When my dude asked did we want Smitty for a Session, my first thought was “Diamonds On My Neck” Smitty?…Yeah, that’s cool.
But things changed quickly…first thing was I looked @ his disc and noticed features and production credits that stand w/the best of them – tracks with Kanye, Jae Millz, Scarface, John Legend, Joe and Akon and beats by Jazzy Pha, 9th Wonder, Hi-Tek, Buckwild, Streetrunner and Scram Jones. I knew there was more to the story of Smitty than what appeared on the surface. Listening to the album, I was floored by the consistency and ruggedness of it, his gravelly voice, and stark subject matter.
More research ensued and showed that my dude had credits writing for cats who’s names have plastered billboards and marquees – Will Smith, Dre, Diddy…he also recieved credit for “Shake Ya Tailfeather” with Nelly and Diddy and “Bump Bump Bump” for B2K…and I thought, “huh?” because that’s the antithesis of his style on the album. Diversity and adaptability come to mind when you think of Smitty because anybody capable of writing hip-pop and flipping to create a album as raw as The Voice Of The Ghetto has true talent and showing his Little Haiti roots.
So, to say the least, everybody on this side was waiting to see what my man had to say. And he did not dissapoint with the colorful flavor and knowledge he dropped….
“Smitty, we now you you fully responsible to keep this gangsta shit alive…” Scarface
Editing by Paola Mendoza and John Gottyâ„¢
TSS> How long you been rapping for and how did you start out?
Smitty> I’ve been rappin since ’97. I always had the ability, and not everyone was taking it as serious because not everyone could freestyle like me. I always had the ability so it just naturally progressed from there. I started writiting for Will Smith, went to Dr. Dre, then to Puff, and others. It got me behind the scenes which lead to an inside look at the industry and the way things worked.
TSS> Previous to dropping your album, or even have a major deal, whats it like to be the man behind the pen to some of the most successful songs in America, but get no shine from it while these other cats are gettin major radio/video radio burn off your words?
Smitty> It was a breath of fresh of air to find that someone thought I was good enough to offer something to the game that people enjoyed. It gave me confidence and showed me that my words could succeed commercially. They actually taught me about myself as a rapper too and helped me learn a lot about how to make a hit record for myself when the time came.
TSS> “Diamonds On My Neck,” you know we gotta address this. It’s a good song for the clubs and MTV but after listening to “Voice of the Ghetto,” it doesn’t sound anything like the rest of your music. What does that song mean to you and how does it fit in with the rest of your work?
Smitty> “Diamonds On My Neck,” it was more of an image or lifestyle record. It was what it was, being a businessman before an artist; it gave me the national exposure I needed to put out the music that I felt was a closer reflection of who I really am. It’s far-fetched from what I have to offer, but it gave me an opportunity to show people who first heard my name from that song to show them who Smitty really is and what else I have to say. Its similar to Webbie, another artist whose radio joints are far from the music on his album. It’s a Catch 22 because it gives opportunity to the artist to be who we need to be but at the same time the first impression people have of you is something you really aren’t, and you don’t know how people will respond to that.
TSS> Rick Ross, Pitbull, DJ Khaled and other artists from the same area are doing a lot to put Florida back on the map in a way that it hasn’t been really since Luke was doing it with 2 Live Crew. What are you doing to carve out your place in this renaissance?
Smitty> Really, I stand out like a sore thumb in this project. Of course they success is my success, because we rep the same place, but I come from a different fabric than them. No disrespect, but I come from under Scarface, Dame Dash, Puff, my shit is on a whole other level. I have more obstacles to climb because I’m from Little Haiti, representing for the Carribeans and alla dat. I carve my niche by bringing the the passion. A lot of artists lack the passion and lack the truth in they music. Like the club joints, we all do that shit, that’s a lifestyle. But I’m trying to make songs that may aren’t just for the clubs. I’m talking about those greats songs on the album that may never be released as a single but the shit that the streets will remember you for. Songs like “Smile” from Scarface that make money, but aren’t just hot for a minute. I come from artists who don’t need one hot single keep the buzz in the streets. Like Nas was from Illmatic to It Was Written, that was 5 years without one hit single, but he was still my favorite for the entire time because of what he gave on the first album. I’m really trying to have album live through me, not me through the songs, I want my music to live on beyond me. Like 2pac’s gone, but we still got “All Eyez On Me.” You gotta make music to outlast the movement, not just live for the moment.
TSS> You mentioned Scarfaceâ€¦on your song with him and Kanye, Face says “Smitty, we now hold you fully responsible to keep this gangsta shit alive.” What’s it like for a kid who grew up in the south to hear that?
