YOUR FAVORITE RAPPER’S FAVORITE MAGAZINE
O DDR IDDY
ARN SE AR ETT G ICEBERG
PAUL W ALL
& DJ SMALLZ I N AFGHAVADE NISTAN
E M A G WARREN G KAFANI
N A M D BIR STILLFLY OZONE MAG // 1
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PUBLISHER/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF // Julia Beverly
MUSIC EDITOR // Randy Roper FEATURES EDITOR // Eric N. Perrin
58-60 BIRDMAN W14-15 KAFANI 42-44 TRAE
ASSOCIATE EDITOR // Maurice G. Garland GRAPHIC DESIGNER // David KA ADVERTISING SALES // Che Johnson, Gary Archer PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR // Malik Abdul SPECIAL EDITION EDITOR // Jen McKinnon WEST COAST EDITOR-AT-LARGE // D-Ray LEGAL CONSULTANT // Kyle P. King, P.A. SUBSCRIPTIONS MANAGER // Adero Dawson ADMINISTRATIVE // Kisha Smith INTERNS // Devon Buckner, Jee’Van Brown, Krystal Moody, Memory Martin, Ms Ja, Shanice Jarmon, Torrey Holmes CONTRIBUTORS // Anthony Roberts, Bogan, Camilo Smith, Charlamagne the God, Chuck T, Cierra Middlebrooks, David Rosario, Diwang Valdez, DJ BackSide, Edward Hall, E-Z Cutt, Gary Archer, Hannibal Matthews, Jacquie Holmes, J Lash, Jason Cordes, Jelani Harper, Joey Colombo, Johnny Louis, Kay Newell, Keadron Smith, Keita Jones, Keith Kennedy, K.G. Mosley, King Yella, Luis Santana, Luvva J, Luxury Mindz, Marcus DeWayne, Matt Sonzala, Maurice G. Garland, Mercedes (Strictly Streets), Natalia Gomez, Portia Jackson, Ray Tamarra, Rico Da Crook, Rohit Loomba, Shannon McCollum, Spiff, Stan Johnson, Swift, Tamara Palmer, Thaddaeus McAdams, Ty Watkins, Wally Sparks, Wendy Day STREET REPS // 3rd Leg Greg, Adam Murphy, Alex Marin, Al-My-T, Ant Wright, Anthony Deavers, Baydilla, Benz, Big Brd, B-Lord, Big Ed, Big Teach (Big Mouth), Big Thangs, Big Will, Bigg P-Wee, Bigg V, Black, Bogan, Bo Money, Brandi Garcia, Brandon “Silkk” Frazier, Brian Eady, Buggah D. Govanah (On Point), Bull, C Rola, Cartel, Cedric Walker, Cece Collier, Chad Joseph, Charles Brown, Chill, Chuck T, Christian Flores, Clifton Sims, Dee1, Demolition Men, DJ Commando, Danielle Scott, DJ Dap, Delight, Derrick the Franchise, DJ Dimepiece, DJ D’Lyte, Dolla Bill, Dorian Welch, Dwayne Barnum, Dr. Doom, Dynasty, Ed the World Famous, DJ E-Feezy, DJ EFN, Episode, Eric “Crunkatlanta” Hayes, Erik Tee, F4 Entertainment, Fiya, G Dash, G-Mack, George Lopez, Gorilla Promo, Haziq Ali, Hezeleo, H-Vidal, Hotgirl Maximum, Hotshot, J Hype, Jacquie “Jax” Holmes, Jae Slimm, Jammin’ Jay, DJ Jam-X, Janiro Hawkins, Jarvon Lee, Jasmine Crowe, Jay Noii, Jeron Alexander, J Pragmatic, JLN Photography, Joe Anthony, John Costen, Johnny Dang, Judah, Judy Jones, Juice, DJ Juice, Kenneth Clark, Kewan Lewis, Klarc Shepard, Kool Laid, DJ KTone, Kurtis Graham, Kydd Joe, Lex, Lucky, Lump, Lutoyua Thompson, Luvva J, Marco Mall, Mario Grier, Marlei Mar, Maroy, DJ M.O.E., Music & More, Natalia Gomez, DJ Nik Bean, Nikki Kancey, Oscar Garcia, P Love, Pat Pat, Phattlipp, Pimp G, Quest, Quinton Hatfield, DJ Quote, DJ Rage, Rapid Ric, DJ Ricky Ruckus, Rob J Official, Rob Reyes, Robert Lopez, Rob-Lo, Robski, Scorpio, Seneca, Shauntae Hill, Sherita Saulsberry, Silva Reeves, Sir Thurl, DJ Skee, Sly Boogy, Southpaw, Spade Spot, Stax, DJ Strong, Sweetback, Syd Robertson, Teddy T, TJ’s DJ’s, Tim Brown, Tonio, Tony Rudd, Tre Dubb, Tril Wil, Trina Edwards, Troy Kyles, Twin, Vicious, Victor Walker, DJ Vlad, Voodoo, DJ Warrior, White Boi Pizal, Wild Billo, Will Hustle, William Major, Wu Chang, Young Harlem, Yung DVS, Zack Cimini SUBSCRIPTIONS // To subscribe, send money order for $20 to: Ozone Magazine, Inc. Attn: Subscriptions Dept 644 Antone St. Suite 6 Atlanta, GA 30318 Phone: 404-350-3887 Fax: 404-350-2497 Website: www.ozonemag.com COVER CREDITS // Birdman photo by Diwang Valdez; Trae photo by SLFEMP; TV Johnny photo courtesy of TV Jewelry; Young Dro photo by Travis Pendergrass; Kafani photo by Trevor Traynor; Warren G photo by D-Ray. DISCLAIMER // OZONE Magazine is published 11 times per year by OZONE Magazine, Inc. OZONE does not take responsibility for unsolicited materials, misinformation, typographical errors, or misprints. The views contained herein do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher or its advertisers. Ads appearing in this magazine are not an endorsement or validation by OZONE Magazine for products or services offered. All photos and illustrations are copyrighted by their respective artists. All other content is copyright 2010 OZONE Magazine, all rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in any way without the written consent of the publisher. Printed in the USA.
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monthly sections 13 22 30 65 62-63, W17 20 18 28, W6 26 66, W18 12 22 W4 57 13 16 18 32-39, W8-9 17-37, W5-7 14-15 24
features 46-55 45
10 THINGS I’M HATIN’ ON ARE U A G? BOARD GAME CAFFEINE SUBSTITUTES CD REVIEWS CHAIN REACTION CHIN CHECK DJ BOOTH DOLLAR MENU END ZONE FEEDBACK HOOD DEEDS I’M JUST SAYIN’THO INDUSTRY 101 JB’S 2 CENTS MATHEMATICS NAMES OF SHAME PATIENTLY WAITING PHOTO GALLERIES RAPQUEST SIDEKICK HACKIN’ SOLDIERS OF LOVE PRAY FOR HAITI
W12-13 THE GAME 56 TV JOHNNY W10-11 WARREN G 40-41 YOUNG DRO
OZONE MAG // 11
Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org www.myspace.com/ozonemagazine www.twitter.com/ozonemag
I read your “Scam Afta Scam” article. I work in media as well and have done some work with So Ice. Everything about that label is shady, from the receptionist to the managers. I live in Daytona Beach and was trying to set up an interview with OJ da Juiceman while he was in town. I called So Icey and the receptionist told me that I would have to pay $500 for an interview. I almost fell out of my seat. How are you going to charge media for an interview when they are promoting you for free? I also spoke to his management, who told me they would give me an interview for the low price of $300. Every time I deal with So Icey it’s always on some fake shit, that’s why I refuse to support their movement any longer. It’s a shame that they’re doing such bad business and I’m happy that you shed the light on this. Thank you! - Jennifer Cortez, via email (Daytona Beach, FL) Your “Scam Afta Scam” piece about Gucci Mane’s management is hardcore journalism. This is the missing link in music media. Keep up the trailblazing. - Ali Muhammad, via email (New York, NY) Great article on Gucci Mane’s management scamming promoters. Kudos for having the balls to expose the truth as it appears to be. I’m sure you may have some backlash, but I am also certain you will have more support. It takes a lot to speak up for yourself but it takes an even bigger voice, spirit, and heart to speak up in defense of others and in defense of right from wrong. Everyone wants to be treated fairly but so many get away with treating people unfairly because so many are too scared or embarrassed to speak up for themselves. I truly appreciate OZONE Magazine, and TJ’s DJ’s, your hustle and drive is admirable and it motivates me to keep chasing my own dreams. Thank you and keep reporting “the real”! - Rashanda Payne, via email I read your “Scam Afta Scam” article and I have to take my hat off to you for taking the time and effort to put together such a sound article. I’ve been an international promoter for over 11 years and have toured a vast majority of urban acts in Australia and New Zealand and Europe. I started from the clubs and worked my way up to arenas and played an integral part in the growth and commercialization of urban music in those markets. I have great relationships with some of the leading booking agents in the business. I’ve been here [in the States] for a year now as I’ve expanded my business to now encompass management, and as I’ve observed the promotions game here I can only shake my head and some of the stuff I’ve seen or been approached with or offered. In reading your article I really thought I would come across Mark Reeder’s name (Logantown Entertainment – google him) but I didn’t. He was also in the mix of some of this and on top of that he told me about these two characters [Debra Antney and Johnnie Cabbell] in a conversation about two weeks ago. I also know a couple people who lost money booking Gucci shows through him as well as other acts such as Soulja Boy. He owes me money for Jeremih shows booked in L.A. and Australia. I think your story needs a part 2 or a list of warning signs for newcomers or smaller promoters. I’ve seen and dealt with a lot on the inter-
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national level but I’ve never been held for ransom as these poor promoters have. Being a female tour promoter (quite different from a party promoter) is quite rare so I had to work extremely hard over the years to build a solid reputation in the business. I’m a strong advocate for anything that is about doing good business. Congratulations on such an insightful article. - Mariah Athans, via email (Atlanta, GA) Hey JB, I’m glad someone is putting these scam artists [in Gucci Mane’s camp] on blast. Good shit. I saw how that one website was trying to put you on blast about getting some artist a feature and it was the stupidest shit I have ever seen. I looked through the whole story and email correspondence between you and that dude and I saw nothing that you did wrong. You were simply doing business selling verses like anyone else. Those people had no idea what they were talking about. This Gucci Mane shit is the definition of a real scam, and there’s a bunch more scumbag promoters, managers, and booking agents just like them. - Lil Fats, via email (Portland, OR) How much does Jazze Pha weigh? I’m just kidding…unless you’re gonna tell me? I’m looking at the OZONE Mag photo galleries now. I will always be a fan of OZONE Mag: Your favorite rapper’s favorite magazine. In “Sidekick Hackin’” y’all got Diddy on point, and Drake is all calm and shit. Any time of the day or night, you’ll see Diddy tweeting something. He’s crazy! Missing in Action? Khia ain’t missing… I saw her at Waffle House selling CDs. Lil Flip must have followed the rainbow home. My last comment is about this picture of Suge Knight and D-Ray. What does he do now besides smoke those dick-sized cigars? - Eric Hayes, via email (Detroit, MI) I wanted to say thanks for the heads-up on Gucci’s “vampires” that are scamming promoters. I picked up the issue of OZONE with Yo Gotti on the cover, reppin’ Tennessee, and read it twice on my way to L.A. Still doing the good work, I see. Keep it up and I’ll still be reading. - Dee Prince, via email (Nashville, TN) I understand you’re in the entertainment business and I have been watching in amazement the success OZONE Mag has had ever since it was a little magazine being passed out in Central Florida. However, I’m disappointed that you switched the online photo galleries back to where people can leave comments. I absolutely hate with a passion that people can leave comments and literally beat down and massacre a person’s image and self-esteem. I’m a fan of your site and your magazine but I refuse to take pictures for your website for that reason. I feel like you’re putting black artists in the spotlight but you’re also exposing the hate and ignorance we can have for one another. It’s such a disappointment looking at the lack of support we have for ourselves. I plead with you to not allow comments under the photos. PLEASE! - A longtime fan, via email (Jacksonville, FL)
JB’s 2cents Q
uite often, if I tell someone I publish a Hip Hop magazine, I get a skeptical side-eye in response. Every time I’m interviewed for another media outlet, there’s some form of the “how did you make it as a white female in the Hip Hop game?” question. I guess from the outside looking in, it might be amusing to see a white girl such as myself forming unlikely friendships with platinum-grill-having, gold-chain-wearing tattooed rappers or producers. But to me, it’s just life. I’ve never viewed us as being that far apart. We share the common creative spirit, which knows no racial or cultural boundaries.
10THINGS I’M HATIN’ON by Mack Moli
With Mr. Marcus @ T-Pain’s Christmas party
As a relative newcomer to the rap game (been a fan since ‘94), I recognize what a privilege it is to have formed friendships with legendary artists like Scarface and UGK. Trust and rapport isn’t something that can be faked or purchased. I believe you’re drawn to home. If I was trying to be something I’m not, or trying to fit somewhere I don’t, OZONE wouldn’t be successful. It’s the intangibles. OZONE is here because of those bonds that exist; the bonds aren’t formed because I own OZONE. It has to come from within.
2. FACEBOOK I don’t want to YoVille, FarmVille, or LoserVille with you. Stop asking before I upload pictures of you and tag your acne, flat chest, or 40-year-old baby teeth. 3. Twitter I’m hating on everything from the ignorant trending topics to every celebrities’ inanimate objects having a Twitter account (@___’s Socks). Also, I get hit up with more Spam than a Hawaiian BBQ Joint.
With Birdman on the set of “Roger That” in Miami
All artists share a common bond. We’re the ones who live life on edge, waiting for that next burst of inspiration which we can sense coming on instinctively. I wake up in the morning and it’s either there or it’s not; it’s either a day for creating or a day for handling more monotonous business while waiting for that inner spark to kick in. We’re the ones who push ourselves to the limit waiting for creative energy to flow, no matter what hour of the night. We’re the ones who can’t be satisfied with mediocrity, living safe comfortable 9-5 lives with 2.3 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence. Many of us secretly crave “normal” lives, but having gotten a glimpse of the heights we’re capable of achieving, can’t settle for less. We’re the ones who need repetition to function and utilize all sorts of vices - weed, sex, alcohol, candy, whichever poison you choose - to get us in the zone where we’re most comfortable. When I’m designing I’ll listen to the same song 100x in a row, which isn’t much different from your favorite rappers’ recording method.
1. Nicki Minaj I’m tired of having late-night fantasies where I’m giving it to this Barbie like the kid next door on Toy Story only to be rudely awakened by my three-star girlfriend.
4. VH1 I hate the hypocrisy of this channel hosting Hip Hop Honors. Tune into next year’s BET Awards hosted by Hannah Montana. 5. TAYLOR SWIFT In the blink of a bloodshot eye, Kanye’s drunken escapade catapulted you into super-stardom. But we all know that Beyonce was more deserving of that award. Even Sasha Fierce was more deserving.
Reppin’ Nappy Boy with Ne-Yo in ATL
7. NICK CANNON I don’t care if Kimbo Slice calls your wife out by way of sign language. You better man the fuck up and do something. Your response was as non-existent as your rap/ acting career. Just go host a show you’ll never win, like America’s Got Talent.
6. “SWAGGER” This word has served its purpose. Its lifespan has now been stretched out more than Kate Gosselin’s uterus.
On the set of Trae Tha Truth’s “Inkredible” video shoot in Miami
8. DANCE SONGS When I go to the club, I don’t need some random rapper telling me how to do some dumb-ass dance. Half the time I’m too drunk to follow along anyway. 9. APPLE You guys make me update my iTunes more than I update my iPod. And as soon as I stack up enough money to buy an iPhone, you release a cheaper one with some more shit you left out. 10. Jay-Z You’re 40 and still doing things I can’t do at 19. You have sex with a woman who doesn’t want kids. That woman is Beyonce. Your annual income increases more then your relevance. If I can say it, why can’t the other haters?
With my CORE DJ Vegas buddy Big Dee
Having been blessed to spend some time in the studio observing the best of the best, I see many parallels between the creative process of producing an album and producing a magazine. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Listening to the same hypnotic beat for hours on end while chain smoking blunts might not be your cup of tea, but for many rappers, it’s heaven. Most of you don’t have the patience for multiple all-nighters editing either, but I do this. You have to find something you love enough to do it 24/7/365. In the ADD-inspired age of the internet and milli-second attention spans, consider it a blessing if you’ve found something you love enough to concentrate on obsessively. Focus, focus, focus. Talent isn’t enough. Your work ethic makes all the difference in the world. To find those people who have honed their talents, the true artists who are able to reach within themselves and continue competing with themselves, to always strive to make their newest work their best work, inspires me to perfect my craft. I must admit, after eight years publishing a magazine, it isn’t easy to stay motivated and inspired. Seeing others’ passion reflect in their work - whether it’s in the form of a painting, a photo, a beat, or an album and the countless hours they’re willing to dedicate to perfection - is enough to keep me going or send me back to the drawing board, knowing I can do better. To have produced full-size 82 issues and dozens of mini special editions of your favorite rapper’s favorite magazine from scratch is an artistic accomplishment, no less than a fully-packaged concept album birthed during months of sleepless nights in the studio. In the beginning, it was a blank canvas; a challenge. These days, I look at it as putting together a puzzle. Many editors, photographers, and writers contribute pieces and it’s my job to make them fit. I just wish the creative juices would release during normal business hours so I could get some sleep once in a while. =P - Julia Beverly, email@example.com
Wale f/ Melanie Fiona & J. Cole “Beautiful Bliss” Spark Dawg f/ Paul Wall, Yung Texxus, Tum Tum, & Lil Flip “No Relationship” Juelz Santana f/ Yelawolf “Mixing Up The Medicine” Timbaland f/ Drake “Say Something” B.o.B. f/ Bruno Mars “Nothing On You” Chip Tha Ripper “Movie” John Mayer “Assassin” Travis Porter “Go Shorty Go”
firstname.lastname@example.org Jay Electronic “Exhibit C” Skewby “No Handlebars” Lil Hot “I Fucked Her” Siya “Fadin’”
OZONE MAG // 13
RIP Hot 93.3. The Austin Hip-Hop station changed formats and the entire staff was unfortunately let go. The station had been on air for 6 years. Dorrough, Gorilla Zoe, and Del tha Funkee Homosapien all came through for shows at Aces Lounge on 6th Street. Area artists appearing on the lineups included KJ Hines and 2 Gunz Up. Lil Keke came through for a show at Fuze night club. J-Kapone won the Up-and-Coming Artist award at the 2009 Texas Latin HipHop award show. - O.G. of Luxury Mindz (www.luxurymindz.com)
BAY ST. LOUIS, MS:
There’s a new spot that highlights locals as well as national favorites. Club Kick Shots played host to New Orleans own Hot Boy Ronald, and 5th Ward Weebie. Yo Gotti visited B.J.’s in Gulfport, and even though he didn’t hit the stage ‘til late, he didn’t disappoint. Jacksonville, Florida’s own Pimp G hit regular rotation on J.Z.94.5 with his single “Cuddy Buddy.” The legendary Rakim threw down at the House of Blues in New Orleans. Charlie Murphy hit the Gulf Coast, and the Bay Boyz released their mixtape It’s in the Air. - DJ Deliyte (email@example.com)
Juvenile hit Mike’s Crossroad. K.D. dropped the Soul Inn mixtape with DJ Burn 1. DJ C. Ross & Freewill Records dropped Live From The Classic 5 featuring Corey Barbar, B.A. Boys, Fatthead, Nino Brown, Yelawolf, Kastro Murc, Camp, Ms. Carie, Eldorado Red, Young Breed of Triple Cs, and more. D-Real is working hard around city. Trick Daddy hit the The Palace. Nina Labelle is doing her thing at The High Note Lounge with her Wed. open mic night. Brian Todd dropped a video. Kandi & Calvin Richardson hit the M Lounge for the Swac Championship Weekend. - K. Bibbs (AllOrNothingPromo@hotmail.com)
DB Entertainment and the Mixx Ultra Lounge, along with Spade Kreations, kicked off their 5 Tha Hardway Basketball Tournament. Mixx Ultra Lounge took 1st Place and Tha Rock took 2nd Place. Count Much More Entertainment’s new single “Goon Walk” has got the G’s in the Nati slidin’ across the floor like they doing the “Moon Walk.” Newcomer Young Ex definitely has some hit records like “Popular” and “Party Girl.” Knowing Young Ex’s relationship with the Lil Wayne and Young Money camps, I expect to hear these songs nationwide real soon. - Judy Jones (Judy@JJonesent.com)
Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 Tour came to Columbus. R. Kelly stopped through on the Ladies Make Some Noise Tour with Pleasure P. Talib Kweli and Ghostface Killah came and brought capacity crowds with them. Columbusbased rappers The 3rd performed with Talib Kweli and announced the iTunes release of their debut album. Another Columbus group, Fly Union, got their record played during Monday Night Football on ESPN. Former NBA star Ruben Patterson got arrested and slapped with weapons charges while celebrating an Ohio State win over Michigan. - KayJay of the FlyPaper (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DALLAS/FT. WORTH, TX: VK Studios (pictured above) is recording everybody. The NGenius Ent. label is becoming a household name. NGenius is home to Dorrough Music, Da Block Boi – whose single “Bottles and Models” f/ Chalie Boy is getting requested – and their newest member Lil Tony – who has the streets waiting on his Posted, Loaded, Floatin’ mixtape. Big HoodBoss signed with Soulja Boy’s SODMG. T-Kash dropped “Get 2 Da Real” and the Definition DJs celebrated their 3rd Anniversary. Flonitti’s “Steppin Out Clean” and Mashmode’s “So Fly” ft. Twisted Black are keeping Fort Worth strong. Tristan Trotter, Bigg V, and GO DJ Phat keep DFW artists on the road weekly. - Edward “Pookie” Hall (email@example.com)
Rockie has the hottest song in the club with “Loaded.” Young Doe dropped another classic album titled The Secret. The Black Chamber of Commerce hosted the Mile High Legends Gala which honored Denver legends Chauncey Billups, Philip Bailey, Pam Greer, Big Jon Platte, and more. Not to mention the Nuggets, Broncos and Avalanche are looking good. W.O.W. at the Iliff Park Saloon is the newest outlet for artists every Wed night. Artists such as Mr. Midas, Fat Lee, Tone Skarfo, Juessman, Box Boyz, Big Rich, Moi Yo Yoi Boyz, and many more have already performed there. For info email firstname.lastname@example.org. - DJ Ktone (Myspace.com/djktonedotcom)
LAS VEGAS, NV:
A new mega-community called City Center opened on the Strip. 14 // OZONE MAG
Included in the megaplex are luxury condos and four new hotels – the Aria, Mandarin Oriental, the Harmon, and the Vdara. Also advertised is an array of new shops, spas, and entertainment to fulfill your pleasures. Manny Pacquaio defeated Miguel Cotto, hopefully gearing up for the ultimate fight – Pacquaio vs. “Money” Mayweather. The Core DJs brought their retreat to Vegas at the Stratosphere Hotel. Included in the crazy weekend were multiple parties, listening suites, a new artist showcase, panel, and a brunch attended by Diddy and his new group Dirty Money. - Portia Jackson (PortiaJ@sprint.blackberry.net)
LOS ANGELES, CA:
DJ Quik, Snoop Dogg, Nipsey Hussle were all on one stage at Club Nokia. Quik brought out 2nd II None, and Snoop had Lady of Rage, Xzbit, and Too $hort in his set. Raphael Saadiq had a packed house at The Wiltern, where his show turned into a 3 encore jam session. I also checked out the mixtape release of emerging artist Skeme put on by the LAX Paperboys. Tweet me! @DeviDev - Devi Dev (email@example.com)
Long-time rap group The Shelby Forest Click announced they’re releasing a tell-all video documentary about former group members Lil Wyte and Brave Dave. This could get interesting… Do I smell beef? Rapper Teflon Don picked up a national video game distribution deal for his album release God, Government, The Game. It seems Memphis’ legends are making their way back into the scene – from DJ Zirk to Playa Fly, they’re all hitting the studio and stage hard to bring Memphis back to its rap roots. Boo Money, son of DJ Zirk, is stepping out on the scene with a new song. - Deanna Brown (Deanna.Brown@MemphisRap.com)
Look out for Baby Drew & Coo Coo Cal’s Kokain Kowboyz (Myspace.com/CooCooCalandBabyDrew). Both hometown legends are now together for a full-length album. More Mil-Town artists to check for are Ray Rizzy, House of M, Que, and Viva Fidel. The R&B and spoken word movements are alive and thriving here. Also watch for singers Rodney Poe and local favorite Cincere. The Record Breaker DJs are working hard. Visit www.miltown.latestparties.com for updates on events and parties. - Gorilla Promotions (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Drake smashed through Nashville and showed much love to the city at Karma & Grammy Foundation. Juvenile manhandled L.A.X. for an official album release party. Darquan is going crazy (literally) and has a hot new single. The Hip Hop In The Ville’ Awards was hosted by Destiny Raine & Rob Dee, who are both fresh off the screening of their movie Still Broke. Crisis The Rhyme Don is ready to spark the 1st quarter. - Janiro (Janiro@southernentawards.com)
PITTSBURGH, PA: Waka Flocka, DJ Holiday, Stix Malone, DJ Jelly, Nicki Minaj, and B.G. all came through to kick it while BET’s own Q45 celebrated his birthday with the whole Burgh. Now if that ain’t big, then what is? How about Wiz Khalifa dropping Deal or No Deal (above) and landing the #1 spot on iTunes? The original S. “I’m The Man” Money is making a comeback in 2010. Chiops, Freezy, G. Money, Brucey, and Beans are all back in the studio, while Train, Shawn, & Chill continue to hold it down for the Burgh. - Lola Sims (email@example.com)
PORTLAND, OR & IDAHO:
The ‘80s group Nu Shooz did an online acoustic remix of their record “I Can’t Wait” with a deeper groove. Cool Nutz had his annual Po-Hop (Portland Hip-Hop) Conference with E-40. Cool Nutz is a true ambassador for his town. Atlanta’s transplant to the Pacific Northwest and 25360 DJ of The Year, DJ Drastic, holds down major club nights at The Greek and Club 720 in PDX. - Luvva J (Luvvaj@gmail.com)
RICHMOND, TRI-CITIES, VA:
On a sad note, WCDX Power 92.1 Jamz’ DJ Peachez (who recently released a mixtape titled Make A Bit@h Rich hosted by Tina Marie and Nikki Minaj) passed away. She will be missed. Kenny Kenny! earned 3 nominations at the 2nd Annual RockTheMic Awards including Best Male Solo MC (he won), Most Creative Song (for “I’m Blessed”), and RTM Honorary Ward. Graphic artist Qwaisan (Team Brinkz) is one of the hottest designers in VA. Fat Kat holds the crown as one of the top party promoters. - Atiyyah Wali (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ST. LOUIS, MO:
Phat Pheezy had his “Pocket Flooded” video shoot at Plush. Murphy Lee shot his video “STL N*GG$z” featuring Hitman Holla. Block DVD Vol. 4 features Yung Ro’s “Donk Dat” remix video, Yo Gotti, Jim Jones, KRS One, and a lot of STL artists. DerrtyBoi Montana’s DerrtyBoi Muzik is moving units in local stores and he appears on www.Blockdvd.com. Ray Goss is also on Block DVD’s website. -Man’s video “Where Dey Do That At” and Yung Ro’s “Runway Model” video are on WorldStarHipHop.com. - Jesse James (JesseJames314@aol.com)
DJ Knucklez flooded the scene with 9 mixtapes including new installments of his Re-Up series with Hardtargetgfx.com, I-95 North series, and his Secret Session R&B series. The Korean Supreme’s latest release was Knuckle Up Round 9. The Basiqs released their sophomore album This Lie with a rooftop party and art show sponsored by Marc Ecko’s clothing store, at one of Channelside’s premier condo buildings. Mark Victor performed his single “Cake” at Southern Swagfest in Lakeland. Also performing were Trina, Mullage, Javon Black & Lil Kee, and Plies. - Slick Worthington (Myspace.com/SlickWorthington)
The Oy Boyz released a mini-movie based on “Rob Me” and “Neverbeena” from their Back In Black album. Den Den from BBU and Dre “All Day in the Paint” put together the 16 Bars From Greatness showcase. Kingpen Slim, X.O., K-Beta, and Angel Lola Love are headlining the Capitol City Music Tour. Brother Maniac is getting airplay with his dance hit “Do The Big Mo.” Likeblood opened for Raekwon on the Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part 2 Tour. New mixtapes to check out are DJ Torkaveli’s Metro Rap Radio - Mumbo Sauce Edition, and Kingpen Slim’s Capital City Kingpen. - Sid “DCSuperSid” Thomas (email@example.com) OZONE MAG // 15
CLEAR ANCES | By Wendy Day (www.RAP-COALITION.COM)
