Written by Adam E. Smith (@theadamesmith)
Jet Life’s veteran member Fiend is the quintessential personification of New Orleans stylized hip-hop. He has the laid back drawl in both his rap delivery and mellow conversation voice. He infuses traditional sonic tones like brass horns into his smooth instrumentals. When he wants to he can reach into his soul vocals. Beyond that, the guy is graciously humble and respects his roots, but what sets him apart from most emcees is an unencumbered desire to depart from what he knows, and explore both the unknown sonic and physical realms. He didn’t develop the alias International Jones for himself in vain, and as anyone that has spent time with Fiend knows, the intertwined relationship between his artistry and his real life persona are as real as the bars his puts on tape.
Now countless projects deep into his discography, Richard Jones is pivoting to a new record that is dedicated to finding a balance between his once chart topping skill set, and the raw, thought provoking content that comes with wisdom gained from years spent in the game. Lil Ghetto Boy has the right producers on beats, and the choice names slotted for features, but most importantly the album translates exactly where the artist known as Fiend’s perception currently sits in the vast world that he aims to explore further. After some last minute push backs, the record is set to drop on March 18th, and I connected with the man himself to talk about what we can expect from the release and his future.
You keep us up to date on when tracks are finished, and it seems a few wrapped up just a few days before the initial release of Lil Ghetto Boy. Do you find you work well under the pressure of a deadline, or is it just your perfectionist method to finalize tracks up to the last minute?
You know, I’ve always been a person that both works well with a deadline and also I work up until the release because I never know what inspiration is going to happen. I am always fine tuning, and last minute instrumentals will pop up, or I will feel inspired to produce something that I feel is worth it, and I might even pen a few more joints, you know?
It’s nice now with mixtapes and digital projects that you can even do that. You don’t have to go through label clearance weeks or months in advance. Speaking of creative freedom, the title of this album indicates that it will be an introspective “back when” type of feel in terms of content, or is there another theme to this one that you can tell us about?
Lil Ghetto Boy means a any child that grew up in a trying situations. Anywhere in this world is a ghetto, and not just poverty describes a bad situation. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you get everything. The record is basically figuring your way out in this America at this day and time just like the men and women before you. It’s that person that battles with morals, even if where they grew up is fucked up – the battle of should I do this versus should I not do this, but I have to eat. But do I want to eat this way? Is she the right girl or the girl right now?
So Lil Ghetto Boy is really a symbolic mantra of everyday life by you imparting wisdom through your music?
Yeah, Lil Ghetto Boy is walking out your door and saying I’m going to face adversity, and I don’t know what may happen, I know what I feel my odds are, but I am going to enjoy the experience and learn something in the process.
Did Trakksounds produce on the record? Who else will be offering up instrumentals?
Yeah, Trakksounds has two joints on the record. We also got Trifecta, Drum Gang, Smiles, Rodney, and Cookin’ Soul got some joints on there.
So we know you have the homies Curren$y, Corner Boy P, Trouble, Young Dolph, Shawty Redd, Myron on the project. That’s a tall list of spitter, but can we expect anyone else?
We got Killa Kyleon, and Dice out of Seattle who is a female vocalist I am with on a bunch songs. This project has just been a canvas that I have been adding to over time.
How did you connect with Trouble of DTE out of Atlanta?
I saw that he was asking about how to connect with me on Twitter, and then he reached out and I reached right back. He told he had a track that he thought I would sound great on, so he sent it to me and I laid it out and sent it back to him. I appreciate a cat like that working independent out of the ATL, so I got him on the project to give him a little light. You know this record is still raunchy and street, but also savvy, smart and smokey.
What do you think people’s reaction will be after hearing that collab and the rest of the record?
I think the people are going to be proud, from early fans to future fans and present, because it’s a mixture of what they got then and what they are getting now. You’re gonna be able to be at the red light just bunkin’, straight up, this is how I feel. You might want to drive a car into a bank on some of these songs, trying to get that rent money, or you might want to roll up and second guess it and see what options you have. That is where I am at with it every day contemplating how long should I do this music or should I focus on other things.
Do you have a tour lined up to support the drop or any plans for shows this summer? If so, where will you be performing?
Nothing that is confirmed just yet but I am putting some stuff together. I am thinking about making a move man, and heading overseas, you know. I need to create art, and expand my mind and thinking, so I need to preserve myself so I don’t have a lot of the setbacks that come with constantly creating and evolving in this ever changing entertainment business.
So you’re going to put the “international” in International Jones then?
Straight up. Might grab me a little spot in London and just chill for a couple of years while commuting back and forth, you know what I mean?
The video for “Blue, Red & White” taps into the classic feel of New Orleans with you suited up singing the hook and the beat coming across with smooth horns and strings laced all over it. Last time we spoke we asked you if we’d get some more singing on tracks, so we are feeling it, but tell us about the inspiration behind this visual and audio motif?
I believe as youth we view culture differently in America, and as young people we take some things for granted. Better yet, we all of us take things for granted, so on this track I was sharing some thoughts that took me to this International Jones state of thinking. My perspective of real life in action that some people just don’t hear. Maybe you ever heard it your whole life, but you don’t really know how to apply it. This is my vocal approach of giving you a film in audio, and when people break them down I hope that they come up with great visuals because I feel like I am playing my part of the lyrical side.
Just the first lines in that song talk about how we really don’t know what’s going on outside of our personal world, and we get caught up with that and might not perceive, or care about, was the next person is going through. I love this country, but from a little ghetto boy point of view, there is really a lot going on that I try to present in a subtle way.
Yeah, you seem to translate that message of a street perspective without being completely blunt and obvious.
Yeah, instead of saying something like ‘I’m gonna run up in yo house’ and so on, on that track I say he stayed in that house, trigger itching, saying to himself, something wrong with your addition. These are the type of actions that I grew up with. They were either given to people or were taken away, and I am not necessarily glorifying it, I am just stating it, because I feel that a lot of people are not concerned with precautions of the street life. I feel like I am a person that can bridge the gap between age groups and genres music so I tend to tap over jazz instrumentals with hip-hop influences to form the rap version of Congo Square.
Peddling dope on the street ain’t no different than pool sharking in the hall or the days when Ray Charles was being introduced to drugs and not being able to shake that monkey off his back that the executive producers at Atlantic records were behind. My life is a series of fucking tales intertwined with the ghetto to observing white collar criminals in ties being the biggest gangsters there are, but I also try to sum it up with how sophisticated a harsh reality can be, and how to make good times out of bad ones.
Check out Fiend on Twitter at @Fiend4DaMoney and look for Lil Ghetto Boy to drop March 18th.