OG Maco.

The Atlanta rapper spoke with us in March, between the first and second of the three tours he’s booked this year. We got into perspective, influence and frustration, but the point we kept returning to was agency. “I don’t want anybody to do exactly what I’m doing,” he said. “I want people to look at why I’m doing what I’m doing. And if you agree with that, you go do what you do about it.”

ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: OG Maco in the crib-o. What up, man?

OG MACO: What’s up, man. How you doing?

MUHAMMAD: I’m doing really well. I’m happy you’re here.

OG MACO: I’m happy to be here.

FRANNIE KELLEY: We’ve been trying to get you here for a while.

OG MACO: They told me something like that. That’s good, too. Cause I remember the NPR online story I did a while back. And I enjoyed that, cause I know my dad listen to NPR when he go to work. So I know he hear it. I know he see it.

KELLEY: Nice. We get that a lot. Like, people’s parents say, “Oh, you do have real job.”

OG MACO: Yeah, yeah. It’s a real job then when, you know — something like that.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah. I didn’t, I guess — well, my mom always supported me, but the fact that I’m on NPR now is really, I think, a bit more special, so.

OG MACO: Oh, it’s definitely more special.

KELLEY: Meanwhile, my mom’s like, “You could do, like, a science story or something. Maybe.”

MUHAMMAD: Tell her we’ll work on that.

KELLEY: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: We’ll bring — yeah, we work on that.

But no, really, we’ve been wanting to talk to you. Ever since I heard “U Guessed It,” I was like —

OG MACO: Yeah.

KELLEY: Yeah, he hit me up right away. Was like, “Book it.”

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

OG MACO: That’s lit. Thank you.

MUHAMMAD: Nah, it’s just, felt it in the spirit. And that was my introduction to you. But — and I’ve heard you speak about that song —

OG MACO: Right.

MUHAMMAD: — kind of in a put-down kind of a way sometimes, a little bit.

OG MACO: It’s more of a — it’s a pride thing, though. I think people — I think it was year one and I was just like — my perspective was a little different in some interviews.

My perspective on the song is still the same, though. I knew from the intent of making the song — it was one of those things like when you see the leaves in the yard and you like, “Man, I want to rake them leaves.” And then the leaves keep falling, and eventually you still gotta rake the leaves. That’s how the song was. It was like, “I know I’m a really amazing musician, so I don’t want to make this song.” But the universe was trying to teach me, “No. Let go of that pride and just do what you need to do for the universe and make this song you don’t want to make, and it’ll give back.”

MUHAMMAD: It’s an interesting lesson.

OG MACO: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: To learn that so young. I’m still at that point now where I’m just finally giving in.

OG MACO: Yeah, it’s hard. It’s not easy, you know, especially when it’s something you really, really love. I think that’s the problem, too. People get so involved in the thing they love, and you get a pride about it when you get good at it too, you know? Now you really good at it and you want the world to see how good you are at it, versus what the world needs from it. And it’s not always — you don’t always need the best of what you’re doing to give back to the world how it need it. Sometimes you be the best person you are.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

OG MACO: And that’s what you giving back. So.

MUHAMMAD: It’s a good perspective.

Alright. I want to jump backwards a little bit though.

KELLEY: OK.

MUHAMMAD: I want to take you back to 2004.

OG MACO: Word.

MUHAMMAD: Cam’ron put out Purple Haze. Kanye put out The College Dropout. De La Soul The Grind Date. Eminem Encore. Lloyd Banks The Hunger For More. Lil Wayne put out Tha Carter in that year. Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz put out Crunk Juice. And dead prez put out RBG. What were you doing in 2004?

OG MACO: 2004 —

KELLEY: Were you like 10?

OG MACO: No, I was a little older than that. 2000 — I probably was, actually. No, I was a little older. 2004, I would’ve been like sixth, seventh grade. Yeah. Like sixth grade. So I was a little rambunctious. That’s how we do it. A little rambunctious.

MUHAMMAD: In what way?

OG MACO: I mean, always — it’s kind of funny, cause I never wanted to be one of the cool kids, or whatever. I never wanted to be them. I remember there was a time when I — or maybe I did and maybe I just didn’t accept it to myself. Maybe I wanted to be them. But maybe — I think in that time where I was, like ,kind of not knowing I wanted to be them, I started seeing some similarities between what really being like them was. You know, how unaware they was to it. What it took to even do something later. The now is so important, man. We care about the now.

And so I didn’t want to be like them from that time. And me not being like them, it created a little conflict in me. It didn’t make me, like, lame to them or anything like that, cause they know that’s not what I’m thinking. But it created a conflict in me. And I’m mad. I’m angry all the time and s***. And I was cunning at the same time. So you got an angry, genius, cunning kid. You get into a bunch of s***, man. That’s what you do. You get into a bunch of trouble.

MUHAMMAD: So how did you express your uncontained emotions of —

OG MACO: Mischief. Grand scheme mischief. I remember I used to hate homework. So I like — cause homework was repetitive to me. I would just take the book — whatever the book we got for school, no matter how big it was — I’d just read it. It was a book. Nobody — the school system says you have to take your time and go through the book through the quarters and all that s***. But at the end of the day it’s just a f****** book, you know. It’s a book.

MUHAMMAD: Was there any music, either from either of those titles that I mentioned or anything that really stuck with you?

OG MACO: Yeah, I remember I was into all that. That’s the difference. I listened to all that. And it’s a probably a few rock albums — as a matter of a fact, I know I heard Black Sabbath 1972 that same year. I started hearing whispers of Fall Out Boy, you know, before I actually became a Fall Out Boy fan.

I was definitely — I was listening to all of those albums, except for Purple Haze actually. Cause I remember when I first heard Encore. I was in Ms. Short class, seventh grade. So yeah. That’s what grade I was in. Seventh. I remember that all of that, dog.

I remember Crunk Juice because Crunk Juice was so wild. It had that song with Ice Cube on it. “You better run, n****. I got the gun.” It was like, I was like, “Damn, bruh. Ice Cube a real thug. He said n**** like 85 times. He’s a real thug.” I remember that.

MUHAMMAD: When — only reason why I went back ten years to that — excuse me, 2004 — is because 2014 is when it seemed like you made the big splash. So usually, there’s — if you go back 10 years prior to your big moment, there’s significance to it. Some people may look at it and connect the dots, or it may just be nothing, just the past.

OG MACO: Oh no, mine was definitely — that was definitely when my anarchy started. And it was the anarchy that got me here. You know, but it’s the purpose though.

KELLEY: That’s funny. I was thinking something really, really similar on the drive over here. I was like, if you looked at what was Number 1 on the charts right now compared to — I was actually thinking like 20 years ago, but how crazy the difference would be.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

KELLEY: Like your songs would — it would’ve sounded like aliens had landed.

OG MACO: Alien music, yeah. Yeah. I mean, but that’s the point, though. That’s revolution. Evolution, you get something old, and it grows, it adapts. I didn’t really have to evolve. In evolution, you kind of submit. “OK. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I gotta change me.” So you evolve as a person. But you don’t want to evolve the music. You want to revolutionize the music, and do something amazing. That’s what I feel like. That’s what I feel like I do.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

OG MACO: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: Do you feel that there’s still a long way you gotta go, or you feel like you understand the path and you’re in control of it?

