Steve Lobel walks into #DXHQ exactly on time for this conversation. He’s rocking a black bucket hat with the words “Hip Hop Don’t Know You” wrapped around the top. On his feet, a pair of white adidas shelltoes, which the Queens native seems to always wear. Emblazoned across his grey T-shirt reads “We Working” spelled out in classic logos from various cultural titans (the Wu-Tang symbol for the “W,” Eazy-E’s “E” for the “E,” for example). He’s nearly branded head-to-toe with each of his various business ventures. As he sits for this interview he explains the concept for his upcoming book, The Coach Lasts Longer Than The Player, which is currently in progress.
“It’s true,” Steve Lobel says. “The coach lasts longer than the player. Without the coach and other people on the team, you can’t be the player you want to be. Jay Z has a team, Kobe and LeBron have a team. Together Everybody Achieves More: That’s what “team” means. If you’re a real musical artist, you have an accountant, you have a business manager, a lawyer, an agent, an assistant, you have a team. You need a team, you can’t do it yourself. HipHopDX has a team. Hip Hop Don’t Know You has a team. We Working has a team. You need a team. So the coach lasts longer than the player.”
Steve Lobel’s concept of team was cultivated over his 20-plus year career managing Hip Hop acts. He was instrumental in the creation of Bone thugs-n-harmony’s timeless debut, E. 1999 Eternal, as well as the careers of Common, Three 6 Mafia, Fat Joe, Big Pun, Nipsey Hussle, Mann, Sean Kingston, Soulja Boy, DJ Kiss, and countless others, all of which he discusses in this exclusive conversation.
Now in his third decade in the music business, Lobel’s expanded his sphere of influence into journalism. In 2014, he launched Live With Steve Lobel—his interview series which is featured on website, Blurred Culture. To date he’s notched revealing conversations with J. Cole, Logic, Bizzy Bone, and more. “I’m gonna be the next Jimmy Kimmel, but the Hip Hop version,” Steve says. Seriously, the discourse below could double as a new artist’s guide on how to make it in the music industry.
Bone thugs-n-harmony “Are The Beatles Of Rap”
Steve Lobel: I mean you know, five members, sold over 40 million records, won Grammys, American Music Awards, and I just felt like they’re The Beatles of rap. You know, if anybody else didn’t know, The Beatles were a huge, huge rock group. They changed barriers and sky was the limit with them. I worked with Run-DMC, so it was very hard for me to say something like that because Run-DMC I feel is the biggest rap group of all time. They crossed over barriers, took stuff platinum, the first ones to be on the cover of magazines, the first ones to be on TV shows. So it was hard but I just felt like Bone thugs-n-harmony, because of their singing and their rapping, was The Beatles of rap. And that’s what I felt at the moment.
DX: It took Bone a while to get respect in New York City. One thing you did say was that Fat Joe and Biggie were two of the first people to actually embrace Bone Thugs in NYC. Why do you think New York had a hard time embracing Bone Thugs?
Steve Lobel: I’m from New York. I’m from Queens, so we hard headed. And we just are limited to what we listen to. And probably back then, I don’t even think Power 105 was existing or Hot 97 but you know they play a lot of New York music. So people were just brainwashed to New York music—the Jay Z, Nas, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang. It took me, a New Yorker to start working as an A&R with Sony Music to understand who the Three 6 Mafia, 8Ball, MJG, The Dayton Family and Mac Malls were and really get out there and really understand the rest of the country. So New York, we just hard headed. And I think when we did the Bone and Biggie record, that’s when New York showed the love.
I was watching an interview with Onyx and it’s like, they changed the game and been around 20 years and I still feel that Bone thugs-n-harmony hasn’t got their just do. A lot of people out right now sound like Bone—from Wiz [Khalifa], to Kendrick [Lamar] and A$AP Rocky—and they give Bone props and they salute Bone. And the first person who really really embraced Bone thugs-n-harmony in New York—it wasn’t no deejay, it wasn’t no record company so to speak or anybody like that even though they were signed to Ruthless. It was Fat Joe.
