n May 23rd, Lake and Cormega are releasing a collaborative album. Two Queensbridge street legends converge at different stages in their rap careers: one, a hood platinum Hip-Hop veteran, the other, a talented rapper out to prove his lyrical worth. Normally, the table would be set for an interesting conversation piece.
But like his Thanksgiving Day charity, Suge Knight dropped a turkey on that table when he signed Lake to Death Row Records East. Read as Lake addresses his signing, prospects of a Nas beef, Queens production, and why Death Row East failed the first time round. If his revolution is as real as Bobby Seales, consider this the beginning.
AllHipHop.com: Since you announced signing with Death Row with Kay Slay last month, how has your life and your career changed?
Lake: The main thing was just having inspiration to look forward to the things that I know lie ahead of me. Before then, it was pretty much, there was no ray of hope. I had hope in myself. I knew I had what I needed to get it done, but it wasnt really visual. Now, I wake up in the morning and know I got a bright future ahead of me. Forget the money and all of that.
AllHipHop.com: Before, you could have released an album anytime you wanted to. Now, Death Row has released one active-artist album since 1999 in Kurupts Against Tha Grain. Are you concerned that you cant have artistic freedom?
Lake: Nah. Doin it with Suge, I have creative control. Whenever I want to put the album out, Ill put the album out. If I want it out next month, itll be next month. Im not stagnated in no way. Thats why this situation is really a good one for me.
AllHipHop.com: About a year ago, there were news releases that Tha Row was gonna work with Domination and Bang Em Smurf for an East Coast link. Do you have any idea what happened with that?
Lake: I didnt know nothin about that situation.
AllHipHop.com: How were you approached then, to sign?
Lake: I had people over in California, that had lines to get in contact with Suge. With that, I sent music to them, to get in contact with him. They got in contact with it. After that, it was on. I let him know what we wanted to do, how we wanted to come out, and it was the combination. It was a win-win.
AllHipHop.com: Youre a Queens dude first. Queens loves to see its own make big moves, but they tend to resent it when hometown dudes move away. Is your time in California, or releasing a freestyle about California, detrimental to your audience thus far?
Lake: Its always gonna be relevant, what Im sayin. Its a universal struggle that we goin through. The same thing we go through in Cali, we go through in New York. Everything I been through gettin shot, gettin incarcerated and facin life in prison all of that happened in Queensbridge. All my struggles and adversities went through there. So when I speak, it comes from there. Im always gonna be Queens. Now, because of my travels, I have more to talk about to give the streets somethin to think about.
AllHipHop.com: Historically, whenever Death Row has signed an established artist, that artist is always in turmoil with another big artist. You released Why Nas? on mixtapes recently. Nas and Mobb Deep are projected to be two of the biggest acts in 2006. Where do your allegiances lie, and where are you attacking?
Lake: Me and Cormega, thats my boy. We got an album coming out on May 23rd. Thats before my [Death Row] album. We are back. [Queens] is gonna get more attention from the world from what Im doing. Whatever I do, Im bringing it to the people. With other artists, I dont have anything against em. Its encouragement for me to get here and focus my attention. But to go at them for what they didnt do thats not really where Im at. Im counting my blessings, and Im not looking at them. Right now, Ive got bigger fish to fry than to worry about dudes from Queensbridge. They know what it is.
AllHipHop.com: On your Gutta Block King mixtape, you had record, The Kid from QB. On it, you said, Lost my youth, called a truth with my nemesis / When I finally realized what I was up against. What does that mean to you?
Lake: To come back to the streets and cause harm to somebody, thats not really my thing. I would rather bring people together. I expect people whove been through what Ive been through to understand that. Im blessed to be here. I few years ago, I was facin 100 years in prison. I beat in trial. I recognize my real foes. Thats what that line said.
