I remember the first time listening to Above The Law in the very early 90’s. Launched into the scene by Ruthless Records after the world renown success of N.W.A, Above The Law was a potent mix of hard-core street and political raps over sampled funk and soul music from the 60’s and 70’s with front-man Cold187um (Big Hutch) leading the way with a high-pitched and energetic flow. KMG (who passed away in 2012) was Cold187um’s counter-balance with a smoother and more laid back delivery often putting the group’s opening and finishing thoughts on a record. Later, the group would pioneer the G-Funk sound and this led to a feud with Dr. Dre, who many give the credit for its creation. Dre leaving Ruthless Records for Death Row certainly didn’t help the situation, but things did come to a head on Kokane and Cold 187um’s track, “Don’t Bite The Phunk.”
Fast-forward to 2015, many were shocked and surprised when Dr. Dre revealed the track-listing to his Compton album which revealed a song called “Loose Cannons” featuring Cold 187um and Xzibit – especially since nobody had any idea that the two had reconciled after 20 plus years of differences. If that wasn’t enough, it was revealed that the good doctor returned the favor by agreeing to appear on Hutch’s own upcoming album, The Black Godfather, due out this August. So what’s the story on this reunion? Will there ever be any unheard Above The Law songs featuring the late KMG released? And what’s the whole premise behind The Black Godfather? Well, the legendary producer/rapper from Pomona, CA sat down with AllHipHop.com at his studio to give us all of the exclusive answers.
AllHipHop.com: Sometimes you go by Big Hutch and other times Cold 187um. What are you officially calling yourself these days?
Big Hutch: I always use them both and the reason why is because of my family’s legacy with the Hutch name. My uncle is Willie Hutch and my dad, the writer and producer, is Richard Hutch. I try to incorporate the “Hutch” in my projects, a lot of people in the industry know me as that, and I will always be Big Hutch. Cold 187um is what I was in the beginning and that’s the brand that I created with Above The Law – both names will always be with me.
I remember being a teenager and listening to Livin’ Like Hustlers for the first time and hearing you start off “Untouchable” with, “First let me explain that I’m a hustler and here’s an example of what a hustler must do.” You said it with such power. Can you still deliver with that high pitch authority?
Big Hutch: It’s still there and you’ll hear it on the album. As Cold 187um “The Black Godfather,” you will hear all of the styles that I’ve done in my career with Above The Law and my solo projects. This album is nothing like I’ve ever done before but at the same time it’s something that I’ve always done. You get the high-pitched “Untouchables” flow, the hard-core “Murder Rap” flow, the “Black Superman” militant flow, it’s all rolled up together. None of that has changed.
I ask that because as we get older our voices change. I’ve heard Ice Cube say that he can’t hit that old “Dopeman” pitch with his voice anymore. It happens.
Big Hutch: I feel that I still have a pretty broad voice but I’ve matured more as far as content and focusing on the way I make records – everything else is still the same. I still believe that you need to give it your all like when you first started recording. That’s how much I love the music business. I respect both the business aspect and the creative side of it, but I really try to hone in on the creative side. I think that’s what made us as a group, a bunch of teenagers out of Pomona who hooked up with guys from South Central and Compton, a force of energy. I still try to practice that same energy as best as I can.
Let’s talk about Livin’ Like Hustlers, the first album by Above The Law. You guys had “Untouchable,” “Menace To Society,” “Murder Rap, “Another Execution” and other outstanding tracks.
Big Hutch: We had two songs go number one in the Billboard Hot Rap Singles category, back to back, on that album (Note: "Untouchable" and "Murder Rap").
My favorite on that album is “Untouchable.” I love that “Light My Fire” sample.
Big Hutch: That was the Jackie Wilson version. We used funk, jazz, and hip-hop and rolled it all up into one.
The remix was even harder with that cold killer bassline and drums added.
Big Hutch: (Mimics the bassline) That was dope. We shot the video to that version. A lot of people think we should have shot one for both versions. Back then you had to make a choice because of budgets and videos were really expensive. It’s not like now where you can make a bunch of videos.
I have “Murder Rap” with the Ironside sample and “Another Execution” tied for my second favorite.
Big Hutch: I think what was cool about “Another Execution” was the different elements we used for it. It had a reggae vibe, a funky James Brown produced sample (Note: Lyn Collins’ “Do Your Thing”), and Dre and I built around all of that – it was just phenomenal at the time. We recorded Livin’ Like Hustlers in 1989 although it didn’t come out until a year later. The things we were doing on records such as that were incredible. The bite that “Another Execution” had was crazy for hip-hop at that time.
And then after that album you guys had hits like “V.S.O.P,” “Call It What You Want” with 2Pac and Money B, “Black Superman” and “Kalifornia.”
