RAW, UNCENSORED WEST COAST RAP SHIT
Y YA BO PACK
THE P DOGG POUNRDICK KENDR LAMAR
TERRACE IN MARRET F EWAY F S S O R Y K C I R
editor’s note I’m Just Sayin’tho by D-Ray
he things I’ve been experiencing lately are a lot to deal with during the holiday season. People need to realize that money isn’t everything! Some people think it is, but to rob a Chuck E. Cheese that’s packed with children is a lot for me to swallow. You should probably really think about what you’re doing. Just say no! Drugs make you do the oddest things (maybe it wasn’t drugs, but that would be a better cop-out)! But really, you’ve traumatized a few children for a few dollars.
Dear Mama Dez,
I know people are going to do as they please and the world is full of ignorance, but just think how you’ve affected each one of those kids that was just trying to have a fun evening with their family. Just a thought: if you’re brave enough to rob children for pennies, why don’t you try to challenge yourself and move up your target? You’re never going to get rich robbing Chuck E. Cheeses for $311.
Love you! R.I.P. Mama Dez, Forever in Our Hearts!
The holidays are a time to appreciate what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have. We all could fill up the “I DON’T HAVE…” list pretty fast. That’s why I was having a hard time getting up enough strength to go visit a very dear person in my life, Mama Dez a.k.a. D-Bo; you can call me selfish if you want. She got cancer a few years ago and beat it, but last year, she learned she had cancer again. It’s hard to accept seeing someone who is an all-out fighter have no more fight left in her. It’s heartbreaking. It’s hard for a family to watch another family member fade away. And finally, Mama Dez went home. The pain and suffering is over. On a gloomy December Saturday evening we went to visit. Who would’ve known that was going to be our last physical visit with her? It was a very emotional day. She was one of the ones who helped me stay focused in this doggy dog world. I thank her for all the game I’ve absorbed from her! They call me D-Bo Jr.
Me & D-Lo @ Summer Jam in Oakland
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DJ Quik & I @ Key Club for Quik’s Groove in Hollywood
God saw you getting tired. And a cure was not to be, so he put his arms around you and whispered, “Come to me.” With tearful eyes we watched you suffer and saw you fade away. Although we love you dearly, we could not make you stay. A golden heart stopped beating. Hard working hands to rest. God broke our hearts to prove to us that he only takes the best.
I still have the hardest time thinking about my grandfather, a.k.a. my hero! He passed away three years ago from dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Thinking about the good times I had with him helps me get through the tough days. I think about all the laughs we shared, and all the drives when we used to punch it in my whips. There was nothing having him shotgun saying, “Let’s see what you got!” Yes, I’m with it! I got handles! I love my old school Skylark, my Mustang, and my AMG Euro, baby! I need power! Shout out to Fat Bastard wanting to see if my Benz could hang against his 745 BMW! Yes, yes, I dusted him! You have to know how to drive your cars! That’s something my grandfather taught me. Thanks, gramps! Enjoy your holidays and remember: Family First! Money can’t replace love, or memories. Life is not a rehearsal! (in my Drake voice) - D-Ray, OZONE West Editor-At-Large firstname.lastname@example.org
B.o.B. & I @ the Roosevelt Hotel for Belvedere’s VMA pool party
Shanell & I @ the BMI Awards in Hollywood
ith a rap lineage that includes N.W.A, Eazy E., Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Quik and The Game, Compton, CA is mostly known for gangsta rap. But with the success of West Coast newcomer YG and his breakout single “Toot It & Boot It,” it seems like a new generation of Compton emcees are leaning away from the G-funk era. “It’s still poppin’ in Compton,” he says of his infamous city. “Niggas still getting shot and killed, ain’t nothing changed. But I saw what the West Coast music was doing…it wasn’t even gon’ be no more. That means it’s time to switch up something, so I did it myself.” What YG did was create a regional buzz that quickly grew to over a million Myspace plays and thousands of views on YouTube. When Island/Def Jam Senior VP of A&R Max Gousse saw YG perform at a nightclub in Hollywood, the Def Jam rep was blown away by the crowd’s reaction. “He saw the whole club singing my words,” YG recalls. “He flew me out to New York two weeks after that to perform in front of L.A. Reid.” YG’s performance was enough to win over the music executive, and a few weeks later, he was signed to Def Jam. “They signed me without knowing what my single was gon’ to be,” he explains. “I keep telling them, ‘Toot It & Boot it,’ but the label wasn’t sold on it. But it keep buzzing in the streets and then they just hopped on it.” Despite the label’s initial resistance to the song (which means “hit it and quit it”), the streets infatuation with “Toot It & Boot It” forced Def Jam’s support, which has subsequently led the song to a rising Billboard Hot 100 spot at press time, even to the surprise of YG himself. “I didn’t even make this song to be my single,” he says. “I made the song a year ago and put it out. And then everybody was on it. Now it’s on the radio, so it’s a blessing.” With his debut album slated for a 2011 release, a follow-up single featuring Chris Brown, and a role in the upcoming movie Where’s The Party At?, everything seems in place for YG. And he believes his new school approach to music is the key for West Coast music to return to prominence. “We gotta to make music that everybody can relate to, and just not sound like that West Coast gangsta music, like that old school shit,” he says. “We gotta come with some new shit that’s gonna catch everybody’s ears. Like ‘Toot It and Boot It,’ everybody is on that. We just gotta make more records like that.” Words by Randy Roper Photo by Julia Beverly
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(above L-R): Glasses Malone & Tech N9ne on the Paid Dues Tour in San Bernardino, CA; DJ Amen & Band Aide @ Club 261 for Band Aide of Dem Hoodstarz’ coming home party in Burlingame, CA; Letoya Luckett & J Valentine @ Club Mist in San Francisco, CA (Photos: D-Ray)
01 // Fuzzy & Murs on the Paid Dues Tour (San Bernardino, CA) 02 // Sick Jacken of the Psycho Realm, Krondon, & Mitchy Slick on the Paid Dues Tour (San Bernardino, CA) 03 // Daz Dillinger & Soopa Fly on the Paid Dues Tour (San Bernardino, CA) 04 // DJ Amen & Tech N9ne @ The Phoenix Theater (Petaluma, CA) 05 // Kafani & crew @ Club WET for E-40’s release party (San Jose, CA) 06 // E-40 & Too $hort @ Club WET for E-40’s release party (San Jose, CA) 07 // Tech N9ne, Kutt Calhoun, & Krizz Kaliko on the Paid Dues Tour (San Bernardino, CA) 08 // Band Aide of Dem Hoodstarz & Laroo @ Rasputin’s for E-40’s in-store (Berkeley, CA) 09 // E-40 & his wife & son Droop-E @ Club WET for E-40’s release party (San Jose, CA) 10 // Tristan Wilds, Bobby, J Valentine, NaeNae, Tank, & guest @ Club Mist (San Francisco, CA) 11 // Krondon of Strong Arm Steady & Krizz Kaliko on the Paid Dues Tour (San Bernardino, CA) 12 // Big Omeezy & Droop-E @ Club WET for E-40’s release party (San Jose, CA) 13 // DJ Juice & Laroo @ Club 261 for Band Aide of Dem Hoodstarz’ coming home party (Burlingame, CA) 14 // Gino, Bobby V, & Razor @ The Boys & Girls Club (Redwood City, CA) 15 // Drew, B, & Freddy Hottsauce @ Club 261 for Band Aide of Dem Hoodstarz’ coming home party (Burlingame, CA) 16 // DJ Impereal & E-40 on the set of “Understandz Me” (Oakland, CA) 17 // Kutt Calhoun, Tech N9ne, & Krizz Kaliko @ The Phoenix Theater (Petaluma, CA) 18 // Bobby V & ladies @ The Boys & Girls Club (Redwood City, CA) Photo Credits: all photos by D-Ray
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nlike most of his peers, Kendrick Lamar did not succumb to the gang bangin’ and violence that has plagued his community for generations. When asked how he managed to stay clear of the crime in Compton, California, the 22-year-old up-and-coming MC’s answer was simple: his father. “Out of all my peers, the thing that separated me from them, is that they don’t have no fathers,” he begins. “I had a father, and that’s why I stayed on the right road. And that’s the reason behind the gangs that’s out here. Cause a lot of cats out here have broken homes.” His pop’s guidance was enough to steer Kendrick away from the streets. And at age 13, instead of Bloods and Crips, rappers and emcees were his heroes. Enticed by artists like Tupac and DMX, a young Kendrick started to pen his own rhymes. “I remember looking in the mirror and saying, ‘I wanna rap just like Tupac,’” he recalls, of his childhood icon. “I liked ‘Pac when I was coming up. ‘Pac passed and after that I can remember it being kinda commercial, but when DMX dropped I was like… a nigga got inspired.” He took his inspiration to the recording booth,
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and at age 16 recorded his first mixtape, Youngest Head Nigga In Charge, under the name K-Dot. The release garnered local attention. Soon after, he joined the Los Angeles-based independent label Top Dawg Entertainment, also the home of burgeoning Watts rapper Jay Rock, where he released his follow-up mixtape Training Day. Kendrick spent the next few years developing his craft and collaborating with Jay Rock, who’s now signed with Warner Bros. “Even off the music that’s my brother,” he says of his relationship with Jay Rock. “I remember the first song we recorded, the first mixtape he put out, I remember the day he got signed, all the way to the single he got with Wayne. So, it feels good to see a dude come from the bottom and get to the level he’s at. And we’re doing this shit together and still progressing.” And Kendrick’s progression can be heard through his music. He recently changed his moniker from K. Dot to his government, Kendrick Lamar, and in December of 2009 released the
most noteworthy music of his young career on The Kendrick Lamar EP. “The actual sound of [this record] is actually music I’ve been holding back for years,” he says. “I found my niche when I said I’ma give the people what I want, and if they don’t like it, fuck it. I’m doing me.” But the people praised his music. Now, Kendrick finds himself a favorite amongst bloggers, and anticipation for his next project, Good Kid In a Bad City, continues to grow. “I think a lot of artists draw themselves away from the people because the people can’t relate,” he explains. “We’re going through a muthafuckin’ recession. Muthafuckas [are] trying to hear that shit that we actually go through. So, I represent music for the muthafuckin’ humans, people that actually go through life. Whether it’s love, hate, happiness, all emotions. That’s the type of shit that I’m trying to give across to the world.” Words by Randy Roper Photo by Dee Jay Dave
