Big Tray Deee Returns to Tha Eastsidaz After 10 Years
After serving 10 years in prison, the General is back on the streets and Tha Eastsidaz have been reformed!
Big Tray Deee sat down with DubCNN to give an exclusive in-depth interview where the Long Beach legend opens up about fixing his broken relationship with his group-mates, to his conversion to Islam and what’s next for Tha Eastsidaz and himself.
Interview was done in July 2014.
Questions Asked By: Tim Sanchez for [ DubCNN ]
DubCNN: You were released from prison just a few months ago. What’s been going on with you since you’ve been out?
I’ve been out for than 90 days, so the only thing that’s been going on is reformulating Tha Eastsidaz and promoting the mixtapes that I made while I was behind the wall. I’ve also been re-establishing relationships with producers and different people in the industry. A lot changes in hip-hop every 2 to 3 years, so you can imagine the changes that I’ve had to get used to being away for the past 10 years.
DubCNN: Has there been a type of culture shock in regards to the changes you’ve seen?
I was aware of the direction that music was going while I was in prison but I didn’t follow it. My take on hip-hop is based on my own lane in it. I don’t really focus on what’s going on with the emo-rappers or the over-the-top commercial ones. I’m not hating on them or anything like that, it’s just not a realm of my interest. Motherfuckers that kick that street shit hard and rugged and are really about that life, those are the ones that attract my attention.
DubCNN: It’s not just the style of music that has changed though. Since you’ve been away, the way that business is done in the music industry has drastically changed as well.
You have to get out and work for yourself now. I’ve seen that in this day and age, you have to have an instant connection with people. With so many viable options to connect with people, you have to outwork the next artist to stay on top in this game.
DubCNN: You once stated while you were in prison that Tha Eastsidaz were done with. Then a few years back you told me in an interview that you made amends with Snoop Dogg but you still weren’t talking to Goldie Loc. How and when did you two patch things up?
Goldie Loc and I had a few conversations before I made it home. This was a big concern of mine because I’m not a fake person and I don’t act like I’m cool and straight with someone when I’m not. I really needed to clear the air with him and let him know the concerns that I had about not maintaining the friendship that I thought we had formed. I knew he had a few rough times but I also know that he had a few peaks. I can’t count the next man’s money and I can’t say how the next man spends his time but I wanted him to tell me up front of what he was going through and where he was mentally and career-wise. I saw an interview that he did years before I got out where someone asked him what he’s up to and he said that he was just waiting for Big Tray Deee to touch down. He was young at the time and he’s younger than both Snoop and myself so he was probably overwhelmed any a lot of things going on around him. I chose to forgive him and move forward. He didn’t do anything negative for me to forgive him but it was just a perception that I had of him because of the things I felt he should have communicated to me during the 10 years that I was locked up – but we’re good now. That’s my boy.
DubCNN: You guys rocked the KDAY Krush Groove concert together but a lot of people were wondering why Snoop Dogg didn’t join you guys on stage. Then a week later, the three of you were in the studio together.
I was talking to each of them separately while I was still in prison. Goldie had his business dealings with Snoop with a group called Warzone but I wasn’t sure where they stood with each other and I wasn’t sure for a while where I stood with Snoop. Like you mentioned previously, Snoop got at me a couple of times when I was locked up and we put our differences in the past. Goldie and I did that KDAY show and then we started working with Battlecat and Fredwreck putting a few things together. We were letting everybody know that Tha Eastsidaz were back, but just as me and Goldie. I guess Snoop picked up on it and we talked about it. He said that he wanted everything to come back together but he wanted it to be natural instead of forced. We all have real love for each other. Goldie is the little homie, Snoop is the homie and I’m the big homie. That whole interaction between us all was still there when we all got back together. We have fun making music together and that’s the main reason why we are doing it.
DubCNN: You wrote two books while you were in prison.
The first book was “Streetz Gon Cry” that I co-wrote with Anthony Barrow and the second one was “Los Angeles Tymez: Urban Tales” that I co-wrote with J.D. Cooper of The Lench Mob. “Streetz Gon Cry Part 2” will be out by the end of the year. We just struck an agreement with Snoop Dogg in which he will be publishing the book under his new book publishing brand. All of the urban authors are going to get behind the push that he’s going to make in that market. It’s going to be major from east to west coast. These urban books are just another side of revealing the culture.
