He's now released 200 Tree Rings, his vinyl full-length on the New Los Angeles label. This interview by Kristina Benson." /> L.A. Record


June 10th, 2014 | Interviews

It’s not that comedy is not my culture—that shit is a part of me because like, maybe that allows me to have a light sense of things from my perspective. I can find things funny that people don’t find funny. Maybe i’ll just see it different. There’s some humor in everything. Chris Rock was saying, ‘Nothing is off limits if it’s funny.’ If it’s funny, it’s funny. Hip-hop IS a culture—it is. I mean that because like when I’m with certain friends I’m like, ‘Did you hear this album, this beat tape, this interview with Ghostface …’ We talk about all these things, and when I’m out walking around I’m like ‘Look at that ill piece on the wall,’ or if I’m at a spot and people start dancing and doing break shit … as a culture it provided morals. Comedy is a culture, too, but when I use the word culture for comedy it’s like … the scene. Even comedians have a culture outside of that. If you’re religious, you might be like ‘I’m a Muslim’ but that’s outside of the fact you might be a rapper or a producer. That’s what defines your morals … I have a hard time doing a lot of shit cause the morals of both of those worlds say don’t play yourself, don’t be a biter, don’t be a hack, be real, be true … as corny as ‘keep it real’ sounds, I feel like that’s the most important thing sometimes. I want to make money but just to do normal shit—not to drive a blinged out weinerdogmobile, just do normal shit. Just walk around normal and have respect from your community, and giving back, and showing that you care about people. That’s the main goal of any real nigga—to wanna live comfortably, to want to give back, to have respect from people and do quality shit. And when you have all those morals, you’re going to get a lot of crazy weirdos who don’t understand that. I worked with all kinds of famous people, like I’ll be in store and some famous person comes up and talks to me normal—my friends are like, ‘You know them?’ We worked together, but maybe it didn’t work out cuz of something they wanna do I didn’t agree with. I’ve turned down like so much money where people are like ‘What’s wrong with you?’ But at the end of the day I knew I’m not going to feel good about myself. I feel even better about those decisions now. It’s a longer path to take but I feel better—I’m more in control of my creativity and what I want to do. So even though it’s crazy, it’s fun crazy. People might not even understand—I do this delivery job thing not because I’m trying to move up. I just get to get the cash, but when I go to work I’m not unhappy at all. It’s chill. And like, I don’t make that much money but that shit is going to come. You just gotta be patient and I have time to do whatever shit I want to do. Even during delivery there might be an opportunity—maybe a crazy art show I wanna run by. I can drop a delivery, park, run in, check it out, talk to people and go back out and that’s the cool thing. So much stuff happens while I’m out driving. I still feel like I’m out doing shit.
Is there a deeper meaning in ‘Presidents Rap’? Some secret message to figure out?
The funny thing with the ‘Presidents Rap’ is it’s a combination of things. Not that no one has done a song rapping about presidents. I don’t want to rhyme about what they did. It’s more just like … how many people know all these names? Who these people are? We’re supposed to learn this in school, and I don’t know half these characters. And how would this advance your life or anything? The beat is chopped from this Fabio song. So much weird synergy—you never know when you get something if it’s going to lead to something else. I heard it at Amoeba—it’s him like being romantic and giving tips for being with the ladies. I’m like, ‘Lemme get this CD, this is too great.’ Then when I was at my friends’, we were talking about these presidents and we were trying to see if you remembered them. I had like ten of them, and not even in exact order. We looked it up, like, ‘Wow, I never even heard of this dude.’ By the time I left his house and was driving home I had this beat in the CD player and was laughing to myself like ‘George Washington … John Adams …’ How tight would it be to use the names as rhymes? And put as little words as possible in it to rhyme? That shows ability of rhyming—it’s not about having exact rhymes like ‘cat’ and ‘bat,’ it’s the way you say something makes it rhyme since it’s on the same rhythmic landing. I always say to people that is like my Sir Mix-A-Lot ‘I Like Big Butts.’ Like, ‘Oh, “Presidents Rap”! If you know Koreatown Oddity you might know that song.’ That could be my radio single if that’s what I wanted to do. Stones Throw is going to put out ‘Presidents Rap’ as a 45 and Vex Ruffin has done a remix of it that will be on the other side. I want people to hear the remix side.
What’s happening on your new album?
