Saturday, February 20, 2010

( Earl Hayes: In Depth Q&A With Dr. Dre and Timbaland’s New Protégé


Hayes, Dr. Dre and Timbaland’s new Protégé. Will he soon be among Hip-Hop’s Elite? Several months ago when Timbaland and Dr. Dre signed their mutual protégé, Hayes, the Hip-Hop world rolled out the red carpet for the Detroit raised rapper.

Now fresh off traveling with Timbaland to a few select dates on the Shock Value 2 Tour, Hayes is looking forward to the buzz he gets from his most recent release, First 48 a compilation of 48 original songs.

Will the production of Dr. Dre and Timbaland catapult this rapper into Hip-Hop’s elite? Check out what he had to say when he recently sat down with in an exclusive Q & A. What’s good man?

Hayes: Man you know working hard. Got to work hard. Right I already know. So where you located now man?

Hayes: Right now I’m in between; I’m just in Miami. Aight man, so lets get right into this man. Listening to the First 48 project, you got production from both Dre and Timbaland, tell me what that’s like working with each producer respectively? Hayes: Yea, like if you do music and you are really trying to make a statement in Hip-Hop, those are the definitely the two people to be working with. It definitely doesn’t get any bigger than that. Like we make history off the top. You cant’ top it. Just with all the three of us working together, the amount of talent that’s on the project, it’s through the roof, we’re looking for a good outcome. Right, so how did this all came together? I know you were originally from Detroit, and then you moved around a bit. How did you end up linking up with them?

Hayes: Some crazy s**t. God. You know how the dice roll. You never know what numbers you gonna get. I just kept throwing them motha f**kas. Like I had been signed to Interscope already and I was never put as one of Jimmy’s bigger brands. Like you know how you can get successful or whatever. I had signed with Jimmy because I thought you know, it would be best for my situation. Because I was looking at all the situations like all the big brands and money that they was making This was back before the recession hit. This was when Jay was putting out them shoes, and Fifty was putting out shoes, and n***as was taking turns making alcohol, it was like that brief second when rappers were making money like NBA players for a second. I mean you can still make good money, you just got to be down with the right team. I saw that shit, and that’s why I went with Jimmy. But since I wasn’t one of his bigger brands the venture was unsuccessful. But along the way I had made great relationships with people like Timbaland and Dr. Dre, so toward the end of my run when we split the whole budget up and stuff like that. I started working with Dre. And then, I had already known him for a long time since being signed with Jimmy. So Dre was like “You know what Hayes? f**k it, I’m gonna sign you. I don’t give a f**k what happened over there, you know what? I’ll f**k with you, cause it ain’t goin down like that.” You know what I mean? Then I was like “Hell yea, I’m about to sign with Dre, lets get it,” Then me and Dre was shooting dice at Jimmy’s club, shooting craps at the craps table and Timbaland walked in and was kind of just like, “what the f**k is y’all doing? Dre was “like me and Hayes are about do an album together.” Then Timbaland was like “Yo I f**k with Hayes, Dre lets do it together my n***a, let’s make this s**tbig.” Dre was like, “Hell yea that’s a good idea. Hayes what you think?” I had been f**king with Tim since ‘04 or ’03, about the same time I had known Dre, so I was down with it. We did the deals and like, you know it was natural. You know how when you get introduced to a new situation and you got to get used to everybody and you have to adapt and you have to learn the ropes. I had already knew the ropes in both camps. Its like I already know the whole camp over here and the whole camp over there and was already cool with n***as. So it wasn’t no adapting. It was like, oh yea that’s Hayes right here. It was a bulls**t little situation, now its politic free you know what I’m saying, and it fit well and worked good. So I know you are from Detroit, it seems like at pretty young age it seems like you started off grindin hard man. In those early years, who were some of your influences as far of the music maybe that you listened to or maybe people you think about that influence your songs today? Hayes: Everyone that was pushing it further and not a failure. I was very inspired by success. I was very inspired by any type of person who had a lifespan. Meaning not just a flash in the pan, like “I got one platinum record and then you never hear from me again rappers. Although that type of s**tinspired me too because thy did go platinum, I was looking at the people who had longevity. Because you know, I’m from the hood you know so I seen n***as come up an fall off all the time, so I paid attention more to the moguls then I did the artists and I was inspired by the traits by the n***as that brought home the big bucks. I studied the people that made it a lifestyle not a check, not an experience. This is not an experience for me this is a life. That’s just what Ill say. So this First 48 album, is this really 48 joints on here, do I understand that correctly?

