Interview with Big Hutch
Conducted on June 3, 2010
By: Matt Ing
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was one major outlet, fuelling the hip hop industry, that being the west coast California. Everyone has heard of N.W.A and Snoop Dogg, but don’t forget about Above The Law. Here was a group that were signed to Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records label and comprised of Big Hutch, KMG and their DJ, Total K-Oss. The lead member, Big Hutch, is a man who would change the face of the west coast scene.
Hutch worked as an understudy for legendary producer Dr. Dre, and credits himself with the invention of the G-Funk sound. A sound that was slower and funkier – something that all the real G’s could ride to. Furthermore, Hutch has managed to establish himself as a highly respected producer as he has worked with artists from the late-great Tupac Shakur and not to mention west coast newcomer, Crooked I.
I recently caught up with Hutch where he reveals everything from what kind of a guy Eazy-E was, to working with Crooked I on his latest album – Hood Star, which is set to drop June 15. Oh yeah, and he also leaked some Above The Law news, exclusive only to Fazer, so be sure to check out the ending to this interview.
Matt: Hutch, great to meet you, it’s an honour to be speaking with a legendary South Central G-Funk pioneer and west coast rap veteran like yourself.
Big Hutch: (laughs) oh thank you my brother, thank you.
Matt: Let’s start this off by addressing your other alias, Cold 187um. I’m damn near positive I know what the 187 stands for, but for the people that don’t, could you break down your name for them?
Big Hutch: Well you know that’s the California code for murder. Basically if anybody needs to know, back in the day when I was a youngster I was in the streets a lot and I wanted a name in the streets that would match my talent level. My partner, DJ K-Oss said that ‘you battle a lot and you’re a street cat so make it like you’re a murderer when you rhyme.’ That’s how we came up with 187.
Matt: In your classic track, Black Superman, there is a deeper meaning as you are your mom’s Black Superman, who is yours?
Big Hutch: Oh, my father man. My father is my black superman because you know my father was a writer for Motown and was an artist as well. He never wasn’t there for me. He kinda toned his career down and played behind the scenes for me and my brothers and sisters. So to me it’s like my dad. There is no one that I could get on the mic and say that they were, [for instance] Michael Jordan or anyone [else] because you know, Richard Allen Hutchinson, that’s my dad, that’s my black superman.
Matt: Now, you consider yourself the originator of the G-Funk style of music which essentially takes a beat and slows it down. Despite that, most people tend to credit Dr. Dre and his first Chronic album for the birth of G-Funk, why is that?
Big Hutch: Yeah. G-Funk was actually created because when we were over at Ruthless, we wanted to do more of a funkier, raw feel, so I created it by putting melody with funk and hard drums. When I created it I was actually an understudy for Dre at the time. What happened was he was cutting “Niggaz4Life” and I was cutting “Black Mafia Life” and I was developing this G-Funk style and letting him check it out. Then all of a sudden as he wrapped up Niggaz4Life and I wrapped up Black Mafia Life, Black Mafia Life ended up getting shelved because Ruthless was in negotiations with getting a new deal for Above The Law, that’s also when he started doing “The Chronic.” When he started doing “The Chronic” he kinda took all those things that I was developing over at Ruthless, all those ideas, so I was a high influence on the Chronic record. The two kind of overlapped each other. It was kinda like if you were training a guy and the guy comes up with a training idea that kinda works to help you get into shape, that’s what it was like, he just adapted it to The Chronic. He shaped that record with G-Funk and my feel and I have most respect for Dre. Dr. Dre put me in the game, so I will never knock Dre. I was a cat in the streets hustling and Dre and them took me off the streets. Those guys were high influences on everything I’ve done but still you can say that I was the originator or innovator of G-Funk and brought the theory of ideas that you heard on records like The Chronic and so on and so on.
To take it a step further, Warren G, used to live with me. At the time we were cutting a record for Tupac called “Call It What U Want” which is one of the first songs we featured him on before he really took off and did what he did. He asked me ‘what do you guys call your funky ass style?’ and I was just like ‘we just call it G-Funk because it’s gangsta shit.’ You know hardcore lines, funky, melodic melodies with grungy baselines and the slum beats. We always had that slow funky feel for Above The Law. I watched it happen through “Black Mafia Life” and then I did the Kokane record and stuff but in the process of that, all those things were developed while we were still one clique. Then you see The Chronic and say ‘oh that’s some really cool shit,’ but really it was some shit I was developing while we were all together at Ruthless. It’s kinda ill that people really cant believe it because Dre coined ‘G-Funk’ so that makes him the inventor of G-Funk, which is wrong because a lot of people invent things and a lot of people take it and commercialize it and that’s what he did, he commercialized G-Funk for you guys. It’s not to knock Dre. People get it twisted when I talk about something and flip it and say that it’s bad for that guy to commercialize something that someone else did. It’s not bad, it’s just that Dre, he’s my friend I got a lot of love for him but he doesn’t have the heart to tell people that he got a lot of ideas from Hutch, you feel me?
