Mistah F.A.B.: Get Smart

Mistah

F.A.B. may be riding a yellow bus to school, but he brought his

homework. The Oakland disciple of Mac Dre’s Thizz Entertainment and

Hyphy movement is backed with knowledge of grassroots marketing, social

awareness, and a history of the rap around him. After five

years of regional building through DIY releases, the 25 year-old struck

big in 2006 by becoming one of the newest Bay stars to link with a

major – Atlantic Records. Like many artists entering corporate music,

his release was pushed to the back of the bus. But as The Yellow Bus Rydah gets its wheels, SMC/Universal stepped in with The Baydestrian, an appetizer album that F.A.B. proclaims has the same energetic devotion as its follow-up entrée.

Mistah F.A.B. talks paperwork and Panther Power with AllHipHop.com.

Just days after he reportedly proclaimed “out with the old, in with the

new,” in another interview, the rising rap star clarifies his respect

for elders, bigging up a few neighborhood acts that held down the Bay

in its darkest hours. Though his music gets you dumb, Mistah F.A.B.

helps readers and listeners get smart.

AllHipHop.com: Looking at The Baydestrian,

how much of this is a set-up for the Atlantic project? And when

Atlantic signed on, how much did it expedite your process with

SMC/Universal?

Mistah F.A.B.: Atlantic has a lot of [artists] over there that a lot of

their time and energy is goin’ into. So I basically asked them for the

authorization to do an independent project to help both of us out.

It’ll help build on my regional buzz, and help capitalize off of the

national buzz that I’ve been building. They gave me the authorization,

which was a beautiful thing since they didn’t have to do that. So this

one was me just wantin’ to show people in the Bay area that look, I’m

still workin’ for y’all; I’m not just gonna sit back and wait. Here’s

some songs to hold you guys over. But me, I’m the type of dude where I

don’t ever want to half-ass do something; I put my heart into this just

like I do with all my projects. People are receivin’ it well – great

reviews. I definitely want people to focus on this as they anticipate The Yellow Bus Rydah.

AllHipHop.com: In terms of having the Fontana/Universal distribution,

this is arguably your biggest release ever. Never before were kids in

Cleveland able to run into a store and readily find your material…

Mistah F.A.B.: Definitely. The distribution on this one, through

Fontana, gives it nationwide appeal. People will have access to this

album that they didn’t with Son of a Pimp.

It’s a growing stage for me. I’m very grateful to have the opportunity

to drop something. There are a lot of artists who’ve never had the

privilege of dropping an album. The way my deal is structured, I’m

getting money off this. If I sell any, I’m getting plenty. [Laughs]

AllHipHop.com: You said authorization from Atlantic. We’ve seen this before, whether with Saigon’s Warning Shots

on Sureshot Records or last month’s Joell Ortiz album on Koch. But do

you think there’s a point where if this picked up strongly – and you

sold plenty, Atlantic would catch feelings?

Mistah F.A.B.: Nah, I think Atlantic is business-minded. Look at what

they’ve done and their success rate. I’m pretty sure that if this album

catches on and starts a buzz, I’m pretty sure they’d get involved. The

contract is structured to where they still have the rights to several

songs on here, so if the songs blow up, they can use them for the

Atlantic project. We’re keeping it business, there’s no personal

feelings in this. I have a beautiful staff and a great lawyer.

AllHipHop.com: Your grassroots marketing is one of the best today in

Hip-Hop. Without relying on labels, you’ve imaged yourself quite well

with the bus pictures, catch phrases and so forth. How did you create

that approach and how do you use it?

Mistah F.A.B.: What’d Jay-Z say? “That marketing plan was me.”

[Laughs] Yeah man, I realize that imaging is one of the best tools of

marketing. People today want to see something they can identify with.

My target market and my target audience… I really approach this for

the kids. I want the kids to stay in school, and show kids that there’s

nothing wrong with growing up and being yourself. Kids today grow up in

front of the TV, thinkin’ that what they see on there is real, as

opposed to the reality that most of these cats on TV are fakin’ it. Be

yourself, man. It’s alright to have fun, this is what I do. But I also

throw jewels on ‘em, and they subliminally learn, then they consciously

learn.

It’s like watching The Simpsons. Now that I’m

older, I realize that they were attacking some political stuff. If a

person who’s really socially conscious watches The Simpsons, they get it, while a kid is just being entertained.

AllHipHop.com: I can relate to that. Years later, I’m still learning

things from a lot of MCs. However, we don’t live in a climate that

keeps albums anymore. What are you doing to ensure that a kid will

still keep your record on his or her shelf in five years to get these

jewels?

Mistah F.A.B.: Stayin’ current, man. A lot of artists don’t have that

ability. What I mean is…continually giving them something. You have

artists like Too $hort, LL Cool J, Jay-Z…the list goes on, of people

who continue to reinvent themselves, “Okay, this is what I identify

with.” As long as I can keep givin’ people something to identify with

when it comes with ear-candy, [I’ll be okay]. I try to attack issues

that the listeners are dealing with on a daily basis. Some of them may

be demographically bound, some of them are a nationwide thing.