OG MACO: I understand I’m the master of the universe, you know?

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

OG MACO: So I understand what steps have to be taken, and it’s a journey. It’s some things — it’s just the time, even with the music. Right now, I just got off the phone with Brandon. Everybody know I got rid of Brandon. Brandon wasn’t my producer no more. Duh duh duh.

But I’m about to bring him back to OGG. Because now — we created a sound that the kids — that we told the kids to look at, and the kids didn’t look at it. They felt it, which is even better. And so now they’re starting to make music that sound like the sound we created. And it makes sense cause we was the coolest s*** to them. So that’s what happens with it.

But I know at the same time it’s the kids, and the kids gotta grow up. And you can’t rush the kids growing up. They don’t have any — a lot of my biggest fans don’t have any buying power right now. They can’t affect the market. They still in school. So that’s — it’s not that I’m waiting on my talent to get any better. I’m getting better every day. It’s that time hasn’t reached a place where the people who are most influenced by my music can even affect anything. It’s love right now, and everything else is a blessing.

KELLEY: I mean, to kind of go back to some of the time stuff, so I really liked Tax Free. And you made that with — so, he’s Bob Dylan’s grandson.

OG MACO: Well, yeah. That’s my brother, yeah.

KELLEY: And I was thinking about this poem, this Bob Dylan poem that my cousin had sent me a long time ago. And I have it here. It’s really beat up cause it was on my wall in college. But a lot of what he’s talking about is, in detail, similar to what you’re talking about, all this many years later. So I would say that your sound is certainly revolutionary, your musicality is, but we’re still talking about the same s***.

OG MACO: You have to, cause life has not revolutionized. Life has evolved.

KELLEY: OK.

OG MACO: See what I’m saying?

KELLEY: Yeah, I do. I do.

OG MACO: That’s why a person evolves. You look at — you know, you can take a dictator out and put whoever you want in. But at the end of the day, certain aspects of life will always exist until something else revolutionizes. So that was the point. That’s why me and Pablo are — it’s Tax Free. It’s because regardless of which perspective you come at it from —

Think about it. Pablo is like from one of the legendary families of America, you know what I’m saying? I’m regular old me. I’m from — if you go to Nigeria, I’m a little bit better, but I’m regular old me. And yet our perspective on s***, from the day we met, it’s the exact same. So that’s why if — he can craft the soundscape, right, then I can speak the same words. Because perspective is coming from a black voice or a white voice, it don’t really matter. It’s — the world hasn’t really changed too much. Just who’s inheriting it. That’s all it is. So it’s Tax Free.

KELLEY: But then also the song, “No Mo.”

OG MACO: Yeah.

KELLEY: So that’s a reiteration of some — or, not an appropriation — but it’s a lift from somebody that people would consider your progenitors in some way.

OG MACO: Right. Right.

KELLEY: I’m just stuck in this — that it’s still so frustrating. And that specific complaint.

OG MACO: Well, it’s even more frustrating on that one, because they already said it.

KELLEY: Right. Exactly. Yeah.

OG MACO: They asked — they pointed out, “Look at what we not doing no more.” And people was like, “Yea, but I mean, bro, look at them Jordans, though.” And so now you like, boom. We back to it again. Now it matters again, more than ever! You like, “Look. Look at the world. We need you to care.” And they like, “Man, look at them Yeezys.” You know what I’m saying? So it’s like —

KELLEY: I’m gonna cry.

OG MACO: You know what I’m saying?

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

OG MACO: It’s still there, dog. And for people who care about it, it’s even more frustrating because it’s not too many of us who are born in every generation. It’s only but so many of us.

MUHAMMAD: So what, then, as an artist and as a revolutionary-minded person, and in action, in this time period, knowing the history of where we’ve come from, where we are today, knowing that there haven’t been many changes from — there’s been changes from the ’60s to 2014, but it seems like there’s areas where there’s just stagnation. And so what then for this generation, a younger generation, is the one thing that’s going to flip the switch and make that change?

Because if you go back to the ’60s, people could not put $400 on sneakers. Could barely walk around free. Couldn’t sit on buses in certain areas, you know. And these things we have — we have freedoms. We have these liberties, but at the same time, there’s still kids that’s suffering from oppression, lack of education, lack of opportunity, lack of health care. So what is going to be the thing — like in the ’60s that people got together and really flipped the switch and established that change, and right now. What is that thing that’s just going to jolt everybody?

Cause as you mention, the Yeezys? They’re important to some people, but on the grander scale of humanity and where we are in America, yeah, it’s not —

OG MACO: Inception, you know what I’m saying? The difference between the ’60s and now is like this, everyone cared. Enough people cared.

KELLEY: It was cool to care.

OG MACO: It was cool to care, right? But now it’s cool to not care. It’s cool to be alone. So you have to use inception. You have to make them think caring was their idea. You have to make them care —

KELLEY: You’re so right.

OG MACO: If you try and work it from the light, it won’t work. You gotta work in the shadows and manipulate everything around them that is cool to care about what you want to be cool, and then they will think that thing you care about is cool. Simply because every other part of their life is screaming to them that you need to care or things you love will die. They won’t be cool anymore, and people will care more about themselves enough to do the things it takes to care about everybody else. They don’t actually have to care about everybody else. They just have to do the things that matter for everybody to care about everybody else.

Same with “U Guessed It.” It was a test. That’s what I told people. “U Guessed It” was an experiment to see if I could make people think that they thought the song was cool. Song isn’t f****** cool. It’s that it’s a feeling. I made you feel something. I made you feel what you always feel. You always felt it but didn’t know how to say it. Right, so I said it a way that you wouldn’t want to say it. But you just never had the nuts to say it. And so now you think that was — “Man, this is a great song.” That’s not a great song; it’s a great feeling. That’s what it is.

And so you do the same thing in every other aspect of your life when you trying to revolutionize things. It’s — you have to — you can’t change — the world is gonna do what it do. That’s the times. So it’s no point in trying to sit there and unify everybody. They don’t want to be unified. To now, difference is the cool. “I’m different.” You not really different. You just like that group of people. It’s just a bunch of different groups but they all the exact f****** same.

You can’t try and unify those people, because that just tear ’em apart more. You have to let them be alone. Let them in they own mind think they came into an idea, so they can come back to the group and say, “I have an idea.” That’s it.

MUHAMMAD: So that’s your plan. That’s what you’re doing.

OG MACO: That’s what I do.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

OG MACO: Yeah.

KELLEY: How involved is Coach K in that plan?

OG MACO: He trust me with it. It’s my plan. It’s like, legends know legends. Whether they a legend then or now or — you know what I’m saying — will be, legends know legends. You can smell it. So he ask what I’m thinking. “What you thinking about? You good?” He just make sure my mind right. Because a powerful mind in the wrong space is a terrible thing.

KELLEY: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: Especially in this business, cause —

KELLEY: Yeah.

OG MACO: Especially in this business.

MUHAMMAD: — there’s a lot of veils. A lot.