You are an unknown struggling artist. Rick Ross is in town performing and you have the ability to offer him a few thousand dollars to come by the studio and drop a quick 16 bars. Your cousin knows Akon and said for $80k he’ll sing the hook on your song, you just have to send him the money and the ProTools session. Lil Boosie went to jail and his manager has some verses for sale to keep money flowing to him while he’s locked down. You’d like very much to have Rick Ross, Akon, or Boosie on a song with you. But it’s not as simple as just having the money to pay for that feature… Anyone who is signed to a record label is technically OWNED by that label. This means even if a rapper is my friend and I want to feature him or her on a song, I MUST get the permission of the rapper AND his or her record label to use the song IN ANY WAY. Whether that song that the artist is featured upon is my single, album filler, on a mix CD, or just featured on my MySpace page for free. Legally, JUST TO RECORD the song, I must have the permission of the artist and the label to which the artist is signed. If I plan to use it commercially (even for free promotion or on my demo to get a deal), I need the permission of the artist and their label. That permission is called a “clearance.” I am giving you the legal, raw explanation here! But what’s legal and factual rarely happens in the underground music business where everyone is struggling to be heard or stand out. All those songs that you hear floating around the internet by rappers you’ve never heard of, but that feature known artists like Gucci Mane or Lil Wayne, were probably never cleared. So this is where every signed artist is about to get really pissed off at me, because doing features is one of the ways rappers make money…but without a clearance from the rapper and the rapper’s label (business affairs department or lawyer) you legally can NOT use the feature…even if you paid for it. That little piece of paper (the clearance) means everything!! It gets worse. In order to CLEAR the feature, you must submit the completed song. It doesn’t have to be mixed and mastered, but it does need to be relatively tight. So, you ask, how do I get a Lil Wayne verse on the record without paying him money to be on the song—a song I might not be able to use? You pay him half upfront to record, and half when it clears. Now, I can’t speak for Wayne, but I can speak for most artists. If you don’t pay them in full for the song upfront, they aren’t stepping into the studio to record with you because they know there is a good chance the song will never clear. This is a gray area that has plagued the music business forever. Most rappers will tell you that’s why they charge indie artists so little, because you might not be able to use it “commercially.” If a signed rapper charges another signed rapper $25,000 for 16 bars, but you’re getting a verse for $7,500, it’s not hard to figure out that there’s a catch. But what does a local label do that has NO connections to the industry or the major labels? The real answer: You don’t feature their artist. Now here’s where the line gets real murky, because often the more savvy street labels (like CTE, Grand Hustle, Slip N Slide, Big Gates, etc) want their artists performing along with the hottest local artists, but the major label does not. Let’s use Jeezy as an example because he does so few features anyway because he’s smart about retaining his value. A new artist would want Jeezy on a song because he’s well known, has street credibility, and
it’s instant name recognition for an unknown artist to say he has Jeezy on a song. It makes the newer artist look well-connected, and it might even make it easier to get radio spins. Jeezy may want to be on a song with whoever is the hottest up and coming artist from an area because it reaffirms his connection to the streets. But for Jeezy to appear on a song, you need a clearance from CTE (which is Jeezy’s label that he owns with his partner, Kinky B) and Def Jam. Most new indie labels don’t have access to a label like Def Jam to clear a song, so they pay the artist to get on the record and then they throw it out on the streets hoping that is blows up. Their mindset is that they will cross that clearance bridge when they come to it. They are hoping that the noise the uncleared song will make for their artist will outweigh the bullshit they are going to suffer. And let’s be real—if it’s a hit record, the major label won’t complain about Jeezy being on it. Protecting their investment in Jeezy only really matters to them when the songs don’t blow up, or are garbage, because it makes their national artist look bad. Imagine if Jeezy had been on that hit Drake record. Def Jam would have happily cleared that! That’s what I mean by murky… Most smaller labels don’t have the budgets, or the proper connections, or even the experience to make a hit record blow up. The major labels know this, so they are reluctant to allow their artists to perform on a feature. On the flip side, some major labels look at clearances as a come up. Their attitude is ‘if you want to use our national artist that we’ve invested millions of dollars into building, pay us too. You can use our artist and we’ll clear the usage, but it’ll cost you $30,000.’ So, if you are paying the artist and the major label, you can see where this gets a little costly, right? Plus you need radio money, promotion money, DJ money, promo tour money, marketing money, etc….and you’re on your own to market and promote it. I rarely encourage features on my client’s music until they have a record deal. And if we do a feature, I make sure I can clear it using my connections, my clout, or my experience in clearing features. Having said that, if you absolutely need to feature Lil Boosie on your record, you will buy the feature, record the song, and then submit the song to both Trill Entertainment and Warner for clearance (unless Trill owns the masters, then just Trill—Warner’s legal department would inform you of that). Or, you will do what so many others in this industry have done before you: record the song and put it out and say “fuck it!” I don’t believe in doing business that way, but many can’t afford the money, or time, or possible “no you can’t use the song.” If you are buying a Boosie feature in hopes of using it as a radio single for your unknown artist, and you have no connection to Boosie, Trill, the industry, or powerful lawyers, you are an idiot trying to use someone else’s artist to benefit your own pocket. Why would any established label in their right mind want to help you do that? Look at it from their point of view. This is a business. Now maybe, with someone with power in the industry on your side you could get it cleared, but it’s still a risk and you’re asking a lot. Lack of knowledge in this industry is the #1 killer of artists’ dreams. Trying to make moves that connected and experienced people make, when you aren’t either one, is #2. Making bad decisions (for example, pissing off the person with power who’s trying to help you) is #3. I see these mistakes being made everyday... Welcome to the music business and have a nice day. //
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(above L-R): Ice Cube & Young Jeezy @ the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Terrence Tyson); Monica & Diddy @ Velvet Room in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Julia Beverly); Unladylike & DJ Drama @ Bash at the Bay in Toledo, OH (Photo: Eric Perrin)
01 // DJ Drama & Lo Fat @ Bash at the Bay (Toledo, OH) 02 // Jody Breeze & Gorilla Zoe @ Sobe Live for Tony Neal’s birthday party (Miami, FL) 03 // Monica, Kyle of Jagged Edge, & Tiny (Atlanta, GA) 04 // Play N Skillz & DJ Krave @ Club Joyce (Dallas, TX) 05 // Fonsworth Bentley & his girlfriend @ The BET Hip Hop Awards (Atlanta, GA) 06 // Mighty Mike & BloodRaw @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary party (Tallahassee, FL) 07 // Young Dose, Rick Ross, & Lil Ru @ Upstart Record Pool (Jacksonville, FL) 08 // Lil Kim, Bryant McKinnie, & Lisa Raye @ Miami Standup weekend (Miami, FL) 09 // J Money & Lil Bankhead on the set of Yo Gotti’s “5 Star Chick” remix video shoot video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 10 // Aziattik Black, DJ Smallz, Jo Nasty, & guest @ Freelon’s (Jackson, MS) 11 // Rob Green, DJ Ace, Zaytoven, Yung Ralph, & guest @ The Gate for Yung Ralph’s birthday party (Atlanta, GA) 12 // Bigga Rankin, Ms Rivercity, & Spark Dawg @ Upstart Record Pool (Jacksonville, FL) 13 // Young AC & Young Cash @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 14 // Guest, Victoria, Kandi, & guest @ Hoops 4 Hope (Atlanta, GA) 15 // Definition DJs Butch, Pay, Curdy, Darkness, & Papa Ron on the set of their “Franky” video shoot (Dallas, TX) 16 // Statehouse Records @ Club 127 for OZONE party (Hickory, NC) 17 // Bettie Grind & crew @ Club 127 for OZONE party (Hickory, NC) 18 // Bigga Rankin & Nicki Minaj on the set of Yo Gotti’s “5 Star Chick” remix video shoot video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 19 // Terrence Tyson & G Mack @ Primal (Atlanta, GA) Photo Credits: Edward Hall (04,15); Eric Perrin (01); FastLifeFastMoney.com (08); Freddyo (03); Julia Beverly (13); Kool Laid (10); Malik Abdul (09,18); Ms Ja (11,16,17); Ms Rivercity (14); Terrence Tyson (02,05,06,07,12,19)
OZONE MAG // 17
CHIN CHECK By Charlamagne Tha God DEAR T.I., Peace. What’s cracking Black Man? The Original Dope Boy in the Trap, Rubberband Man, King of The South.
tell you that the rap game is bullshit right now, do I? Not just the rap game, but black culture in general. We have a black president in office and I thought that would have fueled more of our people to reach for a higher level of consciousness, but it seems like we took one step forward only to take 50 steps back.
First off, respect to you. I hope this kite finds you in good spirits, my brother. They’ve got your physical locked down, but your mental is free. I’m typing this and giving it to the world to see because the truth is that we live in a society where we don’t give our black stars enough respect. We live in a world full of negative criticism of our people and I’m guilty of dishing out a lot of it my damn self. Recently I had to ask myself, “Am I a hater or is the quality of the products being put out by these artists just that bad?” The answer is…it’s just that bad.
The reason you’re important is because you are the closest thing to Tupac that the rap game has. A lot of people are going to shit on me for that statement, but it’s true. You are street yet conscious, lyrically respected by emcees and fans from all regions, and you deliver a positive message without being preachy. Both the hood and mainstream America fuck with you, you’re not afraid to talk about God, and the ladies love you. That’s a powerful combination. Because of it, Tupac was dangerous. It also makes you dangerous.
Because most of the products out there are bad, people have every right to talk about just how bad it is. Some say that if you don’t have something nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. I believe the person who created that saying probably knew what he or she was doing was some bullshit and they didn’t want anybody to call them out on it. But I do believe that we need balance. When something is great we need to show respect to that greatness, especially while the person is still alive. Give them the flowers while they are still able to smell them. T.I.P., here are your roses from me, brother. (Pause)
I know some people say, “Well, what does ladies loving him have to do with anything?” Well Willie Lynch said, “If you break the FEMALE (mother), she will BREAK the offspring in its early years of development.” So I say if you UPLIFT the mother she will EMPOWER the offspring in its early years of development. There are no songs uplifting our women right now. There are actually a bunch of records downing our women. They need someone that they admire to say, “You are more than whores, bitches, and sluts.” We have to embrace these young girls like they belong to us, like they are our biological daughters.
Clifford Harris, you’re necessary, sir. You are in my Top Six Favorite Emcees of All Time list, which includes Ghostface, Nasir Jones, Rakim Allah, yourself, Scarface, and a man you recently signed, Killer Mike. The emcees that I love speak to me. They speak on experiences that I can relate to and put them in a way that captures the exact emotion of those experiences. Being born and raised in Moncks Corner, SC on a dirt road, I can relate to your tales of being a young man growing up in the dirty South. We did things we were not proud of but we did what we had to do at the time to get by. Now we are grown, and you are one of the few artists whose growth as a man is reflected in their music. A lot of people said that you snitched to get out of the situation that has you presently incarcerated, but I never thought that. I’m one of the few people on this planet who still believes in a higher power. I said, “Allah (God) caused that to happen because he has a greater plan for T.I.” He allowed you the opportunity to teach. I can only imagine all the youth whose lives you touched in a positive way by going out and speaking to them the way that you did; or how many you encouraged to choose the right path in life by simply sharing your experiences. That is the main reason for this letter, my man. This is to remind you that your job is not done and to encourage you to come out the same way you went in. Come out a man on a mission, inspired to change the minds of the youth because they need it now more than ever. I don’t have to
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The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was quoted as saying that rappers should teach
young girls, “Where there are no decent women, there are no decent men; for the woman is the mother of civilization.” He added, “We should teach young people to admire women and not abuse women, to respect and honor women, and not defile women.” You, T.I.P., have the power to change the way people approach the microphone and you have the ability to show people Hip Hop’s true power potential. Minister Louis Farrakhan tells all rappers, “Your potential to change reality is so great that if you learned the skill of words and how to use words, if you learned how to say what it is you want to say, but say it in a way that gains universal respect; then the rap would evolve to an art form that will never be replaced. It will evolve to be that form that will set the stage for the next phase of its evolution.” Accept the responsibility of leadership, T.I.P. Someone has to lead this evolution of Hip Hop’s consciousness. The younger generation needs direction. You said it on “Ain’t I,” “They don’t know which way to go, I’ll make it easy, follow me,” so lead them, T.I.P. People listen to those who are in the position they want to be in. All you have to do is look around at those who are being influenced negatively by the content they are taking in from other artist. I wish you well, brother. Respect. Streetfully Yours, Charlamagne Tha God Follow Me On Twitter www.twitter.com/cthagod
1. SMACKA BATCH
www.myspace.com/smackabatch With a name like Smacka Batch, you wouldn’t expect this guy to have songs named “I Just Wanna Talk 2 U,”“Bedroom Eyez,” or “Sexy Lady.” But he’s actually quite the ladies man, rapping and crooning about taking women on shopping sprees and holding hands. This only forces us to quote the legendary Pretty Tony when he told Goldie, “You ain’t no pimp…you’re a rest haven for hoes.” Oh, did we mention that he heads up a label called Southern Plantation records? As outrageous as that sounds, his crew has a song called “Blessed” on YouTube that’s really worth checking out.
http://twitter.com/chitowngaggie Not sure how or why someone would decide to name themselves Gaggie, but this Chi-town MC doesn’t seem to mind the name at all. Not much of his music is floating around on the net, but… it seems to make some people want to, eh, you get the point.
http://www.myspace.com/lilaldagoon If Kanye’s swag is on “a hundred, thousand, trillion” then Swagzilla’s must be in the zillions, euro even. by Maurice G. Garland
(above L-R): Playaz Circle & Ludacris @ The Ritz for Playaz Circle’s release party in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Ms Rivercity); Too Short & J Diggs @ Black Biker Round Up in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Julia Beverly); Michael Watts & Slim Thug @ Hot 93.3 Summer Jam in Austin, TX (Photo: Edward Hall)
01 // Fella & ladies @ Ale Gators (Lakeland, FL) 02 // Jeff Johnson & BloodRaw @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary party (Tallahassee, FL) 03 // Young Joe & DJ Spinatik @ Whiskey North (Tampa, FL) 04 // Rob G & Charles Chavez @ Latium Entertainment’s 10 Year Anniversary (Houston, TX) 05 // Trai D & Sho from Skyhighworld @ K104 (Dallas, TX) 06 // Monica, Debra Lee, Tiny, & Toya @ The BET Hip Hop Awards (Atlanta, GA) 07 // Lil Kim & Busta Rhymes @ Miami Standup weekend (Miami, FL) 08 // Alex Thomas plants one on Lisa Raye @ Take One (Miami, FL) 09 // Waka Flocka Flame & OJ da Juiceman @ The BET Hip Hop Awards (Atlanta, GA) 10 // Michael Watts, TV Johnny, & Paul Wall @ Hot 93.3 Summer Jam (Austin, TX) 11 // J Futuristic & Ms Ja on the set of J Futuristic’s “This Is How We Play” video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 12 // DJ Reave & Dorrough Music @ Ultra Lounge for Dorrough & Dr Teeth’s BET Nomination party (Dallas, TX) 13 // Keisha Zackery, Rochelle Brown, Simon Gidewon, Jasmin Franjul, & GMack @ Hip Hop Diva’s Award Show (Atlanta, GA) 14 // Guest & Bertell @ Velvet Room for Don Cannon’s birthday party (Atlanta, GA) 15 // Carol O’Connor, Stunna Man, & Ms Keke @ JSU Athletic Center (Jackson, MS) 16 // DJ Demp, Kevin Cossom, & Red Rum @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 17 // Pill & DJ Burn One @ Echo Studios for 8Ball & MJG’s Listening Session (Atlanta, GA) 18 // Young Dro & ladies @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 19 // Alley Boy & Big Bank Black @ Clark Atlanta University Homecoming concert (Atlanta, GA) 20 // Bigga Rankin & Gucci Mane on the set of Yo Gotti’s “5 Star Chick” remix video shoot video shoot (Atlanta, GA) Photo Credits: Bogan (08); Brandon Holley for SLFEMP (04); Edward Hall (05,10,12); Ericka Hicks (15); FastLifeFastMoney.com (07); Freddyo (13,19); Julia Beverly (06,14,16); Malik Abdul (20); Ms Ja (11); Ms Rivercity (17); Terrence Tyson (02,03,09); Travis Pendergrass (01,18)
OZONE MAG // 19
She Liked my NECKLACE and started relaxin’, that’s what the fuck I call a…
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
he first piece I wear is a scroll. It’s like an old-school piece of paper, like an 1800s piece of paper, like a parchment or something they wrote the Declaration [of Independence] on. There’s a pen laying on there in black diamonds. The whole paper is studded out with diamonds and it says, “The ink never dries.” My man over at Jacob’s [the Jeweler] always looks out for me. I explained how I wanted it laid out. As far as [the price], man, no comment. Y’all know what I do for a living, so I don’t have to do nothing fake. It definitely cost a couple hundred thousand and it’s a couple hundred carats. There’s always somebody waiting in the wings [to snatch it] but I’m always straight. I’ve learned valuable lessons in life and you’ve gotta always make sure you’re in a situation where you’re straight. There’s a lot of lurkers. My second piece is a little backpack that I always wear. It’s where I
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As a songwriter, Garrett has penned many of your favorite radio hits for artists like Usher, Beyonce, & Chris Brown
keep my pens and stuff. I carry around a backpack all the time and I always have pens in my backpack. Jay-Z named me “the Pen,” so I’m like a literal backpacker. I always have the backpack and pens in the stash. I’ve got a smaller chain too that’s just a pen. Ironically, I generally don’t use a pen when I write. [The song] is in here (points to his head). I only use the ink to sign checks (smiles). [The chain] is definitely symbolic of the pen because that’s my moniker. If you hear a smash on the radio, “I penned it,” that’s my actual moniker. I like jewelry and if I’ma wear jewelry, I definitely want it to have some significance. The pen is definitely a significant part of me, you know? // As told to Julia Beverly Photo by Julia Beverly
(above L-R): Lil Boosie & his daughter @ the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Freddyo); Big Gates & Plies @ The BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Julia Beverly); T-Pain & his father Shaheed Najm @ the Nappy Boy Mansion for T-Pain’s birthday bash in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Malik Abdul)
01 // Clay Evans & Lil Duval @ Morehouse Homecoming concert (Atlanta, GA) 02 // Travis Porter & Tity Boi of Playaz Circle @ The Ritz for Playaz Circle’s release party (Atlanta, GA) 03 // 3Feet & DJ Chico @ Balla Bash (Texarkana, TX) 04 // Rook & 9th Wonder @ The Earl (Atlanta, GA) 05 // Eric Perrin & Young Jeezy @ Young Jeezy’s Adidas in-store (Atlanta, GA) 06 // Polow da Don, Monica, T-Pain, & Usher @ the Nappy Boy Mansion for T-Pain’s birthday bash (Atlanta, GA) 07 // Lil Wayne & fans backstage @ America’s Most Wanted Tour (Atlanta, GA) 08 // Ludacris & Aiyisha Obafemi @ Hip Hop Diva’s Award Show (Atlanta, GA) 09 // Soulja Boy & Monica (Atlanta, GA) 10 // Orlando McGhee & Jason Geter @ Stankonia for Big Boi’s listening session (Atlanta, GA) 11 // Aziattik Blak, Montana Esco, Lil C, & Stax @ JSU Athletic Center (Jackson, MS) 12 // Hip Hop Friends & TJ Chapman @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 13 // Kane Beatz & Lil Bankhead @ Club Crucial for Killer Mike’s release party (Atlanta, GA) 14 // DJ Nasty & Sam Sneak @ 02 Arena (London) 15 // Hutch Daddy & Lo Fat @ Bash at the Bay (Toledo, OH) 16 // Supa Chino & Young Cash @ Plush (Jacksonville, FL) 17 // Jadakiss & DJ Sandman @ 95.7 The Beat (Tampa, FL) 18 // Boo & Young Jeezy @ America’s Most Wanted Tour (Atlanta, GA) 19 // Geter K & Triple C’s @ Primal for Triple C’s release party (Atlanta, GA) Photo Credits: Edward Hall (03); Eric Perrin (05,15); Ericka Hicks (11); Freddyo (08,09); Julia Beverly (01,07,10,12,14,18); Malik Abdul (06); Ms Ja (19); Ms Rivercity (02,04,13); Sandman (17); Terrence Tyson (16)
OZONE MAG // 21
Are You a G? 7 Questions to FIND OUT if R&B STAR STEPH JONES is the 7th letter of the alphabet. We put former DTP crooner and Patiently Waiting alum Steph Jones to the test to determine if the Texasborn model/R&B singer is G’ or just as soft as the stereotype. A. Have you ever been to jail? Yes, I was in prison for 2 years actually. When I was in France I ran into some people that I knew from L.A., but I didn’t know they were being investigated by the authorities. As soon as I got home, when I got off the plane, the authorities demanded I give them the real names of like 9 different people who I was hanging out with. They said if I didn’t give them the names they would send me to jail. So I ended up taking one for the team because the people I was with weren’t the type that you snitch on; I love my life and my family so I didn’t say anything. I ended up spending 25 months in a French prison. Not snitching keeps you and your family safe, and it also earns you extra credit on OZONE’s “Are You a G’” scale. B. What the worst thing that happened to you in jail? People turned their backs on me. I wrote over 125 letters to people while I was in there and nobody wrote me back. That was the hardest thing, and I didn’t get any visits or anything. Friends turning their backs on you is a lot better than turning your back towards your
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fellow inmates. As long as none of that went down, Steph gets credit for this response. We’ll take his word for it. C. What gangsta movie do you identify with? Godfather. It’s just the air of the whole movie. Maybe it’s the way it was directed, but I really can’t explain it, I just love watching that movie. Anytime I think of a gangsta movie I always compare it to Godfather. I can picture it really going down like that. Godfather or Scarface were the only two movies we would accept for this answer. D. What’s the most devious line you use to get girls in bed? The crazy thing is I don’t really have game, man. I just be saying anything. Whatever I say they go crazy; it’s just my personality. If I decided to wear pink and brown hair, I’m gonna wear it better than anybody, cause I just don’t care. Yeah, and we just don’t care for this answer. Sorry. E. Most embarrassing on stage encounter? The bottom of my microphone fell out one day, but I didn’t get embarrassed ‘cause I ‘m really good at improv. I reached over and grabbed the background singer’s microphone without skipping a beat; everybody started clapping. Eh, not bad, but not gangsta either. F. You used to model, but did you actually get paid
for it, or were you like a “Myspace model”? I was a professional model. I still get paid from it. I used to do stuff for Old Navy, Enyce, and Wilson’s Leather, but modeling doesn’t give me self-fulfillment like writing a song and having someone listen to it and [react]. That means more than any modeling campaign. Sorry Steph, that was a nice answer, but we can’t award you G’ credits for anything related to modeling. G. Growing up in Texas what was the roughest thing you saw firsthand? I was born in 3rd Ward, Texas and as a 12-year-old I witnessed my father being murdered right in front of my face. [The murderer] left me there as a trophy, so that’s something I had to live with my whole life. Not much humor to find in this response. Real G’ shit, unfortunately. Score 4/7 Admissions of modeling and pink and brown hair ensure that Steph Jones definitely needs a lot of work to solidify his G’ status, but the fact that he spent two years in a foreign prison just for not snitching is worth a passing grade alone. Make sure to check out Steph’s new Lifetape called Gravity (“most people would call it a mixtape, but this is part of my life, and I’m injecting it into y’all’s life, so it’s a lifetape,” says Steph). Words by Eric Perrin
Hood Deeds WORDS By Eric Perrin PHOTO BY ANNETTE BROWN/GETTY
Sean “Diddy” Combs isn’t the kind of guy you would expect to see riding around in a cab, but last year he spent close to a million dollars on cab rides—in one night alone. This past New Year’s Eve Diddy encouraged partygoers in New York and Las Vegas not to drink and drive, and he was so vehement that he paid the cab fare for thousands of New Year’s Eve. Diddy, along with Ciroc Vodka and E Entertainment, employed street teams to distribute thousands of debit cards worth $15 each in the respective cities high traffic areas, including bars and clubs in Times Square and Las Vegas Blvd. The goal was to ensure that everyone made it home safely. The Diddy Debit cards were redeemable in over 15,000 yellow cabs from 11 PM on New Year’s Eve to 3 AM on New Year’s Day. “As the ‘Official Vodka of New Year’s Eve,’ we have a responsibility to remind everyone to get home safely on this most celebratory of nights,” Diddy said through a video message aired on taxicab televisions leading up to New Year’s Day. He added, “New York stands as the world’s icon for a New Year’s Eve celebration and Las Vegas is the biggest party destination in the country. By bringing this program to both of these great cities we will continue to show the rest of the country that a sophisticated holiday celebration doesn’t end when the ball drops, but when everyone gets home safely.” //
(above L-R): Block & Gorilla Zoe @ Florida Music Conference in Miami, FL (Photo: Terrence Tyson); DJ Q45 & Fabolous backstage @ the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Malik Abdul); Free & Lisa Raye @ Miami Standup weekend in Miami, FL (Photo: FastLifeFastMoney.com)
01 // Blow & Travis Porter @ Scores for Young Quez’s birthday party (Atlanta, GA) 02 // Cagle, Mami Chula, & Smurf @ Young Jeezy’s Adidas in-store (Atlanta, GA) 03 // P Brown & M Beezy @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary party (Tallahassee, FL) 04 // Teddy T & Pretty Ricky @ Florida Music Conference (Miami, FL) 05 // 2wiceburg Slim & J Rich @ the BET Hip Hop Awards (Atlanta, GA) 06 // Goodie Mob & DJ Q45 @ the BET Hip Hop Awards (Atlanta, GA) 07 // Rocko & Monica @ the Soul Train Awards (Atlanta, GA) 08 // Stax & Lil Boosie @ JSU Athletic Center (Jackson, MS) 09 // Triple C’s & Ace Hood @ Triple C’s listening party (Atlanta, GA) 10 // Rook & DJ Premier @ The Earl (Atlanta, GA) 11 // Tanza @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 12 // Young Dose & Ms Dynasty @ Silver Foxx for Ms Dynasty & Bigga Rankin’s bday bash (Jacksonville, FL) 13 // 1st Lady, Strizzo, & ladies @ 1st Lady’s Birthday Bash (Tampa, FL) 14 // Benz & Bay Bay on the set of Benz’s video shoot (Jackson, MS) 15 // Bay Bay, Big Chief, & Deville @ Club Joyce (Dallas, TX) 16 // Lil Bankhead, Lil Duval, & DJ Drama @ Clark Atlanta University Homecoming concert (Atlanta, GA) 17 // Maurice Garland, Terrence Tyson, DJ Smallz, & Randy Roper @ 595 North for DJ Hero launch party (Atlanta, GA) 18 // Supa Cindy & Jamal ‘Gravy’ Woolard @ Karu & Y (Miami, FL) 19 // TayDizm, Bu, & guest @ the Nappy Boy Mansion for T-Pain’s birthday bash (Atlanta, GA) Photo Credits: Bogan (18); Edward Hall (15); Eric Perrin (02); Ericka Hicks (08); Freddyo (16); Kool Laid (14); Malik Abdul (06,19); Ms Ja (01,07); Ms Rivercity (10); Terrence Tyson (03,04,05,09,12,17); Travis Pendergrass (11,13)
OZONE MAG // 23
TIGER WOODS & TRINA TRINA: Hey Tiger. What are you doing boo? TIGER: Look, Katrina. Please, leave me alone. I can’t talk right now. My wife and I are in counseling. TRINA: Ok, just text me when yall done. TIGER: Well actually, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something Katrina, can you change the name on your phone. My wife found your number and she might be calling you. You have to do this for me. Quickly! TRINA: WTF! Fuck that trick, Tiger. She can’t throw it back like the baddest bitch. TIGER: Who is the baddest bitch? TRINA: Me motherfucker. TIGER: Yes, I agree. I definitely have fond memories of you “throwing it back,” but could you please refrain from disrespecting my wife. TRINA: Ok, I’ll leave your wife alone. But I don’t appreciate you fucking all them other hoes. What’s that about? TIGER: I’ve made some heinous transgressions in my past that I thoroughly regret. Please allow my family and I time to remedy our wounds. I’m working on becoming a better husband, father and person. TRINA: Nigga, shut the fuck up. You weren’t talking that shit when you were up in this pussy last week. TIGER: I told you Katrina, I am not a “nigger.” You are beginning to offend me!
