Interview By Black Dog Bone
From Murder Dog Vol. 9# 4
Are you working on a lot of projects right now?
I have a compilation call Major Work with C-Bo, TQ, E-40, Pizzo, Mr. Doctor, AP-9, Messy Marv, that’s in stores now. That just came out September 10. That’s on Steady Mobbin Productions. After that I’m workin on AP-9’s album, Military Mind State. That’ll be out November 22. Next thing I’m workin on is me and C-Bo puttin together an album. I got him featuring all of my artists—C-Bo is doin a buncha songs with my artists. That’ll be out November 19. And then I just bought the masters to a Papa Roch album, a Rock band. I bought their old masters to their first album, and that’ll be out November 19 as well. Then I have an artist by the name of Cognito, a White rapper, used to be on Strictly Business Records. He’ll be comin out early February. And I got a DVD comin out called Bosses in The Booth, which is all done. It’s just a bunch footage that I’ve collected over the years, all those singles that I put out over the years—that’s gonna be a DVD of in-studio footage of everybody I’ve worked with. That should be out in March too. I’ve got a whole buncha other projects, a Mr. Doctor project, a Pizzo album, a Mac Dre album I’m doin. I’m basically takin all the people who never got put on the next level, I’m tryin to put all that talent together on my label. It’s like a Priority Records type deal I have with them. I’m tryin to take all of the people who’ve sold units and put ‘em through my system that has better distribution. I know we could sell at least a million records through the channels that I have if we provide ‘em with some hits.
When did you get your label together?
I’ve always been doin production under Steady Mobbin Production, but now the label thing, I just did that deal like three months ago. I was able to see the vision of droppin an album every month. I’m just sittin around with a bunch of product, so I figured I’d just go ahead and drop albums. They’re all artists that I know got a good shot at doing some damage.
I always wondered why you never started a record label. You’ve been responsible for a lot of the best music to come out of the Bay.
Well, me and Sam Bostic did it years ago with Mobb Boss Records. We had a group called EZSD. We put that out and did 10,000 back in ’94. But we didn’t do nothing after that, cause that was at the peak of our production career—Sam went and did the artist thing and I just started producing a lot more tracks for people—I wasn’t really payin attention to doin my label. I shoulda been, cause we come from the same era that Master P and E-40 did. If we’da kept doin it like them our label would be a lot further along now.
How did you gather all those artists—Mr. Doctor, AP-9, Mac Dre—you signed them all to Steady Mobbin?
Yeah. Me bein one of the main people out there that had major deals—I had TQ and he blew up—they knew that I had a better shot at becoming a superstar. I just went around, took Suge’s tactics and Master P’s tactics as far as pickin up artists. Try to get them help, build up my camp as a whole. That’ll make it easier to sell records, no matter who the artist is. But you need a stable of dope artists to help you build that label. The people I like that’s in between deals, I try to go get at ‘em. I know I got a better chance of helpin them get to that next level.
With all these projects are you doing all the production or are they bringing their own production?
Both. I have a camp of producers that do it. I do most of the production and I mix it. And I still choose the songs that go on there, so they’re not just givin me anything.
You pretty much oversee the whole thing?
Right. Make sure it’s not too regional; I don’t want my acts sounding regional. And everybody’s on the same page as me as far as not tryin to stay stagnant with the same Bay Area sound. Get us out of that stereotype; we got more than just the Bay Area sound.
Speaking of the Bay Area sound, you, Sam Bostic and Studio Ton were the ones to come up with the Bay Area Mobb sound. Some people don’t know how that whole sound came about.
My portion of the Mobb sound basically came up by me bein a DJ and not really bein as musically professional as someone like Sam Bostic, cause Sam could play all the instruments. How I played would be ghetto and Sam would bring the professional side of it. He would take what I would play and put some Funk and some melodic moves into what I was doin. I would choose all of the sounds, I knew what sounds would sound good. We ended up developing a sound.
So you came into it as a DJ, not as a musician?
Right, and I started playin. When you’re around other musicians you kinda learn how to play it yourself. I started to pick up little melodic runs and rifts.
How old were you when you started DJing?
