No Malice is in in the midst of a 16-city tour, holding screenings of his new documentary The End Of Malice. The film chronicles the Virginia native’s journey from coke rap to salvation, revealing previously unknown nuances about the his life, passions, and the collapse of the Clipse. Pharrell makes an analogy comparing the emcee formerly-known-as Malice to Moses. There’s vintage footage of Kanye West on the set of Clipse’s “Kind Of Like A Big Deal” video shoot, showering praise on the duo. In one particularly revealing scene, No Malice details the exact moment he decided to cease rapping about cocaine.
“They were picking up all of our friends at different times,” No Malice tells HipHopDX, describing how the police were targeting members of his team on drug trafficking charges. “I had a friend, he just had a baby. He’s wheelchairing his wife who’s holding the baby while coming out of the hospital and ‘bam’ they got him… We didn’t know who was going to get picked up next… When I was on the plane and I didn’t see my brother [Pusha-T] get on the plane, I knew what was up because we never miss flights… I’m sitting on the plane and at the very last minute he comes stumbling in the door. I stood up in the middle of the aisle in front of all those people on the plane and I told him, ‘Yo, I don’t know if you thought I was joking. I don’t know if you thought I was playing. I’m letting you know, I ain’t doing this no more.’”
Also in this conversation, No Malice tackles the 10-year anniversary of Hell Hath No Fury, his inspiring relationship with Ms. Alberta who first introduced him to the grace of Jesus Christ, and why he does not consider himself a “Christian rapper.”
The End Of Malice will debut on REVOLT on March 27. HipHopDX will host a screening in Los Angeles on March 10.
The End Of Malice
HipHopDX: How’s this experience been so far for you?
No Malice: The screenings have been incredible. I’m really enjoying it, seeing people’s reaction. Everytime I see the film, it’s like I get to see it for the first time. I get to see it through the eyes of the audience. They seem to be responding all at the right times, laughing at the right places, sad at the right times. I’m just reliving it. It’s a great thing; great feeling.
DX: It’s inspiring. It shows the down side to success to a degree. You talk quite a bit about the challenges that stayed with you throughout your music career.
No Malice: I’m not sure I look at it as a down side to success. I look at it as a down side to life, a down side that accompanies disobedience, rebelliousness, not having any kind of foundation and just letting the wind carry you left, right, swaying either which way. It can happen in any aspect of life no matter what you do.
DX: It seems like you always had a foundation, though. Your family unit is pretty close.
No Malice: Yeah. I’m very proud of our upbringing, our family unit. I think it would be correct to say that I did have a foundation. I think that attests more to that, even with foundation and having a good head on your shoulders, you can still make some pretty decent mistakes.
DX: You talk quite a bit about the conversation that you had with a older woman who influenced you before Clipse was even formed.
No Malice: That older woman would be Ms. Alberta. She’s just a very important part of my entire story. I just look at one minute I’m hanging with a good friend of mine who had just come home from jail. He was tired of being cooped up inside the house because he was on house arrest. One day he said ‘Let’s go into the cul de sac.’ He could only go so far. At the right time, here comes this lady who wants to witness to us about Jesus Christ. We weren’t trying to hear none of that. We were drinking and probably high or whatever. When I look back on the timing of him saying he wanted to get out the house and we go out and see this lady driving by, God’s plan was in full effect even before I knew about it.
DX: Those themes seemed to carry throughout your career: Lord Willin’, for example. Hell Hath No Fury. Till The Casket Drops. Hear Ye Him.
No Malice: I even dare say all of my verses, I always made some kind of reference to God. The only problem was I would take part of the truth and then I would switch it up at the tail end of it to justify me living the way that I want to live or doing whatever it is that I wanted to do. A lie always sounds better on the coattails of the truth. I can say that it also makes for some pretty hard verses as well.
DX: Is Ms. Alberta still in your life?
No Malice: Absolutely. I can’t do without that lady. We talk all the time; pray all the time. She lets me know what’s going on in her life. We just have some great fellowship. I love her to death.
DX: In the CNN profile on the Clipse there was a part where you said, if you’re not cursing or killing, people don’t consider it rap.
No Malice: I’m not against any of that. I don’t start condemning because I found an alternative, a different way of doing things. It just seems like in rap or entertainment, people do things for the sake of doing things. Like, blowing up buildings. Now the movie’s supposed to be really good, nevermind the storyline or the plot or the climax or none of that. If I’m writing and it calls for that perfect curse word to make that perfect point, I just might do it. Cursing and just being off the deep end for no reason at all, that no longer makes any sense to me. I must say, Clipse, even in all of our ignorance, there were a lot of great verses and metaphors and similes. It’s really great art in the Clipse. Nevermind the content of what we were talking about. It was also accompanied with some masterpieces in my idea of Hip Hop.
