Exclusive: Madd Illz says he is being sued by his former partners and refutes allegations that he has stolen money from Grind Time associates.
Madd Illz is distracted. He picks up the phone for our interview and asks me to hold on. He takes a moment to return to the line and seems sidetracked a bit. He later tells me it’s because he had just received an e-mail notifying him of a lawsuit from former partners in Grind Time Now.
When he returns to the line, he apologizes.
“I just got some crazy e-mail, so my bad,” he says, still sounding stunned.
“These cats are trying to sue me and shit,” he adds. “My old partners.”
Tuesday, April 16, HipHopDX ran a feature story with one of those former partners, King of the Dot’s Lush One. In it, Lush claimed that money was stolen and that people were “exploited” by Madd Illz at Grind Time Now. It’s unclear whether the lawsuit was on behalf of Lush One or the founder of Grind Time, Drect or both. Either way, it’s weighing on Madd Illz this afternoon.
When Illz catches a breath and refocuses, he takes a moment to explain the history behind Grind Time from his perspective. In this interview, Illz talks about how his relationship with Lush One and Drect soured and why he feels they turned their backs on the brand. He also says Battle Rap “is very close to falling off again” and talks about how Grind Time is hoping to change in the future.
It should be noted that Madd Illz was not aware of what Lush One said in Tuesday’s feature. Lush One was also unaware of what Illz said in his feature. HipHopDX approached both Lush One and Madd Illz separately to get their individual feature stories from their different perspectives to provide a balanced report on their feud.
Madd Illz Gives The History Of Grind Time Now
HipHopDX: Let’s go over the history of Grind Time. How did the company get its start?
Madd Illz: Basically, there was two different companies. There was Grind Time and there was Grind Time Now. Okay? Grind Time started with a radio show that was hosted by my partner Drect. Basically, he wanted to throw battles in Orlando, Florida. I was known as the guy that throws all the battles. So he came to me and wanted some advice on how to throw battles and what to do. He wanted to do like a SMACK DVD. Back then I had distribution. So what he wanted to do was a video, like a magazine DVD and have interviews and a have couple cats battle. I decided I wanted to help him with it, [and] I was like, “I have an idea.”
Four or five years ago—that’s right when DSLRs weren’t really that—everyone was still using tapes. DSLRs weren’t really that accessible. [Drect] was a film student, so he had access to some pretty dope recording equipment because he went to a film school out here [Orlando, Florida]. So I said, “I have an idea, but I don’t want to just give you the idea and then you run off with it. I want to be able to join up together, because I don’t want to do a DVD. I want to do a league.” So we decided to join up. We changed it because there was already a company called Grind Time. There’s a bunch of different companies called Grind Time, but we wanted to use it basically to set it up as apparel. So we decided to go with Grind Time Now. I gave him the idea. I said, “Hey, why don’t we just add Now to it? Grind Time Now and we’ll make it a league, build a website and keep track of wins and losses.”
This is around the same time that WorldStarHipHop was blowing up, right? So one of the events that we threw, WorldStar just randomly put the video up and everyone went crazy. It got a million views online. We contacted WorldStar and told them, “Hey, we’ll send you guys as much footage as you want. Just put your logo on there. Just throw our videos up.” They were like, “Alright. Cool.” So we had a little partnership with them for a good year. We had a lot of battles thrown up on there. Then after that, WorldStar pretty much stopped putting our stuff up. They were like, “Alright, you guys are big enough to go off on your own.” That’s when they were charging everybody. They were like, “If you guys want videos up, you’ll have to pay.” We were like, “We’re not down with that.” That’s pretty much how Grind Time blew up. We expanded into New York and California first, because of course they were big markets. Once we opened up chapters in those two cities, all of the other cities followed.
DX: That [battle that went on WorldStar] kind of helped everything blow up from there?