I first DJed like in junior high school. I was doin school dances in junior high school. That was ’84, ’82. I was DJing house parties.
Where were you growing up?
I was in Fairfield, California. ’92, ’93 I started foolin around with makin beats—TR-7 drum machines, makin drum sounds. Few years later I came across some equipment and we just started—me and Carl and a couple other cats.
Who is Carl?
Carl Ganny. He’s a homeboy of mine that was with me back then. He’s in charge of my video production editing company now. He edits movies and documentaries and stuff like that.
When did you meet Sam Bostic?
I didn’t meet Sam Bostic until ’92. I used to go around to different studios in Fairfield, and Sam’s daddy had a studio. I went to Sam’s daddy’s studio and Sam was in there and he was playin me some of the R & B stuff he was doin. I was always lookin for something that could take me to that next sound and get me that professional sound. I knew what I wanted, but I couldn’t get it myself physically. I heard Sam’s ability, how dope he was playin the keyboards and whatnot, so I gave him a track and told him to see what he could do with it. You know you can instantly feel something when it’s good, and when I heard what he did it was tight. So I’m like, I’m gonna work on this C-Bo album, you need to come through and help me play some chords on this. So I would start the tracks and have him polish ‘em up. That turned out to be one of the Bay Area’s classic albums, C-Bo’s Gas Chamber.
How did you meet C-Bo?
I met C-Bo from a guy named T. What happened was I was doin E-40 and them, “Let’s Side” and Down N Dirty, I was workin on that album with them. T is 40’s cousin and he had the label AWOL. So T asked me to come, “I want to introduce you to C-Bo. I got artists I want you to do something with.” This was late ’92, early ’93. When he brought C-Bo to my house in Fairfield we just clicked then and there, did his album in like two weeks in a little one-bedroom apartment.
That’s one of the classic Mobb album. If people wanna know where the Mobb sound came from they need to go to that album. That’s the beginning of the sound. At that time did you feel that you had ventured into a new sound?
No. You never know until years later. You never realize what you really created until a long time later. But I knew it was something because we were sellin a lot more units than everybody else that was majorly out. We didn’t really know what style it was, cause we hadn’t put our finger on it yet.
You were just doing what came natural to you and you created a new sound. Also you were working with some key people—C-Bo and E-40. You also worked with 94 Mobsters…
And Celly Cel, Lil Bruce, buncha people. Once we did those first albums we just kept doin it. Then after a while we realized that we was like trendsetters as far as styles of music. So we started tryin to experiment and do different things. That’s when we came up with things like “Sprinkle Me.” We started doin more Mobb with light R & B sounds on top of it. That was cool, so we started doin that for a minute.
People don’t know that you and Sam Bostic played a major role in bringing R & B into Rap. No one was doing that on the East Coast or the West Coast.
Right, the melodic R & B sound.
Which became Dr. Dre’s sound later on. Because Dr. Dre was not doing that before.
Dr. Dre was actually more East Coast influenced. So we actually was doin that before he even started doin it. The only difference was that he had a bigger avenue and he had a lot more money behind what he was doin. He had better equipment, bigger and better opportunities. All we had was E-40.
The sound that came from Fairfield/Vallejo at that time was a sound that influence all regions. What happened after that?