Big Hutch: Right. Back then we just kind of made records. Now it’s more industry orchestrated. The records you mentioned kind of morphed into being what they were because of our belief systems creatively. It wasn’t so much of tampering as far as A & R’s and executives were concerned because Eazy-E let us do our thing. That’s why those records were so phenomenal and special, Eazy-E allowed us to do them. I don’t think we would have had the impact that we did on the industry without the kind of backing that Eazy gave us. Vocally Pimpin’ was the EP that we dropped in between Livin’ Like Hustlers and Black Mafia Life and that was another great record too. Then came Black Mafia Life and Uncle Sam’s Curse and the process of G-Funk evolving from those records. I don’t think we could have made those records without having someone behind us saying, “Just do you.”
One thing I loved about the group was the energy you brought with your high-pitched raps and KMG (RIP) was your perfect counter-balance with the calm and cool style.
Big Hutch: KMG was what allowed our group to be human. Because of him, people were able to relate to us as if we were the homies next door to them. It’s like a set of brothers. You have one that’s off the hook and the other who is mellowed-out. It was a ying-yang thing with myself and KMG. We approached songs with our styles but we were always on the same page. It was a phenomenal ride that I had along with KMG, Go Mack, and DJ K-oss. It was incredible to make records with the people that you grew up with. Growing up, I did a lot of things on my own – especially learning the music side because of my family. But when I got caught up in the streets, those were the guys that I ran with. Then for all of us to make music together after running the streets together was really incredible.
Did you know from the get-go that KMG was the person that you wanted to record with?
Big Hutch: Oh, definitely. I’ve tried to make music with other cats but the first song I made with KMG was magic, and that was “Murder Rap.” We may have been in high school when we cut that song – it was around December of ’87. We got our deal around eight months later with Ruthless. On our original demo we had “Murder Rap” first, a song called “Notorious,” “Don’t Come To The Hood,” “Ballin’,” “Livin’ Like Hustlers” and then “Menace To Society.”
Wow, so you guys had all of those songs originally recorded before the Ruthless deal?
Big Hutch: Yeah, I want to say we were fresh out of high school trying to do the college thing and all that. We couldn’t have been no more than age 18 when we recorded our first song. That’s why we sound so super young when you listen to that first album. That one song “Don’t Come To The Hood” is lost. We’ve spent 30 years trying to find it in the studio. The Above The Law was already developed when we came to Ruthless, that’s why I was able to wire-up as a producer and do what I had to do. Our chemistry was so tight because we had worked together so long. KMG, myself, and DJ K-oss all went to school together – starting in middle school.
They were DJ’ing and I was MC’ing. KMG wasn’t really rapping but we started right songs together and I knew that was magic. I rapped with other crews and I was actually a battler rapper – that’s how I got the name Cold187um. They named me that because I would go and kill fools off – plus I was a street dude. I was cool with that name because I wanted a street name. I went through all of the break-dancing names before that but I became Cold187um by battling. It was going to just be 187 but I decided to put the Cold in front of it and the Um on the back because I’m a cold murderer. But yeah, I knew that we would all make magic but I didn’t know at what level it would be.
Do you have any recordings of KMG that you haven’t released yet and if you do, what are you plans with them?
Big Hutch: Yeah, we do. We have four finished songs already done that we are going to release with a book. After I finish doing all of this Black Godfather stuff, we are going to get to that. It will be a series of songs that we recorded together with a book about our story. We also shot a video together right before he passed. All together we have about twenty-five unreleased songs me, him and Kokane. It’s our classic sound too. When we get to that point, the biggest challenge will not be the music but knowing how to implement that music into the marketplace. You have to be real mindful about that. People always urge you to release stuff but I’m trying to protect it and roll it out right – out of respect to KMG and Above The Law as a whole.
Last summer I was totally blown away when I saw your name on the credits for Dr. Dre’s “Loose Cannons” song also featuring Xzibit. I know the history that you guys have had with and the falling out that led to “Don’t Bite The Phunk.” How did you two get on good terms again?
Big Hutch: Dre had just wrapped up the "Straight Outta Compton" movie and we had actually been talking before they began filming it. While they were filming, I started writing my own stuff for my projects. They kept trying to get me down to the set but I was busy. When they wrapped the film up, I started to come up with ideas for The Black Godfather album and we were coming up with names that we wanted to get on the album but I had lost my contact with Dre. However, The D.O.C. called me and told me that he was back in the studio with Dre so I was able to get his info. One night after me and Laylaw finished our session, I called Dr. Dre and he was like, “Hutch, what’s up?
Come through to the studio and talk to me.” I went to his studio and he played some records for me and asked for my input and I told him that it was dope and I liked the direction. Then I told him that I’d like to make some music and he was like, “Yeah! It's been a long time. I miss this.” He was being real and it was just two brothers in a room talking about music. He told me that had a lot of dudes on the record already but he’d love for me to be on it and I was like, “Sure!” I told him to pick the record and the time and it took him about 3 to 4 days to do it. We called the musicians in and went in to the studio at about 8 p.m. that night and came out with the beat for “Loose Cannons.” Once he finished with all of the musicians, I hung out with him and we finished the process around 8 a.m.
