Turk Revisits Birdman's "Ruthless" Business; Compares Heroin Battle To Ray Charles'
Exclusive: The "black sheep of Cash Money," Turk, gets biblical regarding his criminal past, drug usage, Hot Boys role and current standing with Cash Money.
He may have been M.I.A. from the music scene for almost a decade, but Turk has remained a mainstay of courtroom-related headlines since his infamous 2004 arrest and subsequent incarceration for allegedly shooting a Memphis, Tennessee SWAT team member (For the record, Turk entered a best-interest “Alford plea” in the case and maintains that he was hiding in a closet when officers burst into the suspected drug house he was in to serve a search warrant.)
While one-fourth of arguably one of the most impressive emcee collectives of the last 20 years, the Hot Boys, insists he is innocent of attempting to murder a police officer, the now 31-year-old Young Turk readily admits to being a recovering addict who, in all likelihood, was not simply in the wrong place at the wrong time almost exactly nine years ago when his longtime battle with drugs finally claimed his freedom.
Recently released from federal custody, a clean and sober Tab Virgil candidly chopped it up with HipHopDX about everything from his heroin addiction (shockingly admitting to aiding a fellow Hot Boy’s habit) to his past, present and possible future with Cash Money Records (displaying a surprising lack of bitterness towards Baby’s “ruthless and hard” business practices) to the controversial comeback video for an eyebrow-raising track from his just-released mixtape reintroduction, Blame It on the System.
The head of his own YNT (Young N Thuggin) Empire concluded his jaw-dropping conversation by detailing the depths of his war with drugs and providing a powerful warning to anyone who thinks Hip Hop’s current obsession with molly is just another harmless fad.
Turk Responds To “Get Naked” Video Controversy
HipHopDX: I don’t wanna kick off this Q&A on a rugged note, but I gotta ask you about this “Get Naked” joint. You know there are gonna be some folks buggin’ out when they see that visual of you involved in a mock armed robbery. So what do you say to anybody questioning this kind of content and imagery coming from someone who just got out of prison?
Turk: It’s acting, man. It’s just like Denzel Washington. When he play a bad cop in Training Day they don’t criticize him. It’s the same thing with this music. We just put visuals to it. And by us rappin’ it, they feel like we gotta be a different way. But, it’s just a day job, because if we was really doing these things that’s depicted in these videos we’d be locked up. Such as myself, like I was when I was living that life for real.
I’m just reenacting everyday street life, what’s going on, how niggas make niggas get naked in the streets—no homo. If you a street nigga, you feel it. That’s just how it go. You go for a nigga, you taking everything, you leaving him with nothing. It’s symbolic.
DX: In the intro to the song, you break down the conditions that create that jackin’ mentality and how you can basically blame the system for cats being criminal minded. Do you blame the system or yourself, or both, for what happened in that drug house?
Turk: Both. Because some of us come from single-parent households, and we tend to follow the crowd. And the crowd is being led by what’s put out there, which is the system because they control the media.
My whole thing is to send a message at the same time, not just be negative and paint a picture of what goes on. It’s both sides of the fence. I can talk about it because I lived it. I done been on both sides of the fence. I done been locked up, I done been on the street, I done did drugs, I done did everything in the book of that street life. So I wanna show the youth that there’s another way around. You really don’t have to do this. Like, when that song first come on, I let them know that this is a reenactment of what goes on. I don’t condone what you seeing. You still got a choice, man. It’s on you. And that’s what I’m basically telling the people: if you do this, this gonna happen.
DX: It looks like there’s gonna be like a part two to the video. Are we gonna see some consequences in the next video?
Turk: It’s always an open platform for a part two. But I like to move on to the next, just hit ‘em with something totally different. Like I got the “Rack Attack” video coming, and that’s on a whole ‘nother level. I try to be open-minded about what’s going on. They got people out here still stuntin’, making it rain in the clubs. So I’ma change that, we ain’t gonna make it rain no more, we gonna have a rack attack. That’s serious money like having a heart attack. I’m just trying to cater to everybody and every form of lifestyle.
