Just The Beginning With Offset

Prior to His Separation from Cardi B, the Rapper Speaks Candidly About Family and His New Album

  • Interview: Judnick Mayard
  • Photography: Stefan Kohli

Late last year, a week after Cardi B announced she was separating from her husband, Offset released a video pleading for his wife’s forgiveness. It was his Christmas wish. A campaign called #TakeOffsetBack was started by his fans, and the day after his birthday, on December 15th, (and the original release date of his solo album), he jumped on stage in an ill-advised attempt to deliver his plea in person. With four risers worth of flowers spelling out “Take Me Back Cardi,” he interrupted her set as the first female headliner of Rolling Loud festival. It was clearly a mistake.

Prior to this very public display of marital drama, I met with Offset in Los Angeles to discuss the release of his first solo album. The entire rollout has been steady but secretive, with no lead singles or mention of a title. Clues suggest it will be about his new family life and love.

The morning air is crisp and the manager of the house-turned-set is strict about smoking inside. But Offset is cold. After much back and forth with his team, Offset pulls the manager aside for a chat by the pool. An agreement is reached. At one point she exclaims, “Oh that’s so cute,” pointing to a photo in his phone. I wonder if he’s sharing photos of his six-month-old daughter, Kulture, whom he and his wife were still withholding from the public at the time.

We never actually sit down to talk. Rather he goads me to start asking questions while he entertains another conversation with the stylist. His answers are direct, thoughtful yet concise, sometimes splintered.

Still, there was a tense moment in our chat. I suggested that a decade in the game had potentially aged him as a rapper. He bristled, responding “'Cause I been in the game a minute, you can't take my age away though.” Getting older is nothing more than realizing self-truths over time. Many of us are only forced to examine ourselves under pressure—too often, and unfortunately, after failure. In the aftermath of his impending divorce, and even as his album continues to be pushed, Offset is, as he mentioned to me, still figuring it all out.

Judnick Mayard

Offset

Alright, so let's talk about the album first. It’s coming to us pretty much sight unseen with just a few tidbits on what it’s about. Why'd you make that decision to roll it out this way?

I [feel like] now, they be forcing the fans to be subject to one or two songs. That shit's wack. I didn't come up like that. I came up from [the] mixtape era: when you putting that shit out and you don't know what's gonna go but you gonna figure it out. The [fans] gonna let you know.

So you feel like you don't even wanna guess for the fans, you just want to hear straight from?

I'm sorry, I want them to pick it. They gonna let you know which one is the hardest one. One project just gonna feed the streets. Let them take the dope, know what I'm sayin’?

What’s the album sound like? Is this your best rapping yet?

Hell yeah. This is just the beginning. It's just gutter and core, from the heart. I got a lot of different flows on it. I'm rapping, even though I see a lot of the artists nowadays, they like auto tuning. A lot. I feel like I'm not on that wave at all. When I came in, we came out the trenches, so that's what people want to hear, because that's what people go through every day. Ain't nobody driving a Wraith. [In] Black culture right now, and the world in general, the poors outweigh the rich one thousand percent. So you gotta talk about shit that's going on in real life. Just the real content of what people see every day. Go back to that.

Your job is pretty intense and time consuming, as is the lifestyle around it. You’re constantly on the road. How do you get to stay connected to things outside of that?

'Cause I still pull up with my homies, and I still accept calls from my people back home. I listen and talk to 'em, see what they going through. Fifty grand is somebody's life. That's why I'm starting to invest and slowing down on the jewelry. Buying shit that go up, not down. 'Cause if [my folks] ask me for something, like a light bill or something is three hundred dollars, I send a thousand and [they’re] crying on the phone.

Before I got so big, as an artist, I felt like people didn't really know too much of your boy, personally. I might have not done it the book way but I made it do what it do. It ain't never too late. I feel [I’m] still [on the job]. And I'm gonna keep that mindset, because it keep me going as hard as I am. I feel the pressure to show that I can do this shit. And that I've been doing this shit. You seen a lot of things in the media...negative things but it ain't about that. I got four kids. So I'm talking about my kids, having a family, and being the head of the family.

So like your real life, your personal life. Not the group.

It's been a whole different vibe having a solo album, but I'm ready to give it to 'em.

It's been a crazy two years. You're a father of four, but this year you got married. That's first time stuff.

Great two years, big two years. You know what I'm saying? Macho man two years. I'm not gonna lie, that's a big step in life.

How’s that? What kind of compromises is it teaching you as a person to be married?

You know, Lord sees everything. You can't think for yourself, you gotta think for two. The decisions you make, you gotta talk to each other with that. You can't hide anything. Everything becomes one. That's all.

Are there any similarities between being married and being in a group or does it more so interfere?

Hell no, it's totally different. A marriage is something through God, and [though] my group is something through God, I wouldn't even put them two together. Same care but two different things.

I'm not taking any type of assumption, I want to get your mind on how they intersect on the album as you mentioned before.

It's just like...the group, we still got our own houses and we got our own lives. Having me and my wife it's just like, this is a new thing 'cause we live together, share bills, everything. It's way better, period. It's not a different love. It just [is] different; we match each other and all.

