West Coast artists of the late 80’s and early 90’s were largely known for a style of sound called G-Funk. Inspired by the 60’s and 70’s generation, these artists took the funk sound that they grew up listening to thanks to the records played by their parents, uncles, and aunts, and adapted it by combining it with layered synthesizers and oftentimes a slowed up tempo of an original or replayed bassline. Who started it? Well, that’s been in dispute over the years and was even the source of a beef between Above the Law and Dr. Dre, especially when Kokane and Cold 187um (Big Hutch) made their feelings known in a diss song called “Don’t Bite the Phunk.” But two decades later, none of that is really important now and the exclamation point was put on that when Dr. Dre and Hutch reunited in 2015 for Dre’s “Compton” album. As styles change in Hip-Hop, G-Funk was put on the back burner for more modern sounds like Trap and Ratchet, however even though it’s been largely silenced – the funk never dies – and it’s been slowly creeping its head back up as if readying itself for a return.
With his George Clinton/Parliament inspired singing and rapping style, Kokane, the son of Motown composer Jerry Long Sr., has been bringing the funk to the rap world since the late 80’s/early 90’s as part of the Above the Law/Ruthless collective. Now Kokane is returning with a new album called “King of G-Funk” and he’s ready to rattle speakers and headphones with deep groovy basslines on March 18, 2016 when he releases the album. You’ll be able to hear it exclusively right here on AllHipHop.com on March 17, as part of an exclusive 24-hour stream! We caught up with the G-funkster to talk about Dre & Hutch’s reunion, the new album, and a new development as of late as it was revealed by Spanish outlet Telemundo that Kokane and producer Kenny McCloud (Bone Thugs N Harmony) recorded a secret Hip-Hop album with Mexican superstar Jenni Rivera before she passed away in 2012. Read on!
AllHipHop.com: It was cool to see Big Hutch (Cold 187um) and Dr. Dre work together again after all of these years on his Compton album, especially after all the disses in the past. I admit, that took me by surprise.
Kokane: I think it was time for them to come together and there was a level of maturity shown on both sides. They were never “true” enemies in the first place – none of us were. Things just got complex with all of the stuff that went down back then. After everything was said and done, the love and admiration that two people had from before is the same when they reunite – it never went anywhere. I was happy about the reunion because we are all better together than apart. We have our past issues but then are able to put that aside and come together like grown men.
AHH: It seems like everybody on the West Coast has had a problem with one another at one point.
Kokane: A lot of it gets perpetuated over real small sht and it has to do with ego’s. Once the ego subsides, then the differences can be dealt with. Dre and Hutch were definitely not on some ego sht when they went back in the studio. As a matter of fact, Hutch told me that when he first went to the studio to meet with Dre for the Compton recording, none of them mentioned anything that went down in the past. They went to work and acted the same as when they originally started working together. It was as if nothing ever went down between them.
AHH: Telemundo just recently broke a story about the late Mexican superstar Jenni Rivera recording a secret Hip-Hop album with you and Kenny McCloud before she died. What’s the story on that?
Kokane: Kenny and I had a mutual friend who introduced us to Jenni, and we were well familiar with her as she knew of me from my records with Snoop Dogg since she was from Long Beach. Jenni had gotten the idea to do something different for her English speaking audience, similar to Selena’s crossover album but with that Hip-Hop flavor. We all hooked up in 2003 and we put together a masterpiece. I wrote the songs, like 9 songs altogether, and Kenny did the music. I also sung background on the songs as well. Jenni was real excited about putting this English album out. I coached her through the entire recording process.
AHH: Was she rapping or singing?
Kokane: Mostly singing, but the songs are a throwback to the times of Debbie Deb and Lisa Lisa. She was about to re-introduce that 80’s type of dance/R&B sound of Hip-Hop. We came up with a phenomenal project and when she passed it really caught us off guard. She was always cool with Kenny and myself.
After she passed, we were wondering what was going to happen to the project since we knew that her fans would want to hear something like this. Kenny McCloud was the only person who had the master tapes, so Jenni’s people got in touch with us. All sides were cordial and we felt it was only right to give the estate a copy of the masters. After we gave them a copy, the cordial dealings stopped and they cut off all communication with Kenny and myself. They even sent my boy Kenny an email telling him not to bug them anymore. It was a shock because everybody was nice to us previously. I heard that Rosie Rivera, the estate’s executor, is trying to have the music remade. It’s so sad that her fans still haven’t been able to hear this album even though it’s been done for years – all because of ego and politics.
AHH: The project was finished while Jenni was alive. Why didn’t she put it out herself?
Kokane: She wanted to make sure that everything was right. I do the same thing – sometimes I’ll wait a whole year or more to release something. It was one of those things where I know that she didn’t want to rush it out. Plus, she was working on her Spanish albums but I know she wanted her English debut to be done just right. Her death was just an untimely and unfortunate thing. It took me back to being around Eazy, KMG, and 2Pac, and dealing with their deaths.
AHH: By going public with this, is it your hope to see her fans put pressure on the estate to release the album?
