On August 24th, Mickey Factz is back on his bullshit. Another mixtape? Yes, his seventh with a big, fat ribbon of a title, I'm Better Than You is the latest in his string of internet-released material. Coming off about a year-long hiatus, calling his return to a workout of wordplay "bullshit" is cliché in rap, but for Mickey, he's found it easy, without gasping at the daunting amount of material he's given away for free. I'm Better Than You is the preview before his debut album on Battery/Jive Records. When the mixtape was announced, he spoke with Suite903 about the evolution of his career and the significance of his relationships (personal and professional) that have inspired his recording of The Achievement to follow later this year. It's Mickey more honest than he's ever been—truthfully.
INTERVIEW BY RICHARD "TREATS" DRYDEN
So, how's your japanese these days?
Mickey Factz: I haven't been since, so it's kind of bad man.
You have to go to Japan to uh, bone up?
Mickey Factz: Yeah, 'cause I just be doing other shit.
Well you've got Sony behind you, now you'll be making a lot more trips.
Mickey Factz: I hope so. I just met with the international people because they just heard a lot of the music and they were just like, "Wow. OK we're gonna be sending you overseas a whole lot." So I was like, "OK, sounds good."
When it comes to any American artist, getting some kind of international following, yours has been specific to that region, like just to Asia in particular. Has that been on purpose?
Mickey Factz: I think China and Japan just fall in love with the style of dress and because of that, the style of clothing that I do.
So you feel like your fashion sense caught their attention more first than the music, you'd say? Aside from being the only black guy, I'm sure.
Mickey Factz: I think it was a combination of both—I think it was a mixture of a style of dress or the crazy music that I've been putting out. Put that together it just created this, 'Oh we gotta get him over here.'
And you've been brand specific with the clothes in particular, right?
Mickey Factz: Supra for one, Rocksmith, Kilo, Lemar & Dauley when they first started out...
And Y-3 of course.
Mickey Factz: Y-3 [T-shirt], Y-3 [beaded chain], sneakers Y-3, it's a little crazy right now. Haha.
Are you working on collaborations with any of these brands?
Mickey Factz: I'm looking to put out some crazy stuff right now with Rocksmith, with Belchez.
You've curated these interesting initiatives, these exclusive initiatives with companies like Honda and I'm probably forgetting something…
Mickey Factz: EA [Sports].
EA, yes of course. But on the fashion tip you haven't done anything exclusive yet.
Mickey Factz: Not yet, but I will be very soon. We're just re-building the brand so people can be aware of what's about to happen.
Now when you say rebuilding the brand, do you mean rebuilding the Mickey Factz brand or the GFC-NY brand.
Mickey Factz: I was very quiet for a while, but I went back on a tear, so it's gonna be different this time around.
What was going on in that period when there was nothing?
Mickey Factz: I was touring a lot. I was doing a lot of shows and I wasn't in the studio. My studio setup, I didn't have one at that time, and when I did get the studio setup, I was working on so many different projects at the same time. I was quiet because I was just working and I was touring at the same time. I didn't put any music out; I didn't do any interviews—nothing. I was just traveling, touring, working, performing and recording, But not putting music out (which is dumb).
Dumb? Why dumb?
Mickey Factz: I should have been giving the music out to the people. What we wanted to do was get a situation before we started releasing music for no reason. So now that I have a situation… I just put something out 5 minutes ago, because I can. Doing songs is very easy for me, and it's good quality.
In finally getting that situation that you're at right now with Battery/Jive, what did you do specifically?
Mickey Factz: I went to atlanta in January. We drove down there on the whim. Me and my ex had just separated. I was just feeling really bad. We were separated for a while. I was just very sad. So I took all that energy in and did 23 songs in 10 days. And the sound of the music was totally different. It was more song structured, more radio friendly, more celebratory music, a lot of uptempo stuff, but club records. It was more hip-hop. I kind of just got in the zone and when I brought it back up top, every label loved it. But Battery/Jive was the best situation for me because it keeps my indie roots on point as well because it has the same strength of a major label because I have Jive behind me as well. So I have the strengths of an indie and the strength of a major and they love the music here, so it's a great situation.
I met Jeff Sledge, your A&R for the first time, five years ago. All he could do was rave about you! What were your conversations like with Sledge, 5 years ago? Or did you know each other?
Mickey Factz: We met Jeff through my stylist Kwas Kesi. I was very nervous. We gave him In Search of the N.E.R.D. which was my first mixtape and he really, really liked it. A lot of people don't know but when I made "Supras" Jeff was there. We made "Supras" in Precize's room and we did it on the whim and he was there. He believed in my talent. He just didn't know what direction I would go after In Search of the N.E.R.D., after Flashback and after Heaven's Fallout he felt we didn't have any hit records in '08. We had one which was "Automatic" but that was it. When I came back from Atlanta, I had about six of 'em.and he was just like, "Yo this is a little scary." He as actually very surprised at the quality of the music." He was just like, "This is absolutely different from anything you've ever done. It's actually really, really good. We should talk." I was already talking to different labels, but being that Jeff was there from the start, it kind of made sense. I really trust him and his judgement. Sometimes we butt heads, but at the end of the day, me and him go back like 4 or 5 years, so it's been cool.
It's been a real organic relationship between you too.
Mickey Factz: Most definitely, organic. We always used to say to him, "Come on why you not gon' sign me?!" He was like, "Nah you not ready." He always kept it real. But when we finally had the stuff, it was a totally different story. He champions me, and people love me here now. So it was a good look.
