As part of my job, I get the chance to listen to sorts of Hip Hop from all regions. But I have no shame in admitting that I have a bias for the West Coast. In my formative years, growing up in Southern California, I remember stealing borrowing a copy of my brother's Warren G Regulate...G Funk Era and playing it obsessively. When that obsession cooled, I somehow managed to steal borrow a copy of my brother's All Eyez On Me album.
No Brown Sugar, but a favorite question among Hip Hop heads is "when did you fall in love with Hip Hop? For me, it was hearing Pac for the first time. Born only a few months before NWA released Straight Outta Compton, and being a toddler when classics like The Chronic, Doggystyle, Quik Is The Name, Dogg Food etc. were released, I invested an extraordinary amount of time to studying/admiring/fawning over the masters. In my teenage years, I vividly remember sprinting to my mother's car after church service to see if Power 106 was playing Shade Shiest's "Where I Wanna Be" or Westside Connection's "Connected 4 Life." Even to this day, there is no genre in the world that captures me quite like So-Cal West Coast Hip Hop.
But as you well know, not long after Dr. Dre's "Up In Smoke Tour" ended, West Coast music suffered an extended drought, to put it nicely. A few folks like The Game, Xzibit, Rass Kass nobly carried a dying genre for a time with incredibly dope shit, but a small minority can't keep an entire Coast alive. Some (including myself) thought that the West Coast died the minute the legendary Nate Dogg passed away in 2011.
But alas! Out of no where, the West has risen again to the top of the ranks with a multitude of new shining stars. Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Nipsey Hussle, YG, Tyler Tha Creator, Problem, Mellowhype, DJ Mustard, Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt, Jay Rock, and many more. Not to mention, the O.G.s of the game like The Game, Snoop, Suga Free, Warren G, Cube, W.C., DJ Quik, and Dr. Dre (who's recent Compton: A Soundtrack is a classic in my book). With the release of the thrilling Straight Outta Compton movie, the West Coast has definitely gotten its second wind pimp, to quote E-40.
If you're a music geek like me, you are obsessed with tracking the origins of historic musical movements. It's crazy to think that a couple of (at the time) regular dudes from Compton (Kendrick, YG, Problem, Billionaire Buck) were inspired to become essentially new niggas wit attitudes, and subsequently put the West Coast back on the map.
ATTENTION: Notice I didn't mention Tyga, simply because he's wack as shit. Period. Whenever my Spotify connection is down, and I'm forced to listen to the radio, all I can think about is how incredibly wack Tyga is. Fuck all the talk about Obama's birth certificate, someone needs to find Tyga's birth certificate and erase "California" from it-- he has no business representing the coast in any shape or form whatsoever. Tyga's music is so fucking wack that if you were to first play Hotel California and then Doggystyle the wackness is so strong that it has the potential runneth over and ruin a classic, or at the very least cause permanent brain damage as your cerebral cortex scrambles to make sense of the extreme disparity in quality. Some may call me a hater or whatever, but to quote Jay, I call a spade a spade, it just it what is...and what it is is hot garbage that gives me severe migraines when I'm forced to listen.
(These views are completely my own (Kellan Miller's), and are not at all reflective of Allhiphop as a staff, label, or as a motherfucking crew.). I say that because if Tyga happens to read this and sic his goon squad of 75lb tattooed light-skinned stick figures and Kylie Jenner on me, somehow capturing me and forcing me to listen to all 45 excruciating minutes of The Gold Album, the good colleagues that I work with shouldn't have to suffer that level of torture. So when I say I've been contemplating quitting my journalism career to become a rapper, for the sole purpose of Ja-Ruling/Meek Milling Tyga, these views are completely my own. When I fantasize about creating a diss track that ended Tyga's career, so the world would be completely rid of a skinny tree tattooed tree fig that luckily got a break when Lil Wayne had a little too much lean when he heard his demo. Inevitably, I would be awarded the Noble Peace Prize for my efforts, and I imagine Eazy-E and Mac Dre would personally rise from the grave to thank me.
But hopefully it won't come to that, because mark my words, the next California rapper to blow is none other than Compton's own Billionaire Buck. While he doesn't yet have the recognition of Kendrick and YG, Buck started to make headway when he released the track "Around Da Way" about a year ago. With hot flows and thumping bass lines (ingredients of a proper Left Coast track), the song instantly became a favorite in my playlist. Watching the video made the song all the much better-- featuring Buck walking through the actual streets of Compton, a nice throwback to N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton" video.
