St. Laz is ending 2019 on the right notes. He has a new album Brooklyn Vibez, that’s been well received, and an even newer single featuring Future. The Future track has already inspired a hashtag dance challenge, and it’s starting to percolate in the clubs, while also getting some radio spins.
It hasn’t been all roses this year, however. He’s been embroiled in a dispute with Shady Records artist Conway, which he hasn’t hesitated in escalating. Dealing with industry politics is always daunting for a true independent. Throughout his career, he’s always aggressively attacked those obstacles.
It’s the way Laz attacks life. He’s served more than a little time in the harshest of New York State prisons. Since his release, he’s worked plan A with the understanding that plan B doesn’t lead anywhere good.
During our interview, he truly held nothing back. From his beef with Conway to his disputes with DJ Kay Slay’s business practices, he let his true feeling s be known. That’s not all we discussed though. He broke down getting producers to pay him to be on their tracks and a lot more.
What’s been the response to Brooklyn Vibez?
The people that have heard it are loving it. Some of my best work.
You have a lot of releases. That’s a strong statement. What do you consider your must-have albums?
According to the people who follow my music, it’s an album called Blue Skies. My personal favorite is a project named As Above So Below. I got a bunch of albums, I put out a lot of albums. All of them I put my drawers into.
What do you think is your strongest verse?
I couldn’t tell you what my strongest verse is. I’ve literally written thousands. A lot of rappers haven’t even written a hundred verses in their whole career. I wrote thousands. My first verse on “Starve The Ghetto” is kind of like the verse that people know me for.
What do you attribute your longevity to?
I’m from Brooklyn, we never say die. We just keep going. I grew up in this hip-hop shit. Like Nas said, even without a record deal I’m going to do this. I can’t stop recording music. My longevity is based on my passion for this shit. I can’t stop even if I want to.
How has gentrification affected Brooklyn?
Contrary to popular belief, gentrification in Brooklyn is limited to very few areas. Park Slope and downtown mostly. A little bit of Bushwick. Even in those areas, the hood is only a few blocks away. You can still get shot. Gentrification is kind of a scam for them to make money. They’re acting like it’s been cleaned up. Where I’m from, Brownsville, it’s the worst of the worst. It’s still the highest murder rate, the highest crime rate. They’ll never be able to gentrify Brownsville. It’s nothing except for twenty projects in a row.
In your music, you referenced your time in prison frequently. In an environment such as that, how have you remained free?
Listen, bro, I’m an anomaly out here. It was rap that kept me out the streets. The fact that I could make a living off of that. It gave me a lane to stay out of these streets. I used to sell crack and shit. If I was still doing that I’d be dead or back in the penitentiary again. Rap money kept me out. It made it so I didn’t have to go in the streets and throw a brick at the penitentiary.
You also talk about correctional officers fucking inmates. Did you ever fuck a C.O.?
Man where I was at doing my time, it was too rough for C.O.’s to fuck with anybody. When I was on Rikers Island I had a few that were fond of me. I would talk to them, but I was young on Rikers Island. On my second and third trip back to Rikers I was a problem. I couldn’t even be around too many female C.O.’s. They knew that I would straight bag one of them. Luckily those times weren’t for very long at all. Where I was at upstate New York most of those officers were evil racist devils. I just did my bid.
What’s a memorable experience that sticks out from doing your bid?
I had a racist KKK motherfucker catch me with the 5% lessons when they were still illegal in the yard. I was getting them passed off to me on the walkway. This was when I was first learning the degrees. I was only 17. One of the most racist officers in the compound ran up on me. “Give me those fucking lessons.”
I made a split decision. I could let them catch me and give it to them, which they’re not supposed to see. They aren’t supposed to know the secret teachings of the lessons. Or I could rip them up and go to the box. I ripped them up, right in front of his face. They threw me in cuffs and threatened to put me in the hole. Ultimately he let me go. He respected my decision because he was a Mason. Even though he was a racist he let me go and didn’t even write me up. Sometimes those straight-up racists are better. They’re really who they are and you know what you’re dealing with.
Were you already rapping?
I started rapping when Pac died, his death made me rap. He was my favorite rapper before he got killed. When he died there was a void in my heart for the type of deep shit he was spitting. Nobody else was filling it so I felt like I had to deliver that.
You were one of the first artists I saw who charged producers to feature you on their track. How’d that come about?
It’s like anything else in a business. You get what you pay for. In this game, big fish eat little fish. If it’s Premier or Alchemist then I’m paying them. If I’m ten times more popping then a producer, he’s going to get streams and revenue from having me on the song. It’s just business. Big fish eat little fish and sometimes you got to pay the big fish. When you pay me I’m going to write two verses that are 100% original and a hook that’s catchy. Then I’ll help promote it. That’s worth a couple of dollars.
You’ve worked with a lot of big names. Legends like Jadakiss & Kool G Rap. Big stars like Jim Jones, Freeway, Joell Ortiz, & the list goes on. Who’s verse most impressed you?
