Troy Ave is, perhaps, one of the most polarizing rappers of the moment. But ask anyone why and they’ll be remiss to give you something definitive. Some take issue with his claims of “restoring the feeling” of old New York, however, is this any different than rappers who came before him claiming to be bringing New York back? It can’t be the content, as the love fest for typically drug entrenched lyricism refuses to end, and — Troy, the self-dubbed Harry Powder — has shown the ability to escape such topics on songs like “My Style” and “Good Times.” Regardless, Troy’s buzz has grown far past New York, allowing he and his BSB crew to lead their own continental tour “Money, Powder, Respect” and draw the attention of another rapper who once took flack for his boasts and verbal jabs at media darlings, the original self-proclaimed king of the South, T.I.
At the Los Angeles stop of his “Money, Powder, Respect” tour, Ave is donning a team Mexico World Cup jersey and repeating his slogans often enough to run for local government. These include the not at all tongue-in-cheek “BSB is the brand you can believe in” and “Restoring the feeling”. Why? Troy says it’s all about branding.
“It just comes from being self-made and self-paid. I always felt like if nobody else builds you up, then nobody can knock you down. If you build yourself, you gonna stand tall. You’re gonna stand forever.”
Of course, in the social media age, every thing an artist does feels like campaigning. That is, if they want to survive. With this in mind, Troy stands by his stances they way you wish your favorite politician would.
And after their most recent performance in the city of angels, Troy Ave and his BSB crew took time out to talk to HipHopDX about independence, Brooklyn, and the future of BSB amongst other things.
Troy Ave Describes What It Means To Be Independent
DX: I heard you mention the new album is coming a couple of times when you were on stage, is the title still Major Without a Deal?
Troy: Nah. The title is some other shit.
DX: So, the title was Major Without a Deal before because you were doing everything independently, now it’s not Major Without a Deal….
Troy: Major Without a Deal just turned into a way of life for a young nigga out here hustling. I changed the title though. It gotta be some other shit, it’s gonna be fitting. When ya’ll hear the title…ya’ll gonna be like “Oh shit!”
DX: So, then is Troy Ave still independent?
Troy: Hell yea. Troy Ave is still 100% independent. I wish I wasn’t independent. I lost five bands in Las Vegas before I left.
DX: The more you grind independently, do you feel more hesitant to go major considering the things you’ve accomplished on your own?
Troy Ave: Not Really. Like I always said, a major is just like hustling on a bunch of blocks. Independent is hustling on one block and you doing your thing. You making $2000 a day on that block, dolo… Or you could go major, and you could hustle on a hundred blocks but you just gotta give them 50%. But that’s still gonna end up with you leaving with about a hundred bands in your pocket. It’s only pressure to conform and have less creative control when you ain’t doing your thing. People love me for me. My sound [means] I don’t gotta go chase whatever producers hot, I got my own producers. I don’t need to get this person, or that person on the hook, I do my own hooks. We do everything in house, we shoot our own videos, we do our own tours. All we need is a couple more blocks to hustle on or we gonna keep burning down this block, getting this money.
Troy Ave Explains How He Restored The New York Rap Feeling
DX: New York City: The Album…
Troy Ave: Classic.
DX: I feel like the theme of the album was “restoring the feeling.”
Troy Ave: 100.
DX: What is the theme with the new album you have coming?
Troy Ave: I just thought about it, I should call the new album Feeling Restored… But I ain’t gonna do that. This album is just different. Now you get to see me just do my thing. This album is gonna eclipse New York City: The Album. It’s gonna be way better, and that was a classic. So everybody who seen me before or just now tuning in for the first time, I have a track record of doing what I say, and saying what I mean. So when I drop this new shit, it’s gonna be way better than the last shit, which was a classic. It’s gonna eclipse it. I had to restore the feeling with the first shit, now that the feeling is restored, I could be a little more creative. I could step outside the box. Like I had records like “Show Me Love” paying homage to 50 Cent and different shit like that, it had that real feel. I restored the feeling. So now it’s time to…
DX: Take it to the next level?
Troy Ave: Exactly. I built the warship. The warship was broken. I built the ship, now we put that bitch in the water and we going. We come to conquer, that’s a fact.
