Three years in prison may have paused the rise of Jersey City’s gladiator MC, Albee Al, but it couldn’t stop it. Even before his 2019 arrest, he was on pace to elevate himself to the top tier of MCs, in part, by working with them.
“[Kodak Black and I] were working on a mixtape, but he got locked up, so I just continued it on. It was supposed to be the Super Saiyan tape I put out,” Albee Al told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the new king of New Jersey talks about how Rowdy Rebel was the first artist he collaborated with post-prison, working on Free The Real while facing life behind bars, and his connection with the late PnB Rock.
How did you first connect with Kodak Black?
Kodak was listening to my freestyles and my music, and he reached out to me. He said, “Yo, I’m in New York; let’s work.” I told him I’m from Jersey, but was in Atlanta and wouldn’t come back until [the next day]. When I returned, I pulled up on him, and we played music, going song for song. After that, we got into the studio and started working.
How did you mix your creative process with his in the studio?
Kodak makes a lot of commercial songs, but when he talks about the street, that’s really his lane. That’s why a lot of streets ni**as mess with him. We’re similar in that regard. We just have a different way of saying it. We come from two different parts of the world, so the slang is different. We also write music, so we’ll be in the studio, grab a pen and pad, and just work.
We probably finished “From The Bottom” in less than an hour. We were working on a mixtape, but he got locked up, so I just continued it on. It was supposed to be the [Super Saiyan] tape I put out. He’s always been one phone call away. Even when I came home this time, he reached out to me when he found out I was in Miami. He pulled up on me. He’s one of the coolest people that I know in the industry.
You’ve cultivated a number of close collaborators. “What You Know About Loyalty” with Fetty Wap is one of my favorite records from you.
There’s a crazy story about how that came about, too. He came to my studio session, and I was already working when he came in. I was already one verse in and had the hook going on. So, he comes in; he’s chilling and smoking. He opened the studio booth and was like, “Hey, bro, you have to let me get in on this. I need parts.” I was like, “I want to do this s**t by myself, but OK, I’ll leave you some room.
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What did you observe about how he recorded music?
Wap is a genius in there. He hums his lyrics, then he brings it to life. It’s amazing; he’s fast. When he’s in the booth with me, Wap will tell you I make him work. I make him rap.
You came home from prison in August after serving three years. How much of your new project, Free The Real, was written in prison?
I think most of it, if not all of it. There’s only one song I did on the tape that’s not jail music. That’s “She With A Gangster” with Rowdy and me. Rowdy and I were in the studio when we cooked that up. It was almost like a freestyle. We did it right on the spot.
What was your writing routine while locked up?
It wasn’t as consistent as it should have been because I wasn’t sure if I would come back home. I used to be sitting in there feeling like a waste of talent. Rhymes would be floating in my brain, and I wouldn’t even write them down. I’d have the same line in my head for three days. So, I’d tell myself, “Let me write this down.” I was facing life, and I’m seeing people get life in there. I didn’t know if I was going to make it home again. Every time I wrote some fire and rapped it to my bunky, I’d be like, “What if the world never hears this?”
After becoming a free man on Aug. 15, when did you first go into the studio?
I was in the studio before I got into some pu**y (laughs). I came out around 9 p.m., went to my mother’s house to see my kids and everyone, hugged everybody, and spent some time with them. Then, I snatched them up and brought them to a hotel suite. Then, I told them, “Yo, I’m out. I have to go to work.” So I went straight to the studio. I was in the studio until six in the morning. I did about four or five records that day. “I’m From Marion” was the first song I did. I had to get that off my chest immediately.
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Was Rowdy Rebel the first artist you were in the studio with after you were released?
Yeah, he was. His manager hit me like, “Yo, Rowdy wants your number. Rowdy and I got in the studio about two weeks after I got out. I was going to take the whole mixtape to the neck. I wasn’t going to put anyone on that besides Mozzy because he stayed in contact with me while I was locked up. I also wanted to keep his music alive while he was in jail. But, Rowdy and I made a banger. We actually have a couple more tracks, too.
How did you and Mozzy form that friendship?
We got history, man. We did a record with one of the big bros out there in Cali. They reached out to me, and I jumped on the track. Mozzy also jumped on the track. It’s a really underground track. Mozzy and I got acquainted with one another. After that, we connected over the phone. When I signed to Empire before I went to jail, I was in the Bay Area telling him, “We have to lock in.” Every time I was in the Bay working, he was on tour. So, when he was in the Bay, I wasn’t there. And then I went to jail. So, we never got a chance to work together. But we got that s**t done now, though.
Rowdy also came home from prison a few years ago. Did he speak to you about that in the studio or give advice?
He told me everybody was reaching out to him like, “You need to get with Albee Al; he’s a real one.”
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On a somber note, you worked with PnB Rock before his untimely passing. What do you remember from your time working with him?
We were always close. He was always cool. We came into this together. My man Orlando Wharton was running with PnB as an A&R for Atlantic. He got PnB signed over there. So, when I came home from jail the first time, PnB came home from jail the same year. He was already taking off. Wharton said, “You have to meet my man PnB.” So with me, it’ll just be about the music. I have to really like you to f**k with you. I’m not the type that’s going to jump on your wave. With P, it wasn’t even about the music. It was about being real. We were just chopping it up and building a relationship. Whenever he used to have a show in Jersey, they hit my phone and told me to pull up if I was in town. P was a good man. Rest in peace to P.
What do you want people to take away from this project?
I know I’m home now, but before while I was locked up, I had a challenge going on called “Free The Real Challenge.” Amid my Free The Real Challenge, I was having people from jails sending videos home of them rapping, and I was sharing them, putting them on my platform, posting on my ‘Gram, and letting them show off their talent. It spread all over America. So, I was building that energy up in jail for Free The Real. I was letting people know there’s some real motherf**kers in there going through real s**t, man. They probably need somebody. So, the music I’m giving them is for the streets, but it will also wake motherfu**ers up about how people in jail feel. They got somebody out here that’s making sure people remember who they are because some people aren’t coming home.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year and 2023?
I’m taking over. This is my takeover. Everything I’m dropping are classics. Before I went to jail, they were all classics — from Super Saiyan to Koba to King Opp. Now I’m back and about to take everything back over. I’m dropping again, and then I’m dropping again, and then I’m dropping again.
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