In hip hop, and in life, it’s easy to follow the leader. But the road less traveled is usually the one bearing the footsteps of the true innovators – the people with their own vision, their own style. People like Eightball & MJG. When Eightball & MJG were making their ascension up the 90’s hip hop hierarchy, little did they know they were drafting a blueprint for the future of hip hop, purveying a sound that would be emulated and appreciated a decade later.
Born in Memphis, TN, Eightball (Premro Smith) and MJG (Marlon Jermaine Goodwin) traveled throughout the south– with no one in front of them and no one behind them. Their music took them through Georgia and Texas and all over the southern region, lead by fans hungry for something new and different, something that spoke to them. Now, 13 years after the release of their Suave House debut, “Comin’ Out Hard,” and the string of successful releases that followed, Eightball & MJG are still making their innovative brand of soul music. A testament to their unwavering relevance was their 2002 signing to P. Diddy’s Bad Boy Entertainment. What followed was 2004’s “Living Legends,” their Bad Boy debut album, the major club hit, “Buck Bounce” with DJ Quick and “Stay Fly” with Three 6 Mafia (2005). “Ridin’ High,” their sophomore release for Bad Boy Records is set to drop in ’07 and is their strongest album ever.
“The stuff that used to be underground in the south is mainstream now,” says Eightball. “The ‘White Ts’ and the ‘Lean Backs,” they were making songs like that three, four years ago but people weren’t paying attention to it then. There’s no pressure with us to keep up with none of that because we ain’t never tried to keep up with none of that. We always just do us and you can call it what you want.”
“It’s just always been about the music with us,” says MJG. “We’ve seen a lot of people come and go and I don’t think any of the ones that stayed around sat down and mapped out a game plan to be around that long. It’s just living and learning and sticking to the format.”
“You learn from your own mistakes and you watch other people and you learn from that,” says MJG. “We ain’t perfect, I ain’t perfect but as far as this music and staying power, we just always kept the music personal. It seems strange even to us how long we’ve been doing it but this is what we love to do and if you’re shown love you show love back.”
“When people hear this new album I want them to say this is one of the best Eightball & MJG albums that we ever made,” explains Eithgball. “It’s not giving no message or nothing like that. We’re not trying to say it’s the greatest hip hop album ever. We’re not trying to save the world.. We’re just doing us.”
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: What’s the name of the new album?
MJG: Riding High
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: What producers did ya’ll work with this time around?
MJG: Lil John– Jazze Pha– Dj Nasty….a few others.
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: As far as hip hop history… ya’ll started before the Southern explosion. Do you feel like you’ve influenced the “sound” of Southern Hip Hop?
MJG: We influenced it simply by just letting southern artists know it was possible. It was hard for us in the beginning like everybody else.
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: Who else should we be looking out for from Tennessee?
8Ball: I got a cat named Devious on my label. 8 Ways Entertainment. His album is called Dirty Dollars” it will be out March 2007. Yo Gotti, look out for him….
MJG: Young D, Volunteers, Mackie….we got a few thangs jumping off..
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: Switching gears a little bit… How do yall feel about the whole Michael “Kramer” Richards situation?
8Ball: I think it’s being blown outta proportion. Shit like that happens bruh…….(laughs)
MJG: It was a natural reaction to the heckler.
8Ball: And come to think of it, there weren’t any black people on Seinfield, so..(laughs) people get mad and blurt out things, so….it was just a moment in time. You can’t blame him for that.
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: There have been a few shots thrown back and forth between The South and New York artists. Do southern artists feel as though there is tension mounting?
MJG: I think it’s just like on the block as kids when for example, you may have had a shiny new bike and ya buddy’s bike ain’t as shiny as yours, but u still gotta be cool with that man. You wouldn’t want somebody
fuckin’ with you just cause your bike is shiner than theirs. It’s just being fair. For every up there’s a down.
It all comes down to doing what you love. It don’t matter what coast is selling the most or whatever…you still don’t wanna get in the studio and make a bullshit record. The main focus is to make good music no matter where you are from.
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: Is Lil Wayne out of his mind tho? He said he’s better than Jay Z?
8Ball: Lil Wayne saying he better than Jigga, ( pauses) well to me, they both have shit that I love and hate, and there’s no in between. To me.. “The Blueprint” is Jay Z’s best album, even though I identify with
Lil Wayne’s music more, cause that’s where I was at, and I heard him more than I heard Jay- Z…but to say who is better? That’s between them, I love them both as artists.
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: I’ve noticed that unlike a lot of other southern MC’s, yall don’t immediately go for the obvious club single. Is this intentional? Is this why your formula has worked?
MJG: Yea, we don’t try to come up with a super gimmick, we just do us…and keep it like that– just stick to being 8Ball and MJG.
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: Where is hip-hop goin’ in the next 5 years?
8Ball: It’s hard to say. I don’t know. It’s like the wind blowing… u never know where it’s gonna blow next. Nastradamus couldn’t predict what’s gonna happen in the next 5 years in hip hop….(laughs)
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: How has 8Ball and MJG avoided the pitfalls so many other groups have…as far as breaking up or beef.. or what have you? What’s yall secret?
8Ball: We loyal to the friendship first. This is like my brother. We have a real friendship first. No matter what we disagree about, we still friends at the end of the day. It’s bigger than money and all that.
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: Finally, Let us know why this 8Ball and MJG album is the best effort to date?
8Ball: I think the true 8Ball and MJG fans will love this album. It’s the best of 8Ball and MJG on one album.
RAPINDUSTRY.COM: Spaceage Pimpin’ was my shit!…(Laughs Flex) Good looking
fellas…appreciate the love. Tell Conrad I said what up nukka!
Album drops in February….This is Flex, for Rapindustry.com