From owning the battle circuit to keeping the mixtape circuit hot, Serius Jones has stayed getting busy since he first blew up the scene with Fight Klub. In this exclusive interview, Serius speaks on his battles, including his recent one with Math Hoffa, his new project Living Legend, his DTP days, and much more.
You’ve taken a little time off from releasing music, but you did hit the battles a little, which we will talk about. Why did you take a little hiatus, though?
I felt like I had to get my money up. As a rapper and as an artist, I was in a position where I was able to eat a little bit off of what I was doing, but it wasn’t like…I needed the real push and the money and the machine behind me to get my music out to the world like I wanted to. The last project I put out, I had a lot of big names, from 2Chainz to T-Pain, but because I didn’t have the label push or the machine and my financials weren’t in the place where I could really get my music promoted the right way, I had to take a minute to get my change up and get my brand up to where I could really go forward and get heard the right way.
I’ve been doing music the whole time too. I always record. I always come up with new shit. I had a bunch of videos that I shot that was older. And I’ve also been working on my film shit. I got a film called The Klub. I got a few actors from HBO’s The Wire and a lot of reputable dudes in the City. I’ve been working on that too and that’s been keeping me busy.
How frustrating is it when you know you have a project with potential and it doesn’t go where it’s supposed to?
Well, it’s really frustrating when you make great music and it’s not in the right light because in this era, people are followers and they only respect and believe in what looks like is a win. Even if you have big names or whatever associated with your project, it doesn’t mean that other people are just going to automatically support your music, like program directors and DJs, people that are actually the tastemakers of the industry. What it comes down to is always money. People respect the dollars. You could be talented but the music business is really about 90% business and 10% talent.
After the break, do you feel like everything is in place for Living Legend to have the impact you want it to?
I’m not going to say I got the 90% right, but I’m trying to make sure this has 100% on both sides, musically and business wise, so people can really understand my story. People don’t really know. All they know is that I’m some guy who came up battling. All they know is hearsay people say in battles. It’s important for me to tell my story and what my life really is and if I can bring them into my zone, then I think the mission will be accomplished with this Living Legend project.
I’ve only heard what’s been leaked, but would you say your music is more personal and introspective on this?
Oh yeah, definitely. I don’t think nobody’s ready for what the fuck I’m going to od on this, honestly. I’ve never made this music right here. It’s a lot more soulful, it has a lot more twists to it, and I’m really giving away a lot of game. I think it’s going to pull people more into who I am as a person and not just me as a rapper.
What was the inspiration for the title Living Legend?
I always felt like people said I was a living legend and that legend title is interesting because when people put that on you, they have a whole different expectation for you. I could come out with a dope song but there’s still gonna be 15 comments under it about a battle or something else. “Battle rappers and whatever whatever.” But it’s like that’s the pressure that comes with being a living legend. When you’re a dead legend, you can’t do nothing wrong. But when you’re living and you’re a living legend, that’s a whole different kind of pressure and everyone’s judging you. Everyone can’t wait to see you fail. So I looked at it like that’s a heavy title that I’ve been having to bear and I’ve been up for the challenge and I guess that’s what the mentality was when I decided to name it that.
Is the stereotype that battle rappers still can’t make songs still out there for you?
It’s just because that’s what people saw me. That’s how they were introduced to me. If that’s the biggest way they’ve seen me, they’re going to assume that’s a summation of me. But me, I look at it a little differently. I’m a professional shit talker. I’ve gotten paid a lot of money to talk a lot of shit to people. It don’t matter what level it is. I get paid a lot of money because of that. A song and doing a battle, it’s the same mechanism to me. It’s just executing it. People don’t understand that until they see you on that level and then when they see you on albums with all the top rappers and they see you winning Grammy’s, then you’re all right. I don’t let that bother me because that’s just how people are. I’ve done tours in Europe and I got people who love and respect my music, so I’m not really worried about people that are stupid enough to not even give me a chance and find out who I am as an artist.
Did you want a lot of features on Living Legend?
I really just wanted it my team. I got a lot of people that are just dope artists and that the world might not know on a big scale, but they make great music and to me, that’s the most important thing. Just make dope music, because people already know me.
