Designer or Street Clothes?

“Uhh. Street, street clothes.”

Live On The Road or Live On The Road II [Ali records]?

“Live On The Road Two.”

Meek Mill or Ar-AB?

“Man. I fuck with both of em’, you know what I’m saying… But obviously Meek got better music, he’s a rapper, he has better records. He hustled way longer, put in way more work, put out way more mixtapes, you know what I’m saying? He’s got great music and shit, but I fucks with Ar-Ab too. Like, they both go hard but Meek is a little more, ya know, he’s out there, like he’s got more global records, like his shit; it travels you know what I’m saying? But Ar-Ab definitely got some bangers and shit but, musically I gotta say Meek you know what I’m saying? But I fucks with Ar-Ab, don’t get me wrong.”

Gangster of Conscious?

“What’s like Illmatic? Is that conscious?”

That is split down the middle.

“Yeah, I like split down the middle shit, I like the people that really just talking about what they around, not really like gangster or not conscious. I don’t really like conscious hip-hop, like, I like it, I just like for real, people spittin’ what they really see you know what I’m saying? Just real life rap.”

Touring or Home?

“Touring.”

The School or The Streets?

“The streets.”

Now these two are total different spectrums, that’s why I wanted to know your answer… The Weeknd or Extendos [Ali records]?

“The Weeknd.”

Blunts or Papers?

“Blunts.”

Foreigns or Classics?

“Classics for sure.”

The Stage or The Studio?

“The studio.”

When I spoke to a friend of mine, a young crazy talented Philly emcee- Ler Stevens, the first thing he mentioned about you is how you continue to represent the town. Growing up in Philly how has that effected and shaped your craft?

“It just, it just, ya know, like, just where I’m from always has a special place, like, the whole city and like just seeing the hood part – growing up in the hood, and then going-chillin’ in nice parts and like, you know what I’m saying? Seeing all the different sides of my city, just so that you can really talk about where you come from and rep the city in a good way. Like, that’s what I did, like, you know what I’m saying? Get all the people in the hood and then all the people really, in whole Philadelphia to start knowing your shit you know what I’m saying? Just two different sides, you know what I’m saying? It’s really like a historic place but it’s hood too. It’s like two different things. Like seeing all the nice shit, Benjamin Franklin-that nice shit and the mansions and shit, and just the hood where they didn’t even know that shit even existed.”

What does the Kamikazz Festival mean to you?

“That was just like ya know, it means a lot to me. Cuz’ it was like the first, basically like the first, first real show, like ever. Like you know what I’m saying? Then I felt like, like that shit, that shit really just sparked everything off, like basically almost kind of put me on in a way. Like, the first show ever was crazy, it was packed, it was a crazy experience for me cuz’ I never even been out the hood before doin’ a show before, then I’m at a festival in some other city. Just turnt’, after parties, all these people sayin’ they fuck with my music you know what I’m saying? Like ‘this shit all really just started.’ So that shit meant a lot, that shit was just crazy. Then I went back the next year, it was just like, something I was connected to-that shit.”

Is Eighteen your ‘Illmatic’ or just a hardbody way to start?

“It’s just a hardbody way I started ya know?”

If at all, how has your style changed since then? And more importantly, your mindstate towards the game?

“At first it was just like, I was just fresh into it, I was doing it, you know what I’m saying? And I just did it cuz’ I always fucked with it. Then once you get into the industry and shit, you know what I’m saying, you start working with people and then like, it just fucks everything up… Cuz’ then like you realize this game ain’t really what you thought you was gettin’ into, cuz’ you was just doing it for the music and then it became all like fake people and like people that work with you that not really on your side, like all types of shit like that. All types of snake shit and it’s just fucked up, and now my mindset, it’s just, just most straight forward, I’m not really you know what I’m saying, like tryna’ be talking to people and shit like that. But my styles still the same, I’m still tryna’ make bangers, still working with DJ Grumble still working with all the same people, inspiration coming from the same place, you know what I’m saying? That’s just how it is you know what I’m saying?”

You have worked with Shwayze, did a whole EP with Cisco Adler, Terrell Jobs and the legendary Statik Selektah, has anyone in specific influenced you the most?