OG MACO: Yeah. And you can’t see through it.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

OG MACO: Yeah. Ugly.

KELLEY: So when he — I know you’ve told this story before, but when you dropped Breathe, when you made it, and then he heard it and he was like, “I’ma put this out right now.”

OG MACO: Yeah, I mean, it was like — I just always — I just be angry about certain s***. I just tell him. We just be sitting around, and I just be like, “Man, you seen that s***, dog? They shot this little boy.” I be telling him about all of them. I just got tired of telling him, you know what I’m saying?

KELLEY: Yeah.

OG MACO: And so I went to the studio one day, and I stayed in there all night. You know, and I was really just in there. I wasn’t making Breathe yet. I was just in there. I was in the studio. And then I told my engineer, Phresh Produce — I was like, “Phresh, just send me a beat that sound oppressed, dog. Like, send me some s***.” He was like, “I got you.” So he sent it, and when everybody got there in the morning, I recorded them like back to back.

But LC and them all — that night, before I left, I recorded the first song. I recorded “Get Down.” But it was just as a reference. I was never planning on, say, releasing that version of it. I was going to release — cause I felt like that version was too raw. Like, it was like — you could tell I care too much.

KELLEY: Too sincere.

OG MACO: Yeah. Yeah, it was too sincere. Like, I care way too much. And he was like, “Nah, that’s what they want. They want to see that you care that bad, that you could be hurt by this. Put it out.” And I was like, “Well, let’s put it out like in a couple months.” He said, “Naw. Let’s put it out now.” He like, “Put it out right now.” I’m like, “When right now?” He like, “Man, look, man. If I send the songs off to mastering now — LC email me them right now — they’ll be back by tomorrow, and we’ll put it tomorrow.” I said, “I’ll get a cover made right now then, alright.”

And that’s how it went. You know, he just felt it was important. He was like, “At a time when everybody else isn’t speaking on everything else, that you could be making songs about lean or —” You know, “U Guessed It” was really really early, so of course — we had already done millions on the Internet and all that s***, but to me, my reach was real early. And it was like, he was like, “It’s very rare, a kid that’s on the path where you can just go make hits. But chooses, ‘I want to speak about some s***.’ You know what I’m saying? That show people right there you care enough. So put it out.”

So we did.

MUHAMMAD: He’s right.

KELLEY: And the fact that it was three songs, that there was an arc, and that you went through a bunch of different feelings and I thought you ended — I mean, I think saying “Riot now” is a concrete idea. I think it’s a valid suggestion.

OG MACO: If you look at every other country, every other country does. We don’t. Every other country that is oppressed, whether it’s directly or consequentially, they all riot. They remove people, you know, whether these people want to be removed or not. “OK. We gon’ remove you.” Removal doesn’t always take violence, you know what I’m saying? You can get people out of places real quick if you know what you’re doing.

But that’s not what they — that America, the land of the mighty, talking-tough, and gangsters and the biggest crime lords ever, we don’t — we can’t get rid of nobody. Cause people — somebody get there and we just like, “Oh, man, we stuck.” I don’t get it. Like, just — we got all this time to put so much negative energy toward each other. Put some negative energy toward — if you gon’ have the negative energies, put it toward these people. Because they have a whole plan that this is a consequence of anyway.

So if you not doing nothing about it, you can’t really — you know?

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

OG MACO: Yeah.

KELLEY: Well, the plan is also dependent on not publicly —

OG MACO: The plan is dependent on energy.

KELLEY: — committing violence against certain people.

OG MACO: You don’t have to commit violence against people — you can commit acts of treasons against they interests.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

OG MACO: Through life. Just by living.

KELLEY: Yeah. True.

OG MACO: You know?

KELLEY: Totally.

OG MACO: If you have a certain idea about certain things and you know this is powering this interest, the real money isn’t money. It’s people. People are the money. And so you just, “Hey, man. Y’all stop doing that.” It’ll get rid of that. Get rid of it. That easy.

KELLEY: It doesn’t feel easy.

OG MACO: Attrition. You ever heard of a war of attrition?

KELLEY: Yeah.

OG MACO: Yeah. Attrition.

KELLEY: Attrition is awful. Like, you gotta kill so many people.

OG MACO: Hey, but we’ve been fighting a war of attrition though. Think about it. It’s been like 200 years. Attrition. You know what I’m saying? Longer than that if you talking about something like a system like capitalism, how that work. And how — and the levels that it’s reached now, we already dealt — we’ve lost 99% of our freedom. It’s like 1% left, and they got it. That’s the real 99 and 1%.

MUHAMMAD: Yup.

KELLEY: Yeah.

OG MACO: It’s not the money. It’s the freedom. That is war of attrition, breh. They just been waiting out. They wait it out. These families been around. They been rich for centuries, dog, and they good. Decades. They been good. They waited us out.

KELLEY: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: I don’t know. I’m just sitting here thinking. I’m just like, it’s really frustrating from — it’s frustrating to be living right now.

OG MACO: It is very — it is.

MUHAMMAD: Especially if you know what you know.

OG MACO: Yeah.

KELLEY: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: That’s even — it’s a challenge, because — I’ll use a small example. In this presidential campaign, you have — I’ll speak on Donald Trump. You have people who go to his lectures, speeches, whatever, and you have people who are protesting. And the way that they bounce them out, just a simple thing like that, I look at the people that go there to speak out and I’m like, “Yeah. Rock the boat.” But then it’s like, if you can see that he’s already got a plan for that, then we gotta plan better.

OG MACO: Word. You have to.

MUHAMMAD: And —

KELLEY: You don’t think those people getting arrested or getting shoved out, that guy who got punched the other day, that the fact that there’s video of that, that that acts against him?

MUHAMMAD: No, because —

OG MACO: No. Not at all.

MUHAMMAD: Because the people —

What should happen in that instance is like, when the guy got punched, it’s like, “Yo, officer as you’re pushing me, escorting me out here. This man assaulted me. You should arrest —” Like that — we didn’t see that.

And on top of that, I don’t think that that’s going to be enough to really excite people to really see how the power’s diminished, but how it’s — how you can be — I don’t want to use the world revolutionary, cause that sometimes can be extreme and scare people — but how you are born into this world free and how to maintain your freedom.

In the same way that they are imposing their power, those who are being oppressed by that can do the same thing, and so I don’t think that having — seeing that on television is going to really push people, to motivate people, to be outraged enough to go, “Hold on. Maybe we should stand in unison with these people, united.” I don’t think that’s that.

I really think if you want to protest Trump, yeah, cool. Send some people there. You know, make sure your numbers are proper. Send some people there. But it has to be something else on top of that.

OG MACO: The second problem is acceptance. Trump, if you look at — if you’re honest with yourself as an American — cause it’s an American-only experience, too, which makes it even worse, right? If you accept yourself as an American, it is very clear that Donald Trump is actually the true values of America.

KELLEY: Right. Exactly.

MUHAMMAD: Right. Exactly.

OG MACO: Donald Trump is the actual true — not the ones we want, but the ones that actually exist, he is the living embodiment of them. He is all of them, not even, like, some of them. He’s all of ’em at one time.

