Everything has its side effects, including success. Juelz Santana is learning this the hard way as he speaks about the title of next project, a Lil' Wayne collabo, Cant Feel My Face. Slowly growing numb to success, the Harlem bred MC finds himself having to elevate his game to even higher levels so that he still feels his gains. With his Def Jam debut recently certified platinum and the Diplomats banner flying high and proud, Juelz is one of the few MCs who still sees increasing sales with every release.
After getting everyone to whistle along to his infectious runaway single, Juelz got a coveted spot performing next to artists such as Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, and Ne-Yo on the Up Close and Personal Tour. It was in the luxury of the Lakeshore W that Juelz hid himself from the brisk Chicago air the day after the all-star lineup performed for the city, reminiscing about how he got to where he is today and shedding some light on what the future may hold.
AllHipHop.com: Now with the last album, you broke away and branded your name away from Dip Set. What kind of obstacles did you face as far as trying to brand yourself outside the group?
Juelz Santana: It wasnt really an obstacle, but it was just something that I felt I just had to do, and everybody knew I had to do it. Thats why Camron did a a lot of more stuff behind the scenes this time, like you aint see him as much in all my videos, but he was still there, and he was still very much apart of everything I did. That was just apart of me knowing that I came in the game on Cams back but now I gotta jump off and stand on my own two, and it worked. He knew I was that type of artist where I could do it. I was ready. He brought me to the water now it was time to drink. So thats what I did. Plus, I was a smart lil n***a. I had four older brothers, so I was always a lot more mature, and being around Cam two or three years before I even got my deal just helped me to learn what I had to do when I got in certain situations. So once I really even got my deal and recorded my first album, it was fairly successful but it was on a street level crazy but not really on a major label level. And in the label there was linger about Juelz, like, they didnt even know if they was gonna keep me for my second album. But they decided to keep me, and it worked out for the better for them.
And what happened with that was that I went out and got it poppin myself with Mic Check, I paid for the video myself and I built my own studio, so I was just recording that whole year. I did like 160 songs so n***as aint know what I was doing. When it was time to come out, I was ready. I had four or five mixtapes ready and I had money to pay for my own videos. Thats why on the mixtapes I was like, It dont matter if you drop me. Ill blow up on another label, Im cocky. But it all worked out for the best. Def Jam supported me and now we goin back for the second time around. But right now, I know yall know but not sure if the fans know, but me and Lil Wayne done sat down and its official. We gonna do an album, the I Cant Feel My Face. Thats gonna be beautiful. Thats gonna be a monumental thing for the game. You got two of the best artists in the game right now just getting together from different parts. N***as aint really messing like that right now.
AllHipHop.com: Now Waynes on this tour too so are you all doing any work right now?
Juelz Santana: Yeah, definitely. Were going to the studio tomorrow. We gonna go every chance we get. We did about two songs. We was doing a mixtape at first, but it got leaked on the Internet, so we decided to say F**k it, ya dig? N***as want the album, so we gonna officially put it out. We still havent officially put out our version of the mixtape either. Its still just a leaked version of the mixtape so we gonna do our version. We got it getting mixed down right now, so we gonna put out the mixtape with all our drops letting the people know we gonna do the album. Its probably gonna be a Gangsta Grillz or DJ Khaled, something like that. It may even be Green Lantern, we dont wanna leave anybody out so everybody gonna be involved at the same time because Green Lantern did the Rubber Burnin beat. Drama and them n***as do beats, so we gonna include everybody in everything. Its official like a ref with a whistle.
AllHipHop.com: How you putting the album out? Is it going to be on Cash Money?
Juelz Santana: Thats one thing that I cant blurt out. Its just right now me and him have sat done and said we wanna do the album. I know Baby knows and I let Cam know, so the higher powers know. Now they just gotta sit down and negotiate and get in that. Theyre the CEOs.
AllHipHop.com: Now do you think this mixtape and this album is a stepping stone towards unifying the South and the East because theres been a lot of people from the South taking shots at the East, and a lot of people from the East taking shots at the South.
