Black Wall Street member Nu Jerzey Devil is officially making the transition from producer/deejay to producer/deejay/emcee. The Bronx-born, Jersey-raised 29-year-old spoke late yesterday with HipHopDX regarding the forthcoming release of his debut offering as a rapper, Art Of The Devil, and how two of his high-profile Hip Hop mentors, The Game [click to read] and Lil Wayne [click to read], played a role in Jerzey’s expanded repertoire. The current resident of Miami also candidly spoke for the first time on how his time residing in Compton led to his ties to one of the nation’s most notorious street organizations.
Having been the first official member of Game’s BWS crew, Jerzey’s recent decision to move from behind the boards (and the turntables) to behind the mic was not surprisingly at the suggestion of BWS’ leader, as Jerzey recalled, “It’s always been in the back of my mind [to emcee], but one day we was in New York and people just started really [recognizing] who I was. And [after seeing that, Game] was just like, ‘Man, you need to get on your Swizz Beatz shit. You need to start rappin’ or getting on some hooks.’ So I took that shit and ran with it.”
“[After that] I went inside the studio, I felt it out [rappin’], and I liked it,” he continued. “Then I went back to Miami and started working on my own shit. Then [I] did ‘Different Girls’ with Lil Wayne [click to listen]. And then from there, we went on tour. I was opening up for Game overseas [in November]…and when I felt that love, from [there] it was all she wrote. I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’ma do this full-time.’”
And after that final decision last fall to make the move to full-time spitter, Jerzey found a distribution home for his LiveliHood Entertainment, and his Art Of The Devil promotional mixtape (due March 3). But why the decision to bring his business to Miami-based SoBe Entertainment, and not longtime musical home Black Wall Street?
“I feel like I’m a grown man, [and] I just wanna venture out on my own and do what I gotta do,” replied Jerzey. “Not to sound selfish or nothing like that, but I just don’t wanna wait for nobody. I wanna do me. I wanna be my own creative person. I just wanna do me, period. Game’s a general, I’m a general, [and] two bulls be knocking heads a lot. [And] I just feel like I got more control over here at SoBe, being that I’m my own person over there. And a lot of people know me from Game, so I just wanna step out of that a little bit and pretty much just build my own identity and do me for a second.”
BWS faithful should fear not, as Jerzey’s stepping out is not a sign of his breaking away from the crew.
“It’s Black Wall Street all day, everyday, for life,” said Jerzey. “But I just want people to know me for me, and not [just like], ‘That’s Game’s homie.’”
While Jerzey compares the development of his LiveliHood venture outside of BWS to how Jim Jones’ Byrdgang, Juelz Santana’s Skull Gang, and Freekey Zeekey’s 730 brands all spawned from the original Dipset collective, a more apt comparison of what appears to be taking place aside from Jerzey’s move within the BWS camp is that of the Wu-Tang Clan in the ‘90’s, with affiliated artists spreading the BWS brand through a variety of different major labels.
“A lot of offers [to distribute BWS artists] been on the table,” said Jerzey. “We had Clyde Carson with Capitol [Records]. And it’s other [labels] that’s interested [in distributing BWS]. Like, obviously Interscope is interested. But I think Game just wants to wait and make the right decisions and make the best move. And I don’t think he wants to put all of his eggs in one basket. So every time he [puts out] an artist I think they’ll be on like separate labels, just because you wanna see which label works the best until you really know what’s going on and you know they behind you 100 percent.”
So will a label be joining forces with The Game, Juice [click to read], Clyde Carson, X.O. (formerly known as Scipio), Southsider and the rest of the BWS collective to finally unleash the long-delayed label compilation sometime in ’09?
“I’m hoping [that happens] just like everybody else, man [Laughs.],” replied Jerzey when asked about BWS’ first planned non-mixtape/retail-available release. “But we just have problems with these artists, man. Like, it’s hard to find good, loyal artists these days. So until Game feels like he has a strong team, I don’t think [the compilation’s] coming out anytime soon.”
In lieu of a formal release from his crew, Jerzey told DX that he plans to continue cranking out BWS mixtapes, including two that he is currently working on: one with DJ Haze entitled Red Carpet Affair, and another being the long-awaited fifth installment of Game’s U Know What It Is.
But for the moment Jerzey is firmly focused on his own mix, Art Of The Devil. Black Wall Street's resident beatsmit-turned-emcee's EP, Heaven or Hell, will come in April, and it will be followed up by the full length album, Devil’s Playground in August. Both projects boast cameos from Game, Young Buck, and a couple more potential guests that Jerzey told DX will definitely be “eye-catching.” In addition to Jerzey’s own production, fellow Miamian and SoBe affiliate Scott Storch, BWS beatmaker E.P., and Cool & Dre all chipped in tracks.
Art Of The Devil's club-friendly first official single from the release, “Different Girls,” boasts arguably Jerzey’s most noteworthy collaboration on the mix with Lil Wayne. Graciously guesting on his first effort, Weezy is making his official endorsement of his new emcee peer.
“Me and Wayne is cool,” said Jerzey. “We ain’t really meet on no music shit. We met in Orlando at a Hornets game through my homie Baron Davis, when he was playing for the Hornets… And then when I started spittin’ I let [Wayne] hear [‘Different Girls’] and he was like, ‘Go for it. Do what you gotta do. [And] let me get on it.’ So he been helping me a lot… [I’ve] learned a lot from him as far as studio work, and how to go in the studio and how to make songs. I look at him as like one of my mentors in this game. ‘Cause I don’t really see nobody going hard like him and Game in the studio.”
Although having just begun his career as a rapper, Wayne is apparently already trying to convert Jerzey into a singer for Weezy’s upcoming rock album [click to read].
“[Laughs] He made a crazy comment to me, he wanted me to [do] something [as a singer],” said Jerzey. “I was doing something with him in the studio and he was like, ‘Man, you got a Sting voice.’ I was doing this hook. And I’m like, ‘Man, I can’t. I’m not ready to go in that lane yet.’”
While Jerzey and Weezy may not yet share a love for singing, they do appear to share an unspoken love of one thing: the color red.
After relocating from New Jersey to Los Angeles in 2001 to work as a producer for Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins’ Darkchild Productions (a short-lived relationship that Jerzey noted left him without proper credit for his productions), Jerzey soon found himself basically stuck in L.A. without a place to stay. Moving in with one of his local friends who subsequently was arrested, Jerzey was essentially on the verge of homelessness until new acquaintance The Game offered the producer a place to crash.
“Living in Compton, man, you living in a Blood neighborhood,” said Jerzey of his gang-controlled onetime home in Cedar Block. “[And] even if you not a Blood, you’re gonna get treated like a Blood. So I was getting approached left and right. I didn’t really have a choice. I was kinda forced to join a gang.”
Fake gang affiliations run rampant in Hip Hop, but Jerzey insisted in his discussion with DX that his ties to his hood are not a creation for commercial consumption.
“It wasn’t like I did it for a fad or anything like that,” he said of pledging Piru. “They showed me a lot of love. Coming up from that area, your boys gotta be really your boys. They gotta protect you. You gotta protect them. Y’all gotta live together, [and] y’all gotta watch each other’s back. That’s some real shit. And I would never play with nothing like that. I wouldn’t do it for no music… I have a real deep understanding. I lived it. I witnessed it first-hand. Living in Compton for like three years, I was forced into it… Luckily I came out alive, man, [and now] we doing our thing.”
Art Of The Devil is due in stores March 3 from LiveliHood/SoBe Entertainment.