MUHAMMAD: Exactly.

OG MACO: And so that embodiment is the interest that we’re talking about. In living form. You can’t — how do you fight against that? This is literally — you’re looking at — you know what I’m saying? And this is all coming from what was seemingly left field. But it’s not left field. You have to look at when people are the weakest. And now it’s time. People are they weakest. They use —

And I mean, that’s what — like you said, it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating even more so when you born in this generation. Cause I’m part of it. I’m looking at it, and I look at how many people around me don’t even look at it, don’t even see it. It’s not even a thought. And just even when you try and bring it up, they don’t want to talk about it. Cause, one, they don’t know anything about it, and they don’t want to feel or look stupid.

KELLEY: Well, all anybody cares about is winning.

OG MACO: Yeah, man. But look at why we losing.

MUHAMMAD: It’s just, when I first heard “U Guessed It,” I instantly was like, “He got that feeling.” And —

KELLEY: It was the video, too.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah, the video was crazy. It said so much about anarchy and about the angst of the younger generation.

OG MACO: Right.

MUHAMMAD: And the fearlessness.

OG MACO: Right.

MUHAMMAD: What may be seemingly recklessness.

OG MACO: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: I mean, it was just so much attached to that. And then going beyond that with regards to your music and the feeling that you talking about — cause you got that feeling. A lot of people don’t have that feeling. And so knowing what you know I’m just interested in how you really cultivate that. Like, looking at your shows and your performances, it seems like even another stratosphere of what you’re doing from a studio perspective.

OG MACO: If you — I tell people that all the time, and this European tour was kind of like a culmination of that. You can listen to my music, and you can feel my music. But my shows are like church. It’s when you realize that — it’s like realizing, “Damn. It’s all real.”

Because it’s equivalent exchange. You only get what you give. So when you have that many people you’ve influenced to come somewhere, you can’t stop, right? Then it’d be like, “Damn. I got them all to get here. Now just gotta do this easy part. Say the words.” It’s deeper than that. Cause you’re exchanging energies with these people.

So to get that — to contain that much energy already will be tough enough, right, but to give out that same amount of energy as two, three, 30, 100,000 people, you have to give energy to each one of them. Everybody that moves is getting a little bit of energy from you. So you’re a battery right then. You powering this whole thing.

But you need it to work, because that’s where the inception start. That’s what they remember. That’s the moment right there, and if they don’t have that memory, if that memory never exist, then you never exist where you need to. So you gotta get them all. I leave it all right there. I try and die on stage. I tell people that all the time. I try and die on stage every time. Cause that’s the closest you can be to the people. You can give them good pictures and you can do all that, but in that moment, there — we equals. We all came here to do the same thing.

MUHAMMAD: What do you bring back from going to Europe and that experience? What do you bring back to the States?

OG MACO: Acceptance of who I am. America try to seed a lot of doubt in you. And make you less powerful. You not believed in. And when you giving people something like that, if you don’t believe in yourself, then it’s kind of null and void. It’s kind of hollow, you know what I’m saying?

And so when I went to Europe and the fact we doing all this, this is Year Two. That’s the main thing I say to people all the time. Year Two. They ask me what my mind state is. My mind state is Year Two. And if you go back to Year One, nobody’s ever done the things I’ve done in one year. Nobody. It’s not — we checked.

And so the fact that you look at a lot of artists and everybody talk about this person; they talk about this person, but they not saying anything, it’s a reason. You don’t want — “That shouldn’t be possible.” I did Philips Arena — “You did Philips Arena three times in one year. You went to REVOLT Live and 25 shows at SX.” Which, I know for a fact nobody’s ever done 25 shows at SX.

KELLEY: Because it would kill most people.

OG MACO: It would kill most people.

KELLEY: Don’t do that.

OG MACO: But I did it, you know what I’m saying? Things like this — or for me to have my own record label and we already got Grammy Award-winning artists. It’s like — things like that, you have to pay attention. And that’s how you know, “OK. I’m doing the right thing.” You might not get all the fruits of s*** right then.

And you gon’ give some more, and then you gon’ give some more, and that’s — but you don’t get it back. And then you’ll give more for the experience and the perspective, like I said. That’s my biggest thing. The perspective that you gain during that time is what really make everything possible.

KELLEY: Do you have any specific memories of places in Europe that —

OG MACO: F****** right.

KELLEY: Like what?

OG MACO: Hell yeah. I mean, well, like one of the first shows was definitely kind of crazy. It’s a little story — I guess I’ll tell the little story. So one day when I was out here, a few months ago, everybody seen this picture with me and Ian and Rocky and Miguel and s*** on the bench. That was an actual moment. That wasn’t like part of the video, and then we snapped a picture before we started shooting. That was like a actual moment when we was all kicking s***.

And he was leaning over; he was like, “Bruh.” He was like, “Don’t change nothing you doing.” And I was like, “What you mean?” He was like, “Bruh, don’t change nothing you doing.” “Bruh, me and Rocky just came from Paris, and they dressing just like you over there.” And I was like, “Huh?” And he was like, “Breh, they dress just like you over there. Like, the music, everything, breh. They really f****** with you, dog. Don’t leave.” He was like, “Don’t change. Don’t let — no matter what I wear. Nobody. Just keep doing what you’re doing.” Right?

And so like a few minutes later, the director for the video was actually French and he was like, “Oh my god, it’s OG Maco. I cannot believe this.” He made me autograph his stuff. So I’m kind of like a little, you know, believing it.

And we went to France, and every show in France sold out. Skrillex called me. I remember — that was really the moment. Skrillex called me when I was in Bordeaux, France and was like, “I’m in Paris. Can you get here with me and CL?” I was like, “Well, nah. I just did a show.” I was like, “Where you playing at?” He was like, “La Machine Du Moulin Rouge.” Right? So I was like, “Damn, he at the Moulin Rouge. That’s lit.” Only to find out the very next day, I’m in the exact same spot.

KELLEY: Really?

OG MACO: Yeah. I’m in the exact same spot, the exact same stage. And we did numbers. So it was like, that was a moment. I was like, “Holy f***. This is Skrillex and CL —” both of them friends of mine. So I know where they’re at, without any hate or any jealousy or envy, like really just, really proud. Like, this is the company that I keep. And for me to do the exact same thing the very next day was like, “Yeah. This is who I really am.”

And I been — you’ll let America fool you into thinking like — because we live in social media and s***, so you like, “Man, damn. Ah, I’m losing.” Nah, you winning. You’re effective. You’re very effective.

MUHAMMAD: So, yeah, and as you are to these kids in France and I’m sure Germany —

OG MACO: Yeah, yeah. Definitely.

MUHAMMAD: — have you been to Asia yet?

OG MACO: Yeah. Actually, I went to South Korea. What’s so wild is I’m one of the biggest people in South Korea.

MUHAMMAD: What’s South Korea like?

OG MACO: Amazing. Amazing. I’ll just say in South Korea, I seen zero instances of crime. And they don’t have a public intoxication rule, so just think about that. You know? I barely seen any cops. I barely seen any in uniform.