TRINA: Come on Tiger, you don’t know nann hoe. TIGER: Who is Nann? I didn’t have relations with any woman named Nann.
Textin’ is no longer safe now that OZONE’s dangerous minds have hacked the system.
TRINA: Naw, nigga I meant you don’t know nann hoe like me who’ll keep it wet like me, make it come back to back like me, lick a nigga nut sack like me TIGER: Hold up baby hold up, what you said you’ll do bitch? TRINA: Nigga, you heard what I motherfuckin said! TIGER: Oh God Katrina, I love it when you talk like that. I need you! TRINA: Then get your tight ass over here and visit me TIGER: I will wear you out soon From the minds of Eric Perrin & Randy Roper Trina photo by J Lash
24 // OZONE MAG
(above L-R): OJ da Juiceman & Nicki Minaj in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Terrence Tyson); James DuBose & Monica @ Bocado for Monica’s Still Standing premiere party in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Julia Beverly); Christina Milian & The Dream @ the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Freddyo)
01 // Lil Twist, Tezz, & Toya @ The BET Hip Hop Awards (Atlanta, GA) 02 // 8Ball & MLK @ Echo Studios for 8Ball & MJG’s Listening Session (Atlanta, GA) 03 // Yung LA, Young Dro, Red Rum, Too Official, & Buck @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 04 // Ahmed Obafemi & Lo Fat @ Stankonia for Big Boi’s listening session (Atlanta, GA) 05 // 1st Lady & Bad Guy @ 1st Lady’s Birthday Bash (Tampa, FL) 06 // Young Jeezy autographing sneakers @ Young Jeezy’s Adidas in-store (Atlanta, GA) 07 // Big Boi & his umbrella carrier @ the BET Hip Hop Awards (Atlanta, GA) 08 // BOB & Julia Beverly @ Morehouse Homecoming concert (Atlanta, GA) 09 // Monica & her brother Montez @ Bocado for Monica’s Still Standing reality show premiere party (Atlanta, GA) 10 // Toccara & Eva Pigford (Atlanta, GA) 11 // DJ Dr Doom & Aquarius @ Club Ivy for Dr Doom’s birthday bash (Jacksonville, FL) 12 // Bigga Rankin, BoB, & Spodee @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary party (Tallahassee, FL) 13 // Paperchaserz on the set of their “Franky” video shoot (Dallas, TX) 14 // Trump & guest @ Club 127 for OZONE party (Hickory, NC) 15 // Rock City @ Morehouse Homecoming concert (Atlanta, GA) 16 // J Diggs & Cavario H @ Velvet Room for Don Cannon’s birthday party (Atlanta, GA) 17 // Playaz Circle (Atlanta, GA) 18 // Johnny Nunez, Howard, & Lyntina Townsend @ the BET Hip Hop Awards (Atlanta, GA) 19 // Primetime Click & Dorrough @ Plush (Jacksonville, FL) 20 // Boo & JW @ Club Crucial (Atlanta, GA) Photo Credits: Edward Hall (13); Eric Perrin (06); Freddyo (07,10,17,20); Julia Beverly (01,04,08,09,15,16); Ms Ja (14); Ms Rivercity (02); Terrence Tyson (11,12,18,19); Travis Pendergrass (03,05)
OZONE MAG // 25
In music, royalties are how an artist gets paid; in the strip club, Royalty is where those checks get spent. Meet Royalty, a vivacious 26-year-old from Orlando, Florida who is quite proud of her pole prowess and uses her head to get whatever she wants in life—literally. “One night I made $1500 in 2 hours,” exclaims Royalty. “And that’s because I can stand on my head for 20 or 30 minutes straight, depending on how long you want me to.” In fact, Royalty is so confident in her dancing ability she likens her on-stage tactics to a Broadway musical. “When people see me dance they always say, ‘Oh, my God! She was born to do this.’ And that’s because it’s all about the show with me,” she says. “I want people to come watch my performance and be intrigued, ‘cause it really is a show.” Perhaps it’s more than just a show for Royalty, as she claims dancing brings out the best in her. “It makes me happy and takes away any negativity in my life. I feel the music so much that I make love to it, so when you see me I’m dancing, I’m really making love to the music.” And when she’s not making the love to the music, the auspicious Aries is a self proclaimed homebody who got rejected for a living in her previous profession. “I used to be a telemarketer,” admits Royalty. “Doing that job you gotta get used to people yelling ‘fuck you, stop calling me!’ all day.” Needless to say, she likes dancing a lot better. And while many strippers have long-term goals outside of dancing, Royalty is the exception. Her career ambition is to be an exotic dance instructor. “I want to teach housewives how to dance for their husbands,” she says. “I want to show them that they’re able to perform for their men and be happy with what they’re doing. Dancing can bring out a lot of love.” Words by Eric Perrin Website: Strokersclub.com Booking: myspace.com/strokersatl Photography: DC The Brain Supreme dcphotoimaging.com Make up and Hair Styling by Mike Mike 678-732-5285
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(above L-R): Yung Joc @ The BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Terrence Tyson); Bun B & Jazze Pha @ The BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, GA; JW & Rich Boy @ Triple C’s video shoot in Atlanta, GA (Photos: Julia Beverly)
01 // DJ Khaled & Ace Hood @ Florida Music Conference (Miami, FL) 02 // Rick Ross & Bigga Rankin @ Upstart Record Pool (Jacksonville, FL) 03 // Mr & Mrs Michael Saunders & Spectacular of Pretty Ricky @ Florida Music Conference (Miami, FL) 04 // Young Tone, Guest, & Juney Boomdata @ Ilovemyplug.com’s Labor Day Bash (Atlanta, GA) 05 // Dru Brett of The Runners & Kiko @ Triple C’s video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 06 // Buttahman, Amir Boyd, Lil Duval, Young Dro, & Clay Evans @ City Cuttz (Atlanta, GA) 07 // Guest, Simon Gidewon, Julia Beverly, GMack, Jasmin Franjul, Rochelle Brown, & Aiyisha Obafemi @ Hip Hop Diva’s Award Show (Atlanta, GA) 08 // Toya, Ester Dean, & Tiny (Atlanta, GA) 09 // Lil Boosie and a fan @ JSU Athletic Center (Jackson, MS) 10 // Jeevan Brown & Nicki Minaj on the set of Yo Gotti’s “5 Star Chick” remix video shoot video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 11 // Chucc & Bay Bay @ Balla Bash (Texarkana, TX) 12 // DJ Q45 & DJ Koolaid @ Club Christophers (Jacksonville, FL) 13 // Big Bodie, Terri Sherman, Wendy Day, 4-Ize, Tuesday Knight, Grand Prix, & Shane @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary party (Tallahassee, FL) 14 // G Fresh & KC da Beat Monster @ Ilovemyplug.com’s Labor Day Bash (Atlanta, GA) 15 // Papa Duck & Young AC @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary party (Tallahassee, FL) 16 // Suga D & Fella @ The Moon for FAMU Homecoming afterparty (Tallahassee, FL) 17 // Young Breed, Torch, & Gunplay @ Upstart Record Pool (Jacksonville, FL) 18 // Rob Green, Ms Rivercity, & DJ Ace @ The Gate for Yung Ralph’s birthday party (Atlanta, GA) 19 // Rashad Tyler & Amir Boyd @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) Photo Credits: Edward Hall (11); Ericka Hicks (08); Freddyo (06,07); Julia Beverly (04,19); Malik Abdul (05,09); Ms Ja (03,14,18); Terrence Tyson (01,02,03,12,13,15,16,17)
OZONE MAG // 27
Where are you from originally, and how did you get into Hip Hop? I’m originally from Ludlow, Massachusetts. I got into Hip Hop when an eventual friend moved into the neighborhood when I was in 6th or 7th grade. He put me onto Wu Tang Clan, Das EFX, The Fugees, groups like that. From there I started hearing it on the radio. I’d make pause tapes from whatever the DJs played on Friday nights. So, the next Monday at school, I’d have all the new music. After a while my friend said we should go in on some turntables and make mixtapes ourselves. I saved up enough money for a beginner’s set of turntables. They were really crappy, though. They only played Hip Hop on Friday nights at the time? It was a college station, so they played Hip Hop regularly. There wasn’t a “Hot” or “Power” station there at the time. Back then you only heard Hip Hop through the pop station, and it was just the mainstream stuff. You had to listen to the college station to get the Hip Hop. Niko and Jay-1 were the main DJs. They were dope. Did working on crappy turntables hinder your progress? I got all the practice I could on them, but I couldn’t even blend. Once I got my Technics, I was hooked. I practiced everyday. Jay-1 was one of the local DJs and he showed me some stuff. He would take time and go to this local music store and give me lessons on Saturdays. I practiced hard. It took me months to even learn how to do a flare. Learning from Jay-1 taught me a lot. I was into learning the tricks moreso than wanting to rock parties. What was it about turntablism that attracted you more than party rockin’? Its not that I didn’t want to rock parties, I just wanted to stand out and have something distinct. Nowadays guys get turntables or Serato and a library of music and they just start DJing with no practice. The tricks are the things that people notice. Everybody has to know how to rock a crowd, but it’s the tricks that set you apart. I also liked it because it was the first thing I learned how to do. I didn’t go out and start DJing parties at first. I would just be in my room with those crappy turntables that happened to come with a DMC video starter kit. It had Kraze, Roc Raider and all those guys on it. So I didn’t even see party rockers at first, I was only watching them. It was entertaining. Then when I started going to the club is when I saw how to actually rock a party. Plus, I used to breakdance too because I was really into B-Boy battles. I went to a lot of the Rock Steady reunion shows in New York. I have a love for Hip Hop. I really understand the culture of it. You pretty much built your name and presence in Atlanta. How did you end up down there? Before I moved I used to be a high school teacher. I started DJing my Junior and Senior years in school, doing a lot of parties. I got a degree in science but all I could do with that degree was teach. I hooked up with these guys named the Short Bus Alumni and they said I should come down to Atlanta with them as their DJ. They said I’d get a lot more DJ work down there. Things didn’t even work out with them, but while I was in Atlanta I wanted to link up with DJ Jamad because I always enjoyed his mixes, and mine had similar music. I went to a Sol Fusion party my first time down and gave him one of my mixtapes. He liked it and hit me back and just took me around, he pretty much brought me in under his wing. If it wasn’t for Jamad I wouldn’t have met anybody. From there I started DJing for Hollyweerd, then different promoters saw me, and then I wound up linking with Asher Roth. How has it been being his official tour DJ? He’s had a lot of hype surrounding him. It’s been incredible. All I ever dreamed about was going on tour. Asher is one of the most humble people I’ve ever met, and his whole crew is humble too. The crowd response on his tour has been great. But to be with people who are about having fun is what makes it enjoyable. We just got off tour with Blink 182 and seeing their reaction and having Travis Barker watch all of our shows is awesome. We’ve gotten to rock Madison Square Garden and arenas with 20,000 people there.
As Asher Roth’s official tour DJ, DJ Wreckineyez has started on a journey that will surely lead him to being the next big name DJ in Hip Hop. skilled in both turNtablism and party rocking, it’s only a matter of time before you see him on TV mixing for celebrity-filled events that you wish you could attend. 28 // OZONE MAG
Since you’ve accomplished your dream, what are some goals you’ve set for yourself along the way? I’m setting myself up to do this for a living for as long as I can. I’m really trying to go to the next level. I’m moving to California. I want to be like Jazzy Jeff. I want to rock parties and have people trust me to play different stuff, instead of promoters telling me what they want me to play. I’ve seen you step from behind the turntables and start breakdancing. Is that something that you’re incorporating into your show regularly? (laughs) No, that’s just me having fun, getting caught up in the moment. I’m not trying to incorporate dancing into my routine. I’m out of shape, I can’t do that anymore. // Words by Maurice G. Garland // Photo by Hannibal Matthews
(above L-R): Fella & Plies @ The Moon for FAMU Homecoming afterparty in Tallahassee, FL (Photo: Terrence Tyson); Pretty Ricky @ Locker Room Studios in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Ms Rivercity); BOB & Fabo @ The BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Julia Beverly)
01 // Bones, Gator, BloodRaw, & Mighty Mike @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 02 // J Diggs & Big Dante reppin Mac Dre and the Furly Ghost Rydahs @ Black Biker Round Up (Atlanta, GA) 03 // Lil Duval & Jas Prince @ America’s Most Wanted Tour (Atlanta, GA) 04 // Charles Wakeley & Swazy Styles @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary party (Tallahassee, FL) 05 // BoB & Clay Evans @ Morehouse Homecoming concert (Atlanta, GA) 06 // DJ Bobby Black, Rocko, & Montez @ Bocado for Monica’s Still Standing reality show premiere party (Atlanta, GA) 07 // Trai’D & Freddy Hydro @ The BET Hip Hop Awards (Atlanta, GA) 08 // Suga D & Plies @ The Moon for FAMU Homecoming afterparty (Tallahassee, FL) 09 // Kevin Cossom & DJ Q45 @ The Moon for FAMU Homecoming afterparty (Tallahassee, FL) 10 // Ms Dynasty & Young Cash on the set of Young Cash’s “Money” video shoot (Jacksonville, FL) 11 // Rick Ross & Derek Washington @ Upstart Record Pool (Jacksonville, FL) 12 // Mayne of The Runners & Marco Mall @ Florida Music Conference (Miami, FL) 13 // Mac Boney & Bigga Rankin @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary party (Tallahassee, FL) 14 // Geter K, Sinsay, & Lou @ Triple C’s video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 15 // DJ Q45 & DJ Dr Doom @ Club Ivy for Dr Doom’s birthday bash (Jacksonville, FL) 16 // Bigg DM, Tony Neal, & Jason Geter @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 17 // Sam Sneak & Geter K @ Silver Foxx for Ms Dynasty & Bigga Rankin’s bday bash (Jacksonville, FL) 18 // Pleasure P & Lil Chuckee @ America’s Most Wanted Tour (Atlanta, GA) 19 // Youngbreed & Torch of Triple C’s @ Club Kufa (Saarbrucken, Germany) Photo Credits: Julia Beverly (02,03,05,06,07,14,16,18,19); Terrence Tyson (04,08,09,10,11,12,13,15,17); Travis Pendergrass (01)
OZONE MAG // 29
You may have heard Lil Wayne shouting out his name (“Kane on the beat”) on the Kane Beatz-Produced “We Be Steady Mobbin,” but we doubt you know the whole story behind this Orlando beatmaker. Luckily, OZONE persuaded Kane to step away from Fruity Loops and Pro Tools for a second to tell us how he went from selling beats on Soundclick. com to producing for rap’s biggest names. I was making beats in high school and selling them on Soundclick.com. I started getting a lot of buzz on there. I ended up doing my [publishing] deal with Warner/Chappell and Mike Caren. That happened in like 2006. So, really since 2006, my first placement was [Trick Daddy] “Tuck Your Ice.” That was my first single. It didn’t really go huge, but it was big for me. From there I was just working, building my name, constantly getting placements. I was getting placements every year, just working trying to get singles, and in the process building my name, getting to know people. People spend so much time complaining about wanting to get on, and for me, I didn’t understand music that much. I just knew I was good at making beats. I was just working, man. I sold beats on Soundclick, and the hustle from it, I realized I was getting real good. And then, just the idea of branding myself, just working so hard on Soundclick ‘til I was #1. Then, I was giving beats
away for free for the longest time. At the time, I wasn’t getting crazy money for beats, but the shit was everywhere. At one time on Soundclick, your shit could be all over the country. People everywhere were talking. I didn’t know who [Mike Caren] was. I didn’t know nothing about it. He was like, “I’m Mike Caren,” and he was telling me about [the publishing deal]. I was like, “Cool, that sounds tight.” I didn’t realize how big it was at the time. When he first contacted me I was in high school. I looked him up on the internet, and I was like, “Whoa, that’s crazy.” I told my partners all the things we were about to do, but it actually didn’t happen for a year and a half after that. It took awhile for it to happen. But when it happened, it happened. [Publishing] deals are a good opportunity where you get to work on a lot of projects. Being with a publisher, in a little bit of time, he was able to get my records to a lot of artists. I wouldn’t have been able to do that myself. It really got my sound in a lot of people’s ears fast. ‘Cause sometimes, when you’re a producer or anything new, you gotta be local first, then this person has to hear you, versus me just working, working, working. I was already going straight to album placements. So, it gave me that opportunity. I started working with Wayne, then [we] did “S On My Chest” with Birdman, on Khaled’s album. I did like four [songs] on Chamillionaire’s [album]. After that I worked with Birdman, Flo Rida, and Plies. I did a couple on his second [album].