Madd Illz: Yeah. After that battle went up on WorldStar, that’s when everybody started watching us. What our goal was, you see, during that time, you’ll notice all the battles that were coming out that were street battles. They were either in a barbershop or they had the Fight Klub in front of a pool table. That was it. It was just plain-Jane backgrounds, backdrop battling. If you picture anybody battling at that time, you can always picture them in a barber shop or in front of a pool table. So my goal was to throw these battles in front of landmarks. When we were out here in Orlando, we did it in front of the Orlando Arena, the Citrus Bowl or in front of the school out here—UCF—the second largest campus in the United States. When we went to New York, we did it right there by Governor’s Island or where the Statue of Liberty is. I think it might even be in the background. It’s right there where you get on the ferry. Then when we went to California, we did it in Mosswood Park in Oakland. And we also did it in front of a famous graffiti mural in L.A., and that was Madness versus Nocando. Every time we went somewhere, we always said that our goal was to do it in front of some sort of a landmark where people knew we were traveling around and we weren’t just in studios or barbershops. It made it appear bigger than what it really was and it worked.
DX: So then, Grind Time Now takes off. What did you view as the height of Grind Time Now?
Madd Illz: I viewed the height of Grind Time Now when we were able to be brought onto, in the same year, Paid Dues, Rock the Bells and the Vans Warped Tour. That’s when we knew it was serious. These guys were paying us to come out. We had our own stage at Paid Dues and at Rock the Bells. The Warped Tour was first, and we were just…we weren’t really a part of anything too big. It just like a side stage. But then Paid Dues did an entire production. They had Slaughterhouse headlining the stage. It was Grind Time Now stage. We were hosting the whole time. They basically said, “Alright, the stage is yours.” They had national acts there. We had Immortal Technique judging. We did some big battles. Then at Rock the Bells, they brought us on for all of the dates again and put us on the Grind Time Now stage and I was the stage manager for that. I was able to book all of the acts that went on that.
DX: I’ve heard you refer to that time period, this height of Grind Time, as bittersweet, as kind of a high point and a low point. Why was that?
Madd Illz: The reason why our highest point was our lowest point was because there were a lot of internal troubles between myself and my two partners, which were Lush [One] and Drect. Money was coming up missing, and basically the [Google] AdSense money that was being brought in wasn’t nothing even crazy. It was like a $4,000 check a month. These guys weren’t used to seeing any money outside of a regular job, and they didn’t have regular jobs so everyone was kind of getting greedy with the money. We didn’t have our business put together. We didn’t have nothing. We didn’t even know we were gonna blow up. We just kind of rode the wave and let it take us wherever it took us. We had so many managers and so many people that were running events that they had their own staff. Lush One had his own company with a partner called Coconuts Entertainment that he was running Grind Time events under. So we didn’t see money from that. We had 9FIVE Eyewear. We had Orisue clothing. They’re buying into a lot of what we’re doing, printing out I don’t know how many shirts with Grind Time logos and everything and on the backend. I’m not even seeing nothing. I’m not seeing any paperwork. I show up to Rock the Bells, and I see an Orisue clothing stand with big ass Grind Time banners and shirts they’re selling. I asked Lush, “What’s going on here? I didn’t see this.” All of a sudden, you walk in and see your company logo on a completely different company that’s pretty big with apparel, rocking your stuff and you’re not seeing nothing from it. This is when I started realizing. Lush lived on the West Coast. Drect didn’t live in Orlando the whole time. He actually moved out. So during Rock the Bells was the time we got to spend together. It really started coming to a head when we were questioning each other, like, “Okay, what happened here? You guys were supposed to do this. Or you guys were supposed to do that.”
Rock the Bells was supposed to be something that I was managing, okay? During that time, we were also supposed to be doing another tour. Drect was in charge of the East Coast. Lush was in charge of the West Coast. That tour never happened. When I was on the West Coast, I spent all my time with Drect. When I was on the East Coast, I spent all my time with Lush. During that time, both of them were saying they wanted to quit. They wanted to just stop doing it. That’s when it was like, “Okay. We’re at our largest point, and now all of a sudden, everybody’s weak. Everybody wants to quit because there’s so much pressure being placed on us and we can’t handle it.” After we got back from that tour, Drect was the first one to say, “Alright, I’m gonna step away.” Myself and Lush were like, “Okay, let’s plan an exit strategy so it doesn’t look bad that you decided to step away.” He was like, “Alright. We’ll do it.” Then all of a sudden, the next day, he just puts out this blog explaining the history of Grind Time and what he did and who he brought in. It was like, a lot of that was false, but I’m not the type to go out and diss people. Lush was surprised too, but then Lush starts playing this game where he’s hinting towards joining King of the Dot, which of course, we all know he did later on. That was it. You know? So all of a sudden, I was left with all of these managers of these different divisions, and don’t know who to trust [and] who has their own staff. Nothing is being put down on paper. So that was the year, after they left, that I shut everything down and decided to start from scratch.