It was — they have — South Korea’s kind of divided into districts based on what kind of life you live. So let’s say you love hip-hop and you like fashion and whatnot, you live in Hongdae, which is like the hip-hop district. So everything in that little city, right — I say little city, but it’s not a little city. Everything inside the whole district is like it’s own mini-city, and it’s all catered to everything that would do if that’s the lifestyle you live.

MUHAMMAD: So, you’re OG to a lot of these youngins out there.

OG MACO: Right.

MUHAMMAD: Who’s your OG?

OG MACO: Got a bunch of them. Got bunch of them. Some of these kids is OGs to me. They teach me how to live better. The kids don’t have all the knowledge and therefore all the fears that come along with growing older. It’s just not developed.

And so, I think that’s a term a lot of people misunderstand. They misunderstand the OG, that you gotta be old or something like that. OG is someone who gives you wisdom, teaches you wisdom, regardless. You can have a newborn — most newborns are OGs, cause they teach pops and mom something right then, when they come out.

And so you gotta — I think a lot of people misunderstood that to be like me trying to be super gangster or some s*** like that, but I mean, the realest gangsters in the world all got life or they dead or some s***. Everybody else is just doing what they gotta do to live how they can live. You feel me? And I ain’t saying that makes everything forgiven or s*** like that. But at the same time, I don’t think you can consider those people gangsters.

That’s why we get that “real n****” term. You know, “He’s a real n****.” You know what I’m saying? Because sometimes gangsters have a motive. Like, “I’m doing this. I don’t care about — this is just a consequence of that, and that’s how I deal with that.” You feel me? That’s a gangster. A gangster think like that. A real n**** has regrets about s***, but he knows why he’s doing it. He knows, “If I don’t do this, then the baby won’t eat.” That’s what it is. So I gotta — it’s: “The baby won’t eat, or I’ma take this chance.” That’s what it is.

And I just wanted to get kids like a little view of that. Not of the glorifying it but of the chance, of the difference between what it could be and what it is and what you want. And that’s how I structure my music. This is what it is. Like I did the “30 Hours” freestyle. “I’m in the streets with the kids with a MAC-10, trying to tell them do better, choose good friends. A hypocrite in every hero. I’m using every damn wish in Geppetto’s. I even want to make the fake real if I can.” You feel what I’m saying? No matter what it is.

But I realize I’m in the streets with these kids like, “Man, look. Go find good people. Do these great things.” And knowing I gotta protect my own life with this s***, just because. I didn’t do nothing to nobody. They just — that’s what they intentions are.

MUHAMMAD: I really wish that more artists, especially from the hip-hop genre, would be more honest that way.

OG MACO: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: Cause I think that’s — and I’ll say this from my generation. I think that’s what’s missing, and perspective is lost, completely.

OG MACO: It’s gone.

MUHAMMAD: And just for the people but just the artists themselves, it’s like, you fall victim to —

OG MACO: Lost in the sauce.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah. And so being honest and not necessarily — it’s not a matter of glorifying your achievements, your accomplishments, your setbacks, your adversities, but just being honest and full about whatever your story is.

OG MACO: They don’t want to be vulnerable, because they think that vulnerability makes them less like a deity. But what people forget about is that people like the Greek gods, because they was human.

MUHAMMAD: That’s a good word.

OG MACO: People listened to them because they was human. They looked at they human qualities and they found that in they self. And they said, “This is something I can learn from.” But you look at deity; you don’t see any faults in it. You don’t want to really want to be that. You envy it, or you respect it, but you don’t want to learn from it. You just duplicate it.

I don’t want anybody to do exactly what I’m doing. Cause that makes life stale. I want people to look at why I’m doing what I’m doing. And if you agree with that, you go do what you do about it so one day I can call on you to do something different. Cause I can already do what I do. I want to be able to call on you to do something different and help a greater web about it. Cause it’s a battle of attrition.

If you don’t make any new anything — that’s why you got a problem with like fathers not being in the home. It’s not that strong men can’t be raised by women or something like that. Or that strong females can’t be raised by men. It has nothing to do with that. It’s about the yin and yang of the situation. It’s certain stuff that’s just gotta come from your mom. Your mom gotta say it. Your mom and dad can say the same sentence, but your mom gotta say the sentence or you don’t understand it.

When she tell you, “Don’t hurt that girl.” You understand it a little bit different, cause you’re like, “Damn. What if my mom got hurt by my dad? This was — some dude had to hurt my mom like this for my dad to even come along.” So you know what I’m saying? Like, you think about it. But when it’s your dad like, “Hey, man, don’t hurt that girl.” You just like, “Man, you probably did something, man. What you talking about, dog?” That’s just how it is.

And so it’s things like that. It’s because people missing perspective on life that they can’t express it in the music. You know, your leaders are misleading you.

KELLEY: That’s why we have a man and a woman hosting this podcast. It’s different.

OG MACO: Yeah, but see y’all got synergy.

KELLEY: Yeah.

OG MACO: Yeah. Synergy works. The world is in disarray, and the youth is not — they don’t know what they are. They — it’s a difference — you got like two, three different types of youth right now. You have the doers, and then you have the — I call them like — they programmed. The ’90s was a lot of programming. I think maybe our generation is more programmed — we are more like computers than any other generations ever. We are mechanized, man.

KELLEY: We are very caught up.

OG MACO: And it’s not even like — they made — they used the freedom against us. They gave you a false sense of freedom to make you think that you was making a choice. That’s why I didn’t even realize it. I realized I didn’t even want to watch this s***. It was just all that was there. So I picked it.

All they have to do is put around enough s*** shows around an almost decent show, but that show is the one that carries the message they want. And you ignore the other ones, and you will take this one. And they will tell you this is the best show, and they will give it awards. And they will give it this, and they’ll give it that. And then they’ll tell your friends to tell your friends to watch it. And then, boom. That message is what matters.

There was a time when reality TV didn’t exist, and no one gave a f***. But when people’s own lives got so bad, think about what happened. The recession hit. The whole world was at s***, and what happened? People lives got so bad they didn’t want to give a f*** about they life. They wanted to look at somebody else life and what appeared after recession? Reality TV.

KELLEY: So this is all like an answer to the question: why do you do what you do, I think?

OG MACO: To change this s***.

KELLEY: So what would it look like when you’re done?

MUHAMMAD: I was just going to ask that question.

KELLEY: Synergy.

OG MACO: What kind of world do I think will exist?

KELLEY: What do you want it to look like?

OG MACO: I don’t want it to look like anything.

KELLEY: Just not this.

OG MACO: I want it to have a chance to look like anything.

KELLEY: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: Mmm.

OG MACO: I don’t want to shape the world in my image. That’s not my — that’s not my purpose. I think that somebody who’s life I’ll touch, maybe that’s they purpose. But I don’t honestly believe that that’s my purpose to shape the world in my image. I think my purpose is to give the world a fighting chance. A blank slate, maybe.

KELLEY: OK, yeah.

OG MACO: You know, one that didn’t come from a bunch of losses of life or a bunch of fake goods either. I don’t want to do either one. I don’t think, in my infinite wisdom, that I have enough wisdom to shape the world with billions of people in it, with billions of hopes and billions of dreams.