DubCNN: You also converted to Islam while you were locked up. How does your religious belief system coincide with the street gangster lifestyle?
Being a gang member and making that transition to Islam, I had to put that before my gang. A lot of conflicts and bad episodes come from when people try to walk a different path than what people know them to actually walk – but of course I’m an O.G. I was an O.G. before I went to prison and almost one when I first started rapping. It was more of a maturity and acceptance of what I’ve closed eyes to most of my life and that was the existence of God. I lived my life the way I wanted to and I mashed on some gangsta shit and didn’t give a fuck who I ran over. Being forced to take the time and analyze my behavior and my perception of life period, paralleled with my responsibility as a created being of God to honor him in my actions, words and every aspect of my life. It came upon me to ask myself if I wanted to continue to ignore God or to reach out in righteousness and ask him to guide and bless me. And it’s not just asking to receive something but it’s about having sincerity in your heart. I’m still not perfect by any means. I still argue with my wife. I still get loud. There are a lot of things that I do that probably wouldn’t expect from a devout Muslim brother but I’m human and God accepts me. To answer your question, it’s understanding that God made me and God knows me. I can’t act like I’m someone else to God because I don’t have to. He knows who I am and he knows when I’m striving to be dedicated – as long as whatever I’m doing doesn’t conflict with striving to be righteous. If I’m confronted with a situation, I don’t feel like I have to respond any different just because I’m a Muslim, the difference is that someone has to approach me with aggression for me to respond like that. It’s not me being aggressive anymore but I still know the streets.
DubCNN: There had to have been people who dismissed your conversion as “jailhouse religion.”
I was actually going to mosque before I went to prison, right there on Manchester and Vermont where Minister Tony Muhammad is. I had one foot in the hood still but I was accepted. I was trying to learn because I never had an interest in God. But I grew that desire to learn by becoming a platinum artist. I grew up in a welfare environment, getting free lunches from churches and at the park. I was stealing bicycles, items from the liquor store and going in and out of youth camps and eventually prison. I went from that in life to a place where people wanted to meet me and get my autograph. I knew then that it could only be God. When I got out of prison, someone asked me about Snoop and I told him that I didn’t know Snoop but I would check out what he was doing because I was writing little raps myself. It just so happened that I grew up with a guy who was Snoop’s right hand man, Big C-Style, at the time. He introduced us and it cracked off from there. I know that I did nothing to warrant or deserve this on my own and that this was placed upon me. I went to a church on New York and Atlantic and dropped my Dogg Pound chain right in the collection plate. It was a $71,000 chain and I slapped it right in the collection plate and I left. A lady came running out and told me that she couldn’t accept the chain. She told me that if I wanted to sell it or pawn it and then donate the money, that would be acceptable but otherwise, she couldn’t accept it. I turned to Islam because every Christian church I went to went from thanking the Lord to talking bad about gangsters and I’m like, “I just came to feel the spirit.” I felt like they were putting the spotlight on me by doing that. I was just trying to show God my gratitude because I felt him telling me that I got away with a lot of bad things in my life. I felt like I was sent to prison to get off all the drugs and get my mind right. I wrote and I read and became someone that God can use in his service.
DubCNN: Tha Eastsidaz released a new track called “Get U Right” produced by Scoop Deville. What else are you guy’s working on?
We’re getting the mixtape mixed right now, it’s by DJ Drama and Snoop called “That’s My Work Volume 4.” We’re narrowing it down to 17 tracks and we’ve got some bangers on there. We are also working on a new album but the mixtape is to get the audience familiar with us once again and to introduce ourselves to those who don’t know us. They’re either going to push with us or get with that off-the-wall Mohawk fake boy music. I also started my own label called Supreme Circle. I’ll be debuting a new artist named Tim West from the Eastside of Long Beach and Big Beats from the Westside. They have two different sounds but they’re dope. Big Beats has melody, hooks and can cater to the ladies, something that you would never imagine me being involved with. Tim West has straight bars and he comes from the C.O.B. camp with Crooked I and he’s lauded amongst the circle of new rappers. Their mixtapes are being prepared right now. I will be releasing my own solo album on Supreme Circle along with Coniyac’s from Doggy’s Angels. She’s putting out a solo album too.
