"Family is everything and that’s what it’s about."
At the tail-end of last year, Migos' Offset watched his personal life floundering before his eyes. Despite being one-third of rap's most successful 21st century triumvirate, Set's addiction to lean, mixed with his infidelity to superstar wife Cardi B, nearly ended up K.O.'ing his superstar career.
The damning headlines pinned against Offset not only derailed the release of his debut album, Father of 4, but moved him to go on an apology tour, in the hopes of winning his wife back. From tireless pleas on Instagram, to crashing Cardi B's headlining performance at Rolling Loud last December, 'Set says he was willing to do anything to get himself out of the dog house.
"I’d jump out the window trying to get her back, with a parachute on my back," he tells Billboard regarding his desperate attempts. "You gotta fight for what you believe in and what you love. It ain’t no joke and it ain’t social media fun. You might have looked at me as being selfish on stage, but I’m just trying to get what’s mine. I’m ready to look stupid, I’m ready to take this shot in the back."
After a muddy two months that were dampened by his missteps, the "Ric Flair Drip" MC eventually won Cardi back, and was reunited with his seven-month daughter Kulture. With a renewed sense of motivation, Offset galloped his way back into the studio and scripted his most personal content to date.
Spiked with candor, Offset’s Father of 4 pivots away from the rapper's love for gaudy jewelry and exudes the vulnerabilities of a flawed black man trying to escape the claws of his demons. Tracks like "Father of 4" and "North Star" debunks the theory that Offset is all drip and no heart: Harrowing lyrics such as "Kalea, you my first, first daughter/ I missed the first years of your life, I'm sorry/ Tell the truth, I ain't really know if I was your father/ Tell the truth, I really don't even know your mama" depict a misguided father seeking forgiveness.
"The situation was a tight situation for me, but I had to step up, like I said in the song," reveals Offset about his first daughter Kalea. "How it happened was a little rockstar-ish, but I still faced it. I wasn’t there for some time, but I faced it and I’m there now."
Though Offset bares it all on Father of 4, he still manages to squeeze out several earworms, such as "Lick," and the menacingbop "Clout" featuring Cardi B. "She’s a hard worker," he explains about his wife. "People try to take it away from her. You never seen somebody work this hard, so to reward that, you don’t know how to handle it. She be workin’ and people love her. It’s organic."
Billboard sat down with Offset for an in-depth interview about his new album Father of 4, giving up his lean addiction, winning Cardi B back and being the best father he can be.
On Father Of 4, one of the stand out tracks is with J. Cole, “How Did I Get Here.” There, you spoke about doing shows in Mobile, Alabama. Talk about those humble beginnings and how they shaped you to be the star you are today.
It’s just talking about coming from the chitlin circuit, to selling out arenas and doing tours. Sometimes, people count you out or make their own assumptions about you, or what they think you should be doing or not doing. I know a lot of people, even from my past, like, “Damn bro, how’d you do that?” It was very relatable and I just talked about certain different topics that people might have not known, like how I was baptized and how I’ve been a man of God my whole life. I was at home one time, looking at my cars, my houses and all the things I’ve got from where I came from and I was just like, “Damn.” So that’s why I made the song, “How Did I Get Here.”
The clock was on you because J. Cole hadn’t sent his verse in, but then he managed to get it in before the deadline.
To be honest, I had missed like an hour-and-a-half window with Apple because I couldn’t turn it in. I think I submitted it like 5:00 L.A. time, so 8:00 here. So everything pivoted off it, but it played its role. When it’s beautiful music, you know it’s going to talk by itself. But yeah -- I turned that in the day you actually heard it.
Then, you gave him just just due because he did his thing on the verse.
He did his thing on the verse, for sure. He didn’t even really like it, though. He was telling me, like, “Man, I’m not really feeling this verse.” I was like, “Man, you’re crazy.”
One of my favorite records on the project is “Lick,” and you were talking about how you were hustling back in the day. Now, you’re a superstar MC. Talk about the principles you still keep from the streets with you today.
Loyalty is everything. I started with QC and I’m still with them, and my homies that are still around me, we got like 12-13 years of relationship. I don’t really have nobody new around me. Since day one, they’ve been riding with me on my back. Most of those guys, we were doing some of those things in the street. When you live a certain lifestyle, you grow from it and try to get away from it. That’s what I’m on, and that’s why I changed the whole gear of my album and changed it to family. Just about being a man and facing what I got to face. I was talking about my kids and I’m apologizing, but they don’t even really look at me like I should be apologizing. I’m just doing this on some, “Let me get this out. It’s been on my chest” thing.
