Did you ever meet DJ Screw?
I met him a few times. I met him outside of Jamaica Jamaica, I met him at the Kappa one year. Of course I always would just go up and pay homage to him, pay him respect just being a fan of his, like: hey I just wanted to say whatís up to you man. Itís a pleasure to meet you. It was an honor to meet him. Of course I was just another person to walk up to him and shake his hand and heíd just say "Alright man, itís nice to meet you too." I remember one time I seen him at the Kappa, he gave me a magnet for The Screw Shop, and he was like "Man, this my shop. Come fuck with us." Or whatever, and I still got that magnet on my refrigerator.
Didnít you come into the game as a partner with Chamillionaire?
Definitely. We lived down the street from each other, about 8 Ė 10 houses from each other. We were best friends from shoot, 3rd grade. We always did all the same stuff together. We both were rappiní trying to make a name for ourselves. We both had the same kind of style at the time. I always wanted to represent the Texas lifestyle, but at the same time I was on some lyrical type stuff, more than just representing the Down South type style. We were both on the lyrical path and we sounded good together. We had good chemistry. We both started doing stuff with the Swishahouse a lot, but then he moved to Chicago. He was doing stuff with Hurt ĎEm Bad up there. Then that didnít work out so then he came back and when he came back, he didnít really know how big Swishahouse was and he was walking around and people were asking "Yo youíre Chamillionaire and Paul Wall?" He seen how big it got.
You were doing Swishahouse tapes and then you released an album together called Get Ya Mind Correct.
Yeah, we were never signed to the Swishahouse. It wasnít no record label at the time it was just mixtapes. We was just putting out mixtapes and Michael Watts always told me that the purpose of the mixtapes was to promote the artist. So thatís what I was looking to get out of the mixtapes, to promote myself on the mixtapes. And he always had an open door for me to come promote myself on the mixtapes. But it was a real crazy situation at the Swishahouse cause Michael Watts was trying to turn it into an actual business with the record label and he was funding everything himself, running the show and Djing at the radio show fulltime, doing parties and all that. With that situation it was like we were just promoting ourselves and we had a little buzz going. People were talking about us. A lot of record labels were trying to sign us and Mad Hatta being one of them. Matter of fact, when "Down South" was poppiní he was doing shows off of that. And he said wherever heíd go he didnít know anything about me and there would be people asking about me. Heíd do shows with Lil Flip and people would ask whereís Paul Wall at? Actually he didnít really know Chamillion at the time, he was just trying to sign me. But thatís when Chamillion came back from Chicago and then it was like: hey letís do this group thing. We worked it out, he gave us a real good situation and we were at a position on his label where we pretty much were the only artists, so we got all the focus and all the attention. And the percentage we got from sales was by far larger than anything else weíd even asked for before and Hatta is so good with his business, we felt like that was the best option. He gave us a lot of freedom. He gave us creative control. Whatever we wanted to do he let us do it. I think we kind of blew up too fast for our own good, cause we didnít expect it to get that big that fast. Then before you know it weíre traveling around the country doing shows 3-4 times a week. We didnít have time to come back and record our other albums, and when we do come home weíe trying to do mixtapes. Before you know it two years go by and we donít have another album out.
What I liked about yíall as a group is it seemed like you had a chemistry that a lot of people didnít.
We really had a real agenda. When we put out that album we really knew what we wanted to do. We had something to prove because this was at a time when Lil Flip was buzzing, right before Flip signed his deal and Slim Thug was just huge on the underground and we of course were always in Lil Flipís shadow, in Slim Thugís shadow. Being that weíre all the same age pretty much do the same stuff and weíre all down with each other and they were bigger than us. So we really had something to prove, not just to ourselves but to everybody.
I think a lot of people were surprised when you broke up. Nobody really expected that shit.