Fat Joe embraced them, and then Biggie embraces them. But Fat Joe opened the city, took them to the clubs, took them around. But the first time we went to the Tunnel, Fat Joe had nothing to do with it. It was just when Eazy-E came into town. We went to the Tunnel. We ran into Ice Cube, we ran into LL Cool J. Bone was like 16 or 17 years old. Eazy was walking back to the hotel it was freezing ice. He caught pneumonia and I haven’t seen him again since. But you know, a lot of people don’t know what the Tunnel is. You know Funkmaster Flex knows what the Tunnel is. Cipha Sounds knows, but the Tunnel was a legendary club in New York.
DX: There was one story you’ve told, where you’re talking about when they were trying to get into the club and Biggie paid for everybody. Which club was that?
Steve Lobel: I don’t even remember the name. Damn, I wish Big was alive. They wouldn’t let them in and Big was like, “Nah they with me.” Big paid for everybody or you know they VIP’d or comped it and we all got in and had a blast. The clubs in New York don’t give a fuck who you are. Sometimes they don’t even want to take your money. I remember going to a club with Nipsey Hussle and we had Iyaz with us, one of the artists that works with a pop singer, and they wouldn’t let Iyaz in or something and Nip was like “Well fuck it we ain’t going into the club” and Nip flipped on security and everything. It was funny! He was like “Yo cuz, 60 Crip!” and the security guard was like “Whoa, whoa whoa!” because they’re not used to that. But you know, clubs in New York are hard, man. They don’t give a fuck.
DX: What was Bone like at that time when they were fighting for respect in New York? Did that bother them? conversation within the crew?
Steve Lobel: Bone didn’t even care or think like that. All Bone cared about was just having fun, getting high, making music and pleasing the fans. That’s why 20 years later they’re still around and have a fan base and still doing four shows a week, selling merchandise, hugging babies, kissing fans hanging out with their fans. Bone didn’t care about that they just wanted to have fun, you know what I mean?
DX: Were you around Bone during the creation of E. 1999 / Eternal?
Steve Lobel: Yeah of course, I was around Bone since ’93 when they dropped “Thuggish Ruggish Bone,” and the way we broke “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” was from The Box. That’s how “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” broke: Marketing strategic ways and it was broke from The Box, the video box that you control. A lot of people don’t even know what even The Video Music Box is. I was around that. They were young, wild, drinking Hennessy, smoking weed and just making music.
E. ’99 is a fucking classic, man, and “Tha Crossroads” record was a different record. And when Eazy-E died they flipped it and I remember we were in the studio right down the block from here not too far. “Studio Cats,” I think it was. I’m not sure the name. I forget, but it was right off Wilcox on Hollywood. A lot of their music was made there. E. ’99 was made not too far from HipHopDX.
DX: We gotta take a trip over there!
Steve Lobel: Well, it’s not even a studio no more it’s a sushi restaurant.
Steve Lobel: Yeah, Snoop took it over with L.T. Hutton for a while, and then it became a sushi restaurant. There’s another studio right over here on Sunset, on Crossroads of the World. A lot of music was done there, too.
That was just ridiculous, man. When we were shooting the video for “Crossroads” they all booked the lowriders. Flesh-N-Bone was wearing a 560 overall suit. That was Fat Joe’s clothing line at the time. We shot in a church off Crenshaw and Wilshire. And we got to the MTV Awards coming out with the white outfits and the white carriage, and Fat Joe took off his cuban and told Bizzy Bone to wear it. We saw [Tupac] there! That was like 1996. Man, those are good memories.
DX: E. ’99 always felt like one long story to me. From the beginning they’re on the block in St.Clair. Then they go to jail and break out of jail, and then they’re bud smoking, then ride off into the mo’ murda sunset on “Mo’ Murda.” Was that intentional as far as you know?
Steve Lobel: I don’t know if anything was intentional with them, but “Mr. Bill Collector” and “Mo’ Murda” were big records. Even the album cover, that’s Eazy-E in the little window up there, people don’t even know about that but it’s a classic. It still sells. They do a lot of records off that album. It’s timeless music.
DX: Who’s idea was it to have that scene where I guess the grim reaper touches Uncle Charles and his eyes turn black?
Steve Lobel: Someone at Ruthless. It could’ve been Shawn Williams, or Cassandra Wear—someone who was working marketing. Or maybe even the video director. I think Michael Martin shot that video. Michael Martin is a legendary video director. I believe he shot it. Someone came up with that. That was dope.
Big Pun & Fat Joe’s Fear Of Flying
DX: How has your marketing approach changed over the years as you work with different artists? Is it still as much leg work as it was before?