I was getting album placements fast, but the singles didn’t come fast. “Tuck Your Ice” was my first single. Since then, “We Be Steady Mobbin” is going good. Tity Boi had the song, then Wayne had the song. I’m not exactly positive how it went, but I know they both had the song. I know Wayne kept the record and got Gucci on it. He called me and was like, “We wanna put it out.”It kinda caught on its own. And now everybody’s talking about it, everybody’s playing it. But it wasn’t intended for that. It kinda was a record that just caught. Now, I’m working on a lot of Young Money shit. I just came back from Canada, where I was fucking with Drake. Working on Wayne’s new album. I did some crazy shit with T-Pain. Birdman, he should be dropping soon. Chamillionaire, I just did some crazy shit on his album. Juelz [Santana], they just leaked that record, I don’t know how it leaked. I had a record on [Gorilla] Zoe’s last CD. Some kid leaked the track, so Zoe didn’t want to put it on his album no more. It pissed me off ‘cause it messed up the money for everybody. Now, [leaks are] never going to stop. You can’t do nothing about it, you’ve just got to be as careful as possible. But when it leaks, you just got to make the best of it. When a song leaks, for me, all you can do is push it. Push it to the point where it’s still forced to be on their album. ‘Cause it depends on the intention of the leak is. It’s different now, ‘cause when “Bedrock” leaked, it didn’t kill the record. But it depends on what the artist originally had intended for the song. Now when it leaks, I just use it to blow myself up. //
//Production Credits Trick Daddy “Tuck Your Ice,” Lil Wayne f/Gucci Mane “We Steady Mobbin,” Young Money “Bedrock”
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(above L-R): Toya, James Hardy, & Tiny @ the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, GA; Stephen Hill, Toccara, & Busta Rhymes @ the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, GA; Kandi & Big Bank Black @ Clark Atlanta University Homecoming concert in Atlanta, GA (Photos: Freddyo)
01 // DJ Princess Cut & Trai D @ Urban South Radio (Dallas, TX) 02 // Gabriel Hart, Yung LA, Young Dro & crew on the set of Young Dro’s “I Don’t Know Y’all” video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 03 // BoB, Playboy Tre, Stay Fresh, & B Rich @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary party (Tallahassee, FL) 04 // Young Breed, Carol City Cartel, Rick Ross, & Bigga Rankin @ Upstart Record Pool (Jacksonville, FL) 05 // Tank & Hutch Daddy Dollars @ Bash at the Bay (Toledo, OH) 06 // Yung B & Bun B @ The BET Hip Hop Awards (Atlanta, GA) 07 // Simon Gidewon being impolite @ Hip Hop Diva’s Award Show (Atlanta, GA) 08 // Pleasure P & Shawty Lo @ America’s Most Wanted Tour (Atlanta, GA) 09 // Dru Brett of The Runners & DJ Khaled @ Triple C’s video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 10 // Tricky & Big Swoll on the set of Benz’s video shoot (Jackson, MS) 11 // Freddyo, Simon Gidewon, & Rochelle Brown @ Hip Hop Diva’s Award Show (Atlanta, GA) 12 // Bigga Rankin & Elora Mason @ Triple C’s listening party (Atlanta, GA) 13 // Rip, Spinz, & DJ MLK @ Primal (Atlanta, GA) 14 // Cannon, Trey Songz, Morace Landy, & Hurricane Dave @ Hot 107.9 (Atlanta, GA) 15 // Lil Meany & guest @ Club Crucial (Atlanta, GA) 16 // Gyant, Young Jeezy, & Smurf @ Young Jeezy’s Adidas in-store (Atlanta, GA) 17 // Ms Dynasty & Bigga Rankin @ Silver Foxx for their bday bash (Jacksonville, FL) 18 // Mon E G & Ms Rivercity (Jacksonville, FL) Photo Credits: Edward Hall (01); Eric Perrin (05,16); Freddyo (07,11,15); Julia Beverly (06,08,09); Kool Laid (10); Ms Rivercity (02,13,14); Terrence Tyson (03,04,12,17,18)
OZONE MAG // 31
eiron “Iceberg” Robinson never imagined one day he’d be rapping alongside a Southern rap icon like Trick Daddy. But when Iceberg’s freestyle over Nas’ “One Mic” attracted Trick’s interest in the then 15-year-old rapper, Berg’s farfetched fantasy soon became a reality. “I was just happy to be around him,” the now 20-year-old says of the day he met Trick Daddy. “I was born and raised in Miami. In Miami, niggas look up to this nigga Trick like that nigga is a fucking God.” Iceberg, whose first taste of rapping came at the tender age of 5, after his father wrote his first rhymes, had already begun establishing a name for himself through a series of mixtapes. The day he met Trick Daddy, Iceberg found himself in the studio, auditioning for a spot in Trick’s Dunk Ryders group. “I went to the Dunk Ryders tryout,” Berg recalls, of a session that also included Miami standout artist Brisco. “It was me, Trick and a room full of 10 niggas trying to get in one booth. It was me, Brisco and Soup [Trick’s] brother, [and] I remember Trick walking in the studio after all of us dropped our verse, and he said, ‘Take Berg, and Brisco off that song, they already Dunk Ryders. They already official.’” While Brisco went on to sign with Poe Boy/Cash Money, Iceberg signed with Dunk Ryder Records, and joined Fella and Trick’s brother, Soup, in the Dunk Ryders. The group wasted no time making a name. They were featured on Trick Daddy’s 2006 album, Back By Thug Demand, and released the single “Fuck The Other Side,” which became a popular underground hit and was later featured on DJ Khaled’s third album, We Global. And in 2008, Trick Daddy signed a joint venture deal with Cash Money Records to release the Dunk Ryders album. However, a legal situation involving Soup (who’s currently incarcerated) and a radio and video ban of “Fuck The Other Side” set back the Dunk Ryders’ progress. Still, Iceberg hasn’t allowed that to slow his grind. He went back to releasing his own mixtapes (including Bandana Music, Strictly For The Streets, and International Billion, among others), and co-starred on Trick Daddy and DJ Scream’s Drunk Ryder or Die mixtape. Majors have taken notice and offered solo deals, but Iceberg insists he’s waiting for the right situation. In the meantime he plans on releasing another mixtape called Mr. L.I.V.E., he’s featured on Trick Daddy’s new album Finally Famous, and the Dunk Ryders still intend to release an album through Cash Money. But until then, Iceberg is going for self on the mixtape circuit. “I’m addicted to doing mixtapes,” he says. “My CEOs be telling me, ‘Man, chill or you’re gonna be labeled as a mixtape artist.’ But I go against the grain anyway because I’m like, shit, I guess that’s what I am…a mixtape artist. I just like feeding the streets.” Words by Randy Roper
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hen Interscope recording artist Maurice “Verse” Simmons first recorded his smash hit, “Buy You A Round” he didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. “I just thought [the record] was cool,” admits the rapper/singer/songwriter behind the song that is currently the favorite of “that girl” in the club. “I didn’t think it was [a hit] like it’s becoming now. I just thought it was a good song for the clubs. But when the DJs heard it, they’re the ones that brought it to life. I was like, ‘Damn ya’ll like it like that?’ Okay.” As the first audio example of what he is branding “Island B,” “Buy You A Round” has made Verse a burgeoning international superstar almost overnight. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the Virgin Islands before moving to Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Verse’s current show schedule is already looking like a mini-World Tour with dates in and out of the country. “With the background I have, it definitely gives you an edge of appeal,” says Verse, who also recorded a Spanish version of his hit single. “Other
artists may not be able to get into that market, so my background and the type of music I make helps me touch more people. It makes them more familiar with my sound.” But first, he had to get familiar with himself. As the first person in his family to delve into music, Verse didn’t have a blueprint to follow. He got his start by writing his first song in sixth grade and performing other people’s songs in talent shows growing up along side childhood friend Theron Thomas, who would go on to become one half of the Caribbean-hybrid group Rock City. When he moved to Florida after high school, he crossed paths with fellow music maker Shama Joseph. The two eventually formed their own production team, The Jugganauts. They moved to California in 2003 and contributed to many major label projects, which allowed Verse to hone his songwriting skills until he was ready to introduce himself as a recording artist. Four years later he moved to Atlanta and hooked up with
uber-hit makers Akon and Rodney Jerkins, who would eventually help broker his record deal with Interscope. This past summer Verse released his first mixtape The Sextape Tape Chronicles offering a unique blend of sexual but honest tunes that pushed the envelope, but not the ladies away. “There are things you can say that are edgy, but still acceptable,” says Verse, who credits his knack for talking to women to his days growing up working in his grandmother’s hair and nail salon. “But I still want to make music with class, I don’t want to just say things to get attention.” As the buzz behind him continues to grow, he will surely get plenty of attention when his debut album Stories of a Bachelor hits stores soon. Words by Maurice G. Garland
OZONE MAG // 33
hen PI Bang emerged in the Orlando rap scene in ’01, his expectations were high. He expected to shine immediately and automatically receive credit for his talent. But things didn’t exactly go his way. “When I first started, I thought if you were hot you would just get on, and they would sign yo’ ass,” the independent rapper explains of his misconception. “It’s nothin’ like I thought it was gonna be – it’s more of a challenge.” PI expressed his initial frustration by freestyling on an underground radio station, where he dissed a lot of the movers and shakers in Orlando. He explains, “I wanted to make a name for the O ‘cause wasn’t nobody doing it. I was like, fuck everybody – if I gotta push everyone else down to do it, then that’s what I’ma do.” While dissing the locals wasn’t the most political move to make, the controversy did get PI Bang’s name out there, and he was given his own radio segment. From there, he started throwing concerts and teen parties in an effort to stay relevant. Promoting shows allowed him to open for major acts that came through the city, increasing his buzz. He continued making music and promoting himself. In 2006, he dropped a popular mixtape with White Boi Pizal. The tape brought him the attention he was seeking. Once people knew his name, all that was left was finding a hit. “I had good records,” PI explains, “but never really had a hit song.” In hopes of finding that song, last fall he reached out to producer Zaytoven via Myspace. “I had just got out of jail and the first thing on my mind was coming up with a record and getting on the radio. I hit Zay and his people sent me some beats.” The end result was “Trap Keep Jumpin,” which is currently in heavy rotation throughout central Florida. Area DJs were the first to cosign the record before it hit the internet machine. “The night I recorded it I went to do a show with Dawgman,” he recalls. “I performed it and [the DJ] Disco J.R. was like, ‘Oh, that’s it.’” The encouragement ignited his campaign and once the song got hot, a video was released. Currently increasing in spins, the song has placed PI Bang on the one-to-watch list. Years after his freestyle, sneak-dissing days, PI now has a better understanding of how the business works. He’s learned the importance of marketing, relationship building, and patience. And while he strives to reach a national level, PI keeps his sights on what’s most important. “I’m trying to turn a negative into a positive,” he explains. “I come from the street and ain’t nothin’ good out there.” Words by Ms. Rivercity Photo courtesy of Colourful Money
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(above L-R): Rick Ross @ 02 Arena in London; Jeremih @ House of Blues Chicago for the 106th & Park tour in Chicago, IL (Photos: Julia Beverly); C-Ride @ Florida Music Conference in Miami, FL (Photo: Terrence Tyson)
01 // Pretty Ricky reppin OZONE @ Locker Room Studios (Atlanta, GA) 02 // 3D reppin’ OZONE @ Tree Sound Studios for their listening session (Atlanta, GA) 03 // J Dash & Midget Mac @ Club Christophers (Jacksonville, FL) 04 // Stay Fresh @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 05 // Gorilla Zoe & DJ Holiday @ Throbacks for Street Talk Showcase (Atlanta, GA) 06 // Julia Beverly & Paul D of Theripy @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 07 // Aziatakk Black @ Freelon’s (Jackson, MS) 08 // Lady Vernicia @ Freelon’s for the Leo Birthday Bash (Jackson, MS) 09 // Fella @ Ale Gators (Lakeland, FL) 10 // Benz @ Velvet Room for Don Cannon’s birthday party (Atlanta, GA) 11 // Masspike Miles @ Primal for Triple C’s release party (Atlanta, GA) 12 // Lil Ru @ Upstart Record Pool (Jacksonville, FL) 13 // Mr Collipark & Toneman on the set of J Futuristic’s “First Name Last Name” video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 14 // Chubbie Baby @ Velvet Room for Don Cannon’s birthday party (Atlanta, GA) 15 // Bad Guy & crew @ 1st Lady’s Birthday Bash (Tampa, FL) 16 // T-Roy & guest @ Club Christophers (Jacksonville, FL) 17 // Buck & Red Rum @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 18 // Don P @ Hoops 4 Hope (Atlanta, GA) 19 // Elmo & Kanine on the set of their “Franky” video shoot (Dallas, TX) 20 // Killer Mike @ The Tabernacle (Atlanta, GA) 21 // Gyant @ Young Jeezy’s Adidas in-store (Atlanta, GA) 22 // Travis Porter @ Figure 8 for their mixtape release party (Atlanta, GA) 23 // Malik Abdul @ The Loft for I Do Music showcase (Atlanta, GA) 24 // Richmind Records @ Ultra Lounge for Dorrough & Dr Teeth’s BET Nomination party (Dallas, TX) 25 // DJ Kutthroat & guest on the set of J Futuristic’s “This Is How We Play” video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 26 // Ron King & BW @ Club Joyce (Dallas, TX) 27 // Pastor Troy @ Velvet Room (Atlanta, GA) 28 // DJ Drop @ Ultra Lounge for Dorrough & Dr Teeth’s BET Nomination party (Dallas, TX) 29 // Lyfe Jennings & Hutch Daddy @ Bash at the Bay (Toledo, OH) 30 // Vince Carter & Renaldo Balkman @ Club Christophers (Jacksonville, FL) 31 // DJ Smallz & Don Cannon @ 595 North for DJ Hero launch party (Atlanta, GA) 32 // Veda Loca @ Ultra Lounge for Dorrough & Dr Teeth’s BET Nomination party (Dallas, TX) 33 // Yung LA & Rich Kids @ For Sisters Only (Atlanta, GA) 34 // Theripy & TJ Chapman @ The Moon for TJ’s DJ’s 15 Year Anniversary (Tallahassee, FL) 35 // DJ Ace & Ms Crunk @ Primal for DJ Appreciation Night (Atlanta, GA) Photo Credits: Devon Buckner (35); Edward Hall (19,24,26,28,32); Eric Perrin (20,21,23,29); Julia Beverly (02,04,06,10,14,17,27,34); Ms Ja (11,13,22,25,33); Ms Rivercity (01,05,18); Soufpaw (07,08); Terrence Tyson (03,12,16,30,31); Travis Pendergrass (09,15)
OZONE MAG // 35
here’s an infinite number of rappers whose alias begins with the stereotypical “Young,” but since this Durham native started his rap career at the tender age of 13, he gets a pass. Back then, Young Swift formed rap groups with neighborhood friends. From the beginning, Swift knew rapping was what he wanted to do. “We used to think we were gonna get on when I was like 14,” says the now 19-year-old rapper. “We didn’t realize how long the grind really takes.” With the guidance of his parents, Swift spent the next few years recording and honing his rap skills, and in 2007, he caught a break when his single “Cool Dude” caught the attention of XM satellite radio personalities DJ Nina 9 and Leo G., who added the song to rotation on XM station 66 Raw. “I linked up with Nina 9 on Myspace,” he says. “She was really feeling that song, and she let Leo G. hear it, and he started spinning [the song] immediately. Nina 9 became my manager shortly after that. She started spinning it [and] they brought me up the radio station a couple times. It actually became quite a frenzy.” His name started being tossed around the Carolinas, and he followed up his newfound radio buzz with a mixtape, Welcome To The Rap House, and an independent album The Return in 2008. But rap money wasn’t exacting flowing in. So he enrolled at North Carolina Central University, where he met famed Raleigh, NC producer 9th Wonder, who was teaching a Hip Hop history class in the university’s music department. Later, the two collaborated on music, but after one year, Swift left NCCU and moved to Atlanta. Now, managed by A-Town’s DJ Nando, Swift’s been in the studio working with producer Shawty Redd, and their collaborative effort “In The Way” has been gaining spins on radio and in clubs around the A. And with his Can’t Knock The Hustle mixtape hosted by DJ Infamous looming, Swift is ready to take his position next to the new blood of Carolina emcees, redefining NC’s movement. “I think we’re a breath of fresh air right now,” he says. “We’ve got a couple artists coming out. J. Cole from Fayetteville just got signed to Roc Nation and that nigga’s hot. Rain, he’s pretty tough. And as far as me, I think we’ve got a nice balance with our music. We can go commercial. We can go backpack. It’s just going to be real appealing to the masses.” Words by Randy Roper Photo by DJ Nando
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(above L-R): Ace Hood @ FAMU Homecoming in Tallahassee, FL (Photo: Terrence Tyson); Gabriel Hart with his OZONE article on the set of Young Dro’s “I Don’t Know Y’all” video shoot in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Ms Rivercity); Pitbull @ The Tabernacle in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Eric Perrin)
01 // Bay Bay, Dorrough Music, & 3Feet @ Balla Bash (Texarkana, TX) 02 // Marly Mar & DJ Blaze @ The Coop for the SC Music Awards (Columbia, SC) 03 // Mike Jones @ Hot 93.3 Summer Jam (Austin, TX) 04 // Plies @ Obsessions (Atlanta, GA) 05 // Common & Frankie @ For Sisters Only (Atlanta, GA) 06 // Brian of Day 26 @ House of Blues Chicago for the 106th & Park tour (Chicago, IL) 07 // Trey Songz @ Club Dreamz (Jackson, MS) 08 // Papa Duck @ FAMU Homecoming Concert (Tallahassee, FL) 09 // Loaded, Jabba Jaws, & Ca$h on the set of Ca$h’s “Walk Wit A Dip” video shoot (Dallas, TX) 10 // Trai’D @ Club Joyce (Dallas, TX) 11 // Terrence Tyson & Jamillah on the set of Young Cash’s “Money” video shoot (Jacksonville, FL) 12 // DJ Dr Doom, Dunn City, & Quentin Groves @ SoHo’s Lounge for Dr Doom’s birthday bash (Jacksonville, FL) 13 // Ladies @ Club 127 for OZONE party (Hickory, NC) 14 // Majic @ Sobe Live for Tony Neal’s birthday party (Miami, FL) 15 // Slim Thug @ Club Joyce (Dallas, TX) 16 // Rich Boy @ Triple C’s video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 17 // Fella & crew @ Ale Gators (Lakeland, FL) 18 // 1st Lady @ 1st Lady’s Birthday Bash (Tampa, FL) 19 // BG (Jacksonville, FL) 20 // Chingo Bling @ Hot 93.3 Summer Jam (Austin, TX) 21 // DJ Slim Kutti @ Club Dreamz (Jackson, MS) 22 // Average Joe Entertainment @ Club Dreamz (Jackson, MS) 23 // Swordz @ Upstart Record Pool (Jacksonville, FL) 24 // Trick Daddy @ The Hall (Palmetto, FL) 25 // Young Tone & Ms JA @ Figure 8 (Atlanta, GA) 26 // Lil Marco @ Lavish Lounge (Atlanta, GA) 27 // Guest, Fat Pimp, & Shug Avery @ Ultra Lounge for Dorrough & Dr Teeth’s BET Nomination party (Dallas, TX) 28 // Drumma Boy @ Hoops 4 Hope (Atlanta, GA) 29 // Rocko & Monica reppin OZONE @ Bocado for Monica’s Still Standing reality show premiere party (Atlanta, GA) 30 // DJ Krave @ Ultra Lounge for Dorrough & Dr Teeth’s BET Nomination party (Dallas, TX) 31 // Iceberg @ FAMU Homecoming Concert (Tallahassee, FL) 32 // Dolla of Playaz Circle @ The Ritz for Playaz Circle’s release party (Atlanta, GA) 33 // Kiko on the set of Ace Hood’s “Born An OG” video shoot (Atlanta, GA) 34 // Geter K @ Primal for Triple C’s release party (Atlanta, GA) 35 // Juelz Santana & Young Dro reppin OZONE @ Johnson C Smith Homecoming concert (Charlotte, NC) Photo Credits: Chris OA (03); Edward Hall (01,09,10,15,20,27,30); Eric Perrin (33); Julia Beverly (06,16,29); Malik Abdul (35); Ms Ja (02,05,13,26,34); Ms Rivercity (25,28,32); Soufpaw (07,21,22); Terrence Tyson (04,08,11,12,14,19,23,31); Travis Pendergrass (17,18,24)
OZONE MAG // 37
ou can say Block Entertainment has had reputable success in the rap game. From Yung Joc to Gorilla Zoe to Boyz N’ the Hood, Russell “Block” Spencer knows how to find new talent and skyrocket them to stardom. In the next wave of artists added to the Block Entertainment roster comes something big, something colossal. Calling himself Kollosus a.k.a. the 8th Wonder, this Decatur, GA Jamaican defines his stage name. “The definition of ‘colossus’ is large, and I’m definitely here to do big things,” he says. “I’ve been Kollosus since I was a youngin’.” Most people know Colossus as the powerful steel-morphing character from the X-Men Marvel Comics. Though Kollosus is not a supernatural being, he’s still confident that he will touch people through the power of his music and believes he’s built for the game. “It’s simple. It’s just work, that’s what it really takes. What you put in is what you get out,” he says. Giving praise to Block for giving him a chance, and naming Gucci Mane as an inspiration, Kollosus knows deep down he’s in a good situation to reach that same limelight. “Block shows what it means to really be a hard worker. He’s the perfect example of a workaholic,” he says. “The same thing with Gucci Mane, he keeps it coming. He put out so much music, which is paying off. This game ain’t for everybody.” The streets first got a taste of Kollosus when his DJ Teknikz-hosted mixtape, They Playin Wit Dat Rap Shit, was released last year. And for the rest of the industry, his introduction came when he was featured on Gorilla Zoe’s single “What It Is” along with Rick Ross. “We were just in the studio and was thinking like, “Man, who can we put on this record,” he recalls. “Zoe was like, man, let me jump on it. Then we reached out to Ross and it went from there.” Having his own sound, Kollosus knows what it means to be your own artist. And nowadays, with the rap game so oversaturated, he knows that it takes a lot to be one of a kind amongst many. “First of all, I’m not in anybody’s lane and [I] make the music that says, ‘I want to buy his product.’ I was raised in Kingston, Jamaica til I was about 16, 17 years old, so my music is influenced by Southern Hip Hop and reggae. So I know there’s nothing like me coming out.” Words by Quinton Hatfield Photo by Hannibal Matthews
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W as one.
hile most American-born artists aspire to become international superstars, Atlantanative Donnis technically began his career
“That was part of the plan,” admits Donnis, who hails from the city’s Jonesboro area. “We all know what’s getting played on Atlanta radio; a lot of dancing and trap music. I’m a little different with my approach. So I came to New York where they have a little more going on.” But before that, Donnis was actually a budding star all the way in Tokyo, Japan. While stationed there as a member of the Air Force, Donnis began recording music to pass the time. He used his military paycheck to cover studio time and burn CDs. After hitting the streets with his music, he found that was gaining quite a fanbase. “They were very receptive,” he says. “I was always in the clubs. I knew all the club owners and promoters and it just grew.” While the language barrier was both a gift and curse (potential fans were either mesmerized or confused by the words coming out of his mouth), Donnis ultimately decided to come back to the States. His first stop was Denver, where he didn’t get a lot of support from the local music scene. From there he moved to New York, where he garnered interest from R&B crooner John Legend who was starting a label at the time. After that didn’t work out, Donnis opted to return home where he wound up recording more and honing his own sound. “It was a hard thing to swallow,” says Donnis, of finally finding his musical identity after flirting with everything from dance music to hood anthems. “I wanted to make lots of music and give people a collective view of what I make. After while I said to myself, ‘If I’m going to do this, I have to make it as good as possible.’” From there Donnis began attacking the web with his Snack Pack series, blog bundles that usually included a new song, cover art and video. This would whet listeners appetites for his now-acclaimed mixtape Diary of An Atlanta Brave that dropped earlier this year. “It feels amazing, but this is just a small thing,” says Donnis about the project that features production from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and powered by the Needlez-produced single “Gone.” “But at least I know I actually have fans. It lets me know the whole time I was doing this, I wasn’t crazy.” Words by Maurice G. Garland Photo by TONE
Patiently Waiting OZONE MAG // 39
When we initially caught up with Young Dro to conduct this interview, he was gearing up to finally release his new album P.O.L.O. But then disaster struck when the entire album was leaked out in the form of a mixtape titled Lo Life. Since then he has returned to the studio to re-record P.O.L.O. as well as release his R.I.P. mixtape with Don Cannon. So look at this interview as a snapshot of time when Dro was ready to re-introduce him and his style to a music marketplace that had grown accustomed to “swag rap” and weary of his place in it. Why haven’t we heard much from you in a while? I was riding around indulging in the riches I gained. Wanting to be more of a shining type than a working type. But I couldn’t help myself, I’ve been working for a long time, I started out back with Raheem. Promo tours killed me, I just wanted to kick it. But just being in the club throwing money, it gets boring after a while. No one cares about you throwing no money. You’re only as good as your last throw (laughs). I guess you just do it for the rep. After a while you’re just throwing away money; you could have put it towards something. But I created a monster within myself.
AFTER SOME PROMPTING FROM T.I.P., ATLANTA’S “SYLLABLE KING” Young Dro STEPPED UP HIS WORK ETHIC TO MATCH HIS NATURAL SWAG & IMPRESSIVE VOCABULARY.
Tip was in my ear like, “If you keep bullshittin…” He’d tell me, “You need to get yo’ ass back in the muthafuckin’ studio, shawty. Every time I see you, you’re in a different car. What about these different songs?” To hear that coming from him, I had to listen, take heed to it and get back in the studio like I’m supposed to. I can rock with the best of them, I have rocked with the best of them. Lyrically, fashion-wise, everything. Prestige like a muthafucka. Was it difficult getting back to actually working after chilling so hard for so long? It was hard getting back to just sitting in the studio with your phone blowing up and you got 10 dimes on your phone and you still walking around with $20k in your pocket, you still riding fly cars, rocking fly clothes, jeweled up, you want to go. The streets drag you out there, you done shined all day, the night come and the whole day just gone. Whatever little bit you managed to record, that’s all you got. But I was still doing my mixtape thing. I Am Legend, Black Boy White Boy. Hopping on Greg Street’s shit, doing all kind of good shit. I love my flow now, I never left my flow. I just got into spending the money my flow had gained. I was just in them streets.
Do you regret it at all? I don’t regret it at all. It was a period of my life that I went through. It was fun and I did it well. I wasn’t the type of nigga to go in the club when everybody was there. I’d go on an off night when it was only three bitches in the club. That’s how I do it.
Speaking of the flow, the stuff you’ve been coming out with as of late has a lot of harmony and what people are calling singing… If you knew me from I Got That Dro back when I was with Raheem, you’d know I always sung. Hell I sung in the choir, so I was going to sing. They don’t know me as an artist, I always sang, I just been doing it a lot lately. And I can show you up on that too. You might not think I can sing, but I can. I told them that on Best Thang Smokin’ too.
What made you want to get away from that and get back to rapping?
How have your fans been reacting to your “singing”?
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Black Boy White Boy was the hottest CD out of Atlanta, everywhere I went. All this style and charisma I got, I had to cover it in white to make it glow. It was an epidemic in the A, with the Ralph [Lauren]. I had to show the flexibility of the character that I was trying to portray. I’m walking around looking like a professional Ralph model, but here I am, I’ve been shot, I’m from the gutter, the cracks and crevices. I got this way that I can hum it to you and make it sound like a sunny day on the porch drinking lemonade, baby. It was a lot of shit crammed into that. I wasn’t no ordinary guy. This nigga is shot up, but dress like he play polo and lacrosse. This guy is a lot of niggas, and he funny too! This nigga is so many niggas. That’s the whole thing about Black Boy White Boy, I wanted to do that. But I don’t want to lose my original fans; I don’t want them thinking I can’t rap. I rap; that is my life. Chicks I go out with be like, “You ain’t gotta rhyme everything, brah.” I know, but it might sound good if I tried. That’s why I sound so good when I put things together, so I work at it. I take time to put things together, that’s why it may take you weeks to even try and say it like I said it. So you weren’t worried about losing some of your “original” fans? No, because I like it. If you don’t like yourself, they ain’t gonna like you. I like it if you like it or not. If you like it, come join me, if you don’t, I’ll see you. But that’s work, that’s why it’s called work. Okay, y’all liked it but them over here didn’t, okay. Let me please them, then I’ll come back and straighten you out. It’s like being in the trap. Oh, you don’t want this nic? You want a dime? Okay. Gimme a minute and I’ll be right back with what you want. I’ma treat it like a hustle. That’s how it is. Everybody ain’t gonna like what you do. Its like a relationship. If you have a clean slate relationship you’re allowed to do what you want to do. Just still ride with me. Root for me, you know me, try and see me through it. I know what my fans be saying. “The Dro that came out on Best Thang Smokin’ ain’t here no more.” But if they knew anything they’d know that I wasn’t rapping like that on I Got That Dro, not in this tone. I was totally different. I was rapping like Pac. Even when Best Thang Smokin’ came out, people were like, “Ah, man, you don’t rap like you did on I Got That Dro.” So nothing’s ever going to be good enough for anybody. The list goes on and on about what I coulda been and coulda done when actually I’m the same guy. Start listening and stop just hearing. Go get my albums. I know you’ve heard me riding by, but listen. You’re naming the album P.O.L.O., Players Only Live Once. Every time I say that, everybody ain’t think of it like that. Players only live one time. I ain’t got but one life to live; you only live once. Why not rock this fly ass shit the way I rock it? Why not be fresh while you’re here? I want people to get the real life of a player, a slick shawty, a real laid-back playa… from the Himalayas. I want people to get the life of a player like me, what I see, where my family comes from, why we doing this, where we get the knowledge from to do it. I’ma cram all the knowledge in this CD. I got hits after hits on there. What is this knowledge you speak of? What have you learned since your last time out? Everything is necessary, nothing is granted. Resources, relationships, traveling, don’t forget this guy, keep this is mind instead of being like “fuck that I’m going over here.” I have to regain what I had, but I got to work harder this time. What did you do Dro? Did you befriend the kids in the Perry Homes projects? Did you stay down with those guys who were doing the party, but it wasn’t as big at that time, but it grew? With this, I’m trying to do as much as I can for the people to get to know me as an artist. People seemed to be getting to know a little bit more about you when you were dating Fantasia. Did it bother you that people were getting more into your personal business? I was cool with that shit, man. I’m from Bankhead Courts, I ain’t give no fuck. I was kushed up half the time, so there was nothing they could say to hurt me. How can you be saying something to fuck me up when I’ve already come from the worst spots and been called the worst things by the worst people? Ain’t nothing much that can bother me. That shit was bouncing off me. I ain’t give a damn. They could ask me whatever they wanted about her. It didn’t affect me to the point where I was worried. I was eating good everyday still getting six digit checks off the “Shoulder Lean.” Have you adjusted to things like YouTube and Twitter? That stuff wasn’t as prominent three years ago. The YouTube, Ustream, Twitter, that’s too fast-paced for me. I don’t really play on computers like that. It’s moving a bit fast. I barely just learned how to text a bitch last year. I’m not lying, the text used to come up QQQXXX, and I’d be like, “Man, how the fuck do I text?” I’d be like, “Man, I can’t do this shit. Just call me.” I’m cool, but I’ma get into it. A lot of people online follow your career. It’s so political being on TV now. Videos used to come on all day, but now it’s reality shows. I know they want me to be on YouTube all the time, but I don’t just be around that type of equipment. I didn’t grow
up around that stuff. But as far as being on the ‘net, we’re keeping it at a minimum. It can be misused. It’s a lot of stuff for the good, but for the bad too. People pushing me to get on Twitter. A lot of people want to see more of you because they don’t like what they are seeing currently. How do you feel about the new music coming out of Atlanta right now? Do you think it’s running congruent with the changes the city has been going through as of late? The city, yeah, they’re tearing it up. The music hasn’t changed though, niggas are just on some other shit now. Just like in NYC, niggas were super lyrical, and then they started doing that in the rural areas. It’s changing. But I don’t think these niggas are changing, they’re just getting crazier. Its definitely a gap, but they are giving more niggas a chance now. There’s niggas popping up on the radio now that might have been walking down the street earlier. Then you’ve got niggas like me who have been here for a minute. I don’t have no problem with it, but I’ve been working longer, so I’ll be here longer. It’s just like, if it come to you fast, it will leave you even faster. Here today, gone tomorrow. I’m just glad I’m not one of those guys. But I like how my music has changed. When the bricks was up, I wanted it so bad, and I still want it just as bad. There have been a lot of expectations placed on you with this new album. The expectations are cool. I will exceed them. I see it as an opportunity to prove myself. I love proving myself, even at the smallest of moments. Even if I was walking past you in the lunch line, let me fix my collar and belt, you gonna FEEL this walk. I got something to prove at all times. But this P.O.L.O., I got this, no sweat. I’m rapping like a muthafucka, I’m the syllable king. Where does that style of yours come from? I remember early in your career you considered Raekwon to be a big influence. [Ghostface Killah] Tony Starks, Nas, Raekwon, Biggie, Foxy. That’s who I wanted to be like. I swore I was in the Mafia in the beginning. When I heard Nas on “Phone Tap” it was serious. I was loving that era, especially Nas. Raekwon too. That’s what I’m saying. I’m rapping. Tell these niggas, go’on with that bullshit, I’m eating niggas like Sunday dinner, 6 o’clock sharp! A lot of people, the music today is go this way, go that way, move your legs, it’s real simple. You moving, rocking, your girl done dropped it so many times, you ain’t even rapping anymore. The real music doesn’t even get recognition anymore. You can’t turn on the radio and just hear a nigga flowing anymore. You’ll hear some shit that will make you start swagging, oh that’s my shit, I’m swaggin! The nigga don’t really be rapping anymore. But shit, [as far as features] I ain’t about to be out here giving niggas no bars I want for my album on that shit. I’ma get out here and swag with the rest of these muthafuckas. How many songs have you recorded to choose from for the album? I got about 200-something songs. I don’t stop recording. I’ll do a song in 30 minutes. I’ve been recording every day, they just ain’t see me. I stay walking in here asking for 30 minutes of the engineer’s time. But I don’t be like, “Let’s do it for an album.” I just be recording. Do you feel any added pressure as far as being the “face” for Grand Hustle with T.I. being away? I’m doing me. But I’m not the only one over here. It’s on [all of ] us to stay afloat. We’re artists, we’re good on that. We all kings. I’m sitting in my own throne. Everybody has their own avenue. I’m branching myself into Hollywood, going to find my own agent instead of just using [T.I.’s]. We peeped you doing a little acting in the “Take Off” video. We took “Take Off” to TV, I liked it. But we’re gonna get some more views for “On Fire,” me and Yung LA are gonna do “I Don’t Know Y’all,” and “I Do” with Big Kuntry and Tip. Then I’m doing a reality show, Atlanta Dads. I’m just gonna “tell ’em story.” My grandfather told me long time ago, “Tell ’em story” and that’s what I’ll do. It’s showing me interacting with my kids. It’s gonna be like the Real Housewives of Atlanta, but we’re not house dads, were just dads. It’s gonna be me, Kenny Burns, Ferrarri Mike; we’re guys that’s on the scene. I’m the one from Bankhead. I’m pro’lly the only dude from the projects who been shot on the show. As soon as P.O.L.O. hits stores I’m back in the studio working on the next one. I changed the name from Young & Restless because that’s what I was at that time. I was all over the place, I was going at it. But then my swagger changed up, I turnt up the Ralph and I became another person. People started being like, “Fuck that Polo, you dress like Dro.” Niggas started getting mad. “FUCK THAT UGLY ASS NIGGA, Flavor Flav lookin ass.” (laughs) // Words by Maurice G. Garland // Photo by Thaddaeus McAdams OZONE MAG // 41
T H A T RU T H
Words by LIA BEVERLY PHOTO BY SJU LFEMP
42 // OZONE MAG
TEXAS street rapper Trae Tha Truth IS NEVER ONE TO BACK DOWN. PERHAPS MOST INFAMOUSLY KNOWN FOR PUNCHING MIKE JONES AT THE OZONE AWARDS, THE RAP-ALOT AFFILIATE NONETHELESS HAS DONE A LOT OF GOOD FOR HIS BELOVED CITY OF HOUSTON THAT OFTEN GOES UNRECOGNIZED - NOT TO MENTION, HE CAN REALLY SPIT. NOW PREPARING TO TELL THA TRUTH ON HIS NEWEST PROJECT, TRAE ANSWERS THE TOUGH QUESTIONS IN THIS OZONE EXCLUSIVE. What have you been working on since the last time we spoke? A little bit of everything. I’m getting ready to drop my new album Tha Truth. Since the last time I talked to y’all, I’m back with ABN Entertainment getting distributed through Fontana. Right now I’m on an all-out campaign for Tha Truth. I’m independent, but I still have the same resources as a major label. It’s good for me on both ends. Money-wise, I’m most definitely independent, but look-wise, I still have the connects. I’ve always been my own CEO because I feel like nobody [else] will get out there and do it how I do it. If I don’t get out there and do it, I’ve failed myself. So I’m gonna give it my all. The reason I say nobody will do it better than I will do it is because I’m going to bat for myself harder than anybody. Considering the climate of the music game today and the economic recession that has affected everyone, do you think it’s more beneficial now for artists to stick it out independently or try to get a major record deal? It depends on how you look at it. For some cats it’s more beneficial to get a deal; to get all the money they can get and put it up and prepare for whatever else might come. I feel like it’s more beneficial independently because you spend less money and can get the same results as a major. You’ve got cats who are independent that can move 100,000 units or more, and you’ve got cats who are major that move less than 100,000. You’re still kinda “underground” because you haven’t really hit that peak yet as far as crossing over to the mainstream. Are you comfortable with the position you’re in, having more street-oriented music? Do you feel like you have to “sell out” to become more commercially recognized? I’m most definitely gunnin’ to stay me. Music, to me, is not only a form of art, but it’s also a form of ventilation. This is how I vent. So if I went for a certain commercial “look” or “sound,” that’s not really me expressing myself and what I’m going through out here in real life. I feel more comfortable doing me. Even these days, with the economy the way it is, a lot of people can relate to the struggle that I speak about in my music. So if I continue doing me, they’ll be able to relate. Do you think consumers have become turned off by all the materialism in rap music now that the so-called “bling bling” era has passed? It’s always gonna be here to an extent. People in general like to show off what they’ve got, especially people who ain’t never really had shit. Once they finally get their big break, they’re gonna let it be known. I think it’s cool, but it’s like, you won’t be able to do the majority of your music about that. It’s cool here and there, I mean, shit, you just had me in Chain Reaction [showing off my jewelry]. But at the same time, when you listen to my album, it isn’t about [jewelry] and all that type of shit. If somebody criticized you for spending a lot of money on jewelry, how would you respond? I’d say, “Fuck ‘em in they ass.” Nobody is allowed to judge somebody else if you’re not that man up above. You can have your opinion, but you can’t judge me. I know muthafuckers who fuck their money off on gambling or pussy or all types of shit. At the end of the day with me, a muthafucker can’t tell me shit. My whole purpose in living is to take care of me and mine and my family, and all those other people that I can reach out and help. So would you say jewelry is a vice, or more of an investment for your rap career? The image? For me, it’s just a bonus. Like I was saying, as long as my family and everything else is taken care of, what’s the problem? All of my stuff is situated before I go spend on myself. Even though I’ve got a right to spend on myself and do what I want – I bust my ass and make sure everything is taken care of first before I go do me. Everybody’s got a right to enjoy life. I give a damn about the critics. I’m my own man. You just had a child, correct? Yeah, I just had a son named Houston. So you’re representing for the city in a major way. Everybody calls me Houston anyway, so I decided to just go ahead and ride it out. I had two little boys before him, so Houston is the newest addition to the family.