Hayes: Yea, that’s why it’s called First 48. n***as think I’m trying to bite off the show or I’m gonna kill them in 48 hrs or something. No n***a its 48 songs. I don’t know why n***as are diggin into it so deep So tell me about your album that you’re working on, more about the First 48, I know that’s done but tell me about some of the songs you are working on. Hayes: We already have started some recording on it. I just got off tour with Timbaland, the Shock Value 2 Tour. Me and Timbaland are about to start working on the album. We was working on the studio bus being on the road. Tried to find a few times to work with Dre in between the tour dates. Right, so tell me, is there anyone that is featured on the album, or any specific songs that you are looking forward to people hearing.

Hayes: Right now I just signed like a month or two ago and it’s in the very early stages. I’m sure it’s going to be huge. The thing that tripped me out the most, is that I signed to Jimmy, and you know the biggest problem with the game, is that the power that may be, is everyone is wondering how they are going to break their artist. Like if you ain’t got a dance or f**king gimmick. I don’t know what kind of bulls**tthey use now with that autotune. I don’t know what you are supposed to use to get on right now, but I am blessed to have my situation. It’s just good that the major concern of every artist is already taken care of with my project. Plus the fact that just being involved with Dr. Dre and Timbaland makes my album highly anticipated off top. And that’s the best thing about the situation, I just signed and the album is already highly anticipated. Just because it’s Dre and Timbaland, and people are gravitating towards all my music and whatever type of presence that I have on the internet. It seems like they already have a machine or a format that will just crank out projects. And with the people that they’ve already worked with, it’s just a no brainer. On this album and on this time around, and on this Dre and Timbaland project, I’m only working with Dre and Timbaland. So is there an expected release date for the album? Hayes: Ummm… Were working. Tim and Dre planned to do something early in the year. They’re both going to bring their A game. That’s the only f**king game they play. So you know what I’m saying? I don’t think that there’s any competition in my lane and I feel free. So going forward, what is it going to take for you to be where you want to be? Or do you think that you are there with respect to music and your life goals. Hayes: I will be happy when I am a household name and everybody recognizes me for my talent because I don’t want to be recognized for nothing else. Like you know, I live the real life and did a lot of real shit, but at the end of the day that don’t validate a person, just because you been through a bunch of street shit; that don’t mean that you have what it take to make it in life. So Bishop Lamont was signed with Dre, and people were expecting a little bit more from that collaboration, we heard music, but fans were left wanting a little bit more. How do you feel you set yourself apart from any of Dre’s other projects? Hayes: Man you know what, there are things that go on and things that don’t go on and at the end of the day hopefully, I would like to be one of the things that goes on. I hope God stays with me and guides me the right way and stays with me through this whole thing and we will get the results that we want. You never know what’s going to happen today or tomorrow in the music industry and Bishop Lamont is the type of person that just because he got dropped from Aftermath doesn’t mean that his career is over. Bishop is a very talented artist. I have been dropped before and that could be anybody at any second. You just got to keep your faith in God and work as hard a possible and hope everything will be alright.

"Earl Hayes" "Dr. Dre" Timbaland Aftermath Interscope "Jimmy Iovine" "Bishop Lamont"

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stan "The Guitar Man" Interview (Dr. Dre/DOC/NWA) DubCNN

Stan "The Guitar Man" Interview (Dr. Dre/DOC/NWA) by Chad Kiser

Dubcnn: Stan, what’s up? Let everybody know what you’ve been up to most recently.

I just completed my album Concrete Soul. I have it out on iTunes, Amazon, pretty much all the digital sites that sell music. This first edition is instrumental only, the next edition I’ll have some features, but on this one it’s just instrumental; just some music I had and wanted to get off my chest. It’s a mix of some R&B, some Rock, a little Hip-Hop and a little Pop. It’s a mixture of different types of music.