DX: With the last album, one thing I noticed about BSB, you guys have a firm grip on the ideas of marketing and branding…
Troy Ave Addresses His Sway In The Morning Freestyle Controversy
Troy: We gotta move the bottle of water, so they don’t think I’m freestyling off my phone. Fuck outta here! (Quotes his own lyrics) “I heard he read rhymes off his iPhone / No nigga, I’m texting your girl, meet me at my home…”
DX: We thought of that line when we saw that.
Troy: Facto! Shout out to Sway, that’s my homie. He called me and said “I wasn’t trying to do no shit like that…” I was like “Sway, I already know. Niggas just try to make something out of nothing,” I don’t give a fuck. I’m gonna read off my phone till the end because I be spitting new shit that I just wrote. I ain’t one of these lyrical, massacre… Whatever the fuck niggas be rapping about and they write mad raps every day. I got real life shit to do. I’m getting money, I’m fucking bitches, I’m not trying to write a bunch of raps, I got shit to do. So, I write records.
Troy Ave Explains Why He’s “The Most Lyrical” New Emcee
DX: But at the same time, do you think you’re more lyrical than most people realize?
Troy: My lyrics is crazy, I’m the most lyrical new nigga out in the game, that’s a fact. Some people might not get it, because I speak in a different lingo, I talk the hustler lingo, or I got a New York accent, or I use certain slang that they don’t pick up on, but every line, all of my lines tie in to the one before that, which ties in to the next one, which ties in to the next one. It’s always some tricky shit that’s over people’s head. I ain’t gonna dumb it down, but, as far as me reading out of my phone, when I go freestyle on a show, I’m spitting some new shit. So I might have just wrote it… I don’t make a hundred songs, and then pick the best 14 to put them on my album. New York City: The Album, I made 19 songs, and 18 of them shits went on there. It was one bonus, it don’t be no extras.
DX: No leftovers?
Troy: Hell no! Hell no! I don’t be in the studio rapping all day. I got shit to do. I like to ride my drop-top Porsche. I like to ride in the Wrangler, take the doors off, fuck up the streets. I got shit to do. When you hear me spit something, just know it ain’t a bunch of watered down shit. I talk about real life shit and it’s only but so many times you can say some real life shit that happened to you. Troy Ave ain’t the guy that’s gonna make a hundred songs and pick, the best 14. I tailor made the albums for the fans, and for the supporters, and that’s why the people fuck with me and connect with me like they do. Everything tailor made.
Troy Ave Shares The Idea Behind His Marketing And Branding
DX: BSB, you guys have a firm grip on the ideas of marketing and branding. Where did you get the grasp of that?
Troy Ave: It’s just comes from being self-made and self-paid. I always felt like if nobody else builds you up, then nobody can knock you down. If you build yourself, you gonna stand tall. You’re gonna stand forever (Troy’s manager, Hovain puts BSB cup on table). Speaking of BSB. We got BSB cups…branding. If it’s some alcohol I don’t even want it unless it’s in the BSB cup. Like instead of having to run around, and chase artists, chase somebody for a feature, coming with my hat in my hand, I don’t do that. I’m self-made, self-paid. I’m gonna build my people up so when it’s time for me to drop an album, they gonna be the feature and people want to hear them. Everything is in house. We gonna continue to build on that. The branding, that’s just from hustling. Hustling, when you out doing your thing, you got the coke…allegedly…your brand. It’s about having the best product. Sometimes, you got people who be hustling [and] they know they got some dirt [but] they’ll still sell it to you, and then the people be like “This ain’t what you had.” That waters down your brand. You’re better off saying “Yo, I ain’t got no good shit right now, come fuck with me in a couple days.” People respect that brand. That’s what BSB is, it’s a brand you can trust and believe in. I grew up watching Roc-A-Fella Records, Ruff Ryders, Murder Inc, Bad Boy… Those were all brands. It was bigger than just one artists, it was a brand that pushed a whole coast, a whole movement, and a whole culture. That’s what BSB is doing, that’s what we setting out to do.
DX: Let’s talk about the few dudes you do work with outside your brand. While you do bring back the feeling of old, I feel like the difference is now, there’s a sense of unity with certain artists, you, (Uncle) Murda, Maino, the dudes that are respected as the dudes from Brooklyn. Is that something you guys do intentionally, like, “We need to work together to rep the borough properly,” or is it just real recognize real?
