Young Bleed: The DGB Interview

Young Bleed has seen a lot. He’s collaborated with legends like Too $hort, Mystikal, Master P, Snoop Dogg, and his cousin Lil Boosie. He’s had deals with Priority Records, No Limit, West Coast Mafia Records, Strange Music, and he’s successfully launched his own Trap Door Entertainment. A founding member of the formative collective The Concentration Camp, he was one of the first rappers to receive national recognition from Baton Rouge. It’s no exaggeration to state that his level of artistry is well regarded by his peers.

Recently he’s been promoting his latest album Wut’ Uh’ Life and trying his hand at filmmaking. Any of his listeners could tell you that he approaches music from a different angle. The same could be said about his perspective of life. When speaking to him you are almost taken aback by the depth of wisdom behind his words. The man, like his music, is simply thought-provoking.

In our interview, we discussed his personal history, his relationships with historical figures like Freeway Ricky Ross & Fred Hampton Jr., why it’s disrespectful to ask rappers when they’re going to retire, and more.

What’re you working on/promoting on right now?

I’m still pushing my latest album Wut’ Uh’ Life. It’s been going good. I got a couple of more videos coming out soon. I’ve been out on the No Limit Reunion Tour.

Fred Hampton Jr. makes an appearance on the album. How’d that come about?

That’s my uncle Fred up there in Chicago, not by blood. I’ve always been a fan, been a fan of the Black Panthers. It’s a blessing to see them still around. He came to one of my shows in Chicago. When we met it was all love from the beginning. We share a lot of common origins. We discussed the history of the Panthers, and he could see I knew what I was talking about. We connected on that level. I’m a baby cub Panther to this day. I’ve told him he’s the last black political figure I believe in, in America. He’s 100% real and he’ll do what he has to do.

You also have Freeway Ricky Ross on the project. What’s your relationship with him?

That’s my Uncle Ricky. I call all of them my uncle. They were O.G.’s before me. I’ll always look up to them. When I was living in Texas I was connected to one of his cousins. He was trying to link us up before Rick came home from the penitentiary. He told me that Rick was a fan of mine, and of course, I had been studying him since the eighties. We never could connect. Then I ran into another of his cousins in Baton Rouge, walking through the mall. He put us on the phone. It’s been A1 since day one.

Out of all the labels you’ve been on, which one did you like the best?

I’ve had my ups and downs with all of them. Sometimes personally, sometimes over the business. My main thing is to make good music and get it out to the people. So anytime there’s a dope outlet open for me to do that, it’s a beautiful thing. But just like anything else, it comes to an end. From Priority Records to Strange Music to working with Roy Jones Jr. & C-Bo’s West Coast Mafia, then independently with Select-O-Hits, I’ve had beautiful days. At the end of the day, it’s a money thing. I was able to cash in. I’m still cashing those checks. I had a phenomenal time at Strange Music. I’d have to go with what gave me my biggest exposure to the people, No Limit/Priority Records. I’ve been involved with some of the biggest independent labels ever and that’s a beautiful thing.

In hip-hop, there’s a lot of collaboration amongst independents. Particularly between mid-west, southern, & west coast artists. There seems to be less of that with the east coast artists, particularly those from up north. Have you noticed this?

Nah, me personally I’m cool with everybody. I’m down with Young Dirty Bastard, Cappadonna, all the Wu-Tang. I kicked it with U-God and Cappadonna in Dallas. I’ve been talking to Young Dirty since the passing of his father. We just haven’t made any records. Sometimes it gets complicated. Some of us mainly text. Others will only talk on the phone, or talk in person. Sometimes you have to deal with their team. We’re busy at different times, some of us are bigger than others. It’s really about being in the right place at the right time. I’ve never denied anybody and I’ve never had any issues clearing samples.

Why do you think they’re always asking rappers when they’re going to retire? They don’t ask actors or other genres of musicians that.

I’m not racist by far, but I see it like this. It’s especially in the black community. We’re the only ones that created a genre of music and then try to shelf each other. From Bill Withers to The Grateful Dead, musicians perform into their seventies. But rappers, they want to shelf us. We shelf each other. We’re so embittered, full of self-hate. The next man can’t wait for you to fall off so he can fill your shoes. It goes the other way too, older artists putting down the new breed. I hate that too, I think the new artists are fly.

I know that you’re never too old to eat, or too old to pay your light bills. That’s been going on since the beginning of time. Don’t tell me I’m too old to make some money and keep living. That means you hate me and would rather see me dead. That’s not playa, and I don’t respect it.

Quincy Jones said he made his best music after he turned 50.

Exactly. It’s like my good friends 8Ball & MJG said on “Timeless.” That’s right on for the subject. You can’t put us in a box. That’s all we’re saying. Don’t put us in a box. This thing called hip-hop came from the heavens down to New York. Then we all got into it once we got a glimpse of it. Don’t hate the next man. You got to let life live. I don’t agree with asking rappers that question.

Speaking of timeless, what do you think is the best version of “How Ya Do Dat?”

I’ll say it like the world says. I like the remix. A lot of people don’t know that the Master P version is a remix. People in the south know the original version that’s just me on all three verses. A lot of people thought I should have kept the original. We had that debate for years. But business is business. We did what we had to do to make it fly for everybody. Back to the original, I constructed that. I produced it, slash co-produced it with Happy Perez. We made the original sound and then later Beats By The Pound enhanced it. The rest is history. I’ll leave that answer up to the people. Some of them love the original, some of them love the remix.