Steve Lobel: Put it this way, I mean, just to give you a back story real quick: I’ve worked with everybody from Run-DMC. I got into the game through Jam Master Jay. Rest in peace. I gave Three 6 Mafia their first gold plaque way before an Oscar. I worked with Eazy-E when he had Ruthless and stuff. I worked with Fat Joe. Pun was Joe’s hype man. ‘Pac with the Outlawz, Common when he was Common Sense, Beatnutz, M.O.P., Mac Mall, the Luniz, and it went on. We discovered Nipsey Hussle and helped out Ty Dolla $ign, YG and Mustard, Mann, Iyaz, Sean Kingston and the list goes on. I’m working with an 11 year old DJ right now—DJ Kiss—so I’m just blessed to stay relevant. But, I take the old school method to the new school method.
The new generation, and even these record companies, they’re not working really hard like the old days. They’re pressing a button and taking the easy route, throwing something on Instagram, throwing something on Twitter, throwing up a little viral thing on YouTube.
Imagine this: Let’s go back to 1996. You with Fat Joe. You with Big Pun who’s just a hype man, four other goons, no one really knows the music industry yet and you got $60. You’re in a custom van and you’re driving from New York City, all around the country. And you going to college radio, you going to mix show radio with boxes of vinyl. You got poster boards to put up, stickers to put up, promo T-shirts to give out. I don’t even know if we had a cell phone back then. Rolls of quarters, maybe. No Blackberries, no iPhones and we had to promote and market. We had to do the grassroots. You’re lucky to rap at an event! We’d go to the barbershops, the nail salons, the schools, the hood, the rich neighborhoods, the independent record stores that no longer exist, the radio stations and try and kick the door open to get in to see a deejay.
For the Biggie and Bone record, Biggie and Bone were in the studio together. Now it’s like “Yo, I’ma send you a record,” and the artists don’t even meet because the record company feels like that would help the single. And the artists didn’t even get the vibe of being in the studio or the producer. They’re throwing up something on Instagram, just sending out e-mail blasts to every blog about the artist. There was a lot of money spent on promo. There’s no money really spent on promo now. We used to go on the road and do shows and we’d stop at the radio stations, stop and do a retail run. I don’t even think artists even do that anymore. They might just come into town, do a meet-and-greet. If they got a big record on radio, do a little meet-and-greet with the radio winners, and they’ll do their show and sell their merch and be gone.
So it’s different but you know, who am I to judge now or complain? I just gotta keep going and have those great memories of when we really worked. We really put the work in, and we spent money to make it work. But you know, everything changes. You gotta go with the flow.
DX: One of my favorite stories you tell is when you describe how Fat Joe didn’t like to fly. So he and Big Pun were driving around everywhere?
Steve Lobel: You know what’s so crazy, man? Well first of all, Joe is a dear friend of mine. I’ve known him for 20 years—one of the realest, stand up guys. He’s loyal, got integrity. I introduced him to his wife. But at that time, I worked with so many artists and everybody was flying but Joe. I loved being around Joe so I was like, “Fuck it. I’ll drive.” I’m like, “Joe why won’t don’t you fly, bro? I just flew first class with Bone.” And he’s like, “I’m not flying!” I remember Khaled don’t fly and Nas didn’t fly and Scarface didn’t fly, so Joe was like “I don’t need to fly.” I said, “Joe you know how much money you’re losing around the world?” And then one day, I heard he got on a fucking plane and he got onto a private jet and went to Puerto Rico! And I was like “You son of a bitch. I should of been on the first flight with you!”
But then Pun blew up, and Pun started traveling on the planes everywhere and he would buy two seats. He had to get the extra seatbelt for him but, now Joe is traveling the world and he says to me, “Damn Steve you were right, I seen the world over and over there’s so much money that I was missing out on.” I think the reason why he started to fly was [because], I think Khaled had a problem but it was Joe’s beef and Khaled called Joe. Joe ran to Khaled’s rescue, in a good way. Joe jumped on the plane. He was a little tipsy, jumped on a private jet and went down to deal with it. He told me that. That’s a real muhfucka to do that, and that’s what started his flying.
DX: Word up.
