A-Mafia has been one of the most respected artists from Harlem for over a decade now. In the streets of Harlem, he may be the most respected artist ever. He began rapping while he was incarcerated when he was 15. He’s been a frequent collaborator with Cam’ron. He was affiliated with Dipset via Purple City, but frequent trips to the penitentiary slowed his early progress. When he settled down, he went on a solo run that was unparalleled. Project after project, he moved units, accumulated streams, was all over the radio, and earned the respect of his peers with several high profile collaborations. He also was one of the first NYC artists to take his southern brethren seriously. Now he’s back with a new album The Good & The Bad, which features a buzzing video with Project Pat.
When we conversed with him, we discussed his new album, his upcoming projects, his affinity for southern rap, whether Jim Jones had surpassed Cam’ron lyrically, going vegan, and more.
Can you tell me about the new project? I noticed you were experimenting with different deliveries.
It’s 2019. I have a certain way that I rap, but I can’t rap like it’s 2006. I had to upgrade the flow a little bit.
For years your release schedule could be described as relentless. It seems like this album had a little more time between it than your other projects. Was that for any particular reason?
I was really busy dealing with my family, doing a lot of things. Also, I had to take a break from the rap game. The game is weird to me. I got tired of dealing with all the fake stuff. I was chilling, spending time with my kids. I was good though, I always been good.
How did your collaboration with Project Pat come about?
My man Marcus Parker Films shot the video down in Atlanta. We linked up down there. We were talking about down south rappers, and I told him Project Pat was my favorite rapper. He had Pat’s number and next thing you know we’re doing a song and shooting a video.
You were one of this first NYC artists to work heavily with southern rappers. How did this affinity come about?
Honestly, to be real, all I listen to is down south rap. I’ve been that way forever. I was the first one listening to Gucci, Jeezy, and all that. I remember I had Hell Rell in the car listening to Gucci Mane one day, and he asked me “who the hell is this?” I told him this is Gucci, he’s about to blow. He didn’t even know who he was. So I’ve been listening to southern music for years. Before it became the thing.
I remember on social media you were saying you wanted to collab with 2 Chainz before he blew up and a lot of your followers were talking that he can’t rap shit.
Absolutely, and then I ended up doing a video with him. I remember when I met him. I introduced myself to him. He already knew who I was. That was crazy to me. 2 Chainz is one of the most stand-up dudes I ever met. When we shot the video I was still on the come up. An independent artist still trying to come up. He was shooting the video for “Supafreak” with Young Jeezy. He just left and came right to my video. I knew he was going places. He didn’t care what scale it was on, he just wanted to be out there.
You sold a LOT of mixtapes. How was it for you transitioning into the digital era?
I got a project called Digital Hustler. When I first came home in 09, my first release Lord Of The Streetz, I put it up for sale online. I already had that mindset. I just gave out the physical copies. I was already ahead of the curve. There’s a lot of people who got the wave from me. I was the one online, releasing videos and doing all the blogs back then.
Do you still press your albums up?
No, I’m going to keep it digital. It’s less overhead, less work. I’ve done it for so many years. Pressing up physicals, doing press runs, I’ve done all that already.
Were you ever in Dipset?
No. I was just affiliated. When you’re from Harlem and you know any of them you’re affiliated. That’s just how it is. I was never officially on Dipset.
You were in Purple City though right?
I was in the group, but there was no paperwork. I was on the albums. I was representing. Most of them were focused on rap. I wasn’t focused on rap. They would use me to write rhymes or spit a verse. None of them were really interested in making A-Mafia a star. That’s why I started my own company, Deep In The Game Ent.
A lot of former Purple City artists have gripes with the label. Was it really that bad?
I didn’t really care. Being straightforward, I always had my own money. I made my own money. When I came around it was just to have fun. I like rhyming and love making music. I was just having fun with it. Some of them were really focused on making rap money. So when things went left I guess they had something bad to say about Purple City, but I really didn’t care. You never heard me saying anything bad about Purple City or Dipset. I was always in a position to provide for myself. I never depended on no other man to provide for me.
What do you think about people saying Jim Jones is better than Cam’ron after releasing his newest album El Capo.
I don’t think Jim can rap better than Cam, but I’ll tell you this. When I first heard Jim back in the days a long time ago, I knew he was going places. I saw it. I could hear it. I did a song with him before his first album. I just knew that he had what it takes. I like how he rhymes. I don’t think he’s better than Cam. Jim knows he’s not better than Cam. Jim can rap though. Let’s be clear. Jim Jones can rap.
On your new album, I heard you mention you were vegan now. What was the reason and was that a tough transition for you?
A lot of people around me are on dialysis or have diabetes. I don’t want to deal with any of that. Most of that is coming from food. A lot of people’s health problems come from their diet. It wasn’t hard for me. I haven’t eaten beef for twenty years. I stopped eating chicken ten years ago, so all I had to do was stop eating fish. I did that two years ago. It wasn’t hard. I lost weight and my energy improved. I’ve always been into physical fitness. I work out, you got to.
You frequently talk about being incarcerated in your songs. Despite some setbacks early in your career, you’ve managed to avoid the recidivism cycle. Do you have any advice for anyone caught up in the system now?
Focus on what’s really important. Most people go back because they’re focused on the wrong things. Money, other people, impressing girls. You got to focus on what’s really important like your health, family, or just your freedom. When you do that you realize that all that other stuff isn’t important.
What do you have coming out next?
I’ll be dropping an EP with Just Rich Gates. I’m about to go down there and work with him. We already got some stuff out. Be on the lookout for that. I got another full project coming out this month. I also got a project coming out with Tom Gist. I’m working.