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The Young OG Project is an album, but you’re approaching it like a mixtape. Why?
With this project, I’m not looking at numbers or thinking that you got to have singles. It’s a different time in music. All the conventional ways of doing things are old, and you don’t need to do anything that way again. You need to find new ways to spark people’s interest.
In terms of new ways, you’re a social media master. But you also have had big radio hits — you’ve seen both sides of the business.
I like both of those sides, though. I like working on a record and then pushing it. I come from an era when a label would work after your first week. Now, they work up until your joint comes out, then the next day they come into the office like, “OK, it’s 2 Chainz‘ turn now.” They move on to the next and it’s on you to work your record. When I first came in, you’d be four singles in and they’re still pushing your album. Maybe the fourth single was like your “We Are the World,” the Grammy song. It has transformed into the independent thing, which is making sure you do what you need to do. If you’re going to be a long-term artist, you can’t sit back and wait for your label to do it.
You’ve done some materialistic songs during your career, but The Young OG Project has dark moments that explore the pitfalls of fame and wealth.
You just want to be rich because you think that’s going to make you happy, but that’s not true. I thought everything would turn upside down because I had money, and it hasn’t. Money does not become a shield for you. Martha Stewart went to jail. Michael Jordan’s father got killed on the side of the road. Money can’t change those things.
That’s reminiscent of your line on Cassidy’s 2005 track “6 Minutes of Death“: “I’m having problems dealing with wealth, but you wouldn’t understand until you get a million yourself.”
There are certain things in life you got to live. Jay Z, one time, after he had his daughter, came to me and was like, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Because I guess he felt that connection — I had just had my son a little before that, and I was like, “I couldn’t tell you.” You can’t explain to someone who doesn’t have a kid how it feels to create another life. It’s a special thing.
This story first appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of Billboard.