Albee Al on Getting Another Shot at Rap Success
Photo credit: Daniel Vasquez / @danielvasquezphotos
In his own words, New Jersey rapper Albee Al talks about staying out of trouble, his new mixtape Free the Real, and the lessons he’s learned over the years.
It’s been three years since the New Jersey rapper Albee Al spoke to any major press. So Al, who calls himself “the King of New Jersey,” is all smiles during our Zoom chat. He’s in the middle of his press and – after nearly facing life in prison – he’s just happy to be seen.
“I try to smile more but I hope they don’t see my teeth,” Al told Okayplayer. “You know, I’m a wolf.”
Born and raised in Jersey City, Al, real name Albert Robinson, is the son of a rapper. His father, also named Albee Al, was part of Sweet, Slick and Sly, a hip-hop group that would perform with rap legends like Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markie. But his father died of cancer when he was four. And as a child, growing up in the residential estates of Marion Gardens, Al was surrounded by the streets, outside and in his home.
“They need to understand who I am. Where I’m from and my background,” Al said. “It’s not just the men in my family. My uncles, everyone and the judges know the Robinson family. My grandma was a gangster. She shot my dad’s best friend. I’m from the gangsters.
Throughout the 2010s, Albee Al rose to regional fame, known for his highly specific rhymes and hyperactive style of rapping. Over the decade he would pull out favorites from the hood like super saiyan and koba. However, whenever he gained momentum, trouble would arise. In 2019, five years after beating a murder in 2010, Al was charged with attempted murder. He accepted a plea last month and returned to the studio. With all this thinking time, the result is Free the Real, a project that Al describes as “all emotional”.
Days before the project was dropped, Al opened up about loving his hometown, his new album, and the lessons he’s learned over the years.
As said to Kia Turner
On New Jersey’s place in the rap scene
When I was gone, I was listening to music on the radio and I was like, “Where’s Jersey?” So when I got home they knew Jersey was back. I know, nobody was really taking off from Jersey so I guess when I got home it was like “Finally, here’s hope!” They know I come with this shit so they know I got us.
It was always love in Jersey. Even when I thought not. I used to have this mindset of thinking people don’t care or people hate. But, no, Jersey is still arguing over me. Other states say, “Who do you have?” and Jersey always said “We have Albee Al.” That’s why I go so hard. It feels good to be the person my state trusts.
Trying to prove he’s a changed man to the public
I really want them to understand that I’m focused on business. I’m focused on the music. I know they scared of street shit ’cause I’m a street nigga and I’m from that and I’ve shown and proven so many times how I can handle my temper. But I’m just trying to show them that’s over. It’s about work, taking care of my family and getting my people in position. When they act scared, it does nothing but stop my bag and take food out of my family’s mouth.
I feel like a misfit, but at the same time, I have my own way. It’s literally no one talking about what I’m talking about. Everybody talks about street shit and what they’re going through. This is how I explain it. I am what they lack. I am a misfit who picks up where I left off. I am more detailed, more graphic. Shit, you grab your arm, feeling those chills. I really lived shit.
On his new tape, Free the real
This tape is from koba. I had the koba attitude. The koba the attitude is like, “If you don’t fuck with me, I don’t fuck with you.” This tape is all emotion. It’s harder than koba. But it will always be a classic because of the way I painted the picture. I have Mozzy from Bay Area on the tape, I’m doing the remix of “Thottie” now.
“I’m From Marion” is probably my favorite album. This song is my life, it explains who I am. This explains my state of mind from where I am today. It’s my way of thinking and it will help people understand why I move the way I move. As if I had finally understood. I move like a superstar and not like a street nigga. Of course, I am that, but I am much more than that.
“My Faculty” is actually a song I did before I went to prison. It’s the only song I made before I went to prison. There’s a lot of emotion in that one. I wrote most of this project while I was locked up and I still hear people say, “I want the old Poe” and I’m like, “What the hell is that? old Poe? I’m Poe!” I had a bunkee and he was like my biggest fan. He knew all my old bullshit. He used to rap it and say, “You gotta come like this.” That’s when I knew. I had to find that old Poe that people wanted. Poe was hungry. Talking about my shit. Talking about what I don’t have and how I had to get the shit I have. I had to go get this Poe.
The lessons he learned over the years
I learned so many lessons along the way. They say the game should be sold, not told. You have to pay with experience. You have to go through shit to find out. My lesson with this is that I have to stop dealing with all my problems with violence. I have anger issues so when I get mad, I leave. I worked on it all my time in prison. Don’t put yourself in these positions.
Some people just don’t get it. Some people spend their whole life looking for it and still can’t find it. I understood. I always had it. This shit is not known, it did not grow overnight. I had it when I was a kid and I knew it. Everyone around me knew it. I always lost my concentration when I was about to blow. Always went to jail or did some crazy shit. I always get my wings clipped when I’m about to take off. In prison, I knew I couldn’t fly. But I knew I would get my wings back.