interview ALI VEGAS  (July 2008) | Interview By: Jonathan Hay

   Ali! Ali! Ali! The crowd chants as if back in the 70’s during an intense Muhammad Ali title fight. But, in this setting, the crowd is chanting for a ferocious rhyme-slayer by the name of Ali Vegas.

Unlike the city of sin, you will find Ali Vegas to be a humble contestant who has fought hard to keep his integrity, spirituality, and positive outlook in this game -- a rarity that is refreshing to find in a world of self-centered, materialistic hip-hop.

On the verge of releasing Generation Gap 2: The Prequel, a concept album merging old school artists and new school artists in the form of teachers and students, Ali Vegas speaks with Dubcnn about his original idea to introduce the past to the future, and vice vegas.

 “If yesterday could understand tomorrow or tomorrow could understand the troubles of yesterday, then today would be a better day,” says Ali, adding, “[I wanted to] put the students and the teachers in one classroom.” And with marquee appearances from Rakim, Styles P and AZ, and production from the heavy-hitters such as DJ Premier, L.E.S. Scott Storch, Cool and Dre, this emcee’s future is looking very bright.

Ali! Ali! Ali! Students please find your desks; class is about to begin...it’s the exclusive Ali Vegas Interview, right here on Dubcnn.

As ever, you can read this exclusive interview below and we urge you to leave feedback on our forums or email them to haywire@dubcnn.com.

Interview was done in July 2008

Questions Asked By: Jonathan Hay

Ali Vegas Gave Dubcnn a Shoutout. Check That Here
The  Ali Vegas Interview
By Jonathan Hay

Dubcnn: So what's going on in the world of Ali Vegas, what’s going on with you and your music right now?

Everything's good, right now we just really putting it together, we having like a problem with picking the records cause I got so many that we having a problem taking it down to see which ones is going on the album -- it's hard, so it's a hard process.

Dubcnn: Do you have an official release date for Generation Gap 2 yet?

Yeah, September 16th.

Dubcnn: That is right around the corner… so the album will be available in all stores everywhere?

It will be available everywhere, but you can get the single “That’s Nothing” on iTunes now.

Dubcnn: Do you have any significant features or producers on this album?

What I wanted to do with the Generation Gap 2: The Prequel is put the students and the teachers in one classroom. So what I did was, I got some of the best students of the game and combined them with some of the best teachers -- you know, I got students on there like Young T.R.L., who’s a fourteen year old female, I got Siamese Twins and some other students of the game and I got them on there with some of the teachers, like Nas, Rakim, Styles P, AZ. I did that in production, also; I got students of the game like J Nice, Baron Boys, and I put them on there with teachers like DJ Premier, L.E.S. Scott Storch, Cool and Dre...so you know, its a real well put together album.

Dubcnn: That is a great concept for an album, but the collaboration that jumps out is Rakim. That's crazy you got the honorable Rakim on your album.

Yeah, just to show the gap between generations; like, Rakim may be the biggest feature on there ‘cause I didn't really want no real famous guest appearances, so I say like the Generation Gap 2, you know, is the gap is between his generation and my generation…so you know, I’m taking lessons on it.

Dubcnn: Yeah, cool. So what was it like working with Rakim?

You know the god is the god, you know what I mean? He always will bring his A-game and through the levels of generations I've seen the comparisons, you know -- I've seen Nas get compared to him and me get compared to Nas -- so it's like, I think that's the answer maybe, you know, he's looking at me and I look at him and I see me…like what I'll be like.

Dubcnn: Yeah, that's a real blessing to have Rakim on there. By many, he's considered the greatest emcee of all time -- at least in the top 5 of almost everybody's list…

Yeah, he still is the legend, you know, he's the legend. So that's what I based the Generation Gap 2 on -- between, tomorrow and yesterday. If yesterday could understand tomorrow or tomorrow could understand the troubles of yesterday, then today would be a better day, you know. So that's all it is, and that's what we tried to do…that's what we wanna convey in the Generation Gap 2, so that's what [we] did.

Dubcnn: You said something about a Scott Storch track; what's going on with that?

"That's Nothing", that's actually the single that's out right now, And, like I said, the album is Generation Gap 2 so I just wanted to introduce -- reintroduce -- some of the teachers to the students that don't know some of the teachers. So what I did was, I put like a rendition of “Special Ed - I Got It Made”, so it's basically a up-to-date version of “I Got It Made”. I start like, ‘I'm your heiness, your highest title, numero uno, prince of New York and I’m speaking so that you know…’ so, you know, its mad flamboyant, flashy and that's what I wanted to do, just so that way they can be like, 'wow, I like that Ali Vegas track’ and then they will see what I got and that's what I wanted to do.

