Tell me your whole inception into music. When did you first become interested and how did it all begin for you?
Ali Vegas: I was interested in music at the age of six. I started out writing poetry, but my poetry was so prolific that my older brother told me to say it over a beat. So when I went to go and put the beat behind it and said my part and he said that’s what I need to be doing. He got me hearing the rhyme and that’s when I fell in love with it.
Growing up, who were some of your strongest musical influences?
Ali Vegas: Wow… people like David Ruffin, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cook, Curtis Mayfield because they’re sound was good, but their stories would be deep.
At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue rap on a professional level?
Ali Vegas: When I turned 12, that’s when the game chose me more so than me wanted to do it and that was I when I got brought up to TrackMasters.
It’s been about 9 years since the ramblings of Ali Vegas from Hip-Hop patrons carried much volume. You’re back and stronger than ever it seems. Give us an idea of what you were doing behind the scenes before the spotlight hit you once more?
Ali Vegas: You never go to war unless you got ammunition and in this business just when think you can get a rest, it gets even more hectic. I wanted to make sure that I took the time off to make sure that the ammunition was there so that I can put out song, after song, after song and album, after album, after album. I was in the lab making record, after record, after record. I preparing to make sure that I got quantity and not just the quantity, but quality to match the quantity.
What about the mix-tapes your where doing?
Ali Vegas: That was just music that I do. I would keep in touch with a few DJ’s and play them records and they would be like ‘you gotta put this out.’ I was just making music because I love making music. It was never about anything else, but when I got sat down they was like ‘you depriving the listeners of good music if you just make music because you want to make it, you know should let the world hear it,’ and that’s when I started coming out. That’s why some the mixtapes and most of my own mixtapes have original tracks on them.
How would you describe and/or define your style of music?
Ali Vegas: I don’t know, it’ kinda weird because it’s unorthodox. It embodies all aspects of music. It’s not backpack, it’s not trendy, it’s like all of that in one. I made my style to be like my favorite basketball player, Scottie Pippen. He could shoot the three, put the ball on the floor, go to the rack… basically do it all, so that’s how my style of Rap is. I really can do it all. It’s nothing in music that I can’t do.
Your new single, “That’s Nothing” is getting some serious buzz. Did you expect such a cool response??
Ali Vegas: I expected it. I really just wanted to show the teachers that the students appreciate the foundation that they built.
Your new release Generation Gap 2: The Prequel, what does the name of this album mean to you?
Ali Vegas: Bringing back before the beginning, that’s how I called it the prequel instead of the sequel. I just wanted to bring them back to before the beginning – before it all started. This album has songs with a reggae feel, R&B feel and a lot balance. It just tells the story to what made me want to rhyme.
For Generation Gap 2, what’s good about this album compared to the first?
Ali Vegas: The maturity level, I raised it. Number 2 outweighs number 1 of course because I’ve grown since then, but number 1 was just raw talent. It was kinda like a scientific test, like here – ‘just put’em a booth, let’ em out the cage and let’ em rip.’ Number 2 is the “know-how” album. I know what to do and when to do it. I know when to turn it on and when to turn it off. So that’s just the difference between them.
As a songwriter when you sit down to pen your rhymes/songs, where do you draw your inspiration(s) from?
Ali Vegas: Life… everyday life whether it’s something that I’m going through or somebody on my block is going through something and they come to me for advice.
In terms of production, who did you work with? How involved where you in the creative process?
Ali Vegas: I wanted to work with students of today and tomorrow and the teachers of today and yesterday. So production wise – I worked with DJ Premier, LES, Cool & Dre, Scott Storch and other students of the game such as J Nice, Midi Mafia and more. They are teachers of today. So I just really wanted to blend it, I really wanted to blend the production between the students and the teachers and just let the people know how it came about. How we got to today, you had to go through yesterday to get to today and I had my hands on everything during creating the album.
Any highlights, special guest artists or favorite tracks?
Ali Vegas: As far as artist, I did the same thing that I did with the production. I just wanted to put the students and the teachers on the same project. I worked with students of the game such as TRL, young TRL who is a 14 year old phenom, Siamese Twins, Golden Child, ‘phenomenal reggae artist, you’ll be hearing a lot from him.’ I put them on the same project with some of the illest teachers like AZ, Nas and Styles P. I worked with Akon, Rakim and others.