DubCNN: You’re doing a follow up to the General’s List?
The General’s List was more like a compilation album where I was creating a movement. That’s why it’s the “General’s List.” I put my boys on that album and just had fun. Ice-T even came out from New York for a song but we couldn’t put it out because I couldn’t get him back out to re-record the song. I needed him to do something with his vocals in order to finish the song but our timelines were messed up. I wanted to give a voice to all the artists around my circle. This album is going to be Tray Deee to the neck bone with only a few features. Some features you will expect and some you probably wouldn’t. I’ve got a song called “Do You Want To Get Funky With Me” off of that old Pete Brown song from 1976. I’m having fun with music and I’ve never looked at it as a chore because when I started rapping, I was doing it for my homeboys.
DubCNN: Your fans love you for your signature flow that has its own unique cadence and melody. How did you develop that?
I have to give a shout out to the rapper who influenced me to get in the game, and that’s Rakim. He’s been my influence. I’ve never tried to emulate his content because if you use any word that he’s used, it’s apparent but there are different ways to pay homage. I took his infamous “7 MC’s” line and switched it up to some gangsta shit one time. You can mix it up and pay homage but biting is some really big shit or at least it used to be. You used the word “melody” and that’s my favorite Eric B and Rakim song. He had 5 verses on that one song! I myself want to be recognized as someone who didn’t play when it was time to get on the microphone. I want to be acknowledged for bringing it the way it’s supposed to be done.
DubCNN: Was there any rust or getting back on the mic after all this time?
There might have been rust if it wasn’t from a homeboy that I will call “Lil Iceberg” who knew how to work his phone like a studio, and that allowed me to record like 50 songs before I came home. I’m not going to disclose how all of that went down because I might sell that whole procedure to Apple (laughs). But I’m not rusty, I stayed working all of the time.
Big Tray Deee speaking to Tim Sanchez for DubCNN.
Born In The Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop
A West Village art gallery called Gavin Brown’s Enterprise is playing host to a new exhibit going on through July 26th called “Born in the Bronx,” tracing the early history of hip hop. Based on the book of the same by author and curator Johan Kugelberg (who runs Boo-Hooray, a gallery/publishing house), the exhibit featured photos by Joe Conzo and original flyers from the late ’70s and early ’80s designed by Buddy Esquire (which have the DIY feel of early punk flyers from the same time period) along with a collection of memorabilia from DJ/rapper/Zulu Nation head Afrika Bambaataa, along with a sale of some of Bam’s own albums going on in the middle of everything. If that wasn’t enough, on the opening night this evening, old school crew the Cold Crush Brothers were there, spinning tunes, playing great ’70s funk/R&B/soul music which was the vital fuel of hip hop when it started out.
The gallery will be hosting other DJ sets throughout the run of the exhibit so make sure to make multiple trips there to see it- it’s worth it and you’ll get to check out an important piece of American musical and cultural history.
Straight Outta Compton Puts NWA on the Silver Screen
Original N.W.A member Ice Cube confirmed via Twitter that a biopic about the famous rap group from the late ’80s titled Straight Outta Compton is happening, but not just that—he revealed the release date and part of the cast!
“Finally found the cast for the NWA movie. Me, Gary Gray, Dre w/ Cube, Eazy & Dre#StraightOuttaCompton coming 8/14/15,” the rapper tweeted. The studio has assembled its leading threesome to tackle the roles of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and the late Eazy-E. The three parties with approval—Cube, Dre and Eazy-E’s widow Tomica Wright—have reportedly signed off on the actors who will play the core members of the seminal rap group.
So who’s been tapped for the roles?!
Have you seen the first still from Fifty Shades of Grey?!
Cube will be played by his son, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Marcus Callender will star as Dre, and Eazy will be played by Jason Mitchell.
Callender has appeared on TV shows like Elementary and Blue Bloods, Mitchell has scored minor roles in movies including Contraband, Broken City and Dragon Eyes. Meanwhile, Jackson does not have any previous work in film, but he can surely get some tips and tricks from his rapper-turned-actor father.
Casting is clearly not complete yet, with Cube tweeting, “Still looking for our MC Ren and DJ Yella. #straightouttacompton coming 8/14/15.”