How do you like the independence of not having a label, or would you rather be signed?
I mean, I’m not shooting for nothing but greatness is. I’m not shooting for nothing than to be able to be heard by the people and if a label is going to help me do that and they’re going to push the button on my project and really put the effort and time into catapulting my situation, but if it’s the same people as my last deal and they don’t do nothing but they give you some money, then it kind of makes you look worse as a brand, because people look at you like, “What’s going on?” But a deal isn’t worth it if you’re on a label that isn’t 100% behind you.
Do you feel fans got the wrong idea about you when the Disturbing Tha Peace situation didn’t work out?
If anybody did feel that way, then it’s just weird because you got two other platinum artists that blew up more after they left that situation. 2 Chainz was with Luda for how many years and he blew up after he left. Now he’s the biggest rapper in the game. If anyone feels like anyone over there didn’t go hard for me, it’s okay because I don’t have no hard feelings from being around that situation. I grew as an artist because of it. I don’t blame anybody for my success or lack of success. I blame myself.
After going through what you went through, how do you think young talent should be cultivated and those artists see success?
Well, I think for me, the most important thing is the understanding that this is a business. This is the music business. If you’re in this because you want to make good music, then that’s one thing. But if you want to make money, then you gotta look at it from a marketing standpoint. If I’m going to sign artists, then you gotta look for somebody that is a brand and somebody that actually has some level of specialness to them that the world responds to. And I think that’s what’s most important. There’s not a lot of important artists that are stars. I’m going to look for a star, somebody that shines no matter what, somebody who has something different about them. That’s how people respond to me. I’ve always had something different. That’s what we’re missing in the music and in the artistry. From what I see, that’s what always wins. People loose when they’re looking to sign artists that are all different versions of the same artist.
With me, I can be sympathetic to the artist’s perspective because I’ve been through it. A lot of these other people, they don’t really care. They’ll sign an artist. This is our life. This is what we think we’ll be doing for the rest of our life, forever, and when you don’t get that push, you’re literally fucking somebody’s life up, especially if you got young artists from the hood. This is their chance to make it. Those that made it, they’re sitting back, fat, smoking cigars, and looking at you like you’re a tax write-off. I could never be one of those dudes, especially if I knew it was somebody dope. If I’m ever in the position where I’m looking to sign people, I know exactly what to do to be successful in this, from the negative to the positive.
Are you dropping an official album too?
Yeah. It’s called Legendary. There’s a lot of live instrumentation on Legendary. There’s a lot of creative, outside of the box-type music that I’ve never made before. I got the Klub movie and some more mixtapes. I’m just ready to get back to work.
Looking ahead, how involved do you want to be in the battle scene?
You know what? I look at it like this. If there’s a battle that makes sense enough and it’s a big, huge deal that the people want to see, then I’m down to be in it. But the last battle I was in, the people didn’t’ really want to see it. There wasn’t anyone in that realm that was doing more than me. Or that was a better look, and the people that was was maybe Lux, who is my homie, and maybe Hollow, who’s my homie. But if you Google my name and look at the battles, not even bragging, most of these dudes don’t have relationships with dudes outside of the battle realm. It’s up to me to not pigeonhole myself so that people can see me in a different light. They’re not even looking at your real life and you gotta look at it like if you want to be a bigger artist, then sometimes you’ve gotta elevate beyond that one level of artistry.
At the SMACK URL battle, Math sucker-punched you. Did you guys ever talk after that?
Oh, nah. He reached out a bunch of times, trying to squash it, ironically, but I don’t respect that. How do you set it on somebody in front of the world and then think there’s going to be a truce or something? But I saw him and it was very…it went down. Street shit’s supposed to stay in the street. Battle rapping is not for fighting. That’s how we’ll ruin our sport. That’s how we won’t get sponsorships or people won’t want to come to battle.s That’s how we fuck the whole culture up. So I don’t have a lot of respect for a dude who would do that, especially for someone who was begging me for 10 years to battle and I finally give him the chance and that’s what he wanted to do the whole time, probably.
Why do you think he even did that?