At some point after putting the puzzle together, I realized that Buck, Kendrick, YG, and Problem all grew up together, and collaborated with each other back when they barely had a dollar to their name and were just dreaming about making it to the main stage. As you already know, Kendrick has arisen as one of Hip Hop's most golden voices. When he's not directing incredible The Wire-like music videos/films, YG is flooding the streets with pure 100% Grade A bangers. ANd with all the recent talk about ghostwriters, it's worth mentioning that Problem probably ghost-wrote the lyrics to the song you're smoking a blunt to as we speak, and also keeps DatPiff in business with dope mixtape after mixtape. But after his acclaimed Apollo and Eclipse mixtape series, the Hip Hop world is waiting for Buck's latest album, The Black Jew, tentatively set for a November release.
Luckily, Buck took a short break from his current tour cycle to chop it up with me about a variety of topics.
How did you, Kendrick, and YG cross paths?
Well, we both from the same neighborhood, so we grew up together. Back in the old days, when we were trying out this rapping shit for the first time, we would all record at the same studio. Then Kendrick got his deal, and started recording in Carson, mostly with the T.D.E. crew.
Now that you guys have gotten some fame and attention, especially in Kendrick's case, has anyone changed?
Nah. Nobody's really changed at all. Everyone's really busy now, which is how it's supposed to be. We'll always be homies, but right now it's like brotherly competition, kinda like what Kendrick was getting at on that "Control" verse. I'm trying to be the best, period.
Is your relationship with Kendrick any different these days?
Nah, we talk all the time. TDE mainly operates on their own, which is why we haven't really gotten the chance to collaborate yet.
In the past, you've talked about how big of an influence Problem had on you.
Problem is smart as hell. He was always on his shit. When we was just young cats with no idea how to make it, Problem had the blueprint mapped out. He knew the game inside and out, and was always ahead of us in terms of making moves. Early on Snoop took him under his wing a little bit and showed him some things. Then Problem turned around and schooled me on a lot things not only about the industry, but the music itself. Most times, Problem would come to the studio with the beat already made and the hook mapped out. In those days we'd be on Limewire stealing beats just to rap to and figure out our styles.
There were rumors of collaborations between you and other artists that never materialized. What happened?
Freddie Gibbs and I were supposed to do some shit together. After meeting at a show, he told me that we should link up and put out a record together. After that I hit that nigga up like 2 weeks later and his phone was disconnected. I ran into him later and he said he was down, but still nothing ever happened. A similar thing happened with Big K.R.I.T. About a year and a half ago I met him, we drank some lean, collaborated on some tracks, but he never put the shit out. But I'm not tripping, it is what it is.
Growing up, what West Coast artist would you say had the biggest influence on you?
DJ Quik. Anybody that knows anything about Hip Hop knows that Quik is a legend. During his career, I feel like he had the wrong people around him handling his business. I've done shows with him, you can tell he's kind of strained and exhausted at this point. He's definitely given his all and then some to the game.
In addition to E-40, there are rumors of a Quik collaboration on your Black Jew album. Any truth to that?
I'm working on a track with Quik, but it's taking a while. That's the thing about the masters of the craft. These days, rappers are in such a rush to get their shit out on Youtube or Datpiff or whatever. Quik is a perfectionist, and won't put out anything until it meets his standards, even if it takes 10 years or something. It's the same with Dre. They aren't just beatmakers, they are producers in the classic sense. Dre treats your voice like an instrument. That's why his shit with Kendrick is hot, because he makes sure the artists ride the snares like a pattern. It's the same with Eminem's shit. Compared to what dudes are doing now in terms of quality in the mix and production, it's a way different experience.
Aside from your Compton people, who are some of the artists you're feeling now?
I'm feeling Rick Ross. I like his hustle. It took him a long to blow up to mega stardom. When I see people like that get on, it's incredibly inspiring and motivating. MMG actually reached out to me about a deal, but I figured I'd more financially stable if I had the chance to own my own material and do things exactly the way I wanted.
What have you learned about the industry over the years?
It's crazy, and really hard to explain to anyone that's not a part of it. A lot of rappers that make it to radio are the ones who know the right people. That's usually what it comes down to in the mainstream. You also gotta have the right people behind you. Kendrick did it the right way, going on the road with Tech N9ne, which eventually lead to an A&R from Aftermath giving him the nod.
Can you describe in one sentence what Black Jew is going to sound like?
It's going to be N.W.A. mixed with The Roots.
Do you think the current popularity of Compton is just temporary?
Compton is going to be on par for the next decade. You can trust that.
Make sure to track Billionaire Buck's movements on the interwebs.