“That I worked with? Uhm, I definitely fuck with Shwayze. He’s definitely a real one you know what I’m saying? The whole time working with him, it was all organic, it was real, it wasn’t no fake shit like how people want to like send the record through on email or not even tell you they puttin’ it out or something like that. It was just genuine, linked up, worked, you know what I’m saying? Just kicked it the whole day you know what I’m saying? Just mobbin, went to the studio, all that, it was just organic you know what I’m saying? And I felt like a lot of people ain’t really real like that. So I definitely fuck with him you know what I’m saying? That shit inspired me to just keep doing my shit, going hard independent, cuz I know I can, really just do it on my own and make it so… that’s cool you know what I’m saying? I really, I fuck with that nigga.”

What does it mean to have a Keystone State of Mind?

“It just means like, ya know, if you from out there, you know what I’m saying, where I’m from, the streets, like Philly and put out this music and like have all these people, hitting you up from like, you know, all these different cities in PA you know what I’m saying? Just saying they rock with your music. Keystone is like in the middle of the heart that holds all the other shit together you know. It’s just like damn, I felt like, coming from where I’m from, everybody really got that mindstate that they gotta stay in the hood. But if you tryna make it out, and you’s grindin’ everyday, just you know what I’m saying, going wherever you wanna go, doing whatever you wanna do, just like travelin’ and all that, that’s just what it is. That’s what I feel like it is. Just like somebody from PA that’s just making it out you know what I’m saying? That’s what it is right there. But it don’t gotta be PA, it can really be from anywhere.”

The Hi Tech mixtape dropped this week, in a couple of days, how do you feel about the response?

“It’s good you know what I’m saying? Obviously a lot of people is gonna hate on it cuz’ you know what I’m saying, in the beginning, I just made some music that I fucks with, got some hip-hop records. Obviously I fuck with hip-hop shit like, so I got some like, real die hard like… I went on tour with Logic, shit got some little kid ass, weird ass fans and shit so… Obviously they gonna hate when I put out some turnt up shit for the streets, for where I come from. But all the people that fuck with me, all the people from where I come from fuck with it. And everybody fuck with it. If they would really listen to it, they would no it’s not like a trap mixtape. If they actually listen to what I am saying… But they don’t come from where I come from, they don’t live that lifestyle they not gonna understand it so… it’s just not for them, you know? But it’s good, a lot of people been fuckin with it. It’s good, it’s not over, like the response still gon’ be coming for the next couple weeks you know what I’m saying? So it will be a lot of shit. Videos coming and all that shit so… they fucking with it for sure though. Out here in LA, I’m out here right now, a lot of people fuck with it out and here and shit, ya know?”

I fuck with it. I can tell you are going for a different side, a more party side and a more thug side.

“It ain’t even going for that, it’s just, I’m basically making the music I always wanted to make… I remember back in the day like I would be around with ‘Visionary’ and shit and they’d really tell me like “damn don’t come to your block and shoot this video”, like we were shooting for Keystone State of Mind and they tellin’ the director, “don’t go to Tayyib’s block, don’t go to the projects.” You know what I’m saying? Even though I got on from Keystone and shit, I feel like, niggas really didn’t see where I really came from, people really didn’t know so people would see the videos thinkin’ I’m some backpack type of nigga, or just some nigga on some college shit when it’s really like… I really dropped out of high school you know what I mean? I never went to college you know what I’m saying? So that’s really what ‘Hi Tech’ is. Like, making the shit that I wanna make you know what I’m saying? Shit that I fuck with, my reality. Just my like, my real life.”

Tell me, what are studio drugs?

“It’s whatever you prefer, it’s like whatever you want to make you chill or whatever, to vibe or whatever in the studio you know what I’m saying? It could be anything. It don’t even gotta be like drugs you know what I’m saying? My type is different from others, it could be like candy or something you know what I’m saying? Niggas go into the studio and have like mad sour patch kids, like snack and shit, like pizza and just some niggas need drugs and other type of stuff and some niggas don’t need nothin’.”

Who are you signed to?

“To Steve Rifkind and Russell Simmons. All Def Digital.”

You released the single ‘Do It’ (Popularly KA High School Dropout) to ITunes over a year ago. When can we expect that real, physical copies made, pay to own, debut studio album from you?

