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to know and I still don’t know if he ever gonna spazz out or none of that. We’ll have to see that. We’re still learning [about] each other but like I said, “I’m Hip Hop,” I don’t really care about it. So if he do that, that’s a part of the game.” Nitti adds, “When I met him, I had second thoughts because this nigga look like he might do something to somebody. He tatted up, he slugged up, got the golds in his mouth, so I’m like, ‘do I need to trust this nigga?’ So as a person, I had to take a gamble. I’m in the streets all day, every day. I’m good at judging character. So with him it was a little bit tricky because I was like, you can’t go off the image. Once I heard what he was talking about, I saw a little bit of me in him where people just had to just listen to what he had to say. What I heard what was on his mind and his goals, he told me, ‘I’m gonna become a priority on your label.’ And for someone to come to me and tell me that, I’m like, ‘Aight, show me.’” Everyone knows that you’re the head honcho at Island Def Jam now. Tell me what was so attractive about this Playmaker and 9th Ward situation? Jermaine Dupri: Nitti’s been down with So So Def [for a while]. I signed Nitti back when people was first hearing him. So I signed him as a producer back when he did “Stop Playin’ Games” for 8Ball. That’s one of the first times I was paying attention to him making beats and I’m like, “I like this dude.” I don’t know if people really know our relationship, but he’s been down with me for a minute. So through the whole Yung Joc thing, he was down with So So Def. With my producers, I’m always looking for them to go and find talent the same way I used to, so he found 9th Ward. I heard it, and it was poppin’. What stood out about the music that made you want to work with them? I like records that sound like I don’t need to touch them. The majority of the artists that I sign, I didn’t produce, I put their records out like the way the come, like Bonecrusher or J-Kwon. Their records were done. Rocko’s record was done [when I signed him]. I only produced one song on Anthony Hamilton’s record. He ain’t need me to produce none of his records to become the person that everybody know. It just needed somebody like myself to put the records out. After that, I started learning about the person. When you learn about [9th Ward] and what he had to go through, that’s a hard life. He’s only been rapping a short amount of time, but there’s people who have been rapping ten years and ain’t have to uproot they life and lose they whole hood. It’s a lot of craziness that went on and I think it got him [thinking] real serious like, “If I wanna rap, I need to really, really get on this.” From me hearing that story, you can just hear the pain in his voice, and when you talk to him you can tell it’s a serious situation. Not that all other emcees aren’t serious, but with [9th Ward], he’s got a lot of other stuff going on in his life that makes his story really more complex and compelling to me. What was it like working with an artist from New Orleans? Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall you working with a lot of New Orleans artists in the past. It’s different. I’m a person that studies where people [are] from. I don’t try to make everybody uproot and come to Atlanta; it’s other things going on besides Atlanta. I’ve always been trying to push everybody to come to this city, but I mean, he named himself after a hood out there, right? So my thing was, let’s go to New Orleans and make sure that the people of New Orleans support you, as opposed to what’s going on in Atlanta and what I got going on. If something happened to me, the representation he’d get from Atlanta is based off of me, but where you’re from, you gotta get that on your own. It’s tough because I don’t know nothing about New Orleans. I just know from listening to Cash Money and Master P. So it’s crazy for me to run around the city with him and try to figure out the right things and the wrong things to do when you’re in unknown territory. But that’s part of my job so I have to do it. Did his music remind you of that early P and Cash Money? Yeah, 100 percent. When you listen to 9th Ward, he sounds like New Orleans. What I know New Orleans to sound like, that’s what he reminds me of, the early days when we first started hearing Cash Money, the first Juvy album, all that. It just sounds like a more up-to-date version [of New Orleans] with a little twist on it, from what Nitti’s doing with him and what I’m doing with him. We loved all that music, everything that came from New Orleans. We was on that hard, at least here in Atlanta. When I first heard his record, Nitti didn’t even play it for me. I heard it playing and I was like, “Who the hell is that?” That’s another reason why I wanted to sign him, because it sounded right coming out of the stereo without people pushing it on you. You usually got the introduction, like, “My dude will make you money and he’s the best rapper,” I ain’t get all that [with Nitti and 9th Ward]. I just caught the song. What song was it? “My Choppa.” I think that’s the first one we heard. And just from that song alone, it didn’t sound like he was trying to convince nobody of nothing. He’s not trying to make these quick records that you put out. With a record like “My Choppa,” he was trying to let people get to know him as an artist. You can tell he’s trying to make records that represent how he really feels and what’s going on in his life as opposed to thinking, “I need to make a dance record or something people can dance to so I can go to Atlanta and try to get on.” I think it’s important OZONE MAG // 45

Ozone Mag #67 - May 2008  

Ozone Mag #67 - May 2008

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