As was reported here at HipHopDX yesterday (December 8th), T.I. [click to read] recently revealed to MTV that he is on the verge of adding arguably the most powerful voice in today’s independent Hip Hop scene, Killer Mike [click to read], to his Grand Hustle label [click to read].
Late yesterday DX spoke to Mike to see if he is indeed in talks with the King of the South to join T.I.’s roster of southern spitters that includes Big Kuntry King, Alfamega, Young Dro, B.o.B., and living legends 8Ball & MJG.
“Yeah, it’s happening,” Mike told DX of his deal-in-the-works with T.I. “What I’m most happy about is, man, Tip really came to me respectful of the work I put in. Like, he didn’t come to me like, ‘How can I throw you a bone?’ He came to me like, ‘I see what you got going on. I really like what you [got] going on. I got some questions about what you got going on.’ He asked a few questions. I gave a few answers. And [he] was like, ‘I think I might be able to help with what [you] got going on. How would you feel about it?’”
Having collaborated before (maybe most notably alongside Bone Crusher on 2003’s smash “Never Scared”) and remaining in consistent contact over the years, with those conversations growing more frequent of late, the leaders of Grand Hustle and Grind Time have a longstanding relationship that helped to facilitate their union.
“We always had a real kinship,” said Mike of T.I. “And it’s real exciting to be able to have somebody who you had kinda earned your stripes with, and shared a lot of bumps and bruises [with], giving you an opportunity to expand what you doing.”
Currently, managers and lawyers for both ATL vets are ironing out the details of their partnership, but Mike expressed an interest in getting on his grind for Grand Hustle ASAP.
“I’d love to get [the deal] done by [Barack Obama’s] inauguration, the end of January,” said Mike. “But quicker if possible, ‘cause I’m just ready to work.”
Although Killa Kill confessed that talk of what will come to comprise his Grand Hustle debut effort is premature, he did reveal that two of the trackmasters behind his critically acclaimed I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind II, No I.D. and Smiff & Cash, are locked-in to be behind the boards for 16 In The Kitchen.
“I think that’d probably only be right,” Mike replied when asked if he planned to keep the long-planned album title for his first release after returning to the major labels. “I always said that [for] 16 I wanted to have a major platform. So God blesses this situation to be that, then I feel like I gotta hold true to my word and go ahead [with that title].”
In addition to the planned title, Mike was also asked if he has any concern that he’ll actually see a 2009 release for his first effort for Grind Time/Grand Hustle/Atlantic Records. Even with T.I.’s pending imprisonment for a year beginning in March, and previous additions to the label having yet to see their albums released, Mike is adamant that his own do-it-yourself ethic will ensure he is not about to step in quicksand by signing this new deal.
“I don’t know what happened with B.G.,” said Mike when asked about the release status of another high profile Grand Hustle signing. “I don’t know what happened with any of the other artists [on the label]. I can’t attest to that…My shit is I gotta feel like I control my own destiny…It’s up to me to make sure that I add to Grand Hustle and not just try to take from it. Any artist can get a deal at Grand Hustle and want the [benefit of the] work that Grand Hustle’s put in to provide the platform for them to do whatever and just eat off of [that]. [But] that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to add another dimension [to Grand Hustle].”
While he waits for his time to shine once again on a major, Mike is keeping his indie side alive via his current recording home, Grind Time/SMC Recordings, and in March will be unleashing the first Grind Time-sponsored compilation album, Underground Atlanta.
In addition to appearances from Mike’s own Grind Time Rap Gang collective, fellow 404 notables Yung Ralph, Gucci Mane, OJ Da Juiceman, Princess from Crime Mob, Bohagon and Sean Paul from the YoungBloodz will be joining the cause of offering a more authentic ATL street sound to counter what Mike told DX is a recent influx of outside influences from transplants creating a more trendy hipster vibe in his native A-Town.
“I value our YoungBloodz, and I value our Pastor Troy’s,” explained Mike. “I value the circuit that made [Young] Jeezy, the circuit that made Gucci, the crunk circuit that helped make me, T.I., Bone Crusher, [and] Lil Jon. So I decided to use my distribution situation with SMC/Fontana to put together [this album]. I just got a bunch of great Atlanta street records. And it’s kinda reminiscent of some of the old ‘90s great compilations that you got from street rappers that [Master] P did and they did outta the Bay.”
With a couple volumes of Underground Atlanta planned, along with the release of Mike’s I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind III and Dope Stories (a collection of solely narrative-driven tracks) albums tentatively set for an ’09 release, Mike appears determined to maintain his underground standout status while reintroducing himself to the mainstream from his new major-label home.
Citing another Atlantic artist, Mistah F.A.B., and his apparent arrangement that has permitted the Bay Area emcee to release material via SMC since signing his major-label deal, Mike is aiming to obtain a similar situation for himself.
But the Grind Time General also cautiously warned during his conversation with DX that any tentative plans for what the arrangement will be for both his major and independent sides is just that, tentative. What releases will be released from which label situation is currently undetermined.
“So y’all please be patient with me,” Mike asked of his fans. “The lawyers are talking, but you don’t wanna say or sway things publicly just to look swaggerific…You want people to finish out the [details of the] deal so we can get to giving you dope music. But, man, I truly love the independent rap scene. I wanna still be a part of the independent community because I feel like it’s valuable. I feel like it’s needed. And I feel like all too often artists who make it [to a major] abandon it, and I have no intentions of doing that.”
Having just recorded a verse for the Kentucky-based collective, and fellow indie stars, Cunnilynguists, Killer Mike won’t be disappearing from the underground scene anytime soon.
“Tip seems to be giving me the opportunity to [continue to] do that, man,” said Mike. “And that’s what I’m really excited about [with this deal], so God bless the King of the South.”
Underground Atlanta is due from Grind Time/SMC Recordings in March. 16 In The Kitchen is coming soon from Grind Time/Grand Hustle/Atlantic Records.