Interviews

Published on September 23rd, 2019 | by Percy Crawford

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Mr. Serv-On Pays Homage To New Orleans Legends, Opens Up About His Classic, “Life Insurance” Album!

Mr. Serv-On remembers the stable of talented rappers from New Orleans that didn’t have the opportunity to be heard.

Mr. Serv-On was a part of a movement that put not only New Orleans on the map, but the entire state of Louisiana. No Limit Records put together one of the most diverse stables of artists from Louisiana and were known for consistently dropping albums. With the talented roster that Master P had compiled, it seems he had his pick of the litter of when to drop projects. In heavy rotation, the No Limit movement was only rivaled by the emergence of Cash Money Records. However, one would have to be from Louisiana to know that there was so much more talent from New Orleans that didn’t have the opportunity to showcase their talents on the huge platform that, No Limit and Cash Money had to offer. Putting the spotlight on some of those unheard gems from New Orleans is a mission that one of, No Limit’s best spitters, Mr. Serv-On has set out to accomplish. Shedding light on a city riddled with talented lyricist is the goal while paying homage to those who have paved the way for him.

During my recent conversation with, Serv, he talks about MC Dart (Of 39 Posse’s) influence on his career, recalls trying to sign with, Cash Money Records and opens up about his start into the game.

You really respected the grind of some of the guys that ended up blowing up because you saw them during the early days. To see them in the infancy of their career and to see where guys like, Juvenile is now and what Soulja Slim ended up becoming and legends like, MC Dart, what was that like?

Mr. Serv-On: Dart is my idol. I idolize that dude. He’s still around. He’s in the corporate world doing his thing. We trying to get him to do some things. I am who I am because of him. He brought me to, KL. It’s funny, man. It’s a real rap story that young artists never experienced this. They used to freestyle at Southern University in the UC. I wasn’t even going to my music class. I’m going in there. I wanted him. I saw him and I said, “I’m going to challenge him.” He was killing everything. He was freestyling and murdering everything in front of him. And I jumped my dumb young ass up in there and tried to freestyle and he tore my ass up, but I was happy.

I was still in the streets here and there and he was like, “Let me get a ride Uptown,” and I was like, “Alright. Come on, man. You don’t have to stand at no bus stop.” I’m thinking 39 [Posse] and all the records that they sold and he at the bus stop. He was like, “I’m going to introduce you to, KLC.” I’m like, “Are you serious?” So, he brings me there, but he really just wanted a ride home. He told, KL, “He pretty nice, listen to him.” I learned the greatest lesson of humility. I’m sitting in the basement and I had like $4,000 in my pocket at the time. Jewelry on and everything right. I’m sitting in this basement and they not having much to me. And, KL is a quiet dude. He turns around and he said, “Go ahead… spit.” I flowed the best freestyle that I could do, and he looked at me in my face and said, “You alright, but you can’t rap.” My first mindset was like, “Man, you know what, fuck you.” I came home, my cousin who was managing a bunch of big people at the time told me that that style not going to work down here, that tongue twister style not going to make it. He wouldn’t look out for me.

I was trying to get in touch with, “Baby” [Birdman] because I grew up with him playing ball. I was like, “Damn, he got a label and I rap, KL done told me I can’t rap,” and then he said, “No, I want to show you how to. I want to teach you how to be on beat and on bars.” He turned back around, and he said, “If you out here doing something fucked up, don’t come around me.” And at that time, I really was out there doing shit. Him and Dart meant so much to me, I knew I had to chill on what I was doing because this is the master to me. Dart is the greatest to me. Meeting somebody like, Dart and meeting who you consider your rap idol when I was a nobody. And then he took me to things, bro. He took me one day to meet one of my other New Orleans rap idols. It was like a scene from a movie scene. We went on the Westbank and we met, Tim Smooth. God rest the dead. It was outside of Kennedy Heights outside of a gym. They were meeting to freestyle battle. See, people think New Orleans is like… they don’t know, we deep in hip-hop. And they went at it. I’m like, “Damn!” When I think about it now, I wish they had camera phones back then. I’m talking about cutting each other off going at it. And then he was like, “He need to spit. He look like he somebody.” I was like, “First Dart, then KL and now Tim Smooth telling me. I know it’s destined for me.” So, I spit, and he was like, “Alright-alright!” And then he went at me. Dart was like, ‘You better stand your own ground.” I’m going at him and Dart started going at him for me. It was some shit where I went home and was like, “I gotta get better.”