Matt: I got you Hutch. I know it’s been over a decade since they’re passing but I’m really eager to hear your take on what kind of dudes Tupac and Eazy-E were.
Big Hutch: Oh well, Eazy was a calibre cat. He was really honest with what he wanted to do. When I talk about Eric [Eazy-E’s real name], the funny thing about him was that he always said that he wasn’t a rapper, ‘you are, I’m an ideal.’ (laughs) He worked, but I like him because he was humble enough to say that he wasn’t this guy that studied all this music and knows what’s really crackin’, but ‘people like what I do, and with me putting the right people into play, we can make a lot of money,’ [speaking for Eazy]. I like the fact that he respected a musician, a producer, a writer, you know a person with real talent and put them into the game. That’s one thing about Eric, he was honest to that fact. There were things he couldn’t do. He had the money, he had the idea, but he didn’t have the perspective so he put people around him that could. The great thing I can say was that he was a CEO that you could call at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning to ask him for anything and he’d pick up the phone. That’s like the big red type of theory because he didn’t have those office type hours from 9-5. It was like, ‘if you guys come up with anything, just hit me up, I’m right here.’ He worked like 24-7. He wanted his kids to have way more than he had. I’m not talking about him being a real gangsta, I’m talking about him as a real person.
On the flip side, you got Pac, and Pac was my friend as well. Pac was the type of person that he was the dude next door that was sharp and he gave a fuck about everything, from work that goes on in the community to how a person feels, it was like global politics you feel me? To be in the presence of that kind of company was an experience. That dude right there was all about what was right. Even if you were his homey, he was like ‘naw we gotta fix this.’ We were all tight, even when he went to Death Row, and we were having differences with Death Row while we were at Ruthless, he was like ‘I’m gonna go over here and do my thing and never disrespect any of you because you are my people.’ If something was wrong, he was gonna speak on it. It was just about being real with him. And as an artist, you just don’t get that.
Matt: Wow, these guys were real dudes. In your opinion, how does the new age of west coast hip hop match up with the past? Any notable names?
Big Hutch: For me, I like Game. I don’t know about these other cats but I like Game because Game always pays homage to the people who are the foundation of the west coast. He understands hip hop on a global scale. Although he pushes Compton, he also makes sure he has a great knowledge of everything that has happened in hip hop history. Then you have other guys out there that really haven’t been around for that long but I like them, because they’re doing their own thing. One thing you have to realize about west coast hip hop, and I always tell people this, the reason why we have remained successful for many, many years is because we always cracked the diversity. You can’t say Above The Law sounds like N.W.A, you can’t say N.W.A sounds like CMW, you can’t say CMW sounds like Quik, you can’t say Quik sounds like E-40. You know, we all concentrate on being diverse and making records on a global scale. You can’t say the whole Death Row roster was just like each other because all of us were different, you can’t say all of Ruthless was like Eazy-E, we were all different and Ice-T, Cypress Hill, none of us were like each other. When you start talking about the new era of what’s going on, you don’t have to like me, but it’s too much of the same record going on. No one wants to practice staying in your own lane. When you buy an Above The Law record, it’s an Above The Law record, it’s not like an extension of what Dr. Dre just did. And that’s what I think helped us load a bigger hip hop industry. People could say that Above The Law was a gangsta group, but they don’t sound like N.W.A. You have to really understand that when we talk about the new era, it is what it is because it’s gonna be hard to match up against what the west has already established.
Matt: That’s one thing I always thought about the west, is that you west coast guys always manage to bring different flavour and styles and always stay current.
Big Hutch: I always tell people once we started formulating hip hop, we all got in trouble. (both laugh)
Matt: Another new cat from the west coast is Crooked I of course. In your opinion, can you compare a newcomer like him, to OG’s of the past? Because for guys like him that are coming from a hip hop Mecca in LA, there are a lot of big shoes to fill.
Big Hutch: Yeah, well one thing I always tell people about Crooked I is that he’s a hard worker and understands his history. Anytime you look at the game like that, you don’t really have to fill in anybody’s shoes. You can’t fill our shoes because we’ve already walked that path and the ground has already been laid. You can only be great by being you; you can’t be great by being me. If you focus and understand what has gone on, it’s easier for you to be a great you. He already has that, he just has to put the time in. Everything takes time. When I worked with Crooked I, he wasn’t about the bullshit, he was all about the work part of it. When you see young guys like that, you know they can go really far. A lot of us came from an era where it’s all work and it’s partying even harder. If your focus is all party and no work, you’re gonna be in trouble. He is one of those next guys that can really break trails out here, because of his work ethic.
