Dubcnn: We're right here with Big Hutch from Above The Law, how you doing man?
It's all good man, just trying to stay afloat, trying to stay on solid ground, what's going on?
Dubcnn: You've been away for a minute, the last time we spoke was in 2004. Do you want to take a minute to speak on what happened?
Yeah, I was indicted by the federal government for drug trafficking, and I decided to go on, sit down and pay my debt to society, as most would say. So I mean that's it in a short form and the grand scheme of things. Sometimes you make a wrong turn, and it doesn't turn out in your favor.
Dubcnn: So you know, everybody wants to know what's the status of Above The Law right now?
Right now we're recording a new record, writing a bunch of songs, producing, trying to get that flavor back again. We've probably been recording for about 3 months now, and we've also been doing shows, we were on the road with Snoop Dogg, we were on the road with WC, Xzibit. We've been trying to get our rhythm back, get back exposed. We also have the "Greatest Hits" album coming out in May that we're preparing for, it's set up around the 20 year anniversary of Ruthless Records, it's coming out on Ruthless Records. We're also doing a "Greatest Videos" along with that, it's a box set. Basically we're just coming up with the right flavor, the right chemistry, we haven't been together for a couple of years due to the federal government. *laughs* Due to my vacation away we haven't been together, so we're just getting that swag back man.
Dubcnn: How would you say that your time in prison changed the way that you carry yourself now or make music?
Personally, the way I make music didn't change. I think it made me appreciate what I was doing. I was away in a few facilities where we didn't really have music programs, and what we did have, we wouldn't even consider it being music programs, so I was kind of in a whole other element, I was outside of my own element as far as making music. So it made me appreciate it more, and coming home now I'm like a kid in the candy store again, I'm 19 again! So it's a beautiful thing, that part of it alone gave me that fire again.
Now my focus is kind of like when I was first making records. I think that's the most I got out of it, I got more into myself, my spirituality, I'm more grounded, focused with God, my God sense is really strong now, I feel more focused on the long term aspect of things rather than the short term aspects, as far as the industry is concerned, as far as being an executive/artist/producer. My outlook on it is different because my spirituality is stronger, I can sense things that normally I would have looked over. Now little small tedious things don't bother me, but things that are really loud and apparent, they bother me and have to immediately be asserted and fixed.
Before, I might have just passed through it. When you're removed from your situation, and they throw you into another life, what happens to you is that you start differentiating and dissecting that particular situation, and thinking "What was the good things, what was the bad things?" Then you weigh all those things out. When I got back into my career, that's the things that I noticed was different about me when I came home.
Dubcnn: So now that you're back, what can we expect from you?
You're definitely going to get the raw raw raw, cause right now that's what the game needs. Right now everything is so commercialized, Hip-Hop is in a situation where everything is really really loud, nothing is intimate and focused like on a personal level. There has to be a balance, which is what I'm trying to bring it. To where it can be entertaining, enlightening, heartfelt, you can gain something from it as well! That's where my focus is at musically. When you get the new Above The Law record and you get all these underground projects that I'm involved with, that's what you're gonna get: the raw essence of what our Hip-Hop used to be, with a new flip to it.
Right now I'm working on a project called Cold 187um "Fresh Out The Pen", which will be dropping in the middle of March. I'm featuring a lot of up and coming artists that are in the underground on the West Coast, and I'm featuring a section on my album where I host nothing but new artists on it. It's gonna be an endless amount of volumes that are gonna come out from this "Fresh Out The Pen" project, the first volume is going to be my album, featuring these new cats coming out on the West Coast, or anywhere else. I'm trying to establish a pipeline for a new underground presence out here. Right now, if you got a record deal then you on, if not then it's nothing, you're at your house, beating on a drum and writing in the corner! Or you're on MySpace... But it's no industry.
Me, I came up through Eazy! With Eazy, when he created Ruthless, it enabled us to take our record to him and say "We think we're dope, what do you think?" And he thought it was dope, and put us out! You don't have that on the West Coast anymore, you don't have a pipeline where people can say "Who's dope? Who's wack? Who's alright?" Everything is "Oh such and such signed to Bad Boy, or Cash Money, or whatever." Then you start knowing about them, versus them already having a presence, emerging up out of the West, so that when people come out here and ask "Who's the Top 10 rappers coming out that's hot on the streets?" You don't have that anymore! So I'm creating that essence through the Cold 187um "Fresh Out The Pen" mix CD's.
