“Apply yourself to supply your wealth. Only limitations you’ll ever have are those that you place upon yourself.” –GLC
Gangsta Legendary Crisis is not a man of excuses. He doesn’t live that way. Instead, like the line above suggests, the Chicago emcee understands that life is meant to be experienced without limitations. Life, though it can be as harsh as his city’s wind, can also be one that is relished, if one is able to overcome.
Recently, GLC spoke with HipHopDX and discussed his life’s obstacles: losing both of his parents before becoming a teenager, being diagnosed with diabetes as a 14 year old, witnessing crack-infested streets and like many of his peers, having to navigate all of this on his own. This weighed heavily on his shoulders but he withstood. In discussing these topics, he acknowledges that he “had to grow up real fast.” Still, GLC didn’t allow any limitations to derail him.
Of course, the discussion went beyond these topics. GLC also talked about his work with Kendrick Lamar on last year’s Section.80 and his longtime friendship with Kanye West. He went on to explain how things have changed between the duo, who were once “inseparable.” GLC also added that he’s learned much of his knowledge “from the honorable teachings of Larry Hoover” and from his “mentor” Bun B.
HipHopDX: I wanted to take you back to when you first started rhyming. What were those rhymes like?
GLC: My first rhyme was about the mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, back in 1983, ’84 or ’85. I was a baby, a kid. I was just imitating the rappers I saw on TV. I saw Slick Rick with gold chains and two ladies in the bed with him calling him Uncle Ricky and I was like, “Damn, this look kinda pimpish. I think I want in on that.” I saw N.W.A. with gold chains and Raiders hats and Kings hats and long trench coats and shit, I’m lookin’ like, “Damn, these guys lookin’ like real players, real hustlers.” I can identify with these rappers because they kind of look like the guys in the streets in my neighborhood. I was like, “Damn, so these guys ain’t gotta work no job. They ain’t gotta go to college. They can hustle and take care of themselves and they can be entrepreneurs and shit, and it comes with perks like money and women. I want in.”
DX: But then the emotional connection to the writing came in.
GLC: Oh, yeah, from dealing with deaths and shit all throughout my life. Losing my father at eight months, losing my mom at 12 years old and losing relatives all throughout my life. Then, losing friends like a m’fucka due to gang violence and crazy shit that was going on in the streets of Chicago back then, it led me to pursue a career in music. It was a way that I could escape from what was going on but at the same time, accumulate some hoes.
DX: You were diagnosed with Diabetes at an early age. Looking back, how did that diagnosis change you as a person?
GLC: I think being diagnosed with Diabetes at the age of 14 was a m’fucka because I actually flat-lined. I went into a coma and came out the next day. I was on life support and shit, in intensive care for a week but they brought me back. So, from actually crossing over to the other side and coming back at 14, it kinda let me know that I was a part of something and that I was here for a reason. After losing my mom, I really didn’t place too much value on life and shit. Then, it got to the point where I was like, “You know what? My mama out of here, losing my friends, I gotta keep living. I gotta do something.” This is 14 years old, I had to make these types of decisions and shit. You know what I’m sayin’? [Laughs] So, I had to grow up real fast. I had to carry it a bit different than others carry it because the two people I came from were no longer here in the physical form. So, at that age, I learned life is not something you should take for granted. Exercise your G. Get up. Do what you’ve gotta do to better yourself at all times. Never even look at a day and be like, “Oh, it’s just a day. I ain’t gonna do shit today.” Fuck that. Every day, there’s something to do.
DX: That’s an early age to acquire that type of knowledge.
GLC: Aw, yeah, man. At the end of the day, I could’ve went either way. When people have to deal with circumstances and shit, people can’t deal with it because shit be tough. Imagine losing your mom or not having both parents. Some people be like, “Fuck that! All the odds is against me. I didn’t have no parents. Fuck it!” Then, they end up in jail or dead on some crazy shit because they was rebelling against some shit they could do nothing about.
DX: I’ve heard you speak on becoming a positive influence, saying not to become a product of your environment. How does one avoid that, in your mind?