Steve Lobel: When you’re an artist and you don’t fly, man, you lose a lot of money. You lose a lot of promo. Khaled doesn’t even fly so he likes to drive and stop in every city-to-city. I’m just saying, you gotta fly to be in the music industry these days. I used to pick Joe up in the Bronx, go to Long Island, Massapequa, to this place called “Van Tastic.” Anybody you interview from New York from the early 90s, any artist and say “Van Tastic.” They’ll be like “Oh yeah, of course!” We go there. It was like $200 a day. We’d go out there and get it, pick up Joe and we’d drive to Miami, to Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, [Los Angeles]. There was one time we had to go to Mixshow Power Summit. Pun got on a plane. Joe took a boat because he wouldn’t fly to the Bahamas! I got some good stories.
DX: Was he thin?
Steve Lobel: He was thin at a point. I knew him when he was heavy. He was Joe’s hype man. He would sit next to the window of the van and I would have the big ol’ cell phones and I’d have to call up and try to make moves—promo, radio, retail. I’ll never forget this: Pun used to always want to always use my phone to call his children. All he wanted to do was call his children. He was a great father. And I was like, “Yo, Pun hold on.” I would treat him cool but you know I had to handle business. He goes, “Muthafucka, one day you’re going to regret this!” And then he blew up and he was like, “You’re not gonna be able to use my phone!”
Big Pun’s Weight Gain, Relationship With His Family
DX: Did his son talking about how Big Pun was abusive to his wife surprise you?
Steve Lobel: I never seen it. I was surprised because around me, and like I said I was around him for a couple years, and he didn’t explode. Then he exploded, and then when he started blowing up and he had all the jewelry and he was selling millions. He always had his wife and kids around him. So, it’s hard to believe. The last time I saw Pun, they were in a house in Beverly Hills on Sunset. I went over there and the barber was cutting his hair, he had a bib on, he was eating, and this was when he was just getting bigger and bigger. I was just like… this is getting real sad. Like he couldn’t breathe but he was eating, getting his haircut, and the next thing you know he passed. I called Joe and I said “This guy don’t look good.” But yeah, shit happens right?
DX: Were people around him trying to help him regulate his diet?
Steve Lobel: Yeah. He had real muhfuckas around him. One thing with Joe, Terror Squad and Pun they had real muhfuckas. They had no yes-men, no dick-riders. A lot of artists got yes-men and dick-riders around them. He didn’t have that around him. So people tried, you know?
DX: From what I remember reading, it seemed like if he was trying to lose weight.
Steve Lobel: He was trying but it’s hard, man. Put it this way—I was a little overweight, not like that but when I was working with Sean Kingston, all we would do is eat pizza and Burger King and I was getting fat. And if I see that Snickers bar there or pizza, I’ma want that. I don’t drink or smoke but I want that. People are addicted to certain things. He liked eating and he got abusive with it. But at the end of the day, he’s still a great person. But he went from skinny to big. Khaled, he’s exercising now because as you get older you know your heart gets fucked up and you gotta exercise. You gotta take care of yourself. At that time, I think things were just moving so quick and [Big Pun] got caught up. I wish I could go back and figure that out, see him again to talk to him. It’s fucked up.
DX: Were you around the creation of Capital Punishment?
Steve Lobel: In and out. He was signed to Loud, which wasn’t me. I was really around at the beginning of his career with Fat Joe and then he blew up and we would just see each other and laugh. We had a lot of radio shows that Joe would be at because when you got this big record and you got these radio shows, and I would be there with Bone or another artist. So I’d see him and we’d clown, we’d laugh, pop-up and see him. We’d go out to Jimmy’s Café and eat and stuff like that. But recording? Not much.
The first album he ever really rapped on was Flesh-N-Bone. I put Pun, Cuban Link and Fat Joe on one of Flesh’s records and Flesh didn’t even know who they were. But Flesh was like “Do it.” That was one of his real first verses on a placement on an album.
DX: Trues Humbly United Gathering Souls, Flesh’s first solo album, in my opinion is one of the more under-appreciated Bone albums, but it was the first solo album [to come out of the group].
