Several years from now, when the world looks back on the evolution of Mickey Factzs career, he will be credited for revolutionizing if not completely jump-starting the digital mixtape game. Following a string of successful releases, which included his critically-acclaimed Leak series, and founding his own label, GFC New York, XXL honored the rapper with a coveted spot on the cover of its 2009 Freshmen 10 issue. And in the wake of receiving widespread media attention, a year later, Mickey Factz made the inevitable transition to the major leagues shedding his independent status and signing with Battery Records, which is owned by Sony Music Entertainment and distributed by Jive Label Group.
As Mickey Factz continues to put the finishing touches on The Achievement, his debut album, The Sims 3 will feature Dreamland on its highly-anticipated console release for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Nintendo DS. In order to whet the appetite of his fans, however, several buzz singles have been released in promotion of his forthcoming album. Upon review of Paradise, Mickey Factz managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with AllHipHop scribe Clayton Perry reflecting on Kanye West, the evolution of the mixtape game, and his definition of real hip-hop music.
AllHipHop.com: I wanted to start this interview with the following quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is located on your companys website: There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right. Having been accepted as a pre-law student at NYU, I am sure the decision to abandon your spot was risky and unpopular with family and friends. When you look back on your decision, what immediate fears did you have to overcome in that moment of truth?
Mickey Factz: Everybody knows that music is not the most stable career, in any sense of the word, especially in this day and time. Being a new artist, its even worse, because there are so many other artists that are trying to make it in this game. The biggest fears I really had were just being homeless and out on the street. My mom really wanted to make sure that I had an education, and that I was good, you know, with a job that had steady income. So whenever people hear that I left a prominent school like NYU, they say that I was crazy. But at the end of the day, its not what I love to do, and I think everybody should follow their dreams and do what they love to do.
I would rather struggle and do what I love than be successful and miserable every day. But I think everyone at some point wonders if they are going to be successful, and I know that I want to get to a certain level in the rap game. I just had to overcome the fear of quitting my job, because I was working, too, and quitting school, and it was really a leap of faith. When it comes down to your dreams, everybody should be willing to take that leap of faith, and I was just brave enough to do it.
AllHipHop.com: As you were talking, I immediately started thinking about your latest song, Checkmate, and you reminded me that we oftentimes have to make decisions in life without knowing what lies ahead.
Mickey Factz: Chess is a thinking mans game, and life just like the rap game is definitely a game of chess. You always have to think ahead, because there will always be people that dont want to see you succeed. And you have to realize that everybody you encounter is a potential enemy. In the rap game, the competition never sleeps, and you always have to be ready, and you always have to think three steps ahead. On Checkmate, I was just trying to be creative and do something different rapping about chess and comparing it to life and how it is filled with competition but I also wanted to give the listener a chance to see how I was dealing with it. The game is definitely like chess, because everyone is definitely coming for your neck, and you have to protect yourself.
Mikey Factz - "Alpha"
AllHipHop.com: Having attained so much success independently, when you signed with Battery Records, what was the key selling point for you?
Mickey Factz: Battery has a very independent mindset, and they were very supportive and pleased about all the records they heard. They wanted to take the time to develop me and make me the superstar that I believe that I can be. A lot of the music that I was doing previously was very contemporary and very eclectic, and I think they were very surprised, because I got into a creative space, where my songwriting changed dramatically. They wanted to be a part of it, and I wanted to be somewhere where my talents wouldnt be overlooked. I wanted to be the main focus of the ship. For example, if I went to Def Jam, I didnt want to be in a position where my release date could possibly be the same date as Rick Ross, or have to worry about competing with another veteran for attention and knowing that they paid more attention to them instead of me. When I made my decision, I was very conscious about not having to battle with the labels favorite child. I want to be the child that they love.
AllHipHop.com: I completely understand! And like you mentioned earlier, that is part of the chess game that an artist has to play.
Mickey Factz: Right! [laughing] I didnt go for the big check. I went to the place where I would win in the long run. And I think a lot of people were very surprised that I would go to a place like Battery. But it was perfect place for someone like me who has a very independent mindset.
AllHipHop.com: Even though you are signed to a major label, you still have a great deal of independent hustle. What keeps you hungry and prevents you from being lazy? And what aspects of your career do you solely let the label handle? And conversely, what aspects of your career do you keep a pretty tight reign on?
Mickey Factz: I think its a compromise at this point. I make sure that they know what Im doing as far as putting out records and mixtape choices and the records I put out. They dont have immediate say, but they are involved in every part of the process. My A&R told me: Dude, you have a label! You dont have to reach out to this person and reach out to that person. But at the end of the day, Im an artist! And I cant help it. A lot of people forget that I worked at a law office, and its in my nature to handle some aspects of business affairs. I really cant help it. But he understood. And I just continue to do what I do and make sure that they are involved. At the end of the day, I want everyone to feel like they are apart of this. And they are.
Mickey Factz featuring The Cool Kids "Rockin N Rollin"
AllHipHop.com: Although you dropped out of pre-law program at NYU, are there any legal or contractual issues that you have found yourself battling?
