DJ Pooh: Friday To Friday To Monday Morning

Veteran Producer DJ Pooh known to fans worldwide as Red in the movie Friday, has been a force in the Hip-Hop world for nearly three decades now. Breaking in as a DJ for the groundbreaking legendary West Coast DJ crew known as Uncle Jamm’s Army, DJ Pooh made his mark as a producer for the […]

Veteran Producer DJ Pooh known to fans

worldwide as Red in the movie Friday, has been a force in the Hip-Hop

world for nearly three decades now. Breaking in as a DJ for the groundbreaking

legendary West Coast DJ crew known as Uncle Jamm’s Army, DJ Pooh made

his mark as a producer for the likes of LL Cool J, Ice Cube, King Tee,

2Pac, Snoop Dogg and many more. Not one to stop there, DJ Pooh made

his way in to film-making and screen-writing along with his long time

friend Ice Cube as they co-wrote the cult-smash movie Friday. Ice Cube

and DJ Pooh had a falling out after that movie as was evident in the

song “Whoop Whoop” by Kam which appeared on DJ Pooh’s own album,

Bad Newz Travels Fast

. DJ Pooh continued with his film career by

writing and directing the movie 3 Strikes and teaming with his mentor

Dr. Dre for The Wash. However, it didn’t stop there for him as he

once again found a new lane to be creative by making his way in to the

video game world by helping to create the Grand Theft Auto San Andreas

game. Although DJ Pooh admits to not doing many interviews, he chose to tell his unique story from his beginnings to the projects

that he’s working on now. Be inspired to find new ways to be creative

by reading this special interview. Your West Coast Hip-Hop

roots go pretty deep. Why don’t you let us know just how far back

you really go?

DJ Pooh: It started back in the day

with me just being Pooh – I was a little chubby kid. I am 6’3”

and slim now but I was a chubby little kid and because of that, my family

called me that name. When I became interested in DJ’ing, I just kept

the same name. I guess I wasn’t thinking about one day being a grown

man named Pooh (laughs). I started doing gigs with Uncle Jamms Army

which was really the first source of a lot of urban music on the West

Coast. A lot of people don’t

know the history of Uncle Jamms Army and the roots it has on the West

Coast. You guys used to pack the Sports Arena with 10,000 people with

no headline act but your own.

DJ Pooh: I went down to a record store

that Rodger Clayton a.k.a. Uncle Jamm had called The DJ Booth – it

was the headquarters for the crew on 54th & Crenshaw

in the hood. I went over there and gave him a little audition to show

him what I had. We became friends and he gave me an opportunity to get

on the stage in front 10,000 people along side DJ Bobcat, The Egyptian

Lover, and the rest of the crew. Being in front of all those people

inspired me to get deeper in to the music business beyond the dance

promotion parties. Uncle Jamm started booking acts like Run-DMC to play

at the Sports Arena when they only had that single, “It’s Like That.”

Nobody had discovered “Sucker MC’s” on the B-Side yet. Run-DMC

hadn’t played to a crowd of 10,000 people yet and they were nervous

about going on stage. Uncle Jamm had a huge following regardless of

whether they had a headlining act or not and I thought that was pretty

impressive. Do you have a moment

that stands out for you while DJ’ing for Uncle Jamms Army?

DJ Pooh: One that has always stood

out in my mind was a show that we did with LL Cool J, The Real Roxanne

and Kurtis Blow. In between the acts we would DJ and I was on the turn-tables

when a massive f***in’ fight broke out and it was complete chaos!

I just kept spinning until Rodger stopped me and announced to the crowd

that we were going to stop playing until things calm down. I was sitting

behind the turn-tables watching 7,000 people in a super panic running

left and right – guys were getting stomped and it was real crazy.

That stands out in my mind because that’s what put a damper on the

whole Uncle Jamms Army thing because people were afraid to come out

and party – we had the terrible gang scenario that was growing in

L.A. Legendary DJ’s

from that era like you, DJ Bobcat and Dr. Dre were able to make that

transition from being DJ’s to Music Producers. How were you able to

make that jump?

