For a guy who has helped sell over 20 million records, Mannie Fresh is remarkably humble. With his lengthy and impressive resume, it is hard to believe that the former sonic supplier to Cash Money Records can still genuinely show gratitude to the current throne-occupying producer/rapper that at one time could have conceivably become his successor as CMR’s head trackmaster and literally get geeked at the mere mention of the name Dr. Dre.
But in his latest eye-popping conversation with HipHopDX, one of the South’s first certified hitmakers did just that. In addition to heaping praise on fresh talent like fellow New Orleans native Dee-1 and Mississippi’s hottest new export, Mannie spoke admiringly of the Midwest megastar he once unselfishly shared his tools of the trade with (and who might soon become his labelmate) as well as the West Coast legend who recently sought out the Bounce music pioneer to talk shop with.
The sincere star in his own right concluded his discussion with DX by speaking in a surprisingly gracious manner about the admittedly surprising turn his working relationship with another N.O. notable just took, and revealed whether or not that partnership can ever be salvaged.
HipHopDX: Since Big K.R.I.T. leaked the first joint from his upcoming 4evaNaDay mixtape today (February 2nd), that “Boobie Miles” joint, I wanted to commemorate the start of what will probably be a third straight all-star season for K.R.I.T. by getting one of his Southern forefather’s thoughts on the Meridian, Mississippi producer/rapper.
Mannie Fresh: I really think [Big K.R.I.T. is] that dude. ‘Cause he’s doing different things and branching out. I personally never really kicked it with him, but I’m proud of what the dude is doing. He’s one of those kids who I definitely wanna work with in the future. He’s more than just a Rap song.
DX: Another one of your production descendants, Kane Beatz, cited you as one of his inspirations in his recent HipHopDX interview. Do you feel like Andre 3000 when you hear all this praise from the younger generation though: “Kiddo say he looks up to me, this just makes me feel old.” [Laughs]
Mannie Fresh: Well, I mean, I did the same thing. I had idols and stuff, the people that I looked up to. So I’m just glad that there’s kids that where it counts acknowledge me. Because, sometimes you can feel like, “Hey dude, y’all just took that and ran with it. Nobody ain’t say a ‘Thank you’ for it yet.” So when it counts, I’m glad it happens like that. To me, that’s success. It ain’t about the money or whatever you measure it on, it’s just for somebody else to say “My whole thing, what I grew up on, was Mannie Fresh. That’s my dude.”
DX: Another producer you inspired that I didn’t even know you had inspired until recently is the guy who can be heard calling you “the best producer” during Episode 6 of the behind the scenes of the Watch The Throne Tour. What did you think when Kanye West bestowed you with that crown?
Mannie Fresh: Like I said, for the right people to acknowledge you, you know you done something. It ain’t about your numbers; it ain’t about none of that. Somebody like Kanye West, [who’s] on top of his game right now, to acknowledge you, to give you that love like, “Yeah, I think dude is that dude,” I can’t tell you what that means.
DX: What’d you think when you saw your billing on screen in that video as “Mannie Fresh Legendary Producer”?
Mannie Fresh: I wasn’t expecting dude to do that. It wasn’t no gimmicks or nothing like that behind that. So that’s one of them things where you kinda pat yourself on the back and be like, “Damn dude, you are that dude.” [Laughs]
DX: [Laughs] A little history question here: Is it true that Kanye tried to get on with Cash Money before he got down with Roc-A-Fella?
Mannie Fresh: Yeah, he did. And that’s how far we go back. It’s a blessing when you are good people. When Kanye first came around, I let him use my equipment. I didn’t know him from a can of paint. I just thought he was a talented dude. And I was like, “Here dude, you can use my MPC, my keyboards, whatever you need to do.” And that came back around by him reaching out right now.
He told me one of his stories [from when he was at Cash Money Records], he was like, “I called back home and I was like, ‘Dude, I’m using Mannie Fresh’s equipment, y’all a never believe this.’” So it’s like I said, you never know who is gonna be that guy.
DX: Do you remember what happened there, why that didn’t work out …?
Mannie Fresh: It was more of like Kanye knew back then what he wanted, the situation that he was looking for and all of that. The dude, Mikkey [Halsted], stayed. Mikkey [ended up] signed to Cash Money, but both of them came together. Kanye came as Mikkey’s producer and they was trying to sign together.
I remember Kanye playing some songs, some of the songs which are now classic songs that was on Jay-Z’s [The Blueprint] album. And I was like, “This dude has something. What he’s doing right now, that’s gonna be something.” And, I don’t think Cash Money's [founders] – [Birdman] and Ronald didn’t hear that. I’m like, “Dude, this something new, this something different.”
DX: I’m surprised to hear you say that. I woulda thought that you woulda just been like, “This is my house. Get outta here young’n.”
Mannie Fresh: Nah, dude. I’ve always been somebody who embraced new dudes, because that’s the future. I feel like this: I still got a lot in me, but when Mannie Fresh was at his peak, Mannie Fresh ruled. [And] nobody can take that from me. So I felt like when it was my time – not that it’s done yet – I did my thing. That’s all that counts to me.
DX: Going back to that [tour] clip, you’re seen in there giving a nice little motivational speech to the G.O.O.D. Music fam. So does this mean you’re officially G.O.O.D. Music in-house yourself now?
Mannie Fresh: Well, we working that out. I’m kind of funny about signing with people. Dude, I’ve been through so much. And I’m not saying I think Kanye is a bad person, but I can’t tell you what that is right now. It’s really on me, and what space I’m in. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t do it, but it’s gotta be something that makes sense for me.
