Interviewed by Sidney Thomas: Gerreddi, a DMV rapper known for consistently creating quality music, recently made a major power move by signing with the Freeway Music Group, a record label owned by Los Angeles street legend Ricky Ross. Gerreddi also got tongues wagging by releasing the single "Mug on Mean", a diss track aimed at Wale, his former friend and colleague.
In this exclusive interview with the Examiner, Gerreddi discusses his beginnings as a rapper, his relationship with Freeway Ricky Ross, and the reasons behind his conflict with Wale.
Q: For the people who don't know you, tell them who you are and what part of the area you represent.
A: My name is Gerreddi. I'm originally from DC, 55th and Blaine Street, NE. I've also lived on Benning Road SE and over in Seat Pleasant too.
Q: At what age did you become interested in music?
A: I've been involved with music since I was very young. My father was a DJ. In fact he still spins at local caberets. Sometimes he would take me to gigs with him. I was six years old winning dance contests, lol!
Q: When did you get involved in the hip-hop game?
A: I started writing lyrics when I was about 12 or 13. When I was about 15 I went into the studio for the first time. I went to a studio called MC Sounds that used to be at Pennsylvania Crossing in Forestville. Mike Cross and Face brought me in and put me in the booth - and I killed it. Face still produces music for me and mixes my tracks.
Q: Talk a little bit about your role as one of the artists who helped put "The DMV" on the map.
A: Basically, I put on for my city. I was rapping back when if you weren't in a go-go band they would call you a bamma. I've represented DC on every album I've ever released. I came into the game as a battle rapper and now I've evolved into a complete artist.
Q: How did your deal with Freeway Ricky Ross go down?
A: I hooked up with Freeway through his nephew Lil Mont. I already knew Lil Mont from some other situations. I was promoting my single "Go Bananas" (featuring Fat Trel), and Lil Mont retweeted the link. Freeway Rick checked out the link, said it was hot, and then he retweeted it. Rick gave me a call the next day and we discussed a few details, and a couple of weeks later I was in Los Angeles.
Q: Of all the other MC's in the country why did he pick you?
A: If you know the whole Freeway story, then you know everything he does is very calculated, especially when it involves business. Before he signed me he did his research. And everyone from the local DJ's to his connections in the DC streets told him I was legit. He looked online and saw the projects I've done with Kay Slay and DJ Drama. He looked on YouTube and saw me in the studio with Scarface.
Q: What's it like working with a certified legend like Freeway Rick?
A: Rick is a real dude, a genuine dude. After we started working together Rick realized I was more than just another artist - I was a businessman. He made me the East Coast VP of the Freeway Music Group. If any artists have material and are serious about their careers give me a call.
Q: OK, let's get into it. What's going on with your beef with Wale?
A: Me and Wale used to be cool. We went to school together down at Virginia State (VSU). I met Wale through Southeast Slim, who was also in school down there, and we all made a deal: whoever "got on" first would help the others. I got locked up back in DC and didn't return to VSU, but we stayed in contact with each other.
Q: Then Wale got his first record deal.
A: We were still cool at that point. I always had his back. He would come crying to me about DC dudes always hating on him. But I was still riding for him on the street level. I was always telling people to support him because he was repping DC in the music industry. I even put him on my track "Grand Finale" that I created to show unity among the DC rappers. In the video we shot everyone in their own neighborhood - except for Wale, because he didn't have a hood. We had to shoot his part at The Boulevard.
Q: So at what point did things change between you and him?
A: He started faking (acting fake) with me. I was getting airplay locally and down South with my single "What's Happening", and I was on the road promoting it. When I came home I reached out to Wale about jumping on the remix, but he kept giving me the run around. He said he had never heard the record before, even though it was playing regularly on WPGC. The next week I was performing at Club Pure and Wale was there. When I went into "What's Happening" I noticed he knew the hook and some of the lyrics. He said he had heard it a couple of weeks ago. But just a few days ago he had denied ever hearing it.
Q: And there was also a problem at the 9:30 Club?
A: After Wale heard me perform at Pure he asked me to open for him at his 9:30 Club show. Then the day of the event I get a call telling me I was pulled and Phil Ade was going to open up instead. Wale didn't even call me himself. I had already been going around promoting the show all week.
Q: Is it possible that it was a Studio 43 decision to add Phil Ade and it was out of Wale's hands?
A: The show wasn't really that important to me. I've opened up and been on stage with a lot of artists that are bigger than Wale: Jeezy, Game, Ludacris, Jadakiss, Scarface, etc. The show wasn't the point - it was more about being a man and keeping it real. After the 9:30 incident I made the "Mug on Mean" track, but I never released it. At the time I figured the success he was having was going to his head, but he might come around eventually.
Q: Right, because this kind of thing was a little bit out of character for you. You were known for bringing rappers together like you did on "Grand Finale" and "NE Anthem".
A: Yeah, but the final straw came when he started taking verbal shots at me on his records. I have a mixtape out called I Got Bars hosted by Big Tigger and DJ Quiksilva. Then Wale and Travis Porter released the track "My Team Winning". On Wale's verse he says, "I got bars I don't think you little niggas sell ring, You little niggas little league I'm the real thing, I wonder why you little niggas still breathe".
Q: And you interpreted that as a subliminal diss?
A: Yeah, and don't forget I'm a battle rapper from day one. If you go at me with a subliminal I'm coming back directly at you and leave no doubt who I'm talking about.
Q: Did the bad blood between Freeway Ricky Ross and Rick Ross (William Roberts the Maybach Music Group rapper) have anything to do with you beefing with Wale?
A: No, it had nothing to do with it all. I want to be clear about that, but the "real recognize real". I'm working with the "real" Ricky Ross and fake ass Wale is working with Officer Roberts.
Q: There are rumors that you going at Wale was the reason he hurried up and squashed his beef with Fat Trel.
A: True, because he knows that I'm a real street dude and he knows that Trel is a street dude. Wale probably didn't know what to do, lol. And now he (Wale) has this little nigga Shy Glizzy talking reckless on Twitter talking about, "Whoever got beef with Wale got beef with me". Wale got other niggas fighting his battles for him and I don't think they really know what they're getting into.
Q: OK, let's end this on a positive note. What does Gerreddi have planned for the fourth quarter of 2012?
A: There's a lot going on. I just dropped a hot new single that's getting a lot of attention called "Be a Millionaire". I have another single that's almost ready called "The Light". I'm also about to release a new mixtape entitled Banging Music hosted by DJ Reddz (from 95.5), DJ Junior, and the Real Ricky Ross. And be on the look out for the Freeway Music Group to release the American Gangster album before the holidays.
Q: Thank you for your time. How can your fans contact you and purchase your music?
A: They can follow me on Twitter (@Gerreddi), on Facebook (Gerreddi Got Next), and of course they can always go to my website www.gerreddi.com. For bookings contact my management at: Gerreddi@gmail.com. Shout out to Freeway Music Group and Don Capitol Records for their continued support.