Labba, who hails from Flatbush, has been in the game for more than a minute, from rocking mics alongside Busta Rhymes to Action Bronson. After seeing the game from a different angle during his time messing with Violator in a unique deal that, although he worked alongside Busta, never saw him as a member of the Flipmode Squad, Labba ventured out on his own, armed with new knowledge of the game as well as a new plan. Lately, Labba’s been recording with the legendary P.F. Cuttin, who gives his scathing, brutally honest feedback to a host of legends he records, including Masta Ace and Sean Price, for the Labba Ranks album, a nod to his reggae roots cultivated since childhood. In this exclusive interview, Labba talks about what it takes to make it as an independent artist, reminisces on recording with Busta, discusses what it takes to effectively fuse hip-hop and reggae, and much more in this exclusive interview.
Here are some quotes from the feature:
On where his reggae influence comes from:
They were actually DJing and performing for us while we cooked jerk chicken and were eating phone and my big homies were around. That’s what it is and that’s what makes it so real. I ain’t even work with them. They were performing for us so I was learning from them. So what I did was I took that attitude of a Mavado and a Bounty Killer and all of that with an old school artist like a Super Cat and a Ninjaman and the attitude of that and put the attitude of that into hip-hop, and that’s what you see now. That’s what I did now. It’s like a fusion of artists and myself and the hip-hop culture. That’s what I did.
On what he learned working with Busta Rhymes:
Control the situation and educate yourself because there’s no school for this. There’s no school. That’s how I do the deals with WorldStar and other deals myself. Let record labels and other people who don’t love the online sensation stay there because I love it because it helps me run my machine. That’s what I learned. You are the machine. I could walk back to the same label that I walked out of right now after the Labba Ranks album comes out and get the distribution to push even further, but I’m like, ‘Why do that?’ Let me push it even further. I want to see how far I can go. You are the machine. RM6, which is Rebel Music, I’m RCA Records. I’m Def Jam Records. I’m not Duck Down. I’m bigger than that. I’m a bigger independent. They paved the way. That’s where I’m going. I’m going to be bigger than Duck Down, bigger than Def Jam, bigger than Universal. You can be bigger than the guys that signed you. I don’t need that shit. I’m winning without a record label and without a record deal.
On his deal with Busta Rhymes:
I could never get Buss out of the history of my hip-hop music because he’s a pioneer and I always knew him from around the way. He always used to come to Flatbush and all of that. I did business with him. It helped me to plateau. A lot of people don’t understand the kind of business that Busta did for me. They think I was signed to Flipmode and all of that. No. Chris [Lighty] gave us money to do something with a pop label but it folded and they were wack. They didn’t understand what we brought to the table and I know they’re stupid now because it would have been great. But I knew him from coming down Troy Avenue. I ended up brokering a deal with him and the label folded like stupid labels do and that’s it.
On his favorite work with Busta Rhymes:
I like all that shit. First of all, the songs that Buss was doing for me and me and him was working on together and he’s putting me on, that was great. I love all of them, the record with me, him, and Snoop and the record with me, him, and Xzibit. Nobody ever heard that. I never released that record and I never put it out. I always told him, “Yo, Buss, when I’m ready to release, I’m going to let you do it.” There’s records with me and Sean Paul. Buss put me on records and did stuff for me, put me on radio, that he never did for none of those Flipmode dudes. I’m good with that. I’m good with it all. My favorite mixtape would be the DJ Drama mixtape. I just remember smoking a lot of weed and Drama sending in a lot of beats and Cannon and T.I. coming over and Busta leaving me to do some records with him. That was dope shit, man.