Madd Illz Says Lush One & Drect Admitted To Stealing Money
DX: You said they wanted to quit. Why did they want to quit? What kind of pressure were they under?
Madd Illz: This is the thing. I believe the Battle Rap market was destroyed before it started. We were building it back up. So the last year when Scribble Jam was out, when we were out for a full year, we were blowing up. When Fight Klub got cancelled from MTV2, the bigger events weren’t being thrown. Battle Rap was kind of going down. We started throwing battles, and we started bringing money through YouTube which none of us had never gotten over 10,000 views. To get a million on YouTube for us was completely different. Nobody was used to money that was being brought in. So you go to the West Coast, and the market is great out there. They’re having 1,000 people show up, but then that money all of a sudden always goes missing. They’re not used to seeing that much money, and nobody is there to manage it. So it just goes away. People started complaining about getting paid. A lot of times, the battlers were told, “Fly here on your own dime, and we’re gonna pay you.” And it’s Hip Hop, everybody’s like, “Alright, cool. I trust you.” Then all of a sudden, it becomes, “Hey, where’s my money at?” And so-and-so dipped out of the club. You know what I’m saying? That’s what was going on. There were a lot of times where events were being thrown and money was not being brought in. It was always reported as lost or missing, or there was such-and-such expense.
Finally, behind the scenes, these fools actually admitted to taking money. I was just pissed. Like, damn, this is actually what’s happening? I kept the AdSense, and I said, “These guys aren’t reporting none of this stuff. It’s in my name. I have to pay taxes on this shit.” And now all of a sudden, they think that Madd Illz stole money. You guys are keeping all this other money that’s coming in, and nobody’s setting up a proper business. That’s pretty much the story of Grind Time, and when we pretty much shut everything down. That’s when all the other leagues started popping up. It’s a good and a bad thing, because now the battle culture is larger than it’s ever been. Now large companies are taking interest in what it is that we’re doing. It’s big enough for a lot of people to live in. But these guys getting paid $8,000 to battle? That’s kind of ridiculous. You can get a national artist to pack a club for $8,000, and one guy is asking for that to battle. These kids thinking that you get paid a dollar per view on YouTube, when they completely do not know the backend of what is brought in on AdSense or banners or things of that nature. They really think we’re getting a dollar per view on YouTube. They think we have $95 million. What the fuck? I had a battler named Getcha. I’m not trying to put his name out there, but new cats like that will go do a couple battles and then all of a sudden, they think they’re the shit. When I came up battling, I had to work through Scribble Jam. I had to run through a 32-man prelim and still have to try to win the finals—the 32-man finals—the next day. These cats battle once or twice and they think they’re fucking king of the world and shit.
DX: So going back to that question, what kind of pressure did you feel they were under that they wanted to quit?
Madd Illz: Everybody was demanding so much from them whether it be pay or what happened to such-and-such event. They weren’t able to properly keep track of it, so they started folding. Drect was a teenager coming out of Full Sail [University]. He never lived on his own. He never had a job. He had roommates but he had student loans. He had never done anything like me. When we started this, I had already left the Marine Corp. I was already doing a whole bunch of other shit before doing any kind of business with Drect. He was still a kid. Lush One was just a party guy. He’s a cool, crazy character but a lot of cats out West…I’ve never been in a place ever in anywhere I travel where it’s so openly accepted to do drugs right in front of you…open-ended on the tour bus and shit like that. Those cats were used to partying super hardcore and weren’t used to seeing money from Rap. They were used to seeing money from other shit. The cat lived with his girl who lived with her parents. Lush is even older than me, but these guys were still kids. So you go from living a life like that to having all of these people questioning you about what’s going on or coming to you for advice. These guys couldn’t take it, especially seeing that we got written up in The Source, magazines started covering us and it was kind of crazy. We still didn’t know what to do and them even more so. They weren’t built to handle that pressure at that time.