Dubcnn: With Concrete Soul you said it was an instrumental album and it was supposed to have some features on it?

Yeah, I was reaching out to some features, but it was taking a little while so I decided to just release the instrumental and do a revision of the edition with the features on it. I already got Devin the Dude, he’s looking to do one of his songs. Compton Rock and I’m in contact with a few more people for features.

Dubcnn: What features besides Devin are you looking at and hoping to get on there?

I’m looking to get a mixture of some of west coast artists and some stuff from the south. Maybe DJ Quik or Ice Cube.

Dubcnn: Let me take you back a little bit being that you are one of the pioneers of this west coast music. You go all the way back to Ruthless Records with Eazy-E and JJ Fad and all of that. How did you first get involved with the JJ Fad Supersonic album?

I knew Alonzo who was the leader of the World Class Wrecking Crew; he started the club down there when he had Dr. Dre and DJ Yella as his DJ’s. Alonzo used to come over every Saturday and talk about how he was going to start this club, and have some parties and dances. He had the club running pretty good, so they started their group, the World Class Wrecking Crew and he introduced me to Dr. Dre and Yella. At that time Dr. Dre was just DJ’ing, then they formed their little rap group. Eazy would come around. I just kind of met all of them at Alonzo’s house. Eazy, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, the whole crew was there so it kind of started from there and when they were doing their Wrecking Crew stuff they didn’t have bass guitar on none of their music. NWA kind of evolved out of that. They didn’t really have any need for bass guitar so I just kind of kicked back and it turned out to be pretty good. Eazy wasn’t a rapper, he was just a hustler. Dr. Dre put him in the group when they were in the need of a rapper and nobody was there. So that’s kind of how the whole thing started.

Dubcnn: What were some of those early NWA sessions you were a part of like?

It was fun. It was a response to the east coast pretty much because at the time everybody was listening to Public Enemy, KRS-1 and all the east coast artists. It was kind of a response of having a west coast style music that wasn’t just all dance. I started out by just using samples so how I got involved was, as they were using the sample records they couldn’t control the samples. If you wanted to turn the bass up or the guitar up, you couldn’t handle the controls because it was all in samples. That’s when Dr. Dre asked me to replay some of those parts and that’s how I got involved with NWA, JJ Fad and that type of stuff. They weren’t looking to sell millions of records, they were looking at putting out some street records. That’s how it started, saying things that people wanted to say, but were too scared to say, for example, about the police and things like that. The first NWA record was \more political than gangster, but the media put the gangster on it, but it was really political.

Dubcnn: On the First NWA record, what songs were you specifically a part of?

I played on all of them. I played on pretty much everything they had going on because I was the only bass guitar player at the time.

Dubcnn: Off the DOC album, most people really began to take note of who you were with the “Beautiful But Deadly” track. Tell us about that particular song.

That was a track that was just a song I was playing in the studio one day and Dr. Dre decided to put it on the DOC on album. That was one of my favorite songs, and still is. It was sort of off the cuff, nothing really planned, it’s just going by instinct. If the song sounded or felt good that’s what they went with. I’m just glad to have been a part of it. It was a great experience. I never thought it would be as big as it is today, but it was really a lot of fun.

Dubcnn: So while your doing the whole NWA, Eazy E, D.O.C things at that time, for what you all were putting together, you had no idea it would become as big as it eventually became? That wasn’t even a thought to you guys like, ‘man, we’re really doing something’?

We were just having fun. It was a lot of fun. That’s the way you’re supposed to put out records and have them released. That’s what is wrong with the records today. I would say from the west coast because they really don’t know the beginning of how it all started. Wasn’t nobody gang-banging; there was no Bloods and Crips, I mean they had their own labels, yeah. If you listen to the earlier music it had a sense of humor to it. Now the west coast music doesn’t have any sense of humor. People like humor in music. They got too serious and after Tupac and Biggie got shot that’s when people started feeling the so-called “gangster rap”. It’s not fun anymore, now it’s life or death. They took all the fun out of the music and the only way the west coast is going to really go to another high is to put humor back in music and have fun with it and not be so serious because you’re not really a gangster if you’re rapping. Real gangsters are on the streets, you don’t see them rapping. It’s two different worlds that you try to put together on CD, in music period, it really doesn’t mix. But for each it’s own, but that’s not really how the west coast started. That’s why people aren’t really listening to it as much. People want to have fun especially during a depression and be entertained in music. That’s really why the south has been winning because people want to party and have a good time without getting shot in the song. There is only one legacy with gangster rap, and that’s Snoop, but that’s just the way it is, not everybody can do that; they have to be themselves and quit copying each other.

