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FEATURED INTERVIEW: Tony Yayo

Who is Tony Yayo?

Tony Yayo is a hustler from Southside, Jamaica Queens. I have been selling drugs since I was fifteen. If I wasn't rappin', I'd be in Southside selling drugs 'cause that's all I know. Right now, I'm a hustler's dream. I'm what every n*gga wants to come home to. You can't name one individual where they came out of jail and they had more than me. A million dollars in his account, chinchillas, condos... I had every kind of sh*t as soon as I stepped out the door. My album is called, "Thoughts of a Predicate Felon." It comes out June 28th. I'm not here to glorify my time. Y'all obviously know n*ggas that ain't coming home. Everybody got somebody in their team that's down for a body or down for conspiracy. I did a little one to three. I'm just trying to tell you what my life is like. I have no diploma, no G.E.D., but I came home to a million dollars. But, I'm trying to tell the kids to go to school, get your education. I'm an example that you could make it out the hood. I'm telling you what I've been through. In my situation in jail, I always look at other n*ggas situation, like n*ggas that's doing ten or twelve years, n*ggas that ain't coming home. But, Yayo is Yayo. I don't think I'm ever going to change. My head may be a little bigger. I treat people a little different 'cause they treat me different.

Take us back to the beginning when G-Unit had just exploded with tours and shows and the warrant out for your arrests?

I was on the run for a gun charge. It came to a decision when 50 signed with Eminem. What would you do? Go on tour, fuck bitches, smoke weed, make some money, meet Dr.Dre and Eminem, or would you go to jail? What would you do?

So you knew it was going to catch up with you?

Yeah, 'cause it came to a point where it got so big, I'm on 106 and Park performing 'Wanksta' with 50 and I got a warrant so I knew I was going to get caught, but, when you on the run and you having fun... you thinking about doing the ginger bread man to the next town. That's how I was on it and 50 always told me, "You know them people are going to ca tch you." I was like, 'yeah, I know.' I think if they never caught me, I'd probably still be running.

Did you feel frustrated missing out on things while you were locked up?

When I'm in that cell... the more you think about what's going on, on the outside, the more you're stressed. How I'm going to be in jail thinking about what 50 and them are doing when dudes got razors? He got a razor under his bed, he got a knife, somebody just got cut yesterday in the house. I got to think about what's going on inside jail 'cause I can't be in la la land. The support I got was enough. The Free Yayo campaign, Eminem wearing a "Free Yayo" shirt at the Grammy's, he could've worn his own shirt. 50, Young Buck, Banks, going on the Roc the Mic Tour wearing Free Yayo shirts. That's real n*gga sh*t. I get off the phone with 50 and I tell him, 'yo, I love you n*gga', you my n*gga. That's like my brother. So yeah, he starts a lot of beef, the n*gga's off a little bit but so what? You see a lot of groups. A lot of n*ggas, behind the scenes ain't getting paid like that. They're getting jerked. 50, with us, he let us go from the beginning. Banks is platinum, Buck is platinum. Beg for Mercy sold four million. He sold eleven million. That's real n*gga sh*t, when you let your peoples eat.

There were a few labels reaching out to sign all of you separately and give you your own deal, right?

At first, Universal wanted to give us all separate deals from 50, on Interscope, but we weren't with it.

What was the first thing you did when you came home?

Banks, 50 and them came and got me. They gave me a chinchilla, a Jacob watch, rings and jewelry. 50 had to go somewhere… We went to PA, got something to eat, went and had a ménage 'e trios, then I went to see my daughter.

So, how'd you meet 50?

50 was like a legend in my hood. Everybody looked up to him. Banks, 50 and I are all from the same neighborhood. When 50 was twelve years old, he was hustling and everybody knew him as Boo Boo. When he was seventeen, n*gga had a Landcruiser. When he was eighteen, n*gga had a Benz. He was in and out of jail. He was known for knockin' n*ggas out. To this day, these n*ggas with me here could tell you they knew Boo Boo.

What did you learn different coming in to this industry?

I found out the game is all about selling records. I'm learning about sound scan, selling records. I'm learning more about the business. I love hip hop; I'm a big hip hop fan. I love DJs, I love the magazines, but at the end of the day it's all about the money. You got rappers like Common Sense and everything like that who say they do it for hip hop. I'm doing it for the money because if I weren't getting paid, I wouldn't do it. This rap sh*t is just a hobby to me. I grew up selling drugs. I learned that a hot rapper is not a hot rapper unless he's selling records.

How does it feel to finally get your chance to shine after everything you've been through?

It feels good! You got to understand...my peoples blew. I went to jail. Being in jail, I'm on Riker's Island seeing my man sell 800,000 his first week! So it was a beautiful thing. More or less, me being home and my record is coming out, a n*gga is very happy man.

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Written By Mesai Jeffery-Coker


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