Interview by Black Dog Bone
You’ve consistently been putting out great music, you are one of the main forces in Mob Figaz, but the world hasn’t taken notice yet of AP.9 as a solo artist.
You’re right. I don’t think people know me like I want them to know me or like they should know me. The thing is, I never really had a team behind me. Jacka had a team behind him. He had his manager PK and other people really pushing for him, publicists and all that. I never had that. Everything that I did I did on my own. I never had people to push me. I never had no team behind me. I’m barely getting my team together now. As artists we sometimes think we can do everything on our own, but we really can’t. It’s good to have a team. I pat Jacka on his back. He had a good team behind him to the radio and all the magazines and shows and all that type of stuff.
You’re right. PK is always calling Murder Dog, emailing, making things happen for Jacka. And Husalah is always out there performing and doing things. Fedex and Rydah were associated with Thizz. Meanwhile you have been relatively quiet.
Yeah. Sometimes people would look at me and ask me what I do. I’d be like, “I do music, my group is called the Mob Figaz.” I’d ask ‘em if they’d ever heard of the Mob Figaz and they hadn’t. Then I’d be like, “You know the Jacka?” And they’d be like, “Oh Jacka! I know the Jacka!” That’s how it is.
It has a lot to do with promotion. You can have the best music, but if people are not hearing about you nobody’s going to hear your music.
Exactly. You gotta get your name out there. And the visuals are important. People need to see your face, like videos. And the magazines—they need to see my face in Murder Dog. They need to see me and know what I’m doing. It’s more than just the music nowadays. It’s bullshit music being played all the time. I’m like, “How is this bullshit music getting so much play? And this good music is nowhere.” It’s not about how good you are; it’s about who you know.
It’s hard to watch so much talent like you get overlooked while whack-ass music explodes all over the radio and goes platinum. We always see this happening. How does it make you feel?
The game in this music industry is fucked up. It’s like all these gimmicks and all this bullshit. There’s no real music no more. Everything you see on TV is just bullshit. When I see that it fucks me up. Even if it is someone from the Bay Area, they’re doin some bullshit. They’re not doing no real quality music. I’m not taking from nobody, but people need to do real music. Anybody who’s getting success in the music game, I pat you on the back and congratulate you. Do your thing, do you.
All music has a place, even the gimmicks and all that. But what happens is that’s all that gets any attention. There needs to be a balance.
Exactly. There’s no balance in that shit. When you hear my music I got all types of topics. I talk about all sides of life. I’ve got pain music. I’ve got stuff that you can go party to. I’ve got stuff that you can think about. I got stuff that make you wanna go make some money. I got stuff that make you wanna go fuck your bitch. I’ve got all typa stuff. I’m not just on one level. That’s something about AP.9, I’m on all levels. When I talk about some Gangsta shit you feel it to the core. You know where it’s comin from. And when I talk about the bitches it’s gonna be some shit the females can feel and the guys can feel. You can play that around your chick.
Artists like you have real experience in life. You can speak on all of these topics because you’ve lived it. So many rappers don’t have any real experience. They’re getting their ideas from movies or from other rappers. It’s not authentic.
I feel like this: me growing up, I did a lot of struggling. From 2-3 years all the way until now—I’m 36 now—I did a lotta struggling. I lost a lotta close people in my family. It was me going to foster homes and group homes, me going to prison and me getting shot up. I’ve been through a lotta shit. All of the things I’ve been through made me a stronger person and taught me a lot. Some of these people never been through shit in their life. They don’t know no better cause they never been through shit. They can’t appreciate the hard stuff that comes with growing in life. Everything is Disneyland to them. I took 12 bullets; some people never even been grazed by a bullet. Some people have never seen loved ones die. Some people never had to sleep on park benches. Some people never had to eat outta trash cans, go sleep at dope fiends’ house. Some people never been through none of that. All that made me the person I am today. And all that is in my music. All that pain comes into my music.
When you look back in history, all the music and art and poetry that made a big impact and lived on through time came from people like you. All the music that was hyped up and pushed just got washed away. What you’re doing is authentic and solid, and it’s going to be heard.