Turk Explains God’s Role In His Actions And Biblical Comparisons
DX: One of my younger brothers did fed time—about four years for bank robbery—and his standard line whenever he got in trouble was to blame his actions on God, that it was “God’s will” or “part of God’s plan.” And that shit used to piss me off something serious like, “God didn’t have nothing to do with your dumb-ass decisions. Stop blaming some supernatural force for your lack of self-control.” Am I wrong for thinking that “God’s will” shit is just a cop-out?
Turk: Nah. Not to get all biblical or holier-than-thou, but in Deuteronomy it says that, “to thou set forth you life and death, but choose life.” And it tells you what will happen if you choose death; it tells you what will happen if you choose life. So, when God made Adam and Eve he gave them a choice, he told them what they could [do] and he gave them a command of what they shouldn’t.
A lot of people tend to just blame God for things that happen and say it’s God’s will, but he gave you your own will when he gave you your own freedom of choice to choose which way to go.
DX: I asked that sort of theological question because I caught that “With Christ Jesus nothing’s impossible” tag on your Twitter page. And I noticed—like you just did—there’s a lot of religious talk tinged in your interviews now. During your video interview with Ozone magazine a few months back, you compared yourself to Joseph in Genesis, saying you were the Joseph of your clique and that your brothers were coming back to you. Can you elaborate a little bit more on what you were saying there, because I was a little confused by the comparison?
Turk: Just like Joseph, he was sold into slavery. I was considered the black sheep of Cash Money. I felt like the black sheep of the world. I felt lost at a time. I knew I was talented; I knew I was gifted. But, I used to be arrogant, and I didn’t let God put me in the place. I always tried to put myself in the place, and it tended to make other people do things. Just like Joseph, his brother sold him into slavery, but it was all God’s plan for him to go through that. He didn’t have to go through it if he would of recognized who he truly was. But he had to go through it in order to recognize his full potential.
And when I say that, I honestly can say that those who were first will be last. And me being last ‘bout to be first [will bring back] a lot of those people who turned their back on me, let me down. Through my life, they come back to me. And it be a different story now that I’m sober…now that I know my full potential.
God, he got so much favor on my life, everything that’s going on. Everything you see right now, it’s like a major machine operating. And, I don’t know where it comes from but God. I don’t deserve it. So I just thank him for allowing me to be able to kick my habits and recognize my full potential to be able to help somebody else, even though a lot of people let me down.
A Hot Boys Reunion And Turk’s Odds Of Rejoining Cash Money
DX: I noticed Lil Wayne is on your new single, “Zip It,” and now Juvenile and B.G. are on the remix, so have the Hot Boys officially come back together?
Turk: We can’t officially come back together. We came back together on this song. I couldn’t leave B.G. out. Me and him talk a lot over the phone, and we talk on email—you know the feds got email, they got MP3’s and all that. And, I had an idea for him to get on the “Zip It” re-remix, ‘cause I did the “Zip It” remix with Juve once me and Wayne did [the original]. And it came out real good. He rapped over the phone. It’s on point, everything’s on tune. It’s a Hot Boys reunion. I call it a Hot Boys reunion, ‘cause I’m the first one who did it. I didn’t leave B.G. out of it. I know B.G., Juve and Wayne did a song, [“Ya Heard Me”], and they left me out of it. Not saying they did that on purpose like saying, “fuck Turk;” they didn’t have the access [to me] that I have to B.G.
DX: Back in the fall of 2011, Mannie Fresh told me during his HipHopDX interview that the whole media campaign regarding a Hot Boys reunion a few years back was bullshit; that it was “just a ploy” by Baby to make it seem like something was happening when it really wasn’t. Fresh seemed about as far away from wanting to go back and mess with Cash Money as he’s ever been when I spoke to him. So since you’re working with Fresh again, I thought I’d ask you if you think there’s any chance at this point of Mannie changing his mind and working on a Hot Boys reunion project for CMR?
Turk: The heart of a man, it could change; sometimes it gets hard, sometimes it gets soft. And, when you dealing with a lot of money and you dealing with a lot of talent, you dealing with a lot of ego and pride. With that being said, I don’t know what God got in store for the old Cash Money clique...would there ever be a Hot Boys reunion. But, it’s all love. And right now, my situation, it’s just friendly competition. Okay, YMCMB doing they thing; Baby doing his thing, Wayne doing this thing, and Turk doing this thing. It’s just competition, like [how] we used to be in the studio. It ain’t no real beef going on—not with me. But, it is beef with this music and trying to get to the top and make things happen the way it need to be happening for YNT Empire—where visions get inspired—‘cause I’m ‘bout to take over 2013, man.