AllHipHop.com: In 2001, you released the 41st Side compilation. Critically, the album did quite well. To some people who may only know you off of the Nas appearance, tell them about your Hip-Hop background
Lake: 41st Side had all the artists from Queens Nas, Cormega, Nature, Noreaga, Tragedy, – everybody. That was my whole goal to bring everybody together. It really wasnt done in that light. For me, that was a great achievement. After that, I was with Nas. I gave him a lot of pointers on working on his album. Im from the street, and I had a lot of fresh ideas not that Nas needed me for that, but I had it. Songs, concepts, hooks, I was on every session when he was makin his albums. I was there. I was on Gods Son – Revolutionary Warfare. It was good for me, and it was good for him at the time. There was a lot of artist development for me to be on the road with an artist of the level. For him, because of I who am, and who I am on the street, he profited from it too. I was promoting shows. I was grindin my way no handouts. Me and him was supposed to start Ill Will [Records] together, but that never materialized. The time wasted [hurt] a lot of people. Thats why I [made Why Nas?] and express how I feel. I moved on and got with Suge three, four months later. That record wasnt made for me to get a deal. That was the end of me, like, S**t, I may not even be here next week. These my last rites my last rhyme. But, it didnt turn out like that. A lot of people might say, Well, what does this have to do with Hip-Hop? But I need to express myself if certain individuals are representin somethin they not. Theres gonna be a lot more of me expressing myself, cause its all real. You gonna respect it, whether you like it or not.
AllHipHop.com: I cant ignore the fact that you two did One Never Knows a brilliant collaboration you had together. You talk about unifying, but then expressing yourself. Is peace the greater goal?
Lake: Yeah, I would love it. But if we were to do that, it would have to be on the right terms. Me and a lot of individuals not gonna click, cause we dont have the same values. Im really for my people. Im goin to see my [locked up] dudes. Im in the courtroom. Im in a position to provide opportunities. Its not gonna be peace cause its beneficial to you. You dont have to worry bout me, thats easy for you. Im not gonna make you feel comfortable cause you a fraud. Half of these dudes gettin money are portraying something they not. I dont respect that.
AllHipHop.com: Hows the development going in acquiring Shyne to Death Row East?
Lake: Shyne is my man. I go see Shyne on a visit [often]. Thats my comrade, regardless of what he do [as far as signing]. I do whatever I can for dude. Before I signed with Suge, I was goin to see Shyne. Shyne was actually in a situation where he was tryin to get me a deal. He was tryin to put me on Gang Land, with him. Then, they shut down the company after the lawsuit. We was lined up for the first weekend in January, last year. Suge had good attorneys, so we gonna help him get out.
AllHipHop.com: Ten years ago, there were press releases created of trying to start a Death Row East. Sam Sneed, K-Solo, and rumors that everybody from Eric B. to Craig Mack to Big Daddy Kane were signing. It never panned. Knowing the history, are you cautious?
Lake: Nah. Even with discrepancies that the East Coast and West Coast had in 95 and 96, thats what makes this so monumental to bring East Coast and West Coast together, it be love. This is somethin that never happened in Hip-Hop history. Everybody knew Suges history with certain dudes over here, and the respect wasnt there because of the individuals that were over here at the time. Thats why it got to the height that it got to. With him, and his history, to deal with me over here, I take that as an honor. I know a lot of people look at it, and they dont understand it, not knowin the history. This is a monumental move. For me, to be strong on the East and strong on the West, aint no artist out had that kind of love. I dont mind any obstacles. I just needed an opportunity to come out. Thats all I wanted. All my problems now, are good problems.
AllHipHop.com: Since Dre, Daz, Quik, even Big Hutch have left Death Row, theyve been heavily criticized for their lack of quality production. Youre from Queens home of Marley Marl, Large Professor, and Havoc. How can you get beats on point?
Lake: This is Hip-Hop at its purest form. Its gonna be street, hard, bouncy great music. Suge got a whole roster of producers on West Coast, the Death Row Hittaz. Me, Im from Queensbridge. Ive worked with Alchemist, and Havoc they from the East Coast. Im working with C-4, who did Akinyeles Put it in Your Mouth. Im working with Uno Dos too. Suge has a lot of beats that never came out in the catalogs. For me to go to Paramount Studios and be doin that, its monumental for me. Ive got some of that earlier production that Suge had over there.
AllHipHop.com: Are names we might know behind some of those beats?
Lake: Nah. I aint gonna put none of the names out. Thats another situation. [laughs]