Juelz Santana Interview
|Next Project:||Born to Lose, Built to Win (Q1, '09)|
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When Juelz Santana titled his ‘05 sophomore album, “What The Game’s Been Missing,” he probably didn’t realize he would be foreshadowing the next three years of his career. Following his lengthy and unwanted semi-hiatus, which included no new albums or mixtapes and a limited number of guest appearances, the Harlem native is back in the fold with a new record deal, a slew of brand new street albums, and details concerning his highly-anticipated junior album set for release at the top of next year.
Over the past few weeks, Santana’s name has been in headlines across the Net, but according to the rapper they’ve been for the wrong reasons. Redundant speculation about a falsified robbery overseas, rumors concerning the breakup of Diplomat Records, and his relationship with Cam’ron have all taken center stage. The 23-year-old, however, is determined to showcase what is most important: his new music. On Friday, Santana will release his new Skull Gang mixtape, “Takeover: The New Movement to Move Wit.”
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” Santana steps inside the booth to discuss how he plans to make up for lost time, the possibility of a “Diplomatic Immunity Part 3,” why his collaboration album with Lil Wayne, “I Can’t Feel My Face,” has not yet been released, and what the meaning is behind the ad lib, “A!”
Listen to the Interview
Juelz Santana Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Harlem native who you will be hearing a lot more of in the months to come. Signed to Def Jam and the leader of the Skull Gang, please welcome Juelz Santana – how you doin’?
Juelz Santana: Aight – what’s good, baby? I’m not happy, I’m excited right now, I’m feelin’ damn good right now. What up, Z?
DJ Booth: I’m excited that you’re excited!
Juelz Santana: Yeah, I got a lot goin’ on right now, know what I mean?
DJ Booth: Juelz, over the last few weeks, your name has been in the headlines for a variety of reasons. Deep down inside, is what is said and written about you by the media and on hip hop blogs bothersome, or do you just let it all slide?
Juelz Santana: I don’t really see nothing to be bad, to be honest. I don’t really deal with that kind of stuff, when it comes to people sayin’ stuff. I’m one of the realest dudes you’ll probably ever meet; that’s why you never see me gettin’ on cameras actin’ a fool. If I’ve got something to say, I just say it. If I’ve got something to prove, I just prove it. I don’t really have to be Superman when the cameras come on – I let them other n*ggas do that. When you get up with them, it’s a whole different story, but I didn’t really see anything bad goin’ on – tell me what was goin’ on, that you thought that maybe I would’ve been upset about.
DJ Booth: Well, there’s obviously the speculation about what happened while you were over in London.
Juelz Santana: I don’t think [there’s] too much speculation, I think [it’s just] haters – they’re just never gonna really believe. There’s no more to really say about that incident, know what I’m saying? I proved that. What is there to even talk more about? Y’all seen my interview on the Internet, I’m sure y’all did. I had all my jewelry, I called up the actual dude that we ran into in London – shout-out to my man Tanner. I’m not sayin’ I couldn’t get robbed, or I could never get robbed – my whole point is I didn’t get robbed. I believe in a different type of theory: if a dude does something to me, I’m just gonna have to get him back in the long run, but ain’t nothing happened – we wound up squashing that sh*t like gangsters and gentlemen, you dig?
DJ Booth: I agree wholeheartedly with everything you’re saying, but obviously while you’re saying it, you seem a little mad. Is it because I brought the question up, or just because it all went down?
Juelz Santana: It’s really just, like I said, how can there be more speculation, really? Do you see anybody on the Internet with my jewelry?
DJ Booth: Definitely not.
Juelz Santana: Of course not, right?
DJ Booth: Listen, I’m just as confused as you are.
Juelz Santana: I know, I’m just askin’ you – you’re talking about the little bit of speculation, so I’m just gettin’ it out there. That’s what bothers me, really: I feel like I proved that. The questions are repetitive. I got bigger and better things than that goin’ on: I got a mixtape comin’ out this Friday, with some of the powerful-est music you’ll ever hear, I’m introducing a crew that’s crazier than ever, Skull Gang, we about to move on this whole industry, and y’all are talkin’ about an incident that’s kind of irrelevant. So that’s what kind of bothers me – like, we’re gonna sit here and talk about this for how long?
DJ Booth: Well, my intentions were not to talk about it at all. I wanted to know if you were still bothered by the people that were talking about it. But listen: since you said you’re not, let’s move forward. You have a brand new mixtape that’s dropping, with the Skull Gang. Juelz, for an artist like yourself, who has been on the rise for years but has yet to really peak on a mainstream, national, worldwide level, what do you think it will take to put on an entire crew of new artists?