Steve Lobel: It was the first solo album because Flesh wasn’t signed to Bone. He was signed to Def Jam. Chris Lighty, Lyor Cohen, Russell Simmons wanted a piece of Bone but they couldn’t get him. So they signed Flesh. And I’ll never forget, Flesh at that time, he was going through a lot of things and they couldn’t get stuff done, and Lyor happened to call Jam Master Jay up and said, “I need to get this project done.” [Jam Master Jay was] like, “call Steve Lobel.” Lyor called me and was like, “I need you to get involved and help.” Then I helped. I put Rev Run on the first single, “World So Cruel.” I put Fat Joe and Pun on the album. I was part of putting Flesh on the Montell Jordan remix for “Fallen.” That helped Flesh, too, because that record was big. I just happened to see Montell the other day for his “Unsung” thing. We were laughing about that and went to the beach.
So Flesh was never in Bone, so to speak. He never signed, but he’s part of Bone. He’s the Fifth Dog. That album was a classic. It was the first solo album and obviously the rest of the solo albums came. Krayzie Bone with Thug Mentality. I was executive producer on that double CD. That’s one of the classics. So you know, I just started the whole solo thing.
Steve Lobel: Yeah, great record. Damon Elliott—Dionne Warwick’s son—did a lot of that production on that album.
DX: Bone Thugs-n-Harmony announced they’re putting out a million dollar album.
Steve Lobel: I mean honestly, Wu-Tang put that out, then Bone put that out. I been with Bone for 20 years. A million dollars is not enough. We’ll make the product and we’ll try and get $10 million for it and make something for the fans because the fans really want something. But I don’t believe it’ll be the last album. Bone will always make music. They’ll always tour but when it comes to something like that I’ll follow their lead. That’s what they want to do and I’m gonna follow their lead.
DX: What was your initial reaction when Krayzie brought that up?
Steve Lobel: That’s what he wants to do. They have a lot of fans around the world. Look, when Nipsey put out the $100 mixtape, who would of ever fucking thought [he would have sold them all]? That’s our guy. We told him to read this book about a $100 cheesesteak in Philadelphia. Nip was reading the book and he was like, “You know what, I’m gonna do this” and he did it. No one thought he would be able to do it. We found Nipsey in 2005. Unfortunately, I don’t work with Nip no more but Nip’s my lil bro. He calls me, thanks me, I check in on him. I’m so proud of him. I can’t wait to hear his new music through Atlantic Records. He’s one of a kind. He’s a real one. He’s always stayed official, always authentic, never followed something, never changed. He’s not following a trend, He’s always wanted to be himself and stays himself.
But we put money behind it. We worked hard. We were the one’s pushing the line in the industry when no one wanted to fuck with him, no one wanted to sign him. Now everybody’s on his dick. No one ever knows the back story and know what was done to get to where it’s at. No one knows that. They think it just happens. He’s been around a long time, man. He’s been around a long time.
DX: Do you think Bone Thugs will be successful with this million dollar album?
Steve Lobel: Yeah. They’ll find somebody, or a couple people that might want to do it just to say they did it. A lot of people just want to say they did it. There’s a lot of billionaires around the world that might just say, “You know what? I’ma do this to do it.” They have nothing else to do with their money. They just wanna be cool and say, “I bought it.” That’s what happens a lot of times, man.
DX: I love anybody who’s coming up with creative ways to do anything. I think that’s just awesome all the time. But this one to me is the most intriguing because for one, it completely removes the label, and secondly it removes the loan aspect of it.
Steve Lobel: Look, anybody who’s creative and innovative you have to salute. I like to try and stay creative and innovative. These days you don’t even need a label. Macklemore did it great. Nipsey showed it but now he’s at a label. All you need is the eyeballs, the fans, and the internet. Be creative and be yourself, get on the road and sell your product. Touch your fans, do your live performances and you build yourself a brand.
RZA and them, they came up with this idea—very creative but they’ve always been creative, always innovative, always a step ahead. I just had a meeting with RZA a month ago at Frank Dux’. I didn’t even know who Frank Dux was but if you Google Frank Dux, he’s one of the best martial arts guys of all time—maybe bigger than Bruce Lee. Go YouTube him some time. You’ll be like, “Whoa!” Just watching [RZA and Dux] talk about the whole world they’re in with the martial arts and monks, I was like, “Wow, this is Hip Hop history.” Frank Dux talking to RZA about this, that’s amazing.
I just was in New York. I brought LL Cool J to Snoop Dogg’s show. They know each other but I watched them sit there for two hours in the dressing room and talk about so much Hip Hop and Snoop was telling LL, “Yo. I looked up to you man!” I just listened to them talk and I was like, “Yo everybody back up and let them talk!” I wish we had cameras. Just listening to them talk, LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg in Westbury Long Island in the middle of nowhere just talking about Hip Hop is priceless. That’s what I do it for. That’s why I love Hip Hop: The passion and seeing that type of stuff.
