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INTERVIEW: T.I. Says He’ll Release New LP By This December, Regardless of Record Label Deal

The times are certainly changing, and if anyone in music has experienced that, it is rapper T.I. TIP has sold almost 7 million albums and 15 million singles in the U.S. alone. Yet the Atlanta-native currently finds himself without a record label and on a tour with Lil Wayne that is selling tickets in some markets for as low as $10.

“This is what we call a paradigm shift in society right now,” T.I. explained over the phone in an interview with “The Ralphie Show.” “This is a generational shift where new people are coming in to power and there’s a new day and age; a new way of doing things.”

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The “Whatever You Like” artist notes that anyone in business has to adapt to a changing climate.

“I’m in a very unique position where I have artists, including myself, I have producers, I have writers under my wing,” he said. “For me to go to any distributor and walk in any building and give them instant market share, and give them instant credibility, instant relevance, and also an already-made superstar, that’s going to take a considerable investment.”

With the feasibility in this day and age of recording and releasing music independently, especially under an already-known name, there’s no reason to believe that T.I. is simply showing a poker face. He told me he’d like to release Trouble Man II: He Who Wears The Crown by this December. If there’s no deal in place with a record label, the rapper insists that he’ll release it without a major label. Coincidentally enough, the first single, “Wit Me,” features his summer tour-mate.

“Wayne was in Atlanta man, and he hit me,” T.I. recalled. “I think he might have hit me about 5 in the morning, say he was on his way to the studio. So I was just up watching TV at the house and I was like, ‘Hell man, I’m not going to let him out work me, I’m going to the studio too!’”

The two superstars listened to tracks from T.I.’s Hustle Gang in-house producers. A beat produced by Cordale “Lil C” Quinn stood out from the rest, and shortly after hearing it both Weezy and TIP started cutting verses.

“We didn’t get out of there that morning… might have been about 9:30 in the morning,“ he said. “And (Wayne) was still working!”

T.I. says that Lil Wayne is “doing good” following reports that speculated various conditions of his health.

“He’s in awesome spirits,” TIP said. “One thing I can say, it has nothing to do with drugs, because I’ve been around him several times, shooting the video and on personal time and I haven’t seen him around or doing anything anywhere related to any kind of narcotics. I can attest to that.”

Lil Wayne Mash-Up With ‘The Office’ Theme Song

How ironic given that last summer, Lil Wayne kicked off his “America’s Most Wanted Music Festival” in right here in NEPA at Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain. Anyways, enjoy (NOTE: NOT CLEAN VERSION!).

Big thanks to my homie DJ Woogie for putting me up on this.

EXCLUSIVE: Young Jeezy Works On New LP, Keeps In Touch w/ T.I.

As politically active as Young Jeezy was last fall, it only made sense that last week, he felt right at home in what the pundits called, “The Ground Zero of the Presidential Election.”

“I appreciate Scranton for standing behind (President Obama),” Jeezy told me backstage at the first stop on the “America’s Most Wanted Music Festival.” Obama won both Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties. “We here now, we’re trying to make the world a better place.”

The Atlanta-rapper is both realistic and patient – he believes it’ll take President Obama two terms to fix the various big ticket issues our country faces. But he also recognizes the other half of the winning ticket.

“Joe Biden! What up homie!” he cheerfully shouted when I reminded him that Vice President Biden is from the Electric City.

The conversation quickly turned to music, as Jeezy is working on his fourth studio LP: Thug Motivation 103. No release date is set – and the rapper is rather evasive on details. Jeezy did tell me that fans can expect, “a little bit of everything,” referring to a conglomerate of material that people grew accustomed to between Thug Motivation 101 and The Recession.

“Everything still pretty much in the can right now,” Jeezy revealed. “It’s gonna be a very special album, but at the same time, the streets gonna love this, Scranton are gonna love this, people are gonna love this album.”