Dubcnn: You have a vast catalog of songs and albums you’ve worked on and artists you’ve worked with. One thing that I noticed is that after Ice Cube left NWA and he went on and did “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”, “Death Certificate” and all those stand-out albums and Dr. Dre was doing “Chronic” and Snoop’s “DoggyStyle”, you were working with Cube, but you didn’t do anything with Dr. Dre. Why was that?

I had kind of left NWA before Ice Cube and ran into Cube leaving the studio one day, he flagged me down and asked me if I wanted to be apart of it and I said sure. It was just by chance that I ran into Cube. I knew him and his style of music so it was a perfect fit. On the “Predator” album I produced the first single “Wicked” on there, that’s the biggest selling album to date actually. I worked on “Laugh Now, Cry Later”. It’s always fun with Cube. I work when its fun, it’s not worth doing if you’re not having fun.

Dubcnn: So what was your relationship like with Dr. Dre at the time?

Really, it was cool. It was just that I was on one side doing Cube’s album and Dre was doing his stuff.

Dubcnn: I see you caught back up with Dr. Dre on his Aftermath compilation and obviously you got back into working with Dr. Dre on that. Did you do any work on the “2001” album?

No, I just did the compilation. I was working with one of his producers at the time of the compilation.

Dubcnn: When was the last time you spoke with Dr. Dre? Has there been any talk about you getting down with him for the mythical “Detox” record?

I talked to him probably a few years ago, but we have mutual friends that are over there with Dr. Dre, so we still inquire about each other. At one time I went over there and we talked about doing something for “Detox”, but it never happened, not so far it hasn’t.

Dubcnn: Coolio’s “Gangsters Paradise”, did you do that actual single?

I did all of Coolio’s albums. I think another producer did that one. For some reason I don’t remember if I did or not.

Dubcnn: You go from working with artists like NWA, DJ Quik and Ice Cube then go and do stuff with K-Ci and JoJo, Chico DeBarge, and Christina Aguilera. When you go into sessions with such a vast array of people, what’s your mentality going in with someone like DJ Quik or NWA to a session with a Boyz II Men or Christina Aguilera?

I started out doing R&B because that’s where my roots are, so it’s kind of natural. The rap sessions are a lot easier because we are replaying the loops and stuff like that, so it really doesn’t take a lot of technique, but you have to have a feel. There are some R& B players that have a really hard time playing rap sessions. But actually it’s a technique. I had to learn on the spot, especially working with Dr. Dre because a lot of when you first start trying to play rap music, as a musician you always want to over-play. You’ve got all these techniques and skills; it’s a discipline you have to have to do rap records. The next part is knowing what the producer wants to hear. There is a skill for that because if somebody plays a noise out of their mouth and you aren’t in touch with that before then you would be there all day trying to play that. You have to have the feel.

Dubcnn: Working with so many icons over the years, is there anybody left on your radar for you to work with?

That’s a good question. I kind of got thrilled with it. I think I have always wanted to work with someone like Outkast or someone from the south. I worked with a couple of people from the east; I did LL Cool J’s “14 Sots to the Dome”. I worked with Kool G Rap. Off the top of my head I’m thinking of the South. I’ve always wanted to work with Outkast. I’d look forward to collaborating with Prince on something. I always wanted to do something with Michael Jackson before he died, that was definitely one. I look forward to working with some of the big legends that I haven’t had the opportunity to work with.

Dubcnn: I’m sure your walls are painted in Gold and Platinum plaques. Is there one particular record, whether it be an album or a song, that you are particularly fond of or that you consider a favorite?

I had the most fun working on the DOC album, “No One Can Do It Better”. “Whirlwind Pyramid” is classic to me. Ice Cube’s “Death Certificate”, too. But all-time favorite is DOC.