(above L-R): BandAide of Dem Hoodstarz & Kafani on the set of “Laughin’” in San Jose, CA; Snoop Dogg & Warren G @ Vanguard Club for Snoop Dogg’s release party in Hollywood, CA; Paul Wall & Husalah @ Street Symphony Studios in Fremont, CA (Photos: D-Ray)
01 // The Jacka, Gary Archer, & Lee Majors @ 17 Hertz Studios (Hayward, CA) 02 // J Diggs, AP9, & Lil Dre @ The CatHouse on New Years Eve (Las Vegas, NV) 03 // Ray J & DJ Whoo Kid @ Power 106’s Cali Christmas (Los Angeles, CA) 04 // Diddy & Dirty Money @ The Stratosphere for The CORE DJs Retreat (Las Vegas, NV) 05 // Khleo, Soulja Boy, & JBar @ Spring Break afterparty (San Diego, CA) 06 // Yukmouth & his sister @ Yukmouth’s birthday mansion party (Los Angeles, CA) 07 // P-Nut, Dorrough, & Baydilla @ Elixir’s (Anchorage, AK) 08 // TV Johnny & Paul Wall @ Magic Convention (Las Vegas, NV) 09 // Mob Figaz AP9,The Jacka, FedX, Husalah, & Rydah J Klyde reunited @ The Catalyst (Santa Cruz, CA) 10 // Willie Joe, Ro, Scoot of Dem Hoodstarz, & CEO @ 17 Hertz Studios (Hayward, CA) 11 // Roccett & Jeff Johnson @ Rum Jungle for The CORE DJs Retreat (Las Vegas, NV) 12 // CQ & Yae Neech @ Gold Rush (Fairbanks, AK) 13 // Fuzzy, Big Boy, & Xzibit @ Club 720 (Los Angeles, CA) 14 // Husalah & Kafani @ The Catalyst (Santa Cruz, CA) 15 // D-Lo, Balance, Kilo, & The Jacka @ Rasputins (Berkeley, CA) 16 // Bad Lucc, Terrace Martin, & Nipsey Hussle on the set of Snoop Dogg’s “Malice in Wonderland” video shoot (Los Angeles, CA) 17 // J Valentine & Jay Rock @ Mason Studio (Hollywood, CA) 18 // Brandi & D-Ray @ The Sports Arena (San Diego, CA) 19 // RhythmX & E-40 @ Nump’s listening party (San Jose, CA) Photo Credits: D-Ray (01,03,05,06,09,10,13,14,15,16,17,18,19); Julia Beverly (04,07,08,11,12); Malik Abdul (02)
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Los Angeles rapper/producer Terrace Martin shares the break-up story that inspired his latest EP, Here, My Dear. My idea came from the Marvin Gaye record Here, My Dear, which came out in December 1978. He had gone through a crazy divorce with his ex-wife, and the whole relationship was just crazy. He did the record [under] an agreement to give his ex-wife the proceeds and the publishing from the record. I was going through a crazy relationship myself, so basically I patterned the whole project off of that [idea]. It was a very public relationship and it was open to everybody in L.A. Everybody knew about me being with this crazy girl and everybody had witnessed a lot of bullshit throughout the course of the relationship. One of my friends that witnessed some of [the bullshit] is a girl named Devi Dev [who is also a radio personality]. That’s how Devi got involved, ‘cause she came to my house one night like, “The girl you’re with is crazy. She’s causing scenes. You’re gonna end up doing a record like Marvin Gaye if you continue on with this woman.” Anyway, I got back with the girl, but when we broke up again, I went through a crazy ass depression. I hadn’t been doing any music and then I called Devi, like, “I want to do my own Here, My Dear project.” It was the first project where I really poured out my heart on the project. It’s very sincere. I did it not caring about radio, not caring about politics, not caring about niggas or girls or what anybody said about me, just not caring and really doing music that hits me in my spirit and my soul. The whole project isn’t about this one girl, but that kicked off the whole thing. At the end of day I believe God put that person in my life so I could take a closer look at myself in the mirror and learn some things about myself that I’ve been running from, as far as insecurities, and a lot of other stuff. So I really did this whole project as in Here, My Dear, saying I’m giving the girl this last conversation. I’m giving my old management this last conversation, and I’m giving the old Terrace Martin this last conversation in this body of work called Here, My Dear. I put hundred and five million percent [into the project], and this was the first project where I reached out to a few other musicians. We have Marion Williams that played guitar on almost every record, we have Andrew Boucher, he played with everybody, he’s my favorite bass player in the world. He’s the one that put me on, and he’s a huge guy in L.A., so he’s playing all over the project. A good friend of mine named Mr. Kenneth Crouch, who is a part of the famous Crouch family, is on the record. He’s a famous producer; he played with Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Mariah Carey, everybody you could think of. I wanted to reach out to everybody cause I was trying to mold this project after a lot of Quincy [Jones’] records. It wasn’t just Quincy producing all those records, he had a team. And that’s what I wanted to do. The biggest ego in the room on this record was the music. I reached out to other producers, other keyboard players, other horn players. I just sat back and put the pieces of the puzzle together, and we have Here, My Dear. It was a beautiful process, ‘cause I also learned how to do a whole body of work, and try to appeal to as many people as I possibly could. [My ex-girl] called me after she heard the project. There are a few songs that are aimed at her, ‘cause that’s how I felt at the time. And those are the songs she said she was extremely hurt by. And there were other songs that made her smile, ‘cause at the end of the day, a relationship whether it’s good or bad, to me, once you come out of it, we all learn something. I like the fact that I learned a lot about myself through that relationship, through her. I don’t like a lot of the other bullshit she put me through, but I’m fine with that right there. At the end of the day, I know we all want to be good people, I’m just not sure if some of us know how to be good people. Devi Dev took care of a lot of the business end and a lot of the concepts came from her, cause I had actually forgot a lot that went on during the relationship, cause I didn’t want to remember that shit. So Devi Dev would be there to remind me. Everybody was happy that I was done with this relationship, dude. (laughs) Everyone was like, yes, now we can get back to work. And I won’t say it was her fault I wasn’t working, I wasn’t focused, ‘cause that’s what niggas do. We get brand new, we get with a new bitch, we cuff up with the bitch. I want to send a huge thanks to Devi Dev for seeing my vision, a huge thanks to Uncle Charlie Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Murs, Bad Lucc, and everybody on the record. Everybody’s that’s on that project is really a close, close friend of mine. Everybody was feeling some type of way about this project and put their heart into it. And I think that’s why the project is going so well. The project is not to bash her. It’s not a bashing project, it’s actually a positive project. ‘Cause I could have went way harder if I was on some ignorant nigga shit. But I didn’t because I’m grown, and I don’t hate her. I don’t hate anybody. So that’s the story behind Here, My Dear. As told to Randy Roper // Photo by D-Ray
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(above L-R): Husalah & Paul Wall in San Francisco, CA; Bobby V flexes his muscles @ The Boys & Girls Club in Redwood City, CA; E-40 & his wife @ Club WET for E-40’s release party in San Jose, CA (Photos: D-Ray)
01 // Big Rich, Igor, & Tristan Wilds @ Club Mist (San Francisco, CA) 02 // Mugzi, E-40, & Chuck @ Rasputin’s for E-40’s in-store (Berkeley, CA) 03 // Young Dunnyz of ATNT @ 89.5 KPOO (San Francisco, CA) 04 // DJ Fingaz & Problem on the Paid Dues Tour (San Bernardino, CA) 05 // Tristan Wilds, J Valentine, NaeNae, & LeToya Luckett @ Club Mist (San Francisco, CA) 06 // Droop-E, E-40, & Turf Talk on the set of “Understandz Me” (Oakland, CA) 07 // Balance @ Rasputin’s for E-40’s in-store (Berkeley, CA) 08 // Kurupt & Terrace Martin on the Paid Dues Tour (San Bernardino, CA) 09 // Fan & E-40 @ Rasputin’s for E-40’s in-store (Berkeley, CA) 10 // Gary Archer & Drew Deezy @ Club WET for E-40’s release party (San Jose, CA) 11 // RythmX, Dem Hoodstarz, Turf Talk, Laroo, & Big Omeezy @ Rasputin’s for E-40’s in-store (Berkeley, CA) 12 // E-40 reppin” Southwest Airlines on the set of “Understandz Me” (Oakland, CA) 13 // Tech N9ne & Raekwon on the Paid Dues Tour (San Bernardino, CA) 14 // Jacky & Turf Talk on the set of “Understandz Me” (Oakland, CA) 15 // Krizz Kaliko, Strong Arm Steady, Jay Electronica, & Gary Archer on the Paid Dues Tour (San Bernardino, CA) 16 // Clyde Carson, Kimo, & Gary Archer @ Club WET for E-40’s release party (San Jose, CA) 17 // Big Rich, NaeNae, & J Valentine @ Club Mist (San Francisco, CA) 18 // Tito Bell gets a little too drunk @ Club WET for E-40’s release party (San Jose, CA) 19 // Paul Wall, Freeway, The Jacka, FedX, Muhammad, & Husalah (San Francisco, CA) Photo Credits: all photos by D-Ray
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YA BOY Words by D-Ray