DX: You also said “these fools” were taking money and that they admitted to it behind the scenes. You’re talking about Lush and Drect?
Madd Illz: Yeah.
DX: When did they tell you that they were taking money?
Madd Illz: This is right when we were at Rock the Bells. We were trying to work past it. One of the biggest players in Grind Time, his name is Avocado. He’s the guy who does all the film work and special effects. He actually has his own company that works for Marvel. So in the movies, when you see Ironman flying around and there’s smoke trails behind him, he does the smoke screening and shit. He was really dope with [Adobe] After Effects and shit. He helped us step up our game. So when you see all of those 3-D intros and all those graphics and shit, that was always Avocado. That cat would always pretty much do it for the love. He would charge Lush and then say, “Pay me later. Pay me later. Oh, you don’t have it now? Pay me later.” It came to a point where he was owed somewhere upwards of $5,000 for his work. I remember talking with this guy and he was like, “Yo! Lush owes me this money. What are we gonna do about it?” So we get on a three-way call, and I have to confront Lush about missing $5,000 from this shit. He’s promising up and down that he’s gonna help make payments and help do it. One time, he took $3,000 and said that he had to pay his mortgage or something. Dude was taking money. You know? So, when I first said, “You gotta get rid of this guy,” I’m the one that looks like a dick, because I’m the one up front that wants to say, “What the fuck is going on?” Everyone wanted to avoid conflict. Drect is a really passive dude. I’m a very aggressive. I’m a fucking Marine. I don’t like to be fucked with. So they ended up going back and forth to find that I was going to pay these dudes back and maybe do a fundraiser, do a battle where Lush isn’t getting paid or whatever. So he decides he’s gonna work it out.
But what’s so crazy is that he has all these people under this whole Fresh Coast/West Coast mentality. Out West, cats are unified. A lot of cats are together, but out in the East Coast they’re not like that. In the South, they’re definitely not like that. A lot of cats fight with each other, even in their own crews. I see a lot of cats out West, they fuckin’ ride hardcore for the West Coast. So I felt like he had these guys under this whole illusion like, “Ah, this is a movement. This is a West Coast thing.” You can see now with the whole King of the Dot thing. Now he’s got his whole Fresh Coast movement, and these guys want to ride with it so hard. But what’s crazy is that a lot of these cats talk to me personally like, “Yo, no problem. I’m down to ride for the West Coast, but I didn’t get paid for this or that.” You know what I’m saying? [P.H.] from the East Coast, that cat, he didn’t get paid for some shit. He dipped out. Quest MCODY was our manager from Detroit. There’s emails he sent straight calling out Lush One for money that he owed him. You know what I’m saying?
All this stuff, I don’t like putting it out there because nowadays, I will straight up take somebody out of working with my company if they’re on some negative shit. I don’t like people arguing back and forth with the kid-shit on the Internet, the trolling and all of that. They don’t understand that we have a lot more responsibility now, we have a lot more audience, and we have to grow up and stop going back and forth at each other. So I just let it ride, like, “You know what? This money was stolen. Whatever happened happened. I’ll rise. I’m not dead. I’m still happy. I’ll push a positive movement.” And it sucks, because I’m getting ready to throw an event, 10,000 people are coming out. I’m doing it for free, and I get a lawsuit in the mail talking about I’m getting sued for fraud and embezzlement. Now these magical numbers are getting thrown around. It’s crazy.
Madd Illz Explains Grind Time Now’s Lawsuit & YouTube Earnings
DX: You say “magical number.” Why?
Madd Illz: There was an estimate of how much Grind Time made through AdSense, and we didn’t make anything near the amount that they said that we made. Total amount combined off of AdSense alone is under $100,000, and that’s over four or five years combined.
DX: When you say AdSense, you’re talking YouTube money.