What do you remember about the beginning of your cousin Lil Boosie’s career?

We’re from the same block, Garfield St. He’s just from across the track. I came up with the same guys that are still around him now. I was the young evolving rapper that was making moves, other than a handful we had locally. We were trying to birth hip-hop in Louisiana. Baton Rouge in particular. When I came up he saw me and what I was doing with the music. When he started doing his thing, I had already left my original group, The Concentration Camp. I’m still the father and the founder of that movement. My homie C-Loc had his label C-Loc Records that still exists to this day. There were so many of us under the umbrella that I decided to come up with a name for us, to let it be known. It couldn’t just be C-Loc everything.

Once Boosie came along, the movement was already engraved in stone. He was the fresh face of it. He kind of rekindled it and started it over. I had already stepped away, but I watched him from afar. We would see each other from time to time. The first time I actually heard him was one of the songs from Youngest Of Da Camp. Everybody back home was telling me about what he was doing. They would tell me that he loved my music. One day when I was back home I picked him up and we just connected. We did a record before he went to the penitentiary and we’ve done another one since he’s been home. I thought it would be on BooPac, but hopefully, it’ll see the light of day.

Why did you name it Concentration Camp?

I came up with a cliqualation name for us. Wu-Tang was out, Boot Camp Cliques in New York and New Orleans were coming out. Everyone had their camp at the time. I came up with the Concentration Camp name based on a few life situations. I was born on D-Day. My granddaddy was in that war, his name was Bleed. I took my name to honor him. I was interested in the war. The Diary of Anne Frank, really everything. I could relate to the concentration camps. In one sense black people in America are in a concentration camp. In another sense when you break the word down it has deeper meanings. In the word concentration concent equals consent, and everyone under our umbrella had consented to come together and build something positive to break out of what society had said our role in this country would be. Then you have the ratio inside of the word concentration. We wouldn’t accept the ratio of failure that had been determined for our people. We were going to break from those numbers and start a new ratio of success to failure. We weren’t going to let them ration anything out to us.

You took the name Bleed from your grandfather. Why did they call him Bleed?

They said it like this. He was good to bleed you with his hands. He’d beat you to death out here. Shoot you in the face in broad daylight. He was a real soldier. A real stand-up guy. He didn’t play any games. Not with the police, not with anybody who opposed him. Until his dying day, they’d shake in their boots if he came around. When my mother and father broke up I spent a lot of time with him. He semi-raised me until he passed away. I started rapping a few years before that. One of the last things I told him was that I was going to grow up and own a record company. I was going to be a rapper and take his name. Now here we are.

Do you remember when crack first came to Baton Rouge?

Shit, it started with my family, in the house. I ain’t have to go in the yard, it was already in the house. When it hit, it hit hard. I buried one of my uncles. I buried an aunt this year. She began using young. It was all around me. Heroin, the aids epidemic. My granddaddy died an alcoholic, cirrhosis of the liver. We were a loving beautiful family but we were also dysfunctional. I observed all of that first hand.

You’ve been getting into making movies, how’s that progressing?

Pretty good, we’ve been doing them on a B-level. I’ve got a lot of cameramen, all over the country. Some of my videos were shot in three states. They travel with me and we keep the camera working. We’ve been jumping out, making it do what it do. I’ve been doing a lot of prep work. We’ve got several projects in development. I’ve written some screenplays too.

I was meant to be on-screen. When I was a baby, one of my uncles had been in Mandingo & The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. We’ve always had a connection with the movies. My granddaddy was friends with Rudy Ray Moore. Burt Reynolds wanted me to be in a movie. He wanted my mother to breastfeed me in the movie. I was so light I looked like a white kid. My mother would have played a slave, feeding me. Like any other man, a true black man, my father wasn’t going to have his woman in no movie with her titties popped out. I used to be mad at him. We could have been out of this poverty shit a long time ago. I was a born star. It worked out though, it’s God’s time at all times. I still made it from my hood to Hollywood.

Your music is particularly cinematic, especially concerning Mafia themes. What’s your favorite Mafia movie?

The Godfather. It mirrors the basic essentials of my life story. Just on the black hand side. They think it’s about the crime, but it’s really about family. We never committed a crime to be criminals. We did what we had to do to improve our family’s situation. In the average mob movie, people look for the killings and sensationalism. I looked for the cause and effect. The Godfather showed how he was forced into that life to provide for his family. I could relate to that, so I took the name. That’s been part of my foundation and the structure of everything. A man has to work, and sometimes it’s not good work. A man does what he has to do, to provide for his family, & to build a legacy for the upcoming generations.

What’s been the best year of your career?

1998, definitely. I went gold in three weeks, as soon as I debuted. In 97 & 98 I was #1 on Billboard, platinum, and gold, from my album and the I’m Bout It soundtrack. It was definitely my peak, and I enjoy the challenge of trying to match it. My Balls and My Word is still my favorite album. “How Ya Do Dat” & “Da Last Outlaw” are my favorite songs.

What should we be looking for from you in the future?

I’m going to keep pushing my label, Trap Door Entertainment. My son Ty’gee Ramon he’s rapping and singing. He’s already released a few EP’s. He’s got a hip-hop album coming out. Like I said I’m still pushing my last album, and I got some new music coming soon.

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