If you reside anywhere in the Carolinas, chances are when you hear “Who am I?,” you instinctively reply, “Petey Pab, muthafucka!”  

Even after 10 years, Petey Pablo’s violin-driven anthem for his homebase of Greenville, North Carolina and its surrounding areas, “Raise Up,” still packs as much of a punch as it did back in Summer 2001, when the Hip Hop world had yet to be introduced to Durham natives Little Brother, and long before today’s current anticipation for the formal debut of Fayetteville’s own J. Cole.

Now after starting his own record label, CMG (Carolina Music Group), Petey is mounting a comeback, with a stockpile of new music ready for release. A comeback that seems destined to be if the man who put the 919 on the Rap map can sidestep his current legal affairs, and somehow revisit the gold and platinum success he achieved following 2001’s Diary of a Sinner: 1st Entry and 2004’s  Still Writing in My Diary: 2nd Entry – the chart domination that preceded Petey seemingly sacrificing his career to roll with a long-troubled “friend” and subsequently finding himself “Stranded on Death Row.”     

Last Wednesday (September 14th), one of the first southern stars of the 21st century spoke to HipHopDX about why he handed the reigns of his career over to someone so scarred. The first emcee protégé of producer Timbaland also revealed his mentor’s reaction to that move, and how the two have since been able to begin working together again. Additionally, Petey discussed the “awkward” introduction to his heir to the N.C. Rap throne, as well as the legal drama that has ensued following his reportedly committing the arguably most reckless crime one can commit in a post-9/11 America.

HipHopDX: I wanna start off by noting that we just passed the 10th anniversary of the release of your classic N.C. anthem, “Raise Up.” Were you buggin’ out that those students at N.C. A&T – all of whom were probably in elementary school when “Raise Up” dropped – went nuts when J. Cole brought you out during their homecoming concert last year to spin their shirts like a helicopter?        

Petey Pablo: Isn’t that crazy? That’s crazy, dude. That’s crazy! But see, that record is a timeless record. I didn’t specifically say any particular date …. I said, “North Carolina, come on and raise up.” So as long as people are born, that forever will be an anthem. That forever will be our “Star-Spangled Banner” for the hood.  

Petey Pablo Explains Respect From J. Cole

DX: Did you and Cole chop it up about doing any music together?

Petey Pablo: Yeah! We’re actually in the makings of doing something classic right now.   

DX: Was he sorta awestruck a little bit when he met Petey Pablo? Was he paying homage?

Petey Pablo: It was crazy, because he paid homage to me, and I don’t look at myself like that. So it was kinda awkward to me. But, I kinda understood it. I respect him, and I’m glad that he respects me ….              

DX: I wanna hear the music y’all are gonna make together. I could definitely hear Cole rockin’ wit’chu over that crazy-ass “Go” beat.

Petey Pablo: Oh, yeah! [J.] Cole got a lot going on right now, [but] I been tracking him down though. We gonna get it finished. He got a great sound. I love his sound. And I love what he’s doing for the Carolinas as well. Big-ups to J. Cole and this whole movement that he doin’. Roc Nation [Records], what up, y’all? What would be crazy is for us to do … maybe not a whole album, but like [an EP].   

DX: I mentioned “Go,” how many more of them Timbaland heaters we gonna hear you spittin’ over on your new album, A&R: Anticipated Recordings?   

Petey Pablo: What’s crazy is, I’m in the studio with [Timbaland] now. I just drove up here to the studio. We been in here [since] last night puttin’ in work. So, you just gotta be on the lookout for the unexpected. Me, Timbo and Chris Brown just did a record that’s retarded.        

DX: Wow. How did you and Timbo’s reunification come to be?

Petey Pablo: We never really had a departure. Timbaland is a great man, with a lot of hats [to wear]. He has a new family, he’s married, he has a brand new daughter, two sons, and so Tim had to do what Tim do. Tim has a life, and Petey has a life, but we never really separated. We brothers forever. And, you know how little brothers are – meaning me. And I wanna try to stand up. Sometimes you [are like], “Let me do it on my own for a little bit. You helped me, you showed me how to do it, now let me do it on my own.” Not, “Thank you for what you did, now fuck you.” It’s, “Thank you, Tim, for showing me. Now let me show you what you taught me.” So it’s me trying to show him that I can do it.

Petey Pablo Says He Was Never A Death Row Records Artist 

DX: You just segued perfectly into my next question: I just have to be blunt and ask, was Timbaland pissed when you started messing with Suge [Knight]?  