Dubcnn: When was the last time you talked to DOC?

It was last year some time. A buddy of mine ran into him and put him on the phone. I don’t know if he is recording anymore, but he is definitely a favorite.

Dubcnn: In addition to the “Concrete Soul” album that’s currently available, what kind of upcoming projects do you have lined up coming into 2010?

I have another album lined up called “Musical Revolution”. I have an R&B artist, Brandon, who is incredible. I’ve got a lot more music to put out. I got to a point where I was tired of looking forward to working on someone else’s stuff. I wanted to put out some of my own music at this point. I have my label Guitarman Enterprises and I’m definitely looking for more artists.

Dubcnn: Do you have any last words for the Dubcnn community?

I say just have fun with your music. Try and change up your music, don’t try and stick to one style because it’s open right now. That’s one way to win is to open up your style and your vocabulary. Say something about what's going on instead of the same old drugs, sex, rims, and women; they will be there, but society definitely needs encouraging words from rappers because they hold a lot of power in their words.

Dubcnn: We look forward to hearing more from you in the very near future. Thanks for your time, Stan!

Any time, man!

Stan "The guitar man" "Dr. Dre" NWA "D.O.C" "Ice Cube" "Wicked" "Torcha Chamba" "Torture Chamber" "Compton Rock" Detox “No One Can Do It Better” “Death Certificate” “Concrete Soul”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Above The Law interview WBLS Chuck Chillout 1990

Above The Law; Time Will Reveal review in The Source September 1996 NO.84

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Above The Law; Legends,MC Eith of CMW; Last Man Standing & Hieroglyphics; Third Eye Vision reviews in Rap Pages March 1998

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Above The Law; Uncle sam´s Curse,Jeru The Damaja; The Sun Rises In The East & Celly Cell; Heat 4 Yo Ass reviews in The Source august 1994 NO.59

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Kokane; Funk Upon A Rhyme review The Source May 1994 NO.56

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Above The Law; Legends review Hip Hop Connection April 1998 NO.111

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Above The Law; Livin´Like Hustlers review Hip Hop Connection July 1990 NO.18

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Kokane interview in Rap Sheet October 1994

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Above The Law interview in Rap Sheet October 1994

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Big Hutch aka Cold 187um (February 2008) | Interview By: Nima DubCNN

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*

Above The Law interview in Rap Pages August 1996

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Above The Law interview in The Source June 1996 NO.81

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Above The Law interview in The Source April 1998 NO.103

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Above The Law interview in Rap Pages May 1998

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Above The Law interview in Hip Hop Connection August 1990

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Above The Law interview in The Source March 1993 # 42

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Above The Law interview Rime magazine # 4

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"Ocativa Bostick"

Above The Law interview XXL #3

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Above The Law interview 4080 Hip Hop Magazine NO.19,December 1994

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HipHopDX Interviews Producer's Corner: Mike Dean

VIA HipHopDX producer's corner

Producers often earn kudos for inventiveness of their beats, but any music head knows that with the wrong mixing and mastering—the process of working with the sound levels of different elements of a song before it’s released—even the best songs can be rendered useless.

Before becoming a go-to producer, Southern legend Mike Dean earned his chops by mixing and mastering for Rap-A-Lot Records, helping shape Houston’s signature whip-ready sound with pioneers like Scarface, Geto Boys and Devin the Dude. But work with seminal west coast artists like Tha Dogg Pound and Seagram, mixing on Kanye West’s most important solo records, and impending material with a new crew from Brooklyn called Hip-Hop Howl! prove that Dean’s sound expertise oversteps time regional boundaries. In an interview with HipHopDX Producer’s Corner, Dean recounts nuggets from his extensive discography, speaks on the importance of loyalty, and gives a couple tips on testing sounds before they hit the streets.

Mike Dean: I’m working on Scarface’s album, mixing some pop/R&B stuff and shit like that. Working on a song with Drake right now, too.

HipHopDX: How is Scarface’s album sounding?