DX: Was any sort of formal offer put forward, or any extending of the hand saying “If you want to, come on”?
Mannie Fresh: I can’t really say if [there was]. It’s one of them things where – Let me just put it like this, Kanye is kinda mysterious about the things that he do. And I can’t really let no cats out the bag. I’m sorry to give you an answer like that, but I can’t really say what’s in the works. Y’all just gotta wait to see what happens.
DX: That’s cool. I gotta ask the next question though: Can you tell the readers of HipHopDX what you were doing in that pic that surfaced a few weeks back of you and Pusha T working together?
Mannie Fresh: Oh yeah, we in the studio, definitely working. That’s what I do; I’m a producer. But, I just think that – Like I said, y’all just gotta hold on and wait. I’m in somebody else’s house right now, so I gotta go by they rules. I think it would be kinda disrespectful if I went against what was asked of me.
DX: Another producer, a fellow legend actually, I do need to ask you about – and I hope you can be a little more revealing with – is Dr. Dre. When did you work with the good doctor?
Mannie Fresh: Actually, it was the same week that I was out there with Kanye. [Dr.] Dre’s dude found out I was out there, and they came and found me and brought me over to his crib. And we chatted, and the next thing you know, we in the studio.
I am a fan of Dr. Dre. I grew up on N.W.A. That [meeting] meant way more than doing music. Like, you get to sit down with one of your idols, one of your heroes, like, “Damn, this is Dr. Dre!”
DX: Did you like play him tracks, or did you guys actually build something together?
Mannie Fresh: I played him some tracks. The crazy thing about this is I’m still in love with Hip Hop to the point that I don’t even know that these people know me. So to know that Dr. Dre knows Mannie Fresh, that’s crazy to me. I’m like, “This dude really knows me! He knows songs that I’ve done.” So, to me, that’s like, “Damn dude, you are successful.” Like I said, it ain’t about the money.
It was like my first time meeting Grandmaster Flash. I ain’t know what to say. I wanted to say like, “Damn dude, you a legend,” but I didn’t wanna sound like I’m a groupie and I’m all on him. But when it really comes down to it, I am a fan.
DX: Now, switching gears here to the subject you know we had to touch upon in this interview … Did Mystikal give you any kind of a heads-up that he was gonna sign to Cash Money?
Mannie Fresh: Nah, dude. But, to each his own. As a man I gotta respect his moves. If he thought that was good for him, so be it. I’m not upset about it or nothing like that. And on top of that, look at Mannie, look at where Mannie’s moving at [now]. He’s doing his thing, I’m doing my thing. But to answer your question, nah, I didn’t see that one coming.
DX: Yeah, I didn’t see it coming either ‘cause I’m old enough to remember [U.N.L.V.’s] “Drag Em N Tha River.” [Laughs]
Mannie Fresh: I didn’t see that one coming at all. But, at the end of the day, he gotta take care of his family. So I’m not mad at him. If that’s the best move for him, and he feels like that’s what he needs to do, so be it.
DX: Your rep contacted DX in December and said that you’re still gonna keep working with Mystikal. Is that still the plan as of today?
Mannie Fresh: That’s the plan, but I gotta leave it on him. Like I said, I really don’t care who he’s signed to, as long as my business is taken care of right. And, that’s the deal with Cash Money. It’s no hard feelings. Let’s just take care of business right, that’s it.
DX: Just out of curiosity, have you spoken to Baby since Mystikal signed?
Mannie Fresh: Nah, I haven’t.
DX: Last time we spoke, you told me work with Mystikal had stalled ‘cause he was focusing on doing shows. Has the status of that situation changed at all since October? Have you guys gotten back in the studio?
Mannie Fresh: Nah, I haven’t seen him since he did his deal. I’m just being honest with you, I haven’t seen him, haven’t talked to him.
DX: Do you know if he peeped that interview – if he was offended by some of the straight talk you were giving?
Mannie Fresh: I mean, I don’t think I said nothing wrong. I just told the truth on it. And I’m not mad at him for doing what he doing, but when I take on something I’m serious about it. And, part of it was this too: like, I had to go and find what I’m doing. I was really concentrating on more of Mystikal’s business than Mannie’s business. And I had to go do Mannie’s business, just like he had to go do his business.
DX: Speaking of the business, just out of curiosity, were you guys planning to just put his stuff out independent before he signed to CMR?
Mannie Fresh: Yeah, that was my thoughts on it. I was just like, “Hey, let’s go back to the way we started. Let’s hustle.” And on top of that, he still has a fan base. It’s ironic that Kanye’s label is called G.O.O.D. Music [because] that’s all it woulda took was good music. Do some good music and people are gonna pick it up.
DX: Yeah, if he had just waited you coulda got him signed to G.O.O.D. Music. [Chuckles]
Mannie Fresh: [Chuckles].
DX: So lastly, besides the G.O.O.D. Music stuff, what else do you got cooking on the stove that you can let the people know about?
Mannie Fresh: I’m just gonna make my way around to a whole bunch of artists. That’s what I’m in the process of doing. It was a bunch of people waiting for me that was like, “Hey dude, where you been at? What’s been going on wit’chu?” So now that I’m back in the swing of things – I gotta thank Kanye for [that praise he gave me]. When dudes say things like that to you, it restores your swag. And [reconnecting] with the dude, it was a blessing. I’m not gonna lie, he was a positive push in [me] going, “Mannie, what are you doing? Get it back together.” So on that note, I gotta thank Kanye West. He’s a brother from another mother [and] that was a push in a positive way to make me say “Yeah dude, I need to get back in this.”