After a three year incarceration stint, Jersey City's own Albee Al would finally touch back down - not to mention cleared of all charges - on August 15th. Released from Passaic County Jail, the self professed Gladiator, whose first national hit, “Ten Toes Down,” was unleashed in 2016, immediately went to work on what the 34 year old street poet knew best; crafting his latest magnum opus, the appropriately titled, FREE THE REAL…
TD: Welcome home!
TD: What was the first thing you did upon release?
ALBEE AL: The first thing I did upon my release was I went…I went to see my kids and my family. They wasn’t outside the jail when I came home, so I just went to see all my kids my family and chilled with them and enjoyed their grace.
TD: What did you miss most during your time incarcerated?
ALBEE AL: What I missed most was my family; was my kids. I just felt like they life was shattered when I went to jail because when I was home it was so much fun. We was doing so much, having so much fun…then when I went to jail everything stopped, so I just knew when I got back home it was back to ballin’, back to having fun…so I missed that more than anything because that’s who I do it for, they my engine.
TD: What did your day to day routine entail?
ALBEE AL: Man, I just popped shit all day in jail. I popped shit all day, talked shit all day, played cards or played basketball. Like I was in there jailing, you know what I mean? That’s how it is in jail, like I’m just poppin’ shit; whether I’m poppin’ shit about street shit, whether I’m poppin’ shit about sports, whether it’s like I was just in there trying to make the best out of my situation, you know what I mean? It was aiight…it wasn’t aiight, but I made the best of that shit.
TD: Were you able to work and / or focus on your music while away?
ALBEE AL: Not as much as I wanted to. I wasn’t really working in there and, you know, I was locked up during Covid and it was like life just froze and I didn’t know what the fuck was going on, so it was times like, “am I gonna get the fuck out of here? Or are they going to keep me forever?” I used to lose focus. I wrote a lot of music in jail, but I didn’t write as much as I should have because I felt like it’s a waste of time, like that I might not make it home; shit took a toll on me…or I’ll write some fire shit, then be like, “nah, what if nobody ever hear this shit.”
TD: Now let’s hop right into this lead single / video, “Thottie” — Tell me about this particular track; how did it come to fruition?
ALBEE AL: It was actually like me just in the studio just being happy that I’m back in; the beat came on, and I was just vibin’, instead of…shit…and I was just talking about my lifestyle, and I didn’t even think that was gonna be my first single or nothing. I was just like, “let me just give them this right here.” I just tossed it out there when I came home because they wanted new music, so I was like, “here, take this shit” because I have a whole project that’s about to go crazy! They loving that shit; they loving everything I got, but “Thottie” going crazy right now; like in the clubs and everything. I tried to give them a hit before the summer closed out.
TD: You also collaborated with both Rowdy Rebel [“She F**k With A Gangsta“] and Mozzy [“Cash Rules“] — Talk to me about these…
ALBEE AL: Me and Rowdy was on some shit; like when I first came home, Rowdy embraced me and reached out to me because they just came home, too, and he was trying to let me know like what to do and what not to do as far as like dropping music and how to go about it because he already experienced it. He was like, “Bruh, you ‘bout to make the most money you ever made this time right here coming home.” So he was like, “you got to go crazy!” As far as us getting in the studio, that was just a give in because we was already fucking with each other; real recognize real, and he was like, “whenever you in the studio, hit me and I’ll pull up.” So I hit him like, “I’m in the stu!” And we just started playing beats, and we just started creating music. We got hella music together, and we ‘bout to shoot a video…and Mozzy, Mozzy that’s bro! That been gang before I went to jail; me and Mozzy got some underground music from probably before probably like 2016. Me and Mozzy been rocking with each other…that’s bro, and he reached out to me when I was in jail. He was one of the few rappers reaching out to me while I was locked up. If I hit him like, “Mozzy, I need a verse,” because I was still dropping music locked up; he would be like, “yo, just send it over.” So when I came home and he was locked up unfortunately, I’m like if you was trying to keep my music alive while I was gone it’s only right I keep his music in the air while I’m home.
