Together with his longtime partner MJG, Memphis' 8ball has been one of the driving forces in Southern rap for 15 years. After several years with Bad Boy, the duo are moving into a new high profile arrangement this year. Meanwhile, 8ball is staying busy managing his 8 Ways Entertainment label, through which he's put out a series of mixtapes, and last month, the "Memphis All-Stars: Cars, Clubs and Stripclubs" compilation. Last week I talked to him slowing down, new music and the meaning of "spage age pimpin'."
So I know you've been busy lately working on getting releases together for your label, 8ways entertainment, lately. Is that a sign that this is the point in your career where you step back and let other folks shine, or is this just something to mess with on the side?
Man, a little bit of both. It's definitely a time when I’d like to pass the torch to whoever I can, but at the same time, establishing my label as a brand. I want it to be synonymous with Memphis rap.
What do you think has been the secret to Memphis’ success in the rap game?
I don’t know. It’s like the luck of the draw. Maybe it’s a feeling or something that comes from the town. I can’t explain it.
But at the same time, in terms of Memphis having success, since “Stay Fly” and “Ridin’ High,” it seems like Memphis has been a little quiet. Or is that just the national scene not paying attention?
I think nationally people haven’t been paying attention. Atlanta and Miami have really been holding it down. People just haven’t been checking up. That’s gonna change this year because me and MJG drop.
Are you and MJG still with Bad Boy or did you sign with Grand Hustle?
Right now we’re riding with Grand Hustle. We’re doing this 50/50 thing with 8ways and Grand Hustle. You’ll be hearing a little more about that as the year goes on.
But you’re definitely going to drop an album this year?
Definitely. Probably like fall. We’ve got a couple of records we’re about to release. We’ve got a song with T.I. named “Boo.” And we’ve been doing these mixtapes and the underground stuff. MJG had the album “This Might Be the Day.” He’s re-releasing that this year to get a buzz going before our record. He just did a video with Slim from 112 called “One Time.” Then there's the 8 Ways Ent. Mixtape. We’ve got another one coming, too. "Memphis Allstars" is in stores right now. It’s a classic. I got Lord T & Eloise. Yo Gotti. Project Pat. Juicy J from Three Six Mafia. Everybody from Memphis is on this album. From Gangsta Black to Al Kapone. From Mac E to La' Chat to Gangsta Boo. Anybody from Memphis that’s making some noise is on the album.
Lord T and Eloise they come down here a lot. What do folks in Memphis think about them?
I guess everybody got a different interpretation. Some people who take stuff real serious probably look at it as joking. Some people who like to party probably look at it as party music. It just depends. I look at is as Beastie Boys and Kiss on acid and mushrooms. It’s all that shit kind of rolled up in one. It’s funny, but they can rap. Obviously you and MJG are pioneers in Southern rap. You’ve opened the doors for folks like Master P and Three Six. But at the same time, you’ve never risen to the kind of international fame those acts have enjoyed. At this point in your career, is that something that matters? I mean, are y’all chasing international fame or more content to be on top in the streets?
I wouldn’t say chasing it. I look at it like it’s a Catch-22. You got cats like Kanye who say that he wish he had 20,000 fans. I love what we’ve got right now. When you play in front of a crowd that’s familiar with our music, that’s what you do it for. That’s a high. That’s a buzz. People are singing your music and obviously really listen to your music. Not just people there for the hype. Then on the other hand, international fame, national fame, it means national and international money. I wouldn’t shy away from that. But I love what I’ve got it. I wouldn’t trade it. Me and MJG just always trying to do us and stay 8ball and MJG, but still evolve.
You can hear that in a lot of the newer music we’re doing. I got a real strong love for guitars and soul music and stuff like that. It’s going to reflect in our music like a lot more.Going back to some of the older stuff, what exactly does “space age pimpin’” mean?
Man, it was a word that this older cat we used to be around all the time. We was around high school. That was one of his phrases. He always used to say, “Y’all muthafuckas don’t know nothin’ about this spage age pimpin’.” We picked it up. Our definition of it is just keeping it fresh and keeping it new. It’s just us. 8ball and MJG. You say it and you think of us.Y’all’ve been doing it for more than a decade. Do you think about the next couple of decades? Do you think about the next couple of decades? Can 8ball and MJG be like the Rolling Stones of hip-hop?
You never know. I’m just walking the path right now. It won’t stop. I think our music will change a lot, but as far as stopping, I don’t think we’ll ever stop. What should folks expect when you come to Little Rock?
It’s been a while since we came down there. We just gonna do a live show. A little bit of old and a little bit of new. We just gonna try to have fun.You’ve played here a bunch, right?
Definitely. It’s been a couple of years.Do you feel Little Rock support?
Definitely. Everytime we come it’s been nice. We’ve never had a bad Little Rock show.