Juelz Santana: I’m lookin’ at myself almost like, hey, just as much as I’m good, I feel so refreshed right now. I’m taking my career almost like a new artist right now – that’s how hard I’m goin’, that’s how hungry I am. I’m goin’ that hard, even though people know me. So it’s like, when you first hear 50 Cent, where did you hear him? With G-Unit, right? So that’s my point – he didn’t really have no music out at the time. In that sense, that’s how I feel like I can do it, and it shouldn’t be a problem. The music speaks for itself the same way with Cam’ron’s tour, when we did our first Diplomats, second Diplomats mixtapes, same way. It was like, you never got a solo Cam mixtape; the Diplomats mixtape was Cam’s mixtape. That’s what this is all about. I [feel] like the game [is] a wide open lane; a lot of dudes had the chance to do the right thing, and they did the wrong thing. As much as people want me back, I feel like they want something new, and I’ve got a whole bunch of talented people around me, and I said, “I’m not gonna sit here, holdin’ back, and wait 2 more years for me to get all my things right. I’m gonna bring ‘em all on this ride, and we’re all gonna move together.”
DJ Booth: Would you say then, after having just recently renegotiated your deal with Def Jam, no longer signed to Cam’ron’s Diplomat Records imprint, that this is a fresh start to your career?
Juelz Santana: I don’t feel like it’s a fresh start, I feel like it’s a new chapter in my book. Like I tell people, it’s Dipset for life. You wanna get it correct? Nobody’s signed to Diplomat Records, nobody. I was the only artist that was signed to Diplomat Records. You’ve got to understand, we wasn’t out there keepin’ the bird flyin’ high. Nobody’s really heard from Cam in a minute, know what I’m sayin’? And like I said, I vowed I would never talk, but this is not really talkin’ bad, it’s just keepin’ it 100. Like, we’ve been out flyin’ the bird – who have you seen in the past couple years? And it’s a thin line between loyalty and stupidity, at the end of the day.
DJ Booth: You mentioned in several interviews that you were held back from working with other artists. Who would you like to see yourself have the opportunity to collaborate with?
Juelz Santana: Everybody – everybody that wanted to work with me, everybody that reached out before, y’all can reach out now. I ain’t got no problem with clearances, I can clear my own stuff. Nobody gotta worry about none of that; Juelz is doin’ his damn thing, he’s his own boss now. One thing I’ll say is I hope we still can do the Diplomatic Immunity 3 album – Juelz is all for that. You got my word on that. I’m all for that, ‘cause now I know I can do my business the right way, and that’s all it was about.
DJ Booth: From a fan standpoint, Juelz, when they hear that you were held up in this situation for 2-plus years, that is 2 years [worth] of music that they were not able to hear you on-
Juelz Santana: Yeah, and to be honest, that’s why I don’t just drop an album right now. That’s why I’m giving y’all all these mixtapes that I’m about to put out, all this music. I think there’s a lot of things that they’ve [missed out on], so for me to drop one single and then drop an album with 14 songs on it, I think that’s unfair to my fans. I feel like the right thing to do is build up, show ‘em what I’ve been doin’. This is what I’ve been doin’: I’ve been puttin’ together a movement that’s gonna take over the game. I’m puttin’ out The Reagan Era, which is gonna be my solo mixtape, then we’re gonna do a couple more things. We got the commercial out, introducing everybody to the game. Basically, it’s just us finding new ways to promote ourselves, and do different things. Watch, you’ll probably see everybody startin’ to do the same thing, ‘cause you know how they swagger-jack guys like me.
DJ Booth: Do you feel like you have to at all make up for lost time?
Juelz Santana: In a way definitely. In a way, hell yeah. I now feel like I’ve got to accomplish a lot more in a shorter period of time.
DJ Booth: Juelz, do you feel like this is all going to set up expectations that you are going to have a hard time meeting?
Juelz Santana: No, no, no. I definitely don’t feel like that. I feel like me and Weezy was doin’ a lot of the same things at a point, as far as just gettin’ on records, we was workin’ together, you know, the I Can’t Feel My Face project was supposed to be comin’ out. I feel like I’ve already met those expectations, and now I’ve just got a lot more time to see a lot of different things and weed out a lot more snakes that were in my grass.
DJ Booth: You mentioned your collaborative project with Weezy, I Can’t Feel My Face, that has not yet dropped. I’ve probably received at least 100 Emails over the past year from fans wanting to know what’s up with the project. You said in a previous interview it’s done, it’s sitting on a hard drive, but you’re unsure of when it’s going to be released. So what’s it going to take?
Juelz Santana: One of the biggest problems was my situation that I was in. I don’t know exactly, ‘cause there were a lot of higher powers, and sometimes people use other people to be the bad guy in this business. That’s how this business works. But hopefully, now that I’m out of my situation, I can go speak for myself. And once again, the album is done, so that’s the beautiful thing about it, too.