Mike Dean: It’s sounding good. We just scored a feature from John Legend on there. I hooked him up with John, making shit happen. I don’t know what’s up with the album or a release date or anything, we’re just working on a few songs right now. For the last few albums, I haven’t had much on his albums because we haven’t been in the studio together. He’ll do music somewhere else and bring it to me, because I’m off doing shit with Kanye [West] or Common.

DX: What takes up more time, your production or engineering?

Mike Dean: Probably about equal. If I’m in a creative phase, I’ll do more tracks. But if I’m on a technical kick, I’ll do more mixing. Either way, there’s always something going on.

DX: One of the best album cuts of the last decade was Scarface and Nas“In Between Us” , from The Fix. Could you please talk about how that song was created from top to bottom.

Mike Dean: We were in Atlanta working. Me and Scarface and Tanya Herron were there, and Lofey was there co-producing. I started the keyboard progression, and ‘Face came in and did some drums, I think he did the bass on it. 'Face wrote the hook, and Tanya performed it with all the crazy vocals. Nas was there, too. It came out pretty fast actually, about an hour and a half or two hours.

DX: Do you think it would’ve been a single if it weren’t for label politics going on around that time?

Mike Dean: Definitely. wish it would’ve been! [Laughs] Hopefully somebody else samples it and makes a good R&B song out of it.

DX: All the emcees sounded so vulnerable, something traditional of 'Face, but not of Nas.
What do you think brought that out of him?

Mike Dean: Scarface did. Scarface did the first verse, and Nas heard that and had to follow that. Nas actually re-did his verse, I just thought about that. Three months later, he changed it because he had some people he was feuding with at the time. I think he was shooting caps at Jay-Z; I don’t know if it was Jay-Z, but it was somebody. So he changed the verse up.

DX: Like Duro and Young Guru, you're arguably one of the most recognized engineers in Rap history. Tell us about your transition from mixing to production, and what it took to get both J. Prince and the artists you were working with to recognize your amazing talent as a general behind the boards?

Mike Dean: It was a gradual transition. I started out playing guitar and bass on peoples’ records that I was mixing, and it eventually turned out to where I was doing everything on the record except the drum programming. At that point, I was given the chance to produce stuff I started doing my own drum programming and collecting drum sounds, and that’s what took me into producing. Plus, engineering for good producers for all those years, I picked up on shit from everybody.

DX: Is there anybody that you learned from that left a serious mark on you?

Mike Dean: John Bido, he did all the Geto Boys stuff. I worked with him for years and years, and he taught me a whole lot of shit. He taught me how to make beats, and he made me want to be a producer.

DX: You are one of the few active guys in Hip Hop that can tell us about Seagram. His albums today sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay in a way that ensures he was way ahead of his time. What do you think made him special as an emcee, and how do you remember those sessions and handling his music?

Mike Dean: Seagram is just a real-ass emcee. He raps about shit he did, and some shit he did, he didn’t rap about. I fucked with him, he was always really cool. We worked in his studio a lot doing pre-production on his album. I met him in L.A., Tone Capone hooked me up with him. He came back to Houston for us to do pre-production on his album Souls On Ice. He came to the studio one night, we were mixing. He had gotten his first big check from Virgin Records, his first big, legit money he made. He left to fly home to the Bay, and he got killed that fucking night, it’s crazy. [2Pac] came through and was listening to it; 'Pac was going to get on Seagram’s album, and then he got fucking murdered two weeks after that.

DX: On a related note, from Seagram to C-Bo to 3 x Krazy, you've worked almost as much with Northern California acts as you have with Texas acts. That was a critical market to Rap-A-Lot's success in the '90s. Why were you guys so drawn to Bay rappers, and how did your job transition on the work you did with those guys?

Mike Dean: Probably me starting to work with Tone Capone. I met him when I was doing the Untouchables album from ’96, I brought him in to help me produced that. In return, I did 3X Krazy’s album, Keak Da Sneak and all them. I like Northern California shit, and all west coast music pretty much. I kind of like that better than southern music. I like working with Daz [Dillinger], Kurupt, Seagram and all those guys. They make that hardcore shit, instead of rapping about the same shit over and over like rides, chains and grills and shit.

