In the late 80s and early 90s, Ruthless Records was a premier label for Hip-Hop, especially on the West Coast. With the emergence of Eazy-E, and N.W.A., the label produced the rawest form of Hip-Hop ever presented at that time.
Instrumental in that movement was Above The Law, on of the groups on the iconic label. Consisting of Cold 187um, K.M.G., Go Mack, and Total K-Oss, the group was a self-contained unit of lyrics, production, and DJ’ing. Cold 187um was one lyricist as well as the main producer behind the group’s funk-laced sound. Even though Dr. Dre received most of the production credit for their first LP, Livin’ Like Hustlers, 187 says the group laid the foundation to what has become a string of Platinum, and Gold status albums.
Although Cold 187um reached a level in the industry that most of us only dream about, he was convicted in 2004 of conspiring to traffic 100 pounds of marijuana and served 105 weeks in a federal institution.
The time spent in prison did not sour 187’s view on the world of music he flourished in. He does however have a story to tell from his perspective. Now, the South Central don has a fresh start on life, and new insight on the trends in music. Cold 187um took time out to discuss his views on the current state of Hip-Hop as well as his views on the legendary Dr. Dre.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel like the that artistry has disappeared from rap while you were in jail?
Cold 187um: One thing that’s missing in Hip-Hop is people putting themselves out there. Everybody bases it on the statistics or the masses, or the latest instead of saying, “This is how I feel about it.” I think as an artist, I can paint the picture and still entertain. Everybody can’t do that. It’s because of what I’ve been through in my life, being a hustler, and getting into the music industry, falling, and getting back up that I have something to say. Also being a veteran as well. I have a lot to say from my point of view because I saw a lot.
AllHipHop.com: Where do you think that disconnect came with old and new school?
Cold 187um: What happens with a lot of G-cats is that they’ll say, “Young people don’t have nothing to say.” They do, but they just don’t know how to do it because they’re young. Instead of them looking at us and embracing us, we have to start talking to each other in order to be a bigger and better industry. For me, I try to talk to people instead of at people. I’m not a teacher, I’m not a preacher, I’m a hustler, and I’ve been through some stuff from a real side of life. I want to tell people something that will help them. I think it’s very important to put yourself on the record, as yourself, if you’ve been through something. If you’re a fake mother f***er that’s looking outside the s**t, you shouldn’t talk about it.
AllHipHop.com: So what in your opinion is the major problem in Hip-Hop?
Cold 187um: Some of it to me is surface level. A lot of it is about the tennis shoes, the chain, the car, the b***h with the big booty. A lot of it has a little substance, but it started becoming just about that. It didn’t have a balance. Hip-Hop has always been about bling, girls, and shining. It’s just that in the beginning, you had diversity. You had people talking about bling, other people talking about political s**t, certain people talking gangster s**t, and a certain amount talking the abstract s**t. The beautiful part of Hip-Hop is that we’re the only form of music that can have one form and have all these types of styles in it. It doesn’t turn into something else. That was the beautiful part about the industry that was built. When I looked at what cats were doing, I found the problem. It’s not it’s bad, it’s just that only one aspect. It’s not like in the 80s you could go from De La Soul to N.W.A.
Above The Law – “Murder Rap”
AllHipHop.com: Livin’ Like Hustlers was easily one of the best, well put together, albums on Ruthless Records. That album took you through a journey.
Cold 187um: We were one of the first groups that got banned talking from a real perspective. We were the ones who got banned for saying some real s**t to youngsters.
AllHipHop.com: Switching gears to the production, many don’t know that you were instrumental in the production of that album. Even though Dr. Dre is listed as the producer, what was your contribution?