TD: Of course all three songs come courtesy of your new LP FREE THE REAL — Although self-explanatory, still tell me conceptually what this title represents both to and for you?
ALBEE AL: It means everything to me. I’m giving a voice to the unheard, as you can see, my mixtape doing so good. I got billboards all over the tri-state. I got a billboard in Times Square, and if you see the cover of my mixtape it’s not just me on it; it’s everybody I’m cool with…all my bros that’s locked up doing hard time. And even my bro that passed away, so I’m just like sharing my platform with them so when you see my face…you seen a face, it’s like, “oh, shit, Albee Al got a billboard in Times Square!” It’s not just me up there, it’s my friends, too. I’m just trying to show love and give a voice to the people that feel unheard. That’s what the Free The Real campaign is all about; it’s about giving back and letting people know it’s possible…you can really come home and change your life. I really came home and doing some shit. I’m just trying to give motivation because there’s a lot of motherfuckers that ain’t coming home, and I’m just living proof that this is possible.
TD: How then does this new material(s) either differ and / or compare to previous Albee Al entries?
ALBEE AL: I actually believe that I’m better; I always get better. Like I really got a mixtape called Super Saiyan, and the reason I called it Super Saiyan is because I felt like I was going to another level…so every time I drop music I’m going to another level, but this music right here is like me tapping in with the roots of where I began, what got people listening to me in the first place. So I wouldn’t say it’s a difference, I just feel like I tapped back into it what they missed and love about me; this Free The Real tape is Albee Al music. It ain’t no he trying to sound like somebody else, he trying to be like somebody else, he trying to follow a trend…none of that shit. This shit right here is Albee Al music.
TD: FREE THE REAL is a EMPIRE release — What particular string of events actually led up to your initial linking with Ghazi and later inking to the imprint?
ALBEE AL: Wattenberg introduced me to Ghazi back in the ending of 2018. He pitched me to Ghazi, and was just telling Ghazi like, “fuck with Albee Al, man, he’s next!” So me and Ghazi met up 2018, early 2019, and we discussed my mixtape Koba. So we worked out a deal with Koba, and Koba was such a success we worked out a way bigger deal for King Opp, but unfortunately I went to jail while King Opp was being released…and the whole time while I was in jail, me and Ghazi was like in contact; he was there for me. Ghazi, he was even sending me money personally and checking on my family, so when I came home it was just like written in stone. He always told me just get home…when you get home, it’s up.
TD: As an emcee, when you sit down to pen your rhymes where do you draw your inspiration from?
ALBEE AL: I draw it from experience actually. I can’t really rap unless I’m going through some shit. Like I could rap rap, but the music you gonna feel; I really gotta be feeling some shit. I can’t make these emotions up. I really got to be going through some shit, and I really gotta speak on that shit. I’m trying to get in soon, like people love when I produce music to females and express my emotions, but I haven’t been in that bag lately ‘cause I just been (not) giving a fuck lately and I just showed you right there like Free The Real don’t got no songs for the females. The female still banging that shit, they like that “Fuck with a Gangsta” shit but it wasn’t no emotional song because I just don’t have that feeling no-more like nobody can hurt me no more. Maybe if I get hurt I could do another female song, so that’s living proof I really write what I’m going through.
TD: Reflecting, tell me your whole inception into music -- When did you first become interested in it? And, how did it all begin for Albee Al?
ALBEE AL: I was raised off music like from me growing up as a young’n and my mother cleaning the house playing music; like I always loved music, and I always been around music. From watching videos, and I always liked the videos that showcased the ‘hood; like growing up. I liked the videos from the Hot Boys ‘cause it’s like yo these niggas really in the hood and I’m looking out the window like we really In the hood. So I was always influenced by that, and then my father was a rapper so it was already genetic in me to be a rapper…so I’ve been rapping since. I wrote my first rap when I think I was nine years old. The crazy shit, my cousin was a rapper, my older cousin, and he wrote me a rap and he was like, “I want you to say this,” and I read it and I’m like, “no, I can write my own rap,” and I gave the shit to my older brother, he’s not a rapper, but I never let nobody write no music for me since I was nine years old. I’d be in school getting in trouble by teachers, “what you doing?” I’m writing music instead of homework.
