Free after spending nearly nine years in prison, Tab “Turk” Virgil doesn’t seem to have missed a step on Blame It On The System, his first post-incarceration musical release.
Hosted by mixtape heavyweight DJ Holiday, the 15-song installment is more of an audio-biography of Turk’s life. On the song “Reckless,” he gives listeners a walk through of his battle with heroin addiction. He provides thoughts on corruption in the judicial system with the title track “Blame It On the System” and reveals the love he has for his wife on “Anything.” On the mixtape, Turk also reconnects with his Hot Boys brethren Juvenile, B.G. and Lil' Wayne (which released three albums together and sold more than a million records during their stint with Cash Money Records) on the remix to his song, “Zip It,” a track that criticizes those who cooperate with the police to send someone to jail.
Turk shared his thoughts on the mixtape, his first release in almost a decade. In 2004, he was sentenced to 12 years for second-degree attempted murder after he allegedly shot a sheriff's deputy during a drug raid at Memphis' Hickory Pointe Apartment complex. He was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and an unlawful user addicted to a controlled substance in possession of a firearm.
During our conversation, Turk also classified what he considers to be snitching, revealed his thoughts on fellow Hot Boys member B.G.'s situation (who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2012 after pleading guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice), marriage, possibly releasing a movie with superstar actor and director Tyler Perry, and upcoming releases he has in the works.
How do you feel about the response you’ve received from Blame It On the System, which is your first musical release in almost a decade?
Turk: You know it’s all love. We finally reached the 25,000 download mark on Datpiff.com. It’s steadily growing. A lot of people are starting to follow the movement. It’s a blessing to come back after all these years and get the love and support that I’ve been getting. I’m looking forward to dropping three more [mixtapes] before June and doing an album.
What were you trying to convey by titling the mixtape, "Blame It On the System?"
It could go a whole lotta ways. At the time, I just felt that it was only right by me being gone so long to let the people know that I’m going to blame it on the system for the reason I’ve been gone so long and I shouldn’t. I’m gonna blame it on the system for the reason I’m balling right now when they thought I shouldn’t. Everything that’s going on in my life, I’m just looking back at them and basically just [saying] that I appreciate y'all for giving me a second chance.
Some of my favorite songs on the mixtape are "Fast Life," "Reunited with the Block," "Reckless," and "Anything." What are some of yours?
I like “Reckless.” It’s about my life. That’s the truest song. It’s heartfelt. It comes straight from the heart. I’m about to shoot a video for that. And “Rack Attack.” Of course “Zip It” and the all the songs on there. I put my heart into it, so I like all of them.
On the title track, "Blame It On the System," you mention that “corruption within the judicial system will never stop.” You also rap such lines as, “A black man can kill a black man, black man kill a white man they’re losing” and “You’re guilty 'til proven innocent.” Can you elaborate on these statements and why you feel this way?
For people who say the system is fair, [they] don’t know and haven’t ever been in it. If they really knew how it was, some jurors wouldn’t even find the people guilty, because they’re the biggest liars, the cheaters, the criminals. They’re the ones. But at the end of the day, we have to take responsibility for our actions because they don’t make us do anything. It’s just that they control the world—the government. I just put it on front street and try to let the people know if we don’t watch what we’re doing, we’re going to get caught up in that system and this is what it’s gonna be. I had to learn the hard way doing my time—eight years, eight months, 16 days. I refuse to go back down that path, so it’s like therapy for me to let the people know how corrupted the system is and move forward at the same time.
What is a message you would like to convey to the youth that you think a lot of rappers are refraining to tell them?
A lot of youngsters out here, they’re popping mollies [Molly is a drug slang term used to describe the purest form of MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy]. They think that it’s cool. When I was coming up, I thought heroin and cocaine was cool. We were glorifying it in my city. I just want to let people know all drugs are bad for you. Anything that’s altering your mind. You can’t think for yourself. It ain’t good for you. You need to leave it alone and let it go. And as far as toting these guns out there, if you don’t have no permit and you get caught up in the system, you become a convicted felon, you catch you another charge, you get caught with even a bullet that’s five to 10 years mandatory. Just know the law. Know what you’re doing. If you choose to be hardheaded, you don’t wanna stop it, just be willing to accept the consequences and zip it. Don’t take everybody else down with you.
It's interesting that you mention that, because I was going to ask you about the song "Zip It" on your mixtape, which basically criticizes people who cooperate with law enforcement to incarcerate someone else in exchange for less jail time.
Yeah, people cooperating with the law, I don’t respect that. That’s why I had to come with a song like that, because like I say, it goes both ways with "Blame It On the System…even the people who are getting in the system and they want to help them. We’re gonna blame that on the system, because that’s how they got it set up. And a lot of people think that’s cool but it’s not, because if you get on their side and you help them that still puts your family at risk. Now you got people who wanna kill your family because of a selfish act that you did. You want to tell on somebody and you didn’t have to. You could’ve just took your lick.