Yeah, me and Chamillion, cause we grew up together and I think we kind of blew up bigger and faster than we expected. Our personalities just changed and we just grew up and grew apart. It was to a point where we was just clashing head on. And it was little stuff. When you around somebody every single day of your life thereís bound to be some problems coming in. Like a lot of little things happened here and there and a straw donít weigh nothing, but if you get enough straws together somebodyís camelís back might break. Thatís just what it was. It was to a point where we were mixing business with pleasure and it went to a point where we werenít gonna be friends no more, thatís cool we donít have to be friends, but weíre still gonna make money together. Thatís what people say now, you can still make money together, but they donít understand. Back when we were doing that, thatís how it was back then. Then it started getting so bad, from my viewpoint I was like damn the business not right, Iím not making no money and weíre not friends. The only reason I stayed around was because I gave it everything I had and just stuck with it just because of our history together growing up together. There was too much stuff going on and it was a real bad situation for me to be in and it was bad for all of us. Our contracts came up with Madd Hatta and I felt real bad about that because Madd Hatta really looked out for us and gave us a big push. He was open minded about everything and wasnít into the stardom and the fame he was into promoting us and selling records. And I feel really bad because our contract was for 5 albums, but the contract came up because of time. The time ended to where everything else was over. It was our fault, we didnít have anything else to put out. We just wouldnít go to the studio cause we was on the road so much. Hatta always had what we needed. We wanted a beat, bam hereís a check, itís bought. We had our own studio, it was just our fault that we didnít go in there and record. And Chamillion didnít want to put out another album with Hatta because he knew the contract was gonna be up. And he was like "Why do I want to put another album out with Hatta when I could just wait and get with a label Iím gonna finish my career with?" I felt real bad cause we didnít live up to our end of the agreement.
You had so much going on for yourself at that time, you both had made serious names for yourselves. What made you go back to the Swishahouse instead of just going out on your own?
I got a lot of flack for that at first when I first signed back with the Swishahouse. There was a lot of people that didnít agree with that but they werenít in my shoes and I did what I felt like was best. I weighed all my options, prayed on it, thought about it and did what I thought best. Chamillion always tried to take the initiative to try and negotiate the contracts like "This is what we want, this is what we want," but Iíd be in the dark. I wouldnít know nothing thatís going on. Heíd have meetings with label execs or heíd have meetings with Madd Hatta and I wouldnít know nothing about it and I wouldnít know what was going on. Thatís part of the reason we never signed with a major label because nobody would compromise. Sometimes you gotta give a little to get. It just was a bad situation. And I always maintained a great relationship with everyone in the Swishahouse. When Mike Jones and Magnificent came along, I know how it is coming into the Swishahouse when thereís people that was there before you cause thatís the same thing we had. So I really tried to extend my hand to them. Itís not like I had to go out of my way, just a simple handshake and whatís up goes a long way. I kept it real with them too. When they were trying to get they buzz going, we would do a lot of shows and theyíd come and open up for us and itíd be all good. It wasnít no problem cause it ainít hurting us none to open up shows. Their buzz started getting big and it started growing, especially Mike Jones, it just keeps growing. So we were on the road a lot and we didnít realize how big it got, but we got home and we realized damn, Mike Jones got bigger than us. But I always maintained a real good relationship with the Swishahouse and they never asked me to sign, but they told me the door was always open. There was other people around the city that said the door was open too, but I didnít want to keep jumping around from team to team to team. I really felt like this would be in my best interest as far as a business move, or a personal move. They support me 100% in whatever I do. If Iím Djing they support me, but I didnít have that at all. Madd Hatta and Cat would support me but other than thatÖ I even had a club, Chamillion came in my club one time. I had everyone in there and they wouldnít ever support me. I didnít have any support at all. And I always respected how Slim Thug did it because he broke off and started doing his thing with the Boss Hogg Outlawz and he still stayed down with Swishahouse.
It seems like a simple thing, but not everybody is able to do it. What makes a good Screwed and Chopped mix?
The music. If the music is horrible then the Screwed and Chopped music will be horrible. If the music is jamminí then more than likely the Screwed and Chopped version is gonna be jamminí. So itís really the music man. And then too I always felt like DJ Screw would kind of talk to the listener through the music as far as what he would bring back, what he would mix, what he would cut, what he would scratch. All that. And if you know the music good enough and if you feeling the music, like DEA was one of my favorite albums of all time. I know that whole album front to back word for word. So it was no problem. If you know the work and you know the material then itís no problem.