I’m tellin you, my new album “Relentless”, double album, back to back—it is a complete album. I don’t even need to do anything more, it’s just a classic album. It’s something for everybody. When you listen to this album you’re gonna be happy; you’re gonna cry; you’re gonna get mad; you’re gonna smile. Every emotion that you have is in this album right here. It’s 36 songs, 18 on each CD. When I made this album I put it all together as one piece. It’s not just tracks thrown together, it’s complete.
It flows together consistently so you want to listen to the whole album. That’s what you mean?
Right. That’s how I put this album together. When you put this album in—and I’m not just saying this because it’s my album—when you put this album in you can just let it play. You don’t have to fast forward it or skip a song. You can play both albums back to back, that’s how good it is. It’s just a great album. It’s like a new beginning for me. I called it “Relentless” because I’m really relentless with this. I’m going all out. I’m goin hard. It’s like my first and my last album. I just want to get it out to the people and let them hear it and know that I really am a force out here. If you don’t give me my props on this then you’re just a hater. I put my heart and soul into this.
What made you decide to do a double album?
I didn’t plan it. I work hard. I feel like I’m one of the hardest working artists in the Bay Area. I didn’t even know I had that many songs. I just thought I’d do something I never did and make a double album. I had all these songs, and we were workin on our Mob Figaz album at the same time. I would go to the studio and no one was there so I just started workin on my solo project. It turned out to be a double album and every song is like a classic. So I went ahead and made it a double album but I’m selling it for the price of one CD. I’m not boosting the price up. No, I’m giving it to the fans like one CD. My best work that I ever did in my life—this is it, right here.
How long were you working on this album?
Not long, just three months.
You were working on the Mob Figaz album at the same time. Did that effect this album?
Of course it did. Some of the songs that I had I was gonna use for my Mob Figaz album. I would get to the studio early and no one was there, I would hear a beat and be like, “We can use that for the Mob Figaz album.” But if nobody came to the studio I would just keep workin. Bein around my boys is the best thing to ever happen to me in my life. When I’m around them guys I step my game up because they’re all talented. They’re real talented artists, so I have to step my game up every time I rap with them. I know each and every one of them’s gonna say something ridiculous. They gonna put their heart into it. It’s not like we’re trying to outshine each other, but I know I gotta shine because my niggaz is gonna shine. Being around people that got true talent makes you step your game up. Straight up.
All of you were young when you formed Mob Figaz. I’m sure you’ve all grown a lot as artists since the start. When you come back together you probably see how each member has changed and has more to give to the circle.
Definitely. If you think about it, we’ve only got one Mob Figaz album out. That’s the only album that we really did in the studio together. It’s good that we’re coming together after all these years and doing another one because Mob Figaz didn’t saturate the game. Now the people are really waiting on this. It’s that anticipation. We’ve given the fans something to look forward to. And everybody in the group has been consistent with doing music. It’s not like we dropped one solo album and quit. Ever since we came out we’ve been goin hard. Some more than others, but we all keep goin hard.
It’s exciting that you’re putting out a new Mob Figaz album after all these years. Mob Figaz are one of the biggest forces in the Bay Area Rap scene. Your influence can be heard everywhere. You have an amazing chemistry.
It’s amazing. And we’re still always around each other, rappin on each other’s albums. We put our hearts into our album as a group it’s incredible. Like Jacka will think of a topic to rap about that I would never think of. I might hear a beat and want to rap about one thing, then he might say, “Let’s rap about this.” It’s crazy and it always comes out a classic. We hear a beat and we’d be automatically talking about the same shit. I can’t explain it, it just happens that way.
It’s like everybody in the Mob Figaz are in the same vibe. When you work together you become like one person almost.
Exactly. It just feels good to be connected with people like that. It makes me feel good. It’s a blessing to me to be able to work with people like Mob Figaz, people that have true talent and people that really love you. We’re true friends, like brothers. We’re not just meeting at the studio. We call each other all the time and we go kick it, do whatever. We’re all like brothers cause we like grew up together. We became a real Mob family. None of us ever fall out with each other. We don’t even argue with each other. We have each others’ backs. We never fell out. People think that because we’re all doing solo albums that the Mob Figaz fell out with each other. We never fell out. We’re just grown men doin what we wanna do.
