[Interview] Rapper Big Pooh – The Thomas Jones Affair

Originally published at The Well Versed

Remember the shy kid who used to scribble on paper in the back of your class? He may not have said much, but when you finally got a hold of his paper, you thought to yourself, “damn, this kid has talent.” The kid in the back of the class is now a grown man. And that man is Rapper Big Pooh. If you’ve followed Pooh’s career, you’ve seem him grow up on the mic. From the lesser known member of Little Brother to the artist and label head we see today, Mr. Jones has come into his own. Days before the release of his next solo effort, Dirty Pretty Things, Rapper sat down with TWV to discuss the new album, why he’s still got a chip on his shoulder and developing confidence in the rap game.

The Well Versed: How are things going these days?

Rapper Big Pooh: Everything is good, just trying to take care of some last minute things. I’m trying to release a video for “They Say.”

TWV: On your first album, you rapped about having a chip on your shoulder that’s bigger than a boulder, do you still feel that way given how far you’ve come?

RBP: I think I’ll always have that. Now, you keep that chip but you don’t always walk around like that’s the only reason you’re still doing something. You remember, and you move one.

TWV: What caused you to have that chip?

RBP: All the talk. I was always looked upon as less than, as a replaceable member. Even to this day, there’s still some of that chatter. Now I know how to pay no attention. At 21, fresh in the game to think you’ve done something marvelous and the talk is, “Yeah the project is dope, but Big Pooh? He can go.” Luckily I was able to channel that into something that worked for me.

TWV: How’d you get over that?

RBP: My manager Big Dho. He always saw something in me that I failed to see in myself. He was always pushing me to not only better myself but to keep going. I needed that push at the time because I was able to take that push and start doing things to build up my confidence. The biggest boost was when he pushed me to complete my own solo record.

TWV: Sleepers?

RBP: Yeah. I was always recording just to work on my craft. He told me that the other members were doing something so I needed to as well. That was me showing people I was doing something. I didn’t have any help from 9th or Phonte. I took a then unknown producer in Khrysis—he wasn’t getting a lot of shine—me and him went in and put that project together. Once I saw I could do it, it really helped my confidence.

TWV: Given so much of the history with Little Brother and the Justus League, is there any anxiety now that you’re totally solo?

RBP: No anxiety, I know it’s a lot of hard work. The first time people heard me was with Little Brother, it’s been like that for a decade. I was never able to use LB as a real spring board for my solo career like with Foreign Exchange. For the [Connected] record we toured for that. We toured for that. That never happened for me. That made it a lot harder. I started building my brand after LB was dismantled instead of while LB was rolling. I got a later start. I already knew it was going to be a fight uphill

TWV: Is there any frustration from not trying to build that brand when you had the Little Brother spring board?

RBP: You can’t look at things in hind sight. It’s easy when you look back. I always believed everything happened for a reason. The mistakes you make—all that builds character and helps you become who you are. Where I am at this moment, I’m happy and proud so I wouldn’t change anything.

TWV: Talk to me about your new label, For Members Only.

RBP: Me and Dho had been talking for a while, he was talking about dismantling Hall Of Justus so we could all become our own bosses and be in control of our situations because there were some other things he wanted to do. That was just the next step. All of us had our own vision. If you work for somebody else, you become part of their vision; you create a niche within that vision. When you have your own, it’s your vision. I have my own situation and vision for it. Hopefully—eventually, when I settle myself I can start bringing on other talent and help others achieve their dream.

I didn’t want to be one of those people that signed 15 acts but don’t have time to put their records out. I wanted to start out slow and kinda be like Rhymesayers where they started with Atmosphere and helped them build and then bring another act. I want to follow that.

TWV: The intro for the new album is “Interdependent.” Most artists say their independent, why’d you use interdependent instead?

RBP: That was the name of the beat when I got it. I had to go look up the word. It was crazy, I wrote the verses before I looked up the definition and found out what it meant—being dependent upon something. I was dependent upon Little Brother to keep rolling. It was just me expressing all the things I was going through. I was dependent upon all those things in order to stand. In actuality, I didn’t need those things.

TWV: I was listening to “5.13.11” before we started and had some questions down until I got to the end…

RBP: [Laughs]

TWV: It seems like you’re consciously trying to work on storytelling and get better at that.

RBP: I’m a big Nas fan and I still think he’s one of the best storytellers. I wanted to have a story on the album. This isn’t based on real events. I had the “Around The World,” about meeting different women until you find the one. I wanted to do a song that was the opposite. You think you’ve met the one in your mind; in her mind, you ain’t the one. How does that play out? I just used that date because it was that Friday of the week I was in the studio. I just wanted to use a weekend. I wanted that to mark when the guy and the girl met. When the album comes out, that’s the month after. That’s all the date meant, it didn’t have any significance. When you hear it, that’s when the relationship ends.

TWV: Are you worried about having to explain that to the future misses one day?

RBP: The current misses [laughs]. I let her hear it. She laughed and said “You crazy.” She didn’t think it was her. I borrow from real life, but I don’t always put 100% in songs. That was a song where I stepped out of writing about me and wrote about a situation. That happens all the time, we just don’t know about it.

TWV: On “Good Clothes,” you talk about being walked over to the husky section. Were you ever uncomfortable in your own skin?

RBP: When I first started. When people assess and break down your skill level, it makes you [more] uncomfortable if you’re already uncomfortable. It goes back to me not having the confidence in the beginning— In myself or my skills. I was never a battle rapper. I just wrote poetry and lyrics on paper and never shared with anybody. Now I’m writing rhymes and I’m sharing them with people all over the world. I wasn’t ready for that step. It all happened way faster than I ever thought. I had to catch up.

TWV: Did it make it easier being in a group?

RBP: It didn’t make it any easier. I just had to deal. I learned quick that I had to have thick skin. When you have people you know… you and your boys are going in, your boy can take shots, you can take shots and y’all are good. You brush it off and have dinner. When it’s people that don’t know you… What hurt the most—it wasn’t that people kept it at my talent. They took it and tried to make it personal. That’s when you get offended like, “Hold up, you’re stepping out of bounds, you don’t know me.” I had to build tougher skin and build it fast. Being in the group, it wasn’t a thing of them jumping out and protecting me like, “Don’t be’ talking about my man.” There was no rah rah. They said, “You know how we feel about him, he straight.” They weren’t throwing up any extra shields. I had to learn to take it on the chin.

TWV: Do you ever stop getting frustrated?

RBP: After I put out Sleepers. Now I can take it with a grain of salt. You can’t please everybody. People say that but a lot of people don’t believe that. That’s why you have artists who have a club song and a song for the women. They’re aiming to please everybody. I really don’t give a f*ck about pleasing everybody. It’s impossible. Even Jay-Z has people who don’t like him. When you look at it on that scale, I know I’m not going to please everybody. You have to put it in perspective.

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