“I’m totally involved, I’m engulfed in it,” Ice Cube recently told MTV News, saying that the film will be shot in Compton. “This is our legacy, you can’t play with this, there’s no cutting corners. I’m fully engulfed in that movie, very anal about it. It gotta be right.”
According to Universal, the F. Gary Gray-helmed film “tells the astonishing story of how these youngsters revolutionized music and pop culture forever the moment they told the world the truth about life in the hood and ignited a cultural war.”
Photos courtesy of Timothy White
Under the Influence: Michael Miller’s L.A. Hip-Hop Photography
Thumb through a stack of major Los Angeles hip-hop albums from the late 1980s through mid-1990s and you might notice one name credited on all of them: Michael Miller. During the West Coast’s hip-hop scene’s ascension into global fame, the photographer ended up being the go-to lensman for countless album covers and publicity stills. Miller’s output is staggering, and would be hard to believe if not for his recent, self-published book documenting all of it: “West Coast Hip-Hop: A History In Pictures.”
In it, Miller compiles literal portraits of California hip-hop during one of its most vibrant eras. That includes the giants of the scene such as Tupac, Cypress Hill and Snoop Dogg but also lesser-known artists such as the Whooliganz, Funkdoobiest and a group originally called the Atban Klann (better known by their later name: Black Eyed Peas).
Article by Oliver Wang (March 11, 2013)
Michael Miller | Photo by Oliver Wang.
Miller grew up on the Westside, attending Santa Monica public schools while living in Malibu, back when he says it was still “really country.” His teen years were impeccably timed; not only was he classmates with Rob Lowe and Sean Penn, but as an avid skater and surfer, Miller ended up befriending members of the Dogtown skating crew, the Z-Boys, especially Tony Alva.
Miller graduated from UCLA in the mid 1980s and decamped for Europe, first to compete in downhill skiing before ending up in Paris, where he briefly made ends meet by painting houses. His entry into photographer was a bit of a fluke, he says. He and a friend, “were after one thing and it [was] to date models and it’s where my photography first started.” Whatever his original motives, Miller quickly proved gifted for the craft and within months, was traveling across Europe to shoot campaigns for Cacharel and other major fashion houses.
When he returned home to L.A., his fashion work caught the eye of record labels such as EMI and by the late 1980s, he was shooting artists as varied as girl rockers The Go-Go’s and Heart, to jazz players such as Stan Getz and Herb Alpert. Miller, however, grew up a hip-hop fan, listening to 1580 AM, KDAY, the first 24 hour hip-hop station in the country. As a teen, he used to spin late-night shows on KBOO, literally an underground radio station housed in a Malibu basement. In 1989, he snapped his first rap-related cover, for the original N.W.A. group member, Arabian Prince and his debut solo album. That began Miller’s long history of shooting the key figures on the West Coast rap scene, thoroughly compiled in "West Coast Hip-Hop" and the subject of his in-progress documentary about the influence of this region’s hip-hop culture on the rest of the world.
"West Coast Hip-Hop" includes extensive background testimonials to almost all the photos, providing crucial personal and historical context. During the course of our interview, we asked him to expand on the backstories to a few of his most iconic images and here’s what he shared.
Miller first met Coolio through rapper WC and Warner Bros. hired him to shoot the cover for Coolio’s debut album. LP cover for Coolio’s “It Takes a Thief” (Warner Bros., 1994) | Original photo by Michael Miller.
MM: I’m living over here on Stanley [Ave.]…and there’s a knock at my door and Coolio comes with his hair like that and I go, “a star is born.” Coolio is gangster. He was gnarly. I mean, he was a great person, but his face…look at the image. It’s scary! But again, he loved me. I did all his covers.
Where did you take that photo? It took me a long time to realize it wasn’t some kind of abstract illustration; it’s razor wire.
MM: That was a great demo[lition] yard. [I told Coolio], “get on the ladder, put your head in the barbed wire, just put your head in the middle of the barbed wire.” I got in the barbed wire and shot through it. It was spontaneous, it wasn’t a premeditated photograph, it was “let’s go.” The art director, his name was Erwin [Gorostiza], a couple of years later he tells me, “oh, the photo won awards.” He never told me [at the time].
