Interview: Eightball's hustle and flow

Eightball, one half of the legendary Memphis rap duo, 8 Ball & MJG, is, literally, Ridin' High. With a new group effort of that same name on the way, and a follow-up to his gold-selling Bad Boy debut also in the pipeline, 2006 could be the year of the self proclaimed “Fat Mack.” Crave Online tracked down the Orange Mound resident, born Premro Smith, in his studio recently to talk about putting the final touches on his soon-to-be released Down South classic, a new movie project and his musical influences.

Crave Online: What's up, Big Ball? You just dropped an album, Da Boy Somethin' Great, from your premier artist, rapper/producer, Montana Trax -- How did this newcomer to the industry first come to your attention?

Eightball: I met Montana through, like, some fellas in my neighborhood. They came to me with a CD with some of his beats on it, and, I mean, we've been working together ever since.

Crave Online: With Trax's record being the flagship release from 8 Ways, what are your future goals and plans for your new label venture?

Eightball: Well, right now, I got an album called Light up the Bomb that comes out in October of this year. And, I got an artist his name is Devius (a.k.a. Ced Deviossy), and he from Memphis. He from my neighborhood. He's featured on the new 8 Ball & MJG album and he is featured on the Montana Trax album. He's (also) featured on the Light up the Bomb album. He's actually on the first single from the Light up the Bomb album. His album probably will be dropping in, about, February.

Crave Online: With MJ, you two are about to drop your seventh group release, and second for Bad Boy Entertainment. How does this new project measure up to previous 8 Ball & MJG efforts?

Eightball: Man, it's just, like to me, it's one of the best 8 Ball & MJG albums that we've done in a long time. It's like a combination of all our best stuff. It's just gritty! The tracks, the music, is extra big –- They extra big on this album. It's just a real good 8 Ball & MJG album.

Crave Online: You named the new CD, Ridin' High. Why?

Eightball: I don't know, man. I think we just…I think everything has just been tight on this album. Like we went all the way gritty, (just) like we wanted to go. And, I think the big difference on this album might be the production. It's gritty, it's underground, but the drums are so big on every song, like, we really tried to make some sh*t that was gonna bang in the trunk and bang in the club.

Crave Online: Take me back to those early days, even before Tony Draper and Suave House Records. When did music first enter into your life?

Eightball: I think just coming up in the neighborhood or whatever, when we used to kick it and chill, like, whatever we done, music was a big part of it. Whatever we done, we always had to have that theme music in the background. It was just a big part of it, man. I can remember back in the neighborhood when all we used to listen to was Al Green, The O'Jays, Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and stuff like that.

Crave Online: List for me your main musical influences in Hip-Hop.

Eightball: I was always into the early Hip-Hop like LL Cool J and Run DMC. We [me & MJG] listened to a lot of Run DMC. I had a good friend of mine whose parents use to live in New York, and he used to go up there every summer to visit them. When he was there, he used to record the mixes off the radio and bring ‘em back home. I used to listen to all that stuff he'd bring back. We also listened to a lot of BDP [Boogie Down Productions], Steady B and Just Ice. I used to love Just Ice because he was one of the first rappers I seen with the grill in his mouth. Schooly D, (too) -- That was my inspiration right there. I used to love sh*t like that.

Crave Online: From a musical standpoint, what exactly are you and MJG bringing to the industry's table?

Eightball: I describe it as like Hip-Hop blues. It's like a mix of the rhythm and blues that I got from, like, Marvin Gaye. Marvin Gaye is one of my favorite artists period. Just Marvin Gaye and Al Green. I'll say they did a lot of love music, but they also did a lot of struggle music. I think my music, me and MJ, we do a combination of life music and struggle music.

Crave Online: How have you all sustained such a lengthy career in rap?

Eightball: I don't know, just doing what we do, man. Just always trying to do us, and not imitate nobody or try to keep up with nobody. Just do us, and do what we do, and as long as we do that, I think the fans will be down with it. It's not…I think our longevity comes from just doing us, man, and never changing.

Crave Online: Is there anything, aside from music, that the two of you are looking into?

Eightball: Yeah, we are dabbling a little bit here and there with different things. MJG got a line of eyewear coming out in the fall called MJG's, and they're like glasses, shades. They'll be coming out in the fall, and we got a movie that we're working on right now but I can't really talk about [that] too much. But, just to let you know, there's a movie in the works.

Crave Online: Everyone knows 8 Ball the rap artist, but who exactly is Premro Smith?

Eightball: When you go and listen to records like [my first two solo albums] Lost or Almost Famous, or In Our Lifetime, then you really get deep into 8 Ball & MJG. I put a lot of me into my music. If you listen to my music, then you're gonna know me, ya know?

Crave Online: What is a typical day like in the life of 8 Ball?

Eightball: Probably gettin' some head [somewhere]. I'm just f*cking with you. Naw, I'm not f*ucking with you, I'm serious, but, I mean, I like to shoot pool, and I got three little boys that I like to spend time with. Just regular stuff, man, just regular stuff.

Crave Online: Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?

Eightball: Sitting behind a desk in Hawaii, smoking a fat one, and signing checks for my artists. And, getting some head.

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