Originally “Loose Cannons” was supposed to be me, Dre and Cube. In the process of us finishing the record he put Xzibit on it instead. We went off to his house and laid our vocals down – and that was it. The trip about how that record came about was one thing; the spirit of Eazy-E wanting us to be together. I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that I would be on a record with Dre that some say he never would have done – since the Detox record wasn’t going to happen at that point. So I can truly tell you that it had something to do with the stars, the moon, and God stepping in and intervening – along with Eazy-E’s spirit. That’s basically how it all came together. There wasn’t a long and drawn out process to it. Dre could have easily just asked for my opinion on the record and left it at that – later, deuces! And I wouldn’t have had a problem with that because I take it as a sign of respect when someone asks for your opinion. It was as if he said, “Despite everything that’s gone on in the past, I respect you and your opinion.” I thought that was big of him on a lot of different levels.
But when you reconcile with someone with who you’ve had past problems with, do you at least address the differences?
Big Hutch: No, and the reason why you don’t is because it’s already addressed if they call you in because they need your point of view. They need your knowledge to feel as if what they are doing is right to them. Actions speak louder than words so for Dre to put me on his album is greater than any type of apology that I could have ever received. Some people just say “I’m sorry” and that’s it – nothing ever comes after that. I benefited from being on the Compton album so that was better than a “sorry.” Some people will do something foul to you and just give you an apology and do nothing else afterwards to show that they respect you as a man. And that’s what I have to respect about Dr. Dre because he showed me that he respected me.
And as far as Dre goes, nobody has ever asked me this, but I’ve never been mad at him. I never felt f*cked up about anything. I just wanted people to understand that G-Funk was a theory that I created and for the record, Dre never said I didn’t create it. He innovated a style that was basically my idea – and it’s something that people associate with him – which is great. He did the work. I wasn’t pushing any of the buttons for him – he did the work. But I did have the idea of how G-Funk worked and how to put it in play first. That’s not taking anything away from him or a reason for us to sit down and be like, “Why did you do this or that?” We don’t have to do that.
I’m really looking forward to this Black Godfather album. Laylaw gave me a preview of the track-list and it’s insane. Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Ice T, DJ Quik, Snoop Dogg, Suga Free, Kurupt, W.C., Jayo Felony…
Big Hutch: (Continues) Too $hort, E-40, Bigg Gipp, Cee-Loo, Tech N9ne …
This is like a West Coast fan’s dream come true. What exactly are you doing with this project?
Big Hutch: Well, it’s a double album and the first of a trilogy. Each project will be a double album so when I’m done, there will have been 6 records total released. If you liked me before, then you’re going to love me after this. I planned the features on it based on style, for instance the record with Ice T is all “Dons” and “OG’s.” I put the features together based on the idea of where I saw all of these artists in my universe. That’s why I feel this is going to be a treat for a listener. It wasn’t about slapping random artists together or doing songs crafted to their sound only - they’re in my universe.
I noticed a pattern to the features, like the last one on the album where you have a cypher of rhyme-spitters.
Big Hutch: “The Elite” is a cypher track with myself, Jayo Felony, Money B, Kurupt, Tech N9ne, W.C., and B-Real. It’s a real cypher. The “Renegade” song is myself and Xzibit and it’s one of those funky, big beat, hard-hitting drums type of track.
You put DJ Quik, Suga Free, and AMG all on one song.
Big Hutch: That’s “Told You Twice.” It’s a fun record on some pimp shit. It was all about where these artists fit in my universe but at the same time making sure that the records make sense. I don’t want to give any details now about the second album in the trilogy but when it comes time to put that out, I’ll have you come back so we can talk about it.
That sounds great! From what I understand you filmed a movie to The Black Godfather album which you are also releasing.
Big Hutch: The movie is based on the idea of “what if James Bond was a gangster?” That’s who the Black Godfather is. He’s a flamboyant playboy, always on a mission to get his money. It all involves espionage, ladies, thievery, big money hustling. Somebody ends up infiltrating his organization through his brothel and that’s where the drama begins.
And it stars yourself?
Big Hutch: Oh yeah, I’m getting my acting on. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do but outside of my videos, I’ve never done a full length feature until this movie. It’s easy for me to be that character too since I wrote and created it. The album is going to be released in August but the movie will come out two months later in October of 2016. We are working right now on who we are going to get to air it.
Thank you for your time, sir. I’m looking forward to the album and the movie.
Big Hutch: Thank you. I believe fans will like the music. It’s new but it’s something that we’ve always done – kind of like a bridge between the old and new. I’ve had young focus groups listen to the album and that’s the feedback that I’m getting from them as well. Laylaw and myself started a new company called Untouchable Music Group, and when we began this, our goal was to make a record that’s deep like we’ve always done but catchy for the young people. No matter the strength of the topic, we wanted the hooks to be simple for the younger audience. Above The Law was a very deep group and we were always able to do be deep and still entertain people. I didn’t want to lose that focus. I want you to think and be entertained.