That you’ve only been hearing about 23 year-old David “Young Buck” Brown for a little over a year has its roots in many different grounds, but lack of determination is not one of them. “I been doing music my whole life,” says the Nashville, Tennessee native. “I started rapping when I was about 12 or 13, just playing around with it. Around the age of 14, 15, I was in the studio, serious about it.”
But Young Buck also had two feet in the streets, peddling street narcotics in his early teens. “I was the youngest nigga in the field,” he recalls. “There’s really no age limit when you out there in those streets. I was out there doing grown man shit.” The older hustlers—more specifically one now-incarcerated OG named Priest who was especially close with Buck—would chide him due to his youth. “Sit your young ass down,” they’d say. “Pay attention, you young buck motherfucker.” It wasn’t long before “Young Buck” became a term of endearment as well as name.
When Buck was 16, he got word that New Orleans’ Cash Money rap troupe was recording in his town and scored a chance to perform for the label’s CEO, Brian “Baby” Williams, who had him prove his worth by engaging in verbal combat against Cash Money’s baby gangsters, including future Hot Boy Lil’ Wayne. Buck’s performance was so impressive that Williams offered him the chance to become part of the cash Money stable. Buck accepted, dropping out of high school and relocating to New Orleans for the next four years.
Let our interview pick it up with Young Buck!
Who influenced you?
N.W.A. “Straight Outta Compton.” I feel like that album established who they were, what they were about, and where they were from. That’s what I’m all about. Cashville is Nashville, Tennessee. That’s where I’m from and I feel like I’m going to put a twist to it. The first thing that comes to your mind when you say Nashville is country music but I wanted twist it and call it “Straight Outta Cashville.”
Who else influenced you?
D.O.C. And, everything really. I liked a lot of west coast artists. I used to listen to it but I didn’t really understand it. I’m twenty-three so I kind of caught the Tupac era. I really started understand the music with the “Brenda’s Got A Baby” and “Keep Your Head Up.”
Same as when I listened to Public Enemy. I didn’t know what they were talking about and then ten years later I went back to listen to it and was surprised at how much I had missed. I know the same happened with N.W.A. but I only heard the cursing and thought it was cool.
What do you think about kids listening to your record who are too young to get the message?
I feel like it’s for you to pull out from the music what they need. Music should be controlled by parents until you are old enough to control it yourself. With me you get reality rap so you get the murders, robberies, and drug dealings—that is where I come from. I come from a neighborhood like that—not where there is green grass and everything is peace and sweet. I base my music on where a fan can identify with what I’m saying because they’ve been there. But it could also be middle class working people who want to hear about it. Anybody can just rap and say they’ve done this and that—they’ve killed more rappers than the war. There is no sense in that. We have to need to speak on it not glorify it.
And at the same time kids can look to you and say ‘he got out of this, I can too.’
Exactly. There are songs on the record like “Smile” and the “Wanna Get To Know you” record featuring Joe. You get a hard side and a real side, but we wanna make you smile in reality. That is the difference between thuggin’ for thuggin’ and thuggin’ with a conscience.
How do you write?
I’m in my best on the spot. My style is more southern and lyrical. I want my words and delivery to tell you something.
Do you ever have an idea about what you want to get out?
I find a topic on what I want to speak on and everything else comes out.
I read that you were with Cash Money originally. Did you ever think you wouldn’t make it as an artist?
I knew that I was sitting there and wasn’t going anywhere, but I was going nowhere at home and Cash Money was way bigger. Cash Money was a company that was moving units with albums straight from the street. I was selling drugs before that and it was a chance for me to stop what the fuck I was doing. I cherished that time because everything around me was the streets. I feel like what you go through makes you stronger. Cash Money was a learning experience. I’m twenty-three and I was with them since the ninth grade—I dropped out of school. It was a heartbreaker for me not to make it with them and my city. We never had anyone out the hood who that made it or out of my city. My city didn’t understand what I was going through—they only knew I wasn’t with Cash Money anymore.
Do you want to start your own Cash Money?
I did it with my album. I have a cat named Detain on there. He kind of started the whole hustle with me. I have G-Unit South too. It’s a lot of different little things that I’ve learned from my situations from the past.
Since a lot of the guys at Cash Money lived the same life as you had were they like big brothers?
Nah, I have my own big brothers. They were more like business people to me. There was a friendship, mostly they were my partners.
I’m guessing your knowledge this time around is better because of the Cash Money experience.
It is, but you know I didn’t get any teaching from them. I learned the hard way. I was never on a record that was due to be released. I had a few cameos in videos, but no one ever got to hear my story. I spent a lot of years of my life with them homie. I was riding around with Baby when he would drop Wayne and Turk off at school. I should have been in school back home, but I was in the office with him. I already skipped my childhood from day one in the streets and then jumped into a whole other city with this music shit. I had a good whiff of it in the beginning, but had no control.
You had some serious perseverance. If you didn’t have that you probably wouldn’t be where you are.
Hell yeah. If I didn’t have that I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am. I wouldn’t know how to react to situations, I wouldn’t know how to go about my business, how important interviews are, how to be on time about things, and a lot of things I never knew. I learned a lot from good and bad things.
Are you learning a lot on the run now?
Yeah. I know its 90% business and 10% talent. There are a lot of different things that come up in front of you as you go.
Do you wish it was 90% talent and 10% business?
Hell yeah. I think there’d be a lot more artists in the game and life would be a great thing. It’s a game that is made to play—you get the crazies and evilest shit in this game. Crazy shit.
Do you think hip-hop is healthy?
I think the minute you take hip-hop away from the streets you have a problem. It’s been getting watered down. Everyone isn’t from the ghetto or street, but not everyone is from suburbs either. You can’t have one wave of music. You have to keep it even and it will stay growing.
Do you think about today or down the road?
I think about longevity man. That is the whole point. I’m living for my daughter. I have a seed in this world so I’m living for two. You start thinking about longevity when those kids come along. I don’t want to ball for a minute, I want to ball for a longtime.
Do you look to L.L.?
I don’t really look to L.L. like that. I look to Scarface because he’s from the south. He’s more of a mentor. I think east coast artists look to L.L. Scarface has the same amount of time in the game as L.L.
And compared to L.L., Scarface hasn’t changed.
He hasn’t changed and that right there is probably the biggest thing.
You tend to forget Scarface because L.L. is always in your face.
Right. Scarface is the south. L.L. has the same longevity so you have to give it to him.
Are you competitive? Or do you just do for you?
I do for me. I base my music on myself. Let the world be the judge. That is the only judgment of your product. If you put too much time competing with someone you take to much time away from growing your art.
+ Charlie Craine