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For those who might not be familiar with you, can you start off by telling us who YB is and where you’re from? YB is short for Ya Boy. I come from the Bay Area, San Francisco. I started when I was 17 under San Quinn and Done Deal Entertainment. I’ve got two cousins that are pioneers in the Bay Area rap scene – San Quinn and Messy Marv. I’m just that young wild nigga. Your first record “16’s With Me” was a hit. How did it feel to be sitting in the room with all those DJs as a youngin’ tryin’ to get on and you played your record and they just went wild? It was a good feeling. I really didn’t expect it to blow up how it did. Everything that happens in my life, to me, is a surprise. The results always end up ten times better than expected, and that’s a good thing, because I’m always surprising myself. When I was trying to get myself heard there were a million other people trying to get heard, but the people chose me. I remember when they first played the song on the radio and played it like eight times in a row. Big Von played it back to back and people kept calling me saying, “You’re on the radio!” It was the best feeling ever. That was my first taste of stardom back then. Today you have one of the hottest songs on Power 106 in Los Angeles, so that has to be a blessing. How does that feel to be getting love on Power 106 as a Bay Area artist? That’s huge. It’s so hard to get played and even get one spin on L.A. radio, so for me to be in heavy rotation and have the number one song on L.A. radio, that’s crazy. There was a lot of controversy behind the record “We Run L.A.” What is it about, from your perspective? The song was paying homage to the city of Los Angeles. I moved out here when I was young. I lived out here for a few years and I see where it’s going. It’s a beautiful city. I see a lot of people – models, movie stars, actresses, actors – coming out here trying to make it. It was basically just a theme song for them. I was paying homage to the city sort of like Tupac did with “To Live And Die In L.A.” A lot of people misunderstood the concept at first. When I heard people talking about you in the streets I didn’t understand why that was the song they were upset about, because it’s a feel-good song. Some people want to turn something like that into something negative, and it just shows their ignorance. You’re still running with The Game too, right? Yeah, he’s a busy guy and I’m a busy guy, but it’s respect there. I fuck with him and he fucks with me. I’ve got my own thing going. I felt like it helped my career a lot when I started fucking with The Game. I was fresh out of the Bay and I had no idea what the industry was like or anything as far as independent. Fucking with him helped me learn the ropes a little bit. I just soaked it up and it helped me a lot.
What features do you plan on having on your debut album? I’m good with me and ‘Kon, honestly, and the big homie E-40. I need the world to hear me on this breakout album. I’m gonna kill them. I might need that D-Ray hook; I hear D-Ray is doing hooks around the Bay now. You’re a fool. (laughs) But seriously, what do you say to the young kids that are trying to be a rock star too? Just be yourselves. Don’t be a rapper just because you see rappers with girls and money. It’s not meant for everybody to do it. This game is really hard, and it’s not for everybody. If this is what you really want to do, stick to it, but be yourself. That’s what I would tell them. It’s hard to trust people in the industry. How would you tell them to sort out the good from the bad? Just be careful of the people you have around you. A lot of people are in it just for themselves. Make sure the people that are around you are here for you and not just to help themselves. Make sure they have your best interests in mind too, cause a lot of people will fuck you off just to get themselves on too. There are a lot of sharks in the water. What’s been your most memorable moment so far in the rap game? I have a lot of them, but probably the most memorable was when I performed at Paris Hilton’s house. I was on some rock star shit. She took my chain off and put it on her. She was on stage with me. I didn’t even know her at that point, but she knew my song. She was a fan so she wanted me to perform. She’s got a little baby club in her house with a stage, a stripper pole, and all that. Your family is pretty well-known in the Bay Area. They didn’t really want you to become a rapper, right? Yeah, when I was like 10, I told [Messy] Marv I wanted to be a rapper. He was like, “Nah, lil nigga, go to school. You don’t wanna be a rapper,” and I was mad at him. But I see why he said that, cause it’s a fucked up game. He was looking out for me. Then I started hanging with my cousin Bailey, and he was poppin’ with Big Rich and Don Torriano. They had a group called Fully Loaded. We would be on the karaoke machine every day. He gave me the name Ya Boy. I wanted to be a part of their group Fully Loaded, but Bailey was like, “Nah, nigga, you need to go solo. You’re gonna get more money by being solo.” I was scared to death of going solo, but fuck it. It all worked out for the best. Is there anything else you’d like to say? Holla at Ya Boy. Konvict West, we’re the only things poppin’. Believe that. How can someone get in touch with you? If anybody needs to get in touch with me about verses, shows, or anything like that, hit me at email@example.com. If you want to check out some of my music go to YouTube.com/officialYaBoyTV or hit me up at Twitter.com/YBTheRockstar or Myspace.com/YaBoy. //
What about Kevin Federline? A lot of people thought that was crazy when you two started being seen together. How did that come about? I was living in Malibu, and Kevin Federline and Britney Spears were also living in Malibu so we were like neighbors. Of course I was in the studio out there tearing shit up, and there’s nothing but rich and famous people out there. Everybody that went in the studio was just blown away by my music, and he was one of them. That’s just my pa’tna, nothing else. Whenever I go fuck with him or we go out to eat or something and Britney was around, the paparazzi would start snapping away and I would be the only little hood nigga in these USA Weekly and OK! Magazines. People were wondering what the hell was going on. But we were just neighbors though. That’s what introduced you to the Hollywood lifestyle. Yeah, that’s when I started turning into the rock star. I come from the hood so I’m comfortable being around the hood elements, but at the same time I’m able to mess with the crossover crowd. I feel like all of that is helping me develop into the artist I am today. How did you end up signing with Akon? Akon was just hearing my name everywhere he went. People kept talking about “Ya Boy” and he was like, “my boy who?” (laughs) My pa’tna does security with Akon and they were in Miami. He was hearing my name buzzing all the way in Miami so I flew out there and was in the studio with him for about two days. He was like, “Yo, this kid is crazy.” He talked about signing me, and then we fell out of contact. Two years later, [my song] hit the radio. See, I was just buzzing on the streets two years ago. Now I’m buzzing on the radio. Then we found each other again and we just inked [the deal] right then and there. So you know, it was supposed to happen. It was meant to be. Ya Boy, Konvict West, Kon Live.
Ya Boy (right), who recently signed with Akon’s label Konvict, takes a picture with his new boss on the set of a recent video shoot (Photo: D-Ray)
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THA DOGG POUND STILL RIDIN’
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Words by Jee’Van Brown Photo by Tony Chavez
Legendary West Coast duo Tha Dogg Pound has been marking their territory in the rap game for the past fifteen years. During the past decade Daz Dillinger and Kurupt Young Gotti have released over ten albums together, and over ten albums as solo artists, keeping them relevant in the changing times of Hip Hop. Tha Dogg Pound has been through numerous ups and downs with record labels and even internal personal issues. But Daz and Kurupt still manage to stay loyal to their craft and partnership, and they don’t plan to change their gangsta ways anytime soon. Raw and untamed is the only way to be in this pack. Tha Dogg Pound has been out for over fifteen years, and you two continue to put out music and represent for the West Coast. What are you guys currently working on? Daz: Kurupt just dropped Street Life, his solo album. Kurupt: We also dropped the 100 Wayz Dogg Pound album with me Daz, Snoop, and Soopafly. You just put out Keep It Ridin’ not too long ago. How was that album different from your other albums? Daz: It was just mixtape songs. Instead of us doing a mixtape we put a CD out. Kurupt: It’s not even an album, it was just something to warm them up until we dropped 100 Wayz. Daz: Just something to get their stomachs filled. We dropped That Was Then This Is Now, then we dropped Keep It Ridin’ just to keep their bellies full until 100 Wayz. That’s the big one. Kurupt: We’ve been working on this album for about a year and a half now, so instead of dropping a mixtape and having a DJ’s [drops] all over it... Daz: ...we just put it out to let all the DJs get a piece of it. I recently saw the video for “Dogg Pound Gangstaz” and it reminded me of the old N.W.A days. It was real raw. What made you decide to go that route? Most videos aren’t like that anymore. Kurupt: Well I guess it’s against the grain to today’s music, but we don’t make today’s music. Me and Daz make gangsta shit. We can’t change because the music changes; we’re going stay the same. If the people like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t. This is the norm for us. Daz: It was just real creative putting it together. That’s how we feel right now, like the old N.W.A. Kurupt: That’s the roots we came from, so we had these talks before about what we’re going to do with the next Dogg Pound album. Are we gonna go to the clubs? Are we gonna make a lot of records with the 808 on there? Are we gonna hit the strip clubs? We decided to just stick to what we normally do. Let’s just hit them with some gangsta shit. Let’s do the same shit we’re known for instead of trying to change with the times. That’s not our type of music, that’s everybody else’s type of music. It’s good that Hip Hop has grown and gone to another level; that’s a great thing. But you have to remain who you are. That’s how we grew up. No matter how much times change, you have to stay who you are. You can’t be what you’re not. We just decided to stick with our formula and the type of music we like to make. Daz: We’ve got another video coming out called “Another Clip” featuring Soopafly, and we got a remix with M.O.P on it. Kurupt: You thought you saw guns in that video? Wait til you see this one. (laughs) Hip Hop has changed dramatically since you first came out with gangsta rap, and now there’s a lot of sub-genres like “backpack rappers,” and “conscious rappers.” Do you feel like it’s all Hip Hop? Kurupt: The majority of those types of rappers are our homeboys. They’re our folks. Daz: It’s all about being compatible. They like our music we like their music and we all try to get along together. It’s kind of like taking it back to old school Hip Hop were you have to go find the music and just give the artist a chance to really build their company or their brand in order to put their music out. It all goes back to the independent route, because now you own your own record and put it together. Kurupt: You’re the record label now. You both own your own record labels and were once thinking about signing with Cash Money. What’s DPG’s current label situation? Daz: We’re independent. We own our own labels. Kurupt has Pentagon Records. I’ve got a distribution company called Fella Entertainment and a record label called Dogg Pound Records. I’ve got another company called Gangsta Advisory, and another one called DPG Records.