AllHipHop.com: A lot of your buzz has to do with you being a

hand-picked representative of Mac Dre’s legacy. In terms of his label

Thizz Entertainment, who’s running that now? And what’s your

relationship with his family?

Mistah F.A.B.: Thizz Entertainment is run by the same people it was run

by in Dre’s life. On his behalf, his mother runs his share; Wanda’s a

beautiful woman. She’s about her money; she’s getting her money. She

honestly doesn’t want to tarnish her son’s image, so they’re gonna pull

back on a lot of stuff that gets released on Dre. Curt Nelson, who was

his right-hand-man, still runs the label; we have a great relationship.

We both realize that how I’m moving is how Nelly went: he moved and

then brought back the rest of the team. We’re just trying to cultivate

everybody to become relevant artists.

AllHipHop.com: I see this with J Dilla and Mac Dre. Both were

underappreciated in their lives, but it became commonplace to praise

them in their deaths. Some seem sincere, and some don’t. As somebody

who was there for those underexposed years, how does it make you feel?

Mistah F.A.B.: Like you said, are people sincere when they’re doing it?

The main thing is you have to let a legend be a legend. An icon is an

icon. Sometimes it takes a person to leave the podium for people to

give them the recognition they truly deserve. Malcolm X was a wonderful

leader, but nobody truly recognized his importance until he was

assassinated. Then everybody said, “He was the same as Martin [Luther

King Jr.]” People rode with him and followed him, but after he died –

both sides, the Left and the Right had to give him his due.

AllHipHop.com: I’m glad you bring up Malcolm. Oakland in particular has

a rich history of Black Power. You said you want to give these kids

something. Do you touch on issues we’ve heard from folks like Paris or

The Coup?

Mistah F.A.B.: My issues have no color barrier. What I do want people

to know is that I come from a family of Left Wings and Right Wings.

What I mean by this is I come from pimps and players, and I also come

from [Black] Panthers and political people. Having that involvement and

having that upbringing, I’ve realized that sometime my issues do have a

Black tone to them, because I come from that pain and struggle that [my

ancestors] went through. In today’s society, the segregation lines are

no longer visible, but they’re still [there]. I have to address those

things.

Being in the Bay area, the demographics are so multi-faceted; it’s a

melting pot. We have so many so many nationalities growing and gelling

together. So race will definitely not be an issue – especially since

when I go to a show and 90% of my fans aren’t Black.

AllHipHop.com: Great point. Crunk and Screw both proved very commercial

from White audiences. It could be argued that both movements lost their

edge in the wake of that. As many Whites I know love E-40, The Pack and

you, is Hyphy at risk of getting bastardized?

Mistah F.A.B.: No. What I realized…what pretty much everybody realized

is that in the Bay area, we grew up with pretty much all races. It’s

nothing for us to have a White potna and be like, “That’s my n***a!” In

some cases, the other people are more Hyphy than us. I think we embrace

our fans to the [fullest]; I don’t think race is an issue here.

AllHipHop.com: In a recent interview, you said “out with the old and in

with the new” in reference to DJ Shadow and Del the Funkee Homosapien.

I have to be honest and say that really offended me as a lover of

Hip-Hop. Real talk, if it wasn’t for DJ Shadow telling me about you

years ago, I would’ve never been hipped. Why shouldn’t that support go

both ways? Just as some critics claim that E-40 reaped the credit due

to Mac Dre for Hyphy, very few people are acknowledging the fact that

Richie Rich was rappin’ about the sideshow way back in 1989.

Mistah F.A.B.: It’s crazy because that so much

controversy, and that was actually worded wrong. I grew up on

the Richie Riches; if you listen to my song “Sideshows,” I say “The sideshow is not like it was with Richie Rich.”

That’s on my album. I’m with Too $hort every day. I’m with Tajai,

A-Plus, Casual every day! I actually work out of their studio, the

Hiero studio. So wow…how could they…it wasn’t worded like that.

What I was saying was the mentality of listeners today is that they

don’t do their research. They don’t know where things come from. You

can have a song that was hot last year, and someone can sample that

song and today’s generation will think it’s new. You can be like, “No,

that’s from the Ciara song.”

AllHipHop.com: We saw that with Nas’ “Thief’s Theme” and “Hip Hop is Dead”…

Mistah F.A.B.: That’s the same beat [Salaam Remi] did [two years] ago!

The same look. What I meant by the quote was that’s today’s music

listeners. They don’t care about the who did this and who did that.

That’s the minds of the youth. In order to understand the minds of the

youth, you have to relate to them. And I relate to them. I understand

what they’re talking about, regardless if I agree with it. Because

without knowledge of previous things, we won’t understand what to do

and what not to do. Learn from our history, it helps better us. Like I

said, I deal with the Hiero camp every day, and a lot of cats that laid

down the bricks for me to walk here.

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