The south has gotten stagnant to me. Well let me not say that, but they need to step up their game down here a little bit. That’s why I fuck with the east coast, and a lot of Hip Hop shit. I like fucking with all types of music instead of getting bored.

DX: Usually, people who say the south needs to step up aren’t from the south, or they don’t work there. So it’s weird to hear you say that.

Mike Dean: People like Slim Thug and ‘Face are always spitting dope shit. I’m just talking about a lot of the hits that came from down here, and the singles and bullshit. I’m working with a bunch of guys from Brooklyn right now. We’re going to South By Southwest all together., it’s just a bunch of emcees doing their thing.

DX: How do you decide who you want to work with? You work with big names like Kanye, then smaller names like Hip Hop Howl!.

Mike Dean: I just go with the flow of what I feel at the time. It also depends on peoples’ budgets; I’ve got to make a living. [Laughs] With the guys from Brooklyn, it’d be a good look for me to sell records in New York again. With these up-and-coming cats from Brooklyn, one of them might pop up and be a big artist.

DX: Ganksta-Nip is another artist often overlooked in the mainstream media. Tell us, how was he compared to the persona we heard on these records?

Mike Dean: Totally the opposite. He’s just real calm. I think he had split personalities. Outside of the booth, he was real softspoken and very proper. But when he got in the booth, he was a psycho maniac. I saw him about a year ago, he’s still crazy and still rapping about the same shit.

DX: Yeah, that was my next question. How much are you in touch with many of the former Rap-A-Lot acts today?

Mike Dean: 3-2, from The Convicts, called me yesterday. They’ve been getting in touch with me for the past couple of months, thinking about doing something with those guys and keep ‘em straight. [Smit D of Facemob] was locked up for a long time and he just got out, I’ve been working with him some. Devin [the Dude is] not on Rap-A-Lot anymore, but he just came over the other day to do a song for Tanya’s album.

DX: A while ago, Devin the Dude talked about doing a Country album. Have you guys gotten started on that?

Mike Dean: [Laughs] Yeah, I saw that last night. That’s unbelievable. We did this hook on [Just Tryin' Ta Live], on one song ["R & B (Reefer & Beer)" [that had a Country feel]. We’re going to do a song with Willie Nelson. In this Houston music magazine, I was quoted best Hip Hop producer for ’09, and they said I had a Country Western background. But when I was a teenager, I played with Dancehall bands and Mexican bands and Country bands.

DX: Kanye West worked on some projects with you early in his career. With his budgets and stardom, he went you to mix some of his best work. Did he ever tell you what it was about your mixing that appealed to him so much?

Mike Dean: He said they were the best mixes he’d ever had. I mixed “Guess Who’s Back” from The Fix, and he really liked the mix on that, so he hit me up for his first record. He actually came to my house, and we did the first three or four mixes here before he had budgets for a big studio somewhere.

I mixed four or five records from College Dropout, but I think only two of them made it. The rest were mixtapes, like “Keep the Receipt,” the song with [Ol' Dirty Bastard]. I mastered “Through The Wire,” I mixed the “Two Words” song with Mos Def and Freeway. For [Late Registration], I pretty much did all the singles except for “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” I didn’t do the final mix on that. For the third album, Graduation, I think I did eight or nine mixes and co-produced on “Stronger” , “Good Life” ,“Barry Bonds” , and “Drunk and Hot Girls.”

DX: Also, you reportedly worked on King Tee's tragically shelved Tha Kingdom Come LP on Aftermath. Talk to us also about the technical dialog Mike Dean and Dr. Dre share, as two pioneers of major trends in Rap.

Mike Dean: I didn’t see Dre much. When we were in the studio, I just did a couple beats…Dre was in the next room over working on 2001. But they never even paid me for that shit. Dre still owes me $12,000 or $24,000. I think I was charging $12,000 a beat back then. [Laughs] I saw Dre in a club probably a year after that, and I’m like, “Y’all took my money!” And he’s like, “Come to the office we’ll take care of it.” I got the chick that hooked it up to get me my reels back... That was a freebie. [Laughs] I didn’t even know it came out until I saw the discography on [Moe Beats Records] dropped it or something, it didn’t come out on Aftermath.