GLC: Possessing “the ism.” The ism is the eternal light, it’s wisdom and it’s knowledge gained from actually living. When you have the ism, when you see a crackhead, you not gonna be like, “These crackheads are out here dancing trying to get some m’fuckin’ money.” Or, if they come up to your car mean-muggin’ and ain’t got no teeth and shit because they can’t get no money for their habit and shit. Now, a person with the ism, you’d see that shit and be like, “Oh, I could live vicariously through this crackhead and see all the fucked up shit they doin’. I’m not gonna do this. Fuck that. This is not what’s up.” But a person that ain’t got that, they might be like, “Shit, man. Shit’s fucked up. I done did that, did this, did that, so fuck it, let’s see what this about.” You know what I’m sayin’? You have to have a leadership capability. In ancient Africa, in Egypt, they didn’t raise kids to be adults, they raised m’fuckas to be rulers and shit. So, I grew up with a ruling mentality and shit.
DX: What made you decide to have that ruling mentality?
GLC: It’s because the people in my neighborhood, my friends, my family and guys I came up with, they were looking for guidance. A lot of us were lookin’ for guidance due to the fact that we didn’t have fathers in our households because Ronald Reagan fucked up our hoods by letting that crack shit ride. Then, when they put crack on TV, they only showed Black people on crack and then they showed Black people makin’ hella lotta money off crack. So, if you at the crib and you chillin’, just watching the Bears game or whatever, you’d see a commercial about crack like, “It’s bad. It’s really bad but this guy here, we found $10 million in cash at his house.” That has a mothafucka sitting down like, “Damn, $10 million?” At that time, mothafuckas was probably making like $4.25-$5.00 an hour and shit. You see a mothafucka making $10 million, you’d be like, “You know what? That might be worth the risk.” But then, what they didn’t know was that it was a hundred times more time for crack. They fucked us all up! They snatched up all our heroes and at the end of the day, everybody lost because we had whole cities and neighborhoods all across America that grew up without a positive male role model in their household. So, due to my uncanny mackin’ ability and the fact that I did good in school and that I had a hustlin’ mentality, people gravitated towards me and looked for knowledge, wisdom and understanding. They looked at me like, “Damn, this guy lost his mother and his father and he’s still doing some shit for himself. Let’s see what he’s on.”
DX: Switching gears for a bit, can you shed light on your involvement with Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80? What allowed you to get on that project and what are your thoughts on it?
GLC: That was an honor to be on that project. Kendrick Lamar is one of my favorite up-and-coming artists in the game. I love his political stance, his lyricism, the way he carries himself. He’s a stand-up guy, a nice guy. The way I got to work with Kendrick was kind of crazy because a friend of mine by the name of BJ The Chicago Kid, he called me and said, “I’m over here with this dude, Kendrick Lamar. This my man and he was just talking about his favorite rappers and he mentioned you. He said you one of his favorite rappers and shit.” I was like, “Damn. Straight up?” At the time, I was unfamiliar with Kendrick Lamar. But, when he said that, I went online, saw some of his videos, heard his songs and I was like, “This kid got somethin’.” Kendrick and I got on the phone, he sent me the beat, I sent that right back and next thing you know, I was on Section.80 and shit.
DX: You mentioned his lyricism impressed you. Is that what stood out most when you heard him the first time?
GLC: I’ll tell you, it wasn’t just the lyricism, but when we talked, we found we had similar backgrounds. His family is from Chicago and his uncles and his father grew up in the same street organization I grew up in, which was Growth & Development. When we got to talking, to conversing, we had similarities. So, it was more than just, “This guy can rap. I’ma get on his music.” It was, “I talked to this guy. He’s a cool guy and we have a matter of understanding.” When we talked on the phone, he was asking me questions about Chicago and the street organizations as if he was intrigued. At the end of the day, I just gave him a little game and he received it well.
DX: So, it was a personal connection.
GLC: I would say it was a tightly-knit connection due to his family and where they came from. It was a topic in which we could relate.
DX: It’s a small world.
GLC: Yeah, it’s a small world because I never met his uncles or his father. I think they left like late ’80s, early ’90s to go out to Cali and I was still here, just a kid back then.
DX: You showed the gift of gab on that track [“Poe Man’s Dreams (His Vice)”].
GLC: Man, at the end of the day, I had people coming to me like, “How long did it take you to write that, to come up with that?” I didn’t write that. The beat came on, I listened to what the song was about and I was like, “This is what the people need to know.” So, I gave them the ism. The ism comes with ease.
DX: [Quoting the song] “Apply yourself to supply your wealth.”