Kokane: Ever since Telemundo broke the story, they’ve gotten feedback from her fans, and it’s going to be up to the fans to let the estate know how they feel. If it’s a money issue, the estate is going to make plenty of it off of this album. Jenni is right up there with Selena in terms of stardom in the Spanish market. We were very cordial with the estate and we gave them a copy of the masters out of the goodness of those dealings – you can’t do people wrong like that. I need her fans to speak up on this so we can get this album out.
AHH: You are coming out with another album, “The King of G-Funk.” Let’s talk about it.
Kokane: They say you can’t reinvent the wheel, so I felt it was time to go back to that genre of rap and help bring it to the fore-front again. In this business, sometimes you try to keep up with the Joneses as far as sound is concerned, and that never really worked for me. With this album, I wanted to go back to the elements of “Funk Upon A Rhyme,” the album that I made with Hutch. I didn’t want to rush the release, so I took a year off to think about it and strategize with my Bud E. Boy Entertainment team. Then I began to release street singles to lead up to the album like “Halla,” which was right on time because I address some of the social injustices that are going on.
Another song and video that I released is called “Plastic Surgery” and it features Mr. Short Khop who I made “Dollaz, Dank, and Drank” with years ago. I wanted to give my fans that good, raw, uncut G-Funk sound – and we did it. I’ve got everybody from Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Cold 187, the Diirty OGz homies on this project and a lot of other cats.
AHH: You mentioned “keeping up with the Joneses” in terms of sound. Was there ever a time you tried to do that and if so, when you did you know it wasn’t going to work for you?
Kokane: Clients have come to me for features with their style of music and I was able to adapt. I get work all over the world. There’s different strokes for different folks and you’ve got to be able to work with different styles while staying true to yourself. I adapted for the sake of features work but when it came to myself as Kokane, I had to stick to what made me. Now you’re supposed to evolve and when you hear this “King of G-Funk” album, I mix in different elements like deep funk, spiritualism, b-boying – all like a big pot of Gumbo – just like I mix up the rapping and the singing. This sound derives from the P-Funk and when you see guys out there like Bootsy Collins and George Clinton who are still out there kicking a##, you really know for sure that there is no reinventing of the wheel – and that’s what I always go back to. The sound of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s was analog. Digital then came in and while that’s cool for mixing, nothing beats the analog sound from those eras. I talk to fans overseas and they tell me that while they enjoy the new stuff, they are still vibing to the sounds of the 90’s. Funk music is everlasting and it’s full of substance in its sound. The “King of G-Funk” album goes back to all of that.
AHH: You get pretty militant on that “They Tryna Killus” song – taking it back to the Black Panthers on that one.
Kokane: Big Hutch and I learned that from our elders, his uncle Willie Hutch and my father Jerry Long Sr. who worked on The Temptations “Smiling Faces.” That’s what I identify G-Funk with, not just making up funk songs but it’s a representation of the suppression that we all have lived through and still go through. I wanted to make that song, “They Tryna Killus,” to reflect the sound and content of Curtis Mayfield. You can go to places like Detroit and see that nothing has changed there. Then you have racist politicians who are really trying to divide and conquer. Our food and water is being poisoned and even though it’s just now being exposed, it’s been happening for a long time. That type of corruption is all over the spectrum – it’s not just confined to politics. It’s in the music, garment, and stock market trade industries too. But we’ve been pushing the limits since the “Uncle Sam’s Curse” and “Black Mafia Life” albums and I wanted to add that substance to “King of G-Funk” to balance it out with the other stuff. Music doesn’t have a balance anymore, just artists talking about a bunch of bullsh*t all day long. The generation that grew up with Hip-Hop in the 80’s and 90’s got to hear artists like Chuck D say, “Most of my heroes don’t appear on a stamp.” I hope that my song can inspire other artists to speak out more about things that are going on in society.
AHH: I can remember hearing some of those heavy militant songs on the radio years ago. Those days are long gone. Now you just hear …
Kokane: (cuts in) Ignorant sh*t with no life – just promoting death. I understand that this is a business of entertainment, but we as artists can still balance our music out. Don’t be afraid to push a limit in a song if it’s going to help someone else. Artists are pushed to be narcissistic and selfish and just talk about themselves and what they have. One of the things that I loved about Eazy-E was that no matter how much he had, he still wore his Compton hat and Cortez Reeboks, and made you feel as if you were a part of his accomplishments.
AHH: KMG unfortunately passed away, rest in peace, but is there any chance for Above the Law to reunite as a group since Hutch appeared on your album?
Kokane: It’s too early to let the cat out of the bag officially but I’ll just say that there’s a 99.9 percent chance of something happening. The group never fell apart but with the untimely passing of my brother KMG, things were put on hold. Something is definitely coming in 2017 though. We got to celebrate our people who have passed but in actuality we shouldn’t wait – we should do it while they are here too. It’s also important that we hand the baton to young artists and instill principles and a foundation in them. It’s also important that the youngsters understand protocol and know that there is no “them” without us veterans.