Your connections is strong enough that you can work separately and still come together as a group.
Exactly. We’re all grown. All of us got kids now. We gotta take care of our families and shit. We can just hang around each other all the time like we used to.
Where did you record the Mob Figaz album and “Relentless”?
We recorded the Mob Figaz album at 17 Hertz in Hayward. But we have our own Mob Figaz studio with our own in-house producers such as Pack Slap, my boy Jethro, Roblo. We all got in-house producers. We’ve been doin this album at 17 Hertz. This album’s gonna be crazy. And we get beats from wherever. I like givin people a shot. I might meet somebody in a mall and they might make beats, and I’ll give ‘em my email address and say, “Send me some beats.” The world probably never heard of this person before, but the beats are just crazy. And I’ll use their beats. I don’t feel I have to use big time producers to make my beats. I like giving people a chance. Like somebody gave us a chance, we’ve gotta give other people a chance. There’s a lotta great talent out there.
Why do you feel that after all these years this album represents a new beginning for you? Did something change in your life?
I just feel like just now I’m starting to get a team behind me. And my style is just crazy now. I really found my style. I feel like everything else was practice. It was just me helping to get my name out there. Now I’ve got my style down pat. Remember when I was younger I used to yell on the mic a lot. Now I don’t do that no more. I learned how to calm down and still get that pain inside my music without yelling. And then I’m surrounding myself with a team that’s really pushing me. I used to go in the studio just to knock shit out and put out an album. Now I go to the studio with a purpose. There’s a real purpose to this shit now. I go in there and put my heart into it and that’s what it comes out to be,
When you were first starting the only way you knew to how express your emotions was by yelling it out.
Exactly. Now I can let that pain out without being so crazy with it. I know people are still gonna feel it. I don’t know what to say about this album. I can’t wait for you to hear it.
When you listen to the Blues or Jazz they don’t yell or scream, but you feel the pain deeply.
Right. I’ve come to that level now. I’m older and wiser. The young AP.9 was really a young AP.9. This is a grown AP.9. I’m workin my grown man’s game right now. I evolved into this from all these years of doing music. This is the person that the music has made me become.
How many AP.9 albums have you released?
Of all the album, not just solo, I’ve got 22 albums out. That includes solos, collabos, with my group, I did a couple of mixtapes. I’ve got 22 albums out.
Out of all those albums it seems like on this “Relentless” album you finally came into your own. This is the real AP.9.
That’s how I feel about “Relentless”. It’s my turn right now. It’s either now or never. That’s how I feel. I’m in my zone now. I can’t explain it. Like every time I step in the booth it comes out amazing every time.
Now that you have a team behind you, what kinds of plans do you have to get this album out there?
I’ve got a management team, a lady named Tanya Casper and my boy Jose Hernandez. They’re both doing some management for me. I’ve got my street team workin behind me now, pushin it. And before I was never really on the internet, and they’re showing me how to work this internet game. They’re on the internet pushing me, throwin out blasts. They’re out there trying to line up more shows, more in-stores. Those are things I never did. You gotta realize I was just a street nigga—did the album and put the album in the store. That was it. Even to this day I’ve never in my life had a record release part, ever. That’s something I need to do. I’ve never had a record release party, I’ve never had a listening party. That’s what we’re workin on now. I’m tryin to do shit that I’ve never done. I was out there in the street, they said I had a little talent, and I’d just go drop the album.
If you could jump on some major tours like with Strange Music that would really get your name out there.
I would love to tour with Tech N9ne or somebody like that. Or we could do a Mob Figaz tour. We could do a Mob Figaz tour right now and we could really shock the world. We could really do that. That’s something tha we’re workin on with PK and my management team. We need to get that name out there. After doing this for 14 years there’s still people who have never heard of Mob Figaz. There’s people right here in the Bay Area who’ve never heard of the Mob Figaz. I can’t believe it. That means that we’ve got a lotta steppin up to do. We need to work together and have each others’ backs and make it happen. We can go a long way.
When I heard your other albums each one had a different production style. Your rapping was consistent but you would use different production style with each album. How are you coming with this new album?
