Some say that battle-rappers are the equivalent of streetballers: Good enough to entertain the locals, but not ready for prime time—if ever.
Just as basketball scouts are less than likely to take a chance on someone who patents their game after And 1 videos, A&R’s also share the same mentality, by doubting that a punchline-obsessed quote-un-quote “street kid” with over-the-top bravado can tone down his or her aggressive nature to capture the elusive art known as song structure, along with every new artists’ ally; the radio-friendly single.
There have been a few MC’s of this caliber who managed to slip through the cracks, and gain notoriety beyond the stuffy battleground atmosphere (i.e. New Jersey’s Serius Jones, and his quick stint with Disturbing Tha Peace).
Even though that relationship didn’t last long, one affiliation that looks like its on the up and up is that of Jarvis Mills and Dwayne Michael Carter—some of you might know them better as Jae Millz and Lil Wayne.
One of the most recognized rhyme-throwers from Harlem, Jae Millz has seemed to have finally found a secure place to plant his feet, as he aligned himself with the self-proclaimed “greatest rapper alive” and his imprint, Young Money Entertainment.
Playing the industry version of musical chairs by bouncing from situation to situation almost left the veteran of the DVD circuit without a seat to rest in, but it’s clear that those days are far behind him now thanks to perseverance, determination, and oh yeah—a little bit of swag.
iHipHop.com: How has life been treating you lately?
Jae Millz: Everything has been good, and the Young Money life is beautiful. Everybody is feeling that Dedication 3 mixtape, and I’m all over that. Right now I’m out on the biggest tour of the year, Lil Wayne’s I AM MUSIC TOUR with the biggest artists in the business. Sh*t is wonderful if you ask me, so I can’t complain… [Laughs]
iHipHop.com: [Laughs]… Why do you think it was a challenge for you to find a good situation?
Jae Millz: Because a lot of people at the labels got to the point where nobody wanted to take chances, and everybody wanted to just sign what’s already hot to make their jobs easier. I had my own plan and visions, and I guess they weren’t with that.
iHipHop.com: Do you have any clue as to why those other deals fell through the cracks?
Jae Millz: I don’t know, I don’t think about it no more, and I don’t care. Life goes on…
iHipHop.com: [Laughs]… So how did the opportunity come up for you to sign with [Lil] Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment?
Jae Millz: I had got at him about throwing a verse on the ‘Holla At A Playa’ remix, and he was like, “Send it to me, and I got you.” He never said anything about money, so that let me know where we stood with each other… [Laughing] So when he did the verse for me, I took a chance and just told him about my situation. To make a long story short, the next day he put me on a one way [ticket] to Miami.
iHipHop.com: So what makes Young Money Entertainment a perfect fit for the “Jae Millz” movement?
Jae Millz: Young Money is a perfect fit for “Jae Millz” because there’s somebody over at Young Money named Dwayne Carter, and he understands me like he knew me for years. Within two months of being around him, he let me have it no holds barred. He said, “Millz you talented as sh*t, but you’re f*cking lazy.” “But I f*ck with you because I see something in you that you might not even see in yourself.”
I knew that was where I needed to be, because I know for a fact he could’ve sent my ass home… [Laughing] But that ain’t what he wanted to do, and obviously he wanted to work, and he really had plans for a n*gga. So that opened my eyes up a lot.
iHipHop.com: I’ve heard a lot of artists say they wouldn’t sign under another rapper, because they probably won’t be the priority. Was that something you thought about?
Jae Millz: At first I did, but I thought about that before I came at him. So by the time I hollered at him, I had already let him know. I said, “Wayne I don’t need no release date, I see you got your peoples here doing their thing, so I don’t want nobody thinking I’m trying to come over here and be on some other shit.” I just want to work, that’s it!!!” From there he gave me a handshake and said, “F*ck it, let the lawyers handle the rest.”
iHipHop.com: Do you feel pressure to do big numbers just because you’re now associated with one of the biggest artists in Hip-Hop?
Jae Millz: Of course, but all I do is work. Everything else is in God’s hands. As long as I can smile everyday and provide for my moms and my family, it ain’t no pressure. Wayne said he wants to retire at 35 and enjoy his life, and I’m starting to feel the same way. All I can do is go hard, and we all know the results of going hard, so that’s that!
Jae Millz: Puff is like extended family, I mean like: REAL EXTENDED FAMILY!!! He gave me a couple good looks with getting on the Smack [DVD] when I battled, and letting me battle on Making The Band. But in all honesty, I never sat and thought about it.