Live With Steve Lobel & SouljaBoy Vs. Gillie Da Kid
DX: Is there an arrogance with journalists or media people towards artists or celebrities these days in your opinion?
Steve Lobel: I’ve been around 20-some-odd-years, and I personally maybe came across one or two people that were arrogant, disrespectful. Otherwise, everyone’s been cool. I love journalists who go left field, then right field, and that’s how I’ve always been. If someone’s going right, I’m going left. You know sometimes there will be a journalist that’s gonna ask questions that the artist don’t like and the artist is ready to go crazy, but I’m like, “Hold on think about what he or she just said.”
Back then you really had to really get on the phone to do an interview or face-to-face. There’s a lot of things going on at the moment. I happen to now be a journalist so to speak, or a speaker or an interviewer. I’m interviewing artists now. I got this show, Live With Steve Lobel. I just interviewed DeSean Jackson, Soulja Boy, Sean Kingston, DJ Skee. [Skee] was like, “Steve, I’ve never been interviewed before. I always do the interviewing!” J. Cole, as well, and I ask questions where these muthafuckas are like, “Wow, Steve! Whoa, you’re good!” I’m gonna be the next Jimmy Kimmel, but the Hip Hop version.
DX: What’s your favorite conversation that you’ve had so far?
Steve Lobel: Everybody says I’ve had a great conversation with Soulja Boy, but I think me and J. Cole got real because I knew J. Cole before he blew up. We really talked about some other shit.
DX: Soulja Boy is consistently in the news.
Steve Lobel: Yeah you know, I work with Soulja. I got my DJ Kiss—the 11-year old deejay on tour with him right now. I’ve known Soulja for years. He lives near me. I ran into him at the gas station. He like, “Hey yo big homie help me.” I was like, “What do you need help on?” He was like, “I wanna do tours and shows!” and I was like, “You never did a real tour?” He was like, “Naw.” So we got him on tour right now. He’s all over the place so we’re helping him. He’s interesting. He’s on Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood. He’s a real creative guy, big in social media. I fuck with him. I like him. He’s got a great personality and he looks up to me and respects me. He texts me and tells me he appreciates me, which I like.
DX: What’s your reaction to this Soulja Boy and Gillie Da Kid conversation?
Steve Lobel: Gillie’s my man. He fucks with my partner, Big Yu and Ving Rhames. He’s from Philly and I respect Gillie as a man. And then you know I work with Soulja Boy. I don’t like the fake beef. I’m not with all that shit. So I saw he tweeted like, “Slap him in the mouth,” or something like that. No matter who you are you can’t say that to me. That’s a problem. So, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s gonna be no real beef. It’s probably just Hip Hop beef. People don’t know what real beef is, man. Not in this Hip Hop. Only the minority of people really know.
DX: Soulja Boy get’s a lot of criticism from our audience. They peg him as a one-hit wonder to some degree. It seems like he’s in the middle of rebranding. How would you describe his new music?
Steve Lobel: To be honest with you, man, he get’s a lot of criticism. I get a call from TMZ all the time like, “Why is he faking this and why’s he faking that?” I don’t know. You gotta ask him. He’s gotta give you those answers because I can’t. A lot of the time these artists do stuff without anybody knowing. Remember: He’s a young kid that got discovered on YouTube, had the dance, had the song, made a lot of money. He was signed to Interscope, was managed by Chris Lighty—one of the best. Rest in peace. People don’t know that.
It was funny because Bone Thugs got an artist named Souljah Boy and I remember Chris Lighty and 50 calling me about that because he owned the name. And then he [Souljah Boy] disappeared for a few. People say he was on lean, he’s always drunk, he’s high and so forth but to each his own. Who are we to judge? Only God can judge.
