The complete transcript of Joseph Litman’s Michigan Daily interview with DJ Envy and rapper Joe Budden:

The Michigan Daily: Joe, How did you and Envy hook up and collaborate?

Joe Budden: Envy is my man. Before his deal, before his album, he had his own mixtape, I was on it, and we just go back a little. I made a track, called “Focus,” he heard it, and wanted it for this album, (The Desert Storm Mixtape: DJ Envy, Blok Party, Vol. 1), so I gave it to him.

TMD: Who made the beat on “Focus?”

JB: A guy named (WB) made that track; my producer, up and coming. I was with him before my record deal. He made it out in Jersey.

TMD: On your album, what kind of sound can we expect from you?

JB: Expect something real different. Expect a classic album. I’ve been bustin’ my ass; it’ll be real lyrical. Back in ’94, a lot of great emcees came out with classic albums – OutKast, Snoop, Big, Nas. ’94 was like a revolution for hip-hop, so I kind of want to put my album there.

TMD: Right now, hip-hop seems to be struggling to find its direction. Nelly and Ja Rule have been co-opted by the mainstream, while real hip-hoppers like Talib Kweli don’t get the same exposure. Where do you want to see hip-hop go and what is hip-hop’s biggest problem?

JB: I hate to say lack of creativity, but that is one of the problems. Also, a lot of the same artists have been around for a while. You gotta respect Jay-Z, Nas, (rolling his eyes) LL-and that’s no offense to him; it’s hard to last in the game. So, when you have all these rappers who have been around for so long, sooner or later, people want to hear something new. People need a new face, a younger face, maybe, and hopefully I can be one of those people.

TMD: How did you decide to get into rhymin’?

JB: I was high one day and just started freestylin’. And that’s not a big-up to getting high; I don’t do it anymore. I just stuck to (rapping). It was a hobby, something I did to pass time, with basketball, and over the years, like anything, if you keep at it, you get better at it. God just put me in the right place at the right time and here I am.

TMD: Why do you think it is that hip-hop and basketball are so intertwined?

JB: They’re both urban. In a lot of urban areas you have rap, you have hip-hop, and you have streetball, basketball. Rap is the streets; basketball is the streets. It’s like they’re cousins. For a lot of minorities, basketball and rap music are two of the only ways out of the hood, so I think that people who are talented at those things strive to be the best. Those are two of the things God gave us to get out of the hood.

TMD: So, does that make it difficult to reconcile staying true to the streets and getting put on?

JB: First of all, it’s not a bad thing (to get put on). Take Nelly. He came from St Louis, which is the hood, and just because something starts one place doesn’t mean it can’t venture elsewhere. The guy sold seven million records! One song can take care of a man’s family, so he’s taking care of himself and (his people). I mean, he could fart on a track and if people buy it, then that’s cool.

TMD: So then how can rappers avoid being labeled sell-outs?

JB: There’s a fine line. I hate to say it, but for white people, or the crossover audience, to accept you, the urban audience has to first accept you. But once the urban audience no longer accepts you, then (laughing) it seems like the crossover audience doesn’t want you either. So, you gotta walk a fine line.

I don’t know, exactly, the definition of “crossover;” everyone has their own definition. Does it mean when you sell units? If you do something just for the purpose of selling units, then that, I would say, is crossover. But if Nelly’s making music, and that’s the music he makes – and it seems like it is and he’s nice at it – then that’s not crossover.

Eminem, I don’t call him crossover. He’s the best lyricist out, and the best lyricist the game has seen in a long, long, long time. Just because he’s selling eight or nine million units, that doesn’t make him crossover.

TMD: Envy, when did you first get into the DJ game?

DJ Envy: It started in ’93 or ’94. I always bought mixtapes – the Clues, Kid Capris, Ron Gs – and I always used to take songs of off Ron G’s. I never knew who Clue was. Clue wasn’t Clue, he was just my man up the block; I never knew he was a DJ. I started making my own CD’s, people liked them, and it just so happened that Clue was on my block. I started talking to him, he basically told me what equipment I should buy, how to get into the game, and it went from there.

TMD: What was the hardest thing to deal with when trying to gain entr

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