Let’s make one thing very clear. Young Hot Rod is not your typical G-Unit member. As the hit-making click’s newest recruit, the Arizona lyricist is carving his own niche by delivering a swagger that isn’t related to the hardcore gangsta of fellow associates 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks and Young Buck.
Featuring the lead single “Be Easy,” Young Hot Rod’s forthcoming debut album, Fast Lane, includes production from Eminem, Dre, Jake One, Dangerous LLC, M. Rell and Lab Ox. And with features from Mary J. Blige, his G-Unit family and fellow home state artists Willie Norris, Carnegie and Cinque, it seems like Hot Rod is moving forward without forgetting where he came from.
So why would 50 take an interest in someone who prefers to rap about girls, partying and drinking? The answer may surprise you as we chatted with Hot Rod about his new album Fast Lane, 50′s offer to join G-Unit, his production past and future and putting the AZ on his back
HipHopSite.com: You started out as a producer inspired by Swizz Beats and the Neptunes. What motivated you to give it up and start rapping?
Young Hot Rod: I mean how I really started I was making the beats. Really, I was just making the beats. It was fun. When I was younger listening to music, I would hear music different. Like, I would hear it with I guess what they would call a producer’s ear. Like you hear the music and you appreciate what’s going on with the actual beat and the lyrics would kind of come second. Like, you would actually have to listen harder, you know what I’m sayin’, to the lyrics.
So I would always have that certain ear and I was making the beats and I was having people I thought that could rap over em, but they weren’t doing the beats any justice, you know what I’m sayin’. So eventually, what happened was I knew I always had like a vision for what my songs wanted to sound like so I just started rapping over em a certain way..I was getting more compliments on my rapping, more than the actual beats. So I kind of just leaned more towards the rapping.
I’m still gonna get into producing still. After this album and everything is all set. People just had a lot of confidence in me to be able to be successful rapping, you know. More over the producing side of it.
HHS: I understand you were kind of doing the indie thing a little bit. What made you decide to go with a major label like G-Unit and not continue to do the independent thing?
Young Hot Rod: I was in the beginning stages of doing the independent thing and I was working hard on my album and I finally completed it and I was getting my posters made. I had my album cover done and had it pressed up and I sold a few online and in the streets. But at the same time, I was always having my music shopped, you know what I’m sayin’.
So I didn’t just say I wanted to do it independently. I just wanted a deal. I was doing both. And then it actually just happened to be G-Unit that was the label that came at me. And that was the hugest label ever. So I felt like I would be kind of stupid to turn that down… So if it was like another label, maybe like a smaller label or something like that, I probably would’ve been like….”Aaaah, you know. Let’s hold off” But I’ve always had dreams of working with 50 Cent. So I had to take that opportunity.
HHS: I heard that 50 called you personally and asked you to join G-Unit. And at the time you were a mortage broker?
Young Hot Rod: Naw. To clear that up (laughs), like I was working in a mortgage office. I was there probably for like four days. Like the fourth day I was there, I was still in training. A more accurate word for it would probably be like a telemarketer. A mortgage broker is like a big boss of….That’s not the appropriate term for it. I don’t really know where that term came from. I was working for a office and it was like my fourth day and I don’t have no idea of anything about the mortgage business.
I think it’s kind of funny because a lot of people that look at me and they’re like “Aw man, you were like in a successful office job” and this and that. I was like “naw, naw naw naw.” It wasn’t even like that. I just got into it because my brother’s into it. He flips real estate and he does loan stuff. So he was encouraging me to get into it because he was making so much money.
So I was like “OK. Cool. I’m still young. I might as well do that.” It was better than being on the street hustling or doing side jobs. So I was getting into it just to kind of learn the business. But on the fourth day being there, I get the call from 50 Cent.
HHS: What was your reaction to having 50 call and invite you to join his crew?
Young Hot Rod: Man, you know it was crazy man. It was probably the same reaction man that I would have if I was looking at the TV and I had a lottery ticket and I had all seven numbers. I was sitting there and what had actually happened was one of the A&R’s contacted me, like “What’s up man? We heard your music and it’s hot. Actually, I?m going to give you a call back you on the three way.”
I’m like “Alright. Cool.” So I hang up. He calls me back.. He’s like “Rod you there?” I’m like “Yeah.” And he was like “I got 50 on the line.”
Man, my stomach like dropped, you know what I’m sayin’. It was crazy. Just imagine. I had no idea. Basically, I sent in my demo last December. ’05. So two months go by and this is the first week of February. Two months go by and I pretty much forgot about it, you know what I’m sayin’? I sent it out and the dude I sent it out to, he contacted me and said it was hot. But he was like “I’mma see what I can do.” Whatever, you know what I’m sayin. The communication just kind of died so I’m not even expecting it.
I’m just sittin’ at work chillin’. So 50 was like “What’s goin on Rod?” And I’m like “Are you serious?!,” I’m like “Heeey. What’s up man?”