[Soulja Boy] being who he is, he said he doesn’t give a fuck. And that’s the way he should be: Who gives a fuck? You don’t like me [then] don’t listen to my music, don’t give a fuck. No one likes everybody. No one likes everybody’s outfit. It is what it is. Everybody’s got an opinion and everybody’s judgmental, but you listen to what you want to listen to, you wear what you wanna wear and that’s it. If you don’t then don’t fuck with him. So that’s how I look at things. If you don’t like Soulja Boy you don’t like him, fuck him. You like him [then] you rock with him. That’s how I look at shit, man. At the end of the day he’s being himself. He’s not a fucking follower. He’s a leader. Birdman fuck with him. Nicki Minaj fuck with him and whoever fucks with him fucks with him. Fans don’t like him or fans do love him, so I’m not with all the criticism and all that online bullshit. It is what it is.
DX: Well your part of this world now.
Steve Lobel: Yeah, of course. At the end of the day you gotta know how to work with it. But like I said, everybody got an opinion. Someone could say shit about the way my shirt looks or your shirt. That’s what it is. Until someone disrespect your family or physically [harms you] then it’s a problem. Otherwise, everybody’s gonna talk. There’s believers, there’s non-believers, there’s haters, there’s positive people, there’s negative people. That’s the world.
Jam Master Jay’s Relationship With 50 Cent
DX: How would you describe Jam Master Jay’s relationship with 50 Cent on the early side?
Steve Lobel: Let’s put it this way: On the early side, Jay found him, taught him how to structure songs. They had a great relationship. 50 had nothing. But they had a great relationship and I used to come around a couple times. Next thing you know, I was on my own mission and 50 blew the fuck up and I never got to see him because he had so much security around him when he first popped. You couldn’t even get close to the dude. I remember one time I finally got close to him at the BET Awards, or BET Spring Bling, and I was there with Bone. 50 came in and it was the first time I was able to get to him and he was like, “Yo what up, Steve? Long time no see. I’ll never forget who you are. You’re Jay’s man.” Slowly his security diminished a little bit and I’d pop up and see him at a place or two, but very rarely.
Then I popped up in the alley at the Key Club and he came out with YG and I was there with Mann. 50 jumped on the “Buzzin” record. 50 didn’t even know that it was Mann from the song. Coming up I was like, “You just jumped on to Mann’s record. That’s my, artist.” He’s like, “That’s Mann? Oh shit! I didn’t even know. I just jumped on the record. It was hot. Interscope told me to come onto the record.” That’s when  was jumping on records. And next thing you know he calls me two weeks later and he’s like, “Yo we need to shoot a video.” Like, he forced the video. Chris Lighty didn’t want to shoot the video. He got Chris Lighty on the phone—rest in peace—and he said, “Chris, I wanna do this.”
Next thing you know we shot it on Sunset at Platinum Motorsport and the barber shop on Fairfax. 50 was so adamant about having Nipsey in the video, like, “Yo, get Nipsey here!” So I was blowing Nipsey up at six or seven in the morning and Nipsey ain’t an early person. He came at like 9AM. If you watch the “Buzzin” video, Nipsey is in the convertible with Mann wearing SMS headphones.
DX: Do you ever look back and you’re just like, “Man I live the most incredible life, ever?”
Steve Lobel: I look back and say, “Wow, I’m blessed.” I’ve been around some shit. But, I also have some regrets…
I didn’t have no balance. I’m not married. No children. I couldn’t find a girl that could deal with me traveling around. I mean, I spent a lot of my life traveling the world. I built a big house and haven’t lived in it for seven years. I went on the Justin Bieber tour for a year with Sean Kingston. Iyaz, popped and I went around the world with him for two years. Before the Justin Bieber tour, Sean Kingston was poppin’ and I went on a world trip with him—world trip—seeing countries I never seen with rappers for three years. Then Mann came poppin‘ so I didn’t have no time to stop.
So I had no balance. My mother passed. That’s when I woke up and I realized I need balance. I need time for myself. Money don’t buy happiness. Money don’t buy love. I changed a little bit for the better. Not as a person but my balance of life.
DX: My condolences.
Steve Lobel: Thank you.
DX: You talked about that with Jack Thriller.
Steve Lobel: Yeah, me and Jack talked about it and Jack was like, “I’m gonna check on my mother all the time now” and I was like, “Yeah, you gotta.”
DX: I think people lose that.
Steve Lobel: We lose that. We lose balance chasing our dreams, chasing success. We have the tendency to forget certain times about what’s a priority and what’s important—family, downtime. You can go crazy, man. This industry is not what everybody thinks it is. I always tell people, “Money comes and goes, but history stays and family stays.”