Miller was hired at the last minute by Def Jam head, Lyor Cohen, to shoot the cover for Warren G’s debut, “Regulate…The G-Funk Era.” Miller had to fly directly home from New York after his meeting with Cohen in order to make the shoot the next morning. They originally had planned to shoot Warren in a location that Miller had chosen but the rapper had other plans. Album cover for Warren G’s “Regulate…G Funk Era” (Def Jam, 1994) | Original photo by Michael Miller.
MM: I got an old naval demo yard locked down in San Pedro. Acres of gas towers and broken down warehouses. Warren’s all mellow and he [insists], “I got to do a shot on 21st and Lewis where I grew up. That’s going to be my cover.” So we drive to 21st and Lewis [in Long Beach] and it’s in the middle of the day. The worst possible light you can have. I just shoot. You just gotta go for it. The art direction was unbelievable. [Director] Steve Carr put a black strip on top and reversed the palm trees. The cover’s one of my favorites. They really nailed it. They added another photo of them on a wall. I shot [that] in the alley by his house.
They all grew up there. There’s so many rappers and superstars that were on 19th and Lewis and all over the place. Snoop did his first “Doggystyle” video, with all the dogs running after him, in that alley.
In 1989, Miller was hired to shoot an album cover for WC and the Maad Circle. The shoot ended up being on L.A.’s downtown Skid Row. W.C. on L.A. skid row, 1989 | Photo by Michael Miller.
MM: Every shoot, there’s a concept. I try and get that out of the artist. WC came to me and was like “I want a census worker counting people on Skid Row.” So I went down to skid row at 12:30 at night and it was a gnarly situation. All of the sudden, out of the shadows, there’s this dude sweaty, just running by full speed, “fuck you Hollywood motherfuckers, get the fuck out of here, I’ma fucking kick your ass.” We walk around the fence and he’s throwin’ up a set and WC’s like, “yo homie! That’s my crew!” And they started talking and — boom — best friends. Immediately, it just switched. These guys are intense. But when you’re down with them, it’s just all love. We ended up becoming buddies with Scrap Loc. He’s in that photo.
Many of Miller’s photo shoots with rappers happened at the beginning of their career. With Tupac Shakur however, the rapper was nearing the height of his fame; he was anything but a newcomer. Tupac Shakur, 1994 | Photo by Michael Miller
MM: He was huge. I was nervous to say the least. I tried to keep my enthusiasm under control. That one, we were over by, I think it was 51st and Santa Fe and it was an old train yard. I got a lot of great shots of him that day. After this shot, there there was abandoned train tracks and railroad cars. We went inside, my assistant got Burger King. We went inside and we all kicked it in the old train.
Then we went over to Elysian Park and it was dangerous so when things got a little heavy, we’d just move. Nothing dramatic happened, we ever had any physical altercations but we did have gang situations where it was gnarly. With Tupac, he attracted everyone. Like, “Tupac’s in the neighborhood, let’s go!” If some gangsters came out of the woodwork, he knew. He’d be like, “let’s go. Hop in the van, let’s get out of here.”
About the Author
Nas Rates His Top Ten from the Golden Era
This week’s Rolling Stone magazine (May 22 edition) some recording artists were asked to list their favourite tracks according to certain topics. Nas, one of the artists featured, revealed his favourites from hip-hop’s Golden Age, during the 1980s.
“Hip Hop has had so many golden ages, but I picked the Eighties,” said the Queens, New York legend. “That’s when it turned from rock-sounding, disco-sounding s**t to the essence of rap.”
The majority of the songs were released in 1988 - a quintessential year in the history of the culture.
Top Ten from the Golden Era
1. Public Enemy – “Rebel Without a Pause” (1988)
2. Eric B. & Rakim – “My Melody” (1987)
3. Run-DMC – “My Adidas” (1986)
4. EPMD – “It’s My Thing” (1988)
5. Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick – “The Show” (1985)
6. Big Daddy Kane – “Ain’t No Half -Steppin’” (1988)
7. De La Soul – “Plug Tunin’” (1988)
8. Slick Rick – “Hey Young World” (1988)
9. Dana Dane – “Nightmares” (1987)
10. Queen Latifah feat. Monie Love – “Ladies First” (1989)
THREE KINGS: Dr. Dre, Eminem & Jimmy Iovine
They smashed the game with Beats By Dre headphones. Now it’s time to see if they can do it again with Beats Music.
