What rapper do you know can beat wrestler John Cena in an arm-wrestling match, yet be astute enough to consult a cell phone company on how to market to hip-hop listeners? If you answered Freddie Foxxx, you were right. For almost two decades the industry gladiator has struck fear into hearts of MCs and executives alike with releases like Industry Shakedown and Konexion. While he works on his much-anticipated Amerikkan Blackman project, he’s re-released his Crazy Like a Foxxx CD on Fatbeat Records. The Urban Daily spoke with one of hip-hop’s most controversial MCS about his feud with Rakim, his friendship with Tupac and the real reason Sarah Palin was picked to be VP.
TUD: Your critiques of the record label industry are pretty much legend by now. What is your perspective on what is happening in the industry with digital distribution etc.?
FF: I learned from an O.G. a long time ago what was to come with the Internet. I have this I told you so attitude because I’m very computer literate so I was prepared for it. Now it’s time to see which one of these rap guys are really hustlers. The do-it-yourselfers are gonna be the bosses. The labels are gonna figure it out but there is going to be a lag time between them figuring it out and you getting your money. Like Myspace wants to corner the community market with all the deals they did with the labels. You’ve got guys who aren’t even popular artists selling $300 to $400 worth of music a month, once the labels figure that out their run is over. It’s like a riot, you only have a limited time to get your loot before they send in the reinforcements to shut you down. That’s how I look at the music business, it’s lootin time.
There is one line in your bio that alludes to a “confrontation at MCA records” over your debut Freddie Foxxx is Here. What happened there?
There was a budget set aside for my marketing and promotion. The budget disappeared and when I rolled through the city in my brand new Benz looking for my snipes, because I check behind my business, I noticed that there was not really a presence. So when I made my phone calls I realized that dudes were stealing money. I realized that the deal I had was based on the fact that they wanted to keep Eric B happy. Eric was a big selling artist and he put me in a situation and the label only did it to keep him happy.
You were supposed to form a group with Eric B. but showed up to your meeting late. What happened? Flat tire?
Eric B. was looking for an artist and I was recommended to him as one of the best artists in the area. When I ran into him in the street he told me there was a time that he wanted me to meet him and I didn’t think he was serious. There was always people approaching me wanting to do records and every one of them turned out to be bogus and at the time I thought Eric was one of those guys that was more talking and no action, but he actually turned out to be the real deal and I didn’t show up. I’m glad it turned out the way it did. I believe that everything happens for a reason.
Was that why you and Rakim had/have beef?
That wasn’t the reason me and Rakim had a problem. We didn’t have a problem until I read an article where the interviewer told him ‘oh Freddie Foxxx said he wanted to battle you and you didn’t want it.’ Instead of handling it he jumped off the gun at me. I thought he should have said ‘I’ll call Foxxx and see if that’s what he said.’ He’d done that a couple times, that wasn’t he first time. That flipped my switch and this was the last straw. So it caused me to lash out the way I did. I’m not gonna let nobody play me like a chump. I don’t have a problem with dude. I’ll always recognize him as a legend, I’m not mad at him for having success. He’s a great MC. But no matter how great you are, you have to handle people a certain way.
So were you really trying to set-up a battle with him back in the day?
That’s what everyone was doing. We were battling with other towns, other rappers. It wasn’t like I was pointing him out. It wasn’t a disrespect thing. We were copying what the dudes in the Bronx were doing. We wanted to see who was the best. But that’s old shit. I had my share of battles.
What’s your most memorable battle?
I had a few. I went at it with Ultramagnetic. I went at it with a bunch of dudes. One time I went to Boston and I was in a battle with a bunch of rappers I didn’t know. I came home with a battle out of Boston Mass. This was after Freddie Foxxx is Here came out. There was a cat in Long Island that I never got to battle, but he was real ill, named Super Star. That would have been a good battle. I never wanted to rap with or against cats who couldn’t put pressure on me. I don’t take easy Ws. If I think you built to put pressure on me I’m interested in doing a record with you. On a song when you collab with people that’s what it is, it’s a battle.
On Crazy Like a Foxxx you have a song with Tupac called “Killa.” What was your relationship like with him and how did that song get made?
Pac was my boy. We made “Killa”…we ran into each other in D.C. at Howard University. We were in town for a music seminar and talked about making a song together. He showed up at the studio, I did the track and we rocked out. It was a crazy experience to work with him because he gets involved all the way. A good visionary, very detailed with everything he wanted to say. He stayed around to make sure that what he did fit everything on the song. It was a pleasure working with Tupac. That’s one of the guys I miss working with. Getting a verse from ‘Pac by email is different from having him in the studio. There’s a whole lot of shit that happens between that rhyme being laid down and the song coming out.