GLC: Right. Apply yourself to supply your wealth. The only limitations you’ll ever have in life is those that you place upon your-mawfuckin-self. You’ve gotta expand your mawfuckin’ brand. Never focus on what you can’t do, always focus on what you can. Chuuch.
DX: Now, you’ve obviously spoken on your musical partnership with Kanye West but I wanted to take you back to growing up with Kanye West. From the early years on to today, how would you describe the progression of your friendship with ‘Ye?
GLC: As kids, we were inseparable. We were young, we loved music and we loved girls. We were also into dressing fresh, wearing nice Polos, Jordans, Adidas, Reeboks with the clear soles and Nikes. That was the shit. We was doing that shit back then, feeling good about ourselves and accumulating hoes and doing music. It was all good. As we grew older, ‘Ye was like, “Hey, man. I’m out here doing these beats, trying to open up the door. When I open it up, you just keep working and I’ma God damn near snatch you up. We was in a group called Go Getters prior, so when he left and went to New York, everything was real smooth and cool. He got on, he reached for me and I had a couple situations pending at the time. Kanye was like, “Hey, man, ride with me. I’m your friend. I’ma make sure everything is everything.” I accepted and I rolled with [G.O.O.D. Music]. [Pauses] And to this day, I would say that we are still cool but we’re not as close as we once was. At one point, we were absolutely inseparable but due to the fact that we have grown up and became adults and we both have our own lives, we don’t get to see each other much but we still talk. We still talk. We stay in communication every chance that we get but not as much as we once did due to the fact that our lives have taken us in different directions.
DX: That’s the nature of life, isn’t it?
GLC: Yeah, and at the end of the day, you just have to be a person of understanding. Understand what it is. Long as you understand what it is, it’s all good. People, they sit around and they mope and complain. They be like, “Man, shit ain’t right. What the fuck?” Any time things change in a person’s life, if it’s not really favorable to them, they point the finger. Like, “This is fucked up. It ain’t right that this happened.” At the end of the day [quoting himself], “Apply yourself to supply your wealth and the only limitations you’ll have in life are those that you place upon yourself.”
DX: Right. So, you can’t blame others. Is that what you’re saying?
GLC: Well, it all depends on the way things go. Sometimes, you could be misled and led to trust. You could be like, “I trust this person. I know they’re going to lead me in the right direction.” But the people that you look towards to lead you in the right direction, they may not have your best interest at heart. That’s the way life goes. Then, you may have people that do have your best interest at heart. It’s just a matter of you being a sound judge of character and making the right choices and shit.
DX: I imagine that’s something you learned early on, too.
GLC: Oh, yeah. I learned the majority of the shit that I know right now early. I began to grow and develop at a young age from the honorable teachings of Larry Hoover.
DX: So, with 2012 here, what do you have in store this year?
GLC: Man, time has really flown. It has really flown. I got [Eternal Sunshine of the Pimpin’ Mind ] this project I put out [in December] and I’ve dropped a video every week for it. I’m gonna work this project until I’m ready to drop the next project. The next project will be The Ism 5, Cathedral 5: The Glory of the Mackin’ Story. Man, the concept will be embraced from state to state, from place to place, from nice sized breasts to small waists, with a fat ass, I’ll never let it pass. You know what I’m sayin’? Chuuch. That project we can expect around Valentine’s Day. But, I got this cold ass project out now. I got Yelawolf on it, Cold Hard, Tef Poe from St. Louis, my man Bun B, Christian Rich from Chicago, Rotimi on the R&B vocals and some crazy shit, man. My girl Tennille’s on it. Larry Hoover Jr. is on this project, the son of Larry Hoover is on this project. It’s crazy. The love I’ve been getting off this latest project has been something worthy of embracement, man.
DX: I see Bun B on there…
GLC: Well, Bun and I have a great relationship, man. He’s sort of like a mentor or a big brother, I would say. During times of adversity or lack of understanding, I would call Bun and Bun would put me on the right track to help me understand what is going on. He’d tell me, “This is happening for this reason. All you gotta do is maintain and continue to spread that ism.”
DX: What’s been the greatest lesson that you got from him?
GLC: That I learned from Bun? He taught me, he said, “If you’re in the club every Wednesday, why would people ever pay to go see you when they know you’re just gonna be at the club on Wednesday and they could just come stand right next to you?”