What’s the next track we can expect to hear?
Ali Vegas: Well the next song single will be “Blow Your Mind” featuring Sammie. It’s for the girls and the fellas at the same time because it’s a million ways to blow your mind. While Sammie serenades the ladies, I’ll give the brothas some truth on to how to have a relationship with a girl without sex being in the equation. It’s got a nice 80’s and Debarge “Rhythm of The Night” feel.
Let’s discuss longevity in this business of music — What do you feel has been, and will continue to be the key to your success? What will keep sustaining you in this grueling industry?
Ali Vegas: I been prepared since day one because I lived in a single parent home with my mother and a younger sibling. Overcoming that and being able to stand tall through the times and having to go out and make a way for the younger siblings at the same time taking care of your older siblings that might be in a bind, it’s been a grueling since day one. All of that showed me that it has a lot to do with me; it has to do with me because it’s all-apart of Gods plan. He has been preparing me for this since day one. What ever comes your way, just deal with it accordingly and that’s what I do with music… accordingly. I deal with it accordingly. I look ahead and I still look behind because that prepares me for the problems and the achievements that’ll come when I keep going forward. That’s all I do is analyze yesterday, keep part of it with me today and look forward to tomorrow.
Do you have any other aspirations, even outside of music?
Ali Vegas: I want to give the generation of tomorrow a more better chance than the generation than yesterday and the generation of today had. I just want raise the level of thinking, the level of integrity in music and just show that being a nerd is aright. That’s why I like Pharrell because he made the nerd cool. So many people growing up especially where I come from, view the nerd as the bad thing to be and I just want to say to people that being smart is aight. Being intelligent is good. You ain’t gotta be dumb or standing out on the corner all day just to be cool. I want to show them that they can be cool even when they’re smart and it’s a time and place for everything. That’s my main thing that I want to accomplish through music.
On a more serious note, would it be fair to say that you are happy with the current state of Hip-Hop music?
Ali Vegas: I feel like it’s right were it needs to be. I feel grateful for it because it’s a perfect setup for an artist like myself.
Are you happy with it though?
Ali Vegas: Yeah, it’s nothing wrong with it because it’s the same state of Hip-Hop when Whoodini was out, and when Rakim and others came along. Same way it was when 2 Live Crew and Luke was out making shake your bottom music and all that. So it’s all the same, nothings changed just the plays. The game and the music is still the same. The only thing bad about the state of Hip-Hop now is that there’s no balance.
Since everyone either knows you already, or will become familiar with you after seeing your videos on television and music on the radio, what do you want people to get from your music?
Ali Vegas: I just want them to realize good music is out there. I’m working on making that “member when” music again like the way that LL and Run DMC and others did it, that’s what I want them to get. It’s good music out there and they need to support it or stop complaining.
What would these same people find you doing in your spare time completely away from the music?
Ali Vegas: They would find me reading, writing, chilling with my family, working hard on my music, playing dominos and spades.
To date, what has been your biggest career highlight?
Ali Vegas: I would say me performing with Dougie Fresh, Dana Dane and Jungle Brothers. That was definitely one of them and I guess the utmost would be – being around today.
Some of us remember the beef you had with DJ Clue and Fabolous. What was behind it and has it been squashed?
Ali Vegas: Our families live on the same block; it’s just a brotherhood. In Hip-Hop it’s a brotherhood just like growing up under the same roof with any of your siblings. Your gonna have disagreements, not see eye to eye all the time and have arguments. Its just part of the game, its competition in the most competitive sport around – rap music. It was just friendly competition. We got over it, made up now we here today.
Coming from Queens, what’s your relationship with Nas?
Ali Vegas: Nas was there when I got signed. He was there when I was 12 years old getting my deal. He told me the some things to do and some things not to do. It’s times we keep our distance and that’s just the way it is, but we good. The relationship between us is there.
Looking ahead, say 5 or even 10 years from now, where do you see yourself?
Ali Vegas: Accomplished and being able to look back and say wow… ‘I accomplished mostly everything I wanted in the course of ten years.’