DJ Pooh: I have to credit Dr. Dre for

that. Back in the days when I was spinning with Uncle Jamm with Bobcat,

on the otherwise of town there was another promotional group called

The Wreckin’ Cru which Dr. Dre was a part of with Lonzo. It was a

competitive thing back and forth. If we both had a party on the same

weekend, we were all putting up posters and snatching each other’s

down. Then Dr. Dre and I had met each other through a person that had

record store booth inside of the Roadium Swapmeet. Dr. Dre was always

there at the time making mixtapes. Through that he had begun to do his

own productions and had gotten familiar with drum machines and other

equipment outside of the turn-tables. He showed me the ropes on all

of that and I had gotten bitten by the bug. I then had the opportunity

to show some of my work to Russell Simmons out in New York. I went to

Def Jam with a cassette tape of all the tracks that I had put together.

I even went out there with the drum machine that Dr. Dre was using.

So I went to New York and had a meeting and they listened to my tracks

and they liked it. DJ Bobcat was out there already with his production

partner Dwayne and they were already working with an artist named MC

Breeze who was under Def Jam. It made sense for all of us to come together

as the L.A. Posse at that time. From there we went on to produce

Bigger and Deffer for LL Cool J. We were trying to get MC Breeze’s

album out but we ran in to some friction from LL and a few others as

they viewed it as possible competition. We moved the deal over to Atlantic

Records and continued to produce for Breeze. A lot of people don’t

know that a group of guys from Los Angeles known as the  L.A. Posse

played a big role with East Coast Hip-Hop especially when it comes to

LL Cool J’s early career.

DJ Pooh: It was a difficult time but

it was fun. We were working out of Chung King Studios which was the

same studio used by Heavy D, RUN-DMC, LL Cool J, especially most of

the Def Jam acts at the time. LL was the biggest artist on Def Jam at

the time and he had just come off of his debut album. It was a great

opportunity to work on his sophomore album which cemented him. But when

we first got out there to New York, they actually referred to us as

Country. We were three guys from L.A. coming there with our own sound

with songs like “I Need Love” and others. The album was successful

and we were battling back and forth with the Michael Jackson Bad

album at the time.

After the LL album I wanted to go back

and help the West Coast out. The other guys stayed in New York to work

with LL but I decided to come back home and work with King Tee. We had

recorded “Payback’s A M####” and I took that out to New York to

try to get it spun. People were like, “I don’t know if we are ready

to listen to this guy rapping but we love the track” so WBLS would

only play the instrumental. I had been working with Ice Cube since the

early NWA days when they were recording out of Eazy-E’s garage at

his mom’s house. What involvement did

you have in those early N.W.A. songs?

DJ Pooh: Dr. Dre and I had co-produced

“Eazy Duz It.” Dr. Dre had a great idea to make and I came in to

assist him on that record and learn as much as I could. After N.W.A.

had broken up, I worked with Cube because I had known him more than

some of the other guys. I was a part of a production company called

The Boogiemen with DJ Bobcat and another guy named Rashad and we did

Ice Cube’s Death Certificate album. Did that cause any problems

with your good friend and mentor Dr. Dre?

DJ Pooh: Not at all because Dre and

I have always had a respectful relationship. I have a great deal of

respect for him. I looked at it as just working with Ice Cube and helping

him accomplish what he wanted to do on the album. He had the whole concept

of the Death side and the Life side already in his head. That was back

in the day when artists made albums and it sounded like it was made

by one person instead of a bunch of different people. You had to have been

floored by the “No Vaseline” diss song to NWA when it was first


DJ Pooh: I was floored by it but I

understood what was going on. I worked on that record alongside Sir

Jinx and I put together the whole intro where it goes, “Here’s what

they think about you. N.W.A. ain’t sh*t without Ice Cube.” It was

never personal. If I am working with an artist, I am going to help them

accomplish what they want. I wasn’t personally going after Dr. Dre,

MC Ren, Yella or Eazy. You were asked to fill

a role played by your longtime friend Dr. Dre as the main Producer for

Snoop Dogg’s sophomore album The Doggfather, when Dr. Dre left

Death Row. What was your approach trying to fill Dre’s shoes?

DJ Pooh: People looked it as me being

put in a position to fill Dre’s shoes but I didn’t see it that way.

I have such a great respect for Dr. Dre that I wouldn’t even tell

anybody that I attempted to fill his shoes. What I did was try to do

the best job that I could for Snoop Dogg and do something that he felt

comfortable with. He was going through a murder trial at the time and

we had to make records that wouldn’t be held up in a court room. It

was a tricky scenario because for one having to step in to a position

held by Dr. Dre and then produce something that we felt wouldn’t send

Snoop Dogg off to jail. Weren’t you nervous

at all or somewhat overwhelmed at the task?