He just got mad because I was too swaggy and the crowd wasn’t really feeling him. There were bitches on stage in fucking bodypaint. People think I told them to twerk but I didn’t do nothing like that. We just looked way cooler and I think he realized there was no way for him to win. I think he did the only thing that he thought he could do to win the battle. But in essence, that’s why you lose the war – when you make decisions off emotions.
Did the fans understand what happened or do you think some fans are holding it against you?
Honestly, I was surprised because the fans kind of rolled with me. I thought I was going to be thrown away under the bus than I was. It just looks bad, you know, Serius Jones getting punched in the face. But people who think it means something, they’re not from the streets. They don’t understand. I’ve been in shootouts, knife fights, jail…I done been through every type of drama situation and came out on top so if someone thinks that because you get punched in a battle and that makes you sideways and some kind of a sucker, then those are the people that I don’t even want listening to my music. They’re the same ones that love you and then hate you. They build you up and then they want to try to tear you down. People want to see me lose because I’m supposedly the guy that always wins. Of course you want to see people lose because then you feel like he’s human too.
As a writer, I can remember how much I hated seeing any negative comments about something I wrote. Today, it’s not that big of a deal if somebody doesn’t like something. Are you in a place where the comments don’t bother you?
You know what? Some stuff I don’t even read. It used to bother me too, but you gotta look at it realistically. People are commenting on videos online because they’re trying to be entertained. In reality, it’s just some bored guy in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes I’ll engage with the fans like that and sometimes I’ll hit them back. “What makes you think that?” And sometimes, you realize, those are some of your biggest fans. After you roast them, they’ll say you’re cool and “I just wanted you to hit me back.” You can’t be emotional about this shit. It’s business. And if people get out of pocket, you deal with it how you deal with it. But you can’t get involved with people who don’t even know you.
Would you ever battle Math again?
Oh, nah. I don’t even want to speak on that again. That’s a whole different level of that situation. But for the fans that might want to see me in the ring again, it’s just gotta be right, man. And there were a lot of things that were supposed to happen with that battle and it didn’t happen and it just fucked up my business. I was supposed to play videos. The timing was off. There wasn’t enough space on the stage. It wasn’t well-organized. There’s no way I can put my legacy on the line for something like that because one thing goes wrong and I’m on the shit end of the stick.
Would you do another SMACK event?
Ah, basically I’m establishing a whole different thing. I can’t even speak on it yet but it’s going to be some real big shit that kind of gives us the platform we need and I think that thing is going to say way more than anything I can ever say. It’s going to be a sport, not just niggas rapping. I definitely appreciate what SMACK and URL have done for the battle culture. But for me, I’m looking at this shit as a real business and it can be a multi-million dollar thing and I can’t say that people have been doing the right thing for it to get to that level yet.
You came up in the real mixtape and DVD era, where the latest wasn’t downloadable or on YouTube. What was that era like?
For me, a lot of people don’t know the real legacy of battle rap. Back in those days, you had to be on the street with it. You couldn’t just go to a battle somewhere and they just let you battle. If they didn’t know you and you didn’t have some kind of reputation for being nice, you couldn’t get on that platform. I’ve battled in the street for years. I’ve had to battle whole crowds and whole hoods. Legendary, crazy shit and the whole projects just ran away crazy, screaming. That’s what gave me the confidence to do this shit. The people who were in that era, like Murda Mook and Loaded Lux, the other flagship artists that helped build that culture, we was on the street with that. I was the only one that really crossed over to online and TV, like MTV and BET with Fight Klub. Everybody else was on the street with it. That’s what catapulted me. Now you’ve got a lot of people who don’t appreciate and respect the culture. You’ve gotta announce who wins at the end of the battle. Now you got a lot of people who don’t’ really respect the foundation or the culture.
And Fight Klub didn’t just let anybody in.
I couldn’t get in at first. I had to battle motherfuckers and have someone vouch for me to even get in.
Are you still in touch with the Fight Klub folks like International P?
I’ve seen them. They were supposed to do something and I don’t know what happened. Shout out to them. It’s always all love when we speak. We made history together, so I’m definitely cool with those dudes.
What do you want to accomplish in 2014?
Man, I just want to be legendary, man. I want to be in a position where my music is permeating through the world and I can live a good life based off of my creations. I’m just thinking in much more simpler terms. I just want to make good music and be able to rock.