What surprised you most about the past four years?
There have been a lot of surprises with Fool's Gold. The events are where there are the most surprises, because the events are where someone will show up and you'll just be like "Oh, OK, Drake's here." When Kanye showed up at our third anniversary last year at Brooklyn Bowl, he wasn't supposed to perform, he was just coming to support CyHi. And then the next thing you know he performed, for the first time, all those G.O.O.D. Friday songs before 'Dark Fantasy' dropped.
But everything else, we find music that we like and we get behind it. We're happy when it goes well, we're happy when we get to open a shop, we're happy when the songs break even further than we anticipated. But a lot of the success of Fool's Gold has been off of good relationships and working with the right people at the right time. And the community side of the label gets enhanced by all that. That's the magic of what we've done.
Is that what you're most proud of? The relationships?
To be honest, I'm most proud of the consistency. I'm not being boastful but we put out records which are consistently high quality, have strong artwork and we continue to challenge ourselves. And also having it reach further than we ever think. I remember when [Fool's Gold creative director] Dust La Rock had an art show two years ago and P. Diddy was tweeting about it. When stuff reaches culturally deeper than we anticipated of off hard work, high-quality standards and good taste – because at the end of the day this is a highly curated label.
That helps people be less cynical, because a lot of people may see a Diddy tweet and think someone paid him or it is in his self-interest to tweet about it.
Yeah, I don't even know Diddy like that.
What is it like with guys like Danny Brown or these younger acts to have you as a boss? Is it a mentorship, or is it "prove yourself?"
No, when we sign artists, we stay very involved with the development. That's one of the things that Fool's Gold can offer that a major label can't. When there's an artist that's being wooed by labels and a major is offering him a whole bunch of cash and Fool's Gold is offering him probably much less money but a much more credible brand, a big part of why they end up choosing us is the development. Majors can't afford to sign artists that need development, but we're totally willing and happy to sign an artist that's practically unknown and help them fine-tune their art.
When we signed Kid Cudi he was completely unknown. 'Day N Nite' was a good song, we gave it to the right people, got Crookers to remix it and next think you know it's platinum. Things like that make us trust our taste and instincts more.
There's also such a family side to the label that if someone's an a-----e, we're not going to sign them, just like that. There have been people that we've met with that we chat after the meeting and decide we can't picture ever wanting to hang out with. And then it's like f--- it.
Do you feel like you've officially made it as a label boss, or do you feel like you still have something to prove?
I always feel like I have something to prove, as much with my DJing as with Fool's Gold. I wouldn't have been DJing for 15 years if I didn't have that sort of insatiable fire in me that says, "No, not enough, you have to keep going." I'm happy when things go well, but I know that things can always be better.
Does it feel like a long time ago when you were 15 and winning DMC championships?
[Laughs] Yeah, certain things went by in a blink. Four years of Fool's Gold went by in a blink, even that stint with Kanye went by in a blink. Each chapter went back fast, but when you go back to the very first one, which is when I won the DMC's, yes it feels like a long time ago. I'm 29, that was when I was 15, so it's pretty much half of my life away.
Who are you most proud of this year?
All of them, but this year Danny Brown is one of the signings that has been quickly exploding and gelled really fast and really well. But I'm just as proud as and excited about all the signings. There are guys like Party Supplies who isn't even out yet and I think he's going to be huge. That's someone that we're really developing.
But Danny was sort of ready to go, he had put out many albums before and all we had to do was help curate the 'XXX' album a bit more and that worked really well. He's the Fool's Gold artist who was most talked about for 2011. And even for him it's just beginning.
And if there was any act, either big or who you just heard about that you could sign, who would it be?
The Weeknd. C'mon.
Is there anyone you wish you had spotted that felt like a Fool's Gold artist?
No, I don't really think that way because we have a pretty full roster. And I don't feel like I'm really missing anything on the label. Part of what's exciting with us is that we don't even know what we're looking for when we're A&R'ing, whereas certain labels and big labels are like "we need someone like this."
And you guys don't do something that is a pitfall of major labels where you think, "OK, we found Danny Brown, let's go find five more."
Right, and if another label had a Danny Brown, we wouldn't think, "Let's go get a guy with straightened hair." Do you remember when every label was trying to sign a white rapper back when Eminem first blew up? It was literally like, here's Hard Whites, here's this guy.
We're looking for artists who surprise us.