Interview By: Vanessa Satten
Photos By: Tom Medvedich
THE THOM THOM CLUB is the perfect place for a photo shoot with music powerhouses Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine and Eminem. The hidden building sitting off a main drag in Santa Monica is owned by Universal Music Group and regularly serves as both a photo and recording studio for artists under the Interscope subsidiary. On this sunny day in late January, Em,Jimmy and Dre have joined forces to pose for their fi rst magazine cover together, ever. Over the past decade-plus the three music vets have garnered an immense amount of success with each other. Jimmy, the chairman of Universal Music Group’s Interscope Geffen A&M Records, linked with hip-hop superstar producer Dr. Dre over 20 years ago, and the two have been pushing the music industry forward ever since. Dre houses his label Aftermath Entertainment under Interscope, so all of Dre’s artists are also a part of the Interscope roster. This includes rap titan Eminem, who’s been signed to Dre’s label since 1998 and has sold 96 million records as an Aftermath/Interscope artist. And his label Shady Records sits under the Interscope umbrella.
Six years ago Dre and Jimmy, both former studio engineers, launched a line of headphones called Beats By Dre. The brand immediately took off , and over the past six years the headphones have become an integral part of hip-hop and music culture. This year parent company Beats Electronics—which was co-founded by Dre and Jimmy, who is the current acting CEO— began their newest endeavor, Beats Music, a music streaming service that focuses on the curation of playlists created by the most credible names per music genre. Beats Music is a huge step for Beats Electronics, which kicked off the service with a commercial spot made by Eminem and featured his hit single “Berzerk.” Although Em isn’t a co-founder of Beats, he regularly lends his megastar support to Dre, Jimmy and many Beats Electronics endeavors. XXL spoke with the hip-hop heavyweights about their continuing domination.
For Full Interview [READ HERE]
Jay Z Covers New York Magazine’s “Annual Yesteryear Issue”
Young Jay Z graces the cover of New York Magazine's “Annual Yesteryear Issue,” one of eight covers featured for NY Mag's music issue with other artists, Notorious B.I.G., Bob Dylan, and Frank Sinatra used tohighlight "100 Years of Pop Music in New York."
The photo taken of Jay is from 1997, who was around 29 years old at that time. He’s wearing a Cincinnati Reds hat to match his red t-shirt, with a leather jacket pulled over it.
In-depth essay with Jody Rosen on the topic [CLICK HERE]
Rick Rubin on Meeting Russell Simmons, Licensed to Ill, and ‘99 Problems’
As told to Jennifer Vineyard
It started with my own punk-rock band. I recorded a single and an EP. I was friends with Ed Bahlman, who ran 99 Records, and he put out like ESG, Bush Tetras, Glenn Branca, Liquid Liquid—just kind of cool, more underground records. He walked me through the process of putting out my own records independently. As my love of hip-hop grew, I felt like it would be fun to make a hip-hop record. At that time, there were no hip-hop albums, only 12-inch singles, and the 12-inch singles that were coming out weren’t really reflecting what the hip-hop scene was like. The hip-hop records that were coming out were slick, and were basically like R&B records, just with people rapping on them. The club I was going to in those days, Negril on Second Avenue, one night a week they had a hip-hop night put on by Ruza Blue of Kool Lady Blue Productions, then she moved to the Roxy. I went religiously every week. The music there was more rooted in breakbeats, and scratching, and it just had a different energy. The idea of the DJ as a musician, that wasn’t something we had really seen before. The one-man band who manipulated records to make new music, either combining sounds or making new sounds, or using a tiny little part of a song over and over and over again, to create a whole new song—it was a very exciting thing to hear. I just remember really liking it and thinking it was really important. Even the name Def Jam—the reason the D and the J are so big in the logo was that I felt that the DJ was a very important aspect of this music. The inception of Def Jam was really more to me about bringing the DJ to the forefront and the fact that it’s the DJ and the MC together that makes hip-hop. It’s not just a guy rapping over an R&B track. That’s not hip-hop culture.
