Issue 63 (2004)
“When I first started listening to rap I listened to people like Afrika Bambaataa, Treacherous Three, Schooly D., Eric B. and Rakim, my neighborhood favorites like Mixmaster Spade and Toddy Tee, Kurtis Blow, DJ Pooh, Just Ice, The Fat Boys, Biz Markie and all that,” reminisced MC Eiht. “I came from the era with artists that kids look at right now and say you niggas are played out. But they taught me longevity and how to rock the mic. Back then, it was about glamorizing your skills. The biggest of the biggest niggas back then was just rapping. It wasn’t about my record went platinum this week and we was in the club pouring Kristal all over naked bitches. Back then niggas told stories, Slick Rick told stories, Heavy D. taught you how to have fun and N.W.A. put you in situations. I learned not to get caught up in ‘I sold fifty million and I bought the Eiffel Tower and put a diamond on it!’ I can’t relate to that and niggas I hang with can’t relate to that cuz we don’t have it, we on the grind trying to hustle right now. Niggas back in the day taught me not to get caught up in the glitz and glam cuz you can have it today and tomorrow you don’t but if you got skills those skills are gonna carry you a long time.”
Those skills have carried Eiht throughout his fifteen-year career that began when N.W.A. blew open the door allowing him and his Compton Most Wanted cohorts to provide a second helping of the gang inspired poetry that put Compton on the map. In 1989, CMW presented a different flavor than Eazy and Dre with their debut “It’s A Compton Thang,” which served as the inspiration for John Hughes’ film “Boyz in The Hood” and gave the soundtrack a hit single in “Growin Up in the Hood.” CMW followed up with two more albums, “Straight Check’n Em” and “Music To Driveby” before Eiht started out on a solo career that would produce another eight albums anchored by the classic single “Streiht up Menace” from the Menace II Society soundtrack.
Eiht’s new album, “Veteran’s Day,” revisits those early days when artists out in Cali refused to compromise and chose to set trends that are still visible today. The album title is also a commemoration of his long career, which includes more records than both LL and Krs-One. While his offerings may not have always been platinum plus they helped define the west coast style as gritty street tales over slow grooves. Still, despite his impressive record Eiht has been criminally overlooked and oft forgotten contributor to hiphop music.
“I called the record “Veteran’s Day” for the young cats that don’t know and for the old cats who ain’t really been checking because I wanted people to know this is an artist that’s been around,” explained the quintessential Compton emcee. “I don’t feel a lot of people recognize what MC Eiht or Compton’s Most Wanted has done as far as getting the West Coast and Compton recognized representing the type of music that we do. If you check the record this guy has put out fourteen or fifteen records over his career and nobody’s done that. Naming the record that also symbolizes that with all the stuff coming out. You have Guerilla Black who says he’s from Compton, Game and all the other stuff coming out like Jim Jones, Lloyd Banks, T.I. and everybody else representing the street element. So I wanted to put it out there that I’m not a newcomer to this but I can still hang as far as having gangsta beats and being lyrical on the mic.”
In addition to having an extensive catalog and a new album to dispel his current anonymity Eiht feels another positive has been his appearance in key films. “One thing working in my favor is how much they are showing Menace II Society on TV and on cable every other week,” reasoned Eiht. “The youth are now being able to socialize with who this guy MC Eiht is. Back then some of these kids weren’t born and some of them were so young they couldn’t relate to it. Now a fourteen or fifteen year old kid sitting at home watching Menace II Society for the first time is gonna be fascinated because that shit is still going on today and secondly it’s a new generation that’s doing it. There weren’t any rappers in Menace just Too Short and myself, so when they see MC Eiht and realize my record is out its gives them a chance to feel me on that level. The showing of the movies and the fact that all these kids are on the G-Unit thang and they hear the comment made and wonder who is MC Eiht and see that it’s the same guy from the movie they saw gives me a little advantage.”
The comment Eiht mentioned is a reference to Lloyd Banks using his name in a rhyme when he spat “You don’t have to go all the way to L.A. to get your MC ate (Eiht).” Most fans accurately view the remark as just a sly punchline but others have tried to read into it even insinuating that it is some sort of veiled dis. While Eiht hasn’t gone that far some feel he is making comments to generate publicity but its something he says is taken out of context.
“I never sought publicity,” emphasized Eiht. “I never even got in the first place. It ain’t like me mentioning how I feel is gonna have me on MTV or 106 and Park because I’m not making records to dis niggas. If I was turning around making records dissing G-Unit then I could see where people were coming from. I’m just making a valid claim that certain elements of what they are doing marks what we used to do. When you think about Crypts and Bloods that shit originated in Los Angeles California and niggas look to us for that shit. So it’s kinda crazy when you got niggas in NY Bloodin’ and Cryptin’ that’s why I have to address shit like that. I’ve been going to NY since 1990 and I never seen a Blood or a Crypt but now I turn on videos and I see Dipset wearing red rags and throwing up blood signs and that shit ain’t cool. I’m speaking the real, they don’t got to be Bloodin’ and Cryptin’ in NY to be hard cuz they were already hard. It’s like if all L.A. niggas started wearing Tims with one leg up and one leg down talking about ‘yea dun.’ You’d be like hold up that’s us homie so it’s the same thing. If fans take that as trying to get publicity, never because I’ve been around long enough that I can speak on it if I feel that somebody’s is doing what we originated.”
