On February 25, 2013, Little Brother’s debut LP The Listening celebrated its tenth anniversary. The trio may be defunct today, but Rapper Big Pooh continues to stay relevant as a soloist. He released four albums and three mixtapes in that decade span, and his most recent release, Fat Boy Fresh Vol. Two: Est. 1980, dropped in November of 2012. Consistent work like this can be daunting for the average artist, but at this point for Pooh, it’s merely procedure. “It’s in my DNA now,” he asserts.
Speaking with HipHopDX about his most recent creative endeavors, Rapper Big Pooh also offered his opinions on Hip Hop’s relationship with professional sports, especially with regards to the recent partnership agreement between Creative Arts Agency, a sports agency, and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. In today’s buzzing world of media entertainment, mass appeal is at the forefront of two key branches: Hip Hop and pro sports. Athletes are the true beneficiaries of this merger, and the agreement enables for vast possibilities with regards to their star power.
“They still have one of the biggest agencies in sports doing their deals, so they’re going to get their money. And now you have [Roc Nation] repping you in other aspects of your career, so that just means more money and more looks down the line,” Pooh succinctly sums up. “But at the foundation of it all, what it is, is artists or rappers want to be ball-players, and ball-players want to be rappers, man.”
Though his passion for sports makes for good conversation, Pooh’s best trait is his loyalty. Yes, “Loyalty” is tattooed on his forearm, but Pooh’s passion for Hip Hop and being a good friend and person are more than apparent, evidenced during the discussion of others’ outside involvement on his 2011 release, Dirty Pretty Things. In all, he maintains a steadfast humility, while remaining conservatively optimistic about the future.
Rapper Big Pooh’s Approach To “Fat Boy Fresh Vol. Two”
HipHopDX: What have you been up to recently?
Rapper Big Pooh: Actually, I just got back from [Los Angeles] the other day. I was out there, I’ve been working with this young kid, J. Pinder, and was helping him out. I went to Paid Dues [Hip Hop Festival] and connected with a few different people. I’m just trying to bide time until my hard drive gets its data recovered, so I can continue with the finishing of my new EP.
DX: Did you lose some data recently?
Rapper Big Pooh: Well, the hard drive went bad, and I just need the data off the hard drive. I don’t care about the hard drive dying [laughs]. My brother actually does that for a living, so he has it. It’s just going to take a couple days, ‘cause he called me the other day like, “Man, it’s going to take a couple days, man. I can’t drop everything else I’m doing.” I was like, “A’ight. Get it done” [laughs].
DX: Your most recent effort, Fat Boy Fresh Vol. 2 was a mixtape, but it also had a handful of guest appearances and was predominantly produced by Astronote. Just curious, what’s your approach to working on a mixtape versus working on an album?
Rapper Big Pooh: Well, my approach is I don’t actually look at it as a mixtape. For me, I’m from the era of [when] mixtapes were actually mixed by deejays. You may have some exclusive material, and you have rapping over other peoples’ beats. So with this project, I look at it as a continuation of the Fat Boy Fresh series. I approach it like I approach an album: just go in and try to find a direction sound-wise, and try to find a direction I want to go in as far as just overall feel of the project. I just start and go forth.
I mean, this project with Astronote came about pretty differently than I normally go about doing projects. He hit me up right after I put out my Dirty Pretty Things album, and he wanted me to do a feature for him and Sha Stimuli. I’d known Astronote for a few years, so I was like, “Cool, I got ya’ll. I fuck with Sha Stimuli…I got ya’ll.” And then he sent me some beats, and was like, “I loved your last album, I’d love to do an EP with you, if you want to.” He sent me like, 12 beats, and by the end of the week, I’d recorded four joints. And I wasn’t even intending to do it, it just happened. So that’s kind of how Fat Boy Fresh Vol. 2 came about.
DX: You mentioned that you like to keep the same approach, or roughly so. But has that changed at all from the Little Brother days, and then versus today, 2013, being in an independent situation? You’re in a climate where fewer people are buying albums than they used to.
Rapper Big Pooh: Yeah, it definitely changes the approach a little bit. I haven’t strayed too far away from the approach that we took as a group. It’s in my DNA now. I do go about mine a little differently. But for the most part, I try to keep it the same, even though I know that the climate is different. I make an adjustment to work with the current climate of music. But albums is what I know, man. Like, full projects actually is what I know; that’s what I grew up on. And I know there’s people out there that appreciate a full project as opposed to a few random singles.
So I’m looking for that balance and giving people both. And the new approach I have is doing EPs, where the length isn’t regular album length, so it’s not going to be 45 minutes to an hour. It ought to be around 25-30 minutes, but it still gives you a full project feel. The length will just be short.
DX: When you were putting out mixtapes, those began as digital projects. So when you’re doing EPs like you mentioned, do you put out physical copies, or is that stuff that people can go online and download?
Rapper Big Pooh: Well, I haven’t been putting out physical copies, but I’m about to start making sure that every project I put out from here on out has a physical copy—even if in limited doses. I want to give people that prefer to have physical copies, make that attainable for them. That’s something I decided after putting out the last Fat Boy Fresh project; that I needed to be sure I had physical copies of everything that I do from here on out.
Rapper Big Pooh Talks About Branding Sports and Hip Hop
DX: Just switching gears here a little bit… you’re a big sports fan. One thing I really wanted to ask you about was the [Creative Arts Agency] partnership with Roc Nation. In your opinion, how big of an impact do you think that has?