He starts to ask questions. He’s telling me how he heard the CD. The demo was in one of his beat packages. He was on a flight from LA to New York listening to beats and my CD was in the middle of the beats. So he pops my CD in thinking it’s a beat CD. It’s actually my music and his first thought was he thought it was something he had did a long time ago that he didn’t use because our styles are similar. But he heard it. But then he heard the differences in it and he’s looking and the CD says, you know, “Young Rod demo.” He’s like “What?” So he just listened to it the whole way and that’s when he gave me a call. He said “I was listening to your demo the whole way. I think you’re hot.” He’s like “Are you working?”
I was like “Yeah. You know, I just started the little job, you know what I’m sayin. I’m still in training right now just trying to make ends meet.” And then he was like “Quit.” I was like “What?!” (laughs) he said quit. I was like “Come on man.” It was like a dream man. I thought I was going to wake up.
So he was like “Quit. I wanna work with you. I wanna fly you out” and he said “I want to see what you about, you know. And let’s try to make it happen. Can you fly out tomorrow?” I’m like “Hell yeah, you know what I’m sayin.” He was like “Don’t bring any bags. I’ll take you shopping.” Yeah man, he was like “Don’t bring nothin”. He was like “Just come out here. You might want to bring a toothbrush or something. (Laughs) Come out here and I’ll take care of you.”
And I come out there and the rest is history. I stayed at his house, stayed at the mansion and we just got straight to recording and everything just worked out. Yeah. It’s crazy.
HHS: You mention that 50′s style and your style is similar. How would you classify your rap style?
Young Hot Rod: My style is similar to 50′s style vocally. You know how you got those rappers that they have notebooks full of raps that they just write. Like say, they’re just sitting in class and they’re just writing. They write raps to no beat and then they just plan to put it over some beat that they hear in the future. I never did that. I always had to hear the beat because I felt that the rap comes out to actually match the beat. It’s more like a puzzle. Like a certain flow goes to a certain beat. You can’t force a certain type a flow over a beat. So we both work the same. That’s why when we got in the studio, we knocked the album out in like three weeks to a month, three to four weeks.
What you hear on “Be Easy,” that’s just one style, you know what I’m sayin. That’s how I felt I should rap on that beat. It’s more laid back. That’s how I felt like I should rap on that beat. Then you have another beat that comes on, you’re gonna hear me spitting another way. So there’s so many different flows that I have. I guess that’s really how I would have to describe my style. It’s real versatile and it depends on the beat.
Now what makes me different from 50 Cent is the actual content. I didn’t grow up in Southside Jamaica Queens, you know what I’m sayin’. I grew up cool. I had a mom, pops left. Yeah, whatever, but mom was holding me down. We wasn’t in the hood. I wasn’t poppin’ off guns. I didn’t have to live that lifestyle. I was just kind of like the cool kid at school. Had the girls, you know. Just wanted to have fun. It was kind of like the popular guy at school so that’s what I reflect in my music, you know what I’m sayin. It’s just kind of like real fun. I’m trying to bring that back to the game, bring that back to hip-hop. A lot of people feel like you have to be tough to be a rapper, you know what I’m sayin’. They associate tough with being cool. Like “Oh naw. I ain’t never been beat up” or “this cat don’t want to see me because you know I’ll beat him up in a fight.” Everybody has this chip on their shoulder or that they got to be muggin. I’m just trying to bring it like “Hey man. I’m just a cool cat, man. I’m just out here chillin’ you know, looking for some girls. Trying to party. I don’t want no problems. I just come to hang out.” So I think people can relate to that rather than the whole tough thing.
HHS: Would you say that the fun is missing from some of today’s hip-hop? And if so, when did it quit being “fun”?
Young Hot Rod: Yeah. And it’s funny because I think when 50 Cent came into the game that’s when all the fun left (laughs) you know what I’m sayin. Because everybody, they’re trying to follow suit, like that’s when everybody started to get tough and aggressive and grimy on tracks you know. They’re talking about how many people they shot and this and that because they saw the success of G-Unit…Everyone looks at 50 Cent. You know he comes out and shows that very man that he’s America’s bad guy.
Now you got all these rappers out there. Now everybody wants to shoot somebody’s head off, you know what I’m sayin. You got little 14-,15-year-old boys running around here rapping. Freestyle talking about “I’ll put the 45 to your dome.” I’m looking at these little niggas, like “Come on man.” you know what I’m sayin’. And you know why they’re doing it. Because they’ve been influenced by 50. See, me myself, I was influenced by 50 Cent’s style. Not his lifestyle, but his actual, the way he creates his music. But I put myself, my actual experiences in the content. So it’s still me. You get me. You’re not getting 50 Cent. You’re not getting Jadakiss or some other rapper that people are trying to emulate in their raps.
HHS: With G-Unit, you definitely stick out with your style and your vibe. Were you worried that you wouldn’t quite gel with the rest of the crew or fans of the click?
Young Hot Rod: Yeah. I mean I was worried at first man when I first got into it because I never even considered, I didn’t even think it was possible that I would be looked at to be signed to G-Unit. I didn’t look at it like that because you look at the G, you know G, of course, it means guerilla unit. But you look at the G and a lot of people think it stands for gangsta. And I felt like they would only sign gangsta rappers, you know what I’m sayin’. Like cats that have lived a hard life and have aggressive content so I never even looked at that. So when they were actually interested in my music and wanted to fly me out, I was worried because I thought that they were going to try and change my style.
