Honestly, I feel like your fans could make it happen. Okay, let’s talk about this album! You have a pretty strong fanbase—was there pressure to live up to their expectations while you were making it?
No, because my fans are my family. I text my fans. I have this app where I can text my fans. Yo, I’m sending them files, links, and snippets from the album and they tweet about it. That’s one thing that I'm not worried about because I didn’t make this album for everybody. Those people that I said were coming up to me and saying, 'Why didn’t you perform this song? Every day I would drive to school and I’d be like, man, I want to fucking quit school, but then I’ll play this.' That is what matters. That’s who the album needed to be for because that is the shit that I love making. I know this album is going to be good. I don’t even care about numbers. My fans, that’s all that I care about. I know what they need. I know what they want. I talk to them. I know what they want with music. This is for them.
There were a couple of themes that really stood out to me. The first is sacrifice: “Love” is probably the most obvious one, talking about how you’re signed and things are better in some respects, as far as your career. But it also means that you have less time with your family. How have you been dealing with that?
I know as my sons get older, the time will be way more important than the material. So I just try to go home as much as possible. It’s really, really hard because I spend day and night in the studio not talking to nobody, but I know it's for the greater good. I'm being selfish with my time right now because it's gonna provide for everybody in the long run. But on the other end of that, they might feel like I don’t care, so I’m just trying to show my kids I'm here. I'm FaceTiming them, I'm pulling up on them at school if they acting up. The most important thing to me is making sure I'm coming back home as frequently as possible.
What was it like explaining your career to them?
My older son, he already knows. He calls me 'Daddy Rock Star,' he’s 'Medium Rock Star,' and my youngest son is 'Baby Rock Star.' Let me show you this. [Plays audio from his phone of oldest son rapping.]
He’s already rapping! That’s so cute.
That’s my dude, man. Everything I do, he tries to do. I'm walking around the house with no shirt on, he’ll be walking around—I’m like, you gonna catch a cold! Put a shirt on!
I’m sure you feel guilty a lot, though, because you’ve missed out on milestones in their lives.
I always just try to tell myself, 'These little things might feel like big things that you're missing out, but you're there for the really key parts.' The things that I remember about my parents from my childhood that actually stuck with me until my adulthood wasn't them being there for my first steps, it was my mom being around when I was going through things. So sometimes I feel guilty but then I go, nope, you're doing the right thing.
A couple of your songs mention moving on from the past and looking toward the future. I really admire that mindset. Would you say that coming from a rougher past actually makes it easier to be optimistic?
I definitely think so. Just because you know what it's like to do without. I’m so blessed right now, man. How can I be mad at some [past] shit? Let's get it. Move forward.
How important is religion to you? There're some references to God in “What Can You Do” and “Past Future.”
I didn’t grow up in church but there was a period of maybe like five or six years when my mom was like, really religious. I was, too, but I would see how people that go to church govern themselves. It’s supposed to be a holy place but they were treating it like it's any other place on the street. That made me feel like I wanted to be more so spiritual, and not put a name on what this is. I personally believe there's a higher power, I don't think this shit just came out of nowhere. But I don’t want to be like, his name is this and he did this. I give respect and thanks to people. I don’t try to complicate stuff... I gotta get some nail polish remover. They had me wearing nail polish for the show yesterday but I kept touching stuff and they had to do it over. They were [directing] models and pointed at me. I’m like, I'm an artist but it’s all good. It was fun.
Do you want to move into fashion?
I would love to. I always wanted to do something in fashion, like modeling. I did that. I don’t know so much with design because I'm not impatient but my brain goes like this [waves hands around.] With music, if I'm producing I’ll start on this one, and then go back to another. Music is easy. I don’t know if it would be that way with clothes or fashion. Maybe I could do collabs or something.
Would you say it’s easier to be accepted in fashion or hip-hop?
I would say hip-hop or music, but there are just so many stigmas that shouldn’t be there. There's probably mad gay rappers right now but none of them are out because this is rap, this is macho. Have you heard of Kevin Abstract? He’s dope. I just found out he’s openly gay. When I found that out I was so happy. I'm not gay but I feel like we just really need that, people being comfortable. [Your sexuality] shouldn’t dictate whether your music is quality or not. We’re evolving slowly but surely.
Last thing: There was one line that really resonated with me, from “Paid Back Loans:” “The thing that got you things is the thing within you.” It’s simple, but it stood out. What was your thinking there?
It’s kind of like how we were talking about sacrificing all that shit. You work. You work. You work. You need to realize, you can work to get to the next level, but don’t work for the material things. You possess these things because of this thing that is intangible. Whatever this is that draws people to you, that is not money. That’s in here [points to chest.] Don’t forget that when all of the material stuff starts coming. I’ve seen friends of mine become big and get leverage, and they change so quick. I'm like, 'Damn, how did you—just last week we were just talking about how this shit ain’t gonna change us.' Constantly remind yourself that all of this shit can be taken. Don’t base your worth on these things that you get. The work is here.