On Thursday (September 23rd) the artist formerly known as Killer Mike, who’s now known as Mike Bigga, gave an early sneak peak to HipHopDX of the forthcoming follow-up to DX’s Album of the Year for 2008, I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II. Killa Kill previewed PL3DGE (tentatively due in January from Grind Time Official/SMC Recordings) by providing some salivating details regarding the content and creators of what will surely be one of the most anticipated Hip Hop albums of 2011.
The creation of the third installment of his highly-praised street albums is being led by the production duo that has helmed a majority of Mike’s most eargasmic selections from the Pledge series. “Smiff & Cash are to me and the Grind Time sound what J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League’s become to [Rick] Ross,” Mike declared during his discussion with DX. In addition to Smiff & Cash (“That’s Life II,” “Guns, Money and Weight” tentatively featuring Styles P, “It’s Bigga,” and additional unnamed tracks), the production for PL3DGE is being helmed by No I.D. (“Ready Set Go” featuring T.I.), Tha Bizness (the tentatively-titled “Player’s Lullaby,” which Mike describes as “true southern rider music” and which features Rock D The Legend, formerly of the Big Boi-led crew Mike too once pledged allegiance to, the Purple Ribbon All-Stars), and new collaborators Sweatbox Productions (the southern Rock-sounding social critique “Burn,” the fly boy anthem inspired by a southern-born wrestling legend, “Ric Flair,” and “Sgt. Slaughter,” an additional cut featuring the aforementioned Rock D whose title is inspired by Mike’s national debut on Outkast’s now decade-old “Snappin’ & Trappin’”).
In addition to revealing the album details above during his quick Q&A with DX, the Grind Time CEO also talked about T.I.’s potential return to prison and what affect that may have on his musical output as a member of the King’s Grand Hustle label. The author of the stellar declaration of self-salvation, “God in the Building,” also explained why he is dedicating a portion of “That’s Life II” to a currently in-the-news preacher who is apparently now learning the hard way what the definition of hypocrisy is.
HipHopDX: Let’s jump things off with the most important question I have for you: “That’s Life II,” from the forthcoming PL3DGE, who are you going in on this time…?
Mike Bigga: Hey man, I’ma just say [Bishop] Eddie Long was in it before this shit, so don’t y’all get mad at me. He was already in the song, baby!
DX: So what if he’s gay? That’s life.
Mike Bigga: I don’t care if he’s gay. That’s not what I talked about in the context of the song. I talked about him in the context of [saying] “that’s life” [in regards to] vanity. I don’t think any preacher should be wearing a Thera Yamaka and he’s not Jewish. I don’t think that ministers should own a car above a Mercedes Benz. I can tolerate a Mercedes, but anything once you get over the $70-80,000 range I think is excessive. So, I have my own set of issues with the good Mr. Long…and the Catholic church… I got it out on everybody on “That’s Life II,” believe that.
DX: From the snippet of “Burn” that Maurice Garland captured on film back in July it sounds like you’re getting your southern Ice Cube on even heavier on PL3DGE…
Mike Bigga: Yeah man, I just…I think that your core is who you are. And I think that what I did with PL3DGE, this time around [is that] I’ve expanded… So instead of you just seeing the angry [emcee] – or just the southern Ice Cube – what you see is a progression of that... “Burn” is very calculated. It is very deliberate. The passion is very focused on that. And if you listen to it it’s seething. It’s probably my most angry song ever, and doesn’t sound like it. I have mastered certain parts of my flow… So I really think it’s a progression [from being seen as the southern Ice Cube]. I don’t know if you can progress Ice Cube, ‘cause he is just perfect…but it’s a progression of Mike as that…
And my [musical] influences are more vast, so…you gon’ see some poppin’ and wildness going on with the “Ric Flair” [joint]. You gon’ hear some club-maddening joints in joints like “Animal” [and] joints like the “Sgt. Slaughter” record. [And] the record “It’s Bigga” will help everybody feel more comfortable saying [my new name] Mike Bigga… It’s the biggest record on this album I feel like.
PL3DGE turned into a lot of what has influenced and brought me to this point. So you gon’ hear a lot of – and this is gonna sound weird – southern, southeastern wrestling from the ‘80s [and other] ‘80s references in terms of culture, mixed with lingo and drugs and the usual Killer Mike political social stances all meshed into this one thing…that I think kinda describes what it’s like to be 25 through 35 [years old]. If you’ve grown up in that 10-year era, I think all the influences [you’ll hear on PL3DGE] will be readily apparent to you.
Just know that I’m giving y’all the best y’all have ever heard out of me. [And] SL Jones and Pill of course are gonna be on the [album with me]. Rock D is on the record… Symphony Crack is a new band out of Atlanta [and] they’re playing and they’re…playing on every record on there. There’s live instrumentation on every record on [PL3DGE].