DJ Booth: When you heard that Wayne was also planning on dropping a similar collaborative project with T-Pain, and your project with him has yet to touch down as we’ve already mentioned, were you at all confused or upset, like, “All right, our collaborative project is still in the works and not out, and you’re already planning another one?”
Juelz Santana: Oh, no, no, no. Wayne goes hard – that’s just to show you how much Wayne works. Wayne is a grown man. See, this is all part of people – and I don’t mean you, I mean people – that’s how somebody else would think, a hater, or someone who just wants to have a problem with another person. Me and Wayne got a genuine relationship. For me to ever sit back and act or feel like I’m mad about him doin’ an album with T-Pain, that would just be stupid. Imagine me doin’ that right now, imagine me goin’ crazy. That never crossed my mind, actually. I’m waitin’ to hear the album. And of course, we can get into my album now, Born to Lose, Built to Win.
DJ Booth: The title that you selected, Born to Lose, Built to Win, do you feel like that summarizes the struggle, or maybe I shouldn’t say “struggle,” but the process that you’ve gone through?
Juelz Santana: Yeah, man – just Born to Lose, Built to Win. You’re gonna get a lot of things on this album: you’re gonna get stress, you’re gonna get excitement, you’re gonna get pain, you’re gonna get love, you’re gonna get the realest sh*t I ever wrote. You’re gonna get that struggle.
DJ Booth: Juelz, how much of this album is already done, and how much do you still have to do?
Juelz Santana: I mean, if I had to drop an album tomorrow, I could drop an album tomorrow, and then another album the next week. I have a bunch of music recorded, but I never stop recording, so until the month I turn my album in, I assume my album is never really done.
DJ Booth: Juelz, I grabbed a bunch of questions from our readers. First one’s from Gator, out of Chicago. Gator wants to know, “How do you think you’ve grown as an artist over the last 3 years, since your sophomore album dropped?”
Juelz Santana: I work every day, so I’m naturally gonna get better. The second things is, I’ve been through so much. I’ve been a part of a team, I’m still worthy of my hood, you’re still gonna be able to get that real-world rap from me that I’ve always had. My sh*t is not tainted; these dudes can still relate to it. I’m young, man. I ain’t 30. They relate to me, they still understand what’s goin’ on.
DJ Booth: Juelz, our next question comes from AJ of Corpus Christi, Texas, and AJ wrote, “You turned out to be a hell of a rapper, but what did you want to be when you grew up?”
Juelz Santana: What did I want to be when I grew up? Hm…
DJ Booth: Firefighter? Astronaut? Basketball player?
Juelz Santana: I knew I wanted to be was a doctor, for a minute, when I was real, real young. But once I got to be about 7 or 8, I was in the street, so all I wanted to do was be flashy, flossy, and fly some type of way, and at the time that was hustlin’.
DJ Booth: Well, you might not be a doctor, but you are writing prescriptions for good music.
Juelz Santana: I appreciate that, man. And, just so you know, Z, the beginning of the conversation, when we started off with the London thing, I don’t want you to take it personal, ‘cause you’re my dude – it wasn’t you. I’m so excited about this mixtape and this movement that I got goin’ on, but this question keeps popping up, and this incident happened so long ago – that actually kinda gets frustrating. It’s not even about the incident or you per se, you dig what I’m sayin’?
DJ Booth: Oh, no, we’re cool.
Juelz Santana: I know we’re cool, baby. [laugh]
DJ Booth: It’d be another story if you made bad music, but I love your music, so you’re good.
Juelz Santana: I appreciate that, man.
DJ Booth: You’re very welcome. Last question before I let you get out of here: I want to know the story behind your usage of the, “A!” I mean, are you really Canadian? What’s going on with the “A!?”
Juelz Santana: A, A, A! It was just something that came about, you know? It fit with me. It has no specific meaning. We could make a meaning right now: “A!” is for the first letter in the alphabet, which is number one, and that’s what I am!
DJ Booth: [laughs] There you go! You didn’t even have to think about it…
Juelz Santana: Yeah, that was the first time I ever put that out. So that’s what “A!” stands for. We just made a meaning behind the, “A!,” right here with my man Z.
DJ Booth: I appreciate the exclusive. Juelz, obviously you have a lot goin’ on, and I want everybody to know where they can find out more about it, so give them a website or a MySpace page.
Juelz Santana: Yo, you can go to myspace.com/juelzsantana. Skull Gang: Street Kings United By Loyalty and Loot, goons and n*ggas gettin’ it, yeah!
DJ Booth: Juelz, I appreciate your time. Thank you for joinin’ me inside the DJ Booth, my man.
Juelz Santana: It’s all love, baby! A!
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