that we have artists that make people understand that again. With the listening public now, it seems like everybody wants the single and sometimes they might not even want something that’s too hard or abrasive. What do you look forward to the most dealing with 9th Ward in the market now? Like I said, I’m me. I’m looking forward to breaking rappers the way I’ve always been known to break rappers. Rap is street. Rap is underground. Rap is mixtapes. Rap is OZONE Magazine. If you can get above all the stuff that you’re supposed to, you’re more than successful if you start getting bigger than that; but for the most part when you young and growing up, listening to rap music, learning about rap music, you wanna be in the same realms that you know rap is about. I ain’t never seen Rakim on too many magazine covers, but it wasn’t nowhere I could go where I wouldn’t hear his record, people wouldn’t be quoting his raps and people didn’t know who he is. That’s basically the same lifestyle I think this guy should take. He should definitely be on that page, where it’s not even about your first album. I think that’s another thing people focus on wrong in rap. You can make more albums. If you can be 50 Cent or Snoop Dogg on your first album, then you’re blessed, but everybody ain’t getting that. Everybody’s gotta work and grow into who they’re [supposed] to be. Tupac wasn’t Tupac on the first album. He grew into Tupac, and I think that’s what made people like the artist he grew into. It makes it harder for the artist if they come out and blow right up to the top; it ain’t really nowhere else for them to go. Then, the whole country is looking at you like, “He gonna fall off next time. I betcha his next album is gonna be whack.” It’s the same way with Lil Wayne. He was at Cash Money forever. He wasn’t the Lil Wayne that he is now, but we like him more because we saw him grow and turn into the animal that he is today. If he woulda came out [that way] from the gate, he wouldn’t have this buzz that’s got. We like those rappers the most [for their growth]. Is this gonna be a situation where you look from the skybox instead of trying to be the coach on the court? Hell no. I’m on the tour right now. We’re doing a strip club tour. We’re going to all the strip clubs in all the Southern cities. I’m on the tour right now, right there with him. One thing about [9th Ward] is, he’s young. He’s young to the industry and I’ve seen a lot of artists get on the road who can’t deal with a lot of stuff that’s going on. Like now, he’s getting a cover, [but] a lot of people don’t even know him. People might be like, “What the fuck?!” I’m beside him so he can understand how to deal with that; riding with him. [If I was] watching from the skybox, that ain’t gonna work. What’s it been like being on tour? Is it bringing back memories of when you first started? It’s funny, because people always ask me that like I’ve never done it before. Every artist that I ever brought out that was successful, I always was on the road with them first. Whether it be [Da] Brat, Bow Wow, Xscape, or Anthony Hamilton. When I first brought Anthony out, we’d go do shows and it might be 200 people in the audience or even 50 people, just to see him. And we’d keep going. And every time I’d go to do a show with him, one or two people would be like, “This guy’s incredible. I’ma tell my friends.” So the next time we came back to the same city, it’d be like five hundred people. And by the time his album came out, we’d come back again and it was 2,500 people. I believe that this is how you’ve gotta break 46 // OZONE MAG
records. I believe the record companies try to sell music to people who don’t wanna buy music, so you’ve gotta go to the places where people are showing that they still wanna buy. In the strip clubs, niggas are buying mixtapes. Niggas like it when you give them mixtapes. They enjoy coming to the club and listening to the music. The girls in the club know all the lyrics. You gotta go to the places where people enjoy what’s going on. I don’t believe in selling 9th Ward in places where I’m just trying to sell him to people and you don’t even know if they like the music. I’ma always do that. I’ma go on the road with my artist and really show them and make them understand my way of thinking. If not, you can get lost and learn other people’s way of thinking. Not to say my way is right, but if you’re on my team, I’ma be Phil Jackson.