By speaking on groups like G-Unit, The Diplomats and 213 Eiht has attempted to break down how things have changed on each coast. He clearly has called out both sections on following trends and turning their backs on the traditional styles that defined each area and it’s understandable. Around ‘93-’94 it was west coast all day with Snoop, Eiht, Warren G, Dre and Cube topping the charts. At the same time Death Row Records began to gain negative attention with their run ins with the police, 2 Pac had his beefs and Snoop’s murder case didn’t help matters either. All of this mounted to convince labels to start backing away from gangsta music.
“What topped it off was when Ice-T did “Cop Killer,” claimed Eiht, pausing for effect. “For years you could say ‘slap a hoe’, ‘kill a nigga,’ this is crypts and bloods’ etc. I used to be on my album covers with guns. If you look at every video I did before 1994 there were pistols in the video. Records companies loved it. But when Ice-T put out “Cop Killer” it must have been an election year because motherfuckers went after the record labels saying we can’t support this shit. Politicians came down hard on Time Warner which had Interscope and other labels so they let Ice-T go and got rid of Interscope and Atlantic so everything shut down. That’s when all the record companies started going after the guys talking about chains and million dollar suits. It basically shut the door on west coast music because no record company or distributor wanted to touch it. However, over the years the Trick Daddys, Master Ps, Nas and the Fabolouses started coming in but they had yet to accept gangsta rap. You could get a Trick Daddy and he could talk about shooting and the hood but he’s not from the west coast. It’s not Ice-T, Snoop Dogg, N.W.A shit. Then Jah Rule flooded the airways with so many of those love rap records it made people sick. Then Eminem came but Eminem ain’t representing the true nigga element cuz he’s a white boy. So we stuck between Eminem and Jah Rule. Then you got a nigga in NY who go the west coast ain’t been heard from in a while so I’m gonna take their whole style and that’s when 50 Cent was born. People were so tired of the other stuff that they gobbled it up. Now the record companies are like hey I don’t give a fuck you can talk about shooting up a nigga and bloods and crypts cuz he just sold eight million records doing it.”
Nowadays the scene has continued in the same direction with some NY emcees still claiming gang affiliations and displaying crypt and blood signs exploiting it like its brand new. While the increasing gang rhymes on the east is something Eiht touches on his main concern is the west coast embracing more southern sounds and party themes which he feels is an abandonment of their pioneering style.
“Our music is funk, slow grooves and more street oriented. It’s not that much glamorizing the club and pimping and all of that. For me street music is Eazy-E, MC Eiht, N.W.A., 2 Pac a little bit and a little DJ Quik every now and then. That’s our type of music. When we do the club sounds and pimping sounds I don’t think we are delivering what people are used to hearing from us. Snoop’s not doing the Gin and Juices, Cube is doing movies and I’m underground. The labels haven’t come to the west for street music because no one on the west is talking about my “White Tees” or “Knuck if you Buck.” Niggas on the west is talking “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and it’s “Beautiful.” And the ones who are doing it can’t get out the backyard. So everyone is saying they want to bring the west back but 213 dropped an album and they got more girl songs than niggas songs. It’s not a west coast record. Every other song on the album is about a bitch. The inside cover should be on the outside. On the inside they gangsters but on the front they’re businessmen that’s not west coast. When people look to west coast artists they don’t look for pimping or playboying they look for gangsta shit.”
Eiht’s prescription is to help get things back on track by breaking the trends using his independent venture to gain a major distribution deal and show that there are still viable street artists from the west. He has already set up his new company, West Music Group, which will allow him to concentrate on putting out nothing but true west coast music. “My thing is to just try to put our type of music back to the forefront of the west coast,” pledged Eiht. “We not trying to take over and make west coast music the thing for everybody it’s just so we can have our significant representation. Even though we have the Snoop Doggs and Dr. Dres, we don’t have the music. Until we get that back its going to keep hurting us.”
The first release from The West Music Group is the aforementioned “Veteran’s Day,” which is currently in stores and gaining a good buzz due to Eiht’s hands on approach with independent retailers, swap meets and the mom and pop shops in the neighborhoods. Aside from making noise on the streets, Eiht hopes that his straightforward tales will strike a nerve in some of the youth today caught up in the bling life.
“These kids are going through things and they turn on the TV and see Jay-Z or whoever else pulling up in long stretch cars when they feeling like there ain’t gonna be no tomorrow,” Eiht empathized. “Some of the stuff these youth are going through is actually being spoken about. With my record they will see Eiht is on the same page as us. He was a young cat stuck in the hood and he did it his way as far as not having to appeal to the masses. He might not be on a high scale but he still do what he do and talks about reality and not glamour and glitz because you can make a stand for yourself and don’t have to floss all that. That’s why on my album cover I don’t wear any jewelry. I just keep it plain and simple.”
Pick up Eiht’s new album “Veteran’s Day” in stores now.