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Default AZ Interview (Talks About Relationship With Nas & Beef With 50)

AZ 'The Undeniable' out 5th Febuary

On March 9th 1972, Anthony Cruz was born in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York to an African-American mother and a Dominican father. Later on in life, Anthony Cruz would soon become the rapper known as AZ.

On April 19th, 1994 a young and unknown MC from Queensbridge, New York named Nas (previously known as Nasty Nas) released an album titled Illmatic, and this album would go onto to set the lyrical standard for years to come.

Although this album is considered one of the greatest in history, all critics shared the same views, that it was too short.

There were 10 tracks listed, and one of them was an introduction to the album, which consisted of talking and no music. So in reality, the album only had 9 songs on it.

There was only one guest appearance on this memorable masterpiece of work, and it came on track 3, titled ďLifeís a Bitch.Ē The 22-year-old Brooklyn resident Anthony Cruz, known to his peers as AZ, made his mark onto the Hip-Hop stage by uttering these classic lines:

ďVisualizin the realism of life and actuality/
F**k who's the baddest a person's status depends on salary/
And my mentality is, money orientated/
I'm destined to live the dream for all my peeps who never made it/
Cause yeah, we were beginners in the hood as five percenters/
But somethin must of got in us/cause all of us turned to sinners/
Now some, restiní in peace and some are sittiní in San Quentin/
Others such as myself are tryiní to carry on tradition/
Keepin the schwepervesence street ghetto essence inside us/
Cause it provides us with the proper insight to guide us/
Even though, we know somehow we all gotta go/
but as long as we leaviní thieviní weíll be leaviní with some kind of dough/
So, and to that day we expire and turn to vapors
m e and my capers-ll be somewhere stackiní plenty papers/
Keepiní it real, packiní steel, gettiní high/
Cause lifeís a bitch and then you die/Ē

That verse would be the first recorded one in his rap career and also led to many arguments from high school lunch rooms, to basketball courts, to the projects about who came off harder, AZ or Nas. After AZís buzz was created through that legendary performance, he garnered a record deal with EMI Records for his debut album Doe Or Die, which was released on October 10th, 1995 and went on to sell over a million copies.

Continuing to make a name for himself, AZ joined the super group known as The Firm and it included fellow New York rappers Foxy Brown, Nas, and Cormega (who was later replaced by Nature). The self-titled album hit the stores on October 21st, 1997 and even with the album going platinum along with production from the Trackmasters (Tone & Poke) as well as Dr. Dre, the project was not as successful as anticipated, and the quartet soon disbanded.

AZ went back to his solo career, and the collaborations with Nas all but ended. He went on to release Pieces Of Man (over 438,000 copies sold) on April 7th, 1998, S.O.S.A. (Save Our Streets AZ) in 2000, and 9 Lives on June 12th, 2001 (over 435,000 copies sold).

On December 18th, 2001 Nas and AZ reconciled their differences, and joined forces on Nasí on his fifth album, Stillmatic (derived from his first album Illmatic from which AZ was first featured) on a song titled "The Flyest". And Nas soon returned the favor appearing AZís Aziatic album on June 12th, 2002 (over 500,000 copies sold) the song was called "The Essence" and it was nominated at the 2003 Grammy Awards for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group. But once again, their working relationship would come to a halt. Many hailed this album as AZís come back album, but he wasnít satisfied with the momentary success.

In 2004 he planned to release Final Call but the album met its fate via Internet bootlegging, and A.W.O.L. was introduced to the masses instead on September 6th, 2005. The album made headway with the DJ Premier produced "The Come Up", and it was the first album to be released through his Quiet Money Records imprint.

With acclaimed success of that album, The Format followed on November 7th, 2006. One of the well known tracks included a song called, "Royal Salute", which was a retaliation song aimed towards 50 Cent for initially dissing him first on a song called "What If" featured on the Get Rich Or Die Trying Soundtrack. That brings you up to speed on 2007-08 where he is set to release his unprecedented 7th album, Undeniable. This is the diary of Anthony ďAZĒ Cruz. You think you know, but you have no idea.

Whatís good AZ?

Iím good right now man. Iím good.

Thatís whatís up. So is there any reason why you named this album Undeniable?

Well I feel like I covered all ground right now, just like with all my other albums. I felt like they were deniable, and as for this right here, I just feel like its Undeniable to the masses.

I can dig that. So what can people expect to hear from this album?

Well I mean Iíve always been expanding with the flows. On all my joints you hear a new and improved AZ on every trip, so my fan base is going to know that theyíre getting AZ to the tenth power.

How do you feel about your career right now? Do you feel as if youíve been underrated?

It doesnít bother me, but guaranteed I feel underrated. But I know Iím putting that work in, and at the end of the day Iím not going to feed into it. Because I know where Iím coming from. Some days are just a little lower than others thatís all.

I hear you. Do you think thereís any reason why you havenít gained a lot of commercial success?

Well when youíre in this business, you got to know itís a business. So thereís a thousand reasons why it didnít pop off the way it was supposed to pop off. But a lot of it is the ďpowers that beĒ know what Iím saying. Certain things control certain things within the game that stops certain things. And at the end of the day, certain people that were behind me didnít put their best foot forward at times; know what I mean. So itís a lot of things, but as long as I still got my game tight, I feel good about that.

What keeps you motivated after all theses years to still make music?

Itís in my blood man, Iím from Brooklyn, and I represent for the n***as that ainít never coming home, and all my peopleís that were lost in the struggle, so I keep on for them. Also for the shorties to catch on, because theyíre running around wild and blind. So I just do it for the love of the game.

