Anyone familiar with the hip-hop scene during the late '90s up to the new millennium has heard of the Hot Boys. Comprised of Lil’ Wayne, B.G., Juvenile, and Turk, the New Orleans-bred group was respectively one of the most successful rap collectives during that time.
Signed to Cash Money Records, the Hot Boys managed to snag a platinum plaque with their second album, Guerrilla Warfare. They also enjoyed individual success during that time period: Juvenile released 400 Degreez, B.G. dropped Chopper City in The Ghetto, and Lil’ Wayne dished out his debut effort Tha Block Is Hot. Each of the albums pushed more than one million units.
The last member to release a solo effort was Turk due to legal troubles.
In 2001, Young & Thuggin’, his debut album hit record stores. Although not as successful as his predecessors’ releases, he managed to go gold.
Turk would leave Cash Money shortly after Young & Thuggin’s release due to financial differences and pursue the independent route. He released Raw & Uncut and Penitentiary Chances independently through Laboratory Recordz and Koch Records. The success of the two albums combined didn’t equal the record sales of his debut, but they managed to keep his name buzzing.
Things appeared to be going well for Turk, but his independent success saw derailment in January of 2004.
A couple months after moving to Memphis, Turk would find himself caught in the middle of a drug raid at the Hickory Pointe Apartment complex. During the raid, a shootout ensued that left two Memphis S.W.A.T. Team members wounded.
Turk was accused of shooting one of them—a sheriff's deputy—and convicted of attempted murder. He was sentenced to serve a 12-year sentence in the Forrest City, Arkansas Federal Prison. Prior to the murder conviction, he had received a 10-year sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm and an unlawful user addicted to a controlled substance in possession of a firearm.
Laboratory Recordz released two more albums by Turk during his imprisonment, Still A Hotboy and Convicted Felons.
Eight years, eight months and 16 days later, Turk was released from prison on Oct. 12th. Upon his release, he found himself heading back to the very place where he lost his freedom and picking up where he left off—musically.
I had the opportunity to speak with Turk about his new imprint, the Young N T.H.U.G.G.I.N. (Taking Hardships Using God’s Gift In spite of Negativity) Empire, possibly signing back to Cash Money, overcoming drug addiction, growing up in the notorious Magnolia housing projects, upcoming musical endeavors, and much more.
Follow Turk on Twitter: @TurkMrYnT
Follow Turk on Instagram: @Turk_Emani
Follow me on Twitter: @Lou4President
How did you get into rapping?
Just trying to find a way out the hood. Coming from where I come from it was hard. Either you rapped, sold dope or you slung pistols, or you did all three of them. I just so happened to choose the first one. When I started doing it, I wasn’t really serious with it. I was into sports. I was running back and linebacker coming up. But as I started playing around with it and more people started asking me to rap at parties, I was winning contests at radio stations and stuff like that, I just got serious with it. One day, I met Baby and Slim (owners of Cash Money Records) in the Magnolia Projects and I rapped to them. They gave me a card and the rest was history.
You joined Cash Money in 1996, years before it gained mainstream exposure. What was it like to be apart of platinum albums, star in a movie, tour the world, and make all kids of money?
To be honest, I didn’t see it. When we “blew up,” I didn’t see it, so that’s why I didn’t take it serious like I do today. I see the influence that I have now and I see how big it can be now, but then, when I was young, I didn’t take it how people think you would take it. I was doing what I love to do. When you’re in it and you’re living it, it’s not like how other people see it. None of it got to me, because I still felt like the same person. I still felt like I could do whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t take responsibility for being a superstar. It was a job. Now I look at it more as a livelihood and a job.
After parting ways with Cash Money, you took the independent route. How was the transition for you?
As far as being independent, I like it because you call your own shots and you’re your own boss instead of having to report and do what other people say. I’m 31 years old now, so I’m not really trying to be no boy and have nobody looking over me. I’m bossin up.
Your debut album went Gold, but the independent releases that followed didn’t have the same success. Why do you think they didn’t do similar numbers as your first one?
All my albums that dropped, I was locked up, even on Young & Thuggin’. It would have sold more than that if I would have been hands on and had my face on it. That was selling by word of mouth. But as I started getting into all kinds of jail trouble, I started to fall out of favor with God. Once you fall out of favor with Him, everything else is going to fall apart. Because I was messing up that was the fruit of my labor. I take full responsibility for it. Just like I messed up and things fell apart, now I’m doing the right thing and things are going to be uplifted.
There have been rumors that you’re signing back with Cash Money. Is there any truth to this?
It’s in the air right now. We’re working and communicating. It’s about this Young N Thuggin Empire right now. All options are still open right now. I’m focusing on my own imprint. I have my book, the Autothugography of Turk, and I got the screenplay for that, Reckless. I got the double CD, the Audiothugography of Turk, and I’m doing this mixtape, Blame It On Da System, with Drumma Boy.
How did you link up with Drumma Boy?
