WW: Why call your album Portland Ni%#a?
Cool Nutz: I feel like I represent a middle ground between TxE or Luck and the really street shit. When I go out of town, people don’t even think there are black people here, so I feel like we represent a certain crowd of people. When I’m with my dudes—Maniac, that’s my nigga. Bosko is my nigga. It’s not a bad term between us.
Luck-One, whom you just mentioned, has said it’s ignorant for MCs to keep using that word.
All these young dudes coming in the game, more power to them. But obviously a lot of the shit they’re doing, I showed them how to do. Another point is that the “nigga” thing, it comes from an old-school saying: “never ignorant, getting goals accomplished.” And I feel like for us, we’re the classy, intelligent, business-minded niggas. But I walk in places and I’m still black...and I respect Luck, because he always says exactly what is on his mind.
Why censor the N-word on the cover, then?
Because I knew it would offend certain people. I knew there are white people who don’t understand and black people who don’t understand. But for a lot of us, that’s just part of our vocabulary. I’m conscious of a lot of things. We were somewhere, and there were some lesbians around, and I think I said the word “gay.” And I went and apologized for even saying it. I know how that offends people, especially coming from Portland. You throw the F-word around here and that’s worse than the N-word, you feel me?
Macklemore’s “Same Love” defends gay marriage. Where are you on that issue?
Growing up in Portland, man, I had grocery store jobs where I worked with really gay dudes who were super cool. I’m not bothered by that. If you’re going to really spend your time being mad about that, you’re just going to be mad all the time.
But there has been a lot of anti-gay sentiment in hip-hop, so do you feel any pressure to take a stand like Macklemore did to help reverse it?
No. Macklemore, his music is known for that: He’ll make a song about how it’s raining outside and the raindrop hit the tin of the roof and dribbled down and went into the old man’s eye and looked like a tear, you know? That’s him! I’m not that dude, and I try not to do music that’s not me. I haven’t tried to rally for something that wasn’t my cause just to get people listening. It’s not like one day I’m a Muslim and the next I’m eating a pork burrito. This is my thing: If you’re really for a cause, you should be really ready to lose everything for that cause. You should be willing to get hit with a beanbag gun, bit by a dog and shot by a high-powered hose or Mace for that cause. If you’re not ready to do that for a cause, you shouldn’t try to benefit from it.
You talk about your age a lot on this record. Is it easier to be a veteran MC than it used to be?
Well, Jay-Z changed the whole swag of hip-hop. He changed the Champagne cats were drinking, the clothes you wear, the words you use. But when I refer to my age on [Portland Ni%#a], it’s really about how a lot of people want to see somebody like me go away. A lot of these young dudes think I’m a roadblock for them getting something. [But] nobody gave me anything, and no one has given more to the city than I have. At my highest point, I was putting cats on. The radio didn’t come and ask me for an all-local radio show—that was my idea. So on this album, I’m saying, “I’m not going nowhere. If you want something, you come take it.”