Troy: Nah, that’s just real recognize real and connecting and being 100. If you fuck with somebody, and you really fuck with them, it might not be every song we was supposed to connect on. Some songs wasn’t a fit…like “Nah, I ain’t feelin that.” Or, if it’s some fire shit, I’m like “Yea, let’s do it.” That just comes from being 100. You fuck with people, you just gonna build with them and make monumental shit. That shit me and Maino got, fire. Every joint me and Murda did [was] fire. Most of my collabs’ be fire. That’s a fact, not trying to brag or nothing. They gonna say “Troy Ave brags about having… He’s too cocky,” Fuck out of here!
DX: When do you think that kind of confidence became a bad thing?
Troy: When they started praising the user, and looking down on the dealer! It’s the suckers who don’t got no confidence who want to make you feel insecure about your confidence. That’s where the game is fucked up. That’s why I came to restore the feeling and I’ve been doing everything I’m doing. My campaign has been strong.
DX: Speaking of praising the user, and looking down on the dealer, do you feel like that has a bigger impact on the people, when all of a sudden it’s cool to be that guy that’s drugged out?
Troy: That’s chuck shit. I don’t respect nobody who rap about doing negativity, or being in the streets hustling. I don’t respect nobody who talk about doing shit they not doing. Now if you come from that, that’s what you living, I respect you for talking about it. That’s what you gotta talk about. When you hear me talk about it, I don’t be talking about it like everything is positive with hustling. You got shit where you get jammed up. You might lose friends. You might lose work. There might be a drought. You might go from up $150,000 to fucking $7,000, taking one L, one trip. So I give everybody the pros and the cons. I preach morals, and I have a sense of pride and dignity, which people don’t have. With people who don’t have that, you find yourself in a handicap with niggas like myself, or people like myself, because the things other people will do to get ahead, you won’t do, and they’ll get ahead before you. At the end of the day, I’m a still grind, and I’m a still shine, and I’ll be able to look myself in the mirror like, “I made it, and I did it my way” in the words of old blue eyes. I did it my way.
Troy Ave Talks Brooklyn, White Christmas, Brand Partners & New York Rap
DX: Whenever I talk to somebody from Brooklyn, I ask them about the gentrification of Brooklyn. Do you feel like Brooklyn has changed?
Troy Ave: I don’t really think it’s changed, but I’m from Crown Heights. Growing up in Crown Heights, a lot of my neighbors were Jewish. We always had gentrification or whatever they want to call it. We had that on my block. I don’t think it changed. You got … Brooklyn is a poppin’ spot to be. You got people from other cultures who want to come and live there, and I think it’s good. Why the fuck not?
DX: What was your mindset going into BSB Volume 5?
Troy: Volume 4 was an album so it was more set out to make an album, which had, I don’t know, 12 songs or whatever. Volume 5 was just some fun freestyle shit. We wasn’t selling that on iTunes. It was just, yo, go download it for free, Datpiff, just go get it. You just want to have fun. We was just working so much, we don’t be bullshitting around. We get in the studio, we go in, we knock some shit out, then we go about our business. We had worked so much, that it was like why not put the shit out, and , shout out to the LA Leakers, the homies Just Incredible [and] Sour Milk. I was on an interview on the radio in LA ironically, and we was talking about doing a tape. They was like “Yea, we should host the tape,” I said “Hell yea, that would be ill.” I knew that I always keep my word so if I say something I ain’t a person that just say shit and there’s never no follow up for follow through. So, if I’m speaking on national radio, or, I don’t know if it’s national, it’s in LA. If I’m speaking on LA radio, and we say we gonna do a tape, then we gotta follow up with that. They was like “Hell yea, just send us some shit,” and we went and knocked that shit out. It was just freestyling, we gonna go fuck up everybody beat, and just body shit. I think we accomplished that.
DX: When are we looking at the album dropping?
Troy Ave: I don’t know. I might scrap White Christmas and drop the album, or I might, you know, we real big into branding. White Christmas 3 might be a commercial for the album, I fuck around and drop…you see I dropped New York City: The Album November 3 and the next month I dropped White Christmas. Everything is a setup for something else. I got the new single “All About the Money” that’s fucking the streets up. We put it out maybe five days ago, maybe four days ago, I’m not sure. When we left, the shit just been an avalanche. Shit just been ill. Mad calls from back home, that shit is blowing up. We ‘bout to have the hottest record in the city when we touch back. DJ’s telling me, “When you get back home, you have no idea what you coming home to.”