Madd Illz: Right. We’re talking YouTube money, strictly YouTube money, and that’s where this lawsuit is coming from. I’m letting you know this on a personal level. I just received an e-mail as I was talking to you. That’s why I was kind of like, “Hold on a second.” I’m still processing this. I still have to go to my lawyers like, “This is what’s happening. Check this out.” But it’s just so crazy how they leave me alone for a year to a year-and-a-half. Drect goes on and does his own thing. Lush is still taking shots, and I’m not down for that. I keep on going. With Drect’s new company, he’s doing licensing through a company called Porter Lab. They started claiming copyrights on the videos on the backend of our YouTube page. It’s for the past month now. And they’re getting AdSense to go under whatever songs they’re copyrighting, the licensing through the artists, the intros at the beginning. So they’re going after all of the songs that are being played on the GTN channel and just claiming copyright infringement. It’s been going on for the past month. So if you really want that, we don’t make money off of it anyway. You can have that. I can turn monetization off. It’s a great thing to be able to put money back in these battler’s pockets. I open up the channel for every major artist I’ve booked. I open up the channel and show them the backend and show them how much all of their battles have made. They laugh at it because we’ve paid them way more than we’ll ever make back on them.
DX: That’s a lot to process for you, to be getting that e-mail. Was it from Lush and Drect or just one?
Madd Illz: It’s from a lawyer in Portland, Oregon. So, Porter Lab is actually [Drect’s] licensing company, and it’s also in Portland, Oregon. The guy who owns RapGrid with Drect lives in Portland, Oregon. They’re both there. I can only assume it’s just Drect, but the lawsuit also names Lush One as one of the owners that’s owed. So they’re basically trying to bring up a total dollar amount of my actions and want to pursue the lawsuit if I…basically, I have to step away from Grind Time completely. That’s what they want me to do. They want me to turn over the channel, the name, everything and say, “We won’t sue you and pursue anything if you just sign over the rights to everything.” It’s kind of like, you know, I’m not gonna do that.
DX: Is that something you ever thought about?
Madd Illz: Have I ever thought about it? Yeah, I thought about it. I was talking to HBO three months ago, and they were interested in just buying it outright. As long as I had creative control, I was like, “If it’s something that’s going to finally put these battlers on TV, they’re gonna have exposure off of it. I’m gonna have exposure off of it. I know what to do with exposure. Look at Dumbfoundead. He did the right thing with his exposure. That’s what you’re supposed to do. All these other battle rappers, they just live for Battle Rap and that’s it. They’re gonna get their piece of fame. They’re gonna be on TV. They’re gonna get paid; that’s cool because that’s what we were supposed to do. We were supposed to just provide a platform for local artists to jump off of, because we knew that cats weren’t getting signed and labels weren’t even taking a look at them. We opened up battling as that open circuit. So I was thinking about…
Listen, if somebody was able to come along with the right dollar amount, I’d be willing to walk away, but not because somebody is trying to sue me over it. They’re the ones that walked away. Not me. Now that they see, oh, we’re starting to gain a lot of attention again, there’s a new website design, the big names are coming back. Now is the time to say, “No, this was really mine, and I really cared about it.” No, it wasn’t. You guys all turned your back on Grind Time. I was the one getting dissed every single day for keeping Grind Time. People were saying Grind Time was dead. We’re still getting a million views a month. Grind Time is far from dead. We’re still pulling in these festivals. It’s far from over. It’s just these trolls online, that’s all they do every day. I’ve learned to live with that. It’s cool. I was working with Murs one time. He was my partner for a little while in Grind Time. He told me, “Illz, be the bad guy for the right reasons.” I learned to live with all of this online, people picking at me every single day, people getting my personal phone number and calling me in the middle of the night. [They would say] “I wish you would die. I wish your kids would die.” Blah, blah, blah. That carries a toll. To just go from wanting to be an emcee and have his music heard to all of a sudden being looked at as a leader and also having dirt thrown on his name. It’s a tough situation, but I’m not the one who turned his back on it. I’m still providing an outlet for people. I’m doing the try-out tour with Percee P. I’m trying to bring back Hip Hop legends and also teach the younger fools to respect these guys that laid the foundation for them. Now my former partners are really trying to stop that.
DX: Like you just said, a lot of people blamed you, and have spoken about not getting paid by Grind Time and so on. How do you respond to those allegations of theft or money being taken?