Dubcnn: Is G-Funk still a factor in 2008?
I think so! I mean, the reason why is, it's just gangsta shit and funk! So of course. As long as you're doing it and you're vibing like that, I think so, because music is timeless! Like for instance, people ask "Is this relevant, is that relevant?" If the guys that created it and innovated it are still doing it, then of course! That's like saying "Is Rolls Royce relevant?" It just has to have that twist on it. I don't only do G-Funk, I do a lot of other funky shit! But, the whole thing about it is that, people wanna know where I'm at with it at this stage of my career, and they might want to hear that. So for me to predict what you might like is wrong, because still like what you liked before, as a consumer. You got to always feed them the flavors and then sprinkle new flavors also.
Dubcnn: Would you consider switching up your style to appeal to what's hot right now?
I want everybody to understand one thing. When I first started off making records, I didn't really make records to appeal to what people were doing at the time. I came up in an industry where there was no industry, so me I don't really know how to do that. All I know is, my music comes from God and I translate it to you guys, I don't know how to jump on a fad and say "Now I'm gonna be popular because I'm on a fad!" I don't know how to do that when I go to the studio, all I know is what my heart tells me to do. What God translates for me to write, that's really all I know. The spirit moves me, I don't listen to the radio all day and say "I'm gonna make a song like that but I'm gonna put my twist on it." I don't know how to do that. I couldn't even tell you what I would make by doing it.
Now, can I make a record that's a club record that reflects Above The Law? Yeah! Can I make a record that can be catchy like Ay Bay Bay but it's done by Above The Law? Yeah! But I can't make a record LIKE that. You feel me? I have to make a record that appeals to you, that's the theory of what I've already done. If it's a G-Funk stylish record, all I have to do is make it catchy and trendy like a Ay Bay Bay, but it has to have the essence of G-Funk. I can't mimic anybody because I'm self-made, my group is self-made, we came with our own style. If you listen to "Livin' Like Hustlers" and you listen to "Straight Outta Compton", it doesn't sound the same, you feel me? We don't know how to do that. N.W.A. were our G's, so if we weren't imitating them, why would we imitate somebody now? Because today's music is yesterday's music, you got cats doing throwback tracks all day long, and saying "Hey that's the new style!" "No, it was the style in '88!" I'm just keeping it real. So would me being myself be keeping up? Probably. So let's just keep it 100 homie!
Dubcnn: What equipment do you use right now and how has it changed over the years?
Right now I use the Motif 8, I still use the MPC3000, the Proteus, Planet Phatt, and we use Pro Tools of course for everything now. I don't think the gear changes that much, it's more your theory that changes. The only thing that's changed is the way I record. We don't record on A-Dat anymore but as far as the regular gear that we use, same board, cause all of them have the same thing. I still use vintage stuff, I use moogs and stuff like that through soundfiles and different stuff like that, but I primarily like to touch the boards, I don't know to do this computer shit that people do. I like to have my hands on the boards, you know? I don't get into gear, cause I don't think gear makes the music, I think you make the music.
As far as writing, I write everything from a piano now, melodies come, they come off a piano, and then I translate them. Like let's say for instance I want to go to this sound module, I use the Neko (Open Lab), the same kind of gear that Timbaland used on Justin Timberlake, so as far as gear I've touched the 8000, I've probably touched every new piece of equipment in the past 7 months, but honestly it does the same thing, it just translates it differently. Vibewise, it's the same, it doesn't change, it's still dark, it's still funky, it's still raw. And writing is writing, so...
Dubcnn: How deeply would you say you were influences by the musical background of your family?
Oh, deeply! Everything, how I bring harmonies, melody, dark rhythms, all that is from my uncle and my dad. All that is from them. Most of the strings, horns you hear, is because of them, it's because of the way I grew up. I'm deeply influenced by that. Now that they've passed and everything, it's really heavy for me because I don't really have that "check this out! what you think about this?" I don't have the taste testers! *laughs* I don't have that stamp of approval situation. I don't have that voice anymore, I know they're up in heaven looking down, but I don't have that. It's funny, because it's because more a part of my life now, than it was when they were here, because they were doing their thing too. My dad was doing gospel and my uncle was still touring and stuff. I had my thing going on too, so we'd always come together and meet up, but now I don't have that anymore. With them passing, the flavor is still with me, always, everyday.
