Before hooking up with Ludacris, Lil Scrappy was trying to become his own mogul in 2009. In this detailed interview, he broke down his master plan for success.
Just a little over five years into his career, Atlanta’s Lil Scrappy has experienced much success in Hip-Hop. The young MC came into the game with a co-sign from super-producer Lil Jon, reaching gold success on the Kings of Crunk compilation. From there, Scrappy partnered with 50 Cent to drop his Top 20, 2006 debut Bred 2 Die, Born 2 Live.
Dissatisfied with the lack of support from major label Warner Bros, Scrappy secured his release and founded his very own label G’$ Up Records. Early plans were delayed when the rapper was stabbed in a July 2008 domestic dispute involving his sister’s boyfriend, and subsequently arrested for felony possession of marijuana, battery of an officer, and possession of a firearm/knife. Now back on track and living up to the perseverance his name implies, Lil Scrappy outlines plans for an ambitious 2009, starting with the February 24 release of Silence and Secrecy (Black Rag Gang).
Ismael AbduSalaam: It’s been two years since your last project, which is a lifetime in Hip-Hop. What has been going on with you professionally and personally in preparation for the new LP this month?
Scrappy: Generally just getting my mind right. I [had] to get off the old label I was on, Warner Bros. I was making hits but they weren’t putting nothing out. If your record label is not behind it, then no one else will [be]. So why am I on a record label? I can be fucked up by myself. I was kinda cool with the label dudes [and] we reached an agreement. [They told me] I don’t know want to do with you, but I’m sure there’s someone out there who can handle just straight up Hip-Hop. I come as I am, that’s how I market myself. I’m a real emotional type of rapper. I make real music. After that all I had to work was work on my music, my group, and get Diamond from Crime Mob together. She got an album coming [too].
Ismael: Mentioning the major label experience, you were blessed in your first two albums to work with an all-star cast that a lot of artists don’t see over their whole career. How have those collaborations and close relationships with people like 50 Cent and Lil Jon helped you approach the CEO position you now hold?
Scrappy: Jon and 50 have good work ethics. When I first came in the game I was already a workaholic. And being around Jon being that he’s a perfectionist it makes you step up the product. Jon always said, “After its out, its out.” I’ve brought Jon 60 songs before, and when he heard “No Problems” he said, “That’s the one.” He’s very confident.
With 50, [his advice] would be I can’t tell you what to say, but keep in mind some of it has to be radio friendly. He showed me that don’t make the process too hard. It’s our life and what we do. He’s another workaholic to make you be like, Damn! He showed me how to be a businessman.
Ismael: You’ve already revealed two members on your crew in Young Vet and Pooh Baby. How many people are in the crew and a part of your new label G’$ Up?
Scrappy: It’s just a mixture. Everybody already knows about Atlanta. You got Pooh Baby from the Eastside and Decatur. Young Vet holding down Marietta. He brings a new whole swag to the game. And with Scrappy I’m going to give you everything. We got something for the D-boys, players, bitches, for everybody.
Ismael: Who are some of the producers on the new album?
Scrappy: Off the top Drumma Boy (“Crank It Up,” “Yummy Yum”), C Gutta (“Damn”), Tillie (“Cell Phone Watch,” “Gas”) and Young Juve (“Grustle Or Not”). It’s a lot of people that normally don’t get a lot of recognition but put out good work.
Ismael: As you know the Atlanta Hip-Hop scene is ever evolving with new faces and trends. This record of course has a strong Atlanta base, but how do you expect it to perform nationally?
Scrappy: I’ve never made records just for Atlanta. Everyone in Atlanta fucks with each other which makes the sound national. I didn’t just grow up on OutKast, but Biggie, Tupac, and UGK. But [even] with my South swag I still speak from a universal tip that everyone can understand.
Ismael: You’re five years into your career, which is a milestone that a lot of Hip-Hop artists do not reach. What do you attribute your success and perseverance to?