Cold 187um: I brought Livin’ Like Hustlers to Ruthless Records done. The whole blueprint to Livin’ Like Hustlers was done. I had 75 percent of that record done. All me and Dre did was reproduced it because it was done on eight and sixteen track on the demo. We went and took every sample that I used, every groove that I used, and re-cut everything. To me, Dre was more of an engineer on that aspect of the album. Now there were songs that we produced together were like “Freedom of Speech,” “The Last Song,” “Kickin’ Lyrics,” and I think “Another Execution.” Everything else was done. I learned a lot about making Hip-Hop records from Dre. The thing about it was people don’t know that because I allowed myself to learn at that level. The theory, the production, the creation; I was just as much a part of it as Dre was. Dre didn’t hold my hand. Above The Law’s concept and the things we rapped about was already done.
“Dre did take, and was influenced by the things that I was doing at
Ruthless Records. I don’t care what nobody says. Even he would tell
you. That’s why he took me under his wing.”-Cold 187um
AllHipHop.com: Do you think that hurt you in hindsight to allow Dre to take the credit for it?
Cold 187um: Definitely. It’s a bittersweet thing. It’s just like saying if you become and understudy or and intern for somebody and it blows up. Then that person wins from it, but you’re in the game now. So yeah it hurt me, but it helped me a lot. It enabled me to have the great knowledge that I have now about making records. It was free, I didn’t have to go to college for it. I’m Dr. Dre’s understudy, but I don’t get the credit. People don’t know that when It comes to doing all [the production] I’m sharp as he is. I was taught by him, how to make records.
AllHipHop.com: You coined yourself “The originator of the G-Funk style” and you guys were doing that type of production right after Dre left Ruthless.
Cold 187um: You gotta realize that Black Mafia Life was cut before The Chronic. Black Mafia Life was cut when N***az For Life (Efil4zaggin)was cut. There’s no conception of The Chronic during this era. The thing that happened was we were in a transition leaving Sony to go to Warner Brothers. The Chronic came out [in stores] before Black Mafia Life. But it was done, when N***az for Life was wrapped. When you run them next to each other, The Chronic is more of Hip-Hop funky album. Black Mafia Life is a funk album. It’s a straight gooney, ill, dark, grim, parliament meets Isaac Hayes meets Willie Hutch meets the Isley Brothers meets Above The Law.
AllHipHop.com: So what does that say about Dre and his claim on the G-Funk style?
Cold 187um: Dre did take, and was influenced by the things that I was doing at Ruthless Records. I don’t care what nobody says. Even he would tell you. That’s why he took me under his wing. It was taken from me, used, and it was ran with. I benefited none from it. I ended up being the guy in the middle of the room trying to convince everybody that I’m the guy that put it into place.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of producers were saying that Dre does take talented producer’s ideas at times.
Cold 187um: The whole thing about it is that I’m a real musician. To me it is about giving. I didn’t have a problem with him trying things that I did or any of that. Here’s my problem. When you don’t get on TV and say ” I was influenced by this person or that person.” I don’t like when you don’t pay homage to the guys that you get it from. That’s what I don’t like. I love Dre. I don’t have no problems with Dre. He’s talented, he’s not wack, he’s not a sucker or any of that s**t. My whole point is give me mines homey. I respect what you do, and what you did for me. Dre helped me dog. I don’t like what he does as far as West Coast Hip-Hop is concerned. I don’t like how he turned his cheek and went the other way. But, I can’t say nothing about him as a producer and what he’s able to do.
“The thing when you talk about the West Coast is that we don’t have that pride no more. I do, but us as an industry don’t. I’m not going to sugar coat it for the West. It’s like when anything gets bad everybody goes for themselves.”
AllHipHop.com: So, you feel Dre turned his back on the West?
Cold 187um: I know where we all come from so I can say that. You’re not [helping people out] so to me you’re not doing enough. That doesn’t make you wack or nothing, that’s just the decision and the position that you want to play in the game you’re in. Cool! It makes you more so look like you’re a person that will leave the ghetto but when the ghetto needs help, you won’t go build a community center for the kids. It’s not the time for us to be like that.
AllHipHop.com: What’s your impression of West Coast Hip-Hop now?