DX: I’m sure most people would agree. I’m sure you probably see it more than anything else with at least these first two screenings during the Q&As and talking to at risk youth and people in prison. They have to feel like you can relate to what they’re talking about. That’s the art that you both have always put out. At the of The End Of Malice when you and your brother are playing basketball, you see the kids in the cypher. You approach them and testify to them briefly then listen to their rhymes. By the end of the movie, I felt like that was a version of when you met Ms. Alberta.
No Malice: Exactly. It was because she didn’t shun me. Here is a woman that’s coming out, it’s starting to get dark, you see three guys hanging out and we’re drinking. She could’ve been intimidated but she was very bold, very adamant. She relies heavily on her faith. She didn’t ignore those three dudes and be like, “Oh, they’re never gonna be nothing.” She came and took the time out and talked to us and gave us a life changing message. Now I’m right here talking to you guys. I really appreciate her for being obedient.
DX: Was it a tough decision to make this movie?
No Malice: No. My story, I would’ve loved to be able to learn my lesson and then get my life together and keep everything to myself—all of the humbling experiences that I went through. I knew that God put me in front of an audience that I had to go back and share with. Trust me, I would’ve loved to have been able to keep quiet. Y’all seen me in my glory. Y’all seen me when everything was great. I had to come out and tell you that things have changed and everything that everyone’s known me for, my whole music catalog and all those verses, and I have to come back and say “not so.” It’s not that the lyrics or the lifestyle wasn’t real because our life was very nonfiction. I don’t even know if the fans know what they were getting was a front row seat to real life. Sitting in the federal building and looking at the judge and listening to him say 300 months and seeing the mothers and wives and cousins and the friends and all of the crying. Just a minute ago we was partying. Now we’re looking at it from a whole different aspect. We chronicled that in our music and gave you real life. To give you one side, when everything was beautiful and smooth [was not an option]. I gotta say the whole thing or then I’m fake. And I know I ain’t fake.
The Exact Moment Clipse Disbanded
DX: This is the first time I’ve heard you describe waiting on the plane right after your manager was indicted and praying for your brother to show up.
No Malice: That story, it runs deep. They were picking up all of our friends at different times. I had a friend, he just had a baby. He’s wheelchairing his wife who’s holding the baby while coming out of the hospital and “bam” they got him. I have another friend, he’s driving on the interstate with his girl and his daughter in the car and the police come crash they car into his to make him pull over. They were coming for everybody. I even made a vignette about it some time ago. There was a whole of bunch of stuff happening. We didn’t know who was going to get picked up next. They were kicking in doors and making mommas and wives get on the floor. It was just crazy.
When I was on the plane and I didn’t see my brother get on the plane, I knew what was up because we never miss flights. We were never late. We’re usually calling each other and double checking and all that. I hadn’t heard none of that. I’m sitting on the plane and at the very last minute he comes stumbling in the door. I stood up in the middle of the aisle in front of all those people on the plane and I told him, “Yo, I don’t know if you thought I was joking. I don’t know if you thought I was playing. I’m letting you know, I ain’t doing this no more.” Pusha-T will have a tendency to hear me but think, “I ain’t listening to that.” I just let him know, “In case you didn’t hear me the first time, it’s a wrap.”
Hell Hath No Fury
DX: This year will be the 10th anniversary of Hell Hath No Fury. I look back on that album and, like you said, a lot of your verses were the verses of consequence. “I’m not coming at your quote-unquote favorite rapper, that turned positive tryna tell you how to live / But here’s something that I must pass to the homies / If hustling is a must be Sosa not Tony.” Your verses on that album always had a consequence to the narrative. There wasn’t that much cursing. You weren’t talking crazy.
No Malice: That’s pretty much who I am. I like to think that I have some type of decency about myself. I can get as wretched as anybody else. I’m not above anything. I’ve done some serious trespassing in my career against my family, my wife. Some things I had to stop and reevaluate and take inventory of my own life. That’s all this is about, bro. It’s about the checks and balances, looking at my experiences and seeing where I can improve at in learning from the things that I’ve done and should’ve done different. That’s life. If you’re not learning from your experiences, then you’re tripping. I don’t care what you doing. I don’t care if it’s rap music or playing sports—people are watching you. There are young kids out here that don’t have the luxury that I had of having a father that’s 6’2 or 6’3 saying “You better not bring no trouble into the house.” Whatever you’re doing in the street, it better stay out in the street. I’m sure some young kid is listening and patterning his life and I just want to be completely truthful.