I’m honored to have worked with all of them. When I invest my time or money into a project it’s usually with an artist that I admire. There’s so many that it’s hard to say. I love the joint with Kiss. I love the joint with Jones. My boy Vain had the Jones song all over the radio in New York. We did big things with that record, we got the most feedback with the Jim Jones record.
At one point you had some issues with DJ Kay Slay. Did you ever come to a resolution?
I don’t fuck with Slay. We used to fuck with each other. We put out a lot of classic shit together. He played a lot of my records on Hot 97. I’m mad appreciative of that, but we had a business disagreement. I wasn’t feeling the way he was doing business. I wasn’t feeling his style and level of morals. I brought him a lot of business.
I don’t hate Kay Slay. I respect him and his place in our culture. He did a lot of big shit for hip-hop. He did a lot for the NYC underground. He put a lot of us on the radio. I ain’t mad at Slay, we just don’t fuck with each other anymore.
What happened with the Conway situation?
Basically we broke bread with son and he treated it like a wet food stamp after the business was done. He deleted our song off of his page. That wasn’t the agreement. We paid him for a verse way before he was popping. Before Eminem put a song out with him. This shit is like the stock market. I knew that Eminem had an interest in him. That’s why I invested in the song with him in the first place. He should have done his research to see what type of nigga I am. My name is St. Laz and I’ve done way bigger shit than him, worked with artists way bigger than he’ll ever be. On their shit too, not me paying them to get on mine.
We did the business. Everything was right on our side. After the business was over something motivated him to not honor his end of the deal. He deleted our song from all of his platforms and then pretended like it didn’t exist. Contractually we weren’t paying to do a song with his ass, we were paying for the interest his name would generate when he signed to Shady Records. He knew that it was clear from the beginning. So we gave him an ultimatum, which he refused. Not only that he got real cocky and disrespectful. We rap and we make diss records, we dissed that nigga.
It ain’t nothing personal. I don’t hate Conway. I feel that he’s a dope artist and he’s good for the culture. I’ll tell you one thing. You’re going to respect St. Laz out this motherfucker though. He going to know who I am, one way or another. Next time he comes across an artist like me he better use his google. If he doesn’t got that he better use Bing. Don’t ever come at me or I’m going to come at you on that mic my nigga. It’s nothing personal, it’s just hip-hop.
Online some have accused you of just hating. What’s your response?
If they say that they don’t know the story. If you pay someone thousands and they don’t deliver, you better do something. If you let it slide, then you a clown. Fuck that. I’ll get more promotion from coming at his head. He can’t rap better than me anyway. I’ll take his fans. The real reason I went for his throat is that I’m tired. I’m tired of major artists who have label deals looking at independents as a come-up. Someone they can just shit on. That’s not honorable. That’s not how a real man moves. He was right in the same situation, then he gets a plateau and turns right into some old industry nigga. I paid you for something and you going to give it to me. Or I’m going to get equal value off you. He already made some songs about me. He just doesn’t have the heart to speak my name. He knows his fans would catch on and I’d inherit his fanbase.
After this latest album, what should we expect?
I just dropped this song with Vain and Future. You got the regular game and the black market. I ain’t no super-rich nigga, so I stay watching the black market. I get my hands on things. It’s already big. It’s about to be huge. We’re going to drop a major record. Future if you see this holla at me my nigga. We something like A & R’s. We know how to make hit songs out this motherfucker.
That’s how your song with 50 Cent came about right? The black market.
I make them official though. They call me Leaky Laz. That was a 50 Cent and Freeway record. Freeway had two verses on that shit. I took one off and put myself on that shit. Soon enough DJ Whoo Kid was playing it on Hot 97. Now Freeway is using that same song on one of his albums. He knows it’s dope and he’s not a hater. He ain’t going to hate on an underground nigga that’s hustling his ass off. Even 50 Cent agreed. He was on Hot 97 and they played the record. He said he respected it because he would have done the same thing.
Is it true that Sean Price taught you how to make money from features?
I was getting on everybody’s songs. I had done well over a hundred. Free features. I was at the studio with Sean and son told me that he hoped I was getting money doing all those features. I told him I was just hitting niggas with verses. He told me that I better stop that, that my name was ringing. He told me to start charging. He was making six figures every year just from doing features. When he told me that it blew my mind. This was when Myspace was still popping. I went home that night and put that out there. I quickly made over a thousand dollars. Less than two days. Sean Price opened my eyes, and I still make good money from features to this day. RIP.
You still do a lot of features.
I was getting so much money that Western Union banned me. They flagged me for suspicious activity. They thought I was getting drug money through them. It took three years to straighten that out. I just now got unbanned.
Have you ever turned down a deal?
Hell yeah. From Def Jam on down. I said no because they only wanted me, they didn’t want my team. I was loyal. I’m never going to feel like being loyal was a mistake. If I had been wiser I would have got in the door and made room for them. That’s some advice I would give to artists coming up.
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