40 Cal: Waiting In The Wings

By Francesca Djerejian  |  02/27/2007

40 Cal

Followers of the Dipset movement have been familiar with 40 Cal since his introductions on Diplomatic Immunity II and Diplomats Volume 5. And battle rap enthusiasts have seen 40 face off against Cardi, Sam Scarfo, and even himself in sometimes controversial, but always notorious Fight Klub episodes.

With oft-quoted punchlines like "he be like 50 minus 2, another n---- 40 ate," the Harlem rapper's wordplay has both the Internet and the streets abuzz and earned him the alias "Mr. Rewind That." But although 40's "got the underground on lock like a transit strike," he is still waiting in the Dipset ranks for his formal induction into the mainstream. With prominent placement on Cam'ron'sKilla Season album last year, a steady barrage of mixtape releases and appearances, and a host of new projects being cooked up, 40 Cal's time seems near. Ballerstatus caught up with 40 to discuss his battle rapping prowess, the Dipset artist pipeline, and the beefs of the moment.

BallerStatus.com: So are you changing your name to 40 Calvin?

40 Cal: That's just my MySpace name, that's my grown man name.

BallerStatus.com: What is the deal with Byrdgang, are you officially a part of it or not?

40 Cal: I'm just affiliated with Dipset and Byrgang is affiliated with Dipset. If I shout it out, then most likely, I did a record.

BallerStatus.com: Who is Skeme Team?

40 Cal: Skeme Team, that's my other group that consists of Young A$e, Su da Boss, Boss P, Cool and myself. We've been putting it down for a minute. That's my other crew, that's the wolves, you know what I mean? The goons and sh--.

BallerStatus.com: You've known Cam since the early C.O.C. days, so what were you doing before you ended up on Diplomatic Immunity II?

40 Cal: I had missed the first Diplomatic Immunity; I was locked up for a minute for something stupid I did.

BallerStatus.com: When did you first start battle rapping?

40 Cal: On the streets. I'm from Harlem, and you know battling was like the thing only a selected few would do if you was nice. There was no cameras involved with a lot of them, technology wasn't up there, but we were on the block and we'd go battle and some people would put money up. It started out on the street.

BallerStatus.com: Would you call yourself a battle rapper primarily?

40 Cal: No, I'm an all-around artist. Like if this was the NBA, battle rapping would be like a dunking contest that I could win.

BallerStatus.com: What is your strategy when you go into battles, do you have a plan?

40 Cal: It depends if I know who I'm battling or not. If I know who I'm battling, I come up with a whole thing from what I know or what I heard, their name. If it's anybody, if you a battle rapper you gotta be able to handle anybody's raps.

BallerStatus.com: Do you come with mostly written or improvised rhymes in battles?

40 Cal: Both.

BallerStatus.com: You're well known for your punchlines, do they come to you easy?

40 Cal: Some of them do, some of them don't.

BallerStatus.com: What is dry clipping?

40 Cal: Dry clippin' is a phrase I made up. A lot of rappers do this and I just noticed it 'cause I'm a fan of the music. They'll take another rapper's line and they'll just alter a word or two or flip it and use the same punchline.

BallerStatus.com: What was the first Fight Klub battle that you did?

40 Cal: The first Fight Klub battle was Cardi and how I heard about it was through a friend. I was just enthused about the fact that people were battling and you could get money off it.

BallerStatus.com: Is it true that you got signed after the Cardi battle?

40 Cal: No, I was always affiliated with Dipset. When I was battling that was just to help getting my buzz up. I was already in a good position.

BallerStatus.com: A big part of Fight Klub is growing artists and introducing them to labels, but you already had the Dipset affiliation. Would you say that your crew and Fight Klub agreed together to introduce you through it or was it more of a side thing?

40 Cal: I entertained the fact of doing it together, but it would have never worked so it almost became a side thing.

BallerStatus.com: How did that 40 vs. Cal battle come about?

40 Cal: I was entertaining the fact. I heard a track before somebody. They was talking to themselves, so I was like "Aightm let me battle myself, but I'm going to create a visual and make it unique 'cause I never seen nobody do it." To this day, a lot of people don't know I battled myself, some people ask me who was that other dude?

BallerStatus.com: That's funny. So how did you film it?

40 Cal: If you notice, my n----s in the background did the same thing. They changed clothes also. Same dudes on both sides just different clothes. We did two takes, so you just gotta remember what you said the last take.