I wanted to channel my album on content, because I feel like there’s a lot of things going on in the world -- and they’ve seen me with all the diamonds and the jewelry, but that’s like a pretend world. I used to listen to some artists saying they’ll just go get something fake, and in reality they have real problems. I just wanted to talk about the real problems and the real situations and give the fans another side of me that they don’t really know.
You touched on the intro track, “Father of 4.” Cardi said that intro made her cry twice. Which lyrics were the hardest for you to write emotionally.
The lyrics about my beautiful daughter Kalea, and not really having a relationship with her or knowing her mom well. My first daughter. The situation was a tight situation for me but I had to step up, like I said in the song. How it happened was a little rockstar-ish, but I still faced it. I wasn’t there for some time, but I faced it, and I’m there now.
And that’s all that matters.
Yeah, but those were the hardest bars, though. It’s the truth. I didn’t want to offend anyone because it’s a very sensitive topic. I didn’t offend anyone and I appreciate how the people took it. They embraced it. It’s understanding the baby daddy’s side of it, who’s trying. It ain’t no excuse if you’re not trying, but there’s so much to fatherhood that even when you try, they try to play with it like it ain’t enough. I was just trying to let the feelings go, and say, "If you and your kids see eye-to-eye, and y’all got the relationship and y’all can understand, then it’s all good."
The cherry on top, you got the legendary Big Rube on the track. Why did you feel it was important to add him to the mix?
For my city, Atlanta. The Dungeon Family. I come from a record group that's like a home base, and they broke the barriers early on when Atlanta wasn’t the hot scene for music. They’re some legends where we’re from, and I wanted to keep some legends from the A on my album. That’s why I went and got Cee Lo. Cee Lo did his thing on that.
Going back to the album itself, you embraced your role as a father. Each time you had a kid, how did fatherhood change you -- especially with your most recent child, Kulture?
Each time, you get wiser and smarter, and learn the ropes of being a father. Each one after is actually easier. The hardest one was my first son, Jordan. I was 17 and I ain’t have no job, and I was roaming the streets and trying to find myself. It was hard, and I was scared when I first had him, because out of all my homies I was the first one to have a kid. Everyone was like, “Bro, you have a kid on the way,” and at first it was like a joking matter. I was scared and didn’t know what to do, and I had to try different things to get the money and survive. But God let it happen.
Also on the album, you speak about the absence of your father. How did his absence affect fatherhood for you, and just you being a man period?
It’s just another side of being a man -- and another man should be able to tell you this, this, and that. And when you don’t have that, you might rebel with your mom a little bit, because you don’t want to scare her or talk to her about something that you’re going through in real life. I ain’t ever really have that until later on, because I had a stepdad. But it ain’t ever the same, you want your pops there. Even if I could talk to him now, I’d be like, “Pull up. Come holla at me.” It’s all love.
Another one of the standout tracks is “Don’t Lose Me.” On that record, you talk about some of your wrongdoings as a husband, and your love for lean. How did you manage to get rid of that addiction to the cup?
It’s a focus thing. It takes away from your focus, and it has you talking to people different and acting different. I never like people noticing weaknesses in me, and if I feel you notice a weakness in me, it’s a problem. I never had footage of me pouring it, so I was never trying to be cool with it. It was just a habit that came into something a little bit more, and now your mom’s telling you to put it down and your girl’s like, "Leave it alone." It’s just grown man things.
I know I can’t get to the highest I want to reach -- the highest potential I can get to -- I can’t reach it like that. I have to have a clear mind. And then I think about how my kids watch everything I do. They do everything I do, and they know word-for-word my songs. I have a big influence, because they do know who I am. So I had to make a choice, like, “Does this stay in my life?” It’s just grown-up things. It was just something I had to do.
I really don’t like speaking on it because I feel like people take it how they take it. I know what I’m trying to do, have a clean mind and clean slate and take over the world. You can’t take over the world when you have other things pulling you down. It don’t make sense.
Shout-out to you for kickin’ the cup, man. Pretty admirable. On the same track, you use the audio from your Instagram clip of you apologizing to Cardi.