Which came first: was it the sound you wanted or was it your ability to rap?
Mickey Factz: I have to give a lot of it to Precize. Precize kind of changed his sound and being that me and him worked with each other for four years, we were just trying to find what was dope. He would make beats and I would work. So this time he had a significant amount of beats that he was doing. And I was already in a mood because of me and my ex. So that combined kind of made my sound and then being that I was already in a groove just going in. I channelled that and now I know what to do now every single time I go into the studio.
So it was more of a real life situation that came before anything.
Mickey Factz: Yes, most definitely.
Where are things now with the relationship?
Mickey Factz: We're just cool right now. We're not together but we're cool. We have respect for each other. I think that's the main thing—that we have the ultimate respect for each other because that's what matters.
Just thinking about relationships and how your significant other or your former significant other can influence your music. I mean, you're at a place where you're around so many emotionally-driven artists who've made great material based off of breakups, specifically Usher and Andre 3000. And this is a range of musicians from R&B to hip-hop. Where do you fit in now?
Mickey Factz: It's funny that you say Usher and Andre 3000 because we are both label mates. It feels good that it happened that way. I'm grateful for it. I tell her everyday like, "Thank you, because if that didn't happen I wouldn't be where I am today." I was very lackadaisical with the music. I just didn't care. I would make music but I was just waiting; I would be laid back; I didn't work the way people saying they work, a lot of people knew I was working hard. It's because of her, I just kind of did my thing.
That's amazing. Your next mixtape is your seventh mixtape.
Mickey Factz: Seventh! Yes, seven joints in four years. That's pretty good. Charles [Hamilton] put out 8 in 3 months or 2 months. I'm just gonna do it. This is right before the album, this is the alley oop before the album. Putting out music is very easy for me. I do it in my sleep [yawns]. And you gotta remember it's in four years: so there was one in '06, two in '07, two in '08, but the two in '08 are the ones that people really know about, none in '09, Alpha was more of an EP/mixtape—there was only 8 songs on it. So this is a little different now.
Let's talk about Alpha.
Mickey Factz: The Dark Phoneix was the name of the mixtape, yes.
Where was that going? Because I almost feel like that was even more all over the place than some of your earliest material.
Mickey Factz: Right. That project was a…. I still love that project. I think that was me loving Phoenix. I fell in love with Phoenix so much that I wanted to rap over their stuff, just like when I first heard N.E.R.D., and the same thing with Heaven's Fallout. There's still people who love The Dark Phoenix, it just didn't have the staying power that other mixtures of mine that hat come out. I still listen to The Dark Phoenix. I love it. I love "Ashes," I love "Amnesia," I love "Sunrise." People still hit me up about "Sunrise." I think maybe it was a little too short, and wasn't hip-hop enough. You know how some people take beats and they sample shit and they put hard drums over it. I just sampled it and put it out and I think that was the problem. But I am still proud of Alpha. It was a good look for me in my eyes. I loved the music and I think that was the beginning. I recorded a lot of that stuff in August when me and her were going through a lot of things.
It was probably one of your most brave efforts at the same time because you were doing a lot of singing on it. That in itself, and not putting out too much material and then doing that.
Mickey Factz: I think I sang only one song, the last song. That was it.
Ah, alright. But it was probably your most experimental.
Mickey Factz: Oh, yeah definitely experimental.
That doesn't make it bad or good.
Mickey Factz: I just think people expected more from me. I was kind of in my own world. I think every artist goes through that phase where they wanna try something different. I think a lot of people of tired of hearing the same stuff I was. I just wanted to do something different bro.
So this campaign for I'm Better Than You. So the campaign for the mixtape and the album, is there anything going on in between there.
Mickey Factz: There will be a "Paradise" video shoot. I am going to release another single called "Made." That's gonna be coming out soon. It's the polar opposite of "Paradise." It's gonna be attacking rhythmic more. There should be a video for that as well. The mixtape is going to cause a lot of uproar. You're probably gonna be asking me for another interview after the cover drops. The cover is very eye opening. And the album is going to be crazy because I have a lot of great great records, and I'm very excited.
This is more of a formal campaign because you're with the label. But are there times when you kind of want to go outside of that because of your independent roots and being able to put out so much music continuously, like there is any conflict in between the two?
Mickey Factz: I think putting out music from now up until the album comes out is beneficial for me to do because I was gone for so long in 2009, I think a lot of people just need music. So far I've put out in the past week I've put out two songs—one on Monday and one today [Ed. Note: Date July 23rd, 2010].
It's almost like you have to.
Mickey Factz: Right. I have to do it because the fans have been asking. I think a lot of the fans thought I was lazy. I really just need people to understand that I was one of the first to pioneer leaking records all the time. I'm going to prove that this is easy for me. This is really easy for me, I do this in my sleep.
Can you tell me the future of the Black Apple?
Mickey Factz: The future of the Black Apple is gonna be a global phenomenon. I think we're gonna be taking the Black Apple on the road. The Black Apple is not just New York City. We call it the Black Apple because it's where I'm from, but there's a Black Apple in every city. It's the nightmare before the beautiful dream. People always see you when you come out, but they don't see the grind you put in, the struggle you put in, the despair you put in, all of the the blood, sweat and tears you put in just before you get to that dream and just see the dream. That's what the people meant to see but we embrace the nightmare. We embrace the gritty and the grimy and the grunge of our city, so when we go on tour and to different places, we want to put the artists who are working towards that dream onto the Black Apple. It's going to be a very prominent brand of the next couple of months and years.