How are things between you and Z-Ro at this point? Are you on good terms or is there still some friction? If we see each other it’s cool. He’s workin’ on the stuff he’s workin’ on, and I’m workin’ on my projects. We’re both just working and doing what we do. It’s never really been “beef.” Family members just don’t agree all the time. We had differences of opinion on certain shit, so we went our own lil ways, but at the end of the day there ain’t no beef or nothing like that. It’s not like I’m out here lookin’ for him or he’s lookin’ for me. Is he featured on Tha Truth? Nah. But there are a lot of songs we’ve got together that haven’t even been heard, so people might get ‘em, they might not. I just take it a day at a time. I can’t really tell you what tomorrow is gonna bring. You’ve been known to have some disagreements with other Houston folks. Did you and Mike Jones ever come to terms with whatever the issue was? What would happen if you ran into each other today? Since the [OZONE Awards] incident I’ve seen him once, and that was at a show in Austin. The police surrounded his vehicle and walked him inside the gate and closed the gate, and kept us outside the gate to keep us separated. (laughs) It ain’t that serious. I’m not worried about dude. Go out there and get your money, mane. I’m handlin’ my own business. At the end of the day, I just stand up for what I stand up for, and if I feel disrespected I’ma handle it. Other than that I’m not really worried about it. I’m not sittin’ around trying to bash him or do none of that other shit. Out of all the places to confront Mike Jones, why did you have to choose the OZONE Awards? (laughs) Only because it’s you asking me, I’m cool with [answering]. It’s like this: shit goes down out here on the regular. This ain’t the first time they heard about Trae gettin’ into some shit. This is the first time they heard about it throughout 50 different states, and overseas, though. He knew I was lookin’ to holla at him before then. Nobody saw him the whole [TJ’s DJ’s Conference/OZONE Awards weekend] so we didn’t run across each other then. The first time we ran across each other was [at the Awards] and my mindframe wasn’t that I’m at an award show. My mindframe was, “I’ve been lookin’ to holla at you all weekend.” If it had been in the parking lot or the corner store or after the Awards, and I felt disrespected, it was gonna go down. So it was no disrespect meant towards the Awards, and you know I apologized to you for it, but other than that, I stand for what I stand for. In retrospect, do you think punching him was the best way to handle the situation? I think it could’ve been handled differently. Because for one, we started off with me letting him know what it was. No voices were raised. When he raised his voice, that’s when it went a different route. But that’s neither here nor there. It’s done. Well, the reason I’m bringing it up is because it’s not like this is the first time some type of violence has occurred at a Hip Hop event or award show. Do you think situations like this make it difficult for us as a community to have positive events where everybody can come together? Truthfully, yeah. I can’t deny that. It does kinda put a little bit of strain on it. But at the end of the day, shit just goes how it goes. If you’re at your event, let’s say a bitch who’s backstage tryin’ to fuck with every rapper doesn’t know who you are and disrespects you. I couldn’t be mad at you if you decided to slap that hoe. Personally, I wouldn’t handle a situation that way. And I can understand that, but you don’t really know until you’ve been put in that situation. If you feel all the way disrespected, even if you don’t put your hands on ‘em, you’re damn sure gonna be like, “Fuck ‘em!” But thinking that in your mind and actually physically taking action are two different things. Baby, that’s just my mindframe. If I think it, I’ma say it. And that might not always be good, but it might not always be bad either. How can we as the Hip Hop community have more positive events where we’re able to be respected by the general public as a legit business community and not just a bunch of people who cause problems? Move past it and continue grinding and doing what you do, because at the end of the day, not me nor anybody else should be able to stop you if that’s what’s in store for you. And all the muthafuckers that be out here with that gas shit need to keep that gas shit at home. A lot of entertainers be feelin’ themselves so they do stupid shit that offends people. I think if people have a certain type of respect for one another, there’d be less confusion. OZONE MAG // 43
What’d Mike Jones do that was so disrespectful? He just got real arrogant with the mouth. He just got beside hisself. And to be honest, I ain’t did no interviews about this shit and I don’t care to talk about dude. The shit is done, you know? After that, I let it be known, if he felt it was that disrespectful, he could come back and holla at me on any given day. He didn’t do that, so we left it alone. He knows what he did and I know what he did, but I damn sure don’t wanna use my interview up talkin’ about this cat. I got too much other shit goin’ on, baby. Gotcha. Okay, so the album is called Tha Truth? Who’s featured on there? I got so many songs, man. I got enough for two albums. I’ve got songs with Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Jadakiss, Rick Ross, The Game, Shawty Lo, Lloyd, Young Buck, JayTon, man, I got shit with everybody. I’ve been recording real heavy. If something happens to me in these streets, I’ll still have a lot of music coming out. I’m a firm believer in filling up the CD til there ain’t no more room on it, so that’s probably what I’m gonna do. You’ve made a strong effort to be involved in the community. Aside from Trae Day, did you do anything recently for the holidays? Most definitely. On Thanksgiving we got out there and fed a whole bunch of families. On top of that, we went to a few neighborhoods. We went to the projects and went door-to-door to deliver food. On Christmas, I got out there with Sheila Jackson-Lee and the city of Houston and we gave out toys to a few thousand kids. On top of that, they had me be Santa Claus for some of the disabled and less fortunate kids. As long as I’m out here doing stuff for the community, that’s what makes me feel comfortable. Do you feel a responsibility to do give back because of your status of an artist or is it just something you’d do regardless? If I stopped doing what I was doing as far as being an entertainer, I’d still do that. You’ve gotta understand the way I came up. My older brother Dinkie went to jail when I was around 12 or 13 years old, so a lot of [key] choices I made in my life, I made on my own. That’s not to say they were the right choices or the wrong choices, but I had to experience that on my own without having guidance. I had the big homies in the streets, but at the end of the day it was on me because I was my own man. There’s a lot of people out there who can relate to how I came up. I wanna be that big homie who can let them know, “yeah, this is right,” or “nah, that ain’t right,” or help them understand that things aren’t really that bad. You’ve got people out here that believe in you. You ain’t just out here by yourself. When you do Trae Day, it’s cool to have the artists come out and perform and all, but what’s the ultimate purpose of the event? What kind of services do you provide for the community? Every Trae Day, the entertainers are the last thing that comes. That’s how the event ends. When I was blessed to get my own holiday, I wasn’t even gonna make it about me. It was more about the city and the streets and the other stuff that goes on there. We give out school supplies. We give out school clothes. We offer HIV/AIDS testing. We do different activities for the kids. This year we gave away a few thousand immunization shots, the shots have to get to go to school. It’s so bad out here that some people don’t have money to pay for their kids to get shots, so some of the kids weren’t even gonna be prepared for school. So that was a blessing for us to be able to get the kids’ shots and get them enrolled in school. Did you pay for that yourself or was the city involved? Everything was done by me out of my own pocket. They tell me there’s ways to get sponsorships, but I didn’t really go that route. Maybe in the future I might go that route, but at the end of the day, it’s from my heart. I did everything I felt needed to be done. I flew in all the entertainers too. That was more of a bonus for the kids and the families that were out there. There was also a shooting at Trae Day too, right? I don’t wanna focus too much on the negative, but you being an event organizer, did you feel like the media coverage of the event focused more on the negative than the positive? Because that’s how I felt with the Ozone Awards situation I knew you were gonna say that. (laughs) And it’s understandable. Cats like us, it seems like we might not realize it, but we realize stuff like that. Niggas like us are always thinking and watching our surroundings and everything that’s going on, most definitely. So it did feel like that, but at the end of the day, good was still done. When Trae Day comes back around, they’re gonna come back. I gotta be prepared and make sure shit is straight for the kids’ sake. That’s the most important thing. I think [media outlets] like CNN don’t even know who I am, to a certain point, so they didn’t give the event [negative] coverage, but even the [media outlets] out here in Houston who do know who I am still kept it positive. Even though the violence happened after the event was over, it still came back to me and I can’t complain about it. We gotta keep it moving. I’m doing all this through my non-profit organization called ABN: A Better Neighborhood or Angels By Nature. 44 // OZONE MAG
What else are you working on for 2010? Of course we’ve got the cartoon episodes we’ve been working on, you can find those on YouTube. Y’all [at OZONE] were featured in one of them, of course. Since I’m Trae Tha Truth, what’s different about my cartoon [as compared to everybody else’s] is that these are real life situations I be going through. We bring in a lot of entertainers to do their own voices and the shit is funny as hell. You can be gangsta as hell and see this shit and you’re still gonna be laughing. We’re shopping it around right now. There might be a chance it’ll land on MTV. I haven’t really linked up with Cartoon Network but it might be something they’d wanna put on Adult Swim. As far as production for this album, did you stick with the same formula? I did a different remedy. I went for the young hungry cats that a lot of cats don’t even know about. They’re being slept on. A lot of these cats are talented. I just jumped out there and found a lot of young, hungry, up and coming producers like Platinum Hands, Mr. Incredible, Mr. Rogers – he’s up and coming, he’s got a couple records on the Billboard charts and he did my [previous hit] the “Swang” record – I’ve got Gavin, LeToya Luckett’s brother producing on there, I got a lil young cat from the East Coast named V-Don. As far as the bigger names I got Street Runner, he produced a track with me and Lil Wayne, and then I’ve got Mr. Lee and CyFyre, I can’t forget him, because I just shot a video for one of his tracks. With this album I’m gonna try to shoot videos for at least 85% of the album. The first [single] was “Something Real” with me, Slim Thug, Plies, Jodeci, and Brian Angel. That’s actually growing daily. Every week when I look it up, it’s getting added to another couple of stations. At this point, what’s the status of the whole “Houston movement?” At one time, the whole industry’s attention was focused on Houston, but that time came and went. Do you see a whole new crop of artists coming out of the city, or the established artists kinda recreating their sound? It’s gonna be a little bit of both, but there’s always gonna be a new wave. It doesn’t matter where it’s coming from, whether it’s Houston, Atlanta, New York, or Miami. People’s attention spans are real short. They’re always looking for the next best thing. With that being said, some of the old heads and the best of the city are gonna be able to recreate themselves. Sometimes you’ve got some young hard niggas coming up doing our thing. In Houston, we’re always gonna have a new wave. That’s my personal opinion. I’m always on the front lines. I think the second wave [of artists] are gonna be moreso on the street side than on the commercial side. But our Houston culture is still the same. Our life still revolves around swangers. We’ve still got slabs. We still listen to Screw. We still listen to slow music. We’ve still got grills in our mouths. We’re still on the streets hustling. I feel [the movement] coming but I don’t know when. I can’t really say. I might be the boost for it or somebody else might be the boost for it, but I just know that it’s coming. Do you think Pimp C’s passing had an effect on the Houston music scene, as far as dimming the torch a little bit, or do you feel like the other artists have done a good job of carrying on his legacy? It dimmed the torch because it hurt us. It kinda took a little air out of us, the same as when Screw and Fat Pat and Hawk died. It’s always gonna take a little away from us because it hurts us personally. We don’t really think about the music because we’re losing a pa’tna or a brother or a family member. But after a while, we know we’ve gotta get our energy back and hold it down for them. That makes us go harder. Even when Screw passed, it might have slowed us down for a little while, but eventually everybody across the world knew about the whole Screw movement. Once we go, we go hard. But it’s just a matter of when that time comes. Sippin’ syrup is also a part of Houston culture, but unfortunately it’s also part of the reason Pimp C passed. Do you think Houston artists have slowed down on using it because of his death? People always make it more than what it is. Each city has their own type of drugs. You’ve got people who don’t rap doing drugs. You’ve got movie stars doing drugs. There are people who just work a 9-5 job that use drugs. Each person is held accountable. Me, I don’t fuck with none of it, but that’s not to knock the next man. Is there anything else you want to say? Are you gonna let me host the next OZONE Awards? Absolutely not. (laughs) You’ll be lucky if I let you in. (laughs) Okay, I’m gonna take that. But seriously, it’s Free Dinkie all day every day. Free Pirex, free Pee Wee, Rest in Peace to Screw, Fat Pat, Mafio, Pimp C. Free my brother, they deported him. We out here ridin’ for him. Be prepared, Tha Truth is on the way. I’m still learning this internet thing but my twitter shit is @traeabn and I’m on myspace.com/traethatruth. Be on the lookout for everything I’ve got coming. I’ve got a mixtape coming with Evil Empire and DJ Folk. We stay grindin’ it out. Get ready for Tha Truth. //
P R AY F O R H A I T I Freelance journalist and host of The Parker Report, Erik Parker, was in Haiti on the fateful day of January 12, 2010, when the country was rocked by one of the most deadly earthquakes ever recorded. During the aftermath, Parker provided an up-close-and-personal look at the devastation through intermittent access to his Twitter page, @TheParkerReport. Below is one of the images he captured: Outside the hospital walls the sidewalk was littered with lifeless humans. Flies gathered. People passed by. Some looked to see who they could identify. Throughout the day bodies continued to line the street. Every so often, someone would come--a crew of people carrying a body on a makeshift stretcher. They’d struggle with the injured who would be laying flat on a plank of wood--bloodied and bruised-- walk past the bodies that didn’t make it and through the gates of the hospital for treatment. The hospital wasn’t the only place where bodies piled up, the entire city was a graveyard to be navigated by the living. Please be sure to show your support for the victims of this tragedy by donating to the Red Cross, Wyclef’s Yele Haiti, and the many other reputable charity organizations dedicated to helping the Haitian people through this difficult time.
OZONE MAG // 45
SOLDIERS OF LOVE Paul Wall and DJ Smallz accepted their MISSION WITH PRIDE: boost morale amongst American troops deployed in Afghanistan. OZONE tagged along for an unforgettable ride through the war-WEARY Middle East. by Julia Beverly Photos by Erick Anderson & Julia Beverly
46 // OZONE MAG
ait. Where the fuck am I?
Seven days in, the thought finally hits me. This is crazy. How did I end up here? I’m weighted down by military-issue body armor, hovering several thousand feet above ground in decidedly unfriendly skies. Mere inches from my left shoulder, a gaping hole where the door should be (photo at left) allows a bird’s eye view of the dry desert and the scenic mountainside of Afghanistan quickly falling away beneath the chopper.
A handful of us are on board the helicopter, including Houston rapper Paul Wall and Florida representative DJ Smallz, but I appear to be the only one suddenly smitten with panic. A four-pronged seatbelt strapped over my bulletproof vest seems to be the only thing separating me from sudden death-by-gravity, as I cling tightly to my cameras and gear with both hands. And a tall, heavily-armed soldier named John Tuerck, strapped in facing me and intently eyeing the ground through the scope of his assault rifle, appears to be the only thing separating me from mid-air death-by-Taliban. Verbal communication is limited by the overpowering roar of the rotor blades overhead, but Tuerck has clearly spotted something of concern. He motions to one of the other four soldiers accompanying us. They both grip their weapons tighter, aiming at the location of possible enemy fire coming our way. You could be home right now, I tell myself. You didn’t have to come here. It’s barely 7 AM. On any normal day back in the States at this hour, I’d likely still be in bed hitting the snooze button repeatedly, enjoying the comfortable hum of central air conditioning and unable to resist the pull of my warm bed and soft sheets. Just a typical lazy, spoiled American civilian. But not today. This week, I’m literally on the other side of the world, getting accustomed to the military lifestyle. Having already dragged myself out of a stiff bunkbed at 4:30 AM, ran four miles, showered, and scarfed down a low-calorie breakfast at the DFAC (Dining Facility, or more simply, the chow hall; one of an infinite number of military acronyms), we’re now en route to a tiny FOB (Forward Operating Base) in the Mizan Valley of Afghanistan. Aside from the VIPs, Paul Wall and DJ Smallz, our cargo consists of boxes of frozen Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas, a luxury gift for fifty soldiers living literally in the middle of nowhere.
TIL EVERYONE COMES HOME The USO has served the military for over 67 years, since before World War II. It’s a non-profit organization dedicated to lifting the spirits of U.S. troops all around the world who are sacrificing daily and doing their part to ensure that America remains the land of the free and the home of the brave. In addition to working with private organizations like the USO, the U.S. military also employs internal staff dedicated to improving the “quality of life” for deployed troops. The term “quality of life” includes things like professional gym equipment, calling centers where troops can reach out to their families back home, computers with internet access (usually extremely slow, and social networking sites like Myspace and Twitter are often blocked), and dozens of other privileges that we as private citizens take for granted. The USO’s entertainment division brings entertainers and celebrities from all genres to perform for the troops, just to raise their spirits, bring them a taste of home, and remind them they aren’t there fighting alone. Traditionally, country singers (Toby Keith), rock bands (Flyleaf ), comedians (Steven Colbert, Jamie Kennedy), actors and actresses (Christian Slater, Tichina Howard), and athletes (Anna Kournikova, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints) have been actively involved with the USO and similar programs. “I like a little country music, but we need some rappers to come out here. Y’all need to come out here and visit us. I know ya’ll ain’t that busy,” one young soldier we encountered, Private Lopez, pleaded while showing off his “chain” (an assault rifle). “Y’all’s chains don’t compare to my chain,” he joked. Convincing a rapper to spend 10 days overseas performing for free while living in military barracks with no liquor, weed, or civilian women is slightly more difficult. But it’s a trip that’s well worth the experience. With a strong new wave of Army recruits from the Hip Hop generation serving our country with pride (many of whom are stationed at Fort Hood, just a few hours from Paul Wall’s native Houston, TX), it’s only right that we show our support in return. “I think the main two reasons Hip Hop artists don’t come [over here] is because of inconvenience and fear,” theorizes Paul. “It is inconvenient – it’s a long flight, it’s hot, we don’t get paid. But these are people that supported you and they’re out here fighting for our freedom and civil liberties, and we have an obligation as artists to fulfill. As far as ‘fear,’ it is a war zone, but we’ve got the best security in the world right here watching out for us.” Despite the million scenarios running through my head in the helicopter en route to Mizan, my fears turned out to be unsubstantiated. We all made it home safely and in one piece after an incredible 10 days in the Middle East. The experience made the phrase “boosting morale” a reality and not just a cliché. The service we were providing was evident on the faces of troops we encountered everywhere throughout the tour. DJ Smallz and Paul Wall, who both have family members in the military, hope the time they OZONE MAG // 47
DJ Smallz and Paul Wall shortly after landing in Kandahar, Afghanistan
KUWAIT CITY It all started calmly enough. Aside from the mandatory checkpoint at the entrance to the Kuwait City hotel, where security guards instructed me to stop filming while they popped the hood of our SUV and searched diligently near the engine area for explosives, our initial arrival into the Middle East was uneventful. Unsure what to expect after a fourteen hour flight, I was pleasantly surprised when our hotel turned out to be nothing short of a five-star luxury resort, even by spoiled-American standards. The oceanside facilities included basketball and volleyball courts, an expansive pool, a large fitness center, a fine-dining steakhouse, and an impressive breakfast buffet for only $15 Kuwaiti Dinar (we did not realize until long after departing that this converted to over $50 American dollars each). Computers in the hotel lobby with internet access were also a welcome amenity - until Paul Wall’s sidekick/DJ/road manager Cat joked on Twitter, “I’m at the [hotel] in Kuwait, come thru.” Disclosing our location was of the absolute no-no’s in the USO tour handbook. He was immediately reprimanded via email, and the lobby computers thereafter denied access to Twitter.com (“that’s okay, I still got BlackPlanet,” Cat joked), an incident which spawned plenty of conspiracy theory jokes for the remainder of the trip. Cat was also chastised by hotel staff for chewing a Mentos in the hotel lobby. During Ramadan, a 30-day Islamic holiday, visitors are asked to refrain from eating or drinking in public, which includes things like drinking water or chewing gum. The August heat was unbearable. The humidity (“wetness in the atmosphere”) in Kuwait City - or al-Kuwayt, to the locals - regularly spikes above 60% in the summertime, with temperatures reaching 118 degrees and hovering, on average, around 101. By way of comparison, the average temperature in Miami, FL in August is 85 degrees, with similar levels of humidity. Just picture yourself in Miami... lounging in a steam room, fully clothed, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how Kuwait City feels in August. A 48 // OZONE MAG
quick tour of the premises with Paul and Cat left the three of us literally dripping with sweat in 30 seconds flat. Smallz, having put in double-time in the studio before departing the States, used the brief stopover in Kuwait to catch up on some much-needed rest. “I asked them at the front desk if they had jet skis, and they looked at me crazy,” Paul laughed, surveying the beach. “Now I see why. This water is like Galveston [TX] water.” Although the roar of the waves at night could easily transport you mentally to South Beach, by daylight the Kuwaiti surf bore no resemblance to the clear blue water of popular tourist destinations in Florida or the Caribbean. Over breakfast, Paul reminisced on his previous USO trip to Iraq. He’d been fascinated by his lodgings at Saddam Hussein’s former domain, a 500,000 square foot palace which has been under American control since 2003. “Gold plated-everything; marble floors. It’s the real deal. [Saddam’s palace] even has a manmade lake,” Paul remembered. “He had scientists genetically engineer his own fish, called Saddam Bass. Google it. They’re the size of rottweilers but they’re like piranhas. The rumor is, he used to throw people in the water to torture them or to kill them, so they wouldn’t find remains. He was like our generation’s Hitler. He was an evil person.” Further evidence of Saddam’s cruelty could be seen in one of the back corridors, added Paul. “There’s an elevator called the Bloody Hands Elevator. It’s an old elevator that used to lead down to the torture chamber. There are [bloody] handprints all over the elevator where people tried to fight their way out. It’s a little spooky.” Although Paul fully expected Afghanistan to be an enlightening trip just like Iraq, he hoped to avoid another sobering moment. On the previous return flight, he had served as an honorary pallbearer for an American casualty. “We had the honor of flying back with
Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry about encountering any Saddam Bass like Paul’s previous USO trip to Iraq
Photo: Sgt. Anger from Duluth News/ESPN.com
contributed will inspire others in the Hip Hop community to follow suit. “I’m doing my duty as a patriot for my country. My job as an entertainer is to come out here and entertain the troops. And it’s your job as the editor of a magazine to cover it,” Paul tells me. “Whatever your job is, you have an obligation to fulfill your duty. We all play a role.”
a fallen soldier on a C130 cargo plane,” Paul recalled. “The coffin took up the whole cargo area of the plane. There was an American flag draped over the coffin and our feet were like a half inch from the coffin. They told us it was a soldier’s ‘remains.’ It wasn’t even a full corpse, it was whatever ‘remained’ of the soldier. It was a somber experience; it put the whole trip in perspective. This ain’t Club Med. This is a war.”
States. A box of food rations being distributed, including canned lasagna and banana cookies, proves surprisingly edible. Paul Wall goes back for seconds, then thirds.
