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You have talked in the past about qualms you had with the kind of gangster rap that became big when Arrested Development was breaking out. Do you still have some issues with what's going on in the industry?
I think the fundamental problem is pretty much the same. Gangster hip-hop served a purpose at the very beginning. Songs like 'F--- the Police' by NWA or '6 'N The Mornin' by Ice-T helped to shed light on a problem that is still facing us today. Take Ferguson and New York, where people are being brutalized by the police and killed by the police. You see songs like these and you applaud the fact that they talked about it years ago.
But then, after a while, unfortunately the music started to morph into glorifying that very same violence. Once, they were speaking out to say, 'Hey, take a look over here. We need help over here.' Then it began to be, 'Hey, I'm credible because I kill people. I'm credible because I got a bigger Glock than you.' Life started being cheapened, not only by the system, but by the very people who were oppressed. That's when it became a problem for me, and gangster hip-hop became a caricature of itself. Our music was a juxtaposition to that. It was life music. And we purposefully called it 'life music' for that reason.
Who today has that message that you guys had, someone you admire in the industry?
Some of the people I think are clever with how they speak their lyrics in today's hip-hop game are J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar. A little bit older are people like Talib Kweli, Common, the Roots, Mos Def, and Erykah Badu. They said some things and they brought some things to the music industry that's been very clever.
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How has Atlanta changed in the last 20 years? There's still a really strong black community, but a lot of historically black neighborhoods seem to be gentrifying a lot.
Exactly what you just described. I see a great side to it—there are a lot more lofts and independently owned stores and a lot more villages popping up in different sections of Atlanta. That's exciting from a consumer standpoint and just from an aesthetic standpoint. The sad part about it is the gentrification and the fact that a lot of the poor families are being moved out to areas where it's hard for them to even get to work because the bus system does not reach them. It makes it very tough to find work, very tough for people to rise and get to another level in their lives.
Do you think the history of race lingers in the city?
Without a doubt—but not only in the city of Atlanta. I'm a spiritual guy, so I look at things from a spiritual standpoint. Sins don't go away. They are physical. They are real. You can put them under the rug, you can do various things with them, but they are still there, and they have to be legitimately redeemed and healed.