Smitty> It really touched me and put me in the position to be marked. A lot of artists didn’t know how to take it, a lot of artists came at me to check the pedigree because most people don’t know our relationship. I’m in Facemob. Us two used to chop it up together on life and shit, not even talk about rap, so his words came because what he knows me personally. He’s telling me what he sees, his ideologies, his perspective and also where he wants the game to be. So it wasn’t even based on his respect for me as an artist, but more so as his respect for me as a man. No one in rap is really providing what we need as a man; I have the ability to do that. His holding me fully responsible is to put out that real shit. Even when I’m putting out mixtapes, I’m trying to make real records. He was telling me to get cha money with “Diamonds On My Neck,” shit like that, go ahead and get your shine, but also don’t’ forget the independent side because that’s the real shit and that’s what the game needs.
TSS> Damn that’s crazy. I didn’t know ya’ll were down like that. What influences has he had on you not just as person, but as an artist?
Smitty> I just wanna see what he sees, reflect the shit around him the same way that he did. As an artist people say I am like Face because I could write my life through my lyrics the same way the most beautiful storytellers can.
TSS> I noticed that too. Listening to “Voice of the Ghetto,” the songs that had the biggest impact on me are the songs for just the average man trying to make it through the day. It seems like you excel at writing those type of songs, do you focus a lot on writing those type of songs?
Smitty> Yeah, definitely. I’m an old school cat, no disrespect like cats to fans of Cash Money, they are legendary, but I come from a different era of legends. MCs like Ice Cube, Common, Rakim, KRS-One, Nas, Biggie, even fucking Father MC. I express myself for who I really am because I am the average man trying to make a dollar outta 15Â¢. It’s not me to brag and boast; I mean I do it because we all do it. But I’m more concerned with what it took to get that shit. Sure I got diamonds on my neck, but that’s not who I am, I’m more than that. I’m here to represent for the everyday person. Whose gonna speak for the average man? Pac is gone, no one speaking for the average man anymore. Outkast does it the best, they may have the most country, gangsta shit on their songs. But if you listen, they teaching the most necessary shit on how to be good people. Its alright to have those songs to inspire the average man to get up and get out and do what it take to get their shit together.
TSS> You mentioned Cash Money and those type cats, what are you doing that’s different from their style of music?
Smitty> I’m all about the art of making an album. There’s no way you gonna make a classic album in 2 months. There’s just no way. A lot of majors will try to put pressure on you to get your album out while your name is hot in the streets off the single, but that’s not what I’m about. A lot of these artists, they go to the club pop bottles and fuck hoes, and that’s cool, I do that too, but that’s not what I’m all about. I do perspective writing. Not enough artists can go back and take a point in they life and write about it make it relevant today. There are not enough writers and too many rappers. Like when Biggie said “It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up magazineâ€¦” that shit could been today but it was really written in ’93. I’m about reflective records, giving you insight to who I really am. I’d rather have you know what I am from my album rather than who you think I am from my single.
TSS> So you did the major label thing, but your newest album is being released independently. Knowing both routes, what one do you suggest for the up and comer who is weighing both options?
Smitty> The independent is the only route you can go to for those who NEED to be themselves. It’s for those that are better than the average and bring something new to the table that maybe the majors might not want to get behind. I encourage those who are serious about the art to go out and hustle your shit, if you are just in it for the cash, clothes, and hoes, I’d suggest that you stay away from it and maybe consider shopping yourself to a major and staying away from the independent game. I’m in this shit because I love it, I don’t need you over here stepping on my toes.
TSS> You mentioned perspective writing and that’s something I find really intriguing. Who are some others you consider perspective artists?
Smitty> T.I. with songs like “Motivation,” Outkast cuz of shit like “Bombs Over Baghdad,” 8 Ball & MJG, Kanyeâ€¦definitely Kanye with his work on giving his ideologies on “Jesus Walks,” Young Buck remind me of myself in a lot of ways, that’s just off the top. When I say perspective, it’s not a self proclaimed title, it’s the way I write. If I go to the studio and spit 100 bars: 50 bars might be the standard, but at least 30 of those 100 bars is that reflection of myself, the insight to who I am.
TSS> What are you aspiring to be outside of a rap star?
Smitty> You know, that was never really my goal. I started off wanting to be a rap star and ended up wanting to be anything but a rapper. I wanna continue to be a songwriter, wanna make 3 or 4 albums, wanna put new artists in the game and teach them how to be write songs and survive in the game to feed their family. I’m a provider and I want to teach others the same lessons I’ve been taught. Dame Dash taught me to use rap as a stepping stone to move onto other venues for young men who never had that chance otherwise. I wanna be business man who happen to put out a street classic record. I got shoe coming out through Dame Dash that’s coming out around the same time as the album and some other ventures I’m working on.
TSS> So you are on that Jay Z shit, “I’m not a rapper, I’m a hustler, it just so happens that I know how to rap.”
Smitty> Yeah, exactly. Hahaha, I just happen to be able to rap, but I would still have the same interests and goals if I didn’t.
