The Baltimore/Philadelphia-based rapper (real name Naeem Juwan) phoned in from the road (he’s currently on tour with Ke$ha and hits the Patriot Center Sunday) to talk about the struggle to get his new album released, the people who gave up on him, and the dangers of musical escapism.
So how has the tour been going? It seems like an odd match.
You know, I thought it was an odd match on paper, and now that I've been out with her, the music has its similarities. It's been a really fun tour, and it's introduced me to a whole new audience.
Can you even believe that your album is coming out, after [all this time]?
I can definitely believe it, because I've been working my [butt] off. A lot of people gave up on me. I've had very little support the past few years trying to get this done. But my good friends focused in on it, we pulled it together and we pulled it off.
Who gave up on you?
Well, first the record label. They wanted me to renegotiate my deal to be this horrible 360 deal, where not only do they take a part of your record sales ... they ask the artist to give you a percentage of their merchandise and touring. I don't believe in that at all ... I started hearing a lot of whispers about my downfall from my peers and the music community. Those were a pretty intense couple of years.
Did you listen to new music and think, “I should be out there right now. Everybody's gaining on me”?
I don't think about music as the competition like that. Everyone's creativity is different ... But it's sad because you want to make music because you love it, you want to perform because you love it, and you get tied up and you're not able to do this thing that means so much to you. That's the worst part. I'm happy for all my friends and peers who've been able to have these wonderful music careers. I just wanted to be able to share the thoughts that I have, and the music I've been creating.
The title [of the new album] sounds dark.
There's a lot of dark things that have been happening in politics and the world in general. Watching Africa having a lot of revolutions and continuous war and discussions between right-wing Christian America and extremist Islamic people. I've been watching this, and I feel like the world is a really dark place right now. I'm kind of surprised that this isn't coming up for a lot of other artists as well. I'm surprised that people can still focus on partying and not really touch these issues.
Your first album focused on [partying] a little more. Would you say this one's more serious?
I feel like there were a lot of serious thoughts on the first record. It was 50-50 partying and revolutionary spirit. I wanted to encourage people to fight for what they believe in, and I was kind of bummed out that people glossed over [those thoughts], so for the second one I wanted to kind of pull those thoughts more into the forefront. But I still have a lot of fun, sexy party anthems on this album. I understand the need to be able to shake it off, to release negative energy, but I dont believe in escapism. Sometimes you need to be able to go out to the club and dance, but other times you gotta do your work.