The rapper reveals that his "Kismet" mixtape will be released in June.
It's been a bizarre year for Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire. Besides inking a major label deal with Universal Republic and shortening his name to Mr. MFN eXquire, while still riding off the fumes of 2012's "Power & Passion" EP, eX was faced with a conundrum. His lyrically poignant yet creatively intrusive style ("artistically ratchet" as he calls it) placed him in the dead center of a rap culture that didn't quite understand how to digest him. While he was capable of crafting big hits (see 2011's ground shaking "Huzzah"), there was still ample room to do greater.
Now, as he preps for June's "Kismet" mixtape along with his official major label debut, Mr. MFN eXquire is singing a new song – and it's all his own. As he delivers his charged up latest single "Illest Ni--az Breathin'," exclusively here on The Juice, eX elaborates on the history behind the title, his subtle fear of touring, his groupies (or "eX girlfriends"), and the dos and don'ts of creativity.
We're premiering your new single, "Illest Ni--az Breathin'" and its remixes today, but you've actually been performing this song live for a while now.
Yeah I've been doing that song for like a year now – a year and some months. I just never put it out.
People have been requesting it though.
Yeah, that was the fucked up part about it. It was supposed to be my single off "Power and Passion," actually, but I couldn't clear the sample. It kind of messed up my plan, but it was the original single. I wrote the song the day I got signed. Me and my cousin Goldie [Glo].
So you've spent a year on a major label [Universal Republic]. What's that life like?
I don't know. Is it supposed to be different? I mean, for me, I'm not like other people. The way I kind of planned out my career – I did "Huzzah" to get a deal. I figured the mainstream would like it. It worked out how I thought it would. I figured it would be popular at like colleges and shit like that. I wanted one of those songs, and I figured it would give me enough attention to not be doing "Open Mics" anymore. And it worked. The past year though was really rocky for me, because I was caught between two spaces. On one end, I was too big for certain shit, and on the other end I was too small for certain shit. So like, in my mind I'm just starting. I'm really just starting my career right now. I'm not looking at it retroactively. Now is the beginning.
In a way that's a good position to be in, no?
I think musically I'm in a weird space anyway, but I think I'm too hard for nerds, but too nerdy for hard people. I kinda just gotta make dope shit. That's how I look at it. And I gotta be as big as possible. I'm so weird that I have to go to big.
Has the label been vocal at all about your style?
No, not really. I think they just kind of know I'm crazy. Certain artists you sign, and you mold. Then some artists just come to you crazy, and they're like, "Ok how do we manipulate that crazy to make money?" I think I'm the latter, so they just let me be crazy. I think everybody has this jaded view or this jaded perspective of getting a record deal, where they stick you in this room and the Illuminati's in there like, "Yo, gotta cut your hair, change your name…" They don't really do shit like that; they kind of facilitate what you do. There was a point where I told them, "I'm not really feelin' rap. I've got shit going on." And it was like, "Okay, when you're ready to rap, let us know."
Do you feel pressure to censor yourself in the interest of things like sponsorships?
Um no. I don't really care about stuff like that. I don't think it's artistic to censor yourself in any way shape or form. You should never create, thinking about what someone else might think. Ever. It's tantamount to suicide.
When does "Kismet" drop?
"Kismet," the beautifully aptly titled project, drops the first week of June.
Yeah, I've got Goldie on there. I did a record with Danny Brown, Flatbush Zombies, and the homie Nacho Picasso from Seattle. It's called "Tomorrow's Gone," some rappity rap shit.
So you have some cool guys on your mixtape. Do all of the cool rappers hang out together?
I don't know. I'm super boring.
I'm not sure I believe that.
What do you think I'm doing right now?
Playing Dungeons and Dragons? I give up. What?
Nah I don't play Dungeons and Dragons. I play Temple Run and shit, but right now I'm on a beach, actually. I'm at Riis Beach in Queens.
Do you go out there a lot?
Yeah, my dad used to take me out here when I was younger, so I just…go. Not like, "I miss my dad" type go, I just... go. Just to look at the water sometimes.
Do you go to a certain place for inspiration when you're writing music?
