In an industry full of loud, braggadocios rappers feeding gimmicks to the masses, it�s a relief to see that some of the strong who move quietly aren�t being silenced. AZ is definitely one of those who has been standing firm for over a decade, and has no plans for slowing down.
One of the signs of a true artist is the drive to improve himself with each endeavor. AZ works to better himself on each new album and has proven to be the truth with each effort; the only person better than him is him, next week. After major label woes at Motown/Universal, AZ stepped to Koch, where last year�s A*W*O*L was considered one of his best, by fans new and old. Following that same recipe, and reusing a lot of the same personnel, his new album The Format and his label Quiet Money reassure that though the money might be quiet, it�s still enough to keep going. Like his label moniker, AZ�s rather quiet, rather unique, and rather motivated looking at his next catalog mark.
AllHipHop.com: The new album you have coming out is The Format� what can we expect from you on this album?
AZ: Well on this album it�s AZ, once again� and I just feel like every album gets greater. So this is just like AZ to the tenth power. As far as production, I�m dealing with [DJ] Premier once again, I have [Lil�] Fame from M.O.P.; I guess he�s been a student of Premier�s� and I�ve got a lot of up and coming producers that�s real hungry on the album.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel like with the release of every album you�re different, or is your format essentially the same?
AZ: I mean, with every release, it just seems like I try to outdo the last, so it just makes the next one greater. That�s my motivation: my own albums.
AllHipHop.com: So you�re just trying to top yourself?
AZ: All the time�
AllHipHop.com: In �The Truth�, you say �Measure my wealth by realness, I know what�s good, no meals missed, I keep one foot in the hood�� How important is it to you that you stay connected to where you�ve come up from?
AZ: I mean, you�ve always gotta stay grounded at the end of the day. There are a lot of things that go wrong but when you�re dealing with music, you�re like the CNN of the hood, and you�ve gotta be there. That�s the best way to really get the news first hand. So I always keep myself accessible to family and friends. And I�m right in the studio, so that�s my life; I always keep one foot in the hood.
AllHipHop.com: On the new album you have a song with Little Brother called �Rise and Fall�, which I thought was the most perfect and surprising collaboration I�ve heard in a long time. Can you tell me how that came about?
AZ: They were dealing with Koch around the same time I was dealing with Koch, about a year or so ago, and I heard the album that they released last year, [The Minstrel Show] and it was critically acclaimed, it was serious. I liked their style overall� they�re like me; we�re intelligent thugs at the end of the day. So I had to work with them, and once we started working, it was like a magic vibe �cause it is what it is... it was like we spoke from the same breath. To me, that�s definitely one of the good joints on the album.
AllHipHop.com: Are there any other tracks that particularly stand out to you personally?
AZ: Yea� I have another collabo with M.O.P. that�s serious. And I have another with Jha Jha from the Dipset and that�s left field to me too� and the record is beautiful.
AllHipHop.com: You�re one of the greatest rappers as far as lyrics and longevity� how have you evolved since �visualizing the realism of life and actuality�?
AZ: You know why? �Cause I think nothing that I did was premeditated, everything just happened in the order that it was supposed to happen then, you get it? I guess that�s what keeps me on my feet, being competitive with myself, and I�ve just seen so much and I�ve grown as a man and it show every time I start a new album.
AllHipHop.com: So you�d say your progression has been natural?
AZ: Oh, no doubt.
AllHipHop.com: You were in our 2005 Year End Awards for �Most Slept-On Albums.� Do you think Koch could have gone about promoting your last album, A*W*O*L*, differently, pushed it harder?
AZ: Of course� because it was my first time dealing with independent at that time, but it wasn�t their first time dealing with an artist from major or independent, but I guess they were skeptical and at the same time, I was skeptical, so no one kinda put their best foot forward. But I think now that I�ve got my hand on the situation, and how the independent game is run, we�ll see better progress.
AllHipHop.com: What can we expect to hear from Quiet Money Records after The Format?
AZ: After The Format, I think I�ve got like five more, 10 more albums in me.
AllHipHop.com: So The Format isn�t by far your last album?
AZ: Oh never; I decided I�m not going nowhere, I�m gonna stay down for a minute. And I�ve got a few artists that I�m bringing to the table and I want them to shine, you know?
AllHipHop.com: Do you have a favorite album of yours or no?
AZ: Like any artist would say they like all their albums, [I would too]. But I like Aziatic, it was one of my good ones, from the production, and I just felt it touched all areas in my life.
AllHipHop.com: What else is next for you? At one point in addition to your music, you had a few other endeavors, such as a restaurant and movies� what else do you have your hands in at this point?
AZ: Well, right now the movie that I did do is coming out, [Envy] so I�ll see how the fans gravitate towards that, and then from there, just focusing on Quiet Money, doing what I gotta do. The restaurant thing, you know, you�ve gotta be hands on for that, so I put that to the back burner for a minute. So right now it�s just a focus on Quiet Money and the movie thing.
AllHipHop.com: Other then the fact that the album is coming out next month and they should listen� what do you want people reading this to walk away knowing about you?
AZ: That I�m one of the greatest of all time, and I�m not going nowhere. I�m one of the pioneers of the Hip-Hop movement and I�ve added so much to it.