“Shit, whenever they wanna put it out. You gotta ask them. They put out ‘High School Dropout’, I didn’t put out High School Dropout. They put that out, you know, on ITunes, I didn’t put that out. I didn’t even know that was on ITunes.”

-So you didn’t pick that to be a single?

“No they signed me for that song, so that was already like my single, like you know? That’s why it was re-released. Shit, whenever they wanna stop bullshittin’ you know what I’m saying? Then my fans can get that studio album, but I feel like the reason why my fans haven’t got that album is cuz they just fuckin’ up, like, they should have got the album last year you know what I’m saying? The album should have been out. I wouldn’t have even dropped Ali or Hi Tech I just dropped that cuz like, I’m not really fuckin’ with the label. I just drop my own shit if they don’t wanna release my shit. I’m just gonna drop it myself.”

-Were you planning on dropping Ali or Hi Tech as albums or were they meant to be mixtapes?

“I didn’t send it as an album cuz like, basically if I am signed to a label, I’m not gonna make all this music in my own studio, workin, when they not givin’ me nothin’. I make all this music on my own time, I’m not gonna send it to them, when I got signed for a whole record deal. I can be in all different types of studios, working with different producers cuz I’m signed, so like they not gonna get no music from me like as an album unless they give me that studio budget. If they don’t really keep the contract, I don’t know. That’s how it is. I sent this shit to them, I just didn’t send it as an album cuz I felt like there is no reason I should have to do that, you know? This is shit I made, they didn’t help me with that.”

-What are the clauses to your contract?

“It’s just a one album thing. Then they got like the option to like you know, might re-do it after the next one, to do another album. That album was supposed to include High School Dropout, that was the whole thing you know what I’m saying? That shit never… never even started working on the album. To me that is just bad label work. That’s just them just lying to their artists just saying “I’mma’ sign you, give you an advance.” Then you got this, you know what I’m saying, blah blah blah- album budget but you’re just never gonna’ work on the album, it’s just like you become signed to them. You just gotta like… gotta separate yourself, like, you know, after you see niggas ain’t doing it, you gotta drop your own shit. So I separate myself. So nigga know, my fans gonna know, obviously Tayyib not fuckin’ with them if he dropping his own shit and they not promoting it or nothin’.”

-But you are still involved in that situation. ‘Do It’ (Popularly KA High School Dropout) was over a year ago, so obviously that can’t be a fresh single on an album. It’s almost got a million views on YouTube, it’s been a long time.

“Yeah but that was the second video for Do It by the way you know what I’m saying? The joint came out four years ago. That was the revamp. They saw the video and heard the song and was like “damn, lets sign you for this song and make a real video”. The other video had more views than that one has now. It’s bigger independent, like I’ve been doing this shit, I’ve already done bigger without them, you know what I’m saying?”

-Yeah, your catalogue on DatPiff and independently is definitely bigger than your ‘signed work’.

“Exactly. All the videos would have been there and shit but bitch ass Visionary deleted that shit. I had like five videos on YouTube and one day I just look and they just wasn’t there no more.(Laughs)” 

-You still got a decent amount of videos up.

“Yeah I got a decent amount. You know one of my videos says it’s out on Def Jam. If you look at Live On The Road it say’s out on Def Jam, so I gotta figure that shit out. I never talked to Def Jam before.”

20-30 years from now, what is a hip-hop head going to tell his son or daughter about the veteran Ali?

“Shit I don’t know what they gon’ tell em. I can’t predict the future, but hopefully something good. Ya know, probably some like, cool shit. I don’t know what I’m gonna put out in the next ten years so like I cant tell what they gon’ say in 30 years.”

Any last things you wanna put down for your fans and the listeners?

“Shit, be expecting some more new shit dropping soon. You already know.”

But still no word on a studio album?

“No word on the album but that shit don’t even matter to me. Yeah, my mixtapes are an album. Everything is already original so like, I already put out albums you know, they just free. But when I think I have enough people to buy like a hundred thousand of them, then I’ll drop the studio album, you feel me? I’m not really worried about selling my music, I don’t really care about that type of shit. I’m just making good music cuz I love it you know what I’m saying? I don’t care about a studio album, I’m already in the studio.”

Published by Ryan Klingenberg

Ryan 'Hip-Hop Hercules' Klingenberg is a writer based out of Long Island, New York.

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