Lessons from a Legend: King T's Midas Touch on Biggie, Xzibit, Tha Alkaholiks and Dre
Compton O.G. Roger “King T” McBride, has been a part of the foundation for the West Coast rap scene since the mid-'80s, coming up in the game with the likes of DJ Pooh and Dr. Dre. With the release of his album Act a Fool on Capitol Records in 1988, King T was able to gain respect from fans on both sides of the coasts starting with his first single “Payback’s A Mutha”, one of the first of many songs to borrow from the original James Brown classic. Not one to be selfish with his throne, King T was also responsible for bringing a trio of skilled young Hip-Hop heads together known as The Alkaholiks (Tha Liks), and introducing the world to an energetic fire spitting MC known as Xzibit.
After signing to Dr. Dre in the '90s, King T was supposed to go to new career heights, but those plans fell through. However, the veteran is still in the game after all these years and The Likwit Crew is back together in full-force. AllHipHop.com sat down with King T to get his story as he also prepares the release of his next project Still Triflin’ on December 12, 2012. Long live the King!
AllHipHop.com: The first song that I ever heard of yours was “Payback’s A Mutha”. Briefly take us back before that song was released. What was life like for King T?
King T: I was a part of a crew called Total Control with DJ Pooh and a good friend of mine named Scotty D. They were the ones that actually gave me my rap name. We owned a little shop in Pacoima, California, and we were creating custom Fila suits like Dapper Dan was doing in New York. We also DJ’d all over Los Angeles as an extension of Uncle Jam’s Army – the legendary DJ crew founded by Rodger Clayton who recently passed away. I looked up to other DJs like Chris “The Glove” Taylor, DJ Bobcat, and The Egyptian Lover.
My family had to move to Houston for a time being, and I took my DJ skills there. At the age of 15, I went to a college radio station and convinced them to let me mix. I started playing in clubs and winning DJ battles, even though I was just a teenager. I just used all of the tricks that I learned from guys like Joe Cooley and Bobcat. I got in to some trouble and had to stay at a youth detention. Sometimes I would run away and be on the radio that night. They would come to the station, handcuff me, and take me back to the center. I came back to California and connected with Scotty D and DJ Pooh. I wanted to continue being a DJ, but there were so many that were down, so I would stay on the mic getting live. The crew liked the flow that I had and convinced me to rhyme at the parties. That’s how King T was born.
AllHipHop.com: I was talking to Tha Liks a few years back, and they said that P. Diddy once told them that Biggie Smalls considered you an inspiration for his rhyme style.
King T: He was such a great rapper and MC. If he found some influence in me, hey, what can I say? We knew each other back then. I’m not going to say that he got his style from me. Hearing his records, he was a great influence on me, too.
AllHipHop.com: Tell us about the making of “Payback’s A Mutha.”
King T: Scotty D put us in a studio and said, “Let’s make a record.” DJ Pooh borrowed an SP1200 from Dr. Dre, and we made the song. It was an incredible experience. I still have the picture of me and DJ Pooh standing in front of the studio on that day. We kind of wanted to do something different on the West Coast as far as our sound. We were more on the vibe of Eric B & Rakim and Big Daddy Kane.
AllHipHop.com: I first heard that song from this person who moved out to L.A. from New York, and he brought the record along with him.
King T: When Bobcat and DJ Pooh went to New York to work on LL Cool J’s Bigger and Deffer album, they took “Payback’s A Mutha” with them. They gave it to DJ Red Alert and Marley Marl – and they all loved it. It was like one of the first West Coast records to ever get played on New York radio. It was a blessing. A lot of people don’t know that when we started working on the Act a Fool album, we went to Chung King studio out in New York.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve always had a more traditional Hip-Hop sound than most West Coast artists, and that continued on with Tha Liks. Was that your intention all along?
King T: We loved everything that was going on in the West Coast, but New York was where it originated, and we loved that sound. Big Daddy Kane was my favorite MC. We loved that sound, and we tried to imitate it and put our West Coast flavor on it.
AllHipHop.com: One song of yours that I used to play a lot was the one that sampled The Rolling Stones. I believe it was called “Diss You”.
King T: I hate that song.
AllHipHop.com: Why? It was fun. Plus, I’m a fan of the original song that you sampled.
King T: I’m a fan of that Stones song, too. It’s not that I didn’t like my song back then. It’s just one of those things that you look back on later and say, “Wow. I did that?” It was a fad going on back then, especially with Tone-Loc’s “Wild Thing” and Young MC’s “Bust a Move”. The label was pushing us to do something similar to those two songs. It sounded good, and they paid us to do it. I don’t regret it but it was a far cry from “Payback’s A Mutha.” It is what it is.