My view on the flight into Bagram; up close and personal with an MRAP
After our brief Kuwait City mini-vacation, the real adventure finally begins around midnight the following day. Between the jet lag and the 7-hour time difference, our bodies are already thoroughly confused. We’re greeted in the hotel lobby by a somewhat overzealous military police officer who appears to be under the influence of six or seven Red Bulls and has been assigned the task of making sure the VIPs (us) make it from Point A (hotel) to Point B (Kuwait City military airport) safely. Frequently cracking jokes like “I can’t tell you, I’d have to kill you” with a straight face, his SUV utilizes all kinds of extreme traffic maneuvers following us on the highway, as if we were engaging in a high speed chase or participating in a Presidential motorcade. Our driver, a native Texan, was jammin’ some classic UGK on his iPod as we climbed in the SUV. He said he’s making good money as a contractor driving folks around Kuwait, and spent the ride to the airport putting us on to some of the local customs. Word on the street, apparently, is an ex-military contractor who was caught with a couple pounds of weed on the local U.S. military base and sentenced to 25 years in a Kuwaiti jail. Drug offenses are zero-tolerance on the military bases and a Kuwaiti jail is not somewhere you want to be. “They said his mom came to visit [from the States] and they wouldn’t even let her in, because women aren’t allowed,” says Paul, who’d already read news reports on the subject. “Coldblooded.” After passing through several security checkpoints, we’re dropped off at the airport terminal and each issued body armor with our names tagged on them - helmets straight out of Hogan’s Heroes and bulletproof vests - all of us looking rather ridiculous with the heavy gear over our civilian clothes. The terminal is a large square structure with concrete floors, filled with rows and rows of black leather chairs. An AT&T calling center and a couple flat screen TVs are there to entertain the hundred or so soldiers waiting for their names to be called, but most are catching a quick nap. Flying over Dubai
A row of clocks along the wall informs us that it’s 3:28 AM here in Kuwait, 5:03 AM at our destination in Afghanistan, and 8:28 PM the previous evening back home on the East Coast of the United
The USO photographer accompanying us, Erick Anderson, strikes up a conversation with one soldier, telling him we’re en route to Bagram. “This is the last stop to hell,” the soldier joked, but laughs and shakes his head emphatically when asked to repeat the comment on camera.
After several hours, anticipation for our adventure begins to wear thin. Finally, our flight number is called, and we file out of the terminal to a large bus along with a number of other enlisted soldiers. Several take pictures with Paul and Smallz. We wait, and wait some more. The bus transports us to the “flight line,” where several planes are lined up preparing departure. After what feels like an endless amount of time sitting on the bus, the sun starts to peek up above the horizon. The day is already moving faster than we are. A C17 cargo plane on the runway, clearly our intended destination, is loading pallets of supplies as we watch. A row of large vehicles resembling Humvees forms a line behind the back of the plane and slowly inches forward. Our crew moves towards seats in the front of the bus to get a closer look, watching in civilian disbelief as three of the enormous tanks are swallowed up by the C17’s cargo door. They’re coming with us.
Paul and the C17’s pilots and crew rockin’ aluminum-foil “grills”
MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles), we learn later, are the newest evolution of the Humvee, specifically designed to survive collisions with roadside bombs (commonly referred to in the military as IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices). The MRAPs are massive vehicles weighing up to 25 tons apiece, roughly the weight of eight Cadillac Escalades combined. The technology involved, especially the interior instrument panel, is considered highly sensitive. The U.S. Government has placed a high priority on expanding the MRAP program, spending over $10 billion for an estimated 20,000 vehicles. Not only are the three MRAPs coming with us, but it turns out they’re going to be our seatmates for the duration of the flight. Finally given the green light to board around 6 AM, we line up single file with a slew of soldiers in full gear who all appear to be in various states of sleep deprivation. Having been warned about filming on the flight line, I’m hesitant to pull out my camera, resorting to a few quick snapshots and some surreptitious FlipCam usage. Several members of the flight crew are hard at work strapping down the MRAPs by the tires with metal clamps, but the stability of these 25-ton vehicles is still questionable (in my mind). Every slight movement of the cargo plane while taxiing down the runway results in the MRAPs bouncing back and forth on their enormous tires. One wrong turn and I clearly see myself flattened under 25 tons of rubber and metal. Still, this is too crazy not to photograph. I pull out my camera and start snapping away. When one Air Force crew member approaches, I expect to be reprimanded, but instead, we’re invited up to the cockpit. The pilot, co-pilot, and several other crew members are excited to have VIPs on board, even posing with fake-aluminum-foil “grills” to match Paul Wall’s infamous “Grillz” record.
MRAPs & soldiers on board the C-17
Since Iranian airspace is restricted, our roundabout flight path to
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Paul Wall performing at the Clamshell, a multi-purpose facility on Bagram Air Base
Afghanistan takes us directly over the palm-tree shaped man-made islands of Dubai, a breathtaking view. Also on board is one young Air Force crew member, Staff Sergeant Robert Tingle from Spokane, WA, who doubles as an aspiring photographer. His laptop contains a dizzying array of professional-quality aerial photographs compiled during his time with the Air Force. Cat, oblivious to the excitement in the air, resorts to playing Tetris on his Sidekick for the majority of the flight. Smallz and the rest of the entourage sleep. As exhausted as I am, I refuse to sleep through the opportunity to hang out in the cockpit of a military cargo plane flying over Dubai. The loud hum of the engine, upright seating, and required body armor don’t really allow for a comfortable night’s rest anyway. In between chatting with the pilots, Paul eyes the dual bunk-beds behind the cockpit, sighing, “I would be so knocked out right now if I could lay down there.”
BAGRAM The adrenaline rush starts to wear down as we touch down to bright sunlight in Bagram, after a long sleepless night. “That landing was rough. We were swangin’ and bangin’ through the skies of Afghanistan,” Paul jokes, still looking queasy as the plane hit the runway. “My stomach was turning too,” confirms Smallz. Bagram Air Base, a key site for the Soviet Union during their occupation of Afghanistan throughout the 1980s, felt suspiciously like an actual city. And it’s large enough to be considered an actual city: over 20,000 troops are stationed at Bagram (for comparison, that’s roughly the population of Montgomery, Alabama). The main drag is called Disney Drive, a two-lane paved road which runs the length of the base. One would assume the name is a wry nod back home to the States, but it’s actually a tribute to Army specialist Jason A. Disney, one of the early U.S. fatalities at Bagram. Disney Drive is lined with trees and dozens of semi-permanent and tent-like structures. Occasionally, the monotony is interrupted by Special Ops compounds marked by bright green vinyl and thick barbed wire shuttering their facilities from prying eyes. Compounds like these contain their
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own chow halls and PT tents (fitness centers) as well as barracks and living facilities. The PX (Post Exchange) at Bagram - basically the mall, for lack of a better term - contains a number of shops selling Afghani trinkets as well as a Burger King and a store resembling a mini-Wal-Mart, where troops can purchase a number of necessities. The PX even had a wide selection of CDs available from artists like Dorrough, FloRida, Plies, Gorilla Zoe, and Slaughterhouse. Further down Disney Road is a barbershop (Smallz desired his sideburns to be trimmed 3/8” below his ears; one day, after finding that the barber wasn’t yet in, he donned a swine flu mask to cover his stubble), a Russianoperated spa offering manicures, pedicures, and massages ($20 for a full hour – no word if “happy endings” are included), and even a drop-off location for the local Afghani FedEx affiliate. Many local nationals work on base performing custodial services or serving food at the chow halls, so the traffic is a curious mixture of civilian vehicles, Humvees, MRAPs, tanks, buses, and contractors’ weathered SUVs - all covered in dust. Still feeling a bit off from our night spent flying high, our first stop after touching down in Bagram was Freedom Radio Station. Signing up for the military does not necessarily lead to a life of combat. The military is a huge entity, so there are opportunities available for virtually all careers, including on-air radio personalities, radio DJs, and television announcers. Freedom Radio is a source of both information and entertainment for many soldiers as well as Afghani locals in the vicinity. Unlike some of Paul’s previous experiences on military bases, where “old” records like Nelly’s “Grillz” and Mike Jones’ “Still Tippin’” were still considered hot, Freedom Radio appeared to be quite up-to-date with the freshest new music from the States. The DJ dropped a few Drake records in the mix in between Smallz and Paul Wall’s live on-air interview. The radio station interview was followed by various meet & greets at a Commander’s office on base, where we met one particularly enthusiastic fan who happened to have a Texas flag on deck for Paul Wall to sign. Then we were off to the chow hall, where Paul slammed down a triple cheese-
burger and Smallz dined on some corn and other vegetables. The food at Bagram was better than you’d expect from cafeteria-style entrees, and good for you too - many selections were marked with the calorie count.
exhaustion - trying to undo the damage done by a seven-hour time difference and two back-toback overnight flights. We were in a permanent state of semiconsciousness, prone to drift off during any spare moment that wasn’t committed to partaking in an actual activity. Paul, trying to re-up his energy reserves, sat out during a trip to meet some Air Force pilots and tour the fighter jets. DJ Smallz visited with the pilots and personally autographed one of the bombs for a lucky terrorist to receive.
“We love you!” two Air Force girls (literally holding Taylor Swift CDs in one hand and assault rifles in the other) shouted at Paul while we wandered through the PX. Another female, an Army private from Milwaukee, eyed him lustily. “We Smallz autographing a fighter jet bomb to don’t have much out here, so a little enbe dropped on a lucky terrorist tertainment helps,” she said, after sadly telling Paul that his performance at her base had been cancelled and issuing a challenge to Lil Wayne (“C’mon out here. You’ve made enough albums. At the chow hall over dinner, my ears perked up at the mention of a 5K Come see the soldiers!”). run. Coincidentally, the following morning marked the anniversary of Women’s Equality Day, and the Army was holding a 5K run (a little over 3 Many of the troops we encountered throughout our trip were from miles) around the base to celebrate. Despite a recently sprained ankle, as Texas, and even more were familiar with Paul Wall’s music from their a runner at heart, I was excited to participate. time stationed on the military base at Fort Hood in Killeen, TX. Sergeant McEachern from Goldsboro, NC, proudly showed us the entire That’s how I find myself lacing up at 5 AM the next morning after a restless collection of DJ Smallz’ Southern Smoke mixtapes on his Zune (“this is night of semi-consciousness, my sleep frequently interrupted by the roar the iPod killer,” he clarified, when asked to reveal his iPod playlist. “Do I of jet planes overhead. Air Force Master Sergeant Rodney Reyes from need to show you the Paul Wall selection too?”). Colorado Springs, CO, is waiting at the back door of our two-room shack. “You sure you’re ready to do this?” he laughed. “This will show you the Along the way, we collected video drops for MTV Jams (the drops aired heartbeat of Bagram.” Reyes serves as not only my running buddy, but a on Thanksgiving) and asked the troops who they would like to see live Bagram tour guide, providing a lot of information about the base itself. in person. A wide variety of requests included T.I., Kirk Franklin, ColdDaily PT (Personal Training) is mandatory for the Army, so every morning play, and LL Cool J. “We listen to whatever it takes to make it through from 5:30 AM to 7 AM, Disney Drive shuts down to all vehicular traffic that the day,” said one soldier. UGK, Slim Thug, Chamillionaire, Jay-Z, and isn’t “mission-essential” and the runners take over the road. Z-Ro were all revealed to be on soldiers’ playlists. “The USO shows give us a break from our day-to-day grind,” explained John Porter, a TV an5Ks are a frequent occurrence on base, often with gift certificates or nouncer for AFN Afghanistan. “We can go out and see a show and feel trophies being handed out to the top three finishers. “The last race we did, like, ‘I’m not in a war zone.’” the N.R.A. gave out a sharpshooter air rifle worth like $600 to the winner,” remembered Reyes. “The same Navy guy wins every race. He’s insane. He Our Bagram meet-and-greets included an autograph-signing session can run three miles in like 13:30.” at the Pat Tillman Center, a USO facility dedicated to the memory of the U.S. Army Corporal. Inspired by 9/11, Tillman quit a successful In a cluster around the starting line, plenty of bananas, water, and GatoNFL football career to join the Army and was killed by friendly fire in rade were on hand. Boxes contain hundreds of bright yellow shirts for the mountains of Afghanistan. The USO Center, perhaps one of the Women’s Equality Day, established 1971 to commemorate the passage of most comfortable and inviting the 19th Amendment (women’s right to vote). A few large tanks roll past buildings on the base, is a safe the rows of troops stretching and preparing to run, apparently exiting haven for troops to hang out, get the base to go out on a mission. A typical mission, Reyes explains, might something cool to drink amidst involve making contact with local warlords, checking on suspicious activithe heat, relax on the sofa, call ties, or transporting soldiers for various tasks. home, and watch TV (even if what they’re watching appears A man equipped with a bullhorn summons everyone to the starting line to be a gruesome war flick). at the end of Disney Drive. Although a good amount of women are in sight, the bulk of the participants are male. The chaplain issues a dedicaMuch of our time at Bagram tion. “Father, we thank you for a beautiful day. This run is for your glory,” Air Base was spent weathering he finishes, to a chorus of “amen”s. “If you don’t look back and reflect on the past, you’ll never learn to appreciate the future,” the leader with the DJ Smallz’ chain accompanied us to all bullhorn continues, addressing the women in the crowd. “There were a lot the meet-and-greets, including visits with sick soldiers at the Bagram Air of women that sweated, cried, and shed blood in order for you women to Base main hospital (left) and the staff be standing here where you are today.” of Freedom Radio Station (below)
“Are you motivated to run now?” asks Reyes. Indeed I am. The crowd, by his estimate, is slightly less than the last run, where over 800 participated. Bobbing along with my FlipCam, a sea of runners in Army and Air Force PT gear (standard-issue gray t-shirts and blue or black shorts with yellow reflective belts) bursts forward in one progressive motion. The morning sun is already rising, but a thin haze hangs in the air, sparing us from fullon heat. After the first mile, the crowd begins to thin as the line of runners winds past the main guard tower and around the curved barbed wire fences surrounding the airfield. The road, although paved, is rough. “The roads aren’t that good so the Afghanis do a lot of patchwork,” points out Reyes. “Off base, you can’t tell what’s a newly-constructed area and what’s an IED or bomb buried under some dirt. So you get wary of those [patches] in the road.” Along the perimeter of the base, rows of red triangular signs warning “MINES” are attached to long thin lines of barbed wire. To our left is one of many Soviet graveyards, containing remnants from the Soviet war – pieces of old trucks and tanks and various junk. Many of the explosives in Afghanistan were, in fact, mines planted many years ago by the Soviets, not by Middle Eastern terrorists. OZONE MAG // 51
Hotel-charley: Me, high above the mountains of Afghanistan in the cockpit of a C130
Admittedly, I was no match for the military runners, who are encouraged to stay in tip-top physical condition. Bagram sits around 5,000 miles above sea level, and the unexpected altitude adjustment left me gasping for air after barely a mile.
T.I.), or the Midwest (Kanye West). Paul opened his set with a tribute to Pimp C (“International Player’s Anthem”) and then launched into a string of hits. For an hour or so, the stress and homesickness many of these troops were experiencing melted away into the music.
Still, the sense of community prevails and I push forward. As we round the curve towards the smokestack of the burn pits, the turnaround point, a mass of faster runners are already passing us on the return route. A team of yellow-and-brown-shirted marines trot by in unison, chanting, “When I say three, you say four / When I say PT, you say ‘some more!’”
Running along the perimeter of the base, literally with a soundtrack of fighter jets blasting off towards their destination and endless rows of chain link fence topped with thick barbed wire, is an exhilarating experience. “What better way to start an Afghan morning?” Reyes asks after reaching the finish line. The sharp morning scent in the air, the sounds, the sights, and the feel of being in new, unfamiliar territory all prove to be motivation to push forward. No treadmill can compare to a perimeter run around a military base in a war zone. It was easy to get lost in the endless array of barracks and similarly-styled buildings, but the tiny smokestack poking above our shack served as my constant point of reference. It still didn’t stop me from getting lost enough times to have to take several alternative routes “home,” but I found my way back after the 5K run. Our Bagram living quarters consisted of wooden bunkbeds in a two-room shack, with a few luxuries like a flatscreen TV and refrigerator. Signed glossy 8x10s from previous celebrity visitors, like NFL cheerleaders, lined the walls. A camouflaged Kawasaki four-wheeler was parked at the back door to our bunks when I returned. The communal showers were about a ten minute walk away, buried behind endless rows of sandbags and concrete barriers (to duck behind in case of attack). I managed to literally drop the soap (which I had just snagged from a gift bag at the USO Center) between the cracks of the wide wooden-slatted floors of the shower, never to be seen again. Having neglected to bring a towel, I improvised. The restroom facilities were decent, considering our location, with makeshift shower curtains serving as the door. On our last night in Bagram, a near-record crowd turned out to see Smallz and Paul perform at the Clamshell, a tent-like structure which serves a variety of purposes. Smallz’ 25-minute DJ set brought the troops snippets of their favorite records over the years to give them a taste of home, no matter if they were from the West Coast (Snoop, E-40), the South (Lil Jon, 52 // OZONE MAG
Bright and early the next morning after the Clamshell show, we travel the short distance to Bagram Air Base on a bus which has seen better days, the windows wide open to compensate for the lack of air conditioning. “I woke up this morning and smelled my own stench,” bragged Paul, who’s questionable personal hygiene had become a running joke. “I’m a little ripe today. I’d say there’s a 17-18% chance of me taking a shower today.” After a long pause and several dusty blocks, Paul again spoke up. “I’ve come to a decision. After the show tonight, it’s shower time. And I’ll do you one better. After the show I’m gonna change my Dickies.” But, he tacked on a disclaimer: “If there’s no show I might decide to wait til tomorrow,” adding, “I feel sorry for whoever has to sit next to me on the plane.” “He regularly wears a pair of pants for two weeks,” complains Cat, who admitted to only bringing three pairs of Levis for the entire trip. After loading all our luggage onto a pallet to be wrapped for inclusion on our cargo plane to Kandahar, we waited for the C130, seated in a sparse airport terminal with no welcome distractions. A soldier sitting nearby recognized Paul and asked him to say hello this wife back home via cell phone. While signing glossy 8x10s, Paul pointed out a soldier who strongly resembled California’s DJ Skee. “He looks like a swole up DJ Skee, on steroids,” laughs Paul. “When I come to Kandahar, I’m chillin’ with him.” DJ-Skee-on-steroids proved to be our only entertainment for the duration of the morning as we awaited boarding. “No matter what terminal we’re in, no matter what city we’re in, even if it’s just a small airport, I’m gonna think about this moment and be happy,” reflected an extremely bored Cat. After what seems like an endless wait, we finally board the C130, a considerably smaller cargo plane than the C17 from our initial flight into Afghanistan. The crew assures us that it’ll be a “fun ride” into Kandahar, specifically the takeoff. “[The pilots] do what they call a ‘combat maneuver,’ where they go all the way up and then straight down, kinda like a roller coaster,” informs the soldier strapped down to my left. “Do you like roller coasters?”
he asks. Smallz, positioned across from us, looks at the soldier, waiting for him to laugh. He doesn’t. The C130 comes equipped with brown manila “Motion Sickness Bags,” roughly the size of a small mailing envelope. “If an upset stomach is anticipated, remove bag from this container and keep ready for use,” it reads. “Do not be embarrassed by this precaution, as even veteran travelers are subject to occasional motion sickness.” Fortunately, we didn’t end up needing them, although it was a rough ride.
5 AM at the PT Center in Kandahar
Again, we lucked up with several very friendly Air Force folks in the cockpit who asked Paul Wall some questions via headsets, and vice versa. Females are a rarity in Afghanistan, especially in cargo-plane cockpits, so the refrain of “Hotel-Charley” (“hot chick”) was heard more than once and I got prime seating with a great view for most of the flight. The scenery en route from Bagram to Kandahar was actually stunning. Miles and miles of picturesque mountain ranges which, it was noted by more than one soldier throughout our journeys, would make for great ski resorts if the country wasn’t always at war. Anywhere in Afghanistan, a statement like “I’m headed to Kandahar” inevitably brings a quick response: “It’s hot out there!” And they aren’t lying. The temperature in Kandahar in August was suffocating. Beads of sweat began rolling down our foreheads barely after deplaning. After an extensive check-in where we exchanged our passports for visitors passes and I chatted with several soldiers who also had beads of sweat rolling down their forehead, we reached desperately for bottles of barely-cold water. After checking into side-by-side mens’ and womens’ housing units containing eight bunk beds per room, we headed over to the dining hall for a buffet-style meal which left nearly everyone but Paul unsatisfied. Kandahar is a NATO base even larger than Bagram, meaning that dozens of other countries and NATO allies have troops stationed on the base, in addition to American troops. The dining halls are set up differently from the American bases. The Dehydration is a common problem in the desert; the restroom by my bunk asked soldiers to take a Urine Test (left). Back home, you might find plastic showers like these (below) at a mediocre gym. But in a war zone, they’re a rare luxury. These facilities, I was told, are the best in Afghanistan.
food wasn’t so great, but the mixture of cultures did provide some entertainment. For example, we ate lunch next to a group of NATO troops from an unknown country whose uniforms resembled those of Reno 911’s Officer Dangle, with tootight, too-short brown shorts. “The grapes are the only thing that taste American to me,” complained DJ Smallz, a notoriously picky eater. “The beautiful thing about fat people is that we can find the delight in any meal,” said Paul in between mouthfuls, washing down some thick pasta with two containers of vanilla pudding.
Kandahar is smack in the middle of the desert - endless clouds of dust underneath a brutally harsh sun. Although the main roads throughout the base were recently paved, the whole base is covered with dust. Vehicles, clothing, shoes, anything that comes in contact with the outdoors becomes the same shade of beige and grey. My female bunkmates, Captain DeLucia and Captain Scott, took me on a tour of the base and pointed out the future location of their newest project, a USO calling center. Also on the base were rows of “jingle trucks,” large vehicles decorated by Afghani natives the same way we “pimp our rides” back home in the States - only instead of rims, tinted window, and audio systems, they’ve got elaborately painted and decorated semi-trucks. Compared to Bagram, Kandahar feels less like a city and more like a work in progress; a temporary stop-off. The expansive base comes together at the Boardwalk, a central facility which houses restaurants such as Pizza Hut, Burger King, Subway, and Tim Horton’s (a Canadian favorite donut shop) and an AT&T calling centers. Visiting entertainers like DJ Smallz and Paul Wall often perform at the Boardwalk. In the middle of the Boardwalk is the one thing you’d least expect to find in the middle of a war zone in the desert: a hockey rink. Well, a deck hockey rink, to be more specific. My initial naive question from afar was, “How do they keep the ice cold?” The rink is almost never silent; at all times, except in the brutal heat of the afternoon sun, competing teams from Canada and beyond stand clad in sneakers and knee pads, taking part in one of the few recreational activities available. A nearby basketball court and softball field are under development, and soccer games routinely take place on the grass. “None of this stuff tastes like it does back home,” observes Smallz, while waiting for his personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. A weird smell wafts through the air, occasionally reaching the Boardwalk and destroying any desire you may have had for Burger King. “Ah, yes,” laughed Captain DeLucia during our impromptu tour of the Kandahar base, when asked about the smell. “The Poo Pond.” The most defining feature of Kandahar isn’t the Boardwalk; it’s the infamous Poo Pond. Yeah, the Poo Pond is exactly what you think it is, and it’s such a popular landmark that the customized poo-colored t-shirts at the Kandahar PX sell out quickly. Rumor has it, said Captain DeLucia, a crazy Marine dove into the Poo Pond and became severely ill. The Poo Pond is surrounded by barbed wire fence with biohazard warning signs. The stench carries on for miles, and just across the street from the Poo Pond are tents where troops no doubt have been forced to become accustomed to the smell. Future plans for the Poo Pond involve the base engineers finding some healthier way to deal with the sewage waste and building a softball field over the newly-fertile ground left behind by Poo Pond (seriously). Building softball fields and basketball courts seem to broadcast the U.S.’s intent to continue occupying Afghanistan for quite a while, but in Captain DeLucia’s eyes, recreational activities such as these are considered investments for the troops’ well-being. The first morning in Kandahar, I woke up at 4:30 AM and headed for the PT Center, thinking I was up early. At that hour, en route to the PT, I saw two soccer games, a basketball game, and an aerobics class already in session, not to mention at least three dozen treadmills all occupied when I arrived. The Canadians were already in motion on the deck hockey rink. Working out any later in the day, I was told, is virtually impossible due to the heat.
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Paul Wall performing at the Clamshell, a multi-purpose facility on Bagram Air Base
Paul blasting off M203 assault rifles into the mountains of the Mizan Valley
In this kind of dry heat, dehydration is a constant concern. Pallets of water bottles are everywhere (never cold, though; finding any kind of cold beverage or ice in Kandahar is considered a miracle). In 120+ degree weather, doing any kind of task is exhausting. I was dead tired just accompanying DJ Smallz on meet & greets, so I can only imagine what Marines, Air Force, and Army folks go through on actual missions.
diers led by a resourceful producer named Eric “Pretty E” Jackson and his enthusiastic rhyming partner, Mississippi native Arseneal “Young Dunny” Gines, rig up a makeshift ProTools set-up and a handheld microphone to download beats off the internet and spit rhymes. Most of their lyrics are focused on life back home in the States; it’s an escape from the war-torn environment in which they are currently living.
After nightfall, Smallz and Paul put on a show at Southpark, a section of Kandahar where many U.S. troops reside in tents. The crowd at Southpark was overwhelmingly rap fans. With a makeshift wooden stage propped up between the tents and soldiers’ barracks, two soft spotlights directed at the states, and an energetic crowd exited to have two hometown entertainers in their midst, the Southpark show was exactly what a Hip Hop show should be. The lighting was subtle, the vibe was right, the energy was live, and troops lined up for hours after the show to take pictures with Paul and Smallz.
After touching down from our harrowing helicopter ride and delivering the personal pan pizzas, we were given a quick tour of the base and several soldiers taught us how to blast off grenade launchers into the nearby mountains. Caves run all throughout the mountains, similar to the tunnels in which bin Laden & co. were once rumored to be hiding. The M203 packs a serious punch and such a strong kickback that both rounds (I hit the target on the first try, thank you very much) left thick bruises on my inner bicep for a week to follow.
The morning after Southpark, Paul plopped down at the dining hall looking refreshed. As promised, he’d showered. Cat devoured three helpings of the breakfast buffet while Paul and Smallz reminisced on their night. “I’m like a new person after that shower,” sighed Paul. “I even changed my underwear and my socks. Same Dickies though. I slept like a baby last night.” “I fell asleep in my chain,” chimed in DJ Smallz, flashing the chain as usual for extra emphasis. “Same clothes I wore to the concert.”
MIZAN VALLEY Even in the midst of a war zone, true passion shines through. On an army base barely large enough to have port-o-potties, the coolest recording studio ever, The Mack Shack, exists to bring hope to the 50 troops stationed on base. It is, quite literally, a shack - filled with military logistics equipment, ammunition, and weapons. But in lighter moments, a handful of sol-
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Tuerck keeping a watchful eye on board the helicopter
After a quick stop off in the cafeteria to check email, Smallz dropped mortars while Paul checked out a couple potential beats in the Mack Shack, ultimately laying a verse free of charge. “Who can say that they recorded a song in Afghanistan?” Paul asked. “Now that’s ‘keepin’ it real.’” After our memorable day trip to Mizan, we headed back to the main base at Kandahar, where Paul and Smallz performed one final show at the Boardwalk for NATO troops from all over the world. Several enthusiastic Scottish Army troops turned out to be huge Paul Wall fans, throwing up the “H” for H-Town.