DX: You’ve talked extensively about not wanting to perform old songs and your reluctance to doing another Clipse album. But when you look back at Hell Hath No Fury, what’s the first thing that you think about?
No Malice: There are times when I’m with somebody and they’ll pop in Hell Hath No Fury or a mixtape and I listen to those verses and they’re hitting me every time. I’m like, “What happened? They’re not even doing this anymore. This could take out anything that I hear.” I’m very proud of the catalog. When people tell me about a record that my brother has or something new that he’s done or a line, I’m like, “Homie, I already know that. He gonna do it the best. He makes the kind of Hip Hop that I like. He makes the kind of Hip Hop that I want to hear.” None of that surprises me. As far as not performing the old songs or working on a Clipse album, I got a job to do. My purpose has been directed so I know what it is that I have to do and what I’m supposed to be doing. The fans that want Clipse or want to see Clipse back together or want a Clipse album, I know what they’re looking for. I know what they want. I know what I like about that music. It would be such a disservice to try to give them something different. I can’t talk about coke no more. I’ve seen real life changing ramifications so I can’t hold that banner up like I used to. It’s impossible for me to do it. I can’t do it no more. I still give you straight Hip Hop. I still give you the rawest lyrics, the intellect and everything that you want. It’s just some things that you want. It’s just there are some things that have happened and I wouldn’t want to perpetuate certain things.
DX: That’s what I think is so interesting about that album. Your verses really weren’t…
No Malice: You just want a Clipse album, yo! [Laughs]
DX: Honestly, I don’t. I don’t like to go back and try to recreate history.
No Malice: Right. I hate when people do that. I can’t stand sequels either.
DX: For me, y’all already did it with Hell Hath No Fury. That’s the ultimate Clipse album for me. “We Got It For Cheap,” the first time you start rhyming on the album, you say “The wool’s removed and now I see / My leg was pulled the joke’s on me…” There isn’t a cocaine reference until the final half bar when you say “…If ever I had millions / Never would you sell blow.” That’s not drug verse to me. You’re talking about reparations and making biblical references. I just don’t think about Clipse as only selling blow when I think about that album.
No Malice: It is not only selling blow. I think that’s what made Clipse “Clipse.” You’ve got street life. You’ve got swaggadocious Pusha. He’s got the flash and the style and all of that. I think what I brought to the table was, like you said, some kind of redemption to everything else that was going on. That’s what makes Clipse special to me.
DX: A lot of those verses remind me of Hear Ye Him.
No Malice: I would agree because I’m the same dude. I’m gonna give you the same lyrics.
DX: Which is why I think it’s really interesting when I think of some of the scenes in this movie or your recent interviews where you talk about not wanting to go back to that space. It seems to me that 10 years ago you were kind of already there.
No Malice: You probably have that sophistication and maturity in your listening. There are a lot of my younger brothers and sisters who are not even close to that and I have a responsibility and a duty toward them.
DX: That was a powerful scene in The End Of Malice, as well, when you’re in the studio in Dallas making a track and you decided against being on the the song because of the emcee’s content. You couldn’t co-sign the song.
No Malice: I don’t want to give people the idea that you can be this way or you can be [that] way. I believe there is only one truth. I stand on it and I’m just flat-footed in what I believe. I respect everybody and everything whatever anyone chooses to do. I really do. I know what God told me to do. And I got to do it.
DX: Kanye West is also in the film. He’s young and ambitious and thankful to work with the Clipse. He recently described his album, The Life Of Pablo as a gospel album. There’s a song called “Ultra Light Beams” that absolutely has a home on The Word Network. Is the term “Christian Rap” or “Gospel Rap” a bad word? People seem to run away from it.
No Malice: From what I’ve experienced, because I’ve met some Christian rappers, one of which is my homie Bizzle. I really love the way that he does things. I respect the genre. I don’t believe that’s what I am. My Bible tells me “Remember where you were when you were called.” I know that I need to talk to that same platform. God didn’t turn his back on me and say “Nah, I ain’t dealing with you.” He came and got me, showed me the truth so I have to reach back and extend my hand to my brother. What I see in Christian rap from my observation is that they rap about the truth. They rap to those that understand what they’re saying. I get it. I think it’s meaningful, purposeful. That is not what I do, though.