Still, Jeezy would not as much as divulge any type of timeline for the record’s release, simply stating that he’ll drop it once it’s finished. You would think that if it’s already in production, it’ll be released by the time fellow Atlanta rapper T.I. leaves jail. Young Jeezy told me that through their respective camps he keeps in touch with T.I.P.

“He’s gotta pay his debt to society and get back on it. We here for him though.”

EXCLUSIVE: MTV News’ Sway Calloway on America’s Most Wanted Tour

Don’t necessarily call it a homecoming to hip-hop, but for MTV News reporter Sway Calloway, it sure felt good to cover the America’s Most Wanted Music Festival’s first date in Scranton, PA.

“I’ve been on the road doing a lot of stuff with MTV,” explained Calloway – mentioning the Michael Jackson memorial as well as numerous political events. “I really wanted to come back to the core of how I got in this game, and that’s through rap, hip-hop music.”

Producers and MTV News beat reporter Shaheem Reid joined Calloway to cover the event. The team from MTV arrived on Sunday and caught Lil Wayne’s dress rehearsal. By all accounts, it seemed as if the crowd at Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain would be in for a special show. But the event impressed Calloway on other levels as well.

“Especially in this time of economic crisis, people said you can’t put together a tour,” said Sway. “Young Money Records, Lil Wayne, stuck their neck out there and they got truly America’s most wanted.”

The lineup is something to marvel at – the front of the bill includes Jeremih (top 10 hit in “Birthday Sex”) and Pleasure P, formerly of Pretty Ricky. Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em takes the stage next, followed by Young Jeezy and Wayne – who brings his entire Young Mula crew for the ride. At least for now, that will be sans Drake, who reinjured an already torn ACL on Friday in Camden, NJ. The R&B singer returned to his home of Toronto, where he will undergo surgery this week.

But with a tour this deep, almost any hit to the card is sustainable, especially when you have one of your opening acts tossing out thousands of dollars to the crowd.

“I’ve seen that gimmick over the years a thousand times,” Sway noted of Soulja’s parting act. While performing “Turn My Swag On,” the 19 year-old reached in to his pocket and began tossing out Ben Franklin’s to the crowd as if he was shooting free throws in a gym. “Soulja Boy is the first person I’ve personally witnessed to throw out real, $100 bills, continuously for at least six minutes.”

The MTV reporter estimated that Soulja gave “at least $5,000” to the fans.

“I talked to people who walked away with a couple hundred dollars,” he said. “(Soulja Boy) paid them, to come see him.”

Certainly no one needed any more incentive to show up. Over 12,000 people entered Montage Mountain for the event – a solid figure in an area that has generally struggled to support hip-hop and rhythmic shows. Again, just another testament to the lineup put forth by Wayne. The “maturity” of the acts also impressed Calloway. While we spoke, Young Jeezy performed behind us, backed by a 9-piece band.

“Music is a universal communicator,” said Sway. “You see people right now, partying together, to one beat… and it’s a great venue.”

EXCLUSIVE: Jeremih’s Learning Experience

R&B newcomer Jeremih learned an important lesson on his first day of touring: sometimes, you need to roll with the punches.

“The keyboard should’ve been here,” he explained while backstage at Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain. “It’s on its way; it was 15 pounds over capacity for the plane limit.”

But at least the singer himself made it. Jeremih flew to Scranton from El Paso, TX – touching down in NEPA around 4:30. He quickly drove to the venue, and snuck in a quick sound check before doors were opened to the public. I spoke with him just past 6 p.m., approximately 40 minutes later he hit the stage to croon for 15 minutes, ending with the up-tempo version of his Top 10 hit, “Birthday Sex.”

But if you’re headed to another stop on the America’s Most Wanted Music Festival, don’t assume that you’ll hear that particular cut.

“It all depends on what people are really feelin’,” said Jeremih. “It was up to me, I’d perform both of ‘em.”