COMIC RELIEF Aside from Paul’s lack of shame regarding his personal hygiene, Smallz’ love for his brandnew chain provided much of the comic relief throughout a tour which might otherwise have been heavy. Smallz’ jeweler, Mo from Icebox Jewelry, met him at the Atlanta airport before our departure from the States to bring him his very first iced-out piece, of which he was quite proud. After our return, even in my state of
(left): two soldiers reading OZONE in “The Mack Shack,” a tiny makeshift recording studio in the Mizan Valley of Afghanistan; (right): the exterior of the Mack Shack; (below left:) DJ Smallz leaves his mark in the studio; (below:) the restroom facilities at Mizan, a.k.a. “the piss tubes,” just outside the Mack Shack
exhaustion I was shocked to see Mo the Jeweler at the baggage claim back in Atlanta, on hand immediately after we landed to clean Smallz’ piece. No matter where we were - flying through the skies, visiting wounded soldiers at the hospital, dropping mortars in the valley - Smallz proudly displayed his chain everywhere we went. He even issued a challenge to Soulja Boy: “Where you at, baby? You’re supposed to be over here representin’ with your [Lamborghini] chain before me!” For Paul, who arrived in the Middle East for a 10 day trip with only a carry-on containing two pairs of Dickies and several t-shirts, the running joke became his resistance to showering. By his logic, walking a half-mile to the showers in Bagram was pointless when he would undoubtedly encounter some dust on the trek back. His black Jordans were soon grey (as well as his black Dickies). Truthfully, despite all the jokes, I never got close enough to smell him. But his overnight farting became legendary in the mens’ bunks. “I told my wife I won a fart contest last night, but I was the only contestant,” Paul bragged.
POLITICS & BULLSHIT As a Hip Hop magazine editor and photographer, I’m not a political analyst, a military guru, or even as well-read on current affairs as I should be. Up until my USO trip, my knowledge about the U.S. involvement in the war in the Middle East was pretty much limited to watching the election debates. “Why are we [the United States] even over there?” someone asked me after hearing of my planned Middle Eastern trip. I honestly didn’t know what to say. When it comes to Afghanistan’s lengthy history of conflicts over the years and the pros and cons of U.S. involvement in the region, I’ll leave that to the experts. Presumably, we are there to defend our country from the likes of the Taliban and AlQaeda, terrorist organizations that hate everything America represents. The assumption is that it’s better to bring the war to them and fight on their turf than to The crew: Cat, allow them to bring the war to us and risk me, Paul Wall, DJ more 9/11 incidents and sacrifice the peace Smallz, and Erick of mind of American citizens. “The goal here is local governance,” Reyes told me during our run. “We want to turn over the country to the Afghans so they can be self-reliant and establish their own economy. We want them to be self-sufficient without having to resort to letting the Taliban rule them to survive, and without using heroin
and opium as their main source of income. We need to get the bad guys out and let the good guys take over.” It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Republican or Democrat. Regardless of the reasons we’re there, and regardless whether you believe we should be there or not, the fact remains that the roughly 68,000 United States soldiers risking their lives in Afghanistan are our peers. They’ve all chosen the military lifestyle for different reasons: whether a sense of patriotism, a lack of job opportunities in the States due to the economic crisis, a way out of the hood, a way to earn money for college, or a need for discipline and structure in their lives. Some of them you might recognize from high school or college. They’ve left parents, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, and loved ones behind and are traipsing around the dry, extremely hot desert in up to seven layers of gear. These are real people. We here in the States have everything we need and more. We are truly spoiled.
EXIT STRATEGY The building where Osama bin Laden was reported to have been hiding on 9/11, a.k.a. “Taliban’s Last Stand,” was bombed by the U.S. and later converted into the main terminal for Kandahar Air Base, the airport we flew out of when we departed Afghanistan. The section of the building that was destroyed by the bombs is barricaded off and no longer in use, but still there as a constant reminder that progress has been made. Waiting for a military flight is a long, drawn-out process, even moreso than a commercial flight. Schedules have a tendency to change frequently. All passengers and cargo are assigned a priority level on a scale of 1-25. Things like dead bodies, ammunition, food, and water rank high on the list. Military brass receive relatively high rankings, but lower-ranking Army servicemen may find themselves camping out at the airport for hours or even days. As for us, our departure was delayed 24 hours when our scheduled flight was diverted to disable an IED. Although we were impatient and ready to go back home, it put our needs into perspective. But even as spoiled as we are in America, the 40+ hours of travel time we spent getting back (including a lengthy layover in a country none of us knew how to pronounce, which we spent sleeping on metal chairs in a tent) made one thing clear: there’s no place like home. All in all, the trip was quite an experience. I’d highly recommend it to any artist open to new adventures; donate a little time to serve our land of freedom, optimism, and opportunity. //
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ALONG WITH HIS BUSINESS PARTNER PAUL WALL, TV JOHNNY HELPED POPULARIZE THE GROWING TREND OF ICED-OUT GRILLS, WATCHES, & PIECES. NOW VENTURING INTO CLOTHING DESIGN, TV JOHNNY STILL AIMS TO PLEASE HIS HIGH-END CLIENTELE. A lot of people know you as Paul Wall’s business partner, since he helped popularize the grills sold by TV Johnny. Are you still focused on jewelry, or is Currency Clothing the new direction you’re headed? I’m definitely still 100% focused on the jewelry and my watches. Me and Paul Wall just released a new watch a few weeks ago with another design. That’s the main thing I’m focused on, the jewelry and custom jewelry. I have a new partner with my clothing line, Rodney P. Hunt. We hired a team to create the designs. I basically tell them what ideas I want, and they come up with the finished design, and then we’ve got a manufacturer that works from there. At this point is it mostly t-shirts? At this point I’ve got t-shirts and hats. Those are already done, and we’re going to be releasing more in a few weeks. Right now we’re focused on men’s and women’s clothing. You mentioned the new watch that you and Paul Wall have coming out. Is that something you designed fresh, or is it basically a modification from the previous designs? It’s a little bit different from the old designs. We sat down and chose from like 30 layouts before we came out with a new watch. I made the watch bigger this time. I switched it out with a bigger cage, because a lot of people love that nice big cage. That’s why I made the watch almost 15% bigger than the first one. We switched the face up a little bit but we still kept my original concept of the dial as a happy face. It’s like I’m smiling with the grill. We call it a “happy face.” On The Daily Show segment they did with Slim Thug, they had the jeweler Ben Baller talking about jewelry sales and grills in particular declining in the recession. It was a joke, of course, but did you experience that in the recession? Have you seen people have less money to spend on jewelry, or is it picking back up? The recession affected my jewelry sales, but not a lot, because I have high end clientele like football and basketball players and of course all the rappers. They still make money; they might not spend as much as they used to spend, but they still spend money. Soulja Boy just ordered ten pieces for his crew. T-Pain just put in a new order. I’m working on a big diamond necklace for Fat Joe. So like I said, my clients are a little different from a regular jewelry store that might not have as many high end clients. Would you say that grills are going out of style or do you still see a steady amount of people ordering them? Not really. T-Pain just got like seven different sets of grills. Even Soulja Boy, he just got a grill. Rick Ross is getting a brand new grill. For the first time ever, Rick Ross is [gonna be] wearing a grill. I just made the mold for him when we were in Dallas for All Star weekend. What else are you working on? Right now I’m concentrating on building our new store. We are opening a new store in the Sharpstown area in Houston. That will be my fourth store, and it’s the biggest one. It’s real nice. It’s right in front of Sharpstown Mall, on the street. It seems like there are a lot of jewelry stores these days doing custom
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grills and pieces. Do you think some of them were motivated to start doing custom pieces because the success you had at it was so visible? What separates you from those other jewelers? Honestly, that’s just how business is. Whatever’s hot on the market, everyone tries to jump in and get a piece of it. But the big difference between us and another jewelry store is that when they came in to try to compete with us, they had to drop the prices down real cheap. And the only way to drop the price is to give you cheap production. They’ll use baby diamonds, which are real small. They’ll make a big piece just for the look and the bling, but the quality of the diamonds isn’t the same. They’re trying to compete with us. A lot of stores do that just for the look, but the jewels are real, real small. They’re baby diamonds. The rapper can rock it in the beginning, but the diamonds will fall out. A lot of upcoming jewelry stores try to make it, but they can’t compete with us. Paul Wall and TV Johnny at They can’t compete with our equipment. the Grammy Awards Me and Paul always invest; we just bought a brand new machine for like $150,000 just to make the custom pieces. We keep working to have the best quality, and we don’t really pay attention to the other jewelers because they can’t provide the quality my clients want, especially the football players and basketball players. They don’t even think about getting the pieces cheaper with the baby diamonds. It hasn’t really affected us. I’ve noticed that you attend a lot of celebrity events. Would you say that’s the reason you’re able to work with a lot of high end clientele, because you kinda seek them out? First of all, you know traveling is very hard and it takes us a lot of time. But this thing I love to do is not all about business. I love to go hang out and have a chance to party with all the rappers and all the clients I do business with. So it’s more than just making money on the jewelry. A lot of times I go to events just for the party, not to make a sale. Recently I went to Orlando to hang out with one of my baseball friends, and we just had fun and played golf all day. I went out there just to hang out with him, not to sell jewelry to him, you know? I like to have fun. You mentioned Soulja Boy, T-Pain, and Rick Ross. Are there any other big names you’re working with currently? I just did a lot of brand new jewelry for a [Houston] Texans player. The boxer Sugar Shane just stopped by last week and ordered tons of jewelry for him and for his girl. Mike Gonzalez, a baseball player from the Atlanta Braves, is a big customer. Can people order product on your website? Yeah, it’s tvjohnny.net. I get real good business on the website, especially from a lot of people overseas. Okay, is there anything else you want to say? I just want to say thanks to all my clients and fans. I’ve got the clothes available on CurrencyClothing.com. Big shout out to my partner Paul Wall; we’re the best team. We’re not only partners together in the jewelry, but we’re partners period. We’re planning to go to Japan in May. Paul has Expensive Taste clothing, but he’s also helping me out with Currency Clothing. Special shout out to my partner with Currency Clothing, Rodney P. Hunt. He’s investing so I can make the clothes hot. //
With a client roster that has boasted everyone from Shaquille O’Neal to Gnarles Barkley, Echoing Soundz founder Echo Hattix has definitely made an impact. Her company has blazed trails in the fields of publicity, promotions and branding by meshing the three into the ultimate exposure tool for artists and products. With a staff of seven people stretching from its Los Angeles headquarters to New York and points in between, Echoing Soundz is growing into one of the leading national urban brands and firms in the industry. Ozone caught up with Hattix to get her to speak on everything from her original dreams to why it pays to have a lot of famous (and goodlooking) friends. Where are you from and how did you get started? I’m originally from Memphis, TN. I went to college at Southern Illinois at Carbondale, majoring in Mass Communications. At the time I wanted to be a music video director; that was my passion. My grandfather was a band instructor so I was already into music, already knew how to read it, and I loved to write too. My plan was to get my Master’s Degree at the Academy of Art in San Francisco in Motion Picture. But I like people, and I would have been in a room by myself editing. So I pieced it together; I liked music, I loved to write and I liked people. So I told myself I’m going to get into this thing called “the industry” (laughs). It was going to be either through radio, television, film or video, but I was going to get in the “industry.” I didn’t know one person in it though. But I saw this thing called ROOTS Magazine. It had Erykah Badu and Biggie on the cover at the time. It looked so whack that I figured they could use my help. So I called the managing editor for two weeks straight and lied to him and told him I was a journalist from Illinois. He told me I could come to a listening party, and it would be my first story. The party was cool. I met all these people and thought I was in “the industry” that night! Two or three months after writing for the magazine, the managing editor and his whole staff left. My boss started getting me bigger names to interview, like Ice Cube, Cam’Ron, one big name after the next. All these guys would ask me what I’m doing afterwards and wanted to know what there was to get into. I would start calling all the artists telling them about parties and wound up taking them
there. After a while club promoters would start asking me who I’m bringing next week. I didn’t put two and two together and realize I was doing publicity. I hated publicists. They were always nagging, always selling me on something. You do wear a publicist hat from time to time. What made you want to get into that aspect of the business, since you hated them? One day a publicist named Tresa Sanders called me, and she was one of the only publicists I liked to talk to. She asked if I ever thought about being a publicist. I didn’t want to, but she told me she thought I could do it and said she really believed in me, so she asked for my fax number. She faxed me her entire database, which is unheard of. But I learned that just because you have a database doesn’t mean you have connects; people can be very rude. Eventually I started getting know to some of these people, and things were going good. But both of my parents got really sick and since I’m an only child, I had to move back to Memphis to take care of them. I didn’t want all my work and connections to go to waste so I figured I had to start some sort of sort of company to keep things going. I couldn’t think of a name. This guy told me I should call it Echoing Sounds, since it was my name. Then one night at 11 PM this guy calls me and says, “What’s up weeples, what it dookie?” I was like, “Who is this?” and he said, “This is Mr. Flamboyant, E-40.” We’d always seen each other but never kicked it. He said he had a new group and heard that I did good publicity and asked me how much I charged. I told him, and I had the check FedEx’ed to me the next day. I’ve just been going ever since. What would you say has made your company grow over the years? The thing that grew the company was that I always liked parties. So I started doing them. I had a lot of celebrity friends, plus I was writing for XXL and The Source myself and I was known for speaking my mind on reviews. A lot of the artists either feared me or loved me to death. I had a lot of hot female celebrity friends, and all my friends were writers and photographers too. So having all those people come through made the parties bigger. One night I was doing a listening party for somebody and James Lopez from Atlantic Records said I should do one for Twista. I had relationships with all of the clubs, so I did it for his Kamikaze album. We started doing parties across the country after that. The parties also acted as a form of advertising, and that helped me get more clients. Does most of your client base come from labels hiring you or the direct relationships you’ve built with the artists? Most of our clients are artists directly reaching out to us. Labels will call here and there, mostly around the holidays. But 80% of the time artists contact us directly. They want direct, hands-on contact with what’s going on. That’s why my
motto is “when publicity is personal.” Lately we’ve seen a lot of publicists shifting gears and becoming overall branding agencies. Would you say you were one of the first, if not the first to do it? I think so. I think we built the formula for not only publicists, but promoters. If you have a couple key elements, it can become a blow out and your product can get a lot of awareness. People watched us and saw what my ingredients were and took what was my natural lifestyle and did it. And now everyone is doing it. I see tons of swagger jackers. I don’t hate on it, I just expand on what I’m doing . We’re going international because they don’t know how to do it over there. Germany, Madrid and Japan are what we’re looking at. Being in the industry these days is getting tougher. Would you say the market is still open for a newcomer to get in and do what you’re doing? I’m always gonna say it’s open, but it’s harder to get in. My work ethic alone set me apart. I came into the game when there was a lot of money and people were living off the label. I’m getting up at 5 AM and going to sleep at 2 AM. The interns that we’ve had lately? They’re lazier now, and they think things will be given to them. Plus people are paranoid about doing business with new people. I encourage people to come into the market, but know that you won’t be welcomed with open arms. You have to come in fighting, and you have to come in confident. If you’re an emotional person, kick rocks. // Words by Maurice G. Garland
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How The #1 Stunna Is Still Living Like A Big Tymer In case you haven’t noticed, Bryan “Birdman/Baby” Williams has been in this rap game since ’92…look at all the bullshit he’s been through. His biggest star at the time, Juvenile, left his Cash Money label at its height with his other star B.G. leaving soon after. His in-house producer and fellow Big Tymer MANNIE FRESH departed years later. He’s caught plenty of flack for his relationship with his megastar, whom he also calls his son, Lil Wayne. He’s seen the rap radar come and leave his New Orleans stomping grounds on more than one occasion. He’s seen his records fly off shelves as well as leak months in advance. He’s been called a joke. He’s been told he simply can’t rap. He’s been accused of being a thief. But guess what? 18 years later he’s still here and stunting as hard as ever. With his fourth solo album Priceless in stores now, Birdman could care less what people say about him. He’s living life and overseeing the careers of two of the biggest rap artists on the planet (Drake and Lil Wayne) and has crossed over into pop territory with the recent success of Jay Sean. While his rapper/CEO peers have been busy buying restaurants, nightclubs and clothing lines, Birdman’s been getting money in the oil industry. He’s outlasted some of Hip Hop’s biggest stars and has the scars (under his uncountable amount of tattoos) to prove it. Unfortunately for his detractors, it doesn’t look like he’s going to stop anytime soon. While in Atlanta promoting Priceless, OZONE’s Eric Perrin caught up with Birdman to talk about life, business and the things that matter most to him. What aspects of this music game still excite you? Is there anything left for you to do? Man, I think we’ve got a lot of room [to grow]. I still ain’t never put out an R&B act. I’ve only got one pop act, so we gotta double up on all this shit, homie, and we’re gonna do it now. We’re just going for something that ain’t never been done. I got a strong staff and I know we can do this. I was talking to Jay Sean earlier and he said your dedication to the music is the main thing that attracted him to Cash Money. Is it true that you really live, breath, eat, sleep, and shit music? Yeah, when he came down here I guess he saw how we worked, and I just want motherfuckers to know, to be a
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part of this you gotta have these same ethics. I don’t like that lazy shit, and everybody that’s a part of it is the same way. That’s how I know, when you come to Cash Money, that’s what you gonna get. I know you said you’re not satisfied with your lack of R&B acts— Not just R&B, I wanna do everything. What about Country? Of course. Country is where the other money at. I just ain’t found me a Country act yet, but as soon as I do, it’s on. We’ve already had some Country records; my son rapped with Kid Rock and shit and it blew up, so I’m just waiting to find the right Country act to sign so my son can do a song with him and blow him up. You seem to find money no matter where it is, from the Lugz shoes, to videogames, to music… I’m trying to buy some of the [Miami] Dolphins next. How did you become so business savvy? I was just born with that shit, brah. When you have a business you need to know to budget, spend, and manage. I think those are the three hardest things to do in business. If you don’t do those things, your business is gonna go under. I was just blessed to know how to do those things [as well as] hustle. Honestly, you gotta hustle and know how to flip money. And to flip money, you’ve got to always get new money. Niggas be trying to hold on to old money and they don’t spend it, but you’ve gotta keep flipping that shit. What’s the worst business investment you’ve made throughout your career? Probably the worst investment I did was fuckin’ with R. Kelly. That was a waste of my time. I could’ve made money if I wasn’t fuckin’ with that clownass nigga. I heard the tattoo on your head represents an oil rig. Is it true you’re an aspiring oil tycoon? I’ve been in the oil business about 4 or 5 years now. That’s something me and my brother decided to do outside of music. I read about oil a lot and I was able to get in business. [My company] is called Bronald Oil, and I’m making good money off that; that’s something for my kids and my kids’ kids. They can live off that money forever. Not to get in your pockets too much, but I heard you’ve made over $100 million off oil. I did a few different deals. That was just one of them. When you’re dealing with oil, you buy in different areas. Right now I’m active; I got pumps and shit that are getting money monthly. I like that oil shit. I’m gonna put some more time into it. Getting to your new album Priceless, what are you trying to say is priceless? The music, the lifestyle, or are you just borrowing a term from the MasterCard commercials? I feel like life is priceless, but the term Priceless has a lot of different meanings. What means the most to me outside of God is my family; that’s priceless. Loyalty is priceless. Love is priceless. Life is priceless—once it’s gone it’s over. That’s what Priceless mean to me. How has your music been able to evolve so well over the years? I’m talented. I stay around talent, and I’m able to adjust to the time. You got niggas who still think its ’98, man. It’s not ’98, it’s 2009! I did the “Bling Bling” era, but that shit is over, and you’ve gotta let that go. I think niggas be caught up in the past and then you’ve got older niggas who are still trying to rap, still trying to make hits, and can’t. You’ve got to be able to change. I was fortunate enough to know to let my son go, and to just fuck with him. It’s his world. I’m gonna rock with him and these young niggas, support what they’re trying to do, and make them more successful. Speaking of working with new, young artists, what did you see in Drake early on, and what made him sign to Cash Money? Man, that nigga Drake is cold as a motherfucker! That boy’s bad, man. That young nigga’s got some wordplay. He’s gonna be around for a long time. I was more than impressed, I wished I would’ve been knew [about him]. My son been knew, but I didn’t. Drake’s a bad motherfucker. That nigga can rap his ass off, and he can sing. He’s not just an artist; he’s like Wayne, he’s all around with it and what I love about him more than anything is [that] he understands the leadership. He know who’s the Kobe, who’s the Phil Jackson, ya heard me. And we’ve got everything on our team.