When I came home, I was talking with Gangsta Boo and I believe she made a phone call to Drumma Boy, and he [direct messaged] me on Twitter and tossed me his number. He was like, ‘Let’s Get It.’ I had been talking to him off and on while I was incarcerated, so we developed a little relationship. When I came home, he said, ‘Man, I’m going to do your whole mixtape.’ So far I’ve done eight songs.
Are you a fan of any Memphis artists—past and present?
Yeah. Me and [Don] Trip just did a song. Emani the Made Woman is my artist on YNT. She’s from Memphis. I fuck with Yo Gotti. 8ball & MJG, they legends, you know I fuck with them. I was just in the studio the other night with Tela. Criminal Manne. All the Memphis artists that got movements and are doing what they do, I got love and respect for them. I’m looking forward to doing something, if they’re about their business. Let’s get it.
You grew up in the Magnolia housing projects, which is synonymous for crime. How was your upbringing?
It was like the average project kid living in a single parent household. My momma was raising us. She was working two jobs trying to supply for the three boys that she had. I was just seeing and hearing things happen in the street. Just the average kid in the hood without a daddy.
Your younger brother was murdered during your incarceration. How did this affect you?
It was bitter and sweet. It was bitter, because I couldn’t be there to protect him. In my eyesight, he was still my young baby brother. It was sweet because it made me stronger. Even though that situation happened, I was able to gain strength from it—take a negative situation and turn it into a positive. Being locked away for eight years, eight months and 16 days, people would grow to be bitter but I came out sweet with love, loyalty and a whole new outlook on life and why people do things. I had to go through all the things that I went through, had to take all the hardships, and use God’s gift in spite of negativity. Now, I’m [helping] teach the next young brother on how to live and what to do and what not to do, and how to be responsible and man up.
[He’s forming the T.H.U.G.G.I.N. Foundation, which will involve traveling to schools to talk with kids and inform them about the trials and tribulations of indulging in the wrong lifestyle.]
Did you read and learn a lot while incarcerated?
Yeah, I did. I always had my head on my shoulders. I wasn’t the average project kid that was in the projects, that’s just people’s wrong perspective of the projects. You learn as you live and experience—life is the best teacher, experience is the best teacher. I didn’t have to pick up a book to learn common sense but it’s always good to pick up books to learn how to be on a whole other level. I did that while I was in jail. I didn’t really read no hood novels or nothing like that. I mostly read books like “Think and Grow Rich” and “The Richest Man in Babylon.” I read books on how to get money, be determined and find your way. Things that I had flaws and gaps on. I misused my money coming up, [so] I had to reeducate myself on how to count my money.
What was the most beneficial thing you learned while incarcerated?
I learned how to manage my money, how to be a man, how to be responsible, and most importantly, I got my high school diploma while I was incarcerated. I was determined to get that just because it was a lot of people saying that it would be a waste of time. It took me six months to get. I put my mind to it and I thought it and I got it. I graduated in September and I came home Oct. 12th. Everything was in God’s plan. I’m a living example of change. I’m a living example of taking hardship and using it in spite of negativity, and overcoming drug addiction, and overcoming critics. I’m here to shame the devil.
You mentioned drug addiction? What drugs were you addicted to in the past?
My drugs of choice were heroin and cocaine. I started doing them at 14 years old, the reason being, it was glorified in New Orleans. All the rappers were rapping about it and I happened to be a rapper, so I felt like it was the right thing to do. We were partying and having fun, so we didn’t see any affects of it. It wasn’t affecting home like it started to as the years began to pass. The drug habit started growing and growing and you start losing more and more but you can’t see it, because you’re not conscious—signs are for the conscious mind. I had to go through everything that I went through to get to where I am now. I don’t regret anything. I was put on this earth to be an example for people and what they’re going through that you can overcome it, you don’t have to stay this way, and for the people that are not going that way, you don’t have to go that way.
How did you overcome your addictions?
I overcame my drug addiction while I was incarcerated. It took incarceration, because if I hadn’t got locked up, I probably would have been dead or in a worse situation, because I was doing drugs heavily. A lot of people didn’t know because I was hiding my addiction. At the same time, I knew and my family knew and the people close to me knew. I was hurting them and I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t. With an addiction, if you’re addicted to anything it’s hard to quit, addiction is not just drugs, it can be sex, the internet, or whatever. Anything you can’t control and it’s controlling you is an addiction. At that time, I needed those drugs. It wasn’t just a mental thing, it was physical. When I didn’t have those drugs, my body started to hurt. I’m just thankful to be able to kick those habits and tell about it.
You mention God a lot. What’s your view on religion?
When you get in a pit, you have nothing but time to yourself and you begin to hear your own thoughts and your thoughts really be your spirit and it becomes awakening to you and that’s your true self. I had plenty days and plenty nights like that. When you hear me talk about God, it really be something that’s took over me and naturally comes out. I can’t explain it. I’ve always been a believer of Jesus and that’s what I come from. I’m just not stuck into the traditional way of believing—I believe God is a spirit and those who worship Him, worship Him in spirit and truth. I walk in the spirit and I speak the truth and I stand for that.