He threw you right in the pool and made you sink or swim.

Mr. Serv-On: Right there. The bar where I heard all of the people you mentioned was right by my house and I was hustling. I would dip in there and then watch how, UNLV, DJ Jimi and Juve hit that bitch and you go in that bitch and it’s packed with killers for real. I’m not exaggerating. I remember a friend of mine, they were rocking it, they hit him up on his beeper purposely. He went right to the phone and they set him up. The dude standing by the phone killed him. That’s how gangsta that club was. You watching, Juve in that bitch, away from the projects murdering shit. You watching, Soulja Slim murdering it. rocking it and shaking the whole building. I was like, “Man, one day I’m gonna get there.” That was before I left. That was like some shit that you see in a movie; like Eminem movie, “8 Mile.” That’s what that was.

You ever think about if certain artists could have lived long enough to see this mainstream success that New Orleans artists now enjoy because so many of them died so young?

Mr. Serv-On: They would’ve been great because they had the talent to change. Juve bounced, but then Juve rapped. He changed to rap. Slim started off bouncing, but he changed to rap. Mia [X] bounced, but she rapped. Those dudes were rapping just as much as they were bouncing. I even look at the fact of, UNLV and Partners-N-Crime… to me those were some of the greatest groups and they should go down as some of the greatest rap groups of all-time history. But people didn’t get to hear them and get the chance to know them. They don’t know that UNLV carried the Cash Money torch and held it down. They paid the bills. And you talking about two lil dudes that grew up on the same corner under me and Yella. Them lil dudes were beasts, man. The stuff they talked about, they lived it. They were like my pride and joy that I bragged about. UNLV was like… “I’m from Uptown. I’m from off 6&B [Baronne]. Where they took 6&B was crazy. People will be talking about me talking about 6&B on my songs, nah bro, they were first. It’s a hurtful feeling because sometimes I felt like my spot was there spot. Along with, ‘ERC’ who was another idol of mine. He taught me how to be a performer. He would take me around to all the spots and different things like that. He’s one of the greatest lyricists. He is one of the greatest battle rappers New Orleans ever saw. Gregory D’s and people like that, these were great lyrical artists that the world don’t know about. They know about, Cash Money, they know about, No Limit, but there were so many before us, that lyrically, in the heart of New Orleans and the culture… the L.O.G.’s, the Joe Blakk’s and the MC Thick’s. these were lyrical lyricists that nobody got to know because New Orleans didn’t blow until we did what we did and Cash Money right behind us. So, they got to see that. they didn’t get to see the reason why we rap the way we rap. Nobody know, we imitated people from home. I was hurt by it because them dudes deserved that light.

One of my dreams is to get my deal I got going together and I want people to know them. I want to go find all of them. I want the world to see, this is who we really were. This is who we are. These are the dudes and women. Tim Smooth gone too soon. Ask Mystikal who Tim Smooth really is. Mystikal looked up to him and Mystikal is a lyrical giant. He is an all-time great. Top 25 easy. He’ll tell you any day, he couldn’t hold, Tim Smooth. “I Gotsta Have It,” man, I was all up in Virginia bumping that. It gave me pride being in Virginia bumping, “I Gotsta Have It.” When I was in the military, imagine I go up in a club in D.C. and that bitch come on. Man… I loss my mind. My city is out here. Tim didn’t even know. We spoke once and he was like, “Are you serious?” “Hell yeah! You the shit in D.C.” Tim was a beast.

DJ Jimi… he’s another one that needs to get his shine. I’m not saying, Drake took his style, but Drake rapped over a beat that was done by BlaqNmilD, who is my young guru who I love to death. I want him to surface, to get, not just the checks but to go out here and go do these shows because that money is there for him. So that people could see where all of this shit come from and where all these words come from. When [Lil] Wayne do songs and we all do songs and we say certain shit, “Alright-alright,” different stuff like that. I want them to know, when Mia do it and they like, “Oh, Mia rocking it. She’s killing it,” when she go off at a concert, and they don’t know, she’s paying homage. They don’t know where it come from. One of the things that I want is to take a picture like, Jermain Dupree organized with “Welcome to Atlanta” where he had every Atlanta rapper in that picture. I want New Orleans, young and old, I want to take a picture like that. And I want somebody to be able to describe every name and who they were.