After consulting with myself and Kidd Kraddick In The Morning producer Adam, Jeremih and his manager decided on the up-tempo remix, as that is the version heard on 97 BHT.

Jeremih isn’t your average R&B singer. Born Jeremih Felton in Chicago, the singer entered the University of Illinois at age 17. The early entry to college forced Felton to grow up quickly, and he would soon learn a lot about himself and his surroundings.

“I ended up getting a hold of some IDs,” revealed Jeremih, who blamed his downfall in part on living away from home in a co-ed dorm. “Long story short, I’m the youngest kid in there, but the oldest dude in there.”

The singer soon found himself with a revoked license. But Jeremih credits that experience with helping his career: during that two year period, he was forced to sit home and work on his craft. Jeremih transferred to Columbia College Chicago. He left a semester short of a degree to pursue his career, but plans on finishing at some point.

“Education is key,” said Jeremih. “It got me this far.”

EXCLUSIVE: Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em To Collab W/ Drake, Tweak Live Set

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the most tech-savvy artist of our generation is using all of his gadgets while on tour this summer to continue creating, producing, and finishing projects.

“I got the studio bus actually on the road, the whole tour,” explained Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em. “So I’m recording my third album, I was tellin’ ya about, The DeAndre Way, it drops in November. I’m recording my album while we’re on tour. So ya’ll can look out for the Soulja Boy/Drake collaboration.”

I sat down with Soulja during Lil Wayne’s set on the opening night of the America’s Most Wanted Music Festival. The summer long tour features Weezy and his Young Money crew, Young Jeezy, Soulja Boy and S.O.D.M.G., Drake, and Jeremih. Pleasure P, formerly of Pretty Ricky, also made it on to the bill.

Drake, who just signed a deal with Universal Records that affords him a $2 million advance, called Soulja, “the smartest artist of our generation, period,” on The Ralphie Radio Show in June. It seems the respect is mutual.

“Drake is a real dude. Most rappers, they don’t like to give the other rappers props,” Soulja Boy said. “He showed me my respect. Drake is a good artist.”

At least when it comes to artistry, it seems most of the rappers on the bill are taking cues from the headliner. Even after the first show, Soulja Boy already found himself inspired and pushed by Weezy.

“I just got through watching Wayne’s show. I’m about to go back to the drawing board,” revealed Soulja. “I feel like, my next show, I just gotta go back and critique everything a little bit, but we straight though.”

However, I’m sure one part of the performance that will not change is the end. The crowd inside Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain exploded when Soulja dropped “Turn My Swag On.” The first few rows of the venue near came to a boil soon after – when the 19 year-old began tossing out $100 bills in to the crowd. MTV News reporter Sway Calloway estimated that Soulja gave back atleast $5,000 to the crowd. But for the Chicago-born rapper, the money itself wasn’t much of a driving factor behind the move.

“I flash back in my head to when I was 15, 14 years -old, just wanted to become a rap star,” he said. “For me to make it, and to become a millionaire, and for my dreams to come true, all that just be flashing through my head.”

EXCLUSIVE: Weezy F. Bulletproof

Remember our friend Brenda? She is the one who grabbed this footage of Lil Wayne and his crew fighting over a BB gun Sunday at their hotel. On Monday night after the show, Brenda met Weezy, although apparently the BB gun wars hadn’t ceased.

As you can see, Wayne’s wearing a bulletproof vest and goggles. With his automatic BB gun in tow, he was plotting to target Young Money’s Mack Maine, again. However, with the amount of fans around the tour bus, and cameras everywhere, Wayne didn’t want to give the wrong impression to anyone (this BB gun, which I have not seen, allegedly looks like a machine gun).

Weezy F. wore the vest for the duration of Brenda’s time on the tour bus, which she says was a little over an hour.

EXCLUSIVE: Amber Rose (Kanye’s Girl?) Backstage at Weezy’s Show

South Philly-born Amber Rose showed up at opening night of the America’s Most Wanted Music Festival. The model and former exotic dancer has appeared in videos and print campaigns with Young Jeezy and Kanye West, and has been romantically linked to West as well.


