The day after being released from prison, after spending almost two years locked up on gun charges, Tony Yayo was sent right back.
In January of 2004, Yayo – who founded G-Unit in the mid-’90s with his friend 50 Cent ? was free, but he was caught flying to Peru with a fake passport.
Four months later, he was released again. He had fame, courtesy of Eminem wearing a “Free Yayo” shirt while performing on the Grammys. He had money, courtesy of his G-Unit posse, who found success while Yayo was locked up and set him up with a bank card and a million dollar account. He even had girls waiting for him.
He could be spending the next decade enjoying life, milking off 50 Cent’s success, but he feels he has something to prove.
“I don’t only think I have something to prove to the world and 50 and my whole team,” he tells andPOP. “I think I have something to prove to myself.”
Yayo will be the fourth and final member of the G-Unit core (which also includes 50, Young Buck and Lloyd Banks) to release a solo album, when “Thoughts Of A Predicate Felon” drops on Tuesday.
From the moment 50 released his first album in February of 2003 to the second Yayo’s album is released, G-Unit has dominated the music scene. Each and every release scores platinum results, and it’s no accident, Yayo explains.
“While all the other rappers are out partying, we’re working. I’m tired as hell but I know I got to do what I got to do.”
The moment he got out of jail ? after he said his good byes to the ladies ? he headed to the studio to begin working on the album.
Fans can expect more of the same G-Unit flavour that was heard on the other members’ albums, Yayo says, but he brings aggressive energy.
“I bring the life back to G-Unit,” he says. “G-Unit was a successful group in my absence but I think I make them stronger.”
While incarcerated, he heard about how big 50 and G-Unit were becoming, but he didn’t have time for regret.
“When you’re in jail, you have to worry about what’s going on on the inside,” Yayo says. “I can’t really worry what’s going on on the outside. I’ve been the only member of G-Unit who hasn’t been shot, knock on wood. I have to watch my ass.”
Now that he’s out, he still doesn’t think about his missed opportunities.
“For all the moments that I missed, I could never get them back. I’m here now. I’m happy.”
He’s making sure he never returns to prison. Yayo ? which is slang for cocaine-says a lot of people have tried to bring him back to a troublesome environment, but he doesn’t feel the pressure to return to the street life.
One way he’s staying out of trouble is by surrounding himself with people he can trust. These are also people who aren’t “yes-men.” Yayo recorded countless tracks for the album, and one way he narrows the list down is by testing them out on these people. If they tell him a song is ok, he trashes it. He’s only looking for gems.
Yayo’s hoping the tracks on the album are all capable of being singles. His first release, So Seductive, featuring 50 Cent, remains in high rotation on radio. Other tracks include appearances from Eminem, Joe and Jagged Edge, and production work from Dr. Dre.
Half the songs were written while he was on the street; the other half while he was locked up.
“The things that you go through makes you who you are as an individual,” he says. “I had thoughts like a real convicted felon on this album. When you hear my album, you hear the harsh realities of my life.”
With those harsh realities behind him, Yayo is focusing on his career, making sure he never returns to his old life. In a perfect world, he would be rapping and partying all day. But he knows that if he wants to continue having the life he has lived since being released from prison, he needs to keep working.
“It’s not just the bling bling and the raps,” he says. “It’s the machine. This game is 70 per cent politics and 30 per cent rap.
“I waited a long long time for this. Now it’s my time.”
Check out Part 2 of the interview on Friday, where Yayo speaks about beefs with Fat Joe and The Game.