Mickey Factz: Im always somebody who thinks that you got to get hot by any means necessary. Look at Kanye West. He could of easily been sued for breach of contract when he first got signed to Def Jam. They didnt want to promote him, and they didnt want to do anything for him. So he took his own money and make things happen and he made himself hot. When he made the video for Through the Wire, technically that was against his contract. You are supposed to do things on your own and he did. Thats the same mindset that all artists have to have. You cant worry about the legal aspects and worry about if they are going to sue you. I mean, really, what are they going to sue you for? [laughing] As a new artist, you arent making money anyways! [laughing continues] So you just have to go hard. And trust me, when the label sees that you are going hard, and if they even sniff a dollar, they are going to go crazy.
AllHipHop.com: Before signing with Battery Records, you co-founded GFC New York, which handles marketing, in addition to A&R development. At what point did the business side of the music business start to become a major focus for you?
Mickey Factz: Well, GFC was founded in 2006, and we really started taking things more seriously when my name started getting bigger in 2008. We eventually turned it into a marketing firm, because I was one of the first artists to really take advantage of the Internet before Charles Hamilton and Asher Roth. A lot of companies out-sourced work to GFC and wanted us help their artists get the same buzz that I was getting. So, right now, we are concentrating on me, as an artist, and a few ventures, like The Black Apple.
AllHipHop.com: On the companys website, the main slogan is: We do this for the culture. Although I could take the quote at face value, I am curious to know the inspiration behind that philosophy.
Mickey Factz: I am all about uplifting and showing the youth and the culture that life is more about bottle-popping and selling drugs and busting your guns. Hip-hop is a culture that has changed the landscape of music and it has been the most influential genre of music since jazz and blues created countless subgenres. Hip-hop is a global phenomenon. So everything we do is for the people who love and appreciate the essence of hip-hop.
AllHipHop.com: To date, you have release six mixtapes, and in many respects, it can be said that the Internet has saved hip-hop. In what particular ways have you seen the mixtape game evolve?
Mickey Factz: I remember when I was in Harlem and I used to go to the mixtape stores, every artist had a DJ hosting it and it was hard-copy and you had to pay DJs a ridiculous amount of money to host your mixtape. And when I was working at the law firm at the time, I wanted to put out a mixtape, too. I wanted to be on Kay Slay, but you had to pay to be on these slots, and I didnt want to pay. Besides, I was thinking to myself: Im nicer than some of these guys, I dont need to pay! [laughing] So what I did, with my independent mindset, I said: Forget all that. Im going to put out a mixtape out for free! Im not going to sell it. Im not getting a DJ to host it. Im just going to put it out, and let people download it, and let word of mouth spread it. Nobody was doing that at this time. And no big artists were putting out mixtapes without a major DJ on it. You can go check! When I put out my first mixtape in 2006, all the major artists had DJs on their mixtapes. Im not going to say I pioneered it, but I was d**n sure one of the firsts. I kept doing that for a while, and a lot of people started taking notice. I started treating my mixtapes like albums. So a lot of the records that I was rapping over, no one had ever rapped over, so it always felt like new material. Look at Drake and Rick Ross. They have had a lot of success with mixtapes. And Rick Ross Albert Anastasia [EP] was so hot that he had to put B.M.F. [Blowin Money Fast] and MC Hammer on Teflon Don. So this proves, to me, that free music is the best way to promote yourself and get your name out there.
AllHipHop.com: When you say that you treated [your] mixtapes like albums, where did that mentality come from, or is that an undergirding philosophy in all of your work?
Mickey Factz: On my first mixtape, In Search of N*E*R*D, I sampled N.E.R.D., but I kept some of their hooks. So I couldnt just rap over it, like a straight, full-fledged freestyle. I made real songs with real concepts, and that always changes the format of the mixtape. So it really became an album at that point. Also, I wasnt just rapping about the same old stuff. I was rapping about getting a girl pregnant, and my conscious weighing on my mind about having an abortion or keeping a child. I talked about George Bush. It wasnt just regular braggadocio music. I had real songs, and it changed the dynamics, as well as my mindset. So every mixtape after that has an album format.
AllHipHop.com: When you look at the current music landscape, many artists are unwilling to tackle hard-hitting social issues. Can listeners expect this trend to continue on your future work?
Mickey Factz: My first project is going to go back to the early days of hip-hop with a focus on dancing. Hip-hop has always been a dance medium. Truthfully, that is what real hip-hop is all about. A lot of people want to say that real hip-hop is all about the lyricism and the rawness. But when you look at Sugar Hill Gang and Rappers Delight, you will find a jazzy beat with lyrics that were just fun. So this first album is going to reflective of that. This album is definitely going to give you some insight on who Mickey Factz is as an artist. The next project after that is going to be a more conceptually-driven project that will really hit hard on the social issues. You will find my influences in everything that I do from Kanye West to Big Daddy Kane, artists who talked about social stuff, but still had a great dance beat. Even Public Enemy, who made the greatest song in hip-hop, Fight the Power, even they had a dance beat.
For more information of GFCnewyork, visit the companys official website: http://www.gfcny.com/