr. Everything it won't be anything.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Evolution of a Man: An Interview with Imperator (Part 1)

Evolution of a Man

    Steven Laws, the Imperator of Rhyme, is a Good Life O.G. and CEO of By Any Means Music. He's been rapping since hip-hop's infancy and continues to record music today. In part one of this interview, Imp and I discuss his early history, the Good Life, Rick Konvick, and his first studio album Evolution of a Man. Stayed tuned for part two, where Imp speaks on battling Eminem, some of his more recent albums and his plans for the future.

On "Why We Do This" you describe first hearing your brother rap in '79 and being inspired to get into hip-hop. Can you talk about that?

    My first experience with rap music - I was sittin' on the steps in Baltimore. I was living in Baltimore. I ran away from New York. You know, I had an abusive father so I ran away when I was 12 years old. And in 1979, not long after I ran away, my brother had come down for Memorial Day. And I was sittin' on - Baltimore has row houses - and I was sittin' on the marble steps - the stoop, we called it the stoop - with this girl named Nookie. What's up, Nookie! I actually see her on Facebook still to this day. And we saw my brother on top of my grandfather's trunk, just movin' around, bobbin' around and people start gatherin' around! And I'm sittin' with this girl, and she's like, "What is your brother doing?" So I was like, "I don't know. Let's go see." So we go over there, and he was doing a lot of old school rhymes. He's doin' "I was walkin' down the street with a joint in my hand/ I blaze it up here with my man/ I took a hit, maybe three or four/ and then I fell into a door/ they was jammin' hard in this discotech/ I paid to see, I said 'what the heck?'" Y'know, he was saying a lot of old school rhymes. Now mind you, I had heard no rap music. Nobody in Baltimore, to my knowledge, had heard rap music, at least in my vicinity. I was in east Baltimore. So I'm like "wow!" I'm blown away. I mean, he's literally standin' on the top of my grandfather's trunk, all these people standin' around. This is in 1979.

    So when he was finished, I was amazed. I mean, this is my brother! He was down from New York. He was visiting. And, like I said, I had ran away from New York. So we get to talkin' and I'm after what it is and he tellin' me, "It's rap music. This is what we doing in New York." So, I'm like, "Okay, keep sayin' your raps to me!" He was only there for three or four days, the Memorial Weekend. So, you know, he kept repeatin' his rhymes to me and by the time he left, I had memorized his raps. So once he left, I'm runnin' around, I took his name and everything. He called himself DJ Flame. So I took his name and everything, I'm walking around, saying his raps, using his name. Then some months later "Rapper's Delight" came out. And some people were knockin' at my door like, "Your brother's on the radio!" So they thought it was my brother. But I'm like, "Nah, that's not my brother." That was pretty much my initiation getting into the rap game.

    From that point, I ended up moving to California. Like I said, I had a real abusive father. He ran a lot of people away, from physically beatin' us. So my mother had left. So I get a call, I might've been down there in Baltimore for maybe a year, but my mother calls me and she's like, "Hey, I'm in California. You wanna come to California?" And I'm like, "Yeah!" So I moved to California. Once I got out to California, I think my brother ended up coming out here too, so we stayed together. And I hooked up with Wiz Wonder. He stayed across the street. He was a white guy but he lived in the hood.

That's the guy who produced "Grooving", right?

    He definitely did the first "Grooving" then we ended up hooking up with Battlecat, and me, him and Battlecat redid it again. And Wiz Wonder, if you look into it, he started a group called Blak Forest which had a few different emcees in it. So me and Wiz, we grew up on Browning Blvd. and DJ Quik actually, I didn't know, but he actually lived on the street. If you listen to his raps he'll say Browning in 'em. But we called ourselves the Boulevard Crew. We started doing stuff together. You know, he had records, he was a DJ, way back then. So we'd make little raps and stuff. Some of that stuff is gone. I don't think I have too much of what we did. I have a couple but we had a lot and we did a lot of stuff, and going back east, I had one cassette and I was passing it around and somebody tore it up, hating on it. So that got lost and I don't think he has it either.