You’ve branched off to do solo projects, but always seem to come back together despite your differences. What makes you two keep coming back together? Kurupt: Me and Daz are like family, so there isn’t too much separation you’re ever going to see from us. All families have disagreements and go through their ups and downs, and sometimes you’ve got to be by yourself. But this thing me and Daz have is forever. It’s not just music. We watched our kids grow, we raised our kids together, we give each other advice on life and things we’ve been going through with our family. Daz: We been doing this for about twenty years. Kurupt: We’ve had time apart and had our ups and downs, but it helped us become the men that we are today. When you first came out, the internet and viral media wasn’t as strong as it is now. How would you say it has helped or not helped you? Daz: I love it because it gets the music out quick to the people. You can post stuff now and it’s online. You don’t even need the TV anymore where you have to pay for video play and stuff. Now other people can grab it and put it on their site if it’s interesting . Kurupt: That’s one of the main reasons why today you can be your own company. Without the internet it would be a lot harder to be your own entity and to have your own record label. You have to deal with the record label, but the internet made it possible to be your own Interscope and be your own Def Jam. Daz: Everybody is getting there own digital deal nowadays. Who are some of the artists you have signed to your labels? Kurupt: I have a couple of artists that I’ve been grooming for the past five to six years; from YA to my little brother Roscoe that’s over there right now with Dr. Dre to Desperado to the G-Hood Fellas. I got a couple of artists I’m working with that I’m trying to get in the game and all of them have their own companies. Daz: Me, I’m just distributing right now. I’m taking everybody’s project and just distributing it cause that makes a lot more money than the record labels. I’m getting into the white collar part of the game. At one point the West Coast dominated the Hip Hop scene. What do you think it’s going to take to get that dominance back? Kurupt: First thing we have to do is to stop beating up all these guys, but it’s hard to do it when they act so funny. (laughs) I’m just playing. Daz: It’s a bunch of bullshit going on, and back in the 90s we scared a lot of executives off. Kurupt: Yeah, cause we wasn’t going for that bullshit. Nowadays people don’t really want to be around all that and I don’t blame them for that. We just come from a different cloth. We take things a lot more seriously than these other dudes do or claim they do. Daz: When we were gangbanging back in the day they wouldn’t even want that on TV, but now everybody is doing it. Kurupt: It’s just going take a lot of good music. It’s going take Dr. Dre’s album, it’s going take Snoop’s project, it’s going take Q’s, it’s going to take Dogg Pound’s, it’s going take Nipsey, Jay Rock, and these new artists that are coming. Plus, it’s going to take a lot of unity from all of us. I saw the track list for the 100 Wayz album and I saw that Lady Of Rage is featured on the album. Are you working on her project? Kurupt: We’re working on Rage’s album right now. She’s ready to get into the gam. Everybody is putting their best foot forward to work on Rage’s album. DJ Premier is helping with Rage’s album. We’re just getting her together and getting her ready to drop another album. Daz, what else are you working on right now as far as production? Daz: Right now I just finished up the 100 Wayz project and I’ve got a solo album that I’m finishing up. I’ve got an artist name Pilot who is about 13 years old, and I’m working on a movie right now with me and Kurupt called Ain’t No Fun. Rght now we’re just really getting into the movie, “Ain’t No Fun If The Homies Can’t Have None,” you know the song. It’s going be real funny and real comical. I’m getting into the business of owning your own music, movies, and pressing them up to distribute them. Any last words? Daz: 100 Wayz is out now. We got the commercial for 100 Wayz. If you want the exclusive cover with the guns and all that you can go to amazon.com, but for the regular version you can get at all the stores like Best Buy. We’ve got a clothing line coming too. //
OZONE WEST // 15
Born and raised in East Oakland, 21-year-old Bobby Brackins embarked on his music career at a young age as part of the group Go Dav. The years of work he put in finally started to pay off when he went solo. today, with his hit single “143” featuring Ray J climbing the charts and helping to land a him a deal with Young Tycoon/Universal Republic, he’s . How many years have you been doing the music thing? I’ve been making music for the past six years. When I got out of high school I was with a group called Go Dav. We had a really big record called “Ride Or Die Chick” that was playing on the radio; it was just a really big street record that buzzed all over the country. I was in a group for a while and then I got out of the group and started working on a solo project and linked up with T-Pain’s management. I’ve really been working on my solo stuff for about four and a half years now. How did you link up with T-Pain’s management? I put out a record called “Skinny Jeans,” which was a big street record. It was really big on YouTube and Myspace and getting millions of hits. A bunch of people were hollering at us, but we felt like T-Pain’s management would be the best situation because he had “Buy You A Drink” out at the time and it was a really big record. So we thought it would be a good fit to try to get something happening. [The business didn’t really work out] but I just talked to him the other day. We’re still cool, no hard feelings. He was busy with [T-Pain’s] project and couldn’t really focus on me. It was a learning experience, you know? You’re not going to win with every situation. It’s all good. I was young just trying to figure out the game. Basically, I learned that you’ve gotta be a priority wherever you sign, you know? What made you decide to move to Los Angeles? I moved to L.A. like two and a half years ago because my producer was out here going to school. I was working with different producers in the Bay, but I felt like my producer, Nic Nac, just had the best music for me. I moved out here to L.A. and ended up signing to [Young] Rell’s label. That was about a year ago and we’ve been working on my solo project ever since. I’ve been flying back and forth between L.A. and the Bay just networking and making music. The L.A. scene hasn’t always been real receptive to Bay Area artists. Has that been an issue for you? No, not at all, honestly. I guess some people’s personalities just don’t mesh well together. I have the type of personality where I can basically get along with anybody. I just got off the phone with [L.A. rapper] Nipsey Hussle a few minutes ago. He’s putting a verse on the “143” song so we can do an L.A. remix. And I just talked to [ ], he sings the hook to YG’s “Toot It and Boot It.” Me and him just made a really crazy record for my album. So, some people’s personalities might not mesh but I’m not really with all that drama, you know. If you’re cool people, you’re cool people and it doesn’t really matter where you’re from. How did the collaboration with Ray J come about for your current hit record, “143”? We were basically just working on my album. I had a different record in mind for Ray J but when I wrote “143” I thought he might fit better on that one. I really felt like it could be a big universal smash record. I played it for my managers and the label and everybody liked it, so I eventually convinced everybody that it was going to be the single we wanted to run with. We had Ray come to the studio and he blessed it, he did his thing on it. He went hard on the record so it sounds super crazy. A lot of people who hear the record think it’s Ray J’s new single. How do you plan to establish yourself as an artist and make sure they know who you are? Well, Ray J’s cool people and he sings on the record, of course. But whenever I perform the record I know when I can just pause and let the DJ drop the beat and the girls know all the lyrics to my verses. So I’m just gonna keep doing shows and interviews and let everybody know that I’m the voice behind the verses on the record. Do you have a second single picked out? Yeah, it’s called “She’s Ready.” It’s crazy; it’s gonna be another really, really big radio record. We’re gonna do a video for it and keep pushing my whole
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solo career. I wrote the whole “143” record and this record as well. I’m really trying to get in touch with the ladies because ladies are my primary fans. Whenever I go to the shows, it’s always the ladies who are screaming my lyrics. So I’m just gonna keep making great songs that both the ladies and the fellas can enjoy. “143” is still climbing up the charts. It’s climbing up the rhythmic radio charts and it’s on the Billboard Hot 100, so we’re gonna just keep letting “143” grow. It probably won’t peak for another couple months but we’re gonna just throw my next single out there in the next month or so. Is your album finished? I’m still working on it, but it’s gonna be crazy. It’s gonna be an album full of hits. There’s just a couple more songs I need to get features on. It features a whole bunch of new and upcoming talent; the people who are gonna really be on top for the next few years. My point of view is that I wanna work with artists who really want to leave a legacy and leave their mark. I’m not gonna have anybody on the album who doesn’t deserve to be on there. As far as production, are you producing as well or mostly working with Nic Nac? I’m writing everything as far as the hooks and verses, and my producer Nic Nac, who used to be in the group with me and produced “143,” produced most of the album. I was in the studio with Polow da Don a couple weeks ago and he said he wanted to do a record on the album, so if that happens, that’d be a real blessing. The album is gonna be a problem. There might be a couple outside beats on there but primarily it’s gonna be me and Nic Nac doing the majority of the work. Being from Oakland, how do you feel about the verdict that came down yesterday in the Oscar Grant trial? I feel like it’s crazy. It’s a real injustice. I don’t understand how you can be on video camera with your back to somebody in handcuffs and get killed and [the killer] gets away with involuntary manslaughter. It makes no sense to me and it just shows how corrupt the justice system can be. Oakland has been through a lot of hardships. I’m only 21 years old and a lot of my friends out there have [been killed]. You know the system is corrupt but you’ve just gotta try to be as positive and hopeful as possible. Hopefully, if more people around the world hear about the situation, the government and police officers will open their eyes and realize that they can’t get away with doing crimes like that. We hear a lot of people talking about this New West movement. Do you feel like you’re a part of that? Definitely. Last week, me, Nipsey Hussle, Ray J, and Warren G did a show together. Warren G is a real OG. When Nipsey went on stage and when me and Ray did the “143” song I felt like people started to recognize the new talent. We’re ready to step our foot in the door. The West Coast has a whole bunch of talented kids in their twenties and in their teens who are really just ready to take their talent to the next level. There’s a lot of kids in L.A. who are working hard to take their talent to the next level and I think within the next five years there will hopefully be more unity on the West Coast. Do you have a label deal yet or are you planning on putting this out independently through Rell’s label, Tycoon Status Ent.? We signed [a major deal] with Universal Republic a few months ago. They started playing my record in the bay on 94.9 and basically it’s been moving ever since. They were the first people to play it on the air and since then it’s been going crazy. There were offers from a whole bunch of different labels but Universal Republic offered me the best situation. It’s a good home, a good situation, and I feel very optimistic about the future. Is there anything else you want to say? Just look out for the next single “She Ready,” and you know, “143” is still climbing up the charts. Call your local radio station and request it as much as possible, go support it on iTunes, and when I’m in your city come out to a show and show me some love. When the album drops, get the album. I just want everybody to support as much as possible because the fans are keeping us alive right now. //
