"You Write From Your Soul and They Try and Make It Into A Minstrel Thing": Our Interview With Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire

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Jamel Shabazz

Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire is Brooklyn's rap superstar-in-waiting. He released a new EP (Passion & Power) on Universal yesterday, and we interviewed the venerable eXquire for this week's print edition of The Voice. Here's the bonus beats of the chat, which includes eXquire revealing the song that snagged him a major label deal (hint: It's not "The Last Huzzah"), the possibility of doing key bumps with David Bowie, and plans to start his own book club.

See also:
- Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire Gets Down With His Duality
- Sean Price: Cornel West Is "The Devil"

When I spoke to you a year ago you said that lots of labels wanted to sign you, but you were going to stay independent. What changed your mind?
My mother. We're super close. I asked her, "What do you think I should do, sign with a record label or stay on the indie grind?" She said, "You're very talented and you should let your star shine as bright as it can. Don't short-change yourself. If you wanna play basketball, you wanna go to the NBA and do it to the highest level. So why shouldn't you sign?" It's all I needed to hear.

Why Universal over other labels then?
They showed the most dedication. Every label tried to sign me. These guys [waves around the Decon office], they tried to sign me.

What actually happens during a meeting with a label when they're courting you?
You sit there and they tell you you're great and you believe them or you don't. It was funny, not necessarily over-the-top. They had my face mad big on the wall, I get off the elevator and onto the floor and "Huzzah" is playing. That was at maybe the third meeting; it took a while. I just wanted to see how dedicated they was to the idea.

Did you get the feeling that they only knew you from "Huzzah" and the remix?
We sat and listened to my whole album together. I actually got signed off a song off my Christmas mixtape, "The Gold Watch." That song got me a record deal. They didn't even fuck with the "Huzzah" remix. Everybody thinks that though.

You have a line on the EP where you're ranting at "cracker-ass bloggers trying to downplay my intelligence." Why do you think people try to do that?
I don't know, 'cause I like fat ass, and them niggas like trying to magnify and be some silly shit. People try to make out I'm some wild dude; you meet me in person and I'm calm. That's just the Muthafuckin' part of me, being in the street. Everybody has to vent, everybody has the night when you go out with your people and such and such happens and you drink too much and you get in a fight. That's my music, that's me venting and telling my life story. People just try to take one aspect and take one need.

People don't look beyond the Muthafuckin' part.
Yeah, and that's kinda what the album's like -- it's real frustration. Everybody was kinda magnifying one aspect of my music. They don't talk about "I Should Be Sleeping" and "Build-a-Bitch," those records that are really deep. They're like "Huzzah"! But [that song] ain't about drinking and I can't even drive. People like the simplicity. For me, it was frustrating, 'cause you write this thing from your soul and they try and make it into a minstrel thing.

Does that ever get you down?
For every person who don't get it there's ten who do. I have people coming to my shows crying: "You touched me, you made my life better." I chose [this path] and it comes with the occupation: you're putting your art out there to be judged. I listened to EL-P and Kid Cudi every day going to work. People need to hear me and make their life better.

Where did you see the fan crying at a show?
It was in Virginia. I know the person's name but I'm not gonna put it out there. I'll say hi and shit on Twitter. Nigga cried at my show like two weeks ago. He brought me books to sign, a Nietzsche book and two Dostoyevsky books. That's the intention. It's not just to have people jumping up and down, it's to say, "I'm bleeding too." That's the desire for a song, you want to affect someone so they cry.

When was the first time you heard a song that made you cry?
Damn. Maybe a Marvin Gaye record. The first song that really touched me was "Everyday Struggle" by Biggie, like just the way it came on: [raps] "I know how it feel to wake up fucked up/ Pockets broke as hell..." I heard that album three years after Biggie died.

How did you manage to avoid hearing Biggie for so long?
I was a child when Biggie died. I was 10-years-old! [Laughs] I don't have an older brother. Who was playing Biggie? My mother wasn't playing Biggie. My uncle was the first to let me hear Biggie.

Why did that fan bring those specific books for you to sign?
That's what I rap about. They think I rap about liquor, but I don't. That's like me and my fan's kinda little thing.

The Mr. eXquire book club!
You know, I was thinking about doing a book club.

What would the first book be?
Where is this person in their life? What do they wanna read?

Aren't you meant to suggest the book?
Let's say somebody is 19. They need to read The Art of Mackin'. It's the rules of the game in an appropriate manner. It's an old book so you have to interpret it now.

Who wrote it?
K. Flex wrote it. He's a mack. I'm also a mack so I can relate.

What's the first lesson in the book?
I can't tell you, man. You have to give me a dollar. [Yells at his friend] Yo, you got the Paypal type thing? He wants some game. He can't have no free game!

You gonna add tax to that dollar too?
Yep, tax it!

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