KELLEY: But do you have hope?

OG MACO: That is my hope.

KELLEY: OK.

OG MACO: That’s my dream.

KELLEY: OK.

OG MACO: My hope is that the people get a chance.

MUHAMMAD: I love that.

OG MACO: I get so mad at being human in this generation, because being human isn’t cool no more.

KELLEY: Yeah.

OG MACO: You know?

KELLEY: Mm-hmm.

OG MACO: But at the same time, that’s the greatest gift I realize. Because when I — I lost so many people. I realized when I lose those people that I lose something that’ll never come back. You can never — you can find a person that reminds you of a person. People have similar traits. But that energy, that magic, is gone, forever.

And so for people to realize that they have it, right, then they will realize that we can really steer the universe. Like, we can all be masters — when you ask me that, I’m a master of the universe. We’re all f****** masters of the — remember it was He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe? It wasn’t just one.

KELLEY: Yeah. Yo, I used to date this guy who made me watch that movie all the time.

OG MACO: Yeah, but it wasn’t just one master of the universe though. That’s what people —

KELLEY: Yea, there was a girl, too.

OG MACO: Right! They were the masters of the universe. It was a reason for that. That’s my goal.

KELLEY: Yeah, I mean, I used to not really believe in like energy, the word, “energy.” And now it’s the only thing that I particularly care about.

OG MACO: Yeah. It’s the only thing that matters.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

KELLEY: I was thinking about that when I was — I was stuck in some traffic over here, and I was listening to Live Life 2.

OG MACO: Yeah.

KELLEY: And my car was, like, shaking. My car has a pretty good system, and people are irritated — people are frequently irritated when they are sitting next to me in traffic because that’s how I choose to listen to music.

But yeah, I kind of felt — I understood — I’ve always understood, but it was repeated how much I like my car being that loud and music like the production that you choose enabling me to do that, enabling me to be in this space. And people are like, “Who is this b***?” And then also they look in my window, they’re like, “Who is this little white girl? What the f*** is going on?

But — I know it sounds really distorted outside the car and everything, but it being loud allows me to put it in more situations —

OG MACO: Word. That’s the universe.

KELLEY: — and hopefully other people can hear it. And understand that you don’t have to be quiet.

OG MACO: Yeah. Right.

MUHAMMAD: You know, it’s — I don’t know if you’re — you saying that just made me think about the technical aspect in the studio you’re recording.

KELLEY: Yes.

MUHAMMAD: I don’t know if it’s deliberate or you guys are just going with the flow. But I know, with regards to your lyrics and your tone, that there’s such a — there is energy, and then topped with lyrics that are very thoughtful and provocative. So there’s power in that. Me, as a sound guy that I am, I would want to hear that a little bit more clear. But I do understand that sometimes tucking the vocal is to get you — is to just make you just —

OG MACO: Vibe.

MUHAMMAD: — fall into it.

OG MACO: Right. You gotta fall into it.

MUHAMMAD: I gotta fall into this.

OG MACO: Word.

MUHAMMAD: And so I understand that, but I also think that — I mean, I guess you just gotta totally feel it out, but just —

OG MACO: No no. You’re completely right. I wasn’t going to interrupt you to tell you that you’re completely right before you got the idea out, but you completely right. And that’s actually the process we started from my second album. And we did on the first one. So that’s why we feel like it’s so important to get it out. But you are completely right, and we realize that.

MUHAMMAD: It’s just cause your message is so important. I think that people just — they don’t — it’s not so apparently clear to them, and they’re not willing to commit to really just getting absorbed into it.

OG MACO: But you remember what I told you?

MUHAMMAD: So they listen from the surface perspective and then there’s just a lot of “eh eh eh.” And I think your message, especially with a lot of what you have said here and you’ve said in your other interviews, but specifically with your music, because of the feeling and because of just simply — to hear an artist say, “I just want to give the world a fighting chance,” like, that’s heroic. It’s really pushing on my heart to hear you say that, in a wonderful way.

OG MACO: Thank you.

MUHAMMAD: So your music is already — exemplifies that. I just want — from a sonic perspective, I want to make sure that that message is, like, mmm.

OG MACO: I will tell you this though, and so you have proof that I’m not just trying to b******* you into thinking you was right, right? Because some people think people do that s***. I never do that. I’m — you are completely right.

But both was deliberate. Making it kind of garbled. You gotta — sometimes you need to — the draw at first needed to be the deliberate, the apparent. It needed to be the draw. But everybody won’t initially pick up the message, but the right people will. Cause they see through the b******. You see what I’m saying?

MUHAMMAD: Absolutely.

OG MACO: They see through the veil of the “Yeah, yeahs,” the “F*** ’em, f*** ’em, f*** ’ems,” and the good engineering and the sonics. They see through all of that and they like, “OK. All that s*** is amazing. Damn he mastered that craft. Now what’s he talking about? Oh, s***. He’s talking about something. Well, let’s hear that a little bit better.” And so now we minimize it.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah. Yeah.

OG MACO: Now we pulling everything else back, and we got the vocals right where they supposed to be at, so the power and the message isn’t lost, more so in the power of the emotion. Cause now I got people to feel something. Now I gotta want you to care about it.

MUHAMMAD: I feel like The Lord Of Rage, it seems like it’s a little bit — you know, there’s more space, and there’s clarity. So like when — “I Am Legend,” it’s like, “Boom. Bingo.” And I hear it, and I love that.

OG MACO: Damn. You good at what you do, bro. Cause you didn’t even know — it’s kind of — it’s exciting to me. I’ma tell you why. Because “I Am Legend” was one of the first album cuts. And the only reason it ended up on Lord Of Rage — we had finished the album, and The Lord Of Rage is actually the prequel to Children Of The Rage, like this jacket I got on. So we figured we had — it’s literally literal.

Children Of The Rage, when it comes out, is like a kind of guidebook to the whys of what we doing, how we living. That’s what my album is really about. It’s about us. It’s about the entire generation. It’s not about me. But The Lord Of Rage is more so a raw view of my viewpoints and my understanding of what I got so far and enough energy to get you through the day. That’s what The Lord Of Rage intentions was.

And that’s why when people look at the covers, they always ask me what they mean. Like, this whole skeleton thing got everybody creeped out. But the guy was walking through the forest, and the forest seemed like it was beautiful. But he was walking; he see flames. Right. It’s the flames of passion and revolution. Sometimes you gotta burn it down, you know?

But then he makes it onto the cross, and you’re already on the cross. You’re already on the cross. You already been stripped of everything. And they still try to punish you, right? And even then, they still burn you, but you still exist. See what I’m saying? Through all of that I never had to say you wasn’t there. You still there. You still — sometimes the flames, even when they go for you, you still there, and that still gives you a chance, and it’s sacrifice in that.

That’s why I put him on the cross. It’s not cause it’s supposed to be Jesus. It’s because the cross was a place where you was judged by people who read a book that says, “You can’t judge people.” But they still judged you. It’s a hypocrite in every hero. See what I’m saying? And so that’s what the understanding of my music leads you to that. We will repeat the mistakes. We will crucify the wrong people. We will judge when we can’t judge.