Madd Illz: What’s funny is the whole time I said, “Hey, if you stole $50,000 from me, I’m gonna do one of two things. One of them is you’re gonna see lawyers right away. I’m not gonna let someone steal.” First they were saying $50,000, and now they’re saying it’s over $150,000, like I’m supposed to have all this money. Why wait so long...why? These guys are sitting here just bashing me. That’s just not my thing. When people ask me, “Hey, Illz, what happened?” We have the same conversation that you and I are having right now. I just don’t go online. I’ve explained it a couple times, but everyone takes my words and twists them. So it’s just pretty much when I go on tour, when I have people in my face, one on one, asking me, “Hey, whatever happened?” I tell them the whole story. I tell them, “Hey, my intentions aren’t to damage anybody’s reputation.” I’m basically following the teachings of Alan Watts. I’m not even thinking about this whole dissing people or none of that stuff no more. I don’t even live my life that way. It just so happens that I run a company that’s based off dissing people for entertainment. I came up as a battle emcee, but I don’t enjoy the negativity from it anymore.
I was working with the United Nations under the Music International Resource Project. I spoke at the United Nations, trying to bring Grind Time in as a positive movement. Here we’re bringing the bad neighborhoods, putting people on YouTube and all these kids are so concerned with being YouTube celebrities that we’re almost providing another outlet for them to get off on just like the Afrika Bambaataa did with his whole movement. It was that movement. It was that movement all over again and it was a great thing. So when these guys ask me or question me about these allegations, I tell them all of this stuff. I say, “Look, I’ll show you everything. I’ll show you e-mails.” The thing I won’t do is go in public and bash these other guys. They have a reason why they feel they need to bash me, but that doesn’t mean that it gives me the right to go and bash them because I don’t wish bad on people like that. That’s not the way I am.
Madd Illz Denies Theft Claims; Says Drect Misused Money For Travel
DX: Do you feel that Lush and Drect were responsible for Grind Time’s low points or like you said, that Grind Time was dead?
Madd Illz: I believe that we were all responsible for the low points. To point my fingers at them would be dumb of me. I had no business knowledge whatsoever. I trust people too easy. That’s how we lost Grindtimenow.com. It was owned by a cat who lived in Canada who was Drect’s boy. And as soon as Drect’s boy caught wind that cats were stepping away, he just said, “You know what? I’m gonna change the registered name to my name and fuckin’ shut the site down.” That’s exactly what he did. These cats, I tried to work with them. We even went through legal issues before. When I caught Lush stealing, and tried to get him kicked out, I got a lawyer. But what we were going to do was shut the site down; we were gonna decide who got what, and then we were gonna run it again. I told them both. I was like, “Yo, right now we have a movement, and it’s getting big. It’s huge right now. We can’t afford to do this. We’re going to risk our dreams as well as everybody else’s if we stop the train right now.” It was at the point where it couldn’t be stopped. When we were at Rock the Bells, at that point, it was a wild train that couldn’t be stopped. So it was my fault for really not sitting down and saying, “Let’s get our business straight,” and letting these things go on.
But as far as stealing money, that is completely out of my hands. I never did any of that shit. That’s where it’s just like, “Man.” Drect just went along with everything. He was just like, “Okay, whatever.” He even said that. He…he wasn’t taking money from events. He was taking money from sponsorships. He was using sponsorship money to travel around. It wasn’t being used for what it was supposed to be used for. [It was for] paying for flights for artists themselves. He would go out and live this, “I’m a boss” lifestyle. And then, at the end of the day, [he’d] come up short with advances and then be like, “Whose fault is this? Uh, I don’t know. It’s Illz’s fault. He’s not giving us Google checks no more.”
DX: So if you could have done something differently, what would you have done differently?
Madd Illz: If I could have done anything differently, I would have had paperwork immediately when Drect said, “Yes, you can be my partner.” We waited a long time until we brought in Lush, and I don’t want to paint him out as a bad guy. But I believe that was…bringing on cats from the West Coast, we all knew them from Scribble Jam. That was my main thing; I had been at Scribble Jam and battled at Scribble Jam since 2003 all the way to 2008…I think it was. So like, I knew all of those cats too. It’s just he lived out there, so he brought them along. I feel like if I could’ve set up the company with Drect alone, got all the paperwork settled and we would’ve moved forward and got our business straight, that’s what I would have done differently.
DX: So you feel like Lush’s entrance hurt your company?