That would be so dope because in the early 90’s, a lot of those album covers weren’t high res, so I couldn’t even recall what most of those New Orleans rappers actually look like. I just found out what, Joe Blakk looks like about 2-years ago.

Mr. Serv-On: That dude is one of the most awesome businessmen with his tax service. He’s an activist. You talk about will fight for your rights and everything. He will fight for New Orleans; especially after [Hurricane] Katrina. Him, Mia and Sess 4-5… what they did for the city after Katrina in terms of fighting for the rights to get funding back to our city with laws that wasn’t right for our people when we came back. But you talk about lyrical… and will do a song that basically get the party jumping. My first concert, KL put me out and the wolves there. It was packed. And Juvenile, Soulja Slim and Joe Blakk was performing. And I had to go on before them. And I did what I needed to do. First time ever performing, but then KL said, “I want you to sit down in this booth and watch.” And when Joe Blakk came on, I got scared, the building was shaking. This dude was one of the best performers. Oh my God, bro. Those days people will never know about New Orleans because they just know us. They don’t understand where our swag come from, where our lyrics come from and why we do what we do. These were the best of the best.

Before I let you go, when you see people say that they still play the “Life Insurance” album still today or you see people refer to it as a bonafide classic, what does that mean to you?

Mr. Serv On: It’s two things, “Wow, if I would’ve shot more videos and if I had today’s ways of getting things out there.” When I did, “Life Insurance,” P, was like, “Go head, bro it’s your turn.” Thank you to, E-40. He told, P he heard the song, “A Dead Man,” and he was like, “Who is that?” P was like, “Serv,” and E-40 was like, “That boy nice. He nice.” And E-40 don’t even know that he is one of the reasons, P was like, “It’s time to do your album.” When I did it, I felt like the underdog. I was in anger mode, so when I did it, I did everything that was going on in life and I wanted to give my own twist because I learned how to rap on the east coast. I wanted to use my dialect with that southern music and that east coast style. I wanted to be different from everybody on No Limit because I was. And when I did it, I never thought about like, “Damn, this one of them.” I just did me and I hope they care, and I hope they like it. And to know, that I never had a radio hit… not just a hundred people think it’s a classic, hundreds of thousands. I always said in my life, if I don’t have nothing when I leave this world, I want to still be alive. “Life Insurance” is going to keep me alive. I say it on Instagram a lot, “They say I’m a legend, not me.”

To hear people call it a classic, I’m sitting back like, “That wasn’t my best work. What did they see in it?” And I listen to it and I’m like, “Man, I could have done this, and I could have did that,” still to this day. It’s such a proud feeling because it’s like, I will live forever. I’m considered a legend. And for me it felt good because I feel like in my city I’m slighted. I’ll see post where they put up, “Who is the best rappers from Louisiana?” They’ll put up a whole bunch of guys and I sit back and I’m like, “I will murder 90% of that list lyrically.” A lot of them I have sold more records than them. Then in my city, I’m not considered a New Orleans legend, but like I tell young artists, don’t worry about that. I’m living proof because I can walk around here, and somebody might know who I am, and they might not. But I can go to another city and I can’t walk around freely. I used to be hurt about that; not being considered a New Orleans legend in New Orleans, but I’m considered a legend worldwide and I’ll take that any day.

But to know, “Life Insurance” was a classic, man… and I will tell you, that wasn’t my best album. I felt, “No More Questions” was. I thank, P from the bottom of my heart because he got into the idea of what we should do with this album and he let me be creative and he let me just go do me. To see what it has become after all these years, I still have to make sure that when we are going to do a show, that I do the right songs. It happens every time after we do a show, “Serv, why didn’t you do this song or that song off, “Life Insurance?” And I’m like, “I didn’t know ya’ll wanted to hear that.” I’m proud though. My kids… I’m just dad to them, but they are understanding a little bit now. It’s funny, what made my kids really look and say, “My dad is a big deal in this stuff,” is when “Migos” did the song, “Mr. Serv-On.” Gucci [Mane] did it, but then when the “Migos” did, “Mr. Serv-On,” they just couldn’t believe it. “The Migos talking about you, dad. They using your name. You really a big deal.” And I’m laughing like, “Yeah, I’m your favorite rapper-favorite rapper.” I love what it all came out to be and that’s the best way I can say it.



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