It’s all Mobb shit, straight up. It’s Mobb music. It’s not bringin it back cause Mobb shit ain’t went nowhere. What I’m bringing back is AP.9. The beats and all the bass lines is just crazy. And my topics is crazy. And my flow complements the beats. You’re gonna hear all types of shit. I’m bringin worldwide Mobb music, not just Bay Area Mobb shit. I’m bringin world Mobb music and everybody’s gonna be able to feel it. I’m not on no pretty bitch shit. I’m on some real-ass music. This is a real album. You gotta sit back and listen to it and feel it to know what I’m talkin about.
What about the overall feeling of the album? What are people telling you when they hear it?
It’s a lotta pain on there. When I do music I’m not just doin it for myself. I’m doing it for the next person too. Somebody might hear the song and be like, “Man, that song that you did got me through the day.” I’m making music for people who’ve been through what I’ve been through. I used to do music for me, for AP.9. Now I realized I gotta do music for the world. All the great artists made music for everybody, not just for themselves. I love when somebody comes up to me and tells me, “That song got me through the day.” That means a lot more to me than any money or anything. When somebody can really relate to my music it means a lot to me.
When you make music are you more focused on the lyrical side or are you more concerned about the sound of the album?
I’m not no lyrical dude. Personally I give a shit about the pain and emotion of the music. As long as I can touch somebody. I don’t do metaphors. I’m not that typa rapper. I’m not a freestyler or a battle rapper. I’m a reality rapper. I do what the beat tells me to do. On this album I didn’t take one beat home and write to it. I did it right there in the studio. I heard the beat, I let the beat talk to me, I wrote it and recorded it right there.
Are you talking about the drum tracks or the finished track with all the music? What moves you?
I listen to every little sound in the track. Everything in the music is what moves me. I might hear a sound in the chorus that might make me wanna talk about something in particular. I love bass, like the old school 808. I love music with orchestra sounds. When some people make music you just hear bass lines. I want you to hear every sound that’s in that muthafuckin track and you’re gonna feel it.
When you put the album together was it hard to decide on the sequence with so many songs?
That was the hard part. The hardest part of making the album was puttin songs in the right place. It took me like 15 times moving the songs around and onto which CD. Writing the songs, recording it, that was easy. The hard part was puttin the order of the songs so it flows like a movie. This album is like a movie. Like you follow it from beginning to the end and you’re waitin to hear how the end comes out.
From the time you started rapping you’ve been telling your story. After all these years has the story changed or are you telling it in a different way?
I still talk about stuff that I did growing up, but now I tell it in a different way. But for the most part when I do an album this year I’m talkin about stuff that happened this year. I’m not just talkin about old stuff. I might hear a beat that makes me wanna talk about my brother or my mom or something. But as an artist you have to grow. You can’t just stay in one place. I’m always growing and changing. On this album I really grew. I feel like I really found my style. I’m bringin flowing back. Niggaz ain’t flowing no more. Niggaz ain’t bustin flow-a-matic no more. I’m really busting, goin hard. You don’t have to rewind it to understand what the hell I said.
Are the song slow or fast?
Some of the songs are slow. It’s really an action packed album. We mobbin on this whole album. It’s only like 3 or 4 songs that are slow. I got all types of beats on here.
It sounds like a good album to put on and just ride around and listen.
Straight up. You gonna throw that muthafucka in. If you gonna drive to LA that’s all you need right there. You don’t need nothing else. You can just play both of them albums and be satisfied. This is the perfect album for this summer. I’m usually a calm and collected dude, but right now I’ve got to pat myself on my back. Ain’t nothing fuckin with this. I don’t give a shit who droppin. If you’re droppin on the 19th then you better move your shit back to next year on the 19th of April. Don’t even do it. It starts with yourself. You gotta have that confidence. I’m a humble guy. Anybody will tell you that AP.9 is a humble dude. But this time I’ve gotta give myself credit. I’ve never been so excited about an album. All the albums I did, I was happy to do an album, but I’ve never been excited for an album to drop like I am for “Relentless”.
Walter at City Hall let us know that AP.9’s new album was going to be really hot. He was excited about the music.