AllHipHop.com: Another favorite of mine was the one that you recorded with Tha Liks, known back then as The Alkaholiks, called “I Got It Bad Y’all.”
King T: DJ Pooh and I were talking about how Ice Cube put together The Lench Mob, and we decided to do something like that. I had a friend that used to kick it with me back at the Fila shop named J-Ro, and my DJ was E-Swift. I told them to put a group together called The Alkaholiks. They were already putting together demos under a different name, and they brought out Tash from Ohio. It just all came together so perfectly.
DJ Pooh wrote the video for that song based on the movie Car Wash. It was just a bunch of friends getting together and doing something crazy. It was my DJ, my hype-man and one of the homies from Ohio. We just formed a group called Tha Alkaholiks and went in to the studio and started recording. We didn’t have a budget or anything. Someone who had a real studio let us use it to start banging out records. Steve Rifkind from Loud Records heard a few joints and was like, “I want it.” Other labels didn’t want a group called Tha Alkaholiks.
AllHipHop.com: I remember the controversial heat that you guys were taking at the time.
King T: Mothers Against Drunk Driving really came down on us hard. The group eventually changed its name to Tha Liks. It was around that time that we also formed The Likwit Crew. I had a production deal with MCA, along with a partner of mine named DJ Broadway. We met this cat named Xzibit, and he was terrorizing every MC on the West Coast. He would go on The Wake Up Show and let MCs have it. He always represented Likwit, even though he wasn’t down yet. Swift went out and grabbed him. There were other extensions of The Likwits like Ras Kass, Planet Asia, Defari, Montage One, and Strong Arm Steady – it’s all family. Xzibit was the one that shined the most, especially with his first album. It was a classic and he represented well.
AllHipHop.com: Wasn’t there a little bit of turbulence between Xzibit and the crew?
King T: There was a little friction on the part of jealousy and envy at each other’s success. Everybody was doing their thing. People were trippin’, including myself, and we shouldn’t have been. That’s it really. We squashed it and talked about it like men. Motherf*ckers get a little bit of an ego when they get success. When we came back together, we did it as friends first. We would have barbeques and bring along the wives and kids. After things got hashed out, then we started talking about doing music, and honestly we’re just now coming to that. We’ve done shows together, but we’re just now coming together to do new music. It’s like we are brothers now instead of just crew members. We’ve realized that we are all that we’ve got.
AllHipHop.com: I have to ask about your time with Aftermath. You were on Dre’s Aftermath compilation, and then he was going to put out your album, Thy Kingdom Come. What happened?
King T: Honestly, I have to blame myself. After hearing stories of artists being shelved under Dr. Dre, I panicked and asked for my release. Aftermath didn’t want me to leave. They asked me to be patient. I felt that I had an album that was mixed and ready to go. He felt that it wasn’t what he thought it should be. I should have sat my a** down, listened to him, and kept working. I wanted to take my music and try to do it myself. While looking for a deal elsewhere, the album got dated. Then, eventually, it was leaked and bootlegged. Man, I don’t know.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, I saw it at a few swap-meets.
King T: [laughter] And it was nothing near how the album sounded. I was in contact with Dre while all of that was going on. We’ve always stayed cool.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, because you were even on The Chronic 2001.
King T: We’ve never had problems. I was the one that asked to be released. He even invited me to go on the "Up In Smoke" tour. I got kicked off it for fighting and sh*t [laughter]. But we’ve never had any problems. He’s a humble and great man. I wish that I could have been patient enough to sit there and listen to him, even if I would have sat on the shelf for a year or longer, because I’m sitting there learning. Dre and I are good and we’ve even got some new sh*t coming.
AllHipHop.com: There’s a new King T mixtape coming. Tell us what you’re working on.
King T: I’m working. There are a lot of new cats coming out of the West that are nice and I’m trying to keep on par with them. I want to be able to compete – on a friendly basis. That’s what this Hip-Hop thing is about. All I’ve got is music and if fans want to hear it from me, I’m going to work to put it out. I’m working on the Still Triflin’ mixtape. It’s going to mainly feature myself, but I’m trying to also showcase other artists from the West. I’m bustin’ on it, though. I might be a little too old to be bustin’ but I’m on a n*gga’s head [laughter].
Follow King T on Twitter (@kingtla).
Check back for more of our ongoing "Lessons from a Legend" series!