TD: Now you’re a native of Jersey City, correct? So growing up in ‘The Garden State,’ who all did / do you consider to be your strongest musical influences?
ALBEE AL: As far as a rapper, I’ll say like Treach. I like Treach…like I said coming up, often videos and watching the street ‘hood videos and, you know, you live in like that…like Treach, like he got “Ghetto Bastard”. He shot that shit in EO, East Orange, in New Jersey, and that shit was the trenches; that’s the ‘hood and I can relate to that shit. But as far as me really wanting to be like an inspiration, I would say the regular inspiration for me was like seeing dope boys in my ‘hood and shit…and it’s sad to say, but it’s like, “oh, I want this car,” and I see that dope boy with that car and this chain. The dope boys with this jewelry on and the clothes, so It really wasn’t a rapper that influenced me; it was always what I seen out my window or walking to school or just walking around in my projects.
TD: In having said that, how do you classify your overall sound and / or style?
ALBEE AL: I think my style of music is just unique. I’m the Gladiator so it’s like people say I remind them of people, I guess, because of my voice or some shit, but ain’t nobody comin’ like me. It’s consistency; I’ve been the same way since I was a kid rapping, and I always been this way so the people that’s becoming my fans just learning about me with someone who’s been my fan from day one is like, “man, how you don’t know about Albee Al?” I just describe my shit as unique. I’m the Gladiator, ain’t no other Gladiator, ain’t nobody coming through like that, ain’t nobody moving how I’m moving, nobody talking this shìt like I’m talking this shit because when I speak this shit it literally is an emotion. It makes anybody feel that shit; you could be a regular 9-to-5 ass man, you gonna be like, “damn, I feel this shit.” How me being as street as I am make this regular ass nigga feel what I’m going through, and feel like they going through to, too. That shit is powerful. I should be an inspirational motivational speaker or some shìt.
TD: Switching gears here…
TD: What do you feel will be the key to your longevity?
ALBEE AL: I gotta learn to stop handling my problems with violence. My longevity is unstoppable. I can’t let my anger get the best of me. I can’t. Once I learn to control that, which I am doing pretty good at, and continue that. It’s no stopping me.
TD: What do you want people to get from your music?
ALBEE AL: I want niggas to run to my music and feel my emotion and feel what I’m going through, and if I’m going through this shit or something similar I want them to know that it’s a way to get over this shit; like it can’t rain forever. I want them to know that we can make it past this shit no matter how low you been, because I’ve been to my lowest. I want people to look at me with the expectation, so when they hear my music I just want them to take it and charge. My shit is…this gonna be around for a long time; a lot of music come and go, but Albee Al music is here to stay.. People still listening to my old shit from 2008, and I was like 16, 17; my music been that way.
TD: On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop?
ALBEE AL: Yeah, hell yeah! I’m loving it ‘cause it’s giving so many people opportunity; even if you don’t last forever, like you got the one hit wonders they come in and they go, It’s giving everybody a chance to make something out of themselves. People really treating music right now like the trap. Niggas really in the studio like, “if I put this song out - put this shit on the block - I could really make some money off it.” It’s ’s really like work right now; like Hip Hop is really like trappin’ music…it really is like drugs. Niggas is really working hard as hell, slaving in the studio, to put a record out and make a few dollars. It’s like a nigga on a block like front me this, us right here, I’mma get on my feet and it’s up. It’s giving everybody an opportunity to make money, so I don’t understand why it’s so much hate and jealousy when everybody get a chance. Hip Hop is the only thing I don’t give a fuck about how you come in. You could be handsome, ugly, fat (or) skinny, we’re gonna accept you because it’s music and your music; grab them, they gonna rock with you. Look how many niggas came on looking funny as hell, then soon as that money hit he cute again.