But what calmed me down was he brought that up when we were talking. He was like “Man, what attracted me to you was the fact that you’re being yourself. You’re not trying to be somebody who you’re not. Cause generally people don’t believe every rapper out there that’s sayin’ they’re moving a thousand bricks and they’re killing people in their spare time. People don’t believe that. People are more likely to believe an artist like me who’s down to earth and sayin’ I’m just a regular cat chilling, just want to have a good time. That’s the majority of the world.
So yeah, I had some worries until we had that talk. He was like “I want you to be you. Do your style, man.. You don’t have to be jumping into no beefs and all this. That’s not what you’re here for. You’re here to make good music, do your thing and sell some records.” So it was cool, man. I definitely gelled with the group and everything is wonderful.
HHS: With the track record that G-Unit has as a group and as individual artists, did you feel pressure to come correct with your album?
Young Hot Rod: Oh yeah. Of course man. Especially finding out that I was gonna come out before a lot of the other artists… Like when I got there, we recorded the tracks so fast they wanted to put me out in the summertime before everybody. Before Banks and Buck, everybody else. We reevaluated the situation and realized that it’s going to take more branding and more marketing for them to put me out. But just that right there just created pressure. Like “Ok I’m coming out before everybody.” You know, I have to perform. I have to put up the numbers, you know what I’m sayin’. And so if I don’t, people are looking at that like “what was that for? Where’d he come from? Why did they put him out and he flop?”
But still there is a little pressure. I’m coming out before some of the artists on the label that’s been there for a while. So it’s still a little bit of pressure, but I’m definitely handling it and there’s no bad blood. And everybody supports everybody and it’s just a real good family. That if the label is being run so smooth it’s because everybody cooperates. And I can definitely see why G-Unit is so successful because we?re hard workers and everything is just so organized and the work ethic is crazy.
HHS: That segues into the next question. What would you say to those people who may criticize you for being the next person up to come out rather than other members in the G-Unit stable like M.O.P., who’ve been there for a minute?
Young Hot Rod: What people need to realize is you don’t come out in the order that you sign. You come out when it’s actually your time to come out. When everything is right. When you have hit songs. When you’re able to be marketed at a certain time. Let’s say physical appearance. Let’s say if MC such and such gets signed three years ago but he weighs like 10,000 pounds. The stipulation for him to come out is “we can’t market you like this. We want to market you slimmed down. So you got to lose some weight”, you know what I’m saying and you got to stop doing this.
So then MC B just gets signed and comes in and he’s already ready. The music coming out, coming out good and he’s already ready to come out so as a label, you would put that person out, you see what I’m saying. Not the person that you signed two years ago if he’s not ready. So it’s just all about timing you know… I just think it’s my time to come, you know.
HHS: Did you produce any tracks on your album?
Young Hot Rod: No. I didn’t do any tracks. I focused on being an artist. I didn’t want to try to be that whole Kanye, rapping/producing thing yet. But I’m definitely gonna, on my next project I’mma definitely get in to that.
HHS: You said you got a few artists on your album from Arizona. How’s the rap scene down there?
Young Hot Rod: The scene is real underground. You know how in the South or in St. Louis or look at New York or LA their music has like a certain sound. You know that?s a dirty south song or this cats probably from New York. But see out here in Arizona, it’s like a melting pot. There’s people from all those different regions that make up the population out here in AZ, you know what I’m sayin’. So, it is no sound, you know. So kind of like my job is to help create and identify that AZ sound so we can actually be on the map and be looked at like as “OK that’s like an AZ sound right there.” There is a scene out here. I know when you hear the word AZ, Arizona, what comes to your head is desert and cactus and tumbleweeds going through the desert. But those are certain parts of Arizona that really aren’t relevant to the whole situation.
Of course, we got hoods. We got rich areas. We got cities. We got downtowns. Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the world. It’s a lot of people. But it really doesn’t help when you see that DMX reality show, that show where he’s out in the desert. That even makes it more worse. So it?s going to be my job to actually show the true scene of Arizona.
HHS: If the cards were different and G-Unit wasn’t in the picture, what label or crew would you have seen yourself with?
Young Hot Rod: DTP. Yep. I saw myself for like, their style of music. I would be able to fit in with them. If I wasn’t with G-Unit, I could definitely see myself working with Ludacris and DTP.
HHS: Final Words?
Young Hot Rod: The album Fast Lane will come out at the top of the year, January 2007. Official website is younghotrod.com. And myspace site is myspace.com/rodt. And I am actually the one who checks it. So it’s not no 16-year-old intern in there writing messages, acting like me. Yeah man. Just shouts out to my label 150 Ent. 150 Entertainment. Shout out to Mana Squad, AZ and Sacramento, Cali. Shout to my sis, my sister. Shouts to J-Treez and Mr. Meez.
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