The mixtape game is a competitive one. Throughout the country, DJs make compilation CDs seeking to break the latest music, promote the hottest artists and stoke the flames of conflict. DJ Envy, well known in New York, drops his first major-label tape today, The Desert Storm Mixtape: DJ Envy, Blok Party, Vol. 1. One of the album’s hottest tracks is “Focus,” from rapper and longtime Envy associate Joe Budden. Envy and Budden spoke with The Michigan Daily about Storm and the current state of hip-hop.

The Michigan Daily: Envy, how do you distinguish your tapes from those of your competitors?

DJ Envy: I just do me. Whatever songs I feel, I play. You’re not going to hear any wack songs or too many favors. If I don’t like it, I don’t care if it’s your man, your cousin’s man, I’m not going to play it. If I like, I play it. Check my album. Every song on my album, I love, I like. Every artist, I love, I like. It wasn’t “let me get these artists as favors.” Everybody on my album, I love, and I would die for my album. This is my life.

TMD: Do you think hip-hop is moving in the right direction?

DJE: What people fail to understand is that hip-hop is somebody’s self-expression. There’s gonna be artists who make pop music and artists who make hardcore music. People should stop worrying about what other people are doing and just focus on their own projects.

TMD: 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, he heard it and wanted it for this album, so I gave it to him.

TMD: When did you get into rhymin’?

JB: I was high one day and just started freestylin’. 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: Your hobbies were hip-hop and basketball. Why do you think the two 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.

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

JB: 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.

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