TD: Do you have any other outside / additional aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
ALBEE AL: Do you know what I like about my music? The people that can’t rap, they say I talk for them. Some of my friends be like, “damn, I wish I could rap, if I could rap I’d say the shit you say.” You got people that’s locked up that can’t get they story out; they be like, “damn, Albee hit that shit right on the nose.” Somebody could tell me a story, and I can write about it 9 (times outta) 10. I don’t know…I don’t know how to really answer that.
TD: To date, what has been your greatest career moment(s), at least thus far anyway?
ALBEE AL: My greatest career moment…I say things I do with my family because if it wasn’t for my career I wouldn’t be able to do it. I just recently went to a Tampa Bay (game), to the Tom Brady football game the Buccaneers versus the Chiefs, and my son is a big fan. I’m a big Tom Brady fan. And for me to come home because like I was in jail, so if I come home I gotta catch Tom Brady game…so for me to take my son and my nephew and it was they first time being on an airplane and I took them with me to this game and we had the best seats and the players was giving my son and them they gloves. I’m just taking that in and I’m like, “damn, I can’t even believe I’m doing this shit.” Like I was just facing life in jail, and I’m really with my kids and it’s all because of my career and I can go anywhere because of my career.
TD: What’s an average day like for you?
ALBEE AL: An average day for Albee Al is work, work, work…interview, studio , shows, studio, shows. I get up, I’ll check to see what (my publicist) Chanel has for me. Nine times out of 10, I got 1 million interviews, video shoots; it’s everyday…the same shit. I don’t got time for nothing else.
TD: Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans...
ALBEE AL: I’m trying my hardest to interact with them because so many of my fans was there for me when I was locked up. My fans were sending me money; my fans is the best. So when they show love or they in the comments showing love and some heinous person say something to them I’ll be defending them…and I don’t read comments because that’s another way of getting niggas to trick you out ya spot, so that’s my discipline…but I repost them, let them know I appreciate the love. I just gotta be way more interactive. I got some concerts coming up, so I want to do some meet and greets. I might start going live with my fans and just talking to them. I wanna pick like five fans and bring them to a studio session with me, and let them hear some unreleased music from me and just a trip with Albee Al.
TD: What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? And, why?
ALBEE AL: The money! I’m only doing it for the money. They don’t got to see my face, I don’t care about the fame! I don’t care about nothing else. I could sit in this luxury apartment all day long until a check call ‘cause I’m really in it for the money! But the love that I get is overwhelming, so my favorite part about this shit is just the embrace. Like the people that know Albee Al, like they really get me. Like, damn, like you really know me, you really fuckin’ with me. Like you really sit there and you listen to my music and dissect my shit ‘cause my music is really like art. Like I mean it! I’m an open book in my music.
TD: What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
ALBEE AL: You gotta want it more than everybody. Also you can’t have one foot in and one foot out. You’re gonna slip…if you want to be a rapper, then you gotta be fully committed to that shit. You can’t be a rapper and a street nigga. If you want to be a street nigga, you gonna end up in jail and your rap career gonna fall apart, especially if you really living the shit that you rapping. My advice is a simple as that, if you want to be a rapper you gotta live what you say, but sometimes you gotta get away from that lifestyle and just have straight tunnel vision on the music.
TD: Lastly, what’s next for Albee Al?
ALBEE AL: My music! I’m dropping another tape in December. I got movie offers, and I’m finishing up my documentary dropping first quarter of 2023. I got my merch going crazy; it’s a winter line. We got a French Bulldog kennel, so I’m going hard with that, too…so I got a lot going on besides music.
TD: Any "closing" thought(s)?
ALBEE AL: I just want everybody to know that words (are) powerful. You gotta mean what you say and say what you mean. And manifestation is real. I’m living proof of that…you could make it out, all you gotta do is believe that shit! You got a plan, you stick to it and you go full throttle with that shit ;don’t let no distractions get in your way. That’s my message to everybody. Anything is possible; my story alone shows you that anything is possible…to come from a negative then turn it to a positive.
Connect w/Albee Al Online: