Friday, July 29, 2005


All new Bay Area content will be coming soon. Until then enjoy the classic stuff from my old publications that I put out. I'll post some more next week.

Stay tuned.

Classic Interview-Lateef The Truth Speaker

Interview by Doxx...

This interview originally appeared in the March 1996 issue of No Joke newsletter.

Just as Blackalicious blew up with their amazing album, Melodica, Lateef The Truth Speaker from East Oakland looks poised to be another major name to emerge from SoleSides Records and attract a fan base that stretches from the Bay to the opposite end of the world. Keep a lookout for his single, "The Wreckoning" and you'll know why. I especially enjoyed this interview because we spoke about a variety of things beyond the realm of hip hop including politics and Minister Farrakhan.

What would you say influences the way you rhyme? What would you say your style is?
My style is just me. It's my voice. Lyrics have always been my thing. I remember when I was real young I went out with my father to a gathering for the Black Panther Party and there were people performing and I was amazed by the music itself and I was like, "The music sounds great" and he was like, "Yeah, but listen to what they're saying." And that shit just stuck with me. Ever since then I've really put a lot on lyrics. Music has to emulate life, life has to emulate music in order for it to be solid. That's where I try to get a lot of my influence from. MC's I'd say, of course growin' up out here, Too $hort, Ice Cube, KRS-1.

I like on "The Wreckoning" how you pay real close attention to the lyrics like at one point you're talking about what happens to a body after it dies. You were goin' real deep with all the different aspects of it.
Fools be talkin' about, "I'll do this and this to you and I'll kill you this way and I'll kill you that way." I was just breakin' down exactly what happens when somebody dies.

Now you have the more traditional hip hop influences, but you also got the West coast influences. How do you feel about how a lot of rap fans or just rappers in general are so strictly into one set style? Like if they're from the East they can't feel nothin' from the West and vice versa.
I think honestly that's one of the things that's killin' rap right now. We all on the same team. As much as money is a major thing in hip hop right now, it ain't that many motherfuckers that actually got it. The White power structure in this country has tried to manipulate people against each other when they are the actual enemy. As soon as motherfuckers are ready to come up off their egos and really talk about the problems that affect us as a community, whether it be hip hop, Black, multi-cultural, minority... As soon as motherfuckers is ready to drop the egos and stop set trippin' and address some of the problems we can go ahead and expand in that direction and also stylistically reach past the East and West coast.

What do you think would be the first step towards unifying the sides?

Maybe not unifying, but just bringin' it to a point where they understand each other and are comin' together a little bit.
I think at one level it'll never completely happen. I mean you gotta have some kind of pride about where you from, especially as tribal as hip hop is right now. Where you're from, it gives a spin to who you are in hip hop. I think there's a certain aspect of that that's good 'cause it is necessary for the people of a place to decide who is the voice of that place and then have that be the representation as it meets with other voices across the nation. For the unity to start I think fools gotta start acknowledging instead of getting caught up in the money and the image and goin' for self. Fools gotta start acknowledging that there are some problems that exist beyond the confines...

Bigger than all of it.
Yeah, it gets a little deeper that that. That's what I feel in terms of edging towards that unity and things like the Million Man March, which I participated in, are big steps in that. Like I said, music imitates life, life imitates music so all of the things needed to make that unification are not necessarily in music. A lot of 'em are in life.

Now you went to the Million Man March. What do you think of what Farrakhan preaches?
First of all, I think he's a dynamic man. He goes out on a limb for our people in a way that I don't see anybody else doin' right now which, in and of itself, warrants a tremendous amount of respect. I agree with a lot of what he's sayin', but it's the actions that speak louder than the words. The thing that I respect about the man most of all is that his word is bond. He's able to make actual, things that he says he wants to make happen. When you can lead a revolution in a way that isn't confrontational in terms of actual physical confrontation... I mean, he's talkin' about revolutions on an economic basis, a societal basis and a community basis. If he's able to spearhead that type of revolution, I'm all for it.

See I'm not Black. I'm Mexican and White and I agree with a lot of what he says and I thought the march was real positive. When you'd watch the news though, they tried to downplay it by only bringing up the fact that he's a Black separatist when really that's not even the main factor that he was talkin' about.
I feel you. I'm Puerto Rican and Black. I feel like in that march he was attackin' the idea and especially when he was breakin' down things on Masons, secret societies, Illuminati and what not. When you really get down to it, White supremacy has been goin' on since about 4000 BC, since ancient Ethiopia was overrun by White settlers and Islamic Arab settlers. Also these same White supremacist movements out of the Vatican and what not have gone ahead and subjugated the entire world for the most part. They run South America through money and oppress the people continually through government and all kinds of crazy shit. They'll have two people from a South American country fighting each other. One working for them to create dissention among the rest of the people in leadership so nobody's gonna lead them out of the situation as long as they continue to manipulate in that way.

There's a lot of dirty stuff goin' on.
Real dirty. And some of it is dirty in a way that's offensive. Well, most of it is dirty in a way that's offensive because they try and do it so subtlely. Like cocaine laws. You can get caught with like zips of powder and get out in, what, three months? Parole in three months. It's the White man's drug. But you cook it up and have one rock on you...Life. That's fuckin' ridiculous. That's like blatantly a racist law that is put into effect and is just kinda shined on and they use words and tricknology to get up out of the situation again and again. Things like the Oliver North scandal, Bush skimming hella money off the top and not being able to be held accountable for it. All kinds of shit. I think that he (Farrakhan) was kinda attacking that, but it gets deep because they've broken up life into so many categories and they have a part of each and every one. They have people in positions in the government, in business, in education, in different facets all going towards the same aim as a collective. We as people of color in this country and in the world don't have that sort of organization goin' on right now.

Are you workin' on an album right now?
Me and my man Chief Xcel are workin' on an album. Lateef And The Chief is our collaborative name. My album will touch on a lot of other levels that you can get a gleaming of on the single, but they're explored a little more in depth on my album. Suffice it to say, if fools bit the hell out of this single it wouldn't matter because the other shit that I have is completely different. I think fools do themselves a disservice when they allow themselves to get pigeonholed into any one type of style. Styles are infinite. The voice is another instrument, perhaps the most powerful because it can convey meaning and entendre specifically as well as emulate almost any other instrument created by man.

A lot of times they get stuck on that and can't get away from it.
Exactly. And it gets old quick because that's the thing about a song. Hopefully, when you make a song you want the beat to be able to stand by itself, you want the lyrics to be able to stand by itself and the whole thing to stand against the world. You also want your song to be different than the next song you make and different than the next song to the point where it's a challenge to make a song. You wanna come with some new shit. You don't wanna just be fittin' your shit into a formula and sayin' what everyone else is sayin' or the latest slang. That's doesn't help you at all in terms of your growing as a person.

How did you hook up with SoleSides Records?
Through school. I got on up there (UC Davis) and met some cool brothers that was into the music at a level which I could relate to. That was something that I didn't see at that time in too many other people. We kinda gravitated towards each other and used each other to kinda bounce ideas off of and build within our own group.

When is your solo album expected?
Probably in late '96.

Classic Interview-Cougnut of IMP (RIP)

Interview by Doxx...

This interview originally appeared in the February 1996 issue of No Joke newsletter.

This interview was done over the phone with the raspy voiced rapper Cougnut of IMP. Many subjects were hit on including the East coast West coast rivalry, the shooting of Mr. C (of RBL Posse) and the dope new IMP album, Ill Mannered Playas.

Now I've got some of IMP's old shit, but a lot of people wouldn't know that you guys have been doin' this for a long time. Could you talk about what some of your first releases were?
IMP, we hit the scene in '89. The group formed in say about '87, '88. We was just in the house workin' off a four-track, really gettin' into it and our first release was "Skanless." "Skanless" and "I'm Rollin'", "Gangsta Rock 'n' Roll" and "For You Dumb Mothas" or somethin' like that. "Skanless" was our first song that really put us on the scene and basically got us out there and known a little bit.

Who else is in the group?
It's Cougnut, C-Fresh, Hitman Sting, Rob V and Lou-E-Lou.

You've been doin' a lot of guest appearances. Who are some of the artists you been workin' with?
I was on Herm Lewis' compilation album. I was on Master P's compilation album. I was on Dre Dog's album. I'm on this new group outta Frisco called 2-Illeven, on they album. Cellski's album. Basically man I been on so many thangs it's hard to keep up with.

On the new album you talk a little bit about being locked up sometimes...
Yeah, a lot of times (laughs).

Bein' locked up, how does that influence what you're doin' in your rappin'? Does it bring anything to what you're doin'?
I think everybody has had a little jail time in they life. You got to see the place to know not to really go back to the place. Take, for instance, the song "Public Execution." "Public Execution" was a story that I got from my homeboy. I got that story from my homeboy, he ain't never comin' home. He gave me the story up there. It's a true story, but it went through me and I put it down on paper. It doesn't affect nothin'. I just think it makes me more, a little more stronger not to do it.

You also talk about the cars on "Shinin' Star." You likin' the cars?
See that ain't me though. That's the problem. People think me and C-Fresh sound alike. That's C-Fresh. A lot of songs on the tape like "Shinin' Star," "Wild Ass West" and a few other songsm, it sounds like me but it's not me. A lot of people give me his credit so I'm just tryin' to change that up and give C-Fresh a whole lot of credit that he's been due for. But "Shinin' Star" is like I'm rollin'. It's basically focused on Frisco and Bay Area life, how we rollin' out here. Gold rims, candy paint, drop tops.

You were talkin' about the Bay. What do you think about how big the Bay's gotten in the last two years?
We ain't playin' man. I feel like the Bay Area right now is the place to be as far as this rap scene. We're not LA. We're not New York, but I feel like the Bay Area is blowin' up so much right now to where I think everything comin' up out this Bay Area is hittin'.

Could you go down a few tracks on the album and tell what each one is about?
"Public Execution" is a story about a death row inmate, growin' up always been in trouble. Been locked up since a minor, doin' time since a minor. It's a lot of politics in the song too like how they execute brothas and they give other people chances. "The Bay Way" is my compilation song. I'm featuring my homeboys UNLV and all that. That song consist of we showin' everybody how we parlay in the Bay and what we do. "Wild Ass West," that's C-Fresh and I really like that because that got somethin' to do with the East coast West coast thang. If you really listen to that song you really feel how strong it is towards the West coast against the East coast. "Boots Laced Tight," that song is basically tellin' people not to run up on us. We can switch our styles up and talk about different issues, but that song is showin' everybody how we got our boots laced tight and if you roll through our city you better have your boots laced. Don't try and slide up under us if you don't know us. "Don't Get It Twisted," that's like my radio song. A lot of brothers... A lot of people, period, I feel like they got the game twisted. Goin' out behind these hoes, goin' out behind all this he say-she say shit. I wrote that song 'cause a lot of people had the game twisted. That song is so deep right there. It fits the title, "Don't Get It Twisted."

You were talkin' about "Wild Ass West" and the East coast West coast thang. What do you think about that whole situation right now?
Well, right now that whole situation is... Let me see, how can I put that? I mean it don't matter to me, I been funkin' with them anyway. I don't like the East coast. I'ma keep it real. It's a lot of people out there I do respect and give love to and listen to, but I pick up all these subliminal messages 'cause I'm a rapper. If you gonna send a message to somebody you might as well dis 'em in they face and keep it real. Don't keep it fake on wax 'cause when I see you we gonna handle our business wherever we at. The East coast can't fuck with the West coast, bottomline. Definitely they can't fuck with this IMP.

What do you think about what happened to Mr. C (RBL Posse)? Can you speak on that a little bit?
Man, that shit right there man... I knew that was gonna come out. I was gonna speak on that anyway. It's just unfortunate that we gotta take a loss like that. Me, speakin' for my crew, IMP, UNLV, 2-Illeven, personally that's hurtin' us. That's a major loss. It affects everybody, all rappers. Everybody nuts ain't made of steel. I don't give a fuck what you talkin' about. You killin' people, you doin' all this and you doin' all that... Your nuts ain't made of steel and right there that's a big loss for every rapper in the industry. That's a big loss and somethin' to learn behind. It's a lot of jealousy and the main thing to do is just stay away from it. I can't even really speak on that because it's hard for me, but rest in peace Mr. C and he's gonna live through the IMP.

True. When I heard that I said "Ah shit" 'cause they (RBL) were gettin' ready man. They was gettin' ready to do somethin'.
They just signed to Atlantic. They was buildin' they own houses on the same block. They was gettin' up outta there and it's just hard man. See people think Frisco... I really want people to listen to this. I got a song on my solo album called "It Ain't Nothin' Like The Postcard." Everybody think San Francisco is faggots and it look like the fuckin' postcard. Where I live at it don't look like the postcard. Everybody think Candlestick Park is like, "Lovely Candlestick Park." Candlestick Park is in the ghetto, Double Rock! Frisco ain't nothin' like that and it's sad that we can't come together. I remember back in the days like in '87, all the gangbangin' days, everybody was gangbangin'. Shootin' each other up and it was like a fad, it was the thing to do. It was live or die. What I'm sayin' is this rap music done brought a lot of brothers together. Like back when you asked whose albums was I on. I was on JT's (The Bigga Figga) album. We never got along. I mean we did, but we didn't. Fillmore and Lakeview, Sunnydale and Hunters Point. We never got along. Hunters Point and Lakeview always got along basically. When it came down to goin' to parties and doin' all this we always had animosity to where there was always fights or shootings. But now since this rap scene and this Bay Area is blowin' up, Frisco is blowin' up, seems like everybody is gettin' together. If somethin' happens, a killin' or somethin', it's basically personal. It's not because you live here and I live there.

Now you said how rap kinda brought everyone together who used to be funkin'. A lot of people in the government are tryin' to fuck with rap sayin' it's causin' a lot of problems when in reality, what you just said hit it dead on the nail. It's bringin' more people together to do somethin' better for everybody.
Yeah, yeah. I mean the government always gonna try to bring us down. They been bringin' us down for I'ma say five hundred years when there wasn't no fuckin' government. They can try and stop rap, but it ain't gonna never stop. We'll be dead and gone and somebody'll still be rappin' and somebody'll still be givin' interviews. It'll just be in a different way. I think it's bringin' more Black people together because this is a form of our speech. This is how we communicate.

Who did the production on the new album, Ill Mannered Playas?
I produced it, my DJ Rob V, Hitman Sting, The Enhancer, TC, Reg and Race. Basically, that's it. And my homeboy from Sac who works with Homicide so I got a few producers. The reason why I did that was because this time I said, "This time we gonna have a different sound." I wanted a little bit of everybody's sound so I tried to get together with all the tightest producers that I thought wasn't gonna charge me an arm and a leg. I just wanted a different sound and I feel like our tape don't sound like nobody's tape. I feel like every song on the tape is qualified for a different person. Any creed or color, everybody can listen to my tape. I got somethin' for everybody on there 'cause it don't sound the same.

'Cause it ain't like your typical shit on there.
The whole tape ain't about killin'. The whole tape ain't about cussin' bitches out. The whole tape ain't talkin' about the White people. The whole tape ain't rasta. There's somethin' for everybody on there. Get a drink, smoke some weed and marinate.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Classic Interview-Dre Dog (now known as Andre Nickatina)

Interview done by Doxx...

This interview originally appeared in the August 1995 issue of No Joke newsletter.

Dre Dog has steadily been gaining a strong base of fans since he released The New Jim Jones a few years back. Now with the release of I Hate You With A Passion, his new album on In-A-Minute Records, Dre Dog has proven again that he is not to be slept on. Speaking to him is almost like listening to his songs. He speaks his mind and doesn't seem to hold back with his answers and comments.

Tell me a little bit about your background, where you grew up, how you started rappin' and all that.
It started like sixteen, seventeen just basically in class in high school not doin' nothin'. I just started writin' little phrases and shit 'cause I used to like sit in the back of the class and not do shit. It started from there, you know, from Fillmoe in San Francisco. I live right up the street from (Rappin') 4-Tay, right around the corner from JT (The Bigga Figga). So that's basically how it started off, just me basically writin' little shit that went together, goin' around to my potnas askin' 'em if it sound good. It didn't at the time, but I stuck with it and kept at it.

Since the last album to now with I Hate You With A Passion, how would you say you've changed in music and yourself personally?
On the first album it was kinda like a rushed project. I didn't have enough time to stay in the studio and really like go over it and hear all my mistakes. This time I had like enough time to really go in and listen to what I really wanted to have and what I didn't want. It gave me enough time to concentrate on my lyrics to a point to where I wasn't tryin' to be like the first album at all. I was tryin' to have like a 180 degree turn. I didn't want it to be nothin' like the first album. That's how I've advanced, tryin' not to be like the first album. Next album I'ma try not to be like this album.

A lot of people, with the songs "Powda 4 The Hoes" and "Ike Turner", they might see those titles and label you negatively without takin' the time to sit down and listen to everything. What do you think about people who label you without takin' the time to listen?
I don't care. I ain't trippin'. Either you buy it and you listen to it and you like it or you don't. People gonna have they opinions whether or not you think you got a bomb album or not. If four million people buy your album that means probably twelve million out there sayin' they don't like it. I'm just rollin' with the people that like it. If you don't like it or if you lookin' at it in a negative way, so be it. I ain't trippin'.

In my review a few issues back I said that you have an apparent obsession with animals and bugs. Can you break down what that's all about?
You know what? Until you wrote that I never really like sat back and listened to my lyrics and dissected it like that. But after you said it, your write up even made me go back and listen to my tape, it was such a good write up. I never really tripped on how many times I said different animals and shit like that. I even went back to my first album and I had dogs and cats. What I do is I look at certain things as inspiration. When I write rhymes I like to make people see what I'm talkin' about. When I use certain bugs and shit or animals, I'm tryin' to have you see what I'm talkin' about in a sense. I'm tryin' to put it in a phrase where you can kinda like see it and it really can't happen, but you can kinda like see it.

Kinda like on "Killa Whale"?
I try not to write titles that others have. I'm tryin' to use all my advantages to make you buy the tape without sayin' Glocks and guns and shit. So in that order I gotta come with different titles and just different thangs that people wouldn't even write now. You probably seen like a title of a song and then like another three albums got that same title. That's what I try not to do.

"The Stress Factor" is probably my favorite cut. Can you explain it, like what kind of feelings it's all about?
Well, I can tell you how it jumped off. I was at the studio with this bass player and we was just kickin' the shit. I was smokin' on a joint, he was just fuckin' around on the bass. He played the chorus. He just played like three seconds of it, right? And I caught him and said,
"Play that again." Then we just expanded if from there, but the chorus was so long that the lyrics couldn't be very long. So every verse is sixteen bars, but the reason why it comes out the way it comes out because, like I said, I had sixteen bars to every verse so everything had to be straight to the point. In that sense I wouldn't say I was goin' through a lot of things at the time. I was basically tryin' to put somethin' good down to that beat. It wasn't really a rappin' beat, it was like a ballad if anything. I wanted to do those on my first one, but like I said, I didn't have enough time. I wanted to make more songs like "The Ave" and shit, but not with samples. I wanted to use like the blues and shit. That's basically the style I was lookin' for with that "Stress Factor." That everyday shit that people go through, that you can relate to. Only some people will like that song. It's like a song that either you like it a lot or you don't pay no attention to it.

What do you think about the image that San Francisco is just homosexuals and that real rappers can't come out of there?
Well shit, mothafuckas are gonna think that regardless. It's more fags out in New York than there is in San Francisco. The fact that San Francisco is known for having gays, mothafuckas tend to do that (generalize the whole city). As you know, the gays are on a whole other side. It ain't like you live next door to faggots. Gays has got their own little part of town. Mothafuckas don't go down there. I don't too much worry about that. I go and represent what I gotta represent. If nobody ain't never heard of you before, you really ain't get no love. Before Snoop came up didn't nobody think of no Long Beach. It's just about waitin' your turn. Oakland was poppin' since NWA was out and San Francisco was just a quick step across the bridge. They acted like we wasn't even there. San Francisco rappers never really tripped 'cause we all had that faith. Nowadays we're probably one of the number one spots for rappers so it's all comin' together.

How was it directing the video for "Situation Critical?" Was that your first time directing?
Yeah, that was my first directing thang. It was real... It was easy. Even though it was my first thang I already knew what I wanted and how I wanted it so that's what made it easy. It's like a reality thang so it wasn't really hard. I didn't need no special effects or nothin'. It was all about puttin' the storyline together and makin' the storyboard look tight and it came out cool.

Are you gonna be doin' more videos?
Yeah, I'ma be directing RBL's new video, "Bluebird."

Talk a little about the 1995 Bay Area Rap Calendar.
That was like a little thang I did on the side. It was basically like a little goal I had. I tried to catch the other side of rappers, just chillin'.

Is there gonna be a '96?
I'm puttin' the blueprint on that right now. It might not just be rappers this time though. It might be a little bit of everything this time, but it's still gonna be Bay Area.

What other projects do you have comin' up?
Right now I don't know which single we gonna put out. I'ma try to have a "Stress Factor" video, but I'ma be pushin' the radio version of "Powda 4 The Hoes" which is gonna be "When The Panties Come Down." If they pump it, they pump it. If they don't, they don't. It's gonna be like two songs pushin' at the same time. I got a real nice idea for the "Stress Factor" video. It's gonna be dark, but it's gonna be good. I hope.

Classic Profile - E-40

Profile by Billy Jam...

This profile originally appeared in the May 1995 issue of No Joke newsletter.

"I got White girl for sale." For some reason I can't get that line from E-40's "It's All Bad" out of my head. Actually, that's just one of the many, many hooks or rhymes from E-40's incredible In A Major Way album that's stuck in my brain. You know, the ones you wake up humming. And I sure ain't the only one who's all into E-40 these days. No way 'cause suddenly our man, the Mailman, is on every cover of every goddamn magazine you pick up, from the expected rap mags-both local and national-to mainstream weeklies and dailies. E "fuckin'" 40 the man has truly arrived. His album shot to the top of the charts and everyone's into him now that they've adjusted their ears to his unique vocal delivery. At parties from Oakland to Atlanta when DJ's throw on "Captain Save A Hoe" with it's infectious singalong chorus of "I wanna be saved" the frenzied crowd will react with the same enthusiasm as they would to any true classic.

And besides the music being hittin', E-40 is amazing in another way. In a major way, if you will. And that is that he's a role model of true independence. He stuck to rap even though everyone told him that his "wierd" style of rapping sucked. He, along with The Click family (Suga-T, D-Shot and B-Legit), proved himself locally and then nationally. He sold a ton of records independently and made a shitload of money for himself because when you do it independently like many other Bay Area rappers such as JT The Bigga Figga do, you keep most of the money for yourself. Not like so many unfortunate rappers who immediately go major, but are broke, sad and forgotten just a year later.

Not E-40 though. He was selling so many tapes and making so much money on his own independent Sick Wid' It Records label that it got the dollar envy flowing in the veins of many at the big labels. They all wanted a piece of the pie. "Yo 40, let me fly you to LA. We need to talk about what kind of deal would make you happy." The deal that he eventually got was the much publicized 3.5 million dollar deal from Jive Records, except that this is actually not the real figure he got. Read below for the truth.

E-40 has arrived. He shot to the top on his own terms. He is truly a role model for bravely looking countless obstacles in the eye and beating them all.

The first obstacle of course that he faced was a very major one. Everyone said, "You suck," and as with any musical innovator, it's just plain hard to get accepted at first. E-40's offbeat, syncopated style, where he raps with rapid fire delivery, led to disgruntled comments like, "He sounds like a robot" or "Just give it up." Jo Treggiari was with the Oakland based one-stop, The Music People, in 1990 when the first Click tape, the four song Let's Side, dropped. "We dug it, but we were about the only ones. His flow was so unusual that most people thought it was wack, but really he was ahead of his time," she recalls.

To all this E-40 just shrugged his shoulders and decided to go directly to the rap fans themselves and let them decide if he was wack. So wherever E-40 and The Click went they'd pass out their tapes. "Even if we were in Reno or Vegas for the weekend we'd pass out tapes" he told me, adding that "We'd see a dude we gave a tape to a week earlier and he'd be like, 'Hey dude, that shit was on hit. I ain't even gonna bark at you.'" From 1990 to 1994, E-40 and The Click kicked ass recording and touring to places such as Detroit and Houston. Then last year, 40 hooked up that infamous deal on his terms with Jive Records. But was it 3.5 million or a lot more? "Why do people try to underestimate me? 3.5 million ain't shit," he says with a smile.

With the upcoming Click release and the success of In A Major Way, plus all of its subsequent singles/videos such as the recent "Sprinkle Me" with sister Suga-T, it looks like E-40's style will be a prominent one in rap music for a while. But what is this style and where does it come from? Along with drawing from his early influences, who he cites as "Too $hort, a brother from Richmond called Calvin T, UTFO and KRS-1," E-40 has always infused his entertaining character into his music, creating characters along the way like Mr. Flamboyant and Captain Save A Hoe. "I've always been funny," he says, "so I put my character in with a bunch of slang words and game related things that I gather up off the streets and it all came into one. It's all about game and slang and being real and having character and being comical too. Making some shit that makes folks go, 'That nigga's sick for dat!'"

Ever the humble man, E-40, when quizzed on his success says "I credit God", adding also that much of his and Sick Wid' It Records success can also be credited to dealing with family members. "It's a family thing" he stresses, adding "I trust family before I trust anybody." Solar Music Group, which has distributed most of the Sick Wid' It releases is headed by his uncle, Saint Charles Thurman. His mom is one of the biggest longtime, hardworking supporters. Nearly everyone involved with Sick Wid' It is family, from brother Mugzi to cousins Levitti, Kaveo and Little Bruce. As a large cohesive unit they have succeeded together in popularizing not just their music, but also their language.

Language, or rather, dialect is a very vital part of E-40's and the Sick Wid' It mob's appeal. They can be credited with popularizing Bay Area, or more specifically, Vallejo street dialect. "A lot of words have been out there for a long time. They just never made it onto wax," he observes. Sland words popularized by E-40 include pervin' meaning "getting high or drunk", broccoli meaning "pot", sohab meaning "friend", pac-man meaning "someone who packs your ear, talks too much" and mail or scratch meaning "money". Then there are slang words derived from other slang words such as penelopes which is inspired by po-po which in turn means "police". E-40 says he's always coming up with new vocabulary. One of his latest words is twoasted which he says "is a combination of twisted and roasted."

If you put this dialect together with E-40 and The Click's "mob style" you have the essence of the rap's infectious appeal. It's funky party music, but it's still hard. And it always tells a good story. "Gangsta rap talks about shoot 'em up, gang bang shit and I ain't knockin' that," he says "but our shit be ridin' music. Shit that you can just listen to and feel good about yourself. It gets brothas going like, 'I just went through that shit yesterday man! That just happened to me or my potna.' It's everyday stuff that they can relate to."

Classic Interview-Too $hort

Interview by Billy Jam...

This interview originally appeared in the March 1995 issue of No Joke newsletter.

With his latest album, Cocktails, having gone top ten on the pop charts and hitting number one on the R&B charts, Too $hort truly is the pimp mack daddy playa of the year. During a recent visit back to the "O" he talked candidly about everything from his reasons for moving to Atlanta, his planned retirement, the bitch word becoming a "community commodity", the end of his battle with Pooh Man, the new Dangerous Crew album and the Luniz and his other detractors.

You see, right before this interview got underway at Hip Hop Slam's headquarters, someone in the house slipped into the VCR the Luniz EPK tape, issued by Virgin Records, where they straight dissed him. We jump right in after that point.

Too $hort: I can't say it hurts my feelings, but it kinda like disappointed me that anybody would say something about me. Because I just was watchin' the Luniz thang and they said they're, "from Oakland. The real Oakland, no the Too $hort Oakland." I mean, what is that? I grew up in LA, I moved to Oakland. Everything I know as a man I got from Oakland. Every rapper who came from Oakland got it from me. So I was a rapper when there was only three or four rappers in the whole city. And it's like you can't really hurt my feelings, but it dissapoints me that you can't look up and say, "$hort set it out, now let's get our share." I set it out, I never sat there and turned my back. I know some people, like they say (Sir) Mix-A-Lot gets no love in the city of Seattle. I mean, he can't really show his face without a problem. And it's like, I think that happened to him because as he made it he never turned back and extended his hand and brought somebody with him, ya know? But I've been through all of 'em-(Rappin') 4-Tay, Spice 1, Pooh Man. Been through all of 'em and it's like as they left and did things they touched other people. So I feel that's part of me, ya know?

Right. In fact, when you look back at that Dangerous Crew compilation from seven years ago now, it's amazing how many people have just sorta came up since then-(including) Spice 1 and, more recently, 4-Tay! So are you going to do a Dangerous Crew II compilation?
We started on a Dangerous Crew album over in West Oakland and it ended up filtering off into the Get In Where You Fit In album. And you know, tracks went everywhere. But our next project, Father Dom, is already recorded, but the new Dangerous Crew will feature Goldy, Ant Banks, Father Dom, me, Shorty B and Pee Wee also doing some vocals. And we're going to guest star some singers, maybe a male and female vocalist and maybe some other rappers. We got a guy, eight years old, named Baby D fresh outta East Oakland.

Baby D?
He's this little guy who was just sittin' around freestylin' about real things. I'm like, "Did he just say that?" So it's only natural that we'd put him in the studio and debut him on the Dangerous Crew album. That album should be a '95 album.

So what's the move to Atlanta like?
I'd have to say as far as making music goes it's like a relaxed atmosphere. You know, the trees and the lakes and stuff. And it's cool in Atlanta. It's cool for a brother to ride a clean car with the rims slammed on the ground, wear your diamonds and just ride up next to the police and they go, "What's up?" and you go, "What's up?" and keep ridin'. That's different, that's something I've never experienced in all my adult life. You can show your wealth. Even if it's legal or not, you can show it and not be sweated for it. That on top of all the you know, colleges and women out there, it's like the ratio of men to women is like, I don't know, twenty to one. Women over men. It's chocolate city. It's somewhere I went out visitin' through the year of '93 and Jack The Rapper (music convention), that was August '93, when I finally just saw this house. My buddy who's from Oakland had been staying out there for like three or four years and he just kept saying, "Man, I'm telling you, this is the move!" I was about to move up out of Vacaville and buy a house up in the Oakland hills. He said, "Well, what you tryin' to spend?" I said, "Like $400,000." He was like, "Come here, check this out. $400,000? Look at this!" He showed me this mansion. I came back, told the rest of my crew and they was like, "No, we don't want to do it. If we move the company is over with, everything's through if you move. Don't move." I'm like, "Man, I'm out! Y'all can stay here, but I'm out. I'll come back all the time." And then I guess it just hit everybody. I don't know, everybody's got their own reasons. My reasons was because I felt like I've been working for ten years, making records and I feel like I've been selling dope for ten years. That's how I got treated in my own town. I haven't actually lived in Oakland since 1989. You know, staying on the outskirts, the suburbs. But everyday in my life has been in the streets of Oakland. I can name you endless uncomfortable feelings. You know, shootouts, bar room brawls, the whole nine yards. I'm about to be thirty years old, man. I'm chillin'. I'm tryin' to take my company to the next level for us, not for anybody else. And it's like I could of went many places. I could have went to LA. I could have went to Hayward. I could of went to New York. But I chose Atlanta.

Are you gonna respond to Pooh Man's latest rap attack?
I can assure Pooh and everybody else, there will never be a Pooh Man rap comin' out of my mouth again. It was all something that he started after leavin' the crew. It was a friendly breakup and it didn't have to go to that. And then we retaliated as rappers do. It's always just the rap thang, he started threatening the violence and stuff. And it's like, Pooh is cool, man. He says those things and he really doesn't mean them so everytime he sees us he's like, "What's up, man? I'm mad at y'all, but it's cool." So it's like we don't say nothin' about him. We never will again. That's that!

What do you have to say about other people stealing or being influenced by your style, especially using the "bitch" word which you previously popularized?
There's so many people who rap my style and it really pisses me off. And now it's like a community commodity, the bitch word. And I will be talking about that on the new album just to make those bitches who keep sayin' bitch feel like bitches, you know?

What's Cocktails about?
Cocktails Too $hort style is stories about gettin' pussy. That's all it is. "Freaky Tales Part III". There's part II and I hate to tell you, but some of the lyrics that was on that twelve inch that was so unpopular are on Cocktails.

Cocktails is your ninth album and you last under your Jive contract, correct?
No, ten. And ten will be the last one. That will be seven Jive albums.

And then what's in the future for Too $hort?
I can't say yet. There will be a large Too $hort retirement ceremony, I can tell you that much. That's one of the goals I set for myself.

A retiree playas ball?
I want to actually step up and say I had a wonderful career. Thanks. You know, for everything. And nobody ever did it. Everybody always just falls off. If I can't step down, nobody can.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Classic Interview-My First Interview With Mac Dre (RIP)

Interview by Doxx...

I did this interview over the phone with Mac Dre in June of 1995 while he was in Lompoc Federal Penitentiary and it originally appeared in the July 1995 issue of No Joke newsletter.

Mac Dre (one of the original game spittin' Vallejo rappers), after becoming a common name in the Bay Area scene, was on the verge of making a huge name for himself nationwide before he was incarcerated. Now, after being locked up for a few years, he's on another verge-he's going to be released within a year and will be right back at home in the Bay. In my interview over the phone from prison he speaks on how Young Black Brotha Records began, the funk between North and South Vallejo and what's comin' up once he gets out of the Feds and back to the V.

First of all, tell everybody who this is and where you're from.