You said you have four kids but this is your wife’s first. How is that dynamic?

Yeah, [Cardi] panics a lot. I tell her, "Chill." I feel like I know everything already. I know how to make [Kulture] be quiet. I know how to make her [stop crying]. But [Cardi] learn fast though; she know a lot of shit, fast. You just got to give 'em what they want right now, [the baby’s] too little. She want[s] her way [so you] got to give it to her.

But it does sound like being the head of a household, as you put it, is causing you to step up in different ways and change your perspective.

My blood little brother, he in college right? He had a problem and he said, "Let me get $30 for gas, I ain't have no gas." And he dead ass serious, all he wanted was $30. Shit be almost bringing me to tears where I came from. Like, I really was on some bad situations man, [but] I'm standing right here now.

Was your car accident part of that?

Yeah, that's one of the situations I'm talking about. That was a life changing situation. Like they even told me about my car, it's like 80% people die, come out the windshield and hit a tree. I didn't come out the windshield. I broke my eye socket and certain things [but] I walked home. It was probably ten minutes walking from my house and weren't nobody out. It was like four in the morning. One guy pulled up and helped me. One guy, he was walking from work. Had two kids. He came for the rescue, man. I bought him a car too.

What were you thinking?

I [can] smell the fumes of the car sometimes. I was just thinking, "I can't die." I ain't going out like this. Hell no. Too many people depend on me. I was saying that shit out loud, while I was walking, screaming it. "Hell, I can't die like this", pumping myself up. I remember that, I'll never forget that.

How did it affect your family?

I was able to get over fast, but it was like, "What the fuck?" Cardi was in the house when I walked in covered in blood. She's pregnant. I ran upstairs like “I gotta go to the hospital.” She crying [and] screaming. But then the next day I got out of the hospital, they couldn't believe it. The doctors couldn't believe it either. Got out the hospital [and] I recorded. I got like a little documentary film put out where you gonna see me actually recording, straight out of the hospital.

Why did that feel like a priority for you?

'Cause I had to talk what the fuck happened. My mind was in the gutter, too. Like, my life and shit. So I just wanted to rap. I wanted to get the fuck out of the hospital.

“This is just the beginning. It's just gutter and core, from the heart.”

It sounds to me like you've reached this point where you are looking for new experiences, not necessarily in the way of like drip but generationally—like you're trying to like put things together for your legacy.

I gotta be making money, just not with the music. I mastered that. I done made millions outta that, so it's something else I gotta do to make millions. Before I'm 40 I wanna have 100 Ms. 'Cause that type of money can last throughout the family, my kids. The reason black folks don't have shit [is] 'cause the money don't be enough to bring it down. I wanna fuck with everybody 'cause the more the merrier. You could be networking with this person, you never know. It ain't no competition. Let's all make something happen and make it the biggest it could ever be. Like right now the reason that hip hop is the number one is because all the kids are on it. It's a whole. It's not like one, it's a whole. Right now hip hop is the biggest genre of music.

It is the most mainstream.

That's why when the old older rappers be talking shit, like yo shut the fuck up. Respect this shit. 'Cause really you paved the way, but the way you paved was never this big.

They were not prepared for consistent, top-of-the-pop-charts levels.

Never. You can't be old as hell mad 'cause this kid don't look like how you looked. 'Cause what you looked like obviously wasn't the look bro, if it ain't get that big. I do songs with young cats. I don't really fuck with the old cats like that. I don't even know big names like that.

You just feel like it's just not fresh; contextually it doesn't fit.

It's not me. It don't fit me. But see this is why I'm still gonna be and the boys gonna still be 'cause we changed the game. Niggas claim that, but that's not accurate though, really. You ever just think about it, if it was no Migos. There would be no rappers. It wouldn't be the same amount of number of rappers right now period, period. And [older] rappers that did trends, they wouldn't even be as hot right now.

What do you think is the thing that y'all changed the most?

The flow and the sound, fuck the style, everybody got drip, everybody put down they're on Gucci, they just put it on how they want to, but when it comes to flow, like, I wish any rapper nigga will ever tell us that we copied that. I dare you, any rap artist. 'Cause I be seeing the subliminals on Twitter, "y'all should thank me," and niggas be claiming shit that you can't claim. 'Cause I can't wait to play somebody's music from 2013 and then play it the rest of [these past] years.

So what's it like for you switching the flow now?

It ain't even switching the flow it's just advancing it. Doing it where they can't do it, like how you could never do something how the originator do it.

Like a trademark.

Exactly.

Judnick Mayard is a screenwriter and producer living in Los Angeles.

  • Interview: Judnick Mayard
  • Photography: Stefan Kohli
  • Styling: Zoe Costello
  • Grooming: Nate Grizzy, Lady Lockz
  • Production: Emily Hillgren
  • Production Assistant: Stephanie Bayan
  • Video Direction: Michael Mauro
  • Camera Operating: Nate Hosseini
  • Video Editing: Orlando Urbina
  • Video Colorist: JT West
  • Song: “Elephants” by Quickly, Quickly