BOBBY BRACKINS TYCOON STATUS
OZONE WEST // 17
THE PACK JOIN THE PARTY
Words by Julia Beverly
(l to r): Stunnaman, Young L, Lil B, & Lil Uno
Would you say you switched up your sound a little bit with this new project, Wolfpark Party? What’s your vision moving forward? Young L: I haven’t been making an effort to switch up the sound, that’s just what happened. I think I’ve just been changing [as a producer] but I wasn’t necessarily trying to change the sound of the group intentionally. You have some tracks on this album, especially the singles, that sound more dance/techno than your previous projects. Young L: Yeah, I think that’s because we got some outside assistance from the leader of the Cataracs. He produced “Wolfpack Party” and “Sex on the Beach,” which have more of a dance flavor. The album is called Wolfpack Party, so it’s designed in a way that people can just put the CD in and keep the party going. Lil Uno: Personally, I’d say I’m pretty consistent. I feel like the album has more of a mature sound. It all depends on the beat, you know, and that’s how I vibe to it. Do you think that expanding your sound is broadening your audience? Young L: I think it could broaden the audience more towards people who like dance music, because it’ll attract those kinds of people to our music. Also, I think it’s just kinda the right time for us. So yeah. Have you been getting more attention from mainstream outlets aside from just the “urban” side of things? Young L: A little bit. It is geared towards some of the electronic dance music kind of thing, so I’m sure there are some new people that fuck with us now. What have you been working on independently of the group? Lil Uno: I’ve been working on this LUT project. It’s not really a group, they’re just like family and we make music together. The LUT stands for Loyalty, Unity, and Teacher. Young L: I am putting out some solo shit. I don’t really want to go into too much detail about it, but I am doing some deep shit. I’ve got a lot of beats on the project The Jacka is doing with Freeway. I’ve also got a lot of songs with Husalah. I’m doing a lot of stuff also in my own camp. We’ve been doing some mixtapes just to keep the online shit poppin’. I could make beats all day but I can’t write raps all day. I do more production than anything. I always wanted to be a rapper but the way my personality is, I had to kind of put that on hold for a while. That’s why I was the last person in the group to start rapping. The way my personality is, I don’t enjoy rapping at all. I’m not really an outgoing person. I felt like I had an opportunity to do it so I should do it, but my first love has always been producing. I like to get in that zone. I can make the most beats from 12 at night til like 3:30 in the morning. That’s
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when I make the most beats. When you go into the studio for a session what are a few things you need to help get you in that zone? Young L: To keep it real, I don’t need anything. I only need my energy. I’m the kind of person who sleeps a lot and I don’t have a lot of energy in general, but when I get to that point later in the day I get more energy. If I’m driving home listening to music and I make some [beats] in the house, you know, all I need is some energy. I’m not a person who needs alcohol or pills or anything like that to make beats. It comes naturally to me. A lot of people expect that Hip Hop groups won’t last too long since they always seem to break up. Even though you all have branched off and done other projects, what do you think has kept The Pack together? Young L: I think one thing that has kept us together was knowing that we couldn’t really be successful without each other at that time. We were aware of the fact that we needed to do a Pack album before any of us could have any success solo. That kept us together, and I think dedication as well. You don’t want the group to think of you as a traitor. And we all know each other very well. Nobody knows us as well as we do. There’s a lot of history that we would be shitting on if we were to break up. The reason we stay together is more on a personal tip than the music thing. Lil Uno: From my point of view, I’d say we’re all in this because we know what we want to do with our music and how we want to go about it. We all have a unique sound, so when we put it all together it sounds good. It’s fun and everybody else likes our music too. But we were friends first before anything. We have a lot of memories. Between the music, the past, and the relationships we’ve formed, we understand each other. I know what makes everybody in the group mad. I know which buttons to push and which buttons not to push. And we all know that about each other because we’ve been together for so long. I grew up with Stunnaman. I met him in seventh grade when I was skateboarding. I met D - Uno - in high school. I spent more time with D in high school than with any other guy that I knew at the time. That’s really how we got to know each other. So I see you’re the one who called in on time for the interview. Are you the responsible one of the group? (laughs) Young L: I just make sure I handle the shit that needs to be handled. If we go to a club, we go to the club promoting our records. So if we go to the club I’ll be the one to pick up Uno on the way. If I have to pick up whoever, I’ll pick them up. I’m just trying to make shit happen. I don’t want to say that [the other members] aren’t responsible but I would say I’m pretty responsible when it comes to handling stuff for my group or for music in general.
You guys were at the forefront of the whole skater style/movement. Young L: We definitely were at the forefront of that when it was poppin’. And it wasn’t that we rode that momentum. We really did that shit, like skateboarding. I still skateboard. We were really serious about our shit. At one point I was in a skateboard group with a few other people and we made a skateboard time and sold it. We were really serious about it. The reason we stopped pushing that movement was because so many people were trying to claim it and we didn’t want to seem like one of those posers trying to claim the movement because it was popular at the time. Lil Uno: I think our style influenced a lot of young artists that are up and coming. We’re not scared to express ourselves, so when other people see that, they feel like because we’re young and not scared and talking nasty, they can do that too. What would happen if the New Boyz and The Pack ran into each other backstage at a show? Do you guys still have problems? Young L: I don’t know. I didn’t really have a problem with them. The only problem was that they said our name in a song; that’s what made it an issue. If I saw them, it would be whatever they wanted it to be. If they wanted a problem there would be a problem. I mean, I don’t really care about the New Boyz like that. I’m don’t really want to beat them up or anything. They’re a lot younger than me. I’m 23. Did you feel like they were kinda taking your style? Young L: There are a lot of groups that are in the same lane as us. Like, The Cool Kids. They were in the same lane as us. We weren’t necessarily making the same music but we were both young and coming out with music that was trendy. I saw an interview with them and they shouted us out. We met other groups like Audio Push who were hella cool and showed love. We met Cold Flamez and they were cool. There weren’t any other groups aside from the New Boyz, now that I think about it, that really took our style to that level like they did. I just felt like there were plenty of opportunities to shout us out or thank us for helping to open the door for them or saying, “We like to listen to The Pack and they’re one of our inspirations.” I know that’s the truth because people had our songs before they had music to jerk to. I know that they at least knew who we were and didn’t say anything to pay respect. So it was an insult to say something about us on a record, on top of kinda, you know, making an effort to steal our swag. That’s how I felt about it and that’s how a lot of people who don’t even know me felt about it. People who were fans of the group were insulted. Now that you’ve stopped pushing the whole skateboard style and movement, what do you see being the next trend? Young L: I really don’t know. That’s a good question, but I don’t think I can predict that. It’s just one of those things that’s gonna happen. People never know who the next hot artist is or how he’s going to sound. The only thing I know for sure about the future of music is that the internet is going to be at the forefront of everything. Lil Uno: I just want people to hear our music and see that we’re the same dudes, just a little more mature. I want people to listen to our music and have fun, because that’s the reason we do it. Usually we just talk about ass shaking and smoking weed [in our music]. I don’t smoke weed and I’ve never actually been drunk, but as far as smoking as partying, you know, that’s what we rapped about. Being fresh, that’s all we ever used to rap about. On this album we have songs like “Unique,” that’s kinda like mood music, and “Worry About Mine,” which is like some classical music. Then we’ve got the track “Superman.” We usually just rap about booties and stuff like that, so this time I felt like we expanded our rapping. Do you think anyone has taken the skinny jeans trend too far? Young L: I’ve got friends that rock the skinny jeans but I don’t even wear skinny jeans. I don’t really go too baggy with it though. I don’t have anything against skinny jeans, but there are some dudes that look like they got their jeans from Hot Topic, the women’s store. And it looks uncomfortable. I don’t have a problem with it if that’s their swag, you know? Some groupies like that kinda thing. That’s cool but it’s not my style. Okay, what else are you working on? Young L: We’re thinking of doing a tape called the Titty Tape. We have a song called “Titties” that came out and was really big on the low. I didn’t think it was going to be that big. It was big on the internet and stuff, so if I release a tape called Titty Tape I think it’ll work. I mean, it’s not going to be all about titties. We’ll put in different shit, but yeah, we might release it. I’ve been talking to some people about it, but I don’t want to say nothing about something that might not come through one hundred percent. So you’re a titty man or a booty man? Young L: I’m a booty man for sure. I mean, titties are cool, but I don’t know. I’m a booty man for sure.