Yeah, I'm Mac Dre. I come from Vallejo, California. The Crestside.

When did you start in the rap industry?
I started writin' raps when I was seventeen years old. I was in Fountain Springs Boys Ranch doin' like six months for joyridin', drivin' without a license, the type of stuff that young playas get into. I started writin' when I was up in there. (I) Came out and started makin' demo tapes with Studio Ton, $20 an hour downtown in Vallejo. I was just passin' the tapes out and my homeboy The Mac stayed in the Crest on Leonard Street where I'm from. He took my tape to Khayree and since then I been hooked up.

So that's how you got hooked up with Young Black Brotha?
Before it was Young Black Brotha it was Strictly Business.

Oh yeah...
I made this song, "Young Black Brotha." That's where the name come from. I made that song and that's where it started.

I remember a few years back there was tension between you and other people in Vallejo. You grew up in the Northside and there was tension between you and Southside people.
Southside AND Hillside.

Yeah. What was that all about?
Ever since I was little there was tension, right? I think it started off one of my homeboys cappin' on one of they homeboys outta The Click. Then it turned into a argument. Then it turned into a boxing match. One person from they side got in, then another person and it just escalated to high powered funk for real. Me, The Mac and my homeboy Coolio was representin' on the rap tip for the Crestside. E-40, The Click and Little Bruce and them was representin' lyrically for they side. It was deeper than lyrics though.

So what's up with that now? Is it all squashed?
I'm not lookin' to get into no funk. It's deep rooted funk so I guess the animosity is there, but I'm not holdin' no grudges. There is still that rivalry there.

What kind of lyrics do you have for when you get out?
All types of lyrics, man. I'll rap about anything. I rap basically to relate to most of the people I know, people in the hood and stuff. Then I got raps for the radio, for the kids, the youngstas. Just spittin' game, that Bay stuff. I just want them to know basically to keep ya eyes peeled 'cause I got a record label when I come out, Romper Room Records. I got a stable of rappers, so vicious. I'm just gonna be the start of things and it's gonne be a snowball effect. It's on like a vacation in Rome.

How do you feel about how big the Bay's gotten in rap?
I'm lovin' it. I'm sittin' in here listenin' to the radio. The Beat down in LA, that's the station we listenin' to and every time some Bay stuff comes on I'm juiced, pumped 'cause they my folks.

Everyone from the Bay in the last few years has been gettin' big.
Yeah, I'm just comin' back to pour some gas on the fire, blow it up with a different style, a new twist. A lot of people have been fakin' about that stuff that they been through, that gangsta stuff. I got my stripes. I done been there and I'm on my way back.

One of my favorite cuts off Young Black Brotha was "My Chevy"...
Man, that was just stuff that I could do over the phone. If I could get in the studio... Man, I got so many lyrics.

How do you feel about (Mac) Mall since he's not on YBB no more?
I hooked Mall up with Young Black Brotha Records. Right before I left I had Mall at my house, in my studio daily. I was gonna produce him. Then I got caught up in this bullshit so I just called Khayree and told him man, "Hook him on up." Khayree hooked him up, switched the record label to Young Black Brotha and Mall was his first artist. That's all my work, him and Ray Luv. I hooked Ray Luv up too. Ray Luv, he know my cousin that stay in Santa Rosa and he brought him out to Vallejo one day and I heard him rap so I took him to Khayree. Hooked both of 'em up. So basically, that whole Young Black Brotha Records thang evolved from me and my homeboy The Mac. I'ma keep it goin'. My homeboy restin' in peace right now.

Can you speak on your case? What led to you gettin' in there?
Well, I can't get into it...

Yeah, I know. Not too deep.
Basically, I went somewhere with my folks and got caught up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn't never no bank robber or nothin' like they portrayed me to be. I'm a rapper. I spit game for a livin'.

I remember seein' some of that shit up on the news.
I got a story to tell when I come home. Gotta make sure I get there first.

You got some raps about that?
Yeah, no question. On the record label I got people that's from the Bay Area, but then I'm in the Feds so you got people from all over. I met a few dudes that got like bomb lyrics that's gonne be on my label that's from the East coast, from down South. I got a bomb label comin' out.

How many artists do you think you're gonna have on there?
Right now I got five. Two from New York, two from LA and two from the Bay. That's six, I got six artists.

We also gotta let everyone know where you're at right now.
I'm in Lompoc. United States Federal Penitentiary in Lompoc.

Do you got a message for your fans that supported you before, while you been in there and are just waitin' for you?
Yeah, just tell 'em to kick back, wait about ten more months and I'm comin' back with that shit that they been missin'. Tell 'em it's a Bay thang with Mac Dre mayne.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Past, Present & Future

Welcome to Strivin' - The Bay Area Hip Hop Blog.

During the Bay Area hip hop scene's "Golden Era" (the mid-'90s) I began publishing No Joke - The Bay Area Hip Hop Newsletter. When I say "publishing" I mean printing one hundred copies on my stepdad's computer. I had no idea what good layout/design was or that I shouldn't bombard readers with 20 different fonts per page, etc... I also didn't really have any quality content with the first issues of No Joke. I had no industry contacts so I had no real inside knowledge of Bay Area hip hop beyond the albums I had and the radio shows I listened to. I didn't know the first thing to do as far as getting in touch with labels and rappers. As a result, the first few issues were garbage. I did crappy record reviews, crappy articles, crappy top ten lists, etc... I didn't even really know what to do with each month's issues once I had photocopied and stapled them all. Who do I send them to? I figured a good thing to do would be to send them to any label/fan club address I could find on all my favorite Bay Area albums. A few of the notable fan clubs I sent them to include Potna Deuce, Totally Insane, N2Deep and IMP. Plus I had a few radio station addresses so I could send copies to the hip hop show DJ's that I liked. One of those DJ's was a man by the name of Billy Jam.