Your whole career has been based on lyricism. Do you think lyricism still plays a major factor in todayís Hip-Hop?

Right now itís a fad and theyíre doing all that dancing and all that chanting sh*t. But it is what it is, things grow and things change, and nothing ever remains the same. At the end of the day, everything turns around 360, so Iím sure it will come back around. And if youíre a real lyricist or just a real, dude you can understand that. Because sometimes there is going to be a drought, so you have to lay low and play slow until it comes back around. So it is what it is.

With that being said, when youíre writing, arenít you worried about some of the metaphors you use or some of the stuff you write about going over some peopleís heads?

I think about it going over anybodyís heads, because I try to write it and shoot my lyrics and direct them towards those I need to touch. And I know from what I speak, there is a group of people out there and a fan base out there that is digesting what Iím spitting. I mean for those that it goes over their heads, is really their loss. [Laughs]

[Laughing] Yeah I can dig that. Every time you release an album, do you feel as if youíre competing with the younger generation coming up?

Nah, ainít no competition. Iím not doing it for the awards or nothing. Like I said Iím doing it for the real dudes in the street, and thereís a real struggle going on out here. And the masses are trying to blind the youth and turn them deaf and dumb. So Iím just trying to do what I do, and reach as many people that I can reach, to open their eyes up and let them join in on the struggle. Because itís each one teach one when it comes to me anyway.

What would you do differently if you could go back to 1993-í94 and start your career over?

Every lesson is a blessing so I would change nothing. But I wouldnít f**k with a lot of people that I f**ked with, you dig what Iím saying. [Laughing] It be the energy that you surround yourself with that f**ks you up, and f**ks a lot of people up, know what Iím saying. So thatís the only thing I would change, is my mothaf**kiní surroundings.

How do you think youíve remained relevant throughout the years?

I think I put that work in for real. Like at the end of the day, the average person only outs out 1-2 albums, even the greatest artists only put out1-2 or probably 3, and I have 7 albums out, so I stay relevant. I donít sell a million, but I sell enough, know what I mean. Itís a good look, and Iím not mad as long as I keep it coming. And every time I keep it coming, it gets more potent, so Iím not mad.

Like you said you come out with an album every year or year and a half. Do you ever feel burned out from releasing albums at that pace?

Nah, nah Iím like the sun, the sun donít burn out man. [Smiles] The sun has been here for a billion years. I fuel myself. Iím like a car battery. The only people that burn themselves out are the people that feed off sh*t. I done been through enough sh*t, and Iíve done seen it all, and my bloodline is serious. This is in my soul; this ainít nothing that Iím trying to make up like a gimmick, know what Iím saying.

On your song ďLife On The LineĒ you have a line where you say: ďNas got rich and reached back/I ainít rich yet.Ē Does it get to you sometimes that your colleagues have been somewhat more successful than you have?

Well Iím so in-tuned with myself, itís like I have a brick wall around me. So as far as that statement I said: ďNas got rich and reached back/I ainít rich yet.Ē Meaning it is what it is, he did him, and Iím doing me. I ainít on the welfare line, but Iím doing me. [Pauses] Iím just giving that out to the people, and letting them know what it is. Because a lot of brothers say: ďYo whatís up with you and Nas?Ē And at the end of the day I say: ďIt ainít me!Ē ďIt ainít me!Ē Ya dig. I donít want people to point the finger at me. I know what the fans want. They wanted something with me and him together, because they know how we get down. But hey, he got rich and reached back, I ainít rich yet. You get it?

I dig it. So whatís your relationship with Nas now? Do you plan on working with him in the future?

I donít think the magic is there no more; it is what it is. If it happens, it happens. If it donít, it donít. It ainít going to stop nobody from living, because everybody is doing them anyways soÖ.

What are some of the things you donít like about the music business?

Just a lot of hate in the game, and a lot of f**kin sh*t be going on. Me, I donít affiliate myself with nobody in the music industry, everybody is out really out for themselves. I know itís a business, but people put ďcutthroatĒ before the business and then it becomes a ďcutthroat business.Ē Everybody wants to win, but theyíre in a race going nowhere, and the only way to win is to master yourself. Theyíre not looking at the bigger picture, [they] think itís about selling a million records, and getting more paper and that just brings more problems. And if you ainít built for the problems, youíre going to fall victim, and thatís why a lot of rappers are going through a lot of things right now. Where they want the power, and they donít know how to use the power. They misuse it.

Last year you had a song called ďRoyal SaluteĒ where you retaliated against 50 Cent dissing you. A lot of people wouldnít have responded. What made you respond?

I didnít want to go at him, I just wanted to talk to him, but I guess thatís the only way we could communicate, so I just let him know. Like: ďYou can never f**k with me/so donít ever f**k with me.Ē I wanted to say in the joint that money canít buy you your way into heaven, and when you die you canít take it with you.

Ainít that the truth. Were there any deciding factors that made you sign with Koch Records?

Actually itís Quiet Money/Koch and itís a distribution deal, and it feels good. Iím not signed to Koch; theyíre just distributing my music. Like I said Iíve been on the majors, so now Iím just touching the independent world to see where I can go in up in this one, thatís all.

Like you said, youíve been on the major circuit and now the independent circuit. Is there any one you prefer better? Or is it all the same in your book?

Right now Iím trying to feel it out, because there is loopholes in everything. Everything that glitters ainít gold, so Iím trying to figure it out. But I get more creative control on this end and you get more buck for your dollar on this end. The only thing that f**ks up is that the majors put more money into marketing and promotion so that makes it more live. So on one hand you get more fame, and on the other hand you get more money, so you decideÖ Ya dig..
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