Yeah, usually I ride the train. When I come off tour, the first thing I gotta do is ride the train.
So wait, a homeless man blowing a snot rocket on a train gives you inspiration to write your compelling music?
[laughs] Basically, yeah. It's not quite that heavy [laughs], but yeah.
So what does "artistically ratchet" mean?
Artistically ratchet? I like to think that I take things that are taboo or ignorant, and I just manipulate them into things that are very poignant and artistic. I say very intelligent shit in the most ignorant way possible.
What would you say is the defining line between "artistically ratchet" and just "ratchet"?
Ignorance [laughs]. Actually being stupid and not just using certain things to exclamate a point. Like in my new video "Nightfall At the Thames," I was in the hot tub and shit like that, but I was rapping about my life and the past year. Just the ill juxtaposition; I like to exist in that place – being from one element but being knowledgeable and intelligent and being able to convey my thoughts in a different way. I like to think I'm a project Dostoyevsky. That's how I look at myself.
It's very rare to find that balance like that.
Yeah, I agree. I don't think there are too many people dope like that. Like me. [laughs]
Will you be touring this summer?
I don't know. I'm kind of scared to tour. I do need to get out on the road though and see smiles. I like smiles.
Why are you scared to tour?
I don't know. I'm a weirdo. I like touring, but every time I come home from touring I get bad news and shit. I don't like leaving. I like staying and making sure shit is ok. I do like touring though. It's fun. I get to eat foods from different places and have random sex with girls.
So you like collecting groupies and various foods when you tour?
Yeah I do. But I'm not even like a groupie heavy ni--a. A lot of nights I get off stage and go to sleep. Everybody be like, "Yo, you don't wanna hang out?" and I'm like, "Nah, I just want to go to sleep." A lot of times I look at it so 9 to 5ish. I get off work and just want to go to bed.
What does an eX groupie look like?
I have the weirdest experiences. I've had like maybe in my life, three groupies. I don't really have groupies, I have girlfriends for like a day. I like to call them eX girlfriends. I like do stuff with my groupies, like we go out to eat. We might not even have sex, just go out to eat and shit. I just like to feel love sometimes. I don't kick them out the room and shit like that [laughs].
You're so sweet!
What's your album situation looking like?
I just started it. I've got two songs recorded so far. One song – everybody I let hear it, they cried. It's like the intro to my album. It's a real personal song. Then I did another record, it's kind of fly. I'm starting [on the album] now. I just went to the studio yesterday to work on it. It'll be done soon. I don't want to give it no date or anything like that. When I finish, I finish.
In a world where mixtapes are sounding like albums and albums are sounding like mixtapes, how do you know what you're reserving for your album and vice versa?
I just know that what's on the album needs to be a level higher than what's on a mixtape, even though when you listen to "Kismet" it could've easily been my first album. Like how I said the intro [on my album] makes people cry, it should invoke a certain emotion. It's a different level, a different weight to the records. There's more texture to the records.
So it brings a new angle to you.
Yeah. I think so.
Earlier, you said you put out "Huzzah" to appeal to the mainstream, but now you release a track where most of the mainstream can't even say the title out loud. What's up with that?
[laughs] I don't really look at it like that. How I look at it – it's a song title. I named it that, and I knew what the hell was going to happen. Even when I do my shows, I'm like, "Aiight, white people, you can have your fun too!" It's not about that; it's more about a state of mind. Anybody could just wake up feeling great. If you don't want to say "feelin' like that nigga" you can say "feelin' fucking great." It's the same thing. To me, I feel like words are only as powerful as your intentions. I could be having sex with my girl and call her a "bitch." She might like that. Or I could get mad at her and call her a "bitch" and she won't like it. It's all perspective, honestly.
You aren't going to release a radio single called "Fucking Great" now, are you?
Shit, yeah, if I have to! [laughs] If it makes me some money. Nah I'm joking. I keep thinking about that.
You can always make it an acronym like "I.N.B." or something.
Yeah, acronyms are poppin' now.
Yeah, what is that an acronym for? I don't even know.
You just said it: "you don't even know."