    At that point, by that time, I had started writing. So I started off biting my brother's stuff, repeating his stuff, but pretty much in L.A. is when I started writing. And I started writing more about what was going on. Obviously my brother was my first and primary influence, but after that I would say, like, Melle Mel, you know, "The Message." I was on some more political stuff. I was on party stuff. Count Coolout and Super Rhymes, they were similar rappers. Super Rhymes was actually a rapper called Jimmy Spicer. So I would kinda see what these guys had goin' on.

    The west coast hadn't really made a lot of noise at that point. Later, I think, Toddy Tee was one of the early people who came out. He made a song called, "Batterram." And then we get up into that era when the crack had hit in L.A. So me bein' in L.A., not long after, a couple years later, that's when the crack had got real crazy out here in L.A. That's when the streets were dangerous. We had the murder capital out here. And I got caught up in the hustlin' and selling drugs. And I would take the money I made to buy different things, so Wiz could make some beats, to do this, to do that. You know, he had things on his own but I contributed to a few. You know, I would find a drum machine or something like that. So Wiz pretty much was doin' my stuff and my rhymes went from political to more talkin' about stuff in the streets. I was talkin' about the cocaine. A lot of things are lost. I still remember the raps, but the recordings are gone. I won't ever get those unless some miracle happens and someone has a tape.

Is Old School Vibes pretty much all you have from that time?

    I have to check my computer and I have a few cassettes I have to go through. I think have a few other things, but from that era, pretty much, me and Wiz, you know, we did a lot of stuff together but I've just lost so much stuff, loaning stuff to people, never getting it back or it getting destroyed or something.

You recently posted a picture on Facebook of you with Kool Moe Dee. Is there a story behind that?  

    Oh, yeah! They had a radio station called KDAY - they actually still have it - but it was on AM back then and they were the ones who played rap music. I won their last rap contest they had before they went off the air, and Kool Moe Dee was the judge of who would be the winner. That was in North Carolina. I won, I dunno, I won a thousand dollars, a trip to Washington, D.C., a year supply of hair supplies (laughs), so it was fun. Meetin' these people, going to BET, that was actually Rap City that did that. The Mayor, he was the host. I think I do have video footage of that. I won for L.A., not the overall contest. My song was "Forty Acres in a Mule", you know, a positive black thing. I think the brother that won was from North Carolina and I was feelin' his rap, his swagger and everything. I've always been like, "Listen what I'm sayin'." It took me a while to even be that concerned with the beat. I always was so concerned about what they were sayin' and what's the message. Most people, first thing they like is the beat, then the hook, then the swag. So if you got swag and you have a cool style, they don't care what you sayin'. And that's not my angle.

So you were at the Good Life pretty much from day one?

    Yeah, in the 80's, at that point, after Wiz, I stumbled upon the Good Life. I was at a park. Once again, it was KDAY. It was a lot easier to get on the radio back then. It's virtually impossible now, unless you're on a major label or somethin'. Back then, you kinda could. They kinda felt that if you're a rapper you can come and perform and they'll give you a little airplay, stuff like that. So I was actually performing for KDAY at a park one day - I think it was with X-Clan - and Sonny Carson, he was the manager of X-Clan [and Professor X's father]. I used to run around with Macadoshis. He rapped with 2Pac. He's still a good friend of mine. So me and him hung out all the time and we was at a park called Marcus Garvey and they were having a rap show and I think KDAY put me down to perform. And I met Sonny Carson. He was a gangbanger from New York but he changed his life. They made a movie about him called The Education of Sonny Carson. So he ended up being a manager for X-Clan. So, when I'm performing I meet Sonny Carson and he told me, "Come up to Hollywood and hang out with us." So me and Macadoshis went up there and, you know, some of the brothers wasn't feeling us, but Sonny was feeling us. So once we get to talkin', he found out who my father was and he told me my father used to look out for him when he was a kid so he really felt like he wanted to help me out. This was Sonny Carson! So we had a good bond, had a couple drinks and we ended up walking down Hollywood Blvd. singin', "No Justice! No Peace! No Justice! No Peace!" There was a shooting, the police killed somebody or something. So we walkin' down Hollywood Blvd. We marched all the way to this club. And he was teaching me about the game. He said, "Whenever you go to perform, soon as you get on stage you get your money before you start singin' or rappin' or anything."  So that was real cool that he knew my father. I think he ended up passing away.