Rapper Big Pooh: I think it has a big impact, man. I actually was just talking about this on Twitter yesterday. I think that branding has become very important in the world of entertainment, whether it’s sports, music, whatever. And I think that’s what this partnership states: how important branding, or one brand has become, where you have a powerful agency like CAA partnering with, in its own right, a powerful agency in music in Roc Nation, just because Jay-Z’s name is attached to it. Artists realize that—especially those that play football—they realize, “I only have so big of a time period where I can capitalize on my stardom as a professional athlete.” So they want to set things up for later in life. You can’t be mad at them for that, and that’s basically what this partnership signifies. How long will this partnership last, who knows? But I definitely understand why athletes lock into that situation; I mean it can’t hurt none. They still have one of the biggest agencies in sports doing their deals, so they’re going to get their money. And now you have one of, if not the biggest guy in Rap’s company repping you in other aspects of your career. So that just means more money and more looks down the line.
But I definitely see why athletes would want to go and enter into that arrangement—it’s not like No Limit Sports, know what I’m sayin’? [Laughs] This isn’t the same thing, I know that’s what a lot of people were thinking when they saw the news of Robinson Cano and Victor Cruz going with Roc Nation. A lot of people were thinking about No Limit Sports, but just knowing that Jay-Z is in the business now, I knew this wasn’t that same type of situation. So I was real surprised when I found out CAA was included in the partnership.
And obviously it just let’s you know, from CAA, just that standpoint is something Roc Nation can help provide to their athletes that [others] can’t. Well, they wouldn’t need it to enter into that agreement, so there’s definitely something there that they see that can help them out as far as their business. I think it’s a great move for a lot of the athletes that’s willing to enter into that partnership.
Rapper Big Pooh Discusses “Dirty Pretty Things”
DX: You mentioned that you were talking about [Sports and Hip Hop] on Twitter, and I also saw [on Twitter] that you were getting a little nostalgic for Dirty Pretty Things. You mentioned that, “a lot of people came through” for you when you were putting it together. Just wondering if you could elaborate on that a little?
Rapper Big Pooh: I remember putting up a series of tweets when I actually completed the album and put it out. A lot of times in this day and age people get albums digitally and don’t really look at album credits, or anything of that nature. Even when they do look at credits, they don’t understand the amount of people that had to contribute to make an album what it was. I’ve always been cognizant of that from day one when Little Brother put The Listening together all the way to now. All of the different people that played a role may not necessarily get the credit or wasn’t in credits—like Chaundon for instance. He engineered almost that entire Dirty Pretty Things project. He basically A&R-ed it, engineered it for me, and helped with some of the hooks and things of that nature. All the different producers that came by and provided beats, whether it was on the low or free of charge, just ‘cause they wanted to be a part of the project…just different things like that, man. The little things that people don’t care to know about and don’t know about. I would be a fool for not acknowledging all of those people assisting in the project and what it became.
DX: You said it doesn’t always have to be music-related, and sometimes credits will say, “Thank you” to just their boys back home. What might be a good example of somebody who contributed on this one, just in a minor way, but helped you out?
Rapper Big Pooh: I’m trying to think, man...maybe just my manager, Big Dho. Just outside of doing the managerial work and having the faith and trust to allow me to go off and do this project without much oversight. I just went into my shell, my zone and put it together. He didn’t really hear it until it was done. Once I explained to him what I was trying to accomplish, he was just like, “Aight, no doubt. Do your thing.” But he always made sure to keep pushing to make sure I’d finish it. Just like that.
Now that I think about it, my homeboy Jah. I had moved to Charlotte [NC], and the studio was still in Raleigh, which is like two-and-a-half hours away. My homie Jah gave me a key to his crib and was like, “Yo, my crib [is] your crib. As long as you need to be here, you good.” Just little stuff like that meant a lot to this project. ‘Cause without that access, the project would have took a lot longer to finish than it already did. So little things like that.
DX: Are you working on anything right now, album-wise or mixtape-wise?
Rapper Big Pooh: Yeah, I’m actually finishing up an EP called Happy Birthday, Thomas. I started working on it right before my birthday, and the plan was to put it out for free on my birthday. But it materialized into something more than a free record. I don’t like doing too many free records anyway, but this materialized into more than that. So I’m in the process of finishing that. [It’s] 12 tracks that represent the day I was born, the twelfth, and it only has two features on it, which represents the month I was born. And those features are Chaundon and Jared Evan. So I’m just in the process of finishing that up, all produced by The Mighty DJ DR. He did a track on Fat Boy Fresh Vol. 1 called “Zone Out.” He produced the whole EP, so just in the process of finishing that.
DX: Last question: you got this EP coming out, I assume you’ll be busy otherwise, though. Can you give your fans an idea about your plans for the rest of 2013?
Rapper Big Pooh: My plans for the rest of 2013: the EP Happy Birthday, Thomas, I have another EP or another something that I’m going to put out for free. There’s The Brown Tape that I’m working on with The Mighty DJ DR, and I’m helping A&R J. Pinder’s next album. We about to go in and get to work on his album. I’m assisting with that, and that’s basically going to be my 2013. Maybe another surprise here and there, but that’s pretty much going to be my 2013.