I guess there’s already enough songs about booty. Young L: Yeah, make sure you check out “Titties” by The Pack. It’s real crazy. You were all young when you got signed, right? Were you in high school? Young L: I had just graduated, but two of the group members were still in high school when we got signed. Of course that’s a blessing to have that kind of success at such a young age, but on the flip side, do you feel like you missed out on anything? Young L: I feel like a lot of people that I became friends with are surrounded by music. Sometimes I wish I had friends who don’t do music but still have something in common with me. So, it’s cool, but I think if anything I missed having people around me that weren’t around me for those reasons. A lot of people want to be around me because I make music or because I have jewelry; that kind of stuff. I think it’s hard to maintain who you are as a solid person when so much shit is changing around you. You have all these fake people coming around you who just want shit from you, telling you that you’re hella raw. If you can still maintain your personality through all that, it tells a lot about you. I think the hardest thing for us as a group was just to stay true to ourselves. I could see that for everyone in the group, it was a struggle. And I love them for making it through. It was a struggle for me too, you know. Lil Uno: I’m only 21 and I don’t regret anything at all, but the only thing I wish is that we had a manager when we first formed the group. We didn’t have a manager because [our success] just hit us from left field, you know? Music was our passion and we just wanted other people to hear it. But as far as missing out, I don’t feel that way. I’ve been around the world and I’ve been everywhere I wanted to be and done everything I wanted to do, and it’s all because of music. So I think it’s a blessing. Having achieved all that before you turned 21, what do you want to do with the rest of your life? Lil Uno: I haven’t achieved anything. I mean, to be 21, I’ve achieved a lot, but I wouldn’t mind going gold or platinum. I wouldn’t mind having the number one spot on the Billboard charts. Those are things I wouldn’t mind. But as far as how far I’ve come with The Pack? I’m content. I mean, I’m content with what I have, but I still desire more. I could see myself as a solo artist. I’m sure that everyone [in the group] can, but I’m never going to forget about The Pack because The Pack is what made me. I wouldn’t mind having a platinum album for myself but of course I’d want my group to have one too. The Pack is like the bread and butter. That’s where it all starts. Aside from music is there anything else you plan on getting into? Lil Uno: I plan on opening up a business one day. I haven’t really thought about what kind of business. I’ve been investing my money since I was 14 so by the time I’m about 25 I’m probably going to invest in some kind of company. I have some stocks also. I like investing in stocks. I try to think about investing in things that everybody needs. I thought about getting a couple of gas stations or maybe a barbershop. That’s pretty ambitious. You said you don’t smoke or drink. Why not? Lil Uno: I’ve seen what it does to people. It’s stupid to me. I’m all about the money. I save up every penny I can. I love money, you know? But that’s kind of my high. People get drunk and forget stuff; people get high and they keep chasing that high. I don’t want to spend my money on stupid stuff. Drinking and smoking are not temporary. People get addicted to it because they chase that high. When you drink, people tend to be like, “Damn, if I don’t drink tonight, I’m not going to have any fun.” Why can’t you have fun without drinking? Same thing with smoking. People need a new high every night, you know? They want to smoke more and more to see if they get even higher. And once they can’t get high off weed they’ll try coke. And I know people who do drugs that you never would know do drugs. And it’s stupid and they spend all their money on it. And it gets expensive because when you get high and drunk you eat and eat and buy more and it’s all temporary. There’s no point. I don’t drink or smoke but in this business, everyone expects you to. Especially being a rapper - do people try to pressure you into it? Lil Uno: Oh, hell no. Honestly, me, I’m an only child. I grew up alone so I really don’t care what people say or think about me. It doesn’t bother me at all. If I’m making a decision you don’t agree with, that doesn’t bother me. I mean, hey, if you don’t want to talk to me anymore because I don’t smoke weed or drink then go to hell, you know? That’s how I feel about it. Is there anything else you want to add? Young L: Follow us on twitter at @RealWolfPack. You can follow me at @YoungLPack, and Uno’s is @LilUnoWolfPack. The other members are @2800Stunnaman and @LilBTheBasedGod. We’re on Twitter a lot. // OZONE WEST // 19
Words by Julia Beverly
AFTER AN APPEALS COURT OVERTURNED HIS LIFE SENTENCE, INFAMOUS DRUG KINGPIN 'FREEWAY' RICKY ROSS HOPES TO REDEEM HIMSELF BY TEACHING THE YOUTH THE HARD LESSONS HE'S LEARNED AND SHOWING THEM A BETTER PATH For anyone who isn’t familiar with “Freeway” Ricky Ross, what’s your claim to fame? I’m from L.A. I’m known as a drug dealer. I became one of the biggest drug dealers in South Central. I was the guy that most of the guys who got big got their first drugs from. I was the one they modeled themselves after; guys like Harry O, Bo Bennett, Young Tommy, Pat, the list goes on and on. A lot of [well-known drug dealers] basically modeled their drug dealing pattern after me or copied my format. Some of them got bigger than I was. (laughs) When you see what the drug game has evolved into today, do you approve or disapprove? I mean, I can’t knock anyone for what they do, because I did so much wrong myself. It’d be like Satan throwing rocks at somebody for doing something wrong; he can’t do that. So I can’t knock the game. It has evolved into what it was supposed to come to. But I do feel that my job now is to try to figure out other things for these young guys to do now. I’m trying to show them that there’s a different route and a different path, and I believe I can do that.
around and snitch on you. It’s a dirty business. The drug business is dirty. And a lot of [new drug dealers] don’t know that. When they go into the drug business, they don’t know the ins and outs. They go into it with a one-track mind. They only know one aspect of the game. Me, myself, I went into the game like that. I went in blindsided. I only saw the fame and the fortune; I didn’t see the whole thing. Nobody explained it to me.
Prior to becoming one of the most infamous drug dealers in U.S. history, largely responsible for the crack cocaine epidemic, “Freeway” Ricky Ross was also a star tennis player - but illiteracy prevented him from attending college and pursuing a tennis career (Photo: D-Ray)
A lot of people say the street game isn’t what it used to be. They say there’s no honor amongst thieves anymore. There really never was. It was just that fake make-believe stuff. This was the way it was supposed to go. Really, when you look back at the game, the guys who were at the top always played like that. So that’s a myth? Because I hear that often. Yeah, that’s a myth. I totally agree that that’s a myth. Everybody that got busted, somebody told on them. From the beginning, somebody had to be a snitch. The Feds have been using snitches since the beginning of time. It’s always been there and it’ll always be there. If you’re in the game and you don’t think your best friend is gonna tell on you, you’re crazy. When I look back, the same guys that helped me get into this game are the same guys that told on me. The same guys that’ll tell you, “Don’t snitch!” will turn
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Did you feel like dealing drugs was your only career option? When I was young I was dumb. I was illiterate. I couldn’t read. I had never read a book and never written anything, so the only thing I knew was what I saw in my general area. When I go and talk to the kids - especially in juvenile hall - I explain that when I was coming up, my options were robbery, pimpin’, selling dope, stealing cars, and burglary. Those were the things I thought I had to pick from. I never thought about opening a magazine. I never thought about owning a record company. My options were so limited, and that was because of my [limited] knowledge.