DJ Pooh: Not at all because I had

because I had been producing for a while and we all have our own styles

and own ways of doing things. I wasn’t one to want to make an album

that sounded like something Dr. Dre would do. That approach took a whole

lot of pressure off of the scenario to begin with. I can’t mimic his

style even though people that had become fans of Snoop Dogg during that

time would want that and some producers would probably try that approach

to please them. You then released your

own person project called Bad Newz Travels Fast. What led you

to do your own album after producing on so many other albums?

DJ Pooh: I had been working with so

many artists and I wanted to give them an opportunity and a platform

to get records made. Back in the day you could walk in to a record company

with a great demo and get an artist signed. It wasn’t like today where

it’s a matter of how many hits you have online or what mixtape you

have out. It was more of the label feeling an artist and wanting to

develop them. That was my way of developing artists – like Threat

and The L.A. Zoo. You spoke earlier about

the Ice Cube N.W.A. diss and how it wasn’t personal. Yet on your own

album, you had a diss to Ice Cube by Kam called “Whoop Whoop.” That

wasn’t personal too?

DJ Pooh: At the time I was working

on the album, Cube and I had our differences about our movie Friday

which was the first movie that we had co-written together. I also played

a small character named Redd in the movie. We also had the same management.

I felt that I was wronged on the Friday movie and we were young guys

so I took it personal. I put the blame on Cube and that’s something

that I probably shouldn’t have done. I went off on my own and felt

that it was time to take care of myself. I went to work on the album

and Kam had that song “Whoop Whoop” which was produced by DJ Tony

G. I heard the record and I actually fell in love with it and not just

the fact that it was a diss to Ice Cube. I loved the record itself and

Kam was someone that I brought to the table with Street Knowledge back

in the day. I took that record and just put it on my album. You went from DJ’ing

to Producing to writing movies. That’s a huge jump. Was there anything

that brought that about?

DJ Pooh: I learned a lot of the script

writing process from Ice Cube and John Singleton. He had sat us down

and showed us the ropes and the basic structure of screenplay writing.

At the time I had an idea to do a movie that was based around Weed.

I felt that Weed could be as big a star in a movie as any of the actors

in it. I came to Cube with the idea and we ended up co-writing it together.

We had already done some videos together – one in particular called

“Who’s The Mack” where I played a character in it. We had a fun

time and it made us want to make films together. “Friday” had some great

characters. How did you come up with all of the different standout characters

for that movie?

DJ Pooh: A lot of that stuff were things

that came from the neighborhood. Things that you saw or were a part

of while growing up. The only movies coming out of the West Coast were

things like “Boyz N The Hood” and “Menace II Society.” I had a vision for

something else – me being the comedian that I am. It was life in the

hood as for what it was but without focusing on the gang issues. We

were able to out on a limb and try something different. You have to talk about

that little “run” that you did after Deebo took the chain that your

Grandmama gave you.

DJ Pooh: A lot of people took to that

scene. I use that as an example for people that come to me and ask about

taking small roles in films. I go back to the role that I played as

Red in Friday. It was a small role but it was a very memorable character

in the movie. People remember it! I go to Disneyland with my kids and

people walk up to me and say, “You got knocked the f**k out!” I

don’t take it personal because obviously they are showing their support

for the movie. I was honored to have our low budget project do what

it did. There is a cult following for it. “After Friday” you ended

up making a movie called “3 Strikes” that you produced and directed. What

was your idea on that one?

DJ Pooh: That movie came out during

the time that the 3 Strikes law was passed in California. I believe

in redemption and I believe that people can turn their lives around.

Me being a person that has focused on comedy, I wanted to talk about

that issue and bring attention to it through a comedy film. The story

was about a guy who was released from jail who had 2 strikes on him

and was thrust in to a bad scenario just by being picked up by a friend

who had a stolen car. He had no idea that it was and it showed how easily

his life could be thrown away over something like that. Your next movie “The

Wash” had you teaming with your good friend Dr. Dre.

DJ Pooh: “The Wash” was our take on the

70’s “Car Wash” movie. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, myself and a few others

came together and agreed that a new version needed to be made. I played

the most incompetent kidnapper ever (laughs). You don’t seem to

mind giving yourself roles in which you are made fun of.

DJ Pooh: Not at all. It’s just a

movie. You can’t always be the guy with the cape on. Somebody has

to be the person being rescued, or the villain. When I was younger,

I got in to some trouble and I did some time. I was the guy that had

everybody laughing in jail. I enjoy doing that. The last time we heard

from you musically was on the 213 album with Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and

Warren G. Why did you step back from the music scene?