You might judge the person that can save the world. And if you do that, you will take they power from them, because they take it from theyself. You make them believe they are not powerful, and they’ll sit down. And then they will win. And they don’t want to see you win. Shout to Khaled. They don’t want to see you win. They don’t want to see you have a bigger pool than Kanye. And you can’t let them win.

I won’t let ’em win. That’s my biggest — a lot of people ask me all the time — they ask me, “Since you been famous and the fact your song popped off and all this stuff and all that success, what’s your favorite thing about it?” And a lot of people like, “It’s the girls, ain’t it?” And, no, I don’t care about that. You can get girls you can not be successful. I did that. That’s easy. “Is it the clothes or the money?”

No, ain’t none of that stuff. The thing that’s great is that no matter — ’til the day I die, right, I can walk up to any little kid in the world and tell them, “Look, man. You really just have to — you gotta focus, and you gotta need it for more than just you, and I promise you can make anything happen. But you gotta —”

KELLEY: Cause you’re proof?

OG MACO: Cause I’m living proof! I can show you. I don’t — I can show you. It’s documented. Like, it’s video and writings and everything. So I don’t have to speak from a place of wondering or trying to give you hope. I can show you, and let you make your own hope. And if you choose to do good or evil, you at least chose. The choice, the choice is what matters. You take the choice. You gotta have the light and the dark. You can’t do one of either one. But you — but the choice is — if we lose the choice, man, then it’s not even human no more.

KELLEY: So do you have a plan for longevity?

OG MACO: I mean, I think as long as people alive, I don’t see me going nowhere. It’s just always — it’s always going to be people against me, because I’m not — I’m not something you really want to invest in too much if — you know what I’m saying?

If you look at — if what you’re trying to get me to do — you have two options with people like me, right? Cause we can’t be bought. You gotta try and buy out our interest. So the same game I’m playing somebody can play against me. And if I don’t realize that game being played or finally I realize that my role is done —

KELLEY: OK. Right.

OG MACO: And I feel like the person who is really supposed to finish is going — it’s just like this. Everybody always wondering what me and Rick Rubin was talking about.

KELLEY: Oh, yeah.

OG MACO: Everybody always ask me, “What was you and Rick talking about?” Think about it like this, and maybe you never have. Rick had a dream. And it was to combine rock and rap and make this genre-less thing that people enjoy, and 20 years later I make “Fuck ‘Em” and I’m a rockstar. And you listen to this album, and this album is genre-less. It has the heavy metal, and it got soul on the same song. Like, “How in the f*** did you do this?”

But the person who dreamed it, Rick Rubin, didn’t call my mom and have any direct effect on my dad either, but inconsequentially but consequentially on the thought, right? He influenced enough things that my African dad came back and listened to AC/DC Back In Black and f****** Coolio at the same time. Because what he made made it all the way to Nigeria, and that influenced my dad to do what he doing, and that influenced me to grow up listening to Phil Collins and Ludacris.

And so now I can choose. I had a choice. I can only like rap or I can only like rock or I can like both or I can find something greater than that. You know what I’m saying?

KELLEY: I do.

OG MACO: So it’s a choice. So that’s what we was talking about. And that makes you discover who you are. I’ve just met this person who most people won’t meet, and now he finds out after all these years that his dream actually kind of came true, even though he didn’t know it did at first. It did. He created what he wanted to create, and it’s here. Only gods can create, so we are masters of our own universe through that aspect.

And so it might not be — my longevity might not be even necessary for me to think about, because I’ve created a whole generation of kids now that’s making music that sounds like different versions of my s***. And guess what? They all — I’m big homie to them. I’m OG to them. So at any given time, it’s like, “Hey, man. You want to come up on a song OG?” “Yeah, bruh, I got you, dog.” And he popping, and he control the youth.

So all I gotta do is make a song that’s like, “Hey, man. Don’t do drugs. Bro, you better come get on this song.” “Bruh, I do drugs.” “I don’t give a f***. Tell these kids you don’t do drugs, bruh.” “Alright. I got you, big homie.” Boom. The song about not doing drugs is there, and now it’s cool.

MUHAMMAD: Big lesson right there.

OG MACO: Yeah.

KELLEY: It’s like your plan is that of an artist, not of a businessman.

OG MACO: Well, because I’m only — the business stuff, I’m too good at it. The business is really black and white. Business is devoid of emotion. That’s why it’s business. So these artistic things discover in myself. But business don’t change. And I love money, so I’ve been knowing that. But as a — for me to focus on the business, I have to lose certain human qualities that I need right now. So that’s why my cousin is co-CEO, cause he knows I need my emotions right now.

And I would love to just work on paperwork all day and contracts and find us money non-stop. But if I did that, then I wouldn’t be able to find the people. And the people — my mission is the reason why all my people with me. None of them — I don’t get any money from any of them artists. I don’t know if a lot of people know that, but I don’t get any music from any of my artists. You sign to OGG so I can control your marketing.

And why? Of course, we just talked about it. I just want — once you have the power, I just want to distribute it. You do whatever you doing, and you automatically distribute it your way. But if I never put my hand on it, then my way might never reach it. And I don’t want you to be anything like me. So it might never reach that lane of people when I need it to. So I don’t want no money from you. Just let me do your marketing. Got you. I’ma make you pop. You going to get all the money you want.

And then you can make the same choice I made. Do I want to just keep getting this money, or do I want to figure out what my actual stance about whatever is, and then go and do it? I want more leaders. I want a tribe full of chiefs. I’m like Indians like that.

KELLEY: What’s that face?

MUHAMMAD: I’m just happy you here, man.

KELLEY: Yeah.

OG MACO: I appreciate it.

MUHAMMAD: I mean, not just here, on Microphone Check, but just your presence.

OG MACO: I appreciate it, dog.

MUHAMMAD: As an artist, as a man.

OG MACO: Yeah. Thank you.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

OG MACO: That’s the only — I ain’t gon’ lie. I’m about to be very real with you. I’m having a really bad day today, but it’s also — it was one of the reassurances of exactly what I’m saying. Everything in me wants to go back home right now. I want to go home and fix stuff, you know what I’m saying?

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

But I know if I don’t do this, then maybe this moment don’t happen. And maybe that kid that’s — who come after me, maybe his parents listen to this, and they come and tell him, “Hey, man. I heard this really cool guy. He’s a young guy. You should check this out.” And he listen to it, and he like, “Oh, man. That’s pretty cool. I didn’t know OG Maco talked about stuff like that.” Maybe that’s the moment, and then that’s when I choose for self or to sacrifice. And so that’s why I’m here.

MUHAMMAD: It’s tough. I don’t — people may not really recognize or know about the sacrifices that dedicated, creative people really make to be creative.

OG MACO: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: And it’s not that anyone asked us to make these sacrifices, but it is just what you do when you have a calling that’s greater than self. It’s just so much you give up. We’re not looking for anyone to lay out roses before our feet because of it. But it is a matter of something that affects us.

OG MACO: Right.

MUHAMMAD: So thank you for being here and sacrificing whatever you got going on —

OG MACO: Appreciate it, brah. For real.