Madd Illz: Yes. Absolutely. Even when we had the legal issues back then, I never wanted all of Grind Time. I always said, “Half of this thing belongs to Drect.” I always said that. Even my lawyer was like, “You just need to do the paperwork, get this company under your name and let them fight for it.” I was just like, “No. I’m not like that. Half of this thing is Drect’s. I want him to be my partner.” He was my best friend. It just didn’t pan out that way. But even going back, maybe the correct answer would have been, I would have kept the idea to myself and would have started it myself. But even now I say that, I would have still involved Drect. But I just would have had the necessary paperwork that was missing.
DX: His name is still the YouTube channel. Right?
Madd Illz: Yes. We set up forwarding, like a mirror URL. So you can go to YouTube.com/GTNBattles, [and] it will forward it to the Drect channel.
DX: What was the reason to keep Drect’s name on it?
Madd Illz: Because you can’t actually change the channel name. And if you start over again, you lose all of the subscribers. It was too much of a task to get the 80-some-thousand subscribers to go and now subscribe to the new channel. We had a channel called Grind Time Now Silver, which we still have now. We were trying to tell people, “Go subscribe to that because we’re gonna put tryout battles and stuff like that, extra content.” And nobody took to it. We might not even have over 3,000 subscribers. I’ve got more views on my own personal YouTube music videos than what we have on Grind Time Silver, so I knew it wouldn’t work. We were slowly thinking about, “Okay, now that our site’s up and running and clean…” We were almost thinking about trying to host them on our site, which is something that might end up happening, but these guys are going after the Grind Time name completely.
Madd Illz Says King Of The Dot Paid Avocado On Lush One’s Behalf
DX: So you mentioned Avocado. Now, Avocado still rocks with Lush. I think he just did the Alcatraz promo [for King of the Dot]. Why do you think he did that if you were saying the money was stolen by Lush?
Madd Illz: Number one, Lush keeps blaming me for it. So, “Where’s my money at?” “Well I would have given it to you, but Illz stole it.” When he calls me, I’m just a voice over the phone. When he talks to Lush, he talks to him face-to-face. Don’t get me wrong. Lush is a great guy. That’s the thing. To your face, in front of you, he’s a really smart dude. He’s a really smart-ass guy; he’s not a fuckin’ idiot. But he got into an argument with some cat that was helping him out, that blasted him on a website that put his business out there and was like, “Yo, don’t make me put you on blast and talk about the money you owe Avocado and how King of the Dot footed the bill for your mistake.” I was like, “Word?” Money that Avocado was owed, I’m assuming that when they signed on to King of the Dot, his intention was to get Avocado on King of the Dot and be able to pay him the rest of the money he actually owed him. Avocado gets his money and says, “Oh, now it’s okay. Now Madd Illz is the bad guy because I did get the money.”
Madd Illz’s Propsed Format Changes For Grind Time Now
DX: Alright, so now what are some of the changes in Grind Time that fans can anticipate going forward?
Madd Illz: I am slowly moving into turning Grind Time into more of a production company. I feel like battling is reaching an era where it’s larger than it’s ever been. But at the same time, you know what to expect now. You know that it’s gonna be a host introducing a guy on the left and the right, and those guys are gonna go at each other and that’s it. Everybody has pretty much the same setups and schemes and punchlines. I think it’s kind of stagnant. Even though there’s a lot of views being brought in right now, I think it’s heading back to an era where it’s very close to falling off again. So I was like, “What can we do that’s going to change Battle Rap and make it fun again for the viewer and also have networks be able to want us to join them?” The biggest deal with HBO was that they thought it was too aggressive. I said, “Alright, how about I try to remove the aggressiveness and place it in an environment where it’s like a party where the battling almost makes a cameo appearance in the overall scheme of things?” It’s taking a page out of the UFC books. When they got banned from pay-per-view, they went to Fuel or Spike TV and they introduced a reality show. Through the reality show, they were able to get people hooked on board to watch people fight again. Now everybody loves it. Everybody respects it. It’s taking over. It’s killing boxing. That’s what I want to do with Battle Rap, to try to introduce different reality shows but not just one type.
DX: I see. In terms of the format changes, what can fans anticipate from Grind Time? I know you’ve talked about five-on-fives and releasing different types of videos every day. What are those changes fans can anticipate?