DJ Pooh: It’s because of the state

that the music industry is in today. I sort of saw it coming early.

I just feel the music industry is not about creativity or the artist.

Now it’s about the hype and everything but the actual art itself.

I am still a big fan of music and I still love to make tracks of my

own when I am at home. I have a love for music that will never die but

from a business standpoint there have been things that have made me

step back from the music industry. Once again you were

able to evolve and find another field to be successful at. I am talking

about your foray in to the Video Game market with Grand Theft Auto San

Andreas.  How did you get involved in that?

DJ Pooh: I’m a gamer and I’ve been

one since back in the day. I’m not just someone that was offered a

chance to work on a video game. That opportunity came because I am a

gamer and had interest in it. I was a fan of Rockstar Games and the

Grand Theft Auto series. I spoke to some people at Rockstar and they

told me that they were thinking about bringing the series out West.

They wanted to deal with people that knew and understood the Los Angeles

scene and that also had script writing ability. So I got involved and

worked on the script for the game and also suggested people as characters

for the game. I brought in a rap artist that I was working with named

Young Maylay and he became the CJ character. I was blessed to get an

opportunity to see all of the processes of video game making. Is there anything new

that you are working on right now in the video game, television and

movie departments?

DJ Pooh: I am working on a video game

right now with Rockstar Games but working for them is like working for

the C.I.A. If I talk about it, they will kill me (laughs). Also I am

looking at developing a few more games myself. I have just completed

two film scripts, but the film industry being what it is, I don’t

want to give much info away on that either. Expect something along the

lines of Friday. I am trying to do something that I’ve never done

before and that’s work on a non-comedy. On the television side, I

created a show called “The Life” which is sort of a Hip-Hop version

of Entourage. It’s a take on the Hip-Hop industry but I use Entourage

as sort of a guideline. I took that project to Ice Cube and his partner

Matt Alvarez at Cube Vision. We all walked it in to Comedy Central and

they loved the idea so we locked in a television deal. I then brought

on Aaron McGruder who I worked with on The Boondocks. I’ve got a great

deal of love and respect for that guy – he’s brilliant. We just

completed the pilot and script and we are getting ready to go in to

casting for that project. You mentioned that you

are working with Ice Cube again. How and when did that reunion come


DJ Pooh: It came about around a year

ago when we started talking about this project. I ran in to Cube at

a restaurant. For the longest time I felt that I had handled the situation

between us rather immaturely. It was really about a manager that we

both had at the time. It actually started at the Up In Smoke Tour in

Detroit. I had been hanging out with Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre discussing

The Wash. Cube went on stage and I was watching him perform songs that

we were a part of. It dawned on me that we had accomplished a lot together

and maybe I should talk to him because I wanted us to have a friendship

again. It is really hard to find good friends and good creative people

in this business. We ended up talking and apologized to each other and

decided that we weren’t even going to talk about that sh*t anymore.

When we work together, there is always a good outcome.

I feel like a part of the hold back

on the West Coast is attitude and guys not being able to grow. I think

what would help the West Coast is that we all need to recognize that

we need to grow up some more and be able to have an appreciation for

each other and the opportunity we have been given. I respect the new

guys like Nipsey Hussle, Glasses Malone and others. I support all of

the West Coast artists – and the artists in the South and the East.

I don’t want to regionalize Hip-Hop and I believe soon others won’t

either. Is there any way we

can convince you to get back in the studio to do one last project?

DJ Pooh: Yeah! I think me saying all

of this is leading me to say that I am going to get back in the studio

because I will be feeling Hip-Hop and music a little more as I do it

for a broader audience. Everybody has a story to tell but I think the

more honest stories are the ones that are not just about representing

where they are from – it’s really where you are at. Once the region

and area shout-outs go away, it will be all about the music. At the

end of the way we are all brothers trying to do this thing, no matter

where you come from. The East Coast/West Coast thing drove me away from

Hip-Hop. I remember being in New York shooting the video for The Dogg

Pound’s “New York New York” which I produced and we were shot

at! The song was never intended as a diss but once that war started,

that song was looked on as a diss. Shooting a video for that in the

middle of New York wasn’t the safest or smartest thing to do at the

time. I told myself that I had to take a step back from Hip-Hop for

a minute. I love Hip-Hop but I love myself and I love my family too.

It’s not worth it and people need to just back to making music again

– and I see that more now which encourages me to step back in the

game and make music.