My deejay, [DJ ADS]…he did “My Mercedes.” If you grew up in the crack era you are going to love this record.
DX: You talking about [a flip of] the Pebbles joint [“Mercedes Boy” from 1988]?
Mike Bigga: Yeah, but that ain’t what I did. I did my version…[Laughs] Oh yeah, I just got the call from Raekwon to send him [a] track, so tentatively expect Raekwon [on] “Narcotics Psychology.”
DX: “Ric Flair,” is that a metaphor for something?
Mike Bigga: Ric Flair, that’s who you supposed to be when you look in the mirror. Whew, for real! Like, “Ric Flair” it’s just…dare I say, swag. If you grew up in the southeast in the ‘80s, ‘90s, I guess what people look at as like Baby and Puffy, Ric Flair is it. It don’t get no better. That’s the life you want: women, champagne, fine things, gambling, being the absolute best at what you do, unstoppable. Yeah! Yeah! [Laughs] I am him, The Nature Boy.
DX: Switching gears here, almost a year ago to the day you, Killer Mike, were reborn as Mike Bigga. And I was just curious to know what influence the Grand Hustle family, and T.I. specifically, had on that decision to change your microphone moniker?
Mike Bigga: Nothing. Selling Underground Atlanta, and my role as an independent business owner, did that. I’ve never been asked by anybody at Grand Hustle to change or adjust who I am or my name. Tip still calls me Killa Kill like it’s ’05… I’m doing this to further who I am. I wanna be able to go perform for the United States troops. I wanna be able to get in high schools [to speak]… I wanna be able to go on college campuses on a more frequent basis. I wanna be closer to the people that I make my music to inspire. So, if the only thing separating me from that was the name Killer, then I’m not gonna let pride and ego…disallow me from being able to really connect with the people who support my music.
DX: And since I mentioned T.I. you know I gotta ask what impact you’re preparing for his possible re-incarceration to have on your Grand Hustle debut, [16 In the Kitchen]?
Mike Bigga: Tip has allowed me to take like three of the records that I recorded [with him] over there [at Grand Hustle] for that [album] and [instead] put [them] on PL3DGE... So, my job is just to hold down the Grind Time Official and the Grand Hustle fort. Whether he’s here or not, my job is the same, it’s to hold the flag when it’s on my ship. And it’s very much on my ship. And [Young] Dro has a release date now, so the Hustle is pushing on. We are a very resilient bunch, and we gon’ keep pushing forward. It’s definitely [still] Grind Time/Grand Hustle.
DX: You said there are two more tracks with T.I. [that are] in the can besides “Ready Set Go” ?
Mike Bigga: Yeah, “Ready Set Go” and um…one [that] I’m not even gonna tell you what it is, and the other one…we’re just putting [the Don Cannon produced] “In My City” on there ‘cause it just has a huge amount of fan support… [But] one [of those three] is a brand new track, and it’s absolutely incredible… I felt like “Ready Set Go” should be out there [as the lead leak from PL3DGE]. Dion [No I.D.] and I talked about it, Tip and I talked about it, so we just got it out there, and it’s doing its thing. It’s hittin’ in the clubs, it’s starting to [impact at] radio now – [in] Memphis, Birmingham, Columbus. So, I’m happy, and now I’ma give it the look it deserves. And we gon’ hold Tip down whether he’s in or he’s out. And it’s gon’ be Grind Time/Grand Hustle pretty much to the end.
DX: I know you’ve – no pun intended – been pledging your [allegiance] here to Grand Hustle, but I just gotta ask, the last few times we’ve spoken you told me that the past couple years would see an onslaught of new music being released by you via several mixtapes you had planned, and a narrative-driven side project boasting live instrumentation called Dope Stories. But aside from your compilation, Underground Atlanta, your formal output has slowed to a crawl in the two years since you signed to Grand Hustle. In the immortal words of KRS-One, why is that?
Mike Bigga: [Laughs] To be honest wit’chu man, I wanted to…like, when it comes to the narrative [project]…the Dope Stories…I really have to be in a place to do that. And I spent the first year, year-and-a-half with old management at Grand Hustle and we just did a lot of records…and we hoarded those records ‘cause they was like, “Don’t leak, don’t leak, don’t leak…” And I really was trying to just do what I agreed with the team that I would do, and eventually what happened is the team that I [was working with at Grand Hustle] aren’t the team anymore. [Also,] the music that I had recorded over there was with a lot of producers who have a lot more on the line [than I do and so] I didn’t wanna be leaking records over [what became] other people’s [beats] and stuff. And it just would’ve got messy, so I just kinda like reverted back [to my Grind Time side and] finished PL3DGE. And [so] now I have enough music stockpiled with producers I’ve been working with to start releasing the music [again]. And, anybody who knows me knows fall is usually when I start leaking music, so don’t hold your head down and think the crawl has happened yet, you’re about to hear some joints that I think you’re gonna like… But, I apologize for the work that I’ve done having not been able to come out, ‘cause I don’t want to destroy more relationships – ‘cause if you leak a record it could destroy a relationship with a producer, and I just didn’t want that headache, man. I’ve had a few headaches in the industry – some mended and some are mending – and I just didn’t want those headaches again. But now that I’m back with Smiff & Cash, now that I got these guys Sweatbox, I’ll be able to release the type of music that I wanna be releasing on a more consistent basis because there’s genuine understanding between me and the production staffs.