That was the beginning.

After a few issues, I had established a few contacts here and there. I was able to interview Baby Beesh (now known worldwide as Baby Bash) of Potna Deuce shortly after Welcome To Da Tilt came out and Jay Tee and TL (N2Deep) granted me an interview around the release of 24-7-365. Slowly, but surely I was connecting with labels, artists and others involved in Bay Area hip hop. One day, things got really good when I started talking to Billy Jam who I mentioned above. I had been sending him a copy of each issue for months and he had taken notice. He proposed the idea of making No Joke a part of his larger hip hop umbrella called Hip Hop Slam. I was very excited because I had been listening to him on the radio for a good amount of time and I knew he was an important, well known and respected figure in the Bay Area hip hop scene. I would give a rundown of everything Billy has done and still does, but I'll save it for another day. Maybe in a future post I'll do a feature on him. Just so you young bucks know, he's done much much more than just those funny intros and skits on 11/5's albums.

Needless to say, I agreed to make No Joke a part of Hip Hop Slam and we upped the ante as far as making the newsletter more stylish and informative. My place in the Bay Area scene was instantly upgraded once I hooked up with Billy. Every record label (independent and major) sent me everything they had from press releases to advance copies of albums, you name it. If I wanted an interview with anyone, I got it. Any function, from music conferences like the Gavin, to record release parties to you name it, I was VIP. It was great. Billy contributed interviews with numerous rappers including Too $hort, The Luniz, The Click and Mac Mall and I was blessed to interview everyone from Cougnut, Rhythmx, Herm, UDI, Dre Dog and Lateef The Truth Speaker. My favorite interview though was probably when I got a do an over the phone interview with Mac Dre while he was still locked up in Lompoc Federal Penitentiary. We chopped it up for a long time and being that I was such a huge fan of his, I even went mute a couple of times because I couldn't think of what to say to the man who made "California Livin'" and "2 Hard 4 The Fuckin' Radio". I was in awe. I still look back on that as one of my favorite times. I can only think of two other published interviews that Mac Dre did while locked up so I felt, and still feel, priviledged to be on that short list.

Eventually, Billy and I decided the newsletter was not big enough and decided to step it up and create a full-size magazine. I decided to call it Strivin' since that is a word that goes perfectly with the hustlin' way of the Bay. Strivin' is our day to day lives. I will say that Mac Dre didn't want me to change the name from No Joke. I still have a tape where he's telling me not to change it because, "No Joke is hard!" as he said.

After a great magazine release party in San Francisco with many local celebs in the house including Herm, Cougnut and IMP, Whoridas, T-Lowe, Closed Caption, Dre Dog, Primo, Big Mack, Closed Caption, African Identity and more the first issue of Strivin' was released in 1997. We had a cover interview with Tayda Tay of 11/5, plus interviews with Jay Tee from N2Deep, Ray Luv and the Link Crew, JT The Bigga Figga, Money B of Digital Underground/Raw Fusion and more. A second issue came out many months later (problems with advertising money caused numerous setbacks) and was greatly received. Mac Dre was recently released from Lompoc so it only made sense that he was on the cover. I went to the Young Black Brotha Records office/studio two weeks after his release and did an amazing interview and snapped some flicks. I even got to sit in his brand new Impala and hear the new songs he had done since his release. The issue also had interviews with Andre Nickatina (formerly Dre Dog), Closed Caption, T-Lowe, Lateef The Truth Speaker and Lyrics Born, N2Deep, Vonn & Ron from Loc-N-Load records (the guys who released the amazing compilation, Pimps, Playas & Hustlas), Assassin and Cloud Nine. Billy wrote an amazing and on-point open letter to the programming director at KMEL about their lack of support for the multitude of quality music from their own backyard which gave Strivin' a strong buzz through the local hip hop scene.

With the success of each issue, I really saw Strivin' becoming as big as Murder Dog and 4080, but still only covering Bay Area music. Unfortunately, just as things were really moving along, advertising continued to be a problem. I had a group of advertisers who always ran ads and always paid on time, but some other people talked a big game, but never followed through which led to too many delays and eventually to the end of the magazine.

Ending the magazine was very difficult for me to do especially since the third issue was to be the biggest yet. I had added eight more pages and had already completed interviews with some of the Bay's biggest stars. It was slated to include E-A-Ski, Rappin' 4-Tay, Ant Banks, 187 Fac, The Mossie, every member of Hieroglyphics and more. It would have been incredible.

Since that time, I've had people tell me how much they liked my old newsletter and magazine. Up and coming rapper Stizon Skrilla even told me that he framed his copy of Strivin' with Mac Dre on the cover. He said it was Bay Area history. People have thanked me in their album liner notes and wondered when I'd bring the magazine back. These things take me by surprise because doing the magazine was just something I enjoyed because it was on a subject that was important and influential to me. I never thought anyone would really miss the magazine or consider it an important part of Bay Area hip hop history.

Since then I've pondered the idea of bringing Strivin' back, but the Bay Area market fizzled as people started taking too many shortcuts and everyone you met was now a rapper. The quality of music was abyssmal and I couldn't see myself covering a scene where the majority of the music was awful. In the past few years though, things have started turning for the better and I'm excited about it so that's why I'm back. I was going to go the traditional magazine route again, but time and moneywise it just didn't make sense. So here's the blog... Strivin' - The Bay Area Hip Hop Blog.

This is going to grow and grow just as my newsletter did. Keep checkin' back for more updates. At first I'm going to add classic interviews and features from the old No Joke newsletters all the way through the Strivin' magazine days. After that and once I get all my contacts re-established there will be brand new content here to keep you up to date on the Bay's progress and hopefully second "Golden Era."

Stay tuned.