Dubcnn: Looking back at your career, which moves do you wish you would have done differently?
Man, that's big... That's a good question! I wouldn't have involved myself in a situation with somebody who ended up having me sent to prison. *laughs* Nah, but I mean, I don't have any regrets. I was fortunate to be signed to Eazy-E and Dr. Dre when I was a very young cat in the game. The turning point of my career was probably when I went to Death Row. I don't regret doing that, because I ended up learning so much about the game, being an executive at Death Row, but in it, I wish I could have been more a front runner for Death Row more than I was. I thought it was a great label, it was a great situation for me, we had some great talent over there, and leaving Death Row was one of the harder decisions I had to make. So it was a situation where we just weren't getting ahead.
And I'll tell you, the only thing I would have done differently, is that I would've done the independent thing sooner, that's it. The only regret that I have is that I put my label on pause and went to help run Death Row. Because when I started West World, I had a good focus on the game, we had just left Tommy Boy, and if I would have just focused on my label, I think we would have been a stronger force in the game.
Dubcnn: Are you still in contact with Suge Knight?
I haven't talked to him lately, but I talked to him when I first got home.
Dubcnn: What's the relationship there?
It's cool! It is what it is. Everybody out here in L.A. is doing their own thing but it ain't no love lost, no beef or nothing. Everybody's trying to do their thang.
Dubcnn: Do people still ask you the question who really invented G-Funk?
*laughs* Yeah, they do! It's funny, cause people know who invented G-Funk! The people who ask me, they're telling me "You invented it!" *laughs* They know the history. But yeah, the thing about it is that I don't even live off that. It's just that I've done something, I've influenced somebody, and I wanted my credit for that influence. I innovated a certain sound in this industry and people don't give me credit for it. People just look over me, people don't even put me in nothing, even if that person don't put me in nothing, knowingly that enough people know the true story, for you guys to print that. It's bad in that sense, not to say that "The person who took it is wack for taking it" No. Music is influence, when we click together we all influence each other. That's a compliment.
If I do something good and you utilize it and you come up, that's a compliment. What's messed up, is when you don't give that person the credit, when you don't pay homage to that person. It's like learning a skill from somebody and saying you made it up, and not giving your teacher the proper credit. That's my problem with it. It's not even about this person doing something with it and winning from it, it's only about "give me my credit, give me my just due." I worked hard coming up with a theory and an idea to be different than everybody else, you know what I mean?
Dubcnn: Do you have a relationship with Dr. Dre?
No, I'm not in contact with Dr. Dre at all. Not that it's a issue or whatever, but I could give a shit, because nobody give a shit about me. I'ma keep it real with you. I don't have any contact, any situation, nor do I desire to even be in contact with somebody like that, who don't have no love for me, basically. You know what I mean? It's sad, because I'm the type of guy who would give you my last, I help you, you ask me things, I help you. Do you think anybody gave a fuck about me when I got out of prison? No! For real, I'm just gonna keep it real.
This is my first interview, it's gonna be the realest. But no, I don't have a relationship with him, we don't talk, we don't compare notes, none of that. And this is a person that was once close to me and basically taught me everything I know as far as making records. My dad and my uncle taught me how to write music, but he taught me how to make records, how to put it on tape, how to EQ, mix and everything. That was my teacher man. It's funny, cause we don't have a personal relationship, we don't have a working relationship, we don't have anything.
Dubcnn: What about Kokane, can we expect to hear you with Kokane?
Oh yeah, definitely, he's working with us on our new album. He's actually working on his own album right now too.
Dubcnn: He just got out of jail too, right?
Uh huh. Yeah he caught a few months, but he's alright, he's on solid ground and he's doing good. We took a break for about three weeks, and then we're going back in, back on the new album.
Dubcnn: So let's get back to the present, what you like the future of Above The Law to be like?