DX: Texas Rap, particularly "slab music" sounds so good in cars, when you listen to so many albums from UGK, Scarface or even Z-Ro. As the producer of so many records, do you test your work in the car? Are there certain routines you can test the durability of a record?

Mike Dean: Sometimes, but not as much as I used to. It used to be a necessity, but now I’ve got speakers in my house that are better than my car. I’ve got four 18’s and four 15’s in the small room that I mix at. There are crazy overdone subs in the studio to sound like it does in cars or the clubs. I used to have stereo contests and shit, I’m a Bass nut. But it used to be a necessity, especially when you go to different studios.

Now, I listen to it on the speakers from the laptop. That’s the equivalent of listening to it on a small speaker or on a TV back in the day, just to see what it would sound like. I’d say about 50% of people who listen to music listen to it on laptop speakers, iPhones. So you have to mix it for how they’ll hear it, too. Not everyone has big ass speakers. I used to mix everything in mono back in the day, ‘cause I’m like, “When are people going to be up on speakers?”

DX: Tell us about the loyalty and family environment that's kept you so close to Rap-A-Lot and J. Prince. Is that a missing element in Hip Hop today?

Mike Dean: Yeah, people don’t stay where they start at. That’s a lot of peoples’ demise, jumping cliques and shit. People fall during that, whether that’s the reason or that’s a coincidence. Rap-A-Lot gave me my first opportunity to work on my first real records back in the day, so why would I not continue to work with them? They pay me, shit.

Rap-A-Lot’s good for a paycheck every month; we’ve always got something going on. It was slow last year, I think they’re switching their distribution to a different label right now. I was just on the phone with J last night talking about that shit. We’re getting ready for the next Rap-A-Lot run. We’ve got Rap-A-Lot anniversary projects we’re working on, where all the big artists are remaking Rap-A-Lot songs. Three 6 Mafia did [Scarface’s] “Balls And My Word,” Ja Rule did “Snow,” we’ve got Redman doing “Mary Jane.” We’ve got people redoing the beats over. It’s going to be a really good album. Then Bun B’s album has 40-50 songs done, I heard.

DX: I interviewed Bun B a while ago, and I pointed out how his solo albums usually have tons of guest appearances. He said he wasn’t a solo artist by nature because he’s used to recording with Pimp C. On his new stuff, does he have guest appearances or does he have solo material?

Mike Dean: He has more solo stuff on this one. He’s always in the studio a lot, probably for six months every day [straight]. So he’s just doing bookoo songs. For about three weeks, I worked in the next studio over from him working on beats. I’m not sure what was used yet.

^The late Pimp C,Mike Dean & Too $hort ^

DX: Although the marketing and promotion methods have always been independent, how do you feel the Rap-A-Lot catalog stacks up against those of Death Row, Cash Money or even Tommy Boy? So many of those releases were so groundbreaking for their lyrics and production, which you played a huge role in...

Mike Dean: Well, one big difference is that we are still making records that make a difference in industry. We are the ones to follow in this shit. Controversy has always pushed our performers, and i always try to make the music classic. Combined, that's historical. It just comes naturally for me - don't follow the trends, and it's always better. You'll never see me doing a Bounce record or a "Whatever's hot in Dallas now" record. [Laughs] We don't have dances in Houston! Leave that to the Cowboys [footballl team] in Dallas.

Look out for Rap-A-Lot's 25th Anniversary CD and a load of Best Of's and Greatest Hits coming this year. I remastered the whole catalog so it's up to today's mastering levels, so everyone can re-experience the Rap-A-Lot era and prepare for our new artists' albums coming soon.

DX: What was it like to revisit those records? Did you realize anything new in those songs that you didn't remember or notice from before? Did they seem even more timeless when you were revisiting them?

Mike Dean: It was actually fun. It was an eye opener, really. You never really see your mass of work like that, and it's rare to get to re-master my own records. I get see how my mixing and mastering ability has progressed, along with Scarface, Bido, etc.

DX: So did you hear any of those old mixes and get pissed like "Damn, I could've had this bumpin' even more when I put it out!"

Mike Dean: Most definitely. On "Let Me Roll," the hat was so loud in the mix. It was one of the first that me and 'Face did alone.


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