Rose recently appeared with West in a Louis Vuitton ad.

EXCLUSIVE: Lil Wayne’s Hotel Tussle

Lil Wayne and the rest of his Young Money crew arrived in Scranton on Sunday, checking in to the Radisson before heading to Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain for a rehearsal. Earlier in the day, my friend Brenda shot the following footage. Apparently Lil Wayne owns an automatic bb gun, and was firing it (or atleast attempting to) at Mack Maine. Drake and a few other bystanders watched as Weezy and his crew wrestled each other over the gun.

Wayne eventually emerged victorious, quickly dashing in to the elevator to escape his crew.

Backstage Notes From Opening Night of The America’s Most Wanted Music Festival

- It’s the first tour of any kind for newcomer Jeremih. The Chicago-native currently owns a Top 10 hit in “Birthday Sex.” Talk about being thrown in to the fire of a hectic schedule: while all of the other acts on the bill arrived in Scranton on Sunday, Jeremih touched down in Avoca around 4:30 on Monday. Less than two hours later, he kicked off the show with a quick set of songs from his self-titled, debut LP.

As per the suggestion of myself and Kidd Kraddick In The Morning producer Adam, he ended with the up-tempo version of “Birthday Sex.”

- National media descended again on Northeastern PA for the kickoff of Lil Wayne’s summer tour, and a familiar face showed up in the crowd. I had the pleasure of watching Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em’s set on stage left with not only Scranton’s DJ Woogie, but also MTV News reporter Sway Calloway. In March of 2008, I met Sway at Whistles in downtown Scranton, where he hosted an MTV Choose or Lose event with President Barack Obama.

In our interview, Calloway mentioned how impressed he was with the maturity of hip-hop (at the time, Young Jeezy performed behind us with a six piece band). He also acknowledged an on-stage stunt by Soulja Boy. Calloway has seen the “cash gimmick” many times (hip-hop artists throwing out money to the crowd), but he noted that usually the money is either dollar bills or fake. However, the “Crank That” rapper was tossing out genuine Benjamin Franklin’s in to the stands. Calloway estimated that in those short few minutes, Soulja easily tossed about $5,000 back to the fans.

- Speaking of Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em, his night ended on a bit of a down note. Soulja joined Pleasure P (formerly of Pretty Ricky), Sway, Jeezy, and Jeremih on the VIP Deck at stage left to watch Lil Wayne’s performance. During the show, Arab – who is one of the rappers in Soulja Boy’s “S.O.D.M.G.” stable of artists, accidentally spilled a drink on Soulja’s white jeans. When I hopped on board his tour bus, Soulja’s entourage was trying to figure out how they could get to a washing machine: the rapper wanted to wear the jeans to Cancun, where he will be celebrating his 19th birthday.

Despite the misfortunate clothing accident, Soulja was more than happy to speak with me. 97 BHT played “Kiss Me Thru The Phone” more times than any other radio station in Northeastern PA. And apparently, the rapper is keeping tabs on me.

“Ralphie man, I see you blowin’ up, you grindin’ here in Scranton huh?” said Soulja Boy immediately when I walked on to the bus. “I see you on Twitter sendin’ out links and sh**. That’s what’s up man.”

Apparently you never know who is reading what you write on the Internet. But, this didn’t come as a complete shock – since we first met last February, Soulja Boy has uploaded two of my interviews to his YouTube channel – with cumulative views over 200,000.

Soulja is currently working on two new LPs, another solo project with a November release date, and a S.O.D.M.G. album that will drop in December. He’s traveling with a second tour bus that is equipped with a recording studio, so he can finish the projects on the road.

- How tight was security backstage at Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain? I spoke with two venue employees, who each were there over 10 years. Both said that they’ve never seen the backstage area on lockdown as much as Monday night’s show.

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