DX: You got that coming, so overall what does the future hold for BSB?
Troy Ave: Just getting more money and continue to represent for the streets. Being that brand that you can trust and believe in, and building on that. We just gotta keep building, it gotta get greater later. We probably gonna partner up with major label, a joint venture situation.
DX: How’s that adidas situation working out?
Troy Ave: Adidas is good, we about to re-up with them. Shout out to my man, Wex. adidas is real good. I’m in that Sean John too. I’m one of the new faces of Sean John. You gonna see me all in the Macy’s and all that. Shout out to Uncle Jeff on that one. Shout out to Puff. I did a whole… I did some fly shit. (Looks toward Hovain) What other brands we got some shit going on with?
Hovain: Birthday Cake .
Troy Ave: Birthday Cake wine, yeah, we did a lot with them. Got a lot of shit going on.
DX: When you dropped New York City: The Album, you felt like you had to restore the feeling…
Troy Ave: Yup. I had to. I sacrificed myself, and I sacrificed all the ridicule that I would take. Who names their album “New York City?” It hasn’t been done in the history of rap. Why is that? Because people don’t have the balls to stand up and say what they believe in. They just want to be passive. I said “fuck that,” I’m here. I called my album “New York City,” and a lot of people wouldn’t pay attention to it because it’s coming from a town that was dead. The land was barren. That turned people off automatically, but I was cool with that, because I know sound travel faster than light. If you don’t check for it, somebody gonna tell you that you need to check for it. Eventually, you gonna stop being stubborn, and being a dickhead, you gonna realize, Troy Ave is that nigga. Facto!
DX: So this is the thing, you felt like you had to restore the feeling, how do you feel about the New York music scene now? Since then, G-Unit came back, Cam is doing things with Diplomats.
Troy Ave: I like it. I feel like it’s great. My plan worked. Everything I been doing. I set out to do something, and it worked. We don’t be just bullshitting around. We sit down and think. I got a high school diploma; I’m not like an idiot. More-so than that, I’m street smart. You don’t have to be book smart to be intelligent. I sit down, I put a plan together, me and Hov’ go over it, then we attack that muthafucka and knock it out the park. I told people I was gonna restore the feeling and just like that, New York is back.
Troy Ave Reveals His Relationship With Hip Hop Media
DX: I always ask artists to close things out, how do you feel about the Hip-Hop media, and how do you think it can be improved?
Troy Ave: I guess the media is good. The media is part of the thing that made me. Along with the streets and the DJ’s and the radio, shit like that, it’s people writing about you and talking about you that, whether it be good or bad… The only way I think the media can be improved is to be honest. It be a lot of chuck shit. I watched the NFL today where Roger Goodell was dancing in circles and shit. Just be like “Yo, I wanted to give the guy a chance, I looked out for him, he (was involved) in domestic violence. But I wanted to be like ‘Alright, you fucked up, but I’m gonna give you this one chance, but if shit gets out, it’s your ass’” You know what I’m saying? A lot of bullshit, dancing around! You got honest sites, like HipHopDX… somewhat honest, because ya’ll didn’t give me a five out of five, they gave me a four. Nah, as long as your being honest. Somebody can’t be made at the truth. If you get slapped in your mouth, you can’t be mad at the news for reporting that. You should be mad at the person that slapped you in your mouth. That’s why a lot of people get upset at the media. If you telling the truth, then I’m cool with that. I’m just cool with the honest truth.
DX: Definitely. Anything you want to say on the way out?
Troy Ave: I just want to say BSB is gonna continue to be that brand you can trust and believe in. I’m appreciative of all the fans and the supporters. Like, we really come from an idea and putting our hard work. Our heart, our blood, sweat, and tears into this shit. And for it to paying out how it is… We was in Omaha, Nebraska….the only shit I ever knew from Omaha was Rico in Belly. We was really there…
Troy Ave: For real. Doing shows. Chicago was love. Las Vegas, even though I lost mad money, it was still love. We gonna continue. We not gonna let the people down. You can’t let the people that support. You can’t never let them down. We ain’t gonna do that.