DX: You mentioned your YNT Empire label, but I also understand Baby’s been in touch with you since you’ve been home. So is there any chance of it ever being YNTCMB?
Turk: Me, Wayne, Mack Maine, Gudda, we all did songs. But, as far as me signing with anybody, I’m independent right now until somebody comes correct with the big check.
I felt like I got the short end of the stick on my deal when I was younger. But now I know. People die from a lack of knowledge. When we don’t know, we got to suffer for that. So I felt like that was my trials and tribulations for me to go through that to make me into the person that I am today. Some people might call it ruthless and hard. But, it’s business.
DX: Why don’t you call it ruthless and hard? Why was what Baby did not wrong in your eyes in retrospect?
Turk: It’s just like my album, Blame It on the System, somewhere down the line you gotta draw the line and take responsibility. A person gotta answer for they actions. Me, would I do somebody the way Baby did? No, I wouldn’t. If I came up with a person, and I know rightfully something is theirs, yeah, I’ma make sure that everything is everything.
But, you never know the situation of how that person felt. Did that person really know what they was doing, or was that person as illiterate as you when it comes to the business? Did that person have somebody else running they business? You never know how it was. And, I try not to even dig into it.
I learned from that experience, I’m moving forward, and I ain’t looking back. I can’t turn into a pillar of salt.
DX: I know you don’t wanna look back, but I have to ask about you leaving Cash Money in the first place about a decade ago. Was it just after Juvenile and B.G. bounced you felt you had to too?
Turk: I mean, what was there? B.G. gone, Juve gone. At one time, me and Wayne was thinking about leaving. A lot of people don’t know about that. It just was times where we felt like what was rightfully ours, it wasn’t there. But, Wayne stayed. I moved because I felt like the camp was broke up. When I did my Young & Thuggin’ album, the whole camp wasn’t on my album. So I felt like, “Damn. What I need to do? Should I move forward?” And that’s what I did.
And sometimes I regret moving forward, ‘cause I look at Lil Wayne and see what he doing right now. But at the end of the day, I can’t regret it because I wouldn’t be talking to you the way I’m talking to you now if I wouldn’t have went through what I went through with my life experiences.
It’s just like when I did drugs. I can’t get mad that I did drugs, now that I can teach somebody about drugs and show somebody that they don’t have to go through the same thing I went through in order to get [their life together]. Sometimes the good people got to suffer to help somebody else. That’s why I compare myself to Joseph, because he was a good person but he still had to suffer to save lives.
Turk Details His Drug Battle And Reveals His Role In B.G.’s Addiction
DX: You mentioned the drugs. I just have to ask bluntly, how much did the dope have to do with you making that move away from CMR?
Turk: I was really influenced by what was going on. Seeing B.G. and Juve move on, I was like stuck between a rock and hard place like, “Man, damn.” Juve was the star at the time, and I felt like, “Shit, if we don’t have the star here, why should I be here?” I was like in the middle of it.
So at the time I just said “Fuck it, I’m about to go over here and get my independent thing on at Koch.” It was a good deal that I got with Koch Records, and I felt my independence at a young age. Unfortunately, I wound up catching a charge. Then it went downhill from there. I caught another charge in 2004. Everything just been jail, jail, jail, until I caught the eight year, eight month, 16 days that I just did. And, man, that’s when I woke up.
DX: I just asked about the drugs meaning like was your mind right when you were making some of those decisions back then?
Turk: Nah. When you under the influence of anything other than a sober mind, you’re not making rational decisions. You’re being influenced by the drugs. It talks to you. It’s bad spirits that get into you and make you do things and say things that you really don’t mean.
DX: Now, this may be the toughest question I have for you. B.G. surfaces for a second time on Blame It on the System, on “I’m Still Here.” On your verse to the song you note that you kicked your dope habit. Maybe it’s not my place to ask, but since he’s on the song I just felt compelled to wonder, given his history, if it was B.G. who introduced you to heroin?