Cold 187um: I think the West Coast Hip-Hop is suffering because we don’t have a support system. The saddest thing I realized when I got home was the “West Side Wednesday” on a West Side radio station. When I was down South they played Southern music all day, and then had like a West Coast hour. I respect that. I come home and I should hear West Coast all day. That’s how it should be. I think because of that, a lot of us aren’t inspired to do us anymore. A lot of us end up wondering and second guessing ourselves. We end up acting like something that we’re not. Game is great and Snoop is phenomenal. I hear people disrespect artists where we come from for no reason.
Above The Law – “Black Superman”
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, when I was coming up, we loved West Coast Hip-Hop. We would learn about L.A. life without actually having to go there.
Cold 187um: That’s the beauty of Hip-Hop. How you gonna tell me to switch it up when all the other places are being like themselves? Hip-Hop is about moving people in other places but how you do it where you’re from. It’s about being relevant everywhere else, but you’re doing it how you do it. It’s no fun if you come to L.A. and hang out with me and hear the same thing you’ve been hearing in New York.
AllHipHop.com: How influential was Eazy-E’s death to the decline of the West Coast?
Cold 187um: You gotta realize, Eazy had a real love for the music. But he wasn’t a music person, he was a business man. You can tell a person like Dre loves the money, because he’ll jump on whatever is happening. Eazy found groups like Above The Law, Bone Thugs N Harmony, a few of the Black Eyed Peas. He signed a lot of people based on how he felt about what they were doing. When you lose that, hell yeah, it was a nose dive. Death Row was at it’s point going down. When Dre moved on and did Aftermath, he really didn’t have any concern. There’s a reason why East Coast rap still has an industry. When Russell Simmons was at that breaking point, Puffy emerged, then Rocafella came, then Murder Inc. A lot of those guys cared about East Coast music. [The West Coast] had two conglomerates. One dismantled [Ruthless Records] and one got taken over by somebody’s wife [Eazy-E’s wife] and it was never seen again.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah but that was when they had ownership over the music right?
Cold 187um: The thing when you talk about the West Coast is that we don’t have that pride no more. I do, but us as an industry don’t. When Rap-A-Lot was at it’s height, a lot of other labels came out of the South through the emergence of them. Nobody out here on the West Coast protected the legacy of a Eazy-E, Ice-T, N.W.A. There’s a few of us who try to preserve it. I’m not going to sugar coat it for the West. It’s like when anything gets bad everybody goes for themselves. You can’t give your record to a DJ out here and him just support it because you’re from the West. You got to have Akon, T-Pain, or these type artists on it in order for them to say it means something. But guess what, they ain’t from Compton, Long Beach, or Los Angeles.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think the West coast music is coming back around though?
Cold 187um: Life is full circle. Other people will come back and bring that real along. There has to be a cause and effect. It has to be put out there with truth in it. Some people have to get real about what they stand for.
AllHipHop.com: When you say truth in it, do you think that’s lost in the music?
Cold 187um: As Hip-Hop artists are we just allowing people to believe our bulls**t? I’m a ex-con. I’m not proud of it. Those were the worst times of my f***ing life. I don’t get up there and brag about being a tough guy, when all I did was hurt everyday and miss my family. I was a angry motherf***er everyday. That’s not fly. But understand one thing; if your Mom is on crack, the block is one solution, it’s not the solution. People get on TV and advertise about the block and how tough they are and ain’t never did a day in the streets. Stop lyin’ and tell then your raps are just like Scarface the movie. Tell em’ you’re talking about somebody else’s life. Drug dealing ain’t fly. I’ve been in fights, shoot outs, and been indicted. Shining was good. I liked throwing five or ten stacks on the table for some nice hot jewels. But, sitting in that box for it, I hated it. That’s a part of it. So if you’re looking to get into it because the rapper is doing it, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. We need to always be real. But we also have a duty to stand up and tell why conditions are like that.