Whatís your connection with Atlanta? It seems like you go real deep with a lot of Atlanta artists.
You know, my cousin Latavia used to sing with Destinyís Child and she moved out to Atlanta and sheíd always come home for Christmas and tell me things about Atlanta. Then the artists were kind of coming up making a name for theyself in the rap game. But I always realized that Atlantaís not gonna come to me, I gotta go to it. Itís 12 hours away. Itís a 12 hour drive. My homeboy Shawn, he would be funding these LaTex parties in Atlantaóthe Louisiana Club Organization and the Texas Club Organization, people from Louisiana and Texas who go to school out there. And they would get together and throw a big ass party. They wanted a Texas DJ cause it wouldnít make sense to have a New York DJ or even an Atlanta DJ cause they donít have that. They donít have the music that the people had back home. One of my boys had plugged me up with him to come DJ a party and I did it and it was over from there. I started doing every one of them. Like I met TI a while back before he signed the deal. I walked up and introduced myself to him and I knew about him and I jammed the music, but he wasnít big or anything in Texas or anywhere out there. I introduced myself to him and he ainít really heard of me, but he heard of the slowed down Screw music. So I sent him some mix CDs and me and his manager hooked up and we just kept the connection alive. They didnít have too many connections in Texas so it was good for them too. And I didnít really have too many connections in Atlanta. I started going to Atlanta a lot and meeting people. TI really showed me a lot of love. Itís hard to break through in a market when you not from there and he showed me a lot of love.
This is your second solo album right?
Yeah, The Peoples Champ is my second solo album.
Youíre on a major now, is there a lot of differences to your first album?
Yeah. Lil Wayneís on there, Freeway, TI, a lot of major artists. Of course Bun Bís on there, BG, Grit Boys. The main reason why it differs from the first one is just my maturity and my growth as a rapper. In my own personal life Iíve grown a lot from the last album and you can definitely see that in what Iím doing on the album.
Do you think hip hop in general needs to grow a little bit?
Definitely. Thatís what music is all aboutógrowing and evolving with the times and the culture. The music reflects the lifestyle and culture of whoever is making it. Houston is really growing.
Why do you think right now is such a big time for Houston? This has all been going on for a long time. You talk about Screw and the big things he did, why is 2005 so strong for Houston?
Itís just time. A lot of that has to do with Southwest Wholesale. When Southwest Wholesale went out of business, we as independent artists were relying on them. They were our major label. We would just bring them the product and theyíd sell it. But when they went out of business that really made us go out and handle things on a whole nother level. We had to go out there and do it now instead of them doing the work for us. That was in 2002 or 2003 just after we dropped Get Ya Mind Correct. That was one of the best things for Houston, Southwest Wholesale closing down. Cause it really made us get out there in peopleís faces and go to other parts of the country and sell our own product. It created a whole new fanbase, made us stronger as artists and helped us introduce ourselves to a lot of the country.
Who did you work with on production on this album?
Moí Betta produced 5-6 songs on this one. They produced "They Donít Know," but they remixed it with Bun B instead of Mike Jones on it. Changed it up a little bit. Same people that did a lot of production on the Chick Magnet and Get Ya Mind Correct too. Todd and Earl always been my homeboys. We all went to school together at U of H.
Is the major label grind harder than your independent grind?
Itís time consuming and itís overwhelming. Thereís no time for yourself. Thereís no time to recharge and regenerate your body and just calm down. Itís extremely overwhelming. Iím always busy. Thereís no time to sleep or eat. It was always like that but it was at my own pace. Now Iím at somebody elseís pace. A major label, they overload you with work. But this is what we been hoping for and praying for our whole life, so I ainít stopping. I seen a lot of people come and go and the reason why they left is because they wasnít doing what they needed to do. With me itís like whatever I have to do, if thereís anything at all to do in front of me, big or small, Iím gonna try my best to do it. I donít want to look back and say "Damn I should have did this or damn I should have did that." Instead of doing that Iím putting in the work now.