Yeah, and I never let her hear that song because I wanted her to know I was listening to what she told me. I’m basically saying what she was telling me in the song: To be a man, you gotta meet your wrongs and not run from them. I was dead wrong and the song is just dedicated to her.
Do you have any regrets on how you went about trying to get her back publicly?
No. I’d jump out the window trying to get her back, with a parachute on my back. You gotta fight for what you believe in and what you love. It ain’t no joke and it ain’t social media fun. You might have looked at me as being selfish on-stage, but I’m just trying to get what’s mine. I’m ready to look stupid, I’m ready to take this shot in the back.
You could say what you need to say, and you could hate me now, which a lot of people seem like they do. I’ll take that because I messed up. At the same time, I ain’t perfect. I only know a couple of ways. Pull up, I need to see you, [and] talk to you. You could beat me up, punch me, but it’s gotta be addressed. And we got a child, so it’s a whole other ball game. A beautiful daughter, and a daughter missing their father is different.
I feel like if you don’t have your father from a young age, it’s different than [as] a man. You go experiencing things they were never taught and they go try and get it from somebody else and it may not be the right thing they need to be getting because they were never taught. You gotta just tighten up. Keep your family together. Family is everything and that’s what it’s about. You could look at me and I’m doing this [flips middle finger up]. It’s for family.
How would you compare Cardi B the wife and the mother versus Cardi B the rapper?
She’s the same thing. She keeps it 1000. She speaks her voice. What she gotta say, how she gon’ say, she gon’ say it. She’s a hard worker. People try to take it away from her. You never seen somebody work this hard, so to reward that, you don’t know how to handle it. She be workin’ and people love her. It’s organic.
Obviously you did your thing on the lyrical side, but on the production front, you had Metro Boomin and Southside. Obviously, people know about the chemistry you and Metro have. I’m curious, did the chemistry change as you were trying to go into this album and be more introspective as opposed to when you did the Without a Warning album with him and 21?
Nah, Metro is a real musician. I don’t even call him a producer. His instruments are live when you hear them on hip-hop beats. Let me tell you what producers are doing nowadays: they get a sample, skinning somebody off like five or ten percent, chumping them off and not making their beats. Metro is making his beats, sitting there calling the instruments and calling the choirs. He treats the project like it’s his. Me, him and Southside, Atlanta -- plus, we grew up together. We came up together.
And all my bangers are with Metro. “Bad and Boujee,” “Ric Flair Drip,” “No Complaints.” All my top-charting songs are with Metro. I just wanted to use the same formula. He knows me. He’s hard on me and he can handle how I talk to him. We’re hard on each other, and we get the project done. He told me, “This project’s different. You let these folks know who you is, bro.” And I’m like, “I’m already doing that.” So he came with the beats and the sounds like “After Dark.” That beat is so hard. A lot of these were done in Paris. During fashion week, they were traveling with me while I had to do Migos things.
They take a lot of pride and integrity in their work. They don’t want nobody else’s hands in the bowl. The only reason is because they want to be able to say they did it. To have two producers that respect music is the greatest thing. They’re not giving you samples. They’ll remake a sample to cut that sample out. They’ll treat it like it’s theirs. They’re in there 12 hours, 15, 16, 20 hours with me in the studio. Three days in a row trying to get it in order. And he’s participating.
Usually the producers, you get the song and they’re like. “Alright, boom. There you go.” But him he’s like, “Nah, put this one. Put this one.” Going back and forth. It’s like working with a group still. That’s what I’m used to, so I went right back to it -- me, Southside, and Metro. They got a new thing where if they do a beat together, it’s the So Icy Boys. We have some songs that didn’t come out that will be a part of their So Icy Boys project that’s going to come out. That’s exclusive, I ain’t even tell nobody that.
“Tats On My Face” had me wondering, if you could have your favorite verse on the album tatted on you, what would it be?
A fire one would be, “Where I’m at? Where I go? How did I get here?” That’s a fire tattoo. You could play around with it. You could have some eyes looking around. You could be artistic with that.
If you could pick one word to title this chapter of your life, what would it be and why?
"Manhood." I’m the man of my family and that’s what my whole album is about. Being a man and stepping up the wrongdoings. Taking care of what you have to take care of, which is what men do.