You were with Rawkus from the beginning. Where did things start to go wrong?

Well, I’ve spoken about this so many times, but I think that if I had to boil it down, my business relationship with them wasn’t good. We had internal dealings and business dealings that were shady and that I couldn’t take. And I think that probably exemplifies a bigger problem, a bigger issue. I don’t really know, man. I had so much business between it, and I had such a strong opinion on it for so long… What’s the point of kicking them when they’re down? I think that every record label has its trials and tribulations, its ups and downs. The only thing you can do is hope to recognize what it is that makes you great, and to try and continue to capture it. I think Rawkus played the game a little too hard. I think they got a little too excited and tried to get with the big boys a little too quick. Spend big-boy money, and they weren’t sitting at the big table. And that sort of trickled down into everything, to the insecurity of what they were putting out, to the A&R decisions that they made, to finding people and not putting their records out, spending a shitload of money…

There are a whole bunch of reasons why a label doesn’t work. I don’t think it’s any… I’ve owned a record label now for six, seven years. It’s hard. It’s fucking hard. And it’s fucking hard to stay afloat. And really, the best thing that you can do is try and be aware of what people love about you and stick to it not because you’re afraid of anything, but just understand the idea. And move forward with that in mind. It’s also important to have a really straight-up operation. And a lot of record labels don’t have their shit together, and they don’t have the philosophy behind the way they do business together. With me, I’m going to have a label where no one is ever cheated, ever. And in order to do that, everything has to be completely transparent, and we have to be a fucking operation that can answer a question at any given time. Quite frankly, the behind-the-scenes story with Rawkus was that pretty much everybody who ever dealt with Rawkus felt like they got money stolen from them, or cheated out of them, at some point.

It seems like a lot of rap labels, especially independent rap labels, have their moment in the sun and then disappear. Why do you think Definitive Jux has managed to stay around for so long?

We could be gone tomorrow, and it only boils down to the music. The fact of the matter is, if you’re not putting out stuff that people are feeling, then your record label doesn’t mean a goddamn thing…But I think what probably really saved our asses is that we’ve been forward-thinking and one step ahead of the curve. Me and my partner are very adamant about understanding the industry and trying to prepare for where it’s going and the way it’s changing, and being on top of business and technology, and how to handle the intricacies of all that. A lot of record labels are groups of guys who put a record out, and they sell to a distributor, and some of them get lucky, and the records are powerful, and they kind of blow up. And that’s what happened to us. But then you’re faced with the idea of either being a group of guys who just put a couple records out, or really learning your business and becoming an operation. Because if you don’t, then you are fucked. You will sink, and you won’t have any money, and you won’t have your books balanced, and you won’t be paying people correctly, and you won’t have your operation together.