TSS> So it seems to me you ain’t trying to be in the game to the point that you have been in the game so long that people are telling you to hang it up like some of these legends still lingering in the game for a paycheck. What point would you like to be at by age 50?
Smitty> Yeah, I’m not trying to be that. Not enough rappers put themselves in a position where they don’t have to rap. I plan on doing that. The way it’s going now, it looks like there are gonna be tons of 50 year old rappers. I just wanna get my 3 or 4 albums in, train the next generation, succeed in other places than rap and get out. I just want to be well respected and loved, known as an individual who cares and remembered as a good guy.
TSS> You went to school right? That’s something that not a lot of rappers can say about themselves, what was that like for you?
Smitty> It was cool but I realized it wasn’t for me. No disrespect to those who go to school, if that’s for you than cool, I just felt I had another calling. Though it did put me in the position to accomplish things that I never thought I could. I was going to school to be a studio engineer, but got worked into broadcasting which somehow turned into journalism. I was sitting over here like what the fuck? I was trying to do something completely different. So when I got that opportunity to make it to LA to potentially pursue rapping, I jumped at it. But journalism did teach me how to write better, taught me phrasing and how to use the right word and the right time, and it also taught me breath control and timing. It’s those small things that most don’t understand but separates the greats and that’s something I try to pass onto the others I’m trying to teach aswell.
TSS> How did your family react to that? What did you tell them?
Smitty> I snuck it in. I told them I was leaving for LA, they couldn’t say shit about that because I am my own man, so they supported it. But I just didn’t come back.
TSS> I feel that. But we been on some serious shit for a minute, lets lighten it up a bit.
Smitty> Yeah, my cell phone is dying too, so let’s do it.
TSS> Alright, rapid fire style, whats the first thing you do when you get off tour?
Smitty> Oh, I gotta hit the little Carribean seafood place for the ceviche mix, you know, eat the delicacies of my hood and then I sleep and hit the strip club to relax.
TSS> For sure. What was your favorite album growing up?
Smitty> Shit, that’s hard. most influential or favorite?
Smitty> NWA’s “Efil4zaggin,” definitely.
TSS> Alright, “Illmatic,” “Ready To Die,” or “Reasonable Doubt?”
TSS> What’s the strangest thing part about being a rapper, something that before you got into it you never imagined happening yet one day you found yourself experiencing it?
Smitty> Having people tell you what’s hot and what’s not when it’s your lyrics. When you writing things from your heart and your mind, and they are telling you they are wrong. Its like helping Michelangelo draw the Mona Lisa, feel me?
TSS> Oh fa sho. As a writer myself I feel that, I’ll do a whole piece and then have a fucking editor tear it to shreds. Its like “if you know so much, the fuck do you need me for? Go ahead and write this shit yourself.”
Smitty> Haha, you feel me then pimpin
TSS> Alright, out of all the herb you want, which one would you choose to blow a pound of?
Smitty> You know Kryp, presidential, all that purple is the hype right now. But I’d probably pick that chronic, that’s the strongest. I spent some time in Cali…that purple might creep up on you, but that Chronic go straight to the head.
TSS> You know whassup. I’m from Humboldt originally, we got that shit the hippies grow over here that’ll blow your mind.
Smitty> For real man, I’m all about that Cali chronic
TSS> On one of your songs you say something like “trying to pick me like Ed Pickneyâ€¦”
Smitty> AHAHAHAHA, yeah, that’s my boy. Ed Pickney, not many people know about him because he might not have had the pro career, but he was bad. Shout out to Ed Pickney.
TSS> Hahaha, I had to rewind when I first heard that, like “no way did he just make an Ed Pickney reference.” So I take it you are a sports fan?
Smitty> Yeah, I’m watching the Eagles game right now, I got that season pass at my house.
TSS> So you hype on that Madden release then?
Smitty> For sure, I love Madden. Thing is, I’m good at it and I’ll beat all my boys when we first get it and then they’ll take it home and practice it and kick my ass. I don’t got time to play like that so I’ll play it for like the first 2 months and then they get too good and I can’t keep up.
TSS> Alright man, it’s been a lot of fun but I’m gonna wrap it up with our signature question here at TSS. Whats the first thing you tell the first girl that broke up with you?
Smitty> Oh shit, that’s a hard one! I’d probably drive by playing that Fiddy like, “I know you don’t love me.” Hahahaha. Nah, really that’s not me. I’d take her out to eat, drive her around in my car, take her to the house and subtly show her what she’s missing. I’m not a vindictive person, I’m not the type to explicitly tell her that she fucked up, I’d rather show her.
TSS> Hahaha, for sure man. It’s been fun, thanks for taking the time to share some words, be easy kid. PEACE.
Smitty> Bet. One Hunnid.
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