Previously, we published a letter to our readers that you wrote while you were incarcerated. It sounded like you were renouncing what you’d done before and were trying to correct the wrongs. Absolutely. What I did was wrong, and not only was it wrong, but I feel like it was a total waste of my talents. I’m very talented. My personal opinion is that there’s no man living on this planet that is as smart as I am. Did that realization come to you over the years, or was it one moment that made you regret the path you’d taken? It started to come in time, after I started to read books. It first started in the courtroom, when I found myself debating the law with these Harvard and Yale graduates. You defended yourself? Why? My lawyer told me, “Anytime somebody else wants you home more than continue to page W22>
you want yourself home, you’re in trouble.” I took that to heart. I took that to mean, “You should learn the law for yourself.” So you made the decision to defend yourself, and it wasn’t just from a financial standpoint? From a legal standpoint. So now you take a guy who believed he was dumb and illiterate and could never read or write, and you put him in a courtroom and the judge and the lawyers are taking what he says seriously. They disagreed with what I was saying, but when we went to the appeals court, I proved them all wrong. That’s a confidence booster. How did you learn how to read? One A-B-C at a time. My cellmate convinced me that I could read. When I got my indictment, I wanted to know what was on my indictment. I never told my lawyer that I couldn’t read until after I learned to read. He gave me three pieces of paper and said, “Here’s your indictment. Read it and it explains everything you need to know about your case.” That was the first piece of paper I ever read – my indictment. Why were you illiterate? Would you say the school system failed you? That was part of it. The school system was part of it and my mom was part of it. You know what they say, it takes a community to raise a child. And I failed myself. It was my responsibility to get what I needed and make sure that I could read and function. I didn’t find it important in the trades that I was looking at: robbery, burglary, stealing cars, pimpin’ – why do you need to know how to read? Getting a “regular” job was never an option? I didn’t see myself doing that. I didn’t know anybody that had a regular job. I grew up on Figueroa, which was the hoe stroll. My friends didn’t “work.” And you didn’t think that those career paths – robbery, burglary, stealing cars, or pimpin’ – would have a negative outcome? Nah, that was a part of my neighborhood. A kid can become his environment. If you’re around crime, at first you might shy away from it, but if you stay around it long enough, pretty soon you’re accustomed to it. That’s why drugs are so accepted in our neighborhoods. The reason it’s so hard for a drug dealer to quit is because his neighborhood doesn’t despise him. It’s attractive. People look up to you when you’re a drug dealer. You’re rewarded for it. Right. You get to go to VIP. You get all the girls. Everything a person wants can come from selling drugs, so why wouldn’t people sell drugs? What’s the deterrent? I would think a potential life sentence would be a deterrent. Well, they don’t know about the jail time. Most of them don’t know about the Feds until it’s too late. These kids don’t know anything about the Feds and the mandatory minimums. Do you think the mandatory minimums are an effective deterrent? Absolutely not. Totally a waste of time. I’m working on reforming the laws. I’ve teamed up with the NAACP and we’re gonna start a program to reform the mandatory minimum sentences, not only in the Feds but in the state [judicial] systems as well. You don’t think that lowering the mandatory minimum sentences would encourage more people to get into the drug business? Well, [the mandatory minimums] haven’t stopped drug dealing, we know that. We know drugs are more plentiful on our streets. We have more people in prison. So it hasn’t worked for the past 40 years. How would lowering the sentences help? We’re not saying right off the bat that it will help, but we’re saying it won’t hurt. Because it isn’t working. Throwing people in prison and throwing away the key absolutely doesn’t work. I believe we have to come up with programs that really work. We have to start addressing the issues that are at the root, and that’s lack of knowledge and lack of opportunities. These laws have nothing to do with that. I believe we should go with an ounce of prevention instead of a pound of cure. That’s what our government is doing now – throwing pounds and pounds of cures on a problem that for 45 or 50 years has been a waste of money. The drug problem is worse than it’s ever been. Murder rates are up. Snitchin’ is up. Do you think the government has been going to war against the wrong people? Should they be targeting the user and focusing more on prevention instead of locking up the dealers? [The government] should focus on the user and try to prevent people from using. Locking [dealers] up is just not the key. This is not a criminal 22 // OZONE WEST
offense. It’s a victimless crime, because nobody is gonna come in and testify and say, “He stuck a gun in my face and robbed me.” There’s never gonna be a victim in these [drug] cases, so they’re gonna have somebody who’s in trouble already and decided to snitch come in and testify and say he saw you do something to somebody that’s never gonna come to court. Then he’s gonna get off so he can go out and sell drugs again, so it’s just a perpetuation of the problem. Incarceration is definitely not the answer. We’re spending billions and billions of dollars every year on incarcerating [convicted drug dealers]. Just to take me to court cost [the taxpayers] $3 million dollars. Just to take me to court! Then they kept me in prison at $40,000 a year for 20 years. And when you take a drug dealer off the streets, how many other drug dealers come in and take his place? We should be putting all that money into education and prevention. Sounds like the prison system is quite profitable for the private companies that run them. Absolutely. That’s why they only allow the prosecutors, judges, and police officers to invest in them. Everyday citizens can’t invest in the prison industry. All of the prisons in the United States are private. If you’re a government worker, you can invest. It’s definitely a profitable business. In a perfect world, if you were in charge of the government’s War on Drugs, what would you do? I’d start educational programs in the schools. There are basic principles I’ve learned. Anybody in any position can make money if they know these principles. And that’s what I’m doing now – I go all over the country and talk to kids and teach them these principles. For example, 10% of everything you earn is yours to keep. You must save 10% of your money, and that’s the money you’re going to get rich off of. Invest it wisely. You’re working on an autobiographical movie, right? Yeah, I just signed my movie deal. I’m producing it, writing it, directing it, everything. We’re thinking it may take two or three different movies to tell the whole story. There’s a lot that went on in my life. There’s the reporter, Gary Webb, who broke my story in 1995 and then [supposedly] killed himself. There’s the Nicaraguan connection, which involved Oliver North and President Bush and Ronald Reagan. They were all tied into my case. I got my drugs from the Nicaraguans. Then there was the Freeway Task Force, a bunch of cops put together to bring me down. After they started seeing all the money I was making in the drug game, they couldn’t resist. They went from being cops to being robbers and dope dealers themselves. Who’s going to play the role of “Freeway” Ricky Ross? I’ve been talking to Columbus Short pretty seriously. He’s come on harder than anybody else. I spoke to a lot of people about it, though. Nelly, Tyrese, Scarface, Don Cheadle, Larenz Tate, Denzel Washington. Snoop Dogg asked for the role. Mark Wahlberg, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCapro are interested in playing Gary Webb, the reporter. Gary has a pretty substantial story too. He was a prize-winning writer who came up dead. Two shots to the head with a shotgun. Two shots to the head and they ruled it a suicide? I was in jail [when he died] so the only thing I know is that I didn’t do it. I can guarantee you that, because I was in Texarkana. They just did an article about me and Gary Webb and everything in the Pasadena Weekly. How would you explain the alleged CIA/crack cocaine connection to the younger generation? We’ve always heard that the government put crack and guns in the hood. How accurate are those statements? We found out for an absolute fact that my guy, who I got my drugs from, was a Contra. The Contras were backed by the CIA. The CIA knew that they were selling drugs and turned a blind eye. Not only that, but the CIA went to the Attorney General and asked her to change the law. There was a law that said that they must report drug dealing if they knew about it, and they had that law changed so that they didn’t have to report it. Those are facts that the CIA has admitted. What other projects are you working on? I’m doing my record label now. I’m looking for artists right now and I’ve got a group I’m putting together. I’m finna lock down Hollywood. I felt like the movie was the most important part. I wrote a book, also, while I was in prison, but I don’t want to publish my book until I’m already rich. I’m really interested in grinding my way back up so that people won’t be able to say I got a bunch of handouts. I really want to earn my way back up. I’ve also got my social networking website FreewayEnterprise.com picking up. We’re gonna start doing webisodes there, and I’m gonna be working on my clothing line. I’m starting a trucking company. I’m pretty busy. Basically, what I’m doing is using my name and my brand. So many people want to be attached to me, so it’s a way for me to get into so many other businesses.
Oh, and shout out to my girl Wendy Day. How much money did you earn during your career as a drug dealer? I don’t know. I made a lot of money. During the height of my career, for about two years, I made a million dollars every day. And out of that million, $200-300k was mine to keep for myself. Some days, I made $3 million. And the government confiscated all of that when you were arrested? Property, yes. I had bought a lot of property. But the properties that were listed in other people’s names, no. They kept it. So you’re still alright. No, I’m broke right now. (laughs) Well, I was broke [when I got out of prison]. I had to start over from scratch. When I got out of prison I had about $700 to start with. It’s not glamorous to be broke. A lot of people ask me, “Why didn’t you put some of that money up?” But what they don’t understand is that I now know the most valuable thing I have is my mind. Now I’ve learned how to use my mind to get the things I want. Why do you think you became such a successful drug dealer? I modeled myself after the movie Super Fly. I went in to get out. I didn’t want to make drug dealing my career. I wanted to get enough money to start a business and get out. That was my goal. When I first started, it was only to get my car fixed. I needed some wheels for my car and a paint job. $5,000 was my goal. But once I got in and got started, I told myself, “You could get a business out of this.” I wanted to start a body shop, because I was stealing cars at the time. It kept perpetuating as I got smarter, but when I went in, I always had the idea that I’m not gonna be in this forever. You set goals but after achieving them, you couldn’t just walk away? Money is crazy. It’s addictive. It pulls you in, but it also educates you. From the drug business, I learned how to do construction work. I built a motel from the ground up. I started building apartment buildings. I became a contractor. I started a tire and wheel shop. I started a phone store, a beauty salon, a junkyard, a shoe store. [The drug business] makes you educate yourself because it brings you in contact with a lot of people. You have money now, and people are after you because they know you’ve got money to finance projects. “Hey, I’ve got this great idea…” Just like NBA or NFL players, [being a successful drug dealer] brings you in contact with people. I financed Anita Baker’s first album, you know.
