Hip-Hop Needs a BalanceHenry: At what point did you realize that you wanted to be a rapper?
Rhymefest: First, when I realized that it was something that I was talented at. Secondly, it was something that I could use to help shape and change the world through a song like Jesus Walks. Thirdly, and this is even more recently, when I realized that theres no balance in hip-hop theres no balance on the radio. At those points, I knew that I was chosen, not because of wanting to make some money or to get some girls.
You mention a lack of balance, what elements are we missing from the game right now?
People are starving. We just released Dynomite recently, did you hear it?
Did you like it?
We put it on iTunes, and 200,000 people downloaded it within one week. People will tell you that nobody wants to hear hip-hop anymore. They turned hip-hop into a bad word like you would go somewhere and people would say oh hes a hip hop rapper. And according to mainstream, nobody wants to hear that. Backpack all these things are bad words, its almost like calling somebody a liberal. So, those 200,000 that downloaded "Dynomite" in one week prove that the people are starving for hip-hop the very thing that some of the powers that be told us is no longer desired.
What was the labels reaction to the massive downloads?
Ill tell you what; I appreciate J Records and I signed to J Records because Clive Davis is one of the last label heads who takes time to develop acts. When you look at the artists on J Records Alicia Keys, Mario, Fantasia these are not just random pop acts. These are artists who are making good music.
But these are all R&B acts. Busta Rhymes said in an interview that Clive Davis is cool when it comes to R&B artists, but that he neglects his hip-hop artists
Well, in my case, Clive Davis took a chance on Rhymefest when nobody else would. What, am I not hip-hop? I am the essence of balance in hip-hop. Im one of the last of my kind. I love what Busta Rhymes is doing. Busta Rhymes is hip-hop; he was on J Records, but I have to disagree with his statement to a certain degree because of what Ive seen J Records do with my records.
To Sign or Not to Sign: Kanye West vs Mark RonsonYou know a lot of people expected you to hook up with Kanyes label [G.O.O.D. Music]. Was that a possibility?
Yeah, it was a possibility. Kanye West offered me a deal with G.O.O.D. Music, Mark Ronson offered me a deal with Allido Records. It was a difficult decision to make. A lot of people would think well the obvious thing would be to go with Kanye West. But, in my analysis, you wouldnt know unless you were in my shoes. And, in my shoes, what I saw was a guy who I vibed with which was Mark Ronson. He took me to London and showed me the world, and got me vocal lessons.
Yeah, dude got me vocal lessons. One of his things was: if youre doing a song, you gotta be able to hold it, too. He taught me a lot. Kanye taught me a lot as well, but Kanye is one of my best friends. So, if I sign with one of my best friends and I dont like the way he does business, and we fall out or whatever, what happens? So, what I did was, Im gonna sign a contract with Mark Ronson, Im gonna continue my friendship with Kanye. If Kanye and I didnt work out, we wouldnt be friends; itd be a done business and a done friendship. If me and Mark Ronson didnt work out, we would probably still be friends, we wouldnt be business partners no more. And thats exactly how its working out, like Kanye still works with me. Its a thin line to walk when youre a rapper signed to a rapper, whos gonna be the star?
So, this is really a case of eating your cake and having it because you wanna save both your friendship and your business partner, is that what it is?
Well, I gained both Mark Ronson and Kanye West. Mark was the one that hooked me up with ODB [OlDirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan] before his unfortunate passing. Im one of the few people that last worked with ODB. Im sure I would still have great music, but for better for worse, Ive done incredible things in my career even before I put an album out.