    But you were askin' me about the Good Life. So that same day, someone gave me a flyer. I think it was Rod (aka Arcane Blaze). B. Hall and Rod are the people who did the Good Life and I believe he gave me a flyer to come to Underground Radio 'cause that's what it was called. Once again, I say on my Evolution of a Man album, the Good Life is a health food venue and the event was actually called Underground Radio or Underground Railroad - it was one of 'em. And when I first went there, it'd be two or three people in there initially and then it started to grow. I ended up being a soundman at some points, I brought my sound system, I was security (laughs). I was real versatile. I did whatever I had to do. I'd be the host. Then it went to bein' packed in there. I think that was more toward the late 80's, like '88 or something like that.

I was a big fan of your Digging in the Tapes mixes. Have you ever thought of doing a third one?

    I recently thought about doing it again. My situation isn't that good right now. So I'm kinda in a transition of regrouping and getting my life together. That's why I haven't been doing much and doin' stuff like that. Once I get more situated, where I'm a bit more comfortable. You know, I got a gang of studio equipment and it's in storage, you know, so I need to get situated first before I can get set up and start taking care of business again. I mean, I would love to do that again. I've lost a lot of cassettes and tapes and videos. So much stuff is just gone. I remember one time I had got frustrated and I had stories I had wrote, raps I had wrote and I had a trash bag that was full of raps and everything and I dunno, it was some things I was going through with my spouse back then, and I was just frustrated like, "It ain't gonna work", or whatever and I put all that shit on the grill and I damn near cried. But I burned all that shit up, man. It was stuff I wrote when I was a kid, when I was like twelve or thirteen. I was like, "This shit ain't..." and I regret that, man.

You posted a really dope Konvick track recently. I've heard about a "Konvick tape" and I read Ab Rude say Konvick recorded an album with Punish. Do you have any info about that?

    Konvick has a ton of music! Yeah, Konvick, rest in peace, was a friend of mine. He's been recording for a while. Volume 10 gave him his name, the name Konvick. His real name was a Richard Abdullah. So people just call him Rick, Rick Konvick, very few people call him Richard. But he was a heavyweight, man. I told Konvick before that I consider him the west coast Biggie. I've recorded him, I've done beats for him. Konvick was dope. He had that voice, he had them vintage stories, when he was rapping, all his thug stuff, his gangster stuff, you know, that was true! That was him! We sat and talked, you know, I can't share them stories (laughs). But he definitely has a lot of music. Rifleman probably has a bunch of Konvick stuff, Freddy Fred probably has some stuff, I have some stuff.

Speaking of Freddy Fred, he produced most of Evolution of a Man. Can you talk about recording that album?

    Lemme give you a story on Freddy Fred. I was at a copy place, gettin' some copies made and I knew the guy doin' the copies. He had a store. And Freddy Fred came in there sayin' he was having an audition for rappers that night. So my homeboy introduced me to Freddy Fred. He was lookin' for a rapper to produce. He had this studio in Hollywood he had rented. So I said, "Yeah, I'll come through." He had maybe about ten to twelve different rappers and he was playin' beats. Everybody was just rapping, takin' their turn. There was no structure. And Freddy Fred had some people and I guess it was unanimous and he said, "Everybody said I should produce you." So that's how that ended up startin'.