That’s going to be pretty crazy. It’s kind of like a simple thing, Kone and the homie Luis who works at Record Surplus with House Shoes—who is working there every Monday—they wanted to start a label. They started New Los Angeles and the wanted me to be the first project on it, vinyl and tape. It just kind of came together. This is my first project having different producers. I got two joints on there but the rest is other people. I pretty much got everyone I wanted, which is crazy. Like House Shoes is on there, that’s already crazy to me, Jeremiah Jae, Ras G, Ashtray Jenkins, he’s like a younger cat, just turned 21—Kone is doing the intro and outro. And my boy Lukecage, from Mothership Collective, which is Lukecage and J.Swift. I don’t know what my sound is but it’s hip-hop. I describe it as just un-watered-down hip-hop. Original loops, not trying to loop up the same records everyone is doing. My favorite MC is Kool Keith. He’s had sort of a huge chunk of my life in relation to hip-hop shit and influence. The first time I heard Kool Keith was Dr. Dooom, ‘Apt. 223.’ That was at Workmen’s on Melrose cuz I went to Fairfax High. So we walked down the street—that was when Melrose had mad record stores, like Fat Beats of course and Penny Lane, DMCs or something—and we’d see Kool Keith on Melrose and he would chop it up with us. We were just young kids who knew who Kool Keith was and he was always cool—mad cool!
You have a screenplay called Driving While Black. How do you tell the story of driving while black?
Driving While Black is actually something that me and a friend Paul Sappiano who is a director—he did The Boys’ and Girls’ Guide to Getting Down, and I’m in that movie. That shit is like a cult movie. I rhyme in it—when the director heard my voicemail, my voicemail had one of those raps like ‘THIS IS MY PHONE NUMBER.’ So he was like ‘Could you come up with a rhyme for this?’ And I just did it. I have some small parts in the movie but you remember those scenes. I had the full Adidas warm up suit and had my barber cut this crazy design in my head kid of like before it got all hot again. We’re just trying to get the finances for Driving While Black but hopefully this year we’ll shoot it. I’m going to be a delivery person in the movie—it’s pretty much about police harassment. There’s not been actually a comedy about that but that gives you real information. Boys and Girls Guide is like is an instructional and this will be like an instructional too. You’ll hear me telling you like this is one thing you should not do!
Do you get pulled over a lot?
When I’m at work I don’t get messed with at all! Which is interesting. I don’t know if it’s a kind of aura I’m putting out when I work, cuz I’m at work and I feel comfortable? But if I’m doing anything else—gonna to hear somebody play—the cops may be behind me checking my plates.
These researchers at some university—I forget which—did this study where they found that if a car had a Black Panthers sticker on it, it got pulled over more then if it didn’t.
Amazing experiment! The car I’m driving had a sticker in the back that says ‘Proud parent of U.S. Air Force.’ When we got the car the sticker there. I think that sticker helps me. This car has tint on it too which I was really worried about, cuz that’s a line from the movie: ‘If your skin is too dark, any tint is too dark!’
So it’s the rules for driving while black?
There’s a story line where it’s me just living a normal life and we talk about my experiences young to old and why the psychology of black men may be this way, and then we go into the psychology of the cops—and then there’s a storyline where these thigns happen, like, ‘See, watch this?’ And we start a scene over again to show why that scene is messed up.
What is the psychology of cops?
Cops, something could have happened to them. If they’re racist or discriminating, something could have happened to make them say, ‘I don’t like this type of person. And I’m gonna enforce that on these people.’ And to a black man, in my culture—especially since hip-hop is my culture—we grew up saying fuck the police! J Dilla, fuck the police! N.W.A., fuck the police! It’s always been there. Every experience I had, I can count three cops that were actually cool to me when I was on the street. Every cop since I was a kid has been a dick.
I can’t believe someone hasn’t made this movie already.
Yeah—obvious but people just wanna make money is what is it is. They don’t know if something like that is gonna for sure make money. People who aren’t risk takers wait til someone does something, and then everything does what they’re doing.
You have to be the second person in. The first one makes it, the second breaks out.
I need to use that—that a great statement. That is real. The first one is the guinea pig. I’ve actually done a few shows where maybe it was the first time they did a show, and maybe it wasn’t promoted that well and it didn’t have a flyer—it was fun and really good but … and then the second one, they got the flyer and it was more packed and damn! Fucked up—why I gotta be the guinea pig?


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