Juelz Santana: I feel like the South is sort of on the defense for the simple fact that they aint had nothing for a long time and now they got it, so it was a a lot of n***as from New York acting like they was mad and saying slick s**t, but those was just the n***as that wasnt making noise and wasnt bringing good music to the table. Thats what its all about. I mean Hip Hop is gonna rotate. Its just like when the West Coast had it, but its room for every artist to breathe. Like the South had it, but [The] Game came out and did his thing. Snoop did his thing the whole year wit Pharrell. It was big years for n***as. I had a big year, ya dig. No matter who has the focus, if you bring good music to the table, youre gonna get heard and thats what people fail to realize especially a lot of the new artists coming outta New York that felt that was their only defense of what was happening. Nah n***a, thats not what it is. You gotta make good music. Im keeping it funky: the South got legitimate rappers. Lil Wayne could rap legitimately as good as a n***a from New York. Ludacris can rap legitimately as good as a n***a from New York like Jay-Z and n***as like that. T.I. can rap. N***as can rap. So it aint about n***as being from the South no more, its about n***as having something to say.
AllHipHop.com: Now compare your mixtapes to your albums. Obviously, with the strong following that Dipset has and you have, you can make a lot of money off the mixtapes. So if it came to it and it was just about making the money and making the music, would you put out a mixtape or an album?
Juelz Santana: Of course we gotta eat. Thats why we do this, so we gotta make albums. Thats why I feel that everybody should buy my albums, cause I put out enough music in the streets and I dont want nothing back. I dont get nothing off my mixtapes. All my mixtapes, I give em to my man Duke [Da God], and I let him give it to the streets and I promote it and pay for em. When I go on the road, I dont sell my mixtapes, I give 'em away on the road. If my n***as sell em, thats just for them to make a lil money, but I dont never want noting back. I just wanna get heard. I do a lot of that. I got about four or five mixtapes out right now. Look at me and Lil Waynes mixtape. Thats a million dollars DJs is probably making right now off 12 songs. These are songs we got on there. We only got like two freestyles on the whole tape that we did over other peoples beats. All the rest was original music. We got people like The Runners [and] Develop [producing original beats]. And we still gonna put out the album so thats aight. So go buy the album now, ya dig.
AllHipHop.com: So what happened to the mixtape with Young Jeezy?
Juelz Santana: Its nothing like anything had happened between me and him. Me and Jeezy still cool and all that. It was just that his situation had took off right when we was doing it. He was in the midst of coming out with his album, and me and Wayne was just sending shit back and forth real fast. Jeezy was kinda like still working on his album, I was in the midst of letting L.A. Reid give me my single and all that, then his s**t came out and my shit was coming out. We had like six songs done and three of them got put on mixtapes. But I got like three joints with me and him thats never been heard. But it just kinda like never got finished. But I still f**k with Jeezy, and I still would do it because I got a mutual respect and love for Jeezy. I listen to his music and thats the only type of person that I would get on a collaboration with for a whole album or mixtape type level.
AllHipHop.com: Now with your affiliation with Lil Wayne, and Waynes affiliation with you, his enemies sort of become your enemies and your enemies sort of become his. Hes been taking a lot of heat from people like Sqad Up down south and people like B.G. Whats your perspective on that situation?
Juelz Santana: The situation with that goes like this: Wayne is my n***a, and anybody come at Wayne, Im coming at em as far as an artist perspective, ya dig. But as far as that goes, like I know Dame, and wit the Jay-Z situation, thats personal. I cant get into nothing personal and I would expect him to feel me as a n***a, if he get involved in something like that. I dont even know how far them n***as go back. Thats home base, right there. Thats like me getting into an altercation with Cam. Weezy couldnt come out and diss Cam. He couldnt come out and diss Jim Jones. I got to handle that. Thats family. At the same time, despite everything, if you listen to Weezys [Tha Carter saying to The Hot Boys,] I miss you n***as, but at the same time, it is what it is ya dig. And its a lot of s**t that goes on, you know, and the media hypes s**t up and n***as dont really talk, so I dont really get into that. But if a n***a just feel like Wayne aint official, Im coming at em.