Scrappy: I just thank God, man, first and foremost. I had stopped for a little bit back in the day because I had got all my teeth knocked out my mouth [Editors Note: In a 2006 crowd moshing incident]. And 50 came back in and saved me from just being dropped to the bottom of the crowd. I thank God for that opportunity to recreate and start over. That’s the best thing about Hip-Hop; you can recreate if you’re creative enough. People love new creations despite what they say. It feels good and sounds good. That’s what I have to play into. I have to make sure whatever the next man is doing, I’m not doing.
Ismael: Last summer you had the legal situation with the stabbing, but to your credit you didn’t get on YouTube and exploit it through the media like a lot rappers do. How important is it for you to keep a definitive line between your personal life and professional persona?
Scrappy: You gotta think man, people cling to the movie of their life, and I just don’t do that. I like to come home, look at TV…just do stuff that regular folks do. You’re trying to pay your bills? Shit I’m trying to pay mine, you feel me? When I go out I don’t make a big scene. If I go to buy something, it’s just me, not 50 dudes. I remember not having things. I remember people saying, “Who is Lil Scrappy?,” when I used to perform before I became known. I still have a real life, and material things aren’t going to go with me when I die. I’m about my Hip-Hop and moving my career in the right direction. People do hate when they don’t see you for awhile. They assume you’re not going anywhere. But those people don’t know the business, and every two or three years I’m gonna keep coming. And I’m moving into movies as well.
Ismael: Much has been said about the mainstream direction of Hip-Hop. What do you like about today’s sound and where do you see room for improvement?
Scrappy: I like it, it’s creative but it has no substance. Lil Wayne, T.I., Game, 50, Kanye’s albums had substance. But everything else has something missing. It’s like we’re getting the pizza without tomato sauce. The music we make down here has always been about partying, even back with OutKast. But we would still talk about real ass shit with it, like Jeezy’s “Put On.” And you got New York with the party thing and their street thing. Everyone is waiting to see what the next style is. Somebody just has to come in and take it over and that’s gonna be me this year. There’s no one to blame this time, it’s just me. I’m gonna go hard. After the G’$ Up album I have my own album dropping, and then Diamond’s (from Crime Mob) album is dropping. And I have a reality show coming out this year for BET.
Ismael: You mentioned your own solo album, when is that tentatively scheduled to drop?
Scrappy: Summertime this year. After that next album drop you’re gonna be like, “Well Scrappy did say he was gonna do it [big]” [laughs]. I’m definitely coming strong this year.
Ismael: As a CEO, how hard is it to put aside friendships and personal relationships with your artists to make sure business is handled accordingly?
Scrappy: I can tell you I don’t have too many friends in the rap game. One is Wayne. I told him to get on something and he just jumped on it; did it and sent it back to me. I can always call 50, Yayo because he’s crazy and will do anything, Banks, 40 Glocc, and all kind of people. I can hit up Gucci Mane, Big Kuntry, or T.I. to get on something. Even Shawty Lo! I fucks with everybody. That’s a good business mindset. Who you know gets you on, [but] what you know keeps you on. Like Jon, he’s never done an album by himself. He’s always had other artists. I had fun making records with 3-6 Mafia’s crazy asses, Yung Joc, Jazze Pha, and Yo Gotti. Even though some of them charged me a helluva lot, I got introduced to their fanbase and vice versa.
Ismael: Atlanta has been at the forefront of mainstream Hip-Hop for the last couple years. Do you see the city starting any new trends in 2009?
Scrappy: We wanna hear something new every day. We woke up and heard the old shit yesterday. The underground always switches over and becomes the bomb. Before the underground was that weak shit, now it’s that superstar shit. You got superstars making underground music. Gucci Mane is underground, so is Jeezy and Lil Scrappy. Shit flips. I remember we couldn’t even get played. Next thing you know they caught on. So as the music develops we’ll keep killing the game.
Atlanta is now fighting for the lyrical battle now. They still think down South is not lyrical even though we’ve showed it. OutKast showed it back in the day, and even now in Wayne and T.I. We’re versatile, so we’re not going to do that shit every song. Everyone has their different flavor of music. Hip-Hop will never just be one thing anymore. We’ve went through that. MC Hammer came in and took it over. Ice Cube knocked that out with the gangsta era. Who is coming next? We haven’t found the person that has that tomato sauce to put back on the pizza. All we got now is the toppings.