    The thing with me and Freddy Fred, we had different visions. He had an idea about what he wanted to do and I had an idea about what I wanted to do. And I'm from New York. I'm an aggressor. If I'm trying to do something, I'm not trying to sit around and wait for somebody to do something. I'ma get up and get out and try to make it happen. So Freddy Fred, the label he had was Piranha Records. He had a cold logo. It was a piranha fish with an afro with an afro pick in his head. It was a cold logo. And maybe I was wrong, but he was tellin' me, "Imp, you're doing a lot of stuff and we gon' get a label to do that. You don't need to do that." I was makin' t-shirts. I was makin' flyers. I was makin' CDs. And he thought that was hurting the brand, putting stuff out that's not top notch quality. But I was like, "Man, people gotta hear this." So that didn't end our friendship but it ended me being on Pirahna Records. I was more aggressive and he was more wait for some big money.

    So we went into the studio. Wiz used to work at a studio out there so they gave him love and let him do something and we recorded damn near that whole album out there. It was a gang of weed, a gang of beer. I mostly drink, at a certain age I don't really mess with the weed, but I drink. But we had a good time recordin' that stuff. Rifleman came through, P.E.A.C.E. from Freestyle Fellowship - he's the one singin' on "Trust No Man." Volume 10, that song we did, we did that at his house. A few songs I didn't do there. I just thought Freddy Fred was a dope producer. He always had a remix. You would finish up a song - that's why "The Realness" had a remix, and "Go with Me" had a remix and I think he had a couple more but you'd think the song was done and Freddy Fred be like, "No, no, give me the keyboard" and he would add something else. I really like that. I really appreciate him for what he did.

You seem like you've always been business minded and had DIY approach. Before By Any Means Music you had Straight Off the Streets Productions. Have you always wanted to run a label?

    That's just pretty much understanding that I have to be a label. You have to understand, put it like this, when I started recording, when I would go to the studios, they was tellin' me I was old. When I was 20... 21. Even then they were telling me, "You old. Why you trying to rap? This is a young boy's game." Like, when I was recording "Forty Acres and a Mule" I really remember the guys at the studio that was tellin' me why was I tryin' to rap, "You too old to rap." I went through that at the Good Life. I used to battle P.E.A.C.E., Rifleman, quite a few rappers. I would sit down and rappers would get up and diss me, and I would get up and diss all of them. I would battle. That's one thing I was known for at the Good Life, was battling. 'Cause number one, I was being hated on 'cause I was from New York. And I wasn't boasting and braggin' I was from New York, it was my accent! I never joined a gang. I always walked alone. So in that environment, I had to deal with that. "Oh, you old school. You old." I'm dealing with this shit from the rappers and the professionals. So here I am, much older now! But I'm still doin' my thing.

    Lemme tell you a story. I sold a guy the Old School Vibes tape, right? Way back. This is at the Good Life. And months later, he came back and he told me, he said, "Man, that cassette was wack as fuck! I want my $5 back!" I was like, "Cool." I ain't trippin', you know. I'm a humble person. I'm not no punk or nothin' like that but I don't like trouble and problems, so I said, "Okay, give me the tape." He says, "I ain't got the tape. I threw the motherfucker away!" Now we got a problem. I said, "Man, you better get out my damn face, you know what I'm sayin'? If you had the tape I would'a gave you the $5 back," but it was like months later, after I sold it to him. Boom, turn around, and I see him at the Project Blowed. Now the Good Life started before the Project Blowed so this was after. So I see him and he raps and gets booed off stage! He had the nerve to talk about me and they booed him straight off the stage.

    So I embrace it. That's why I say old school. When I put Old Dog New Tricks out, a lotta people said, "Don't say old. If you say old, nobody gonna want to buy it. People don't like to hear old." But I said, "Fuck that! I'ma do what I'ma do!" So I call my shit Old School Vibes, I have Old Dog New Tricks and I got Old Dog New Tricks 2. I got about fourteen songs demoed and they've been demo for so long. I just was in the car playin' 'em, and I was like, "I gotta finish this joint." And after that, I just need to sit back figure out what I'm doing, where I'm goin'. You know, I made a beat last night for the first time in two years...

Check out part two here.