My mangers took me to see Puff when I was like 15-years-old, but I wasn’t ready, and I realize it now. But after that I got my first deal at 17 with Motown, I always just kept a deal. So we never even had time to come at Puff with a plan—and he never came at me with a plan one either.
iHipHop.com: When nothing materialized from ‘No No No,’ ‘Bring It Back,’ and ‘My Swag’; how was your mind set during that time? Did you ever have a feeling that your window of opportunity was closing?
Jae Millz: You know what? [Laughs]… I always remember when Cassidy, T.I., Juelz Santana, Young Gunz, and Mike Jones all blew up. MAAAAAAN!!! I remember that like yesterday, and we were all promoting our first albums at the same time. T.I. had already put an album out, and at that time he was getting that light as a new artist; and they all just blew.
I remember thinking like, “Damn, I might of missed my bus.” With all those bangers I was putting out, I wasn’t getting no looks (no videos), so I was feeling a little lost and sh*t. I ain’t even going to lie.
iHipHop.com: So what kept your spirits high during all that time when you were trying to find a good home?
Jae Millz: On some real sh*t, and a lot of people might not believe me; but Remy [Ma] used to school me on a lot of sh*t. I know it might sound crazy, but she did, and she kept me on my sh*t. She used to be on some, “Yo son, what the f*ck are you doing???!!!” “Why are you in the house??!!” “Why are you not recording??!!”
She even took me out on tour with her while promoting HER album. Like who does that on their debut album?! She used to tell me a lot, “Yo Millz, if you don’t step to your business, you’re going to be f*cked up.” “Can’t nobody speak for you, like you.” “Can’t nobody sell you better than you.” That sh*t stuck with me, and she was like a real cool-ass older sister. Hold your head Rem!!!
iHipHop.com: Everybody knows you as a battle MC, and the census is battle that MC’s don’t make good albums. How does “Jae Millz” prove critics wrong?
Jae Millz: By letting them think what they want to think, and then making a good album… [Laughs]
iHipHop.com: [Laughing]… Do you feel as if lyricism is taking a back seat to ring tone rap?
Jae Millz: You know what? I’m tired of this sh*t. N*ggas got to stop making excuses… How is lyricism taking a back seat to ring tone rap?! That’s the dumbest sh*t I ever heard… The n*ggas who are selling is f*cking nice… Wayne is lyrical, Tip is lyrical, Kanye [West] going through some sh*t, but we all know he’s CRAZY with it.
Luda is always going to be lyrical. Jay-Z might not sell what he used to, but compared to what a lot of these whack-ass n*ggas is selling—If we was playing ball: He would still be shooting over 500, and you can never say he’s not lyrical. So what is n*ggas really talking about??
iHipHop.com: [Laughs] Well put… So how does “Jae Millz” avoid the fate of “Here today, and gone tomorrow” that plague so many new artists?
Jae Millz: Well I’m still here, so I’ve been avoiding that little issue. You got go holler at Vanilla Ice for that one…
iHipHop.com: I’ll make sure I do that [Laughs]… How instrumental do you think the appearing on DVD’s and making your rounds on the mixtape circuit was to keeping your name in circulation?
Jae Millz: That has always been a major part of keeping myself hot; that’s the story of my life. I never had a frontman or a crew of well-known rappers that were bringing me to the forefront. So I always had to be on some doing a million DVD’s and mixtapes sh*t.
I’m going to always be on that type of sh*t, because I know what its like to be a fan, and I just want to know what’s popping, and what’s new with a person that [they] look up to, or admire their talent.
iHipHop.com: Obviously you took the battle route and gained success. But do you think that path is necessary in order to be recognized?
Jae Millz: No, not at all. There are a million things you could do to get some light, that’s just the path I chose to walk on.
iHipHop.com: You’ve been quoted as saying you’re the most hated. Being an underdog in your career so far, why do you think that is?
Jae Millz: People always ask me that, “Why do you call yourself ‘Most Hated’??” “You’re so cool, so why would somebody want to hate you?” [Laughs]… That’s really how I used to feel though, and at times I still feel that way.
It used to seem like n*ggas in New York was hating on a n*gga prospering, then it started to feel like people in a lot of other states were signing up for the same hate school n*ggas in New York enrolled in. So I said, “F*ck it, I’m the MOST HATED!!”
iHipHop.com: [Laughs]… Is there any other new young talent in Hip-Hop right now that you’re a fan of?
Jae Millz: I don’t mean to be harsh, but not really… I think my homie Drake is the craziest new n*gga out… But other than that, a lot of cats are dead air to me…