Oh man, we are working on taking Above The Law to the next level. Basically, we're getting into a lot of the mass media stuff, as far as bringing Above The Law raw straight to your living room, we got the merchandizing company that we're working with, we're writing a book, man! Just next level, we're trying to take it to the next level. We've been underground so long, and it's funny because a lot of the things we were doing on the underground, it's commercial now. The thugging and the hustling, getting money on records, moving big weight on records, doing all this talk about the struggle and all that, that's all commercialized now, so we're just keep on doing what we're doing. The new record is definitely going to be controversial, so be ready for that.
Dubcnn: The other day you were telling me something about how the West Coast shouldn't trying to imitate what's hot, or something like that?
Yeah, you gotta realize. West Coast, we created our own industry, basically. Like for instance, the early records that came out from the West Coast, were straight hood records, that blew up to be household or to be in the mainstream in other words. What we're saying is, we never had to do that. A lot of these people who are doing records, they look at it like pop music. Not that that's a bad thing, don't get me wrong, I don't want nobody to misunderstand what I'm sayin' cause I'm very assertable with my conversation here. When you look at pop music, everyone makes dance records, that's how pop music is.
When you look at Hip-Hop, it's about individuality, it's about your theory. If you were a kid from the Bronx, you could know what kids in Compton are doing. If you were a cat from Jersey you could know what these cats are doing in Pomona. That's what it allowed us to do. If I start rapping like I'm from Baton Rouge, but I'm from Pomona, how special is it anymore? You dig? That's where the flaw is. I hear a lot of people saying shit like "Oh this is wack, I'm tired of this bullshit." It's not that, it's just that it's lost its sensationalism. It's because people aren't doing things that reflect them right on their block.
That's what always intrigued people about Hip-Hop, that's what always lured people to Hip-Hop, more so than anything. I'm not just talking about West Coast Hip-Hop I'm talking about any kind of Hip-Hop. If you listen to a Too Short record, it takes you to the Bay, you feel me? If you heard a KRS One record or any East Coast record, they would put you in their borough, they would put you in their project! You feel me? That's what we're missing now! Now it's like "Okay, I'ma leave my projects and I ain't gonna talk about my projects, Ima act like I'm from Uptown Project and Magnolia Projects now, so I'ma make the song like this. We're losing that, and we'll lose Hip-Hop if we don't wake up, if we keep doing that.
People think it's cool but you gotta realize you got a lot of these number crunchers that's running the industry now. They're not music people. Understand me very very clearly! We need to get these people out of these positions, that don't know music! This is the music business, we're not selling Tide Soap! It's gonna kill our industry! Because they're gonna influence everybody to do the same thing that the next person is doing to be successful. So if anybody out there can understand me, I'm not a hater. I love what everybody is doing, I don't care because it's their expression. I'm not knocking no guys from the South, I'm not knocking East Coast cats. They do what they do. But don't expect me to imitate you guys, cause you guys are doing what you doing. Just respect what I do!
The thing about the West Coast in general is, we're here with open arms! We accept what cats are doing in the South, we accept what cats are doing on the East Coast. Why when I come to ya'll market, ya'll shunning me? We're open arms, the West Coast is open arms. Why I gotta act like you when I get down there in order for you to play me? You don't have to make a West Coast mix to get played on L.A. radio! Why I gotta make a South mix to get played in the South? Why? Somebody come and answer me that question! It's like eating food! If you Spanish, when I go over to your house I don't wanna eat fried chicken, I eat that at home! If I come to your house I wanna eat Mexican food! You feel me? Because no one ever looks at it like that, you know why? Because everybody is in the cipher. They're not stepping out of the cipher and looking in like "Why does everybody that's rapping look the same in there? What's going on? Why aren't there different flavors?" You feel me?
Dubcnn: Who are you feeling though, righ now?
Let me see... You know who I really like, who doesn't really get a lot of shine? Rick Ross. I like Rick Ross, because he seems to be true to where he's from. I don't see trends in him. I see him really giving me his environment down there in Miami, you feel me? I like a lot of these other cats, I like Jeezy, T.I., but to me, a lot of records that they're doing are what I was talking about, they're cater records. They're raw, but to me I like stuff where you can feel where they're from in their records. Right now I bump a lot of Pimp C and all that kind of stuff, any of the UGK stuff. Of course Scarface's new record. Of course, I'ma bump all the G's, but new cats I would say Rick Ross, because he's giving me that. On the East Coast, I liked Jay-Z's last record, new cats I don't really know. I like Nas' last record.