Dubcnn: What was the inspiration behind the name Ali Vegas?

That's my born name “Ali” and then I used to always go to Vegas when I was younger cause I used to go to my sisters, my sisters lived in Vegas so I was taking many frequent trips to Vegas so my people on the block just started calling me 'Ali Vegas' you know, like, cause I was taking so many frequent trips. So, that's how the name came about. And then when I finally stuck with the name, I just broke it down, so 'Ali Vegas' mean -- letter for letter -- it mean: alive, intelligent, very excusive, gifted, artistic, styler.

Dubcnn: Yeah, that's hot, I like that. So, any chance that your parents were fans of Muhammad Ali -- is there any kind of connection with Muhammad Ali?

Actually, my mother, she named me after my uncle and, my grandparents they appreciated what Muhammad Ali did and they appreciated what Ali stood for. My birth name came about cause my great uncle Avar fought Mohammad Ali so that's how that came about.

Dubcnn: He fought Mohammad Ali, really?

Yeah, my great uncle Avar fought with Mohammad Ali

Dubcnn: What a coincidence, because right now I’m sitting right outside the Hoopla Media Group office in Louisville, KY, right behind Muhammad Ali Blvd, conducting this interview…anyway, with that kind of stage name, it can only mean that you are "destined for greatness…"

Yeah, a lot of history, so I’m named a couple of ways.

Dubcnn: I was doing some research on you and I found out that when you were twelve years old you were signed to the Trackmasters in a Columbia [Records] deal?

Yeah, I was signed to Trackmasters at twelve years old, that's when I got my first break and it's just been on all from there.

Dubcnn: That's crazy getting a major deal like that at twelve years old; how did that even come about?

Well, I grew up in a single-parent home, so at the age of ten, I had to go out and get a job and work and make sure my younger siblings and my mother was well fed. So by doing that, I was always out and about and a good friend of mine introduced me to another good friend and we was on the avenue one day and he introduced me to a well known record executive in this business, he introduced me to him and the next day they took me up to the Trackmasters -- Nas was there, Mase -- everybody was there, you know. I rhymed to one of the beats and he just signed me then, he said, “Get my mother on the phone and let’s get him signed!”

Dubcnn: Wow, that's crazy. So do you still talk to the Trackmasters at all?

Yeah, I talk to Tone, I talk to Poke; I actually do work with Poke, you know, it’s nothing like -- it ain't like no hard feelings or nothing like that. We were grown about the situations, they helped me grow a lot, I owe them a lot, and I’d just like to thank them.

Dubcnn: So let everybody know about your new label situation.

Rich Soil [Entertainment], co-founded by myself and Lamar Odom from the Los Angeles Lakers. I can set out and do my mission and that's mending the gap between the generations, you know. So it’s no pressure on me, I can be making music that I wanna make and we'll show you it's just a brand that everybody need to stand by and support as well as the name Ali Vegas -- they need to support it because it's something that’s worth supporting. We make sure we got quality music along with quantity, we gonna make sure the quality of music match the quantity.

Dubcnn: So how much is Lamar Odom involved with everything you do as far as the business aspect -- creatively, you know, the whole process?

It's a partnership. He let me know when it's right, I let him know when it's right; like we just back and forth. He just wanna see me succeed at the highest level and I wanna see him succeed at the highest level, so that's what we do. We involved in everything – like, on and off the court, we involved with each other's lives, so that's what we do.

Dubcnn: So what is the difference between Ali Vegas and every other emcee in hip-hop?

What separates me? The authenticity, you know, I’m very authentic at what I do. I'm very humble and it's not all about Ali; it's about the children, the kids of tomorrow, the people that’s gonna make sure this thing keeps going strong. It's like I said in my song ‘If every generation look after every generation then that's how we'll keep generating’ -- and that's very important. Like I have the youngins, they come to the studio with me, but they know they can't step in the studio unless they have an 80 average -- Young P.R.L has a 90 average, Siamese Twins they just graduated from college -- so you know, that's what Ali Vegas brings to the game.

I’m raising the next generation of thinkers and leaders. I'm not a paper champion, I’m not gonna dodge your favorite artist, so you’ll hear Ali Vegas on a track with one of your favorite artists even if he underground, even if he ain't reached the success level yet. Some of these artists, they are paper champions, some of them run from a person that's talented because they don't wanna introduce them to they fan base but Ali Vegas ain't gonna do that; Ali Vegas gonna take on everybody with love because that's what's gonna keep this thing of ours going. It needs to show unity, we need to share it with each other, and that's what it is.

