Even more shocking was the fluidity with which it all happened. Cash Money and Mystikal's former family, No Limit, were well-known rivals. But according to the rapper, the move was pretty much decided on years ago, and now that YMCMB is one of hip-hop's most powerful imprints, his decision makes sense. At this point, it's on him to provide unpredictable results.
The BoomBox had a chance to speak with Mystikal about new beginnings, reconnecting with his kids, his favorite summer song by a rapper-turned-actor, tearing about the walls in DJ Khaled's studio and learning lessons the hard way.
I know you're not dropping the album until early next year, but your Original tape is coming soon. What's the vibe of that project?
It's just "get it as you go" right now. I just have so much to tell 'em. I feel like I've missed so much. They miss me; I miss them. They're just ready, that's all.
Do you still have to give Jive that last album, or was that squared away?
Yeah, but that's pretty much it. Just that and it's done.
You've been working with Busta and Drake, of course, but we also hear you've been in the studio with Nipsey Hussle, Rick Ross, Diplo, Tha Bizness. How did you end up grinding with so many of these groundbreaking artists and producers so quickly?
That came with the new opportunity. So many things came with the signing to Young Money/Cash Money. All of them are just perks of the job.
Which of those sessions gave you the best experience?
I guess I'd have to go with the first one. When I recorded the "Original" track [with Birdman and Lil Wayne], it was just being there, and emotions and anticipation was high, and the song came out good. That was just a good session, and everyone after that ... I went over there with [DJ] Khaled, he let me hear some tracks, and man, I know they're still repainting his studio -- we were in there wilding out. There's just a lot of energy with this project, and everywhere I go and everything I've been doing, there's just been a lot of passion, a lot of energy and a lot of love. It's fun.
How did you end up just calling the entire project Original?
That was Baby. Baby came up with that, and when he was saying it, it was like, "That's what we are." We were the founders -- where we're from -- of piercing our way into the rap game, and still today, we're doing it at a higher level. So that's what makes us original.
What's it like being in the studio with Young Money?
Aww, it's work. Work. And everybody's so busy, so it's just a contagious atmosphere of just working and getting it, you know?
When you went away, Cash Money was still trying to make major headway into mainstream music. At the time, the label was nowhere near as large or powerful as they are now. How are you adjusting to jumping right back into your career on an imprint that's so influential?
All I gotta do is my job, do what it is that I bring to the table -- that fire -- and put the thump on these songs, and everything's gonna work from there. Trust me. The adjustment has been easy. It's been fun. It's been exciting. Everyday, I've been excited. Every. Day.
Would you say that this experience reminds you of your first time getting into the industry?
It's real reminiscent. It's like coming full circle, because it's like I'm really getting a fresh start -- but I'm not. You know how you say, "Man, only if I knew then what I know now." It's now -- and I know. So it's like I have a huge opportunity in front of me where I can tear that old page out and shit, write it how I wanna write it now. Finally. And it's gonna be very expressive.
Why do you think this second chance is working for you when so many others have tried to take advantage of a second chance and failed?
That shit right there comes from inside. It's just like what Quincy Jackson and Michael Jackson -- god bless his soul -- were going through when they were doing Thriller, when they did those special songs. You just know. You know it. If I came to where you are right now and ran some of these records, you'd be high-fiving me right now like a muhfucker [laughs]. It's like, either you got it or you don't, and it's like now, fortunately, I still got it, after all this time. Hallelujah.
You have a set of 12-year-old twins, right?
You have two 12-year-olds?
[Laughs] Yeah, not twins. They're nine months apart. They're like twins. Both of them are 12, though. Two different baby mamas. I was young, I was young, I was young [laughs].
OK. They were preschoolers when you left. How are they adjusting to their dad's sudden rise to fame?
More important than [the fame], we have to kinda reconnect. There's been a lot of space between us. We still were able to write letters and talk on the phone, things like that, but it's still not like being here, so I kinda had to ease my way back. I couldn't just bust in like, "I'm daddy! You gon' listen to me, or I'ma tell you right now!" So I've been easing my way in, and all of that's falling into place. They are very proud. I gave 'em a shout-out on "106 & Park," but they didn't see it. I guess they were in school or whatever, but all their friends saw it. They were so proud, and I was like, "Damn. That's what's up."
If you have a girlfriend, how's she dealing with all of this attention you're getting now?
Oh no, right now? My girlfriend is rap. Music and albums and records and my kids. Right now, that's too treacherous. It's like putting myself in a losing situation. I'm not gotta be there. I'ma let you down. Yeah, I can't do all that; "boo" for me. But it's like, "Let's get it," right now. I'm a good man, but I'd be a horrible boyfriend right now. Good man though. Boyfriend? Ahhh ... umm ... Let me get back to you on that [laughs].
The weather is getting warmer, so out of curiosity, what's your favorite summer song of all time?
Wow! Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff. "Summertime," come on now. What? Anybody who says otherwise is a fucking lie. They hating. Shit, man ... that one right there is the epitome of summer in all its splendor -- for real.
How has it been to have to alter your life around these legal restrictions that you have now on the outside?
You really, really have to pay attention to those areas of your life that's important, like friends, you know, and the shit that affects the big picture. So it's just, you know, sitting in the situation like that, and it was for so long, goodness lord, but I had the opportunity to grow and do a lot of things and not just sit in there and huff and puff and pout. A lot of growth took place. And with that growth taking place, I was able to come home and get myself in position and just be smart, you know. It's like, if the man grew, then the artist ... definitely inherited. It's gonna have a lot of depth to this album. It's still gonna be fun, and they're gonna laugh. They might feel sad on some parts, but you know, it's gonna be complete. It's gonna be what music is all about.
The service that we provide as entertainers is to entertain yo' ass, so if you play my records, and you still thinking about who you fucking owe money to, I ain't done my job. You not supposed to be worried about none of that shit. Your head supposed to be bobbing, eyes closed. That's how that should go. That's the service I provide, and I have no problem with adjusting, because I look at it like that. That shit right there don't change.
Do you feel like you're one of those people that needed the restrictions on you to help maintain focus?
You know what? Since I came home, and it worked for me, it ain't make sense for me to be crying about it. It worked out to my advantage. It gave me structure, and it's not that I needed that. I ain't need no damn whip or chain, but you know, that's what the situation was, and I used it, 'cause I knew no matter how I felt about it, if I fucked up, they got something for me. There are consequences. So you know, its not bad.
One good thing about it: two muhfuckers who don't really need to be hanging, y'all legally can't hang, and I use that shit. Like, "Man, when we gon' kick it?" and I'm like, "Ooh, nah. We can't kick it. I'm a convicted felon, and nah, my P.O. be tripping, dawg" [laughs]. So it can work in your favor, too. It can definitely work in your favor, too. I don't need that -- especially at this age -- but I definitely embraced it when I came home, and it's been working out for me for the most part.