The young bully wants to talk about faith. More specifically, he wants to talk about the faith we need to have in him, the kind he always had in himself. At numerous points during our phone conversation, he has been dancing around the low points of the last few years and the arrests, family struggles, commercial disappointments and the ensuing critical outcry. Instead, Tug wants to tap into the positivity of the moment and the potential for the immediate future. His last album, So much fun, is projected to sell between 125,000 and 150,000 equivalent album units in his first week, which is not only the biggest solo week of his career, but good enough to potentially top his debut album. The lead single of the project, "London," featuring C. Cole and Travis Scott, is the highest single of his career to date. Billboard The Hot 100 and everyone, from Paul Malone to Ed Ferrand to Lil Nas, have been using his talents in recent months.
"I went through the storm," he says. "As soon as this album goes to number one, the storm is over. The storm calmed down. That's one of the main reasons I wanted to have fun, because I felt like this album was going to be number one. I felt like it was the highest selling album in my career. I felt like everything was happening; I felt it was going to happen and I was going through a lot. So I wanted to do it So much fun, because I really wanted to go back to this and be like, n hell, this is really [how I] overcome oppression and struggle. "
After half a decade of industry-led and media-led forecasting, the heights of the Togg market finally coincide with its big impact. In a conversation, Wonderland in Atlanta dissolves all previously conceived ideas that have been created over the years for the once-attractive star. The central narrative of Tug's career was one of inflexibility – of avoiding interviews, unprecedented leaks, endless leaks, projects that seem to have been abandoned – but now, at least over the phone, he radiates calm energy. Tug knows he has built a career on his untamed nature, but his evolution that leads a new generation of stars (Gunna, Lil Kid) to his YSL Records and Jay Z's likes of conversations make the future clear, at least for him. Someone has to be the new Tupac.
If the projections are true, So much fun, will be your biggest first sales week. Do you value commercial success?
No, I don't care, because it's a sport. It's not my number, but it's important, growth. I just want people to know that there is such a thing as growing up. There is such a thing as faith, believe in me. This is the only reason I care about numbers at the moment. Besides, I really don't care about numbers, because I've seen artists sell a million records a week and can't sell a show. They sell 5,000 tickets, but you sold a million copies in a week. I've seen artists sell 10,000 copies, and then your tour goes on sale as soon as you release it. I don't really care about that. The only reason I care about this time is because I want people to see growth and [have] faith in me.
Emotionally or mentally, where were you when creating this album?
I have always had faith. So there was nothing I was going through that I didn't have faith in or didn't think could be done or happened. It was more about faith and perfect timing with me. I feel like it was the perfect time to put it out. My space was perfect. I've always had the perfect head room when it comes to music even if my money was low, even if I had trouble at home or even having real-world problems or even having doubts or even having open cases or convicted people I've never burst under the pressure of those types of things. I was always in balance and could overcome any obstacle.
Are you really an executive. Who made the album?
You guys should ask that. We have non-disclosures. We have forms to sign. He's kind of a prince at this point. It seems that if something came out about him, he would like it to extinguish it.
There are many more videos, interviews and great features for you this year. What inspired you to be more open with your fans and the press?
The fact that I never let people down and I always stayed firm when it comes to critics. You only know simple things. Things that wouldn't destroy me, but things that would destroy the people around me, all sorts of things.
For much of 2018, it felt like investing in YSL and all the artists you have on that label. How does a label boss differ from your personal career?
My career is more about me, more about my label, sitting down to discuss my business, my life, my life, my life and the label is nothing to me. Everything is for other people.
How does it feel to see Lil Kid and Gunn as stars?
I feel naturally happy about it. I think I've always known that these guys can shake. It was no surprise to me, as it was with you guys, critics and admirers. It was no surprise to me, as I always believed that Guna, Kid, and Lil Baby were as accurate as my lil brothers. I made them all play from my point of view.
How did collaborating with Lil Baby or Gunna on this album look like? You sound rejuvenated. It looks like a different bully when you're on the track with them.
Only those guys who are coming into the game and can take care of the family and do things that I can do in the last 10 years, it just gives me a different kind of incentive. Then, knowing that I was one of the reasons they are where they are. You know, in a very humble sense, I was one of the reasons not physically, but mentally. I was a real mentor to keep these guys on the path they are going. Don't spend money. It doesn't. Make no mistakes I have [made]. It makes me so happy.
These guys are making a way for themselves, and I really loved this. It's nothing that should have happened. It's not like Lil Baby blew up, so he had to drive his shovels. "No, no, Lil Baby was my little brother. I gave Lil Baby 20,000, 50,000 dollars. He and I only exchanged money with each other before he started rapping. It's not a picture. It was more about true love and purity, structure. That is what keeps me going is to see that these guys can do what I did and keep and not fall.
Do you still enjoy being a rapper or the life of a celebrity ever catching up to you?
I have been praying for it my whole life. So I don't think I'm ever above that. I enjoy it every day. I enjoy painting. I enjoy people looking for pictures even on days when I'm not photographing, yet I enjoy people asking me. If I'm not taking pictures, I'll be like, "No, I don't want to take pictures, but thank you very much." I can never get bored. I hear other artists say they are tired and drained. I don't understand Maybe they didn't have the dream I had. I've always dreamed of these things. So I don't think I can ever get tired, because I really prayed for it.
What will separate Punk from So much fun?
So much fun is like thinking nothing. It is for entertainment purposes only. The album name is directly what it means. There's no static about it. It's just a lot of fun. I don't even want to think when you hear this, even if I say metaphorical bullshit or whatever. I don't want to be anything hard about it. I just want to be a party. If you're not having fun, it's not Friday, you just paid your salary in the car with friends, you're not drunk at the club, if you're not just having fun doing everything you feel, don't play this album.
The difference from that and Punk is Punk is to let them into my real life. I let them know all the situations I've been through. Opening myself up, leaving the fans behind, I feel like I never let up. I feel like I've always been involved in certain things for the sake of people.
With people starting to rank the best albums of the decade, personally which of your albums do you consider to be your best or favorite?
I'd like to say Punk is, though not out. My best album would probably have been Punk, because it's more like real life. It's more like Tupac. Tupac could be one of the biggest rappers in the world, because he broke what he was doing. I had a conversation with Jay Z, and he said, 'We have to learn how to continue what Pack was going for. He was a teacher again. He learns again. "This album Punk what I will be releasing soon is probably going to be the best album, because it really teaches you, gives you life situations, that's teaching I'm human. I am you. I'm him. It is very verbal. I think it's probably going to be the best album though it's not out.
What inspired you and the future to include Lil Baby and Guna on? Super Slim 2?
The impact that Lil Baby has [and Gunna had] when theirs fell [project]. We always compared him as "Hell, there is no such thing as a better duo, except those guys." Then, like our little brothers, for real. The future has really jumped at the knowledge of these guys. We gave each other knowledge. Sometimes they even throw away knowledge. We've gotten to know these guys and feel like it's the right thing to do. Anything else is unacceptable. As if to say that there is no better duo or anything than Guna and Baby. So I feel like we had to combine those two, Super Slim 2.
What do you personally think is the biggest misconception people still have about you?
Who am I. I'm still misunderstood.
Do you think people will ever understand who you are?
People still don't understand. You know I'm going to play this album Punk, and will let them know a little about my life, let them know a little about life itself. I don't think I want to make them understand. I mean I didn't understand it wrong. It keeps it tense. It holds it perfectly.