Matt: I was talking to some of my fellow hip hop heads recently and most of them said that Crooked I came out the hardest amongst all four Slaughterhouse members on their last album, out beating Royce Da 5’9, Joell Ortiz and Joe Budden. Crooked’s latest album, Hood Star is set to drop on June 15 and you’re seen as one of his greatest mentors, and you also appear on a track with him, can you tell me some more about the album?
Big Hutch: I mean, like I said, I worked and help develop him to what he is. I had him at the embryo stage, so if you think he’s hot now, you would have to check out this new record. It’s like saying you like the new Chevy, but it’s nothing like going back and checking out the old, fully restored Chevy. You have a better respect for him if you check out Hood Star. His work ethic has always been the same. It’s no surprise to me, because I was there from the beginning, but I think people are gonna dig him based upon the respect level they have for him today.
Matt: As I mentioned before, I read that you were one of Crooked’s mentors, how so?
Big Hutch: I was hired at Death Row and looked over all the music affairs. He was already signed to Daz and Big C-Style and we went out and signed him direct. I knew about him I knew what he was doing (laughs) I immediately got him in the studio. What a lot of people don’t realize about Crooked I is that you hear that saying ‘dope before your time,’ that’s him. He was really mature for the stage he was at, they really needed somebody like him to come in and make sense on a record, because when you’re a young emcee, you’re all over the place.
Matt: You mentioned yourself working with Crooked I during his ‘embryo’ stages, do you know in the early stages if a guy is gonna be good, even in the early stages?
Big Hutch: Yeah you can tell with how much hunger he has. From a producer’s perspective, it’s the passion that the artist has. For instance when I met Eve and I was with the company over at Aftermath, developing Eve, I knew through her passion and work ethic, she was good. When I met Crooked, I knew that one day, he’d do it. When you meet someone with the passion and the vision, you know.
Matt: I’ve heard only a couple songs off the album so far, which have leaked but can we expect some more G-funk beats on Hood Star similar to the ones you used on your records, like I was listening to your most recent release, “Fresh Out the Pen” last night.
Big Hutch: I appreciate that man. (laughs) you know it’s full of that, it’s a healthy chemistry that I did, that helped me compromise for the artist. If you look at the things I’ve done as a producer, look at Black Mafia Life or Uncle Sam’s Curse, it’s a healthy combination of fruits and vegetables in there. I think you’ll get a good sense of where we were at while with Death Row.
Matt: Are there any notable songs which you worked on specifically that we should look out for?
Big Hutch: Yeah I’m with him on the track, “Fuck ‘Em.” “House Party” I like a lot because I have to give props to my man Ray J because when I was over at Death Row developing things, particularly the Crooked I project and helping out on some of the Lisa Left Eye stuff, and a lot of the stuff I was tracking, Ray J would come over and lace some hooks for us and he likes “House Party” which I guess is Crooked, Eastwood and him. And it’s like with Ray J, ‘oh that’s Ray J, that’s Brandy’s brother.’ He could have been Akon, ten years ago because of the writer he is, in terms of lacing people with hooks. He laced me with so much shit at Death Row and I gotta share some of that with you because that was some hot shit. But yeah, that’s one song you all should check out. “House Party,” now that’s a summer track.
Matt: Just “4 The Funk Of It,” [song pun intended], what can we expect from KMG, DJ Total K-Oss and yourself in the near future?
Big Hutch: (laughs) Actually what most people don’t know and this is some exclusive, exclusive shit but we just put the finishing touches on “Victims of Global Politics” which is the new Above The Law album coming out. That’s official, like a gangsta with a pistol, a referee with a whistle you know what I’m saying, game 7 at the Staples Center. It’s official. (laughs) The new Above The Law is called “Victims of Global Politics.” It’s filled with everything you’ve ever heard from G-Funk to classical hip hop, to futuristic, bionic, psychotic (both laugh) you know, really gangsta shit.
Matt: You getting Don King on me now Hutch?
Big Hutch: Yeah, yeah I’ getting Don King on you baby (laughs)
Matt: When is the next time Above The Law is gonna go on a world tour?
Big Hutch: Oh soon! Like I said we’re just put the finishing touches on the album then we’re gonna try to do the world tour. Last time we went on tour was with N.W.A. We were babies then, so we’ll definitely come out and bless you all.
Matt: Hutch, on behalf of Fazer Magazine, it was a pleasure to speak with you, thanks so much for your time.
Big Hutch: It’s all good man, we’re gonna keep blessin’ you all, God bless. Peace.