As far as the West Coast is concerned, I like Glasses Malone, he has a good record out. That's primarily it. There's not a lot of new stuff. I like the records Lil Wayne has made, but I'm not so for gone that I can't let him breathe, it's not like "Oh my goodness". To me, it's like I'ma give you a fair one, I ain't gonna hate on you or anything, I'll be like "do your work man, stay focused man, but don't get caught up into that. Because your next record could be your worst record." I like his records because they become more than "on the block" records, they become relevant to a lot of different things.
Dubcnn: It is a lot of new West Coast cats, you just gotta look a little deeper.
Oh no don't get me wrong! A lot of these new West Coast cats is gonna be on my tape, I was just saying cats that's out! It's a lot of cats.
Dubcnn: Who are you looking out for?
Someone who's got a hot record that he's working on right now is Jayo Felony, he got a hot record. I've worked on the record, I've heard about 80% of it, it's hot as a muthafucka. I think the kid Bishop Lamont is good, he's good. Of course, Crooked I, definitely.
Dubcnn: You been hearing those Hip-Hop Weekly's?
Yeah! Yeah, he's... Come on man, he should be that guy, right now. But, you know how it go! *laughs* You know how it goes out here on this end. Give me a break. Slim The Mobster, that kid that's on Aftermath. Don't get me wrong, this is just studio stuff that I'm hearing, I'm hearing some real deal shit going down. So don't get me wrong, I thought you asked me like "what's on the cuff right now", you know? But yeah it's a lot of artists on the come up, my goodness! I just hope they give us a break man. I'ma say it, and they can look it up: DJ's out here are not giving us a break man. DJ's in L.A. are not giving us a break. I don't know if ya'll from somewhere else and just don't give a fuck, but you need to give us a break man, or get broke off! For real, cause it's gonna be some problems man in the future. These guys are good, you need to give them a break! Besides my record coming out, you need to give THEM a break man! You know what I'm saying? WC had a great record, give him a break! Give him a break.
Dubcnn: That's real.
Go 'head, breathe on it man, whatever you wanna know, talk to me, ask me something good man! *laughs*
Dubcnn: Shit I mean the conversation when talking about west Cosat rap is always so negative, you know?
Well, the thing about it is that I'm one of those guys that understand that we don't have to do nothing else but us. You hear all these guys saying "We need to do this, we need to do that". But guess what, they ain't even doing it! You feel me? That's what the problem is. I'm not gonna sit up here and complain, I'm gonna sit up here and make a change. I'm not gonna complain, cause complaining ain't no solution to me. With any problem homie that you're having in life, there's a solution to it. You just gotta think hard, figure out what the whole get down is, and then go pursue it. I believe in movement, if I don't get up and do something to make a difference, then it's my fault that the West Coast is fucked. Cause I'm a G. And I'ma breathe on it if it's the truth, that's how we do in P-Town.
You got people like Dr. Dre, who invest in different people from other markets, not taking anything away from these people, they're very talented, but he won't invest into the West Coast! You leave it to where Above The Law gotta get a independent deal, DJ Quik gotta get a independent deal, WC gotta get a independent deal, when we could be in a major setting, and working up under your umbrella! And we're all self contained, to where we could pave the way for new artists, it wouldn't even be on him! You feel me? But if we can't get up in the grand scheme of things, where do we end up at? We still end up doing what we did in 1989, my man! Still scraping to get in the industry again! You know?
Cause if Dr. Dre, the "King of it all, the big boss", ain't saying that it's all to the good, it really ain't to the good nowhere else! Unless we create that following on the ground level. Where that comes from, is us giving the streets, shaking hands, kissing babies, passing out our CD's, giving it to people, and saying "This is what we're trying to attempt to do. Create a market out here." Without it we won't have anything. So if anybody wanna put a negative spin on something, tell the truth first! Because that's what's going to help you get the solution. Don't get into "You need to do this, because that's played out", because they're doing the same thing we were doing years ago! So if what we were doing years ago is played out, then okay, how are we to display what we're trying to do now, if no one wants to support it? How are you even gonna see if we're doing anything, if no one wants to support it?
