Bringing it back to music: You’re famously averse to features and outside producers. Would experimenting with a camp and opening up your creative process ever appeal to you?
No, never. Being collaborative, yes, but being ultra collaborative, nah. I don’t want “Give me your best song” and pick from them. I don’t even have a lot of rapper friends.
Do you ever feel like you’re out of step with your peers?
I don’t look at it as they’re running left and I’m running right. I’m following my inspiration and where that’s going to lead me.
Your criticisms were fair, but some people saw “1985” as finger wagging. Do you think the song came down too hard on the SoundCloud generation?
I don’t look at it as being harsh. I look at it as being a rap response record. It’s not even to someone [specific]; it’s a group of people who were on some “Fuck J. Cole” shit, which, when I started peeking my head back into what was going on, was a shock. But even while I made the song, I was fucking with these kids. I was a fan. I was riding around playing Lil Pump just because I wanted to understand what it was, and the more I understood, it was like, “Damn.” I was writing that song from a place of, like, smacking your little brother. I still love you, but I’ma smack you.
Because you’re quiet on social media, no one knows where your mind is. It leads to misunderstandings about you.
Yeah, and they paint the narrative. That’s real. “Finger wagging,” that’s a phrase that clearly gets shared around. I’m like, “Y’all don’t even understand.” This happened when [2014 album] Forest Hills Drive came out, and I saw someone review it. It was this white girl -- no disrespect to white girls, that’s just what she was -- and she pinpointed a few lines and tried to make it sound like that’s what I was saying. I’m like, “Damn, you really missed what I was attempting to do.” I saw that with “1985,” too. I would just chalk it up to, they’re not rap fans. They don’t understand subtlety and nuance in the genre. But what you just said is way more of an on-point reasoning. I made that song a year before, and so much shit happened, mentally, leading up to the song and after it. And it’s like people never even get a chance to hear that side of me. But I don’t care to correct it. I don’t have an urge or a desire to be like, “Hey, y’all, you know when I did ‘1985,’ I wasn’t really finger wagging.” It’s not my job to correct the narrative.
When XXXTentacion died, you tweeted that he had “a strong desire to be a better person.” Did you know him?
I spoke to him on FaceTime one day in February for, like, three hours. His management reached out to Ib and asked if he could FaceTime me or call me. It was a super-intense conversation. He left a mark on me, just as a person.
What did he want to talk about?
Pssht. He started off the conversation literally on some, like -- he didn’t even say hello. He started off basically saying, “I’m not on your level yet.” He was talking about spiritually and mentally, and that was intense because I was like, “Huh? I’m not on no level.” He was praising me while also saying he was going to achieve whatever it is he felt that I had. I’ve dealt with mentally ill people in my life before, many of them. And right away, I notice that this kid is super passionate and smart, but I could also see that he was so deep in his mind.
When I found out [about the abuse allegations against him], my first response was, “Man, I hope maybe one day I’ll get a chance to talk to this kid and figure out if there’s any place that I can help.” Because anybody who would do the shit that he did… Hurt people hurt people. I’ve walked through prisons and talked to these dudes who got life. They took someone’s life at 16 or 17 years old. You haven’t had the chance to process your trauma at that age. I’ma be sympathetic to a kid who has clearly been through so much fucked-up shit that he inflicted this on someone else.