After I did the E-40 thing and the “Sprinkle Me,” I hooked up with Femi. Femi was like another Sam Bostic, he could play all the instruments, so me and him started workin. We did a few songs on E-40’s album, I worked with RBL…I had a manager at the time named Scott Gordon, and he was down in Alabama with the Conscious Daughters; we had just done the single with them “Gamers.” He called me and he was like “You remember Rick Rock?” I’m like, “Sure I remember Rick.” He’s like “He’s got some cool beats, wanna hear ‘em?” So he let me hear some over the phone. Scott was like, you should let him come out there and help you with some beats. Cause I was swamped—I had Master P comin through, I had Mystikal comin through, I had all these people comin through my studio. I couldn’t really handle the amount of work I was getting, I was getting to big for me and Femi at the time. I told Rick Rock to come through, so I had him stayin there with me for 6 months or a year. I had all these artists around me. So I had Rick Rock doin beats. If I wasn’t there, I’d tell 40 to do a beat with Rick Rock, RBL, all these people, I’d tell ‘em to do it while I’m in LA networkin, tryin to get bigger deals for us. I ended up doin a deal with EMI publishing. I took Rick Rock over there, got him a deal with EMI publishing. At that time we were actually gonna start our label, cause we had a clique of people. So I got a deal for the Cosmic Slop Shop in LA. We came out with that and that didn’t work. So we’re back to the drawing board—me, Femi and Rick—I ended up signing this artist named TQ. He was at Atlantic Records and the A & R guy was like, “Mike you’re workin on the compilation,” I sent him some product to do the single. We do a track and I had the dude come through, I asked him could he single this, he did the song in like 30 minutes and it was “Westside.” That song came out. I hooked up with a partner, a lady named Debbie Hammond, she offered to invest if I could do something with TQ. So I got him dropped from Atlantic Records, and I produced his whole album; I had her fund the whole thing; and we did a deal with Epic. That came out and it blew up. So I was doin that executive producing thing and producing. That’s when I realized that that’s my thing, to be able to find an act and blow him up.
Do you think that your sound has changed much over the years?
It hasn’t really changed. I just try different things and see what sticks. It ain’t really the same, cause that sound is not the fresh sound like it used to be. It’s kinda old and played out. You gotta take that sound and do a couple extra other things. Like add some East Coast samples with the Mobb sound.
What happened was a lot of people jumped on that sound and everything started sounding the same. What do you think of the production styles that are happening now?
I like it cause we get a lot of different sounds. On the radio you hear a few different sounds, rather than the same sound. Even though the radio plays the same twenty songs, at least there’s a variety of sounds. Me, I like to do all of those sounds. I want it so when I do a song they don’t know who did it. I don’t want nobody to recognize my sound. Right now the East Coast is takin West Coast type beats and puttin them with East Coast rappers. I like to take East Coast beats and put ‘em on some West Coasters.
When did you move to LA?
I moved to LA like ’96, ’97. I still had a studio in Fairfield on Claybank. I found myself in LA a lot more—mixin and dealin with record labels. It was costin me too much money to be getting those hotel rooms. I figured I might as well live down here. Back then it was crucial for me to be in LA to network and get the contacts that I have now.
Are you still working with people like C-Bo and E-40?
Yeah, matter of fact, I’m supposed to be workin on the new E-40 and Too Short album; they’re doin something. And C-Bo, I’m constantly givin tracks to C-Bo and he’s doin verses for me. C-Bo, we’ll always be tight.
Right now you have a distribution deal with Warlock?
The deal is through Warlock. Red is our distributor. They’re Sony’s independent distribution company.
I feel like the AP-9 album could be big.
Yeah, we’ve been doin a lot of marketing and promotions on AP-9 and the response we’re getting is incredible. I feel like he could be the next C-Bo. And he’s got like a superstar charisma to him. That album is done; he pretty much came to me with that album finished. So I just cleaned it up and got it ready. That’s this album, but the next album from him will be out in six months—that’s the one that I’m gonna do a lotta production for. That’s the one I know is gonna do good. That one is gonna be bigger than this one, and this one is gonna be pretty big.
With your new label, what’s your approach? Are you aiming for the radio?
The thing is, I know what it takes to get radio, and I know kinda what angle to come at ‘em at. I don’t come at ‘em at the average angle. I know that you gotta have adequate distribution. You possibly have to talk with the program director; you basically gotta know somebody that knows somebody to get it played at the radio out here. I have a lot more action that the average cat in the Bay, cause I’ve had six or seven singles on the radio. So they can’t say I don’t have radio friendly songs. But I’m not really too concerned with Bay Area radio. That’s not one of our biggest markets per say. I really don’t need the radio, but I know I could get it.
You never made one-hit albums anyway. When you produce an album the whole project is classic.
Like with AP-9’s next album I wanna do some Makavelli type shit, some real dark classic music like C-Bo’s Autopsy. What I’m doin here is not just a label, I’ll be shaping the sound in a major way.