I would go to my best friend’s house in the suburbs and his family were white, so would expose me to a whole different way of living, by being into comics and superheroes. The first comic book character I fell in love with was Nightcrawler from X-Men. I bought all his toys. My brother and I fucked with Wolverine heavy, too, and I had the claws. When we were recording Mercy [with Kanye West, Pusha T and 2 Chainz] near Buckingham Palace, it felt like rap’s Avengers were getting together.
I loved what they did with Black Panther, too. I knew Chadwick Boseman, and we would hang out a lot. He was super-cool and had no ego. When I first met him, he was struggling a little in his career. I remember we were backstage at my LA show, and he had just been offered the role of Jackie Robinson [for the film 42] and everything changed. I didn’t see much of him after that, but it was probably because he was going through such a painful reality and was very private about it, you know? He was a real life superhero, for real. But as cool as Marvel was, there was something about DC and Batman that always grabbed me. It’s probably because Bruce Wayne is very, very playa!
Wayne has to be one of the most influential people to me and my music, period. That Dedication, mixtape-era Wayne changed my life growing up, but also Carter I, Carter II, 500 Degreez … it just goes on and on. From the Hot Boys to now, he transcended what people thought he could be. Without Wayne and hearing those punchlines as a teenager, I know I would not think how I think as an MC. To me, he’s the greatest rapper of all time, and we definitely need to do a better job of highlighting him and giving him his roses.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from working with Wayne is just to stay in your tower and master your craft. He’s never somebody who ever tries to be like anything he’s not, so he taught me how to be myself, unconditionally. His influence is crazy – the dreads, the face tats, the rock-star shit. When Tha Carter III dropped, he mastered his craft like a sensei, so I love that period. Whenever I’m in the studio with him, I have to pinch myself. I remember when he was having his seizures and stuff, I was like: “Man, you need to drink more water, bro! Why don’t you take these vitamins?” But he was like: “Nah, chill.” I’m definitely a guy who cares about Weezy so much.
I’ve always loved adventure stories, and Star Wars fascinated me as a kid because of how you had to tap into the force and dig deep to draw this natural energy out from the universe. It showed me early on that you can always defeat the darkness by tapping into the light, which I guess became a theme in my music as an adult. I liked how gold C3PO looked, but I also loved Darth Vader. I felt like he wasn’t really that bad, just misunderstood.
Revenge of the Sith is underrated, and I liked seeing how Anakin Skywalker became Darth – Obi Wan sliced him up and left him for dead, but he couldn’t kill him all the way. I didn’t like the other prequels as much – honestly, I thought the Jar Jar Binks character was a little racist, and the racing shit in Episode 1 was forgettable. It was definitely good to see Yoda scrapping in Episode 2, though. Seeing that Yoda could actually fight was the shit to me.
That whole N64 era was beautiful. The most satisfying game I ever played in my life was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Link riding across Hyrule Field on Epona the horse for the first time was pure freedom. I loved the different worlds, but the Water Temple was too hard with the blue cloak and everything. It was the hardest shit I ever played, so I ended up buying the cheat book so I could figure it all out!
Goldeneye 64 is a formative game for me, too. Playing as Oddjob in the multiplayer was like using a cheat code. That game was so fun because of how inclusive it was. I’ve sampled the noise of Goldeneye’s PP7 gun a lot in my music. If they hit me up to be the first black James Bond then I’m with it, for sure. There’s just something about the colours and the vibes of those old Nintendo 64 games that was so therapeutic. You can’t duplicate Nintendo, ever.
Dragon Ball Z
I was definitely obsessed with Dragon Ball Z as a teenager. It was escapism. We had a printer in the house and I would make my mom buy new ink cartridges over and over again just so I could print out pictures of Goku, Vegeta and Trunks. I would look at them for hours and then draw exact copies in my notebook and hang them on my bedroom wall. It wasn’t just a hobby, man – it was my actual passion! When I was recording my new record, Detroit 2, the dude who did the voice for Goku [Sean Schemmel] was actually recording in the same studio. It was a crazy experience hearing him talk to me in that same voice. He’s a big fan of music and was telling me how my rhyme schemes tap into jazz. I’m friends with Goku now, so maybe I’ll get him to do an interlude for my next album.
I was riding round to Kanye’s mixtape [I’m Good …] that he had released right before College Dropout, and that’s when I really got addicted to his music. He was on constant rotation in my car rides to school and I thought College Dropout was the best album I had ever heard. I remember Last Call was the first time I ever cried listening to a song; it felt like confirmation that I could make it happen for myself as a rapper, you know what I’m saying?
Every Friday I used to get on the radio in Detroit and freestyle on this show called The Friday Night Cypher. It’s emotional even talking about it now because it’s one of those times in my life where I felt most alive. Well, I did this for about a year and in around 2005, Kanye was at the station promoting his new album. I handed him my demo, which I had been selling at high school, and that’s how I ended up getting signed by him.
In the studio, Kanye’s just so unrestricted. He’s so unfiltered. There’s no blueprint and he just follows his pure intuition. It’s one of the most inspiring things to witness. I was there when he recorded Graduation, and I also helped out with 808s and Heartbreaks and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The main thing I learned [from Kanye] is you’ve just gotta do what you feel 100%; don’t let these people try and persuade you off your path. Across Kanye’s whole career, everyone’s always torn him apart or built him up. But what’s beautiful about him is that he’s opinionated in a world where a lot of people can be very sheep-like. Me and him, yeah, we disagree on a lot of things. There’s definitely been times when we’ve butted heads, but we always end up talking about it later on like brothers.
Detroit 2 is out now on Getting Out Our Dreams/Def Jam Recordings