MUHAMMAD: — just to share your spirit with us. Means a lot to me.

OG MACO: People do it for me though. I know — the best thing about — I don’t — to be honest, I don’t like being famous too much. But I at least am appreciative that I know how to be famous. You know what I’m saying?

KELLEY: Yeah.

OG MACO: Cause a lot of people lost in the f****** sauce, and that’s some terrible s*** to see people drowning in the sauce of being famous. And not even realizing they drowning. They think they winning.

But even beyond that, third time: perspective. When I’m listening to, you know, things I liked or things I like now, I think about my perspective on it when I was 16 and what it did for me then. It was like, “OK. This is somebody who is confident.” And then when I’m 21, I start listening to the same song and I’m like, “Damn, bruh. This is why he was so confident.” And I listen to it when I’m 23 and I’m like, “Holy f***. She did that. The whole song was about this moment right here. Just this one point.” Or it wasn’t even mentioned in the song. You gotta go to the last album and realize, “Oh, this happened then? Oh, that’s what this is about!” You would’ve never thought about it.

So I’m — when I see that and knowing what some other artist gave for me to even be able to enjoy that four minutes, 12 seconds, how much they gave for that four minutes and 12 seconds or that two minutes and 36 seconds, you just like, “F***.” And so that’s why I’m in the bitter cold of Sweden taking pictures in 10 degree below weather with fans who might not see me again for another seven, eight months. Because I understand the power of that moment. And somebody gave it to me, and I want to give it to somebody. I want to make it possible. I just want to make it possible.

KELLEY: That’s what we feel about this podcast also, and when we get it on the radio, too, is that we just want to help people be able to listen better.

OG MACO: Right. That’s really what it is. People hear but it’s so much noise.

KELLEY: Well, yeah.

OG MACO: It’s so much noise, it’s so many vibrations. And I’m thinking that’s one of the good things I am enjoying, that this generation is having an awareness of vibes.

KELLEY: Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah.

OG MACO: That vibes even exist.

Because a lot of people think that they actions or the motives of the actions beforehand are inconsequential to the reoccurring action. But sometimes it’s not even the motive for the action. It was the thought. The thought created the motive. The motive created the action. The action created the consequence. And what happens in the consequence, you repeat what you naturally would do upon the consequence. You have the thought again, and now the motive, and then it’s a chain. Sometimes that thought don’t even come from you. The thought come from the person sitting next to you.

KELLEY: You also gotta deal with what your parents went through and what happened when you were a kid.

OG MACO: Right.

KELLEY: Yeah. Well, I think this is going to be a big deal, and I’m grateful that you came here and gave us this time.

OG MACO: Oh, no. I’m happy, man. It’s good. It’s definitely good. It’s good — and I just want to tell it to you, bro. They just told me yesterday that it was — “You know Ali? Ali’s gon’ be there, man.” That’s lit, dog.

MUHAMMAD: I appreciate that. Thank you.

OG MACO: It’s real lit to just be chopping it up with you two. Y’all got the little couch going on. It’s real dope. It’s real dope, bruh. I just want — cause you know, you’re definitely definitely in my influences and people who actually gave a f*** first. You stand very tall.

MUHAMMAD: Thank you.

OG MACO: So I appreciate you for influencing anybody around me that helped me to get to where I am.

MUHAMMAD: It’s the same as your story as you’re telling, people who paved the way for you. Same for me. Public Enemy. Boogie Down Productions. Run-D.M.C.

OG MACO: Right.

MUHAMMAD: It’s so many people. Rick Rubin, indirectly as you’re speaking. And so — Howlin’ Wolf, who you remind me of so much. But yeah, thank you, man.

OG MACO: That’s so wild you say that too because one of the main draws — every time I always talk about — they ask me like, “Why you say you’re a rockstar?” And I say, “Because rappers are the new rockstars already. And I’m a rockstar amongst them.” I say, “Think about who started rock-and-roll. It’s Cadillac Records.” And I always say that. I always say it’s Cadillac Records. And who’s Cadillac? Howlin’ Wolf. Muddy Waters. You know what I’m saying?

MUHAMMAD: Yup. Yup.

OG MACO: And that’s — that’s real crazy you say that.

It’s really wild too, I remember — it’s kind of on subject, but off subject. A lot of people look at the music, and it’s like, we the children of Ye or whatever. They talk about a lot of the more confident, high-powered artists just like we the children of Ye. A lot of times Ye has picked up a lot of them.

KELLEY: Yeah, that’s what I was saying.

OG MACO: But the difference is I don’t really believe we’re the children of Ye. I don’t think so much.

KELLEY: OK.

OG MACO: Because at the time, when we was able to really understand or really been understood from Ye, it was actually Cudi who was doing the input, you know? So I feel more so like we’re the children of Cudi, right? And so I get to Motown, and my whole team — my whole team — it’s like team meeting day and whatever.

And everybody pull me to the side. She was like, “Man, I just want to tell you” — the VP, she was like, “I just want to tell you something.” And I say, “What?” She’s like, “Everybody around here, we all agree — we all worked with Scott on Man In The Moon I and II. And it’s like, man, you just like Scott. Just like you and Scott —” and I had the blonde hair still too, and it was like, “You look like him. Y’all have the same ideas. You don’t like being caged. Y’all loud, and then you quiet. It’s — you just like Scott, man.” And they don’t like — they ain’t even know Kid Cudi is one of my favorite artists. All time. They had no idea.

And so to keep hearing those things — and it’s from different — and I never hear it from people who don’t matter. That’s the weird thing. I never hear it from people who don’t matter. It’s always people who’s achieved a level of success, who’re like, “OK. Look. I want to look at the aspects of who are you to figure out what it is about this kid.”

MUHAMMAD: No doubt.

OG MACO: People who just kind of graze and go through life — when I say that don’t matter that’s what I mean. People always misconstrue that, too. Some people don’t matter just cause they don’t even care about living. So you can have no power. It’s like a dead battery.

KELLEY: They decided not to matter.

OG MACO: They checked out. You feel what I’m saying? They decided not to matter. Mattering was too dangerous, and so they stopped mattering. That’s what I mean. But it’s never from anybody like that. It’s always from people who actually are looking. And so that reassures one of oneself. Cause you like, “Ah, yeah. Oh, yeah. They got the Grammys.” And you want the Grammys, and you want what the Grammys bring.

It’s no road map to being a legend either. It just so happens you talk to other legends and you be like, “Damn, you did that too, huh?” It’s just like that.

MUHAMMAD: Ah, this was amazing. Looking forward to what’s next. I don’t want to ask you, “Yo, what you got coming?” Cause it doesn’t matter. It’s just, you know, we’re looking for it. And you have our support.

OG MACO: Thank you.

MUHAMMAD: No, thank you for coming here, man.

OG MACO: No, I’m real life happy to be here too. Everybody always — you do the interview it’s usually stressful. You hit the good joint and then you like, “Alright. Let’s do this.” But I didn’t even need the good joint. It was the good conversation. I’m still just as high. So it’s good to talk with y’all.

MUHAMMAD: Well, we look forward to having you back, bro.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

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