In today’s society, different things can be classified as snitching. What do you personally consider to be snitching?
Collaborating with the police, period, to me is snitching. Any kind of assistance to the government is snitching. Snitching goes all kind of ways. Just hush your mouth and do you. Mind your business, and you won’t be a snitch.
Listening to the mixtape, something that stood out to me was your openness about your relationship status. Throughout the mixtape, you make several mentions about your wife (Memphis rapper Emani Da Made Woman), and the love you have for her, especially on the song “Everything.” And even on “Thank Me,” which is a song that caters to the ladies. What drives you to be so vocal about your relationship status in your music, which is different than the average entertainer who usually chooses to keep that portion of their life private?
When I went through my situation, she was the one that was there the whole time, so it’s only right for me to share my love and show my appreciation. I let the world know that there's nobody before her. It’s just real love. I don’t do the things that I used to do. I don’t cheat. I don’t go out and mess with all the girls. There's a lot of respect and loyalty in my relationship.
Transitioning from there, you mention B.G. several times throughout the mixtape, and he even appears on some songs. What are your thoughts on his situation? And have you been in communication with him, or had the chance to see him?
Me and B.G. communicate all the time on Corrlinks [an email system used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to allow inmates to communicate with the outside world], so we talk, and he calls on the phone and we talk to each other. I send him pictures. You know, it is what it is. He took his lick. He could’ve took a lot of people down, but he chose to take his lick and the consequences to that was them trying to give him a lot of time. Sometimes that's the case, but he still has his dignity. He still has his pride. He’s not labeled as a snitch. So you know, some people just stand for that man, and they’ll do the time. It might seem crazy, but it’s just the principle that you live by when you are a certain type of person.
You have some big name features on the mixtape from Lil' Wayne to Juvenile to Maybach Music Group's Gunplay, Memphis' own Lil' Lody and Calico Jonez, and many more. But one feature that really caught my attention was legendary New Orleans rap group U.N.L.V. They're one of my favorite Southern rap groups. How did that collaboration come about?
Tec-9 gave me a call. Actually, ["Uptown"] was a song that they wanted me to get on, but I told them that I was about to drop my mixtape and I wanted to pay homage, because I looked up to U.N.L.V. when I was coming up in New Orleans. They were like the 2pacs in New Orleans, along with Soulja Slim. And just to have a song with them was an honor. [Tec-9] gave me the blessing to put it on my mixtape and I was able to release it. Shout out to [Lil'] Ya for that, Tec, and rest in peace Yella Boy. I always wanted to do a song with U.N.L.V. That was my first record with them ever.
[U.N.L.V. was one of the first groups on the Cash Money Records roster. They had hits such as "Mac Melph Calio," "6th and Baronne," and "Drag 'Em in the River," which was a diss song directed at fellow New Orleans rapper Mystikal. Turk came to the record label shortly before their exit.]
Looking forward from the release of the mixtape, what’s next on your plate?
I got the Louisianimals Vol. 1 mixtape. That’s everybody in Louisiana who has a movement and is doing something. That’s Louisiana Cash, Dee-1, Fox, Webbie, Lil' Boosie — he's about to touch down. Just everybody in Louisiana. We’re pushing on that. It’s about to come out in the next 60 days. And we got the Blame It On the System 1.5 and we got the Make Love, Make Money with me and my wife.
Are you still pushing your YNT Empire independently, or are you coming close to signing to a major label?
A few A&R’s have been talking about me. Giving me a few phone calls for some major companies. I’m not gonna mention their names, because ain’t nothing on paper right now, but everything is being talked about. They’re watching my movement. Their eyes are on me.
What about your book, The AutoThugography of Turk, and your movie RECKLESS, which is based on your life story. Are they both scheduled to be released in 2013?
Right now, I’m trying to get with Tyler Perry on my movie. He’s from New Orleans, so we’re trying to do big things together. So I’ma see how that go with RECKLESS. And the book will be out real soon. It'll be out this year.
I also read that you’re reaching back to those in prison with your magazine, YNT Incarcerated. Can you tell me a little about that?
It’s just like a magazine movement behind prison. A lot of my guys I left in prison. They had a lot of things they wanted to get out but couldn’t. By me being in a situation and understanding the struggle behind bars, I told them that I’ll get behind them and support it. So I got some guys who are writers in prison telling their story. We’re going to put their stories out and hopefully we can help the youth, so they won't go down the path that we already went down, and these stories can turn into movies. That’s the plan for the future. Just taking everything that was negative and turning it into something positive.