f JD is the Phil Jackson of this operation. That would make Nitti either Kobe or Michael Jordan. The show can run with out him. He sets the tone and acts as the conduit between the coach and the rest of the players. This time around, Nitti the player will be making moves in the office as well as on the court. As CEO of Playmaker Music, Nitti has created hits for Boyz N Da Hood, Gucci Mane and most notably Yung Joc with “Its Goin’ Down.” Hired as more of a musical assassin for his hit-making prowess, Nitti will also be wearing the executive hat for 9th Ward’s project. “Wearing the executive hat is definitely a challenge,” admits Nitti about his latest venture, a joint deal between Playmaker and so so def through Island Def Jam. “At the end of the day, you’re spending money. When you’re operating a company it’s more than just you going in here slanging a beat or two. If you don’t slow down, you done spent bout a quarter mil real quick on some bull. you gotta be smart. How did this whole situation happen? Nitti: I did the deal last year and I also did a label deal last year at Warner Brothers, so it took a while to find some artists that I believe in. I don’t want one-hit wonders. As a producer, I got tired of seeing a lot of acts come in and sell 100,000200,000. A lot of labels wonder why they only sell 20,000 or 30,000 thousand copies in the first week. When you look at the big picture, it might boil down to the type of artist and the types of albums that people [are] putting together now. I always look at the big dogs like [Dr.] Dre and a lot of those cats. How do you go back to selling three or four million? That’s what I wanna know. That’s what I wanna do with any artist that I sign. How did you come across him?
I came across him through one of my A&Rs. She was in the club and she into 9th Ward, and brought me his CD. I sat on it ‘bout six months and I ain’t even listen to it. Why did it take you so long to listen to it? Honestly, I get a gang of CDs. I’m not one of those producers that doesn’t really go through music and listen to it. I really listen to it. I was so backed up with CDs, but [during] the time that I do take to listen to music, I happened to pick his up. I hadn’t heard nothing I liked, but once I got to his music I started to play it. Repeat it, repeat it. I immediately wanted to sign him. JD had just got the position over there [at Island Def Jam]. I had just done a label deal over at Warner Brothers but they had a gang of stuff going on, so I thought it was a better home for him to be over in the Universal/ Island Def Jam system. They’ve been doing a lot of rap stuff and ain’t nothing wrong with the Warner system, but I think that at the end of the day, I wanna win. I think Def Jam is where he belongs. What stood out to you about his music? His originality, and being able to keep my attention. His songs that made me wanna hear the second and third verse verses. He kept my attention, and that’s hard to do, because I hear so many rappers. I signed him and didn’t look back; then JD gave me a deal over at Island Def Jam. As a producer, did it sound raw or polished already? With him, he’s real raw. You’ve gotta let artists be creative. I let him go in the studio, and get the beat that I want him to rap on. He goes in the studio and he puts everything he wants to put into that record. I don’t have to babysit him, I just go in there and critique him. Once I hear what I wanna hear, I edit it and mix it. He’s real, he’s experienced, he knows what he’s doing. That’s something that I haven’t really come across in a lot of new artists. I’m like, “Did this dude have a deal or something I didn’t know about?” You come across a diamond and you’re like, “How did everybody overlook this?” He’s so raw that people looked at him like, “Oh, he’s a street cat,” but they didn’t take the time to listen to what he had to say. When you first got together to sit down and talk, did you feel like it was instant chemistry? Once I put him in the studio, he made song after song after song, good records. I was like “Damn, when is he gonna mess up?” but dude kept coming with hot records. He sold me. When you say “mess up,” what do you mean? Make a bad record. Dude made damn near sixty records, and I wanted to hear all of them. He did all this in three months and I haven’t heard a bad record come out of him yet. He’s not perfect, of course, nobody is, but he makes good records that will keep your attention. Everybody tries too hard to have swagger. Remember when everybody was trying to sound like T.I. a few years ago? At the end of the day, T.I. the only one still standing. Being original is what sold me on 9th Ward. He was original; he wasn’t trying to be like nobody, and that’s what I respect. What was it like working with an artist that was not really from the same background? You usually work with Atlanta artists. It was a challenge. I think I’ve got Atlanta riding with me. I know I’ve got my city behind my back, so I decided to go get an artist outside of Atlanta and show people what I can do. It’s the same thing producers like like [Dr.] Dre did. Dre went