You know Walt, he listens to a lotta music. He called me like, “Man what was you thinkin?!” I’m thinking I did something wrong or something. He’s like, “This shit is incredible!” He hasn’t stopped playin it. That made me feel good that someone like Walt would call me and tell me, “This is what you need to keep doing. Straight, right here.”
I can’t wait to hear it. I was wondering where you were born. I know you were living in Pittsburg.
I was born in Oakland, California. I went through some shit with my mom. I’m from a family of dope fiends and alcoholics. My mom died, so we was in foster homes and all that shit. So I moved into the Central Valley, to Merced. I stayed out there in a foster home and got adopted by a family out there, me and my brother. My brother just passed, R.I.P. to my brother. I’m from the Bay, but I’m a worldwide nigga. I done lived all over, from Akron Ohio to Atlanta to LA. I represent the Bay all day every day. I’ve got Oakland tatted on my chest, cause that’s where I’m from, but I’m a worldwide nigga. I used to always say I’m from Oakland, representing them streets, but to me Earth is my turf. That’s how I feel. I can go anywhere on this planet and be at home. I can go somewhere where I’ve never been in my life and make it.
You probably never had a stable home when you were growing up.
I never had a stable place. My life was never easy. I can’t even believe I’m alive right now, to tell you the truth. I’ve been through so much pain and so much shit, I don’t know how I survived it all. I was not one of those kids who had a mom and dad, went to one school. I never had that. I was goin from home to home, runnin away from the group home, runnin away from the foster home. Gettin arrested, goin to juvenile hall, goin to CYA, getting back out, getting arrested again. Hoppin out the window and getting on a train at 13 years old. Catching the train from the Valley all the way back to the Bay Area, tryin to be around my family. I’ve been through a whole lot. I’ve never had a stable situation, never.
When you were growing up was there anyone you could rely on?
I had dogs, I had pit bulls, that was my best friends. I loved my pit bulls. And my brother that passed, his name was Drew, I been with him like my whole life. That was my best friend right there. He was the only person that really know me in this world, cause we been together through it all. But I always had my dogs. My best friends was animals. They was loyal to me. Wherever I went they went. I used to go to school and take my dog with me and tie my dog up on a tree somewhere. Then when I left school I’d run and grab my dog and then go. I was just a little grimy dude, man.
That experience is what makes your music so original. You crossed over into the darker side. It’s real life with a lot of substance—pain, sadness, tears, death. Most people never go there.
That’s true. Most people never cross over to that. I can’t let my past and me growing up stop my future. Whatever I been through, I can’t let that stop me. I put it into my music and tell the pain, that way I’m painting pictures with my music. Basically I’m painting a picture. I want you to be able to listen to my music and visualize what I’m sayin and feel it. I want you to picture yourself like you’re me. So many rappers never been through shit and they’re doin all this fake shit, but people really believe it. I really lived it, and I’m giving that to the people. Every time I drop an album there’s at least one song that’ll make you say, “This boy really been through some shit!” It’s all true.
How is your life now? Are things pretty good in your personal life?
Oh man, my life is the shit!! I’m living, look at me! I’m young, rich and Black. America’s nightmare. Look at me. My life is great.. I’m just happy to be living. I thank god for that every day. I know I’m not the biggest rapper or the richest dude, but I just do AP.9 and I’m happy to be alive. I surround myself with good people who wanna see me successful.
Do you still have dogs?
I still got my pit bulls. I’m an animal. I love my dogs. I’mma keep my dogs forever. I’ll always have my pit bulls. I like to play with ‘em, train ‘em, that typa shit. That’s a side of me most people don’t know. It gives me peace of mind when I’m with my dogs, just playing. I’m like that kid again. When I’m with my dogs I think of everything I did growing up, and I’m just having fun with ‘em.
Was there one dog that was your favorite and is he still living?
They all got old and passed on. I had a dog named Goldy, that was my boy. He had the gold eyes. He was the shit. I trained him. He got old though and passed away. I’m gonna keep getting more and more dogs until I die.
This has been a great interview. Did you say everything you wanted to say and you’re happy with the interview?
I’m happy. Every time I do an interview with you, Black Dog, I love it. Every time.