For the first time in three years, he’s on tour in the United States. The 34-year-old star, who grew up in the South Jamaica section of Queens, N.Y., will perform June 4 at Club Nokia in Los Angeles and June 5 at the Majestic Ventura Theater. Expect to hear songs off his 2009 disc, “Before I Self Destruct”; some of the club-banging hits that made him famous; and maybe some teasers from his upcoming fifth studio CD, “Black Magic.”
Are you looking forward to the tour?
I’m excited about it. I had this idea I came up with for the actual tour that was different, so I didn’t want to start it in really big venues and stuff like that. I wanted to find out where I was creatively. It’s the first time I’m touring in the U.S. in three years.
What are you doing differently this time around?
I’m going to change the show. I prepared three different shows for this tour, so my music will completely change if I’m close to a market I’ve just been to. Technology is making everyone able to tape a portion of the show, whether it’s a camera phone, or iPod or whatever it is. You gotta be able to offer something that’s a little more exciting for people who are going to see the performance.
What can the audience expect from your show?
I feel like I can do it and I will find out if I’m wrong after the first performance (laughs). I feel like I can perform some of my new material that they haven’t even heard. There are even some points where I can go a cappella. They will understand it because I am not working through a language barrier. When I’m performing outside of the U.S., I kind of stick to the music I know that they know and they respond to. The commercial singles are a go when you are on an international run. Playing in the U.S. again allows me to put together a set list that doesn’t have all commercial music.
What projects are you working on now? Are you doing any new collaborations?
I like to work by myself until I get the whole concept of the record set. And then I start looking for additional creative support. When I went to work with Dr.Dre and Eminen on “Get Rich or Die Trying,” I had previously recorded “21 Questions,” “Many Men, “Whaddup Gangsta.” A lot of the songs that stood out on that very first album were recorded before they actually got to them. I sort through the music and find the best possible production and the things that inspire me to write. Hearing (the tracks I’ve already done) gives them an understanding of where I am going creatively, instead of making it a description of a basic conversation like, “This one is gonna be big. I want this one to be like ‘Thriller” and Michael Jackson.”
Which songs/collaborations are you hoping to showcase on this tour?
There so many different things that I can actually change. That’s how I plan to make the shifts in energy and actual performance. I don’t want to give it away by saying exactly what.
It sounds like you want to tell me, but you’re holding back. You just want to keep the audience in suspense.
Who are you going to bring to your Ventura show?
When I get to Ventura, I will be performing with a live band. In certain markets, I decided to change the show and do it completely differently. Ventura is one of the places I chose to bring a live six-piece band. This will be the first time I will be performing with a live band in the U.S.
People know about your humble beginnings. In your music you talk about growing up in the streets. Does that still fuel a lot of the music you make?
“Before I Self Destruct” was almost a prequel to “Get Rich.” It was me writing about the things that motivated me to write what I wrote on “Get Rich or Die Trying.” It made perfect sense to me to write why I wrote those things, and just to say to myself, “I got to write that record and write songs that surround it.” And it worked out. I felt the record was one of the best albums that I made so far.
In your lyrics, you talk about some of the violence that you have come across growing up in the streets. Does it ever bother you that people still focus on the fact that you have been shot nine times?
It was definitely a pivotal point of my actual story. For me, it overshadowed the things I have actually accomplished. The music is not all about that. The records that actually sold my albums, like “In Da Club,” “P.I.M.P.” and “21 Questions,” were commercial singles. “Candy Shop,” “Just a Little Bit,” “Disco Inferno” those songs weren’t about the actual shooting experience. But that was the intense part of the actual presentation that obviously translated the strongest.
There have been pictures of you on the Web recently showing your drastic weight loss.
It’s for my film project “Things Fall Apart,” which stars myself, Mario Van Peebles, Lynn Whitfield and Ray Liotta.
When did you shoot?
I just wrapped it about four days ago with Ray Liotta. He actually played my doctor.
Talk about the film.
My motivation for the actual screenplay was based on my relationship with my best friend growing up. He passed away of cancer. It inspired me to write a story and I wrote it about a Heisman hopeful hit by the illness. It’s about how people adjust, how they spend on projected earnings, and how it affects them when what they hope for doesn’t come true. It’s a really interesting project
What was your friend’s name?
Charles Pringle. He lived right across the street from me all of my life. He died of cancer about two years ago.
How did his death affect you?
Our lives were pulling us in different directions because we were adults now. He was a criminal defense attorney and I took off in music. I was overseas on an international tour when he passed away.
There are lines in the actual film that he actually said to me. It allowed me to be emotional on point. It meant something more to me than just a line in any other script.
Let’s talk about your rapid weight loss. You almost look unrecognizable in some of the pictures.
I was on a liquids-only diet for almost nine weeks. It really started getting difficult by the third week, when I was on tour in the U.K. To help keep me focused on the project, I was looking at pictures of Christian Bale in “The Machinist” and Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia” — all of these different transformations the actors went through really did the characters they were portraying justice. I was coming down from being 214 pounds and muscular. It was harder for me to lose a lot of that weight. I believe Tom Hanks had four months to lose 60 pounds and I had two months.
How did you keep up your energy?
There were times when I didn’t have energy to do anything else outside of going to the gym and going to the show. I wasn’t running around and doing anything else. I don’t even know why I paid security during that time because I really didn’t require it. I never went outside.
Where did you film “Things Fall Apart?”
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Are you back gaining weight?
Yes, I’m back at 198 pounds. I’m trying to gain my weight back. I don’t want to walk around and have people see me like that without understanding what’s going on. When the filming was over, I took private planes home so no one saw me.
Did you think people would be shocked if they saw you?
I didn’t want to promote it. If you didn’t stop and tell the person that you just walked by that you are doing it for a film project, then they would assume that you’re sick. And you look sick. I looked at myself in the mirror and I thought, “OK, this is getting a little crazy now.” Like, wow, you could see things that you didn’t know were there, like my rib cage.
How did you start gaining weight again?
I started eating everything! The first night I ate was the Floyd Mayweather fight (on May 1). I went to a steakhouse in Grand Rapids called the Chop House. I went there and had a 12-ounce steak. I ate about three bites of it because my stomach shrunk. And I had a bunch of macaroni and potatoes. I just had a little bit of it because I couldn’t really eat.
What was the best deal you’ve made, whether in life or business?
My best deal was with my son’s mom to have my baby, because he was the best thing to ever happen to me. (His son, Marquis Jackson, is now 13.) He is my motivation. I probably would not have taken writing music as seriously as I did without him in my life.
courtesy of www.vcstar.com