2014 has been full of bombastic anthems by hip-hop newcomers, from Rae Sremmurd's "No Flex Zone" to Bobby Shmurda's "Hot Nigga" and most recently, Dej Loaf's "Try Me." O.T. Genasis now enters the ring with "CoCo," an over-the-top paean to dealing cocaine and rhyming words that end with a long "o."
Three years back, the Long Beach rapper caught the ear of 50 Cent with a track called "Jackie Chan," and G-Unit Records released his 2012 Black Belt mixtape. After being let go by the label, O.T.'s next break came when Busta Rhymes caught one of his performances at the Playhouse Night Club. "I was so turned up by what he displayed, not just as an MC but as a showman," Busta recalls. "He was jumping on the speakers. He damn near was swinging from the chandeliers in the bitch."
The elder rapper has become both mentor and boss for O.T., and in late November the pair sat down with Rolling Stone to discuss "CoCo," coco and what comes next. O.T., it seems, is markedly humble and subdued. Busta, on the other hand, can hardly contain his excitement.
O.T., take us back to when you recorded "Coco."
O.T. Genasis: I recorded this track about a month ago at Atlantic [Records] studios in Cali. I came up with [the concept] at another studio, one of my boys' studio. I just knew I had to do it on another mic and make it sound right. Usually, if I hear songs, I record it on a Voice Memo first. I have to perfect it. I'm a big fan of delivery and I want to make sure you're saying it right. I'm like, "This has to be perfect when I do this."
The track itself is very energetic. What was the creative headspace you were in while recording?
O.T.: I was super amped up. It was probably 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I had the music all the way up yelling, "I'm in love with the coco!" I was just being young and hungry. Not just for music but in survival mode. When certain things aren't going right in your lifestyle, like, certain bills are still in effect. I didn't have a big record before this.
So the urgency in "CoCo" comes from real stress in your life, presumably tied to your previous life dealing drugs?
O.T.: Definitely. I made a promise that I wouldn't have to do shit like that no more. At the end of the day, I have a son. He's in preschool and you know, nah. I can't do that.
When did you finally give up that part of your life, so to speak?
O.T.: You know what? I couldn't really tell you the date. You don't just put an end to it.
It's not ongoing, is it?
O.T.: [Laughs] No. No, I'm good.
A lot of rappers glamorize cocaine dealing, regardless of whether they've done it or not. As someone who has lived the realities, does that bother you?
O.T.: Basically, I did it for myself. I didn't make the song for other people. That's how I felt at the time. The reaction that I'm getting from it, it just clarifies that there's a lot of shit going on, whether that's people using it or people selling it. No, I'm not glorifying it. That's not what I'm doing at all. I just want to be a spokesperson for the people.
Busta, what attracted you to O.T. when you saw him in Los Angeles?
Busta Rhymes: He was carrying on so crazy that he was forced to do "Touchdown" four times. They wanted the song so damn bad, he was forced to do it four times. I ain't seen that in years from no new artist. I was so excited that I damn near was grabbing him like, "Where you going?" I just really wanted to help him understand the urgency of what I was feeling, of wanting to explore the possibilities of us working together. I just wanted to help him grow. Even if it was just some mentor shit or doing a feature on a couple of records or just being that person he could call and consult with. Of course, most desirably, be on the same team with him and being in business as partners. I seen in him shit I could learn too.
What have you learned?
Busta: A lot of times, you as the executive or you as the person with the bigger experience, you don't know how to get out of the way. For the first time, I really got a clear understanding of how to get out of the way. From the stage show to how to make his record to how to do his interview, he knew how to do that already at an exceptional level.
When I get around them [O.T. and label mate J-Doe], they force me to start touching and experimenting other shit. They can't be the only ones sounding current now. I gotta sound current and still timeless. You have to make sure that you can shift and change without compromising what the people have known and grown to love you for. I'm having fun. It's bringing the whole, enthusiastic "go and face the challenge" vibe and energy every day.