BallerStatus.com: Fight Klub, even with your Dipset affiliation, is a way to get battle rappers introduced to the mainstream, but there are always a lot of people who say, "Oh 'so and so' is a battle rapper; they're not gonna make it as an artist." So, how do you face that kind of doubt?

40 Cal: That's kind of like the sophomore jinx or whatever you call it. They always say battle rappers never gonna make it. Like I said, I'm an all-around artist; I does it all. A lot of people know me from Fight Klub, but the other half know me for stuff I do for Dipset. Som that's to let you know I'm not going to do just Fight Klub. I'm both sides, I'm on somebody's album every year.

BallerStatus.com: Would you say there's an order that Dipset has in mind about how to introduce you newer artists formally?

40 Cal: It is really an order. You got JR Writer, he was here before me and right now he's doing his thing, so he's coming up next. At the same time, its whoever got next -- it could be me, Hell Rell... it could be Jha Jha for all I know. But in the meantime, we tearing up the streets and we all getting mixtape deals.

BallerStatus.com: Speaking of the mixtapes, are you worried about the crackdown?

40 Cal: Yeah, with MixUnit closing down, I don't know what the Soundscan will look like. Because I know MixUnit was a big promotional thing. My last project I did, the Trigger Happy mixtape, they had a big billboard on there and I know that sold me a lot of units off of that.

BallerStatus.com: One of the few crews that Dipset doesn't have a history of beef with is G-Unit, but Cam and 50 recently had a heated conversation on Hot 97. Are you guys gearing up for some G-Unit beef?

40 Cal: Right now, I don't know what's going on. I just know people talking on the radio. I just think it's crazy that a lot of people get so emotional and hyped up over conversations, the game is getting crazy.

BallerStatus.com: The beefs are also getting crazy, between the shovels and the Tru Life MySpace hacking, it's almost like comedy now.

40 Cal: It is what it is.

BallerStatus.com: On the "Dying Nasty" track, you seem to be getting at Nas and Jay mostly and you only talk about Tru Life at the end. Is there a reason why you're focusing on the older cats?

40 Cal: I mean why not? First of all, my whole reason for doing that... I used to mess with them dudes, like a lot of people, but they going at people I eat with. Like Nas starting shows off with "f--- Dipset" and all type of nonsense. Even though nobody never said my name, its too indirect, like I'm down with Dipset and everybody saying "f--- Dipset." They think I'm the type of dude whose gonna be like "Aight, they didn't say my name, they don't pertain to me." They false, it's just crazy. My whole thing going at 'em is if you going at Cam, best believe I'm going to take some shots. And I'm good at it, that track took me about five minutes to make.

BallerStatus.com: There are a lot of haters right now.

40 Cal: That's part of the game, half gonna love you and half gonna hate you. It's a balance.

BallerStatus.com: How involved do Cam and Duke Da God get in your projects?

40 Cal: Duke Da God is heavily involved. I always run my songs by him. He's the A&R, he'll give you an honest opinion. Sometimes he may be a little slow, but he lets you know. And Cam always gives his OK for every project.

BallerStatus.com: Was Broken Safety officially a mixtape or an album?

40 Cal: Let's just say it's both. Broken Safety I was only a mixtape, but a lot of people read it as an album. It's kind of flattering, because that started out to be one of the mixtapes that we just give out in the street just to get your promotional buzz. The label I was on, Cleopatra, they gave me a lot of advance money, but they had no money to ship records. They only shipped about 12,000 of those and it sold 10,000. But a lot of people bootlegged it and I got money off the Dipset downloads.

BallerStatus.com: You're going to be on "Killa Season II," right? What role will you be playing?

40 Cal: I can't tell you yet.

BallerStatus.com: What other projects do you have in the works?

40 Cal: I got Broken Safety II coming this April. It's the same deal asBroken Safety I, but it's gonna come with a DVD. It's going to have a lot of Flight Klub battles some seen, some never seen. I got videos and stuff that are crazy, mad fresh music nobody never heard is gonna be on there. I ain't leakin nothing. Im putting a mixtape out called Trigger Happy II and I'm going to have fresh music with everybody from the Set and Skeme Team gonna be on there and we gonna do what we like to do.

BallerStatus.com: Anything else you wanna touch on?

40 Cal: Remember that Broken Safety II coming with more crack. You already know the new motto this year is I do it, I did it and I do it again.