that to my advantage. Knowing what you know now, what other career options would you have considered? I probably would’ve went to work for [Wal-Mart creator] Sam Walton or [Nike co-founder] Phil Knight, because I’m just as smart as they are. When I read their autobiographies, I learned that I have the same qualities they have, and some that they don’t. The drug business is a tough business. A guy that can run a drug business can do anything. That’s why I can’t wait to get a hold of these kids on the street when I get my legal business going, because they have things in them that these other [executives] don’t have. Anytime you’re willing to die for something, you’re willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Death is the ultimate sacrifice. The next ultimate sacrifice is going to prison. When you’re taking those two chances, you have the [drive] to pass everybody up. You’re taking chances that Bill Gates would never take. If they told him right now, “If you don’t leave Microsoft, you’re gonna die,” he’s gone. If they told him, “If you don’t leave Microsoft, you’re going to jail for 20 years,” he’s gone. If they told Phil Knight or Donald Trump [the same thing], they’d quit tomorrow. But these young kids won’t quit. They’re gonna keep going no matter what anybody says. What other options do you plan to show street kids? It’s gonna take time. This drug problem didn’t develop in one or two weeks so it’s not going to be solved in one or two weeks. I was there when you had to stand on the corner for two or three days and you might not even make $50. That’s how I started in the drug business. I didn’t start when people were just coming down the street buying crack cocaine. It wasn’t like that. So I know this rebuilding process is gonna take some time. I’m gonna have to keep doing what I’m doing, going city to city, speaking to 50, 100, or 200 kids until I get ‘em to where I want ‘em. I’m gonna start doing webisodes where I’ll be teaching online, so I can start teaching more kids at a time. One of the problems I’m having is that I can’t be with the kids all the time like I need to be. Some of my people tell me that when I’m around they act one way, and then when I’m not around, they do it differently. I have to be able to be in all these different places all the time.
When you look at movies like Blow or American Gangster or even more recent stories like BMF, it seems like every drug kingpin’s story is the same, always with the same results. Do you think the lesson will ever be learned, or do you think the allure of the fame and fortune will always overpower “these [street kids] have things the possible consequences? I don’t think anybody’s really taught the in them that other [executives] don’t have. Anytime you’re willing lesson. There hasn’t been anybody to teach lesson because the guys who could to die for something, you’re will- the teach the lesson are in the penitentiary. Most ing to make the ultimate sacrifice. drug dealers don’t speak out. So I have a rare You’re taking chances that Bill opportunity right now because my life sentence was overturned. I have an opportunity Gates would never take. If they to speak out, and the kids still respect me. told him right now, ‘If you don’t
So was it worth it? Were the 20 years you spent locked up worth the experiences you had during the height of your drug dealing career? Aw, you know, they ask me that question all the time and I really can’t answer. Would I do it all over again today? Absolutely not. If I had the chance to decide, “Okay, you can sell drugs for eight years, make all this money, leave Microsoft, you’re gonna die,’ How was your life sentence overturned? and then you’ve gotta go to prison for 20 he’s gone. he’d quit tomorrow. years,” no, it wouldn’t be worth it. I wouldn’t They said I was a three-striker because I had do it at all. I wouldn’t sell drugs now because But these young kids won’t quit. sold drugs all over the country. When I pled now I know that I don’t need it. I never They’re gonna keep going no mat- guilty, I pled guilty to all these different cases needed drugs. At the time, I felt I did. But at [in different states]. When I got arrested the ter what anybody says.” the same time, I love who I am today. Right second time, they counted it as three strikes. now, I’m in love with myself, absolutely. I love What I discovered is that my first conviction being me and I know why these other guys wanna be me. I know why they was a “continuous criminal episode,” meaning, even though I sold drugs in use my name. I couldn’t be mad at them for wanting to be me. Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Los Angeles, and all these other places, I had never been brought to justice. So I argued that my case was the same as a kid The rapper Rick Ross actually said on the record in an OZONE interview standing on the street corner who sells crack to every car that drives by. that he didn’t take his name from you. You don’t believe that? Every time he sells to one of those cars, is that a separate conviction? My Well, he said [previously] that he did take it. But, I mean, it doesn’t matter. lawyer and the judge all said I was wrong. They thought that by being in He didn’t just come up with the name Rick Ross out of the sky. My name different states it qualified as separate criminal episodes. The appeals court was a household name all over the globe. In 1995 when Gary Webb broke said, “No, he’s right. It’s only one criminal episode. You have to bring him the story, I made the front cover of every major newspaper in the country, to justice, punish him, then let him out. Then he has to go commit another and everywhere else too. All the countries that don’t like America put me crime [for it to be considered a separate criminal episode]. Those are the on the front cover to blast America, and the countries that do like America grounds on which I got my [life sentenced] reversed. I served just about 20 still put me on the front cover. So, it is what it is. But I understand why he years; fourteen and a half years, then five and a half years. did it. It’s somewhat flattering. For somebody to name themselves after you is one of the greatest honors you could have. It’d be like a mother How did you maintain hope while serving a life sentence? coming up and saying, “I wanna name my son after you.” To have a grown I never thought they could keep me in prison. The fighters don’t ever give man name themselves after you is even more flattering. But at the same up. I even contemplated escaping. That was definitely an option in my time, there’s a way it should be done. There’s a respect level that should be mind. I talked to the escape artists all the time and told them, “Count me in there; maybe even some compensation for the sweat and the tears that if you come up with a plan.” You have a lot of options available. You always were put into it. I marketed my name. I worked with the newspapers and want to keep hope alive that one day you can get out. the TV stations (laughs) to get it out there. It’s no accident that my name became known. I wanted my name to be known. Once I was in prison and How can people get in touch with you? everybody felt that I was finished, I started coming up with ways I could use They can contact my assistant Tiffany at 910-978-5133 or visit my website at OZONE WEST // 23
Kendrick Lamar Overly Dedicated After the success of The Kendrick Lamar EP, Top Dawg Entertainment rapper Kendrick Lamar returns with Overly Dedicated, a 14-song project where the rapper formerly known as K-Dot continues delivering vivid lines, describing the life of a good kid from Compton. On tracks like “The Heart Pt. 2” and “Ignorance Is Bliss,” Lamar pours emotion into every bar as if his life depended on it. “Alien Girl” and “Opposites Attract” depict the ups and downs of male and female relationships, while “Growing Apart” and “P&P 1.5” are other standouts. O.D. is a smooth listen from beginning to end. – Randy Roper Terrace Martin & Devi Dev Here, My Dear Brought to you by rapper/producer Terrace Martin and radio personality Devi Dev, Here, My Dear is a 23-track presentation that tackles love, sex and relationships through T Mac’s musical direction. My Dear features an all-star cast -- Snoop Dogg, Murs, Kurupt, Dom Kennedy, Kendrick Lamar, U-N-I, Wiz Khalifa -- that allows Martin to take a backseat on rhymes. He still remains in the driver’s seat of the project’s production, where Martin’s jazz background takes his music beyond the realm of Hip Hop beats into compositions that would make Mozart envious. Along with Devi Dev and Terrace Martin’s skits, where the two discuss love and relationships to further develop the EP’s theme, Here, My Dear is musically and conceptually a Hip Hop gem. – Randy Roper Yukmouth Free At Last To celebrate being freed from jail, veteran rapper Yukmouth released his sixth album Free At Last on his own label, Smoke-aLot. As part of his celebration, Yukmouth called every artist he’s ever met to lay a verse on this album. Free At Last has a long list of guest features, including Jay Rock, Ya Boy, London, L.E.P. Bogus Boys, Gudda Gudda, Tity Boi, Messy Marv, Roccett, 211, and Curren$y. Despite sounding more like a compilation than a solo album, the first half of Free At Last is decent. The album’s quality wanes as it plays, but Yuk shows glimpses of still being capable of making good music. – Randy Roper
TiRon MSTRD MSTRD, the highly anticipated follow up mixtape from TiRon, is just as dope and soulful as its condiment-flavored predecessor, Ketchup. In just 10 cuts, MSTRD contains boy-meets-girl tales (“Ms. Right” & “Boys & Girls”), rags-to-riches stories (“The Richers” co-starring Asher Roth and Blu), and school yard flashbacks of a kid just trying to be cool (“Down”) that everyone can relate to. For those who love introspective rhymes over Hip Hop soul samples, TiRon appears to have that sound mastered. – Randy Roper Pac Div Don’t Mention It After releasing one of 2009’s best mixtapes in Church League Champions, the Pac Div trio of Like, Mibbs and BeYoung are back with another mixtape good enough to be an album. From “Birds” featuring Pill to “Broccoli” to “Don’t Forget The Swishers,” these Cali emcees have a way of making same old same topics like women, money and smoking weed sound fresh. Overall, Don’t Mention continues to showcase Pac Div’s strong lyrical ability over diverse and outstanding production, proving again that they are arguably the best new group coming from the Golden State. – Randy Roper Game & DJ Skee The Red Room If you actually sit through all 400 bars and 20 minutes of Track 1 on Game’s newest mixtape, you might not have the stamina or attention span for the other tracks on The Red Room. But if you make it through, you will come across a couple gems, like Nipsey Hussle and Game trading bars over Fat Joe’s “Slow Down (Ha Ha),” Wayne and Birdman showing their love for blood on “Everything Red,” and Pharrell’s assist on “It Must Be Me.” Unfortunately, the project is overall inconsistent. A large chuck of The Red Room is obviously a platform to showcase Game’s Black Wall Street artists, but at this point in his career, you’d expect more from an artist with three solid albums, looking to build momentum for his next LP The R.E.D. Album. – Randy Roper
Lupe Fiasco Event: Steppinâ€™ Lasers Venue: The Warfield City: San Francisco, CA Date: May 4th, 2010 Photo: D-Ray
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Ozone West #85