A$AP Ferg - Trap’d Arti$t
PAINTING EPHEMERAL VIEWS OF AN UPBRINGING GLISTENED WITH THE STARS OF HARLEM, NEW YORK WHO FILTERED IN AND OUT OF HIS FATHER’S STORE, FOR DAROLD FERGUSON, JR. A.K.A. A$AP FERG, WHO USES ABSTRACT CREATIVITY TO BOTH PAINT AND DESIGN, RAPPING IS AN AGGRESSIVE FORM OF MUCH THE SAME EXPRESSION.
One part of the hip-hop creative, Always Strive And Prosper (A$AP) Mob, which features the notable A$AP Rocky and a slew of rappers, producers, creators and designers, Ferguson slots in nicely to his high school group as they conquer their slice of hip-hop’s history. Before their coming together Ferguson was known as a hustler, a so-called trap lord establishing a fashion label bequeathed to him by his late father, a shirt designer for many of hip-hop’s illustrious, P. Diddy and Bad Boy, Heavy D and Bell Biv Devoe. Ferguson declares, that if not for being a recording artist he would have been known as A$AP Ferg, a part of hip-hop one way or another.
Highlighting how hard he goes in the paint, Ferguson is about expressing himself through various art and finds himself following the style wars of fashion luminaries Alexander Wang, Jeremy Scott to most recently clothes shopping in the company of Ralph Lauren, to even painting the walls of his home with Ralph Lauren suede effect. But the art for which he is most admired is in his debut LP, Trap Lord released last August featuring Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Onyx and B-Real of Cypress Hill. Trap Lord paints his Harlem, New York roots, as illustrated on the closer, ‘Cocaine Castle’ where Ferguson draws from the darker surroundings to his childhood, imagery reminiscent of New Jack City’s The Carter building set in Harlem’s Graham Court. Then just as Trap Lord climbs to an ascension it is pinched off, teasing listeners for more.
Rip Nicholson goes in on the artist that is, A$AP Ferg.
To read full interview + Q & A [READ HERE]
Crenshaw’s Hu$$le Rocks the Highline Ballroom in N.Y.
Nipsey Hussle performed in New York’s Highline Ballroom on his Crenshaw tour. Here, he flipped over several of his new joints from his recent mixtape as well as a handful of classics.
Tupac, Fist Fights & the Making of ‘Juice’
Oral History: Tupac, Fist Fights and the Making of ‘Juice’
HERE]• January 16, 2014 // Taken from [
Q. Bishop. Steel. Raheem. These iconic characters are forever part of hip-hop lore. Their quest to get a rep drove Ernest Dickerson’s directorial debut, which was a morality tale on the dangers of peer pressure. With a magnetic cast, including a young Tupac, an amazing soundtrack, on-set beatdowns and a minor gun controversy, the only logical result was an urban classic.
Ernest Dickerson was having none of it. It was 1990 when the veteran film director—who first gained notoriety as Spike Lee’s groundbreaking cinematographer on such landmark films as She’s Gotta Have It (1986), Do The Right Thing (1989) and Malcolm X (1992)—was set to finally direct his own big screen vehicle entitled Juice. With the backing of Hollywood heavyweight Richard Donner, the gritty drama about four teenage Harlem friends who get caught up in the vicious cycle of street politics, was given the green light. But Hollywood had plans for something entirely different.
“They told us, ‘Maybe you should make this more of a comedy,’” recounts Dickerson 20 years later. The 62-year-old auteur has since taken his talents to the small screen as the director of the new FOX supernatural hit Sleepy Hollow. “‘It’s too dark…make it funny full of one-liners about these kids in Harlem who get in trouble.’” Dickerson and longtime friend and Juice co-writer Gerard Brown weren’t biting. “[We] looked at each other and knew what they were suggesting was not something we wanted to have our names on.”
However, a year later, Juice would indeed be made on the duo’s own terms. Featuring a virtually unknown cast of actors, the two-fisted film was driven by the brazen attitude and chest-beating spirit of hip-hop under the musical supervision of groundbreaking Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee. Barely out of high school, Omar Epps, Jermaine Hopkins, Khalil Kain and future rap icon Tupac Shakur—whose riveting star turn as loose canon Bishop led the way—added unfiltered authenticity to Juice’s already fast-paced morality tale of peer pressure gone tragically awry.