A lot seems to happen after the song is made as well. Busta’s whole Blessed album was shelved by Interscope and now he is about to realign with Sylvia Rhone at Motown, his old boss at Elektra. Good or bad move for him?
Bad move. That means Busta is in jump the shark mode. Motown is a graveyard for rappers. Motown couldn’t sell a rap record if they tried. They could have done a better job with Latifah. I’m not trying to play Busta because I would never do that. He’s had an incredible career. But him going to Motown is not good. Motown as a whole doesn’t have a hip-hop atmosphere. I think he’s big enough to do his own label, his own Internet.
Sometimes the artists get to give the labels the headache. Nas put Def Jam through their paces with the naming of his last album. What do you think of the N-Word controversy?
I don’t think Nas should have signed with Def Jam to begin with, number one. Nas should have kept the album called N*gga like he planned to. Because he don’t stick to his concepts. He’ll abandon a concept when the album is over. He’ll do “hip-hop is dead” and then when the album comes out he’ll say “oh that was last year.” But when you make a powerful statement like “hip-hop is dead” you gotta carry that all the way across the finish line. And after you cross the finish line you have to hold it up like a trophy. Nas makes up some of the most incredible concepts and is very visionary. You can’t abandon a concept that is that powerful or your stance. If it’s just about music then tell everybody this is just an album title and not my beliefs. But when you stand in front of Fox News, you gotta ride that out. You can’t say “screw Jesse Jackson” and then disappear. You make yourself look bad when you do that. Nas’ albums are bigger than just titles. His albums can be movements…That ain’t nothing nobody should be afraid to tell him.
Earlier you mentioned your computer literacy. You have several businesses that you run on the side, correct?
I have a motorcycle club called Krupt Mob which is comprised of real motorcycle riders. I started making motorcycle music so I attribute a lot of what I do musically to many different things. We shoot our own videos, I do all of my own video editing. It’s not because I have to, but I want to. I like to be involved in the creative process.
Were you working in advertising at one point?
Early in my career I was producing commercials and stuff like that. I felt that was easier than making a record because you had a 60 second spot and a 30 second spot. Trying to make a commercial sound valid… Back in the days I told Omnipoint Phones that if you make your commercials sound more like records people wouldn’t turn away from the radio so fast when the commercials came on. So I got guys like DJ Clue to plug their product on mixtapes. That was one of the beginnings of mixtape marketing. There are companies that will pay you to mention their product on a mix CD. I was one of the first people to do that. I was getting Clue $1000 or $2000 a CD just to mention Omnipoint.
So you were Steve Stout before Steve Stout?
Eh…I’d never be that. [laughs]
What’s the Freddie Foxxx workout plan? You don’t beat John Cena in arm wrestling drinking protein shakes.
All my strength is internal. I eat light foods like oatmeal and drink a lot of water. Eat chicken cesar salad, light jogging, hit the weights. I learned a lesson in thy gym with John Cena. I used to lift heavy and I used to get what they call “pre-exhaustion.” He wouldn’t let me go heavier than 200lbs and that was probably the hardest workout I ever had in my life. After each [set] I had to do 25 push-ups. I think he paid me back for that arm-wrestling match. [laughs]
What’s going on with your Amerikkan Black Man project?
I just sat down with a producer that I’m not going to disclose right now and I asked him if he could Executive Produce Amerikkan Black man. Which means he’s going to sit down and listen to everything. I’ve got four different ABM albums and I’m confused. It has to have a consistency to it so I reached out to one of my buddies. We’re gonna do a press release soon. I got Music From The Man albums where I do 12 songs with one producer to show people producers can keep consistency by themselves like Gamble & Huff used to do. Albums don’t tell stories anymore. Music is supposed to paint a picture of a time frame, not just one song but a whole album. And I just did an album with KRS called Royalty Check. Me and him on every record.
Lastly, what are your thoughts on the American Black man running for President?
When I look at the two candidates running for president right now, I don’t feel John McCain is connected to people who are not rich. Barack Obama has a lot to learn still but he’s sincere. When he speaks to people he doesn’t do it off of paper. I don’t believe Sarah Palin knows anything past Alaska. I know the Alaskan pipeline is one of the biggest in the world and all this Iraq war stuff has something to do with her being selected. There’s some connection between Bush, Palin, McCain and Iraq and gas prices. There’s some money missing somewhere. I think Barack Obama if he wins, he’ll have a lot to deal with, but he’s done a great job. He made history even if he doesn’t win. I’ve always been proud to be Black and hopefully if he wins you’ll hear Amerikkan Black Man.