Petey Pablo: I ain’t gonna say he was pissed, he was more so concerned. He was like, “Look, little bruh.” So I wouldn’t use the word “pissed,” I would use the word “concerned.” He was concerned. Because, me and him had long talks about that like, “Dude, at this point in your career, do you think it’s a good career move?” So he was basically asking me questions like that.

DX: I don’t wanna rehash too much of the past – and I know, to paraphrase Pimp C, “them crackers at Jive [Records] probably wasn’t playing fair with you either” – but the second album still went gold, you had “Freek-A-Leek,” why would you step away from that to go run with a dude that you know has been blackballed from the industry?

Petey Pablo: Well, because see the type of guy that I am – And the last album [Still Writing In My Diary: 2nd Entry] did go platinum, certified. … This is the big misconception of me and Suge [Knight’s] relationship: it was never a business relationship. I was never signed to Death Row [Records]. It was never Petey on Death Row. Me and Suge were individuals. [And], I’m an individual that if nobody ever gave me an opportunity, where would I be? Me and him, we were friends. So it wasn’t no, Okay, well I’ma go over here and change to Death Row, fuck Jive [Records]. No, me and Jive – I love Jive to death. Jive allowed me to be who I wanted to be. Jive never stepped in my way of anything that I wanted to do. And that’s where people’s misconception came in: everybody thought I was signed to Death Row, because they seen me with Suge. And they thought I was gonna be on that same shit. But if you look at the media, you look at the press, you ain’t never see Petey and Suge in the club doing something stupid. You ain’t never see people getting beat up when Petey and Suge was together. You ain’t never seen no dumb shit like that happen. It never happened. Me and Suge were friends. I would go to his family’s house and have dinner, [and at] Christmas [I would] spend the holidays over there. I was in L.A.; I was staying in L.A. We were just friends. And everybody got that twisted. And I guess it made a lot of people mad, because you don’t know what’s going on. How you gonna be mad at me because of who I choose to talk to? Okay, yeah, he [is] black-balled in the industry, but hey, that ain’t got nothin’ to do with me. You can’t judge me by the people that I choose to talk to. I mean, that’s wrong, that’s totally wrong. Like I said, I could see if I was running around the streets doing something stupid with Suge, and it was [like], “Oh, there go Petey and Suge tearing shit up.” Or, “Damn, [here] they come in here with all these gang members.” It was never none of that. Me and Suge, the only time people even seen us together we was at either the music awards, or we was eating at The Four Seasons, was shopping, was at the beach …. We was doing just cool stuff. We was living life. I mean, I would stay in the studio, ‘cause I’m a studio monster. And I did a whole lot of songs, but again, I was never signed to Death Row.

DX: So what dissolved y’alls relationship finally?

Petey Pablo: Um … it goes back to men having their own lives. And it came a time where it was our time to go our separate ways. It was nothing bad; it was no we fell out. There was no, “Fuck Petey Pablo.” No, “Fuck Suge.” It was nothing like that. It was just like, “Hey brother, you do your thing and I’ma do mine.” And so, we parted on good terms. And I left from L.A. was another thing.

Petey Pablo Explains September 11 Firearms Arrest

DX: Now, there may be only one thing more daring than rolling with Suge, and that’s taking a gat on an airplane on September 11th. What happened, man?

Petey Pablo: Man, I have no idea.

DX: Can you speak freely about that or – ?

Petey Pablo: I don’t know about all that. It was an unfortunate thing that took place. And, we trying to work it out.

DX: Speaking of that working it out, I understand they dropped two of the charges but you could still be facing a decade

Petey Pablo: Uh … I don’t know nothing about that. I’m thinking God is gonna work out my situation. And [so], we gonna pray for it.       

DX: Is there a sentencing date though, or you’re still in the process of trying to work things out?

Petey Pablo: Yeah, we just trying to work it out. My lawyers are taking care of all that.

DX: Are you – I mean, I guess you don’t have any other choice, but are you feeling confident about that or …? Where’s your mind at right now?

Petey Pablo: I mean, I always feel confident. In the end, the truth always comes to the light. And, regardless of what the outcome is, I’m a man. And whatever has been written in my book of life is written in my book of life. So whatever the outcome of any situation is, I have no choice but to handle it.   

Petey Pablo’s new single “Get Low” is available on iTunes now.