Rodney O: Still Don't Hear Me Tho

Rodney O & Joe Cooley’s “You Don’t Hear Me Tho’” was the group’s energetic opus to being snubbed by radio DJ’s, and became their biggest hit. With other animosity-driven records like, “F**k New York,” it’s easy to understand why the Riverside, California duo may be misunderstood.

Before the tumultuous early 90’s, which saw many rappers fight for recognition, Rodney O was a rapper known throughout for his feel-good music. With 808 drums, lots of samples, and simplistic party music, the duo helped lay the groundwork for Los Angeles Hip-Hop in the 80’s. As a result of the latter records, few people outside of California may even know.

Recently reunited, and consistently performing sold out shows, Rodney O speaks to on behalf of the group. We discuss the recognition that Rodney wants from the East, South, and even in his own region. We look at the evolution of the group’s sound, and you’ll also hear an interesting perspective on Vanilla Ice. Are these legends being overlooked? Read, and decide for yourself… What are you up to right now?

Rodney O: We just in the studio right now, working on our new album. What has happened is just a resurgence of the old school, and people paying more attention, especially in the West Coast, it’s given us a perfect opportunity to take advantage of it. In the late 90’s, you were both actively releasing small-run indie albums. When was the last time you did this?

Rodney O: Um, we haven’t been in the studio in years, actually. I just been producing – making beats. Mainly, we just been travelin’ and doin’ shows. Now, we gotta go out there and get some of this new money. It done swung back around to where the sound we was doing in the beginning is the new sound, now. Game seems to have been very instrumental in educating young people on Eazy-E and others. What let you know that your timing was right?

Rodney O: I’ll be honest with you: to me, the timing still isn’t right. For one, nobody on the West Coast that’s on a stature is putting anybody out that’s from that era. It ain’t like the talent is gone, it’s just that when we were blowin’ up and on the radio, people weren’t doing features and soundtracks. MTV wasn’t giving us no love. It still hasn’t swung all the way back around. VH1 has Hip-Hop Honors and they don’t mention nothin’ ‘bout Egyptian Lover or Rodney O & Joe Cooley, [World Class Wreckin’] Crew, nobody like that. They just base it on straight Sugar Hill Gang and DJ Kool Herc. They don’t say nothin’ ‘bout the West Coast. When they do, they [usually] wanna start off with Eazy, or Snoop, or Dr. Dre was there though. But it goes way beyond. In New York, they honor they legends. Out here, they don’t. It’s like we’re not a factor. Props is cool, but props don’t pay rent. What about radio stations? Red Alert has his lunch thing in New York, Doc B in Philly – and you rarely hear West Coast old school records in the mix…

Rodney O: I feel the East Coast only puts up with Snoop, Dre, and Ice Cube ‘cause they have to. And they are an important part of Hip-Hop. But they don’t wanna go no further than that. There’s Above The Law, there’s us, there’s Too Short, there’s Tone-Loc, Digital Underground, a lot of people they should be playin’. But we roll out the red carpet for East Coast artists who’s been in a factor. We barely even get love out here the way we should. Why should we expect love out there. I think there’s something to be said for the fact you’re still in the lab too. A lot of the artists featured on last year’s Hip-Hop Honors moved away from recording and working, and to speaking and educating…

Rodney O: We just want our proper shot if we do come out again, just like anyone else. We can still put on a better show than any of these young cats. They can’t f**k with us. We’ve probably done more shows than 50 and Eminem put together, man. There is a story untold. Just like people think that the Down South sound is from Down South. In reality, me and Mr. Mixx and Marquis [from 2 Live Crew] grew up in Riverside. The big record for 2 Live Crew was made right there in Riverside. We came with that 808 sound. It’s just that the record took off in Florida, and Luke was a promoter who promoted 2 Live Crew. The Miami sound is from the West Coast. I helped put 2 Live Crew together back in the day. “Everlasting Bass” [proves] that we were doing that stuff [early]. Afrika Bambaataa is a creator of Hip-Hop. Your early records really seem influenced by his early singles with that bass and percussion…

Rodney O: We got that from Egyptian Lover. 808’s, our whole album was 808’s, and a Linn drum. That’s why our records did so good Down South. On this new record, we goin’ there. I got Mr. Mixx, Blaqtoven, we just really gettin’ back to that fun, sub music. I wouldn’t say Crunk, I’d say 808. What keeps you and Joe together after twenty plus years?