Cobbled together for a miniscule $3 million, the film would go on to gross more than six times that. For the fans that witnessed this unlikely triumph and snatched up Juice’s star-studded soundtrack, featuring the game-changing likes of Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Naughty By Nature and Cypress Hill, they had no idea of the boiling drama behind the scenes. Violent brawls, a shooting death, competitive brinksmanship ignited by Shakur and creative battles with studio heads that nearly derailed the film were just some of the issues that Dickerson and crew faced. This is the story of how the whole damn thing prevailed under unforgiving circumstances. This is the oral history of Juice.
Suge Knight Reflects on ‘Doggystyle’
A recent interview by ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE awakened a slumbering beast in Suge Knight. The ex-mogul is asked to revisit the making of one of a generation’s finest albums, Doggystyle, by Snoop Doggy Dogg, the teenager who helped Suge build his empire out West in Death Row Records. This interview includes parts excluded from what went to print where Suge goes in on K.Dot and reminds us of his part in shaping B.I.G.’s Ready To Die LP.
(Photo above taken from February 1996 at Monty’s in L.A. Tupac with David Kenner, Suge Knight and Snoop Dogg)
This past weekend, Snoop Dogg's debut album Doggystyle turned 20. Back in 1993, the lanky 21-year-old from Long Beach, Calif. was riding high on his breakout performances from Dr. Dre's The Chronic, but he’d been implicated in the murder of Philip Woldemariam and had a murder trial looming. The Doggfather unquestionably had all eyes on him.
Doggystyle went on to sell millions of copies and spawned successful single like “What’s My Name,” “Gin & Juice” and “Murder Was the Case.” It was the second project released by Death Row Records, a label that Dr. Dre co-founded with Marion “Suge” Knight. It was Knight’s executive muscle that helped Snoop avoid jail a few years after its release, but following the 1996 murder of his label mate Tupac Shakur and Knight’s subsequent incarceration, their relationship soured. And it remained that way for years — until last February, when Snoop instagrammed a photo of the pair at an L.A. club. They’d finally made amends.
In a rare interview with Rolling Stone, Suge Knight looks back on the Doggystyle legacy. [READ HERE]
Kendrick Lamar: Rapper of the Year
Every member of rap’s Mount Rushmore dropped new albums in 2013—Kanye, Jay Z, Drake, Eminem—but it was another MC altogether who stole the crown, and he did it with just a handful of verses: Kendrick Lamar, the latest—and possibly greatest—rapper to come straight outta Compton.
We are 10,000 feet above Compton in a private jet, and Kendrick Lamar is explaining to me what happened to him yesterday, when he vanished. We had a plan: Kendrick was going to give me a guided, cue-the-G-funk-synth Star Maps tour of his neighborhood, the one he still more or less lives in, starting at his parents’ house a couple of blocks from his old high school, Centennial High, near the corner of Piru and South Central. Instead, he went AWOL. The whole day, no one from his label, Interscope, or Top Dawg Entertainment, the baby Death Row Records that originally signed him, could track him down. Kendrick was gone.
It turned out he was sitting shivah for a murdered friend he calls his “little bro”—a kid from a neighborhood where friendship is defined primarily by neighborhood. A few weeks earlier, Chad Keaton, 23, had been wounded in a drive-by shooting very close to Kendrick’s parents’ house. He held on for a month but ultimately died of complications from the gunshot wounds.
So today, here on board this Challenger 300 seven-seater, en route to New York City’s fall Fashion Week, a destination filled with people Kendrick isn’t sure whether he wants to impress or fuck with, he’s telling me about Chad. “It all happened when I was overseas,” he says. “I had to talk to him over Skype on the hospital bed before he passed.”
Yeezus Meets Zane Lowe for BBC Interview
For one of music’s most controversial and most creative inspirators for hiphop culture, Kanye West goes to the famous Abbey Road studio and sits down with Zane Lowe who recently chopped up MCHG with big brother Jay and blows off steam on everything circumventing the artist’s life from fashion, architecture, paparazzi to finally… the Yeezus LP. He gets raw, choked up, real and combative on issues affecting the now self-proclaimed King of rock music.
Peep all 4 parts of this interview, below.