If it's in the hands of Dr. Dre, and you know that Dr. Dre isn't gonna support it, well then get past that! You feel me? Don't get caught up in the "Aw he won't help us so we'll give up!" Get past it! It's cool! I said it, it's cool, he ain't helping us! I ain't mad at him! I hope Detox sells 20 million records! But if he ain't helping me, why do I gotta sit up and campaign what he does? Why can't I come out and campaign what I do? You feel me? I should start washing cars at a car wash cause he won't help me put a record out? Man I was born in the music! I was writing songs before I even knew Dr. Dre! I probably was making music before he thought he could do music! So I'm supposed to give up? No! He's a man! So where does my faith lie, in him? No, my faith lies in God, so I roll with that. I advise everybody out here to do that, believe in that, and you'll be successful. Other than that, you're gonna worry yourself and you ain't gonna have nothing.
That's the only negative thing I could say on the West Coast. All of these guys who are in big positions have rolled in the sunset. I said it, Cold187um Big Hutch from Above The law said it, ya'll muthafuckas done rolled in the sunset on everybody. Fuck it! It ain't finna make no difference homie. Me saying, and you thinking it, ain't finna make no difference. So ya'll go out and support West Coast Hip-Hop, because Dre ain't finna help West Coast Hip-Hop get on point, you guys are! The people reading this article is the people who are going to get West Coast Hip-Hop back on point. Not Dr. Dre. Cause he's not going to help West Coast Hip-Hop. You guys built it, and you don't even have a voice anymore! Ya'll gotta imitate like ya'll from somewhere else now, ya'll don't even have your own essence anymore! The people don't even have a voice on the West Coast anymore, because they're forced to act like they're from somewhere else now! So if ya'll waiting for us to get signed by Dr. Dre or Puffy to jump out and start Bad Boy West, it ain't gonna happen! Just support these guys out here getting grimy in the streets, and support their stuff, and the West Coast will come back around! Other than that, it will never happen. Cause those people are not going to do it.
Dubcnn: That's some real talk.
Yeah homie, it's real. It's real to me.
Dubcnn: I can't wait to hear that Above The Law record, you sound like you got some shit to say!
I got a whole lot to say. When I hit you with the "Fresh Out The Pen" stuff, then you're gonna really hear some crazy crazy.
Dubcnn: Who can we expect to hear on there?
On "Fresh Out The Pen" you got Crooked I, I'm working out something with Bishop Lamont, I got a couple of new cats coming up out of San Diego, this kid called Syko, he's dope, I got a group coming out of San Diego, Frank Nitty will be on there. I got an artist coming out on my label his name is Hazmatic. It's a lot of cats on there. It's also another group coming out called the Cali Boyz. You know them?
Dubcnn: Yeah they're affiliated with South Central Cartel, I've been in the studio with them.
Yeah they're nice, they got a song on my mix CD coming out. To me they're one of the hottest groups coming out. Like I said check for my artist Hazmatic. But I'm still getting music for it, I'm in the middle of it as we speak, so for me to talk about it is kind of hard. Oh yeah 40 Glocc is on there, Chill from CMW. I got a few cats from the Mid-West that's down with Tech N9ne. Rich The Factor, a few cats from the Mid-West that's die hard real deal West Coast go getters. I'm bridging the gap with that too, cause the Mid-West has always been real supportive of West Coast music, St. Louis, Detroit, KC, Cincinnati, Cleveland and all that. They have a big following for the West Coast. You'll feel it, I'll get a copy to you. I'm in the process of getting all the music submitted to me right now.
Dubcnn: Man, I think we covered pretty much everything, is there anything else you'd like to let everybody know?
We talked about everything, it's all good. I'm home! It's a problem man! *laughs* I'm home, for real! Let it be known, I'm a problem right now man. I'm a wreck but I ain't nervous about it, you feel me! *laughs* I'm the real deal right now. Just look out. I also got a movie coming out this summer, an independent movie called "Mind, Body & Soul". I got a fashion apparel company coming out also. Above The Law is also closing a deal right now to do a tour in Germany in May, so we'll be over there heavy, between May and June. I think I covered everything now! *laughs*