DX: But what about the official Grand Hustle debut, 16 In the Kitchen, like, what’s the timetable for that now?
Mike Bigga: Well, just know that PL3DGE comes out top of the year and six months later there’ll be another Killer Mike [release]. And six months later there’ll be another Killer Mike [release after that]…another Mike Bigga, Killer Mike, whatever you wanna call him. [Laughs]
DX: [Laughs] I hope so…
Mike Bigga: Man, I’m telling you like – I don’t know if you follow me on Twitter, (@Mike_Bigga), but you can see the exchange between me and the engineer like…we’re almost done. [And] as soon as I get [PL3DGE] finished, it’s another 30 songs. Like, we’re 40 songs solid now, that are ready. I’m glad that the time had been taken [with the Grand Hustle situation] for me to do grind music again. I [recently] been featured on Pill’s music, [SL] Jones’ music, I been featured on a gang of other artist’s music…
DX: You mentioned Pill, [and] I just have to ask, why didn’t you keep Pill signed to your label, Grind Time?
Mike Bigga: Man, if it’s impossible for me to put me where I deserve to be, like fully… In regards to Pill and [SL] Jones, I love them like they’re my brothers, and [there’s] no way that I could keep looking people in the face who I love like brothers and we keep having to eat a 99 cent hamburger together when they have the potential to go out and everybody get their own 99 cent hamburgers. [I feel comfortable letting them go] because it doesn’t stop the brotherhood, it doesn’t stop us from making music [together], it doesn’t stop the Grind Time handshakes, the flags, the love, the adoration, it doesn’t stop anything. And it allows your brother to eat. So, [there’s] no way that I would possibly be one of those that holds someone and prevents someone from eating, ‘cause if I ever loved you how could I act like I don’t?
DX: Well if you wanna go ahead and jump on a [artist] signing early, you need to go on ahead and sign Flying Lotus to Grind Time, ‘cause that “Swimming” joint y’all did was ill – different, but dope.
Mike Bigga: Thank you, man. I love [Flying] Lotus, man! I didn’t know who he was at first. I had heard the name but I didn’t know him, and my man – shouts out to my man Jason [DeMarco] at Turner [Entertainment, which owns Adult Swim] – he was like, “Mike, I wanna do this [song] with you, it’s [for] a [eight] singles [in eight weeks promotional] thing we have…you ever heard of Flying Lotus?” …He sent the beat [and] everybody in the studio just looked up like, oh shit, this is incredible. And we recorded it over at Grand Hustle Studios, so me and Rock D went in and did our thing and Mitchellel from Grand Hustle actually sang on it too.
DX: “Swimming” is a product of your relationship with Adult Swim. Just real quickly, I wanted to find out how you came to be doing Boondocks promos and spending your birthday with the network? [Laughs]
Mike Bigga: [Laughs] You like that [video]? PL3DGE shows you that more of me. PL3DGE shows you the kid who literally – like, I literally still had G.I. Joe dolls at the time that I was running around [as a teenager] in the early ‘90s trappin’. Because, at this point in your life you’re a kid yet you have all this grown shit [to deal with]. Like, your life is somewhere between Transformers and hustlin’ for [Air] Jordans. [And], Adult Swim and the people over there are kinda twisted in the same way. [Laughs] And I gotta give props to the guy Jason DeMarco over there. He really is a fan of music. He loves music. And he does everything he can to possibly put it in. [But], my introduction to [Adult Swim] was by these brothers, Nick and Daniel Weidenfeld. And even after Nick and Daniel moved on to the L.A. offices just the people I had worked with, like Jason, like Pete [and Dana Swanson] over there who bring me in on the voiceover work, they just kept working with me. So I’ve been lucky… And I gotta give big shouts-out to the guys over at 70/30 [Productions]. They were the production team that originally had me on Frisky Dingo [as the voice of Taqu’il]. And now they have the [animated] series Archer on [the FX network]. So basically [this all came about for me by] just keeping good networks with people and really loving it. Like, I love cartoons. I love toys. I love wrestling. I love collecting shit like that. So being around shit you love it’ll lead to some cool places.