Madd Illz: Currently, we changed our uploading schedule based on the format YouTube recently switched over to. YouTube just recently switched over to a more mobile and app-friendly setup. Now your playlist can be viewed as almost like channels. So what we did is we set up all the days of the week, Monday through Sunday. What we’re trying to do is upload every single day, but every single day is dedicated to something. Two days out of the week are dedicated to battles. So the audience can potentially see three battles a week from us, but now we’re gonna be covering artists, live events and uploading music videos and adding music videos to our playlists and blasting them out for some of the independent artists. We’re trying to further expand our stage, whereas at first we were just providing the platform for battle emcees. Now we’re trying to provide a platform for artists in general.
DX: That’s an interesting change, right? It’s not going to be battle-centric as much.
Madd Illz: Right. It’s still for the most part…you’re going to see more of the battles. And people talk about the battles because that’s where the fans go, but we’re starting to slowly cover more artists. Solillaquists of Sound—these guys, national artists—just went on tour in France. They’re everywhere, on TV shows and all of that. Their music is placed everywhere. Lot of cats don’t know about them. They were signed to Epitaph Records [and] toured with Sage Francis. Divinci is one of the guys, he plays for Lauryn Hill. He’s the guy that plays the MPC for Lauryn Hill when they tour. These guys are out there, and our audience completely does not know about them. And then they play music. So I want to start covering people like that, where there are these national acts that are out, but they’re just not getting that much love anywhere else. Sometimes, they don’t have publicists. They don’t know how to promote themselves. They’re so caught up in their own lives. They are successful, but we need someone to take note of that to be able to cover them to try to get them even more. And they have their own artists.
We’re just trying to open up more doors for people. It definitely will be a drastic change, and we’ve already started pulling into that. But we’re not forgetting that we do battles. We’re teaming up with Biggest & Baddest, which is the largest B-Boy battle company in the world. What’s crazy is that they are in Orlando, the B-Boy Spot. They throw events where they’re giving out $50,000. So their B-Boy market is huge, because everyone is in crews. But they truly believe that our market is way bigger. We’re trying to work together. Our slogan is “The World’s Largest Hip Hop Battle League.” So we want to cover more things like the deejay battle circuit that’s kind of starting to fade out and try to bring more things back. The B-Boy battle circuit is great and it’s a great start. So we’re trying to get involved with some other people and then June 6-9, we’re doing the Miami Pro-Am. That’s another B-Boy battle event.
DX: With the pitches for television shows and today, the lawsuit that you have in your hands and the future that is ahead for Grind Time, how do you feel about the company today?
Madd Illz: I feel like we’re prepared to move into a direction we’ve never been in just like when we started. When we started, people were telling me left and right, “This isn’t gonna last. You’re not gonna do this.” I’ve been told all my life. “You’re not gonna be a Marine.” I’m used to that. I feel like right now, we have an even better opportunity to spread out even further, to create an even bigger stage for people that want to find us on that outlet…that want us to provide them with that platform. And the battle culture is so large now; we don’t have to attack each other. URL, they’re about to pass us in views. I tweeted today, “Congratulations to you guys.” They’re about to hit 100 million views. I think we’re at like 94.8 [million], and they’re at like 93 [million]. But they’re about to pass us. They’re getting a shit-ton of views. You can’t stop that. Why would I want to try to damage that? King of the Dot is seeing below 40 million. But like, you know what? They have great content. They have great videos. Their market is smaller; they’re in Canada. That stuff really doesn’t cross over so big as America does in other markets. So, I can understand that but a lot of these guys can’t.
They think it’s still a pissing contest and it’s not. Right now, we’re in a great spot to be able to reach out to other people to say, “Hey, we’re not here to work against you. We’re here to work with you.” And it’s big enough now. The market is big enough because we made it big enough, and we have a great opportunity to make it even bigger. Even with the lawsuit in my hands right now, it’s kind of like, “I’ve gotta process this.” I still have to think about what my strategy is gonna be. But no matter what happens, I’m not gonna ever walk away from anything that I get into. Nobody’s gonna stop me no matter how much money or how much anything they’re trying to claim I took. Okay, if you claim that I took it, then come and take it back. I’ll be here. I’ll be ready. I’m still pushing forward. Marines don’t give up. I never give up on anybody or anything. I’ll keep on going no matter what.