Dubcnn: So from a business aspect, do you worry when everyone's talks about the CD sales declining and the music business declining-- are you worried about being in an industry that is said to be struggling from a profit standpoint?

No, I don't worry -- I’m not in it for sales, that's what a record company need to worry about, I’m not in it for sales. I just know my art -- I know the album is gonna be worth dying, it's gonna be well-worth dying and I just want the testament to be in stores. I want some people to say -- like they say, ‘well I don't like the way hip hop is, there's no real artists that come out da da da,’ I want them to know Ali Vegas’ album will be in stores so that way there's no more excuses left.

I'm not worried about doing 100,000, a million my first week, I’m not worried about that. I just want it to be in stores so that people know that they have some type of refuge to go to and they got something to listen to and clean their ears out and something they can really listen to. So, I don't really worry about sales, I really don't get involved with what it is. I just love -- I love the media, I love that the internet is so popular because now my music can get to somebody in Africa and just everywhere period with the click of a mouse. I just want the testament to be there for the youth so that way [when] they're going through the same problems that I went through they know that somebody else been through it the same way they been through it and they got something that can get them through their day and make it brighter for them. I'm sure if the economy falls out and all that, people gonna need music to get them through, so that's what I did, so...

Dubcnn: That's refreshing to hear because so many people in hip hop are focused on sales and how much an album brings in the first week. I hear people constantly complaining about the declining of sales, but Lil’ Wayne just came out this year and sold a million records the first week, making it the best week of sales since 2005; so obviously, the music industry isn't declining. But I think everybody's so focused on the negative and this type of thinking really affects the art form of music and what it really means. It’s nice to hear that your focus is on the positivity, ya know?

What's the sense of doing a million the first week and my album is trash? You understand? I would rather do one sale my first week but I know I got a tight album. I’m more concerned with the content of my music and making sure the album has continuity and making sure I have the right content. I make sure that there's something I’m called to stand by and that my own family is proud to stand by my product, you know, my whole Rich Soil family is proud to stand by my product and it’s something that they support.

I’m just happy that we was able to do that as a team. I told them what plan I wanted to execute and they stuck by me and made sure that I executed it. And that's the one thing that's joyous about being on Rich Soil is that [you] ain't gotta never breach your integrity, you ain't never gotta breach your integrity, you can always be who or what you wanna be on our label, if that's how you want people to perceive you, then that's what you go with. You ain't ever gotta jump out the window and do this type of song or that type of song; over here you get to be you, and that's why we named the label Rich Soil, ya’ll can expect the branches to grow cause every seed need rich soil to grow...

Dubcnn: That’s deep. This is your legacy, man. Even when your physical body passes this is something that will go on forever, your music, so I’m glad that’s what you choose to focus on…

They pick the wrong focus and that's the problem; they focus on the wrong thing -- you can't focus on the wrong thing in this game because you gotta think about others, you know, you got a whole lot of others to think about, you know. You got the people of yesterday and the people and the children of tomorrow, and that's what you gotta think about and that's what I do, I think about tomorrow and yesterday.

Dubcnn: So are you a religious person?

Yes, definitely, I’m Pentecostal. My aunt is a pastor…

Dubcnn: So God is definitely a part of your foundation then?

Yeah, definitely. You know, every third Sunday is youth Sunday so she would call me to give a sermon to the youth, so I would give sermons to the youth and, you know, they take a liken to me. And I try to show them the right way to go -- the way that they parents taught me. So you know, that’s just what I embody, you know, I embody that and I follow that code.

Dubcnn: Yeah that's definitely good. So are you pleased with the album overall? The artwork is all finished and everything is ready to go?

Yeah, the album is great, you know what I mean; I’m very in love with the album. Like, you know, from a fan's perspective I’m in love with the album cause that's how I make my music. I make my music how I would judge anybody else, you know, and I think that's why the album came out like that.

Dubcnn: Do you have an album release party?

No, not really, you know I’m a real intimate person, you know, I don't smoke, I don't drink, I really don't -- I don't party at all unless there's business to be handled, so I really don’t know about album release parties, you know. I know there’s something, they gonna plan it but I really don't know about it, you know; I really stay drowned in my work.



Ali Vegas Gave Dubcnn a Shoutout. Check That Here


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