Rodney O: Understanding each other, and knowin’ what we done. For a long time, me and Joe didn’t mess around. For three years, we didn’t do nothin’. Everything comes back around full circle. For whatever reason though, we just could not crack that nut. In a way, I think New York did that to us, which is why we came out with the record, “F**k New York.” We had a nice video that MTV just wouldn’t play. But they’d play Kwame and Special Ed, they put them dudes on a pedestal, and gave them dudes face time and air-time they needed. I always believed that was an answer record to Tim Dog’s “F**k Compton,”…

Rodney O: Yeah… it was just the whole thing. We came from an independent, selling 250,000 records back in the day, to Atlantic. [With] Atlantic, you’re dealing with New York, and all the promotions people who didn’t know who the Hell we was. They didn’t have no type of respect for us. We put one record out on Atlantic and didn’t get the support – left that label. That was our answer. Ey, if you not gonna like us – let us give you a reason. We was sayin’ “F**k New York and the East Coast,” before ‘Pac or anybody else was sayin’ it. It wasn’t towards the people listening to the radio, it was more towards the media and business people. A dozen years later, do you think that song was taken the wrong way?

Rodney O: [laughs] Definitely. At that point, we didn’t care. We was puttin’ the record out independently, I knew that it would at least, raise some eyebrows. It was a good thing. What was your reaction to when The Chronic and Doggystyle dropped and got the East Coast love you never did?

Rodney O: Well, it was good. They were good records. It brought that whole element of what L.A. was about to people who didn’t know. We were sellin’ records to White people and Mexicans. The Blacks liked that harder stuff. We were about feel-good music. I like that feel-good music. You guys perform a lot. Do people watch the performance, or are they more of dance parties?

Rodney O: They really party and really get into it. Even if they don’t remember the songs, they act like they do when it comes through the speakers. Joe’s not just a prop DJ either, he’s cuttin’ through the songs. We get down, man! It’s wicked. [laughs] There’s not too many DJ’s and MC’s that get down like me and Joe. The closest is probably Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince and Cash Money and Marvelous Marv. We the only West Coast DJ and MC group that can really bring it back. Okay, there was word that you were present for the Suge Knight and Vanilla Ice balcony incident. What really happened?

Rodney O: [Laughs heartily] Aw naw, man. I wasn’t there. I was [however] involved with Vanilla Ice on his second album though, and helped him do his thing. I felt sorry for that cat. You talkin’ ‘bout a cat who went platinum overnight. The record companies put him out like that. When you don’t have no money, have no vision, what do you expect? The thing with Suge, I don’t know too much ‘bout that. But if somebody wrote some stuff on your record and it blew up and you got somebody to go collect it, you ain’t gonna say no, you gonna say, “Get my money. I’ll give you this if you get it.” Hip-Hop has torn apart Vanilla Ice. He’s an easy-target. MC Shan worked with Snow, and they put you with him. Did you feel being used for your credibility?

Rodney O: How many people out now got a single and can’t rap? It ain’t about thing. Think of all the freestyle artists at the New York seminars that was winning contests and never had hit records. It’s all about that hit record. You can say whatever you want about Vanilla Ice, but he’ll never be broke. There’s a lot of people way tighter than him that’s broke. No regret with that?

Rodney O: Nah, not at all. It ain’t like there was a bunch of people knockin’ on my door to do stuff. I’d do it again! He was done before we had that record together. Nobody could’ve survived that. 3rd Bass was one thing, but sampling really hurt Vanilla Ice too. Your biggest hits are sample-based. As times have changed, has your formula had to?

Rodney O: Nah. If there’s a tight loop today, that I know will make a hit record and the sampler wants 100% of the publishing, I’ll still do it. A hit is a hit. Addressing the Hip-Hop community going into your next record, what can be said?

Rodney O: I’m not saying me and Joe was the best - not by a long shot. But we did something before anybody else did. I just want that credit. I’m not satisfied. I want one more run. I’m not saying MTV or BET or any of that s**t. I just want a fair chance. We got a hit record. My first single is called “Post Up Man,” it’s coming out for first of the year. I’m talkin’ to a few record companies right now. But I know I’m going into a war. I can’t go into a war with a switchblade when everybody else got uzis and rocket-launchers. I know there’s certain things that need to happen. If I can get those things in place, we’re gonna get our good run, man.