Turk: Nah. Actually man, I was shooting heroin and cocaine, and I introduced B.G. to shooting heroin and cocaine. We was on the Cash Money/Ruff Ryders tour. B.G. had been getting high; I had been getting high. In New Orleans, Uptown, that’s the drug of choice, heroin. You got kids, 12, 13-years-old on heroin. As I was coming up, people glorified it like they do mollies today. They say “pop a molly, I’m sweating,” they rap about it and this and that. Soulja Slim, who was Magnolia Slim at the time, used to rap about heroin all the time. Partners-N-Crime also had a song about heroin. And that was the song. And the girls used to always say they want the dope dick. So [I was like], “Shit, let me go on ahead and snort me a bag of heroin and fuck this bitch all night.” That’s what influenced us to do it.
It was dumb. And looking back on it, I wish I would have never did it. But like I say, if I wouldn’t have went through what I went through I wouldn’t be the man that I am today. But it was dumb.
DX: I got a follow-up I have to ask. Do you feel like in retrospect that Baby and Slim should have been the grown-ups in the room and just smacked that shit out of y’alls hands?
Turk: I mean, when you a grown man in your own mind, can’t no other man tell you nothing. He only can make suggestions. And that’s what it was. We grew up fast. I used to drink with Baby, drink Absolut and Ruby Red and stuff like that…poppin’ bottles. I ain’t never did drugs with Baby. I ain’t never smoke or nothing [with him]. Baby ain’t used to do none of that. A lot of people think that they was the reason we were doing it, but it just was our environment. When we leave the studio, we going in our hood. I’m going into Magnolia and hangin’ with my homeboys. B.G. got his homeboys. Our crew, the niggas that we ran with, was doing the shit as we came up. We just got a break by being artists. But, we still was doing the things that we been doing before we got signed to a contract.
Turk’s Movie And Book Plans And Community Outreach
DX: You mentioned the molly before. I understand some folks are mixing heroin with molly these days. As someone who’s been down that road of battling hard drugs, do you have any words of wisdom for the folks, especially younger cats, who think fucking with this hard shit is no more dangerous than smoking weed?
Turk: All that shit is bad, from smoking weed all the way to smoking crack. I used to think that a crackhead was worse off than me. But at the end of the day, it’s all bad for your health. So anything bad for your health is bad for yourself. My whole thing is if you can’t think straight give it away, let it lay.
Now, if you can handle the drug—like I say, I can’t tell a grown man nothing. But [to] the kids, please don’t do drugs.
DX: I know you’re trying to keep your music grounded in the streets, and with that comes content like “Get Naked,” but are there any plans parallel to that to try and get out there and talk to kids about addiction?
Turk: Yeah. I just spoke at a school, John McDonogh, which is one of the worst schools in New Orleans. I talked to the kids; I gave money away to the kids that made straight A’s. It was a surprise, guest speaking kind of gig. I do things like that with my T.H.U.G.G.I.N. Foundation: Taking Hardships Using God’s Gift In spite of Negativity. I try to give that positive vibe out to the new generation, and let them know that things that they hear in this music [are fabricated and] a lot of people really not living it. A lot of people really not doing it, [so] they don’t have to do these things. And just like I explained to you about the Denzel Washington [comparison], it’s basically the same thing. It’s acting. I just try to separate the fake from the real and let them know what it is, and let them know to stay in school and listen to they parents and put God first in they life. That’s the type of stuff that I do for the kids.
DX: Hopefully they’ll pick up your forthcoming autobiography. I understand you’re really gonna get into it and break it all down, what happened, in the book?
Turk: Yeah. In the book it’s everything, from Genesis to Revelation, from the beginning to the end; the good times, bad times, my life. And man, once they get that—it’s like, we doing this interview; you couldn’t get everything in no interview. But you can get it in the book and the follow-up Reckless screenplay, which is a biopic of my life. It’s like the modern day Ray Charles. That’s what my movie like. Ray had a heroin addiction and went through things as an artist. But mine was just a little more gutta than Ray Charles, respectfully.
DX: I don’t think anybody’s story can get more gutta than Ray Charles’ [laughs].
Turk: [Laughs] It’s just like my generation and the generation after me; it only gets worse. Ray Charles, he did his thing. But then, my generation, we ‘80s babies, we was worse. Then you got the ‘90s babies, then you got the 2000’s babies, and they worse. It only gets worse. So I’m just gonna tell my story and hopefully I can change somebody.