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Why do you think he chose to sign with Cash Money? Well, you gotta understand Drake comes from us, yaheardme? He came from over there with Rap-A-Lot. Lil James, whose daddy is James Prince, put us on to Drake. He was birthed through Young Money/Cash Money, so it was only right. That was his heart’s place from the start. How can you go wrong when you’re with Young Moola? You can’t. And that nigga is talented as a muthafucker. The boy got what it takes and then some. Does Drake write for Wayne? C’mon, man. Wayne don’t even write, man. Honestly Wayne don’t write. I don’t know how he do that shit he do, but don’t no nigga do it for him. Wayne don’t play that shit, he never did. We ain’t with that shit. That’s cheatin’ to me, when you’re trying to be great. When you’re just an artist that wants a hot record, that’s something different, but when you’re trying to be great you ain’t bout to let no nigga write for you, cause you don’t wanna lose none of the credit. Wayne wants to be the best to ever do it. To be the greatest ever takes your skillful thoughts, not another person’s. Why do you think people make such a big deal out of the relationship between you and Wayne? I think it’s a symbolic situation for everybody, and it’s a family thing, you know, father and son. Maybe that’s it. Or maybe it’s the business and how successful we’ve been. I really don’t know why muthafuckers care so much, but I’ve bred him through it. We came up together and we did everything together. Maybe they just wish they had a father-son relationship like we’ve got. But [people’s opinions] don’t bother me. I been stop letting shit a nigga say out his mouth bother me. It’s the music industry, and people are gonna make good and bad statements about you. So I hear no evil, see no evil. If Wayne does end up doing some time behind his current legal issues, do you feel any benefit could come from him sitting down for a little while? Shit, I don’t even look for a benefit from that, that’s just a fucked up experience that we’ve all probably had someone close to us experience. I don’t look for a benefit from jail, I don’t look for that, yaheardme? I’d rather him not even go in that muthafucker at all. Ain’t no benefit from that shit. He’s a man, so there ain’t too much to it. Just do it and come home. That’s all I can tell him. Let’s talk about your tattoos for a minute. Do you have any idea how many you have? I been stop counting, bruh. I get ‘em everyday, every chance I get, so I don’t even remember the last one I got. I can tell which tattoo is the most recent by whichever one itches the most. When I get a whole bunch of them done at the same time and all that shit itches at the same time, that’s a fucked up feeling. I gotta cut my fuckin’ nails real low to keep from fuckin’ my skin up, but my tattoos mean the world to me. I don’t have nothing on me unless it represents family, loyalty, God, or love. My tattoos speak without me having to speak, and it comes from the heart because it be about things I done been through. My family, the losses, the lives, the people I love. They all mean a lot to me, and all of ‘em come with pain. I’ll take pain for my loved ones. I know you’re entrenched with the business aspect of the music industry, but do you genuinely still love to rap? Yeah, I love to do it. I love to be an artist—a group artist. The solo shit is cool, but I’d rather be in a group. The next album is gonna be another “Father Like Son” album, but I’m a group nigga. I like to be in a group. What lyric or song that you’ve put out throughout your career best represents who you are as an artist? “Number 1 Stunna.” That’s my life. I’m gonna live that, and I’m gonna breath that and anybody who loves living life and came from nothing can relate to that song. I’m gonna live my shit shining every muthafuckin’ day, every chance I get, cause life is priceless. What are you doing differently on Priceless? Well to me, you’re gonna always hear growth from us. I’m a firm believer in that, so you’re gonna hear growth on this album. And you know I never do any albums without my son. I don’t even do music without him. But I pretty much kept it family on this album: Drake, Young Twist, Chuckee, Nicki [Minaj], Kevin Rudolf, Jay Sean—I just kept it right there, but you’re gonna see that we’re reaching for different sounds. The bass is still there in the music, but we’re trying to diversify. If you ever come to one of our shows you’ll see that the nationalities ain’t the same. Our audiences are predominately white, and we do 20-30,000 every night. It’s amazing. I think once you get to a certain level, it takes more than one nationality to get to where you’re trying to go. //
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Birdman/Pricele$$ Cash Money Cash Money’s HNIC, Birdman, reached that point again where he got bored sitting in the office counting money and the result of this boredom is another Birdman album. But, naturally, Priceless is a Cash Money family affair, with Lil Wayne and Drake doing the heavy lifting and Bird adding his two cents. While this album isn’t full of hits, “Money to Blow” and “More Milli” are among a few gems that make this an album worth turning up with the top down. - Rohit Loomba
B.G./Too Hood To Be Hollywood Chopper City/E1 With his first major label release (well, kind of) since his departure from Cash Money Records B.G. finally has the tools and resources to make the best album possible, but unfortunately the tools weren’t used very well. Monotonous production lulls the listener to sleep when paired with B.G.’s already lazy tone. While he still has the ability to craft his trademark blunt and to-the-point hood tales on songs like “Fuck Thang” and “Like Yeah” where he chronicles his drug usage, Too Hood To Be Hollywood could use a better script. – Maurice G. Garland
Clipse/Til The Casket Drops Re-Up/Star Trak/Columbia Many have tried cocaine rap but the only ones with true success have been The Clipse and Yo Gotti, and fortunately for everyone, the two came together on Clipse’s latest, Til the Casket Drops. Malice and Pusha T relentlessly match gritty lyrics to nearly flawless production courtesy of the Neptunes and DJ Khalil. On “Doorman,” the duo warns that they’re “about to put my money on the roof and crush this bitch,” but the music is enough for the two to clear most of rap out of the way. With an album like this the Clipse casket is nowhere in sight. - Rohit Loomba
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Curren$y/Jet Files Amalgam Digital/Fly Society Jet Files, the second album released by Curren$y on Amalgam Digital this year, is much like it’s predecessor, This Ain’t No Mixtape, which features an album with no major commercial standouts. Rather, Jet Files is a solid album that flows from top to bottom with 12 tracks like “Burn N Ounce” and “On My Way” to smoke and ride to. Randy Roper
Stat Quo Stat Quo hasn’t necessarily had things go his way, but there’s no holding him back regardless. Mixtape after mixtape Stat give his fans a more than healthy dose of real lyrics infused with his ATLien voice over production that sometimes seems stolen from the grips of a hungry New York emcee. But unlike his cocky East Coast counterparts Stat doesn’t display any arrogance on his tracks, only a confidence that is the result of all his experiences. “The Sun” and “Plenty Years” are among the few standouts that will have you listening to this a few times. - Rohit Loomba
DJ Khaled & E-Class/Live From The 305 E1/Poe Boy Judging from its cover, Live From The 305 is exactly what it sounds like it would be. DJ Khaled and Poe Boy executive E-Class put together a compilation featuring the best rappers Miami has to offer. Trick Daddy, Flo Rida, Rick Ross, Trina, Pitbull, Ace Hood, Brisco and a host of others all contribute a verse or two this project to represent for the M.I.Yayo. Live From The 305 is a good look for newer artists like Billy Blue, Brisco and Ball Greezy, but overall, these collections of songs sound like a watered-down DJ Khaled album. - Randy Roper 50 Cent/Before I Self Destruct Aftermath/Interscope/Shady There’s not much these days to remind us that G-Unit is still around but 50 Cent remains busy by bringing his latest, Before I Self Destruct. The album shows Fif’s obvious effort to go back to his grimey Jamaica Queens roots but tracks like “Get It Hot” hinder some of the high points like “Gangsta’s Delight” and “You’re Right.” - Rohit Loomba Wale/Attention Deficit D.C. has been waiting for a rapper to successfully come out of the city for years, and through Wale’s debut album, the national’s capital finally has a rap artist to celebrate. Attention Deficit mixes a mainstream sound, along with a go-go flavor, while Wale touches on topics like skin tone (“Shades”) and pretentious women (“90201”), and features guests like UGK vet Bun B on “Mirrors,” Jazmine Sullivan on “World Tour,” and fellow emcee J. Cole on “Beautiful Bliss.” A couple tracks like “Pretty Girls” featuring Gucci Mane and “Chillin’” with Lady Gaga sound somewhat contrived, and from time to time some of Wale’s doper punchlines and one-liners get lost in his lackadaisical flow, but there are more than enough standouts to get your attention on Wale’s debut. - Randy Roper R. Kelly/Untitled Jive The Pied Piper, R Kelly, brings everyone a new album, which in typical Kellz fashion, is meant to supplement your bedroom activities. Effectively chosen production mixed with Kellz’ sex-infused lyrics make Untitled another solid effort from the self proclaimed R&B king. Tracks like “I Love The DJ” even find this veteran trying new things without showing any signs of difficulty. While his personal life most definitely seems difficult at times, music doesn’t seem to stand a chance in slowing Kellz down. Once again R Kelly shows us why this generation of R&B is his. - Rohit Loomba
Wiz Khalifa/Deal or No Deal Rostrum Records Wiz Khalifa has come a long way since he crept onto the rap scene in 2005, and Deal or No Deal captures all of the changes he underwent since he welcomed us to Pistolvania. Opting to flow over synth-heavy production for most of the album, Wiz rarely makes the songs distinguishable from his 2007 hit “Say Yeah.” Fortunately he does switch things up a little towards the end of the album with songs like “Take Away,” but outside of that its obvious Wiz is aiming to be the best stoner rapper he can be. – Maurice G. Garland
J. Futuristic, DJ Drama, & DJ Scream/Mr. Miyagi J. Futuristic adds another themed mixtape to his collection just shortly after releasing his last tape Mr. Futuristic. Definitely an upgrade from his previous effort, Mr. Miyagi is packed with memorable records like “King Kong,”“Deep Cover,” and “This is How We Play.” The features are on point (aside from the “Imma Zoe” remix mishap) and despite the disappointing lack of contribution from Zaytoven, J. includes nearly every sought after producer in Atlanta. Although he’s left behind some of the edge from his Trapper of the Year days, J. Futuristic has picked up some new moves along the way. - Ms. Rivercity
Lil Scrappy, Don Cannon, Tee the Barber, & DJ Infamous/The Shape Up This tape could have easily been trimmed down to a couple of good songs, including “Second Tyme.” A classical Hip Hop instrumental, with down South drums, laced with some of Scrappy’s realest rhymes, “Second Tyme” is one of Scrap’s best offerings. That’s not to say it should be packaged and sent to radio, it just stands out amongst the less-worthy production, and beats that Scrappy’s voice just doesn’t sync with. “Get the Fuck Around Me” is cool too, but other than that, The Shape Up has too much DJ, and not enough bang. — Ms. Rivercity
Brisco/Revenge Energy. That is the word that defines Brisco. From start to finish when you put in this tape and hear his battle cry of “Briissccoooo!” you know what it is. Freshly victimized in a very public robbery, Sco’ is back for revenge on this mixtape. On the title track, a seething 4-minute ode to those who robbed him, cursing their babies’ babies with no remorse, Brisco lets the world feel his anger. With all original production, it’s hard to call this a mixtape, and you will play it longer than most albums. Revenge is his. - Tony Burgous
Willie The Kid, DJ Drama & DJ Head Debiase/The Fly Willie The Kid’s newest Gangsta Grillz mixtape is much like his previous projects: vivid lyrics and smooth flows, over comparable production, with DJ Drama (and DJ Head Debiase) occasionally screaming over his music. Songs like “Aviation,”“Flying Over Ya Hood” and “It’s Your World” are WTK at his best, when his skillful wordplay paints precise pictures. On the negative, you may wish Willie would find others to collaborate with instead of his ever-present brother, LA Tha Dark Man (“Somebody Might Die,” “Life Of a Drug Dealer Freestyle”) and “Comfy Cozy,” a remake of Lil Wayne’s “Comfortable,” seems somewhat out of place. Wishful thinking and mishaps aside, once again WTK released a fly mix, proving he’s one of the most underrated rhymers in the game. - Randy Roper
Bobby Creekwater/The Day It All Made Sense Bobby Creekwater might not be with Shady anymore, but if this 10-track mixtape shows nothing else, it proves the Georgia emcee will be just fine without Aftermath backing him. Although a few tracks are annoyingly auto-tune heavy—“I Want It All,”“Miss Atlanta,”“Everybody Loves Her”—when he’s not “T-Paining too much,” songs like “2 Far Gone,”“Businessman” and “The Day I Got Dropped” are all gems. - Randy Roper
O.Allen & DJ Smallz/King Kong Swag O.Allen’s mixtape has the right title in King Kong Swag because the entire project sounds like one long swag song. “I’m Clean,”“Money,”“Get Fresh” and “There He Go Again” embody the fundamentals of the word “swagger,” but they don’t necessarily make for good records. “Feel It In My Soul,” aside from the bad singing on the hook, is one of the mixtape’s better songs, but “Get Loose,”“One Night Stand,”“Shawty Got Swag,” and “Right Now” balance out the mixtape between songs about swag and songs about girls with swag. But those are the only options here. - Randy Roper
Q6, Drop & DJ Scream/2 Gz: Brutha From Anutha This collaborative effort by Florida rappers Q6 and Drop is at least worth listening to. Q6 and Drop are decent rappers at best, their beats could be better and a good amount of their hooks are awful (see: “I’m Dis, I’m Dat” and “Money So Up”), but the mixtape has 23 tracks, so listeners should be able to find some form of entertainment on Brutha From Anutha. “Twitter Hoe,”“Mouthpiece,” (minus the hook) with Lil Boosie, “Rockin My Chain” featuring Pappaduck, “She Don’t Like Me” featuring Trina are standout amongst the majority, but whether it’s together or solo, Drop and Q6 still have some polishing to do. - Randy Roper
Young Dro & DJ Cannon/R.I.P. Young Dro’s highly anticipated mixtape doesn’t exactly live up to expectations. If you can bear through 29 tracks of Dro’s watered-down rapping on tracks like “Da Core,”“Gimme Back My Swag” and “Don’t Know Yall,” not to mention his attempt at being a singer on “Smoke Great,” than you might enjoy R.I.P. The mixtape does have bright spots when the Grand Hustle emcee spits freestyles like he’s capable of over Jay-Z’s “D.O.A.” and Plies’“Plenty Money,” but the lack of content limits the mixtape’s replay value. - Randy Roper
Gudda Gudda, DJ Ill Will & DJ Rockstar/Guddaville Most of the attention in Young Money is going towards Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj, but Gudda Gudda isn’t one to be overlooked. Guddaville is a combination of original songs, freestyles, and guest appearances from the rest of the YM roster, and whether he rhymes over Young Jeezy’s “Get Your Mind Right” with Weezy or shows hometown love on “Always Love You” featuring Nicki Minaj and Short Dawg, Gudda proves he’s no weak link. - Randy Roper
Lil Wayne/No Ceilings Here, the Young Money captain went jacking for beats and smashed every one he could get a hold of. “Swag Surf,” murked it. “Run This Town,” killed it. “Wasted,” murdered it. Even Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” wasn’t safe from Weezy’s lyrical ambush. The mixtape’s title track, “No Ceilings” featuring Birdman and the-ready-to-mingle cut, “Single,” are the only original songs, but listening to Wayne rap about a bunch of nothing over other artists’ beats is better than most of today’s rap albums. - Randy Roper
OZONE MAG // 63
Tapemastersinc.net 1. DJ Lazy K “Street Treats Part 17” Twitter.com/djlazyK 2. Lil Fats “Coast 2 Coast 101” Hosted by Consequence Coastmixtapes.com 3. DJ Delz “Souths Most Wanted Volume 5” Djdelztv.com
4. DJ Trigga “Gucci Mane/Young Jeezy” Twitter.com/THEREALDJTRIGGA 5. DJ 2Mello & Miami Kaos “A Few Good Men” Twitter.com/dj2mello Miamikao s.net 6. DJ 5150 “Trap City 10” Hosted by BG Dj5150br.com 7. DJ Chief Rocka “Trunk of Funk” Twitter.com/DjChiefRocka 8. DJ Chuck T “Down South Slangin’ 65” Djchuckt.com 9. DJ Dyce, DJ Effect, DJ Cannon Banyon “Swag On Ham” Twitter.com/DJCanno nBanyon
10. Trap Masters Inc. & DJ Envy “Purple Codeine 27” Tapemastersinc.net Djenvy.org 11. DJ Haze “Blood Is Thicker Than Water 9” Haze-tv.com 12. DJ Knucklez “Secret Session R&B 6” Twitter.com/DjKnucklez 13. DJ Spinatik & Muzikfene “Street Runnaz 42” Djspinatik.com
14. DJ Storm “Drank Epidemic: I Don’t Need No Host Pt. 12” 15. DJ Testarosa “Gucci da Great 4” Hosted by So Incy Ent./1017 Brick Squad Twitter.com/DJTestarosa
Bun B is an industry OG, but when it comes to guest features, whether it’s a ten year vet or a new jack to the game, Bun B will do a song with just about anyone. OG Bun provides this theory with a 35-track mixtape consisting of Bun’s most recent guest appearances. Whether he’s rhyming with Slaughterhouse (“The One”), remixing Asher Roth’s breakthrough single (“I Love College”) or lending a verse to Young Money (Drake’s “Uptown”), Bun B is still one of the best to ever do it. And this Tapemasters Inc. production is certified proof. DJs, send your mix CDs (with a cover) for consideration to: OZONE Magazine 644 Antone St. Suite 6 Atlanta, GA 30318
16. DJ Wheezy “True Skillz” Hosted by Murphy Lee Twitter.com/djwheezy 17. DJ Whiteowl “Drop That 92” Twitter.com/DjWhiteowl
18. DJ Woogie “Streets on Beats 51” Twitter.com/djwoogie 19. Dutty Laundry “The Firm: Forever Corporate” Twitter.com/DuttyLau ndry 20. DJ Nik Bean & DJ Drama “Streetz of LA 9” Twitter.com/DJNIKBEAN Gangstagrillz.com
OZONE MAG // 65
Young Jeezy Venue: Club Crucial City: Atlanta, GA (Bankhead) Date: October 11th, 2009 Photo: Freddyo
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RAW, UNCENSORED WEST COAST RAP SHIT
THE GAME AUDIO SRH PU WAR EN G
editor’s note I’m Just Sayin’tho by D-Ray
t was a wild night cuddy! You missed out! (in my Mac Dre voice) Really, it was more like three nights. Let’s start with how I ended my hear in 2009 with Snoop Dogg. Snoop and his West Coast family DJ Quik, Nipsey Hussle, and the Hustle Boyz hit the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, CA, and the name of the tour was When the West Was One. So you know I had to be in the building, and oooohhweeee, was that a show! DaeOne thanks for the ride! Did I mention that I’m a real West Coast kid? Chuck Taylors always on my feet? This show definitely did not disappoint. The Hustle Boyz and Nipsey Hussle had it jumpin’. Then there was a surprise performance by Problem. He brought out West Coast legend DJ Quik. If that wasn’t enough, Quik brought out 2nd To None. I love that classic West Coast Hip Hop. Their performances were dope but the Snoop part of the show was straight crazy! During Snoop’s set he brought out Butch Cassidy and one of my all-time favorite Bay Area legends, Too $hort. “What’s my favorite word?” He had the crowd going crazy. Then Snoop brought out The Doggpound (Kurupt and Daz), Xzibit, and Lady of Rage. The show was bananas. Snoop shut L.A. down that night! Snoop shuts L.A. down every time he does an event. In December he shut Hollywood down when he did an event at the Vanguard with Travis Barker. It was a joint Malice N Wonderland release party and Famous Stars & Straps 10 Year Anniversary. As we got closer to the venue, traffic was stopped on every street. The police were out pulling cars over everywhere you looked (the police are always much thicker when it’s a Snoop show, SMH) . We parked and headed towards the Black Carpet entrance. I know I said the streets were packed, but not as packed as the black carpet! This was a 100% star-studded event. It was so crazy I just had to get my wiggle on. I learned from the best, JT Tha Bigga Figga a.k.a. Wiggler. Vanguard holds close to 3,000 people, and it was filled to the max. No one was moving and I thought I was gonna go bonkers. No moving around that night. I’ve been there before and have NEVER seen it so packed! I’m surprised the Fire Marshall didn’t shut it down, on some real shit. I gotta thank everyone who helped me accomplish my mission that night! S. Chung, you’re the best. Thanks for sharing your space with me. It was just too packed to move! I saw a lot of my people in the building: Rick Thorne (BMX), Boss Lady, SkinHead Rob, Freeway Rick Ross, Ray J, DJ DWrek, DJ Paul (Three 6 Mafia), Kelly Osbourne, Lamar Odom, Krondon,
Phil The Agony and so many more. Octavia and MiMi I see you! This was another historic Snoop show: he had Warren G, Butch Cassidy, The Game, Bad Lucc, Kurupt, Nipsey Hussle, Problem, Pharrell, Hustle Boyz, Soopa Fly, and Damani on stage with him. He had a live band who has been rocking with him a lot lately; crazy! He had one of my favorites, Terrace Martin, on the sax gettin’ it in doing his thang like always! Travis Barker was going so mainey on the drums. Travis always does a dope show! This show was so outta here! I love the WEST COAST! This is my home! My New Years Eve was so low-key and relaxed. I brought 2010 in at the house reflecting and really hanging with the family enjoying tamales! I have a lot of things in store for 2010. I’m gonna have my very first photo exhibit on April 10th, 2010 in Northern California. This will be an inviteonly event, so I can keep it close and very personal with my family and friends. I will also save some limited space for anyone else that appreciates my photography (if this is you hit me at firstname.lastname@example.org). Something else is brand new for 2010: Husalah is home! Welcome home cuddy! I just went to the Catalyst in Santa Cruz to see Husalah perform for the first time since he’s been home. It was a surprise performance; nobody in the crowd knew he was there. The Jacka already had the place lit. It was crazy; one second The Jacka was telling the crowd to put their H’s in the air for HUS and had them all chanting “Free Hus!” The lights were off and DJ Quest played the Husalah single “Pray For You” while the crowd started chanting even louder. Hus was singing the hook backstage and nobody even knew. Then out of nowhere, a spotlight guided HUS to the front of the stage and everyone just lost it. The crowd’s reaction was amazing. The performance was crazy; he did two separate stage dives. He was straight crowd-surfing. It was bananas! I definitely got chills from all the excitement in the room. Did I mention that all five Mob Figaz were in the house? The Jacka, Rydah J Klyde, FedX, AP9, and Husalah were all in the building. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of people trying to get in where I get in and do what I do. I must make it look easy! It may look fun, but you should take it seriously (I see your groupie side!). At the end of the day, it’s a hard-ass JOB and I respect it like a job. That’s why I receive the respect I deserve. There are a lot of folks who carry cameras and try to take pictures they don’t need to be taking (those shots can get you caught up). I’m a hood photographer and I follow the street codes. I’m not one to look for a shot that gets you caught up! I carry passion with my hustle. Being a female I’ve had my share of doors slammed in my face, but, through my heard in this game there are just as many doors that have been opened. I’m playing chess while the rest of you are playing checkers. You can’t be taught the game, it has to be in your blood to get the trophy. Welcome home Dubee! Free P.S.D. Tha Drivah and Band Aide of Dem Hoodstarz. Shout outs to all those locked down who follow my photojournalism! I’ve tried to accept your email requests and sometimes for some reason it doesn’t work, but one love!
Lil Chuckee & me in Miami for his Young Money video shoot
Matt Kemp & me in Los Angeles @ Power 106’s Cali Christmas
“Rock N Roll” DJ Pizo f/ Muggs Money & Spice 1 “Get Off” Krizz Kaliko f/ Tech N9ne ““Gangsta Niggas” Ludacris f/ Spice 1 & Mopreme “Glamorous Lifestyle” The Jacka f/ Andre Nickatina “Baby Come Home” Spice 1 f/ Tony Toni Tone “So Far to Go” Common f/ D’Angelo “Fuck Me Thru the Phone” Spice 1 f/ Michelob & E-Note
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HUS a.k.a. Tito, I’m glad you’re home. Let’s get it! 80% of success is showing up! Lead, don’t follow (unless you’re on Twitter, lol - @dray_ozonemag). - D-Ray, OZONE West Editor-At-Large email@example.com
“Give Me Luv” E-40 f/ Cataracs “Why I Hustle” Hot Rod “Top Spot” Laroo f/ E-40 “Hi Way” DJ Paul
(above L-R): Beenie Man & Nuch @ Club Vinyl in Denver, CO; Royce Da 5’9 & Crooked I @ House of Blues for the KOD Tour with Tech N9ne in Los Angeles, CA; Kafani & The Jacka @ Boardwalk Orangevale, CA (Photos: D-Ray)
01 // Starbuks & Lil Fats @ the Blueprint for OZONE’s Halloween Bash (Eugene, OR) 02 // Omar Cruz & Jay Rock @ Azusa Celebrity Baseball game (Asuza, CA) 03 // New Boyz & Richie Abbott @ Crenshaw High (Los Angeles, CA) 04 // FedX, The Jacka, & Dub 20 @ Boardwalk (Orangevale, CA) 05 // Scoot of Dem Hoodstarz, B-Legit, Droop-E, & E-40 on the set of E-40’s mini movie (San Francisco, CA) 06 // Audio Push & DJ Baby Chino @ UGMX Back 2 School Jerk Off (San Jose, CA) 07 // Keak da Sneak & J Stalin @ Senator Theater for Giants & Elephants Tour (Chico, CA) 08 // Davey D, Julia Beverly, & Gary Archer (Oakland, CA) 09 // Lee Majors, Guce, & The Jacka @ Boardwalk (Orangevale, CA) 10 // Willie Joe, Big Rich, Erk Tha Jerk & Freddy Hot Sauce on the set of E-40’s mini movie (San Francisco, CA) 11 // Guest, Guce, Dame Fame, & Keak da Sneak @ Giants & Elephants Tour (Stockton, CA) 12 // Curbside & Nuch @ Club Vinyl (Denver, CO) 13 // FastLane, Problem, & Bird (Compton, CA) 14 // K-Loc, E-40, & Extreme @ Nump’s listening party (San Jose, CA) 15 // San Quinn & Killa Kiese @ Giants & Elephants Tour (Stockton, CA) 16 // Too Short & ladies @ O’Neal McKnight’s video shoot (Los Angeles, CA) 17 // A Halloween pimp & Dame Fame @ Boardwalk (Orangevale, CA) 18 // AngerMan & Keak da Sneak @ Giants & Elephants Tour (Stockton, CA) 19 // Big Rich, Network, Guce, guest, Dame Fame, & guest @ Boardwalk (Orangevale, CA) Photo Credits: D-Ray (02,03,04,05,06,07,08,09,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19); Julia Beverly (01)
OZONE WEST // 5
Originally AN ASPIRING baseball player, the South Bend, Indiana native moved to Los Angeles after graduating from Ball State University. Making ends meet as a bartender, he wound up getting a shot at DJing when his venue’s in-house DJ quit. Since then he has evolved into a mixtape DJ responsible for breaking records like Jeremih “Birthday Sex” and Jay Rock “All My Life” featuring Lil Wayne. Ozone caught up with the recent nominee for the Justo Mixtape awards’ West Coast DJ of the Year to talk about his origins in the music game, and his bright future. Start off by telling us how you broke into the music industry. The very first artist I started working with, Hot Dollar, got signed to Island Def Jam about 4 months after I started working full time with him. After he got signed that quick, a lot of people started taking me more seriously. Also, my man Terry “TK” Kennedy, who’s a professional skateboarder and rapper helped me garner a lot of attention early on in my career by co-signing me. I owe a lot to him for all the things he has done for me. TK is not only very talented, but a great friend and confidant. We’re sure there are plenty of perks to being a DJ. What are some of the gifts that stand out to you. Have you taken money? I think being a DJ is the in-thing lately. Girls love DJ’s. Other than that, we get to hear all the hot music way before the mass public does. That in itself is the biggest perk to me. Technically, yes, I’ve taken money. As a mixtape DJ sometimes we have unsigned artists purchase slots to lower the costs of pressing up mixtapes. And, a set of rims sticks out as the best gift. It’s been said that blogs are the new DJ. What are the positives of blogs posting music before DJs get it? The positive is that artists’ songs can go from the studio to millions of people in just hours, which is an amazing marketing tool. Plus careers can be started through the internet - Soulja Boy, Kid Cudi, or Asher Roth, for example. The negative is there is so much garbage to filter through to find the good music because anyone with a computer and internet access is a rapper nowadays, even if they have zero talent. We hear a lot of DJs complain about promoters. How do you deal with shady promoters? I insist on being paid upfront. A lot of them are funny with the money so I try to make myself a hot enough commodity that they are willing to pay me upfront. That’s the best way to avoid being played in this industry. Did the recession affect DJs too? What recession? (laughs) Nah, it affects us all at least a little bit, but it forces you to separate yourself from the competition by outworking them and by making smarter, more calculated moves so that your brand continues to stand out. Who are the best artists to work with and why? Any artist that is willing to bust his or her ass and that consistently stays in the studio recording new material fits this category. Jay Rock, Ya Boy and Tyga are perfect examples. It’s easy to flood the internet and the streets with their material because they’re always working on new shit.
“Your Wifey’s Favorite DJ” may be a cocky nickname, but DJ Ill Will is living up to it. Dropping over 60 mixtapes, most notably ones with female favorites like Drake, Trey Songz and Tyga, Will is definitely carving a niche out for himself in the HEAVILY-POPULATED DJ game.
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And the worst? There’s a lot of artists that I work with that are dope to me and I will do a lot of work for them because I believe in their talent. But they always want me to do all their lil’ homies and friends projects “off the strength” which annoys me because I prefer to only work with artists that are dope to me or at the very least have a strong movement. Not because they know someone who knows me already. Also, the artists that are in it for the fame and the women and not the actual music; those artists are the worst. // As told to Ms. Rivercity
(above L-R): Pooh & Eva Pigford @ Tatou in Los Angeles, CA; Jay Rock & DJ Eque @ Styles P’s afterparty in Los Angeles, CA; Andre Nickatina & Julia Beverly @ The Blueprint for OZONE’s Halloween Bash in Eugene, OR (Photos: D-Ray)
01 // Lil Fats, Illaj, & guest @ the Blueprint for OZONE’s Halloween Bash (Eugene, OR) 02 // Rusty with the Strange Music merchandise stand @ House of Blues for the KOD Tour with Tech N9ne (Los Angeles, CA) 03 // Big Dan, Kilo, J Diggs, Rich The Factor @ Fat City Clothing Store (Vallejo, CA) 04 // The Jacka, Gary Archer, Big Rich, & Julia Beverly @ Boardwalk (Orangevale, CA) 05 // T Woods & Shad Gee @ Senator Theater for Giants & Elephants Tour (Chico, CA) 06 // Nick Ngo & Kafani @ the DUB Car Show (San Jose, CA) 07 // J Valentine & JayRock @ Mason Studio (Hollywood, CA) 08 // Guce, San Quinn, & T Woods @ Giants & Elephants Tour (Stockton, CA) 09 // Scoot of Dem HoodStarz & his daughter on the set of Kafani’s “Get That Dough” video shoot (San Francisco, CA) 10 // Starbuks & Bishop @ the Blueprint for OZONE’s Halloween Bash (Eugene, OR) 11 // Bad Lucc, Meezy Montana, Big Dant, Warren G, Kilo, & Quez @ Arcata Community Center (Arcata, CA) 12 // Trajik, Sluggz, & Marvelous Mac @ The Blueprint for OZONE’s Halloween Bash (Eugene, OR) 13 // YG & K-Boy @ Tatou (Los Angeles, CA) 14 // D-Lo & Audio Push @ UGMX Back 2 School Jerk Off (San Jose, CA) 15 // Keak da Sneak & ladies @ Giants & Elephants Tour (Stockton, CA) 16 // Haji Springer & Kuzzo Fly @ Rockit for Yukmouth’s album release party (San Francisco, CA) 17 // Dame Fame & Tito Bell @ Senator Theater for Giants & Elephants Tour (Chico, CA) 18 // Big Rich & guest @ Club Illusions for Big Rich’s birthday party (Palo Alto, CA) 19 // KL, Vanessa, & Starbuks @ the Blueprint for OZONE’s Halloween Bash (Eugene, OR) Photo Credits: D-Ray (02,03,04,05,06,07,08,09,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18); Julia Beverly (01,10,19)
OZONE WEST // 7
hawn Chrystopher’s tale is far from the typical rap story. While many rappers glorify stories of crime, Chrystopher’s chronicle is the exact opposite. “I was always the kid on the honor roll, so when I told people I was rapping, they’d be like, ‘What?!?’ I could never go to the hood niggas and get beats,” laughs the rookie rapper/producer. Chrystopher was raised by a single mother in Inglewood, California. His love for music began when his mom placed him in an afterschool program where he learned to play the drums. From there, Chrystopher’s passion for music only grew. He added the piano, trumpet, and saxophone to his repertoire and joined the school band. Influenced by groups like Kris Kross and Bone Thugs N Harmony, he also began rapping. He graduated from high school in 2003 at the age of 16, earning a full scholarship to the University of Southern California. And on the music side, he taught himself how to produce, mix and master his own music. He soon found that being a full-time student and an aspiring rap artist were tough acts to juggle. “My schoolwork became mediocre because I was focusing on
8 // OZONE WEST
music so much,” he remembers. “I had to make a decision.” Needless to say, Chrystopher choose rhyme books over textbooks. He spent the next two years crafting his sound and studying the success of artists he admired. “I sat back and watched who got hot,” he begins to explain. “I studied [rap] like I did my school work and tried to figure out where I could fit in. I went to school in 2004, and that’s when 50 [Cent] was hot. I’m like the exact opposite of 50. So, I had to sit back and wait for music to change. And once it started to shift, you started seeing everybody going the Lupe [Fiasco], Pharrell way; people on TV started to look like me. And I’m like, ‘Okay, now I’m ready.” He began leaking music on the internet and was soon contacted by Elitaste, Inc., (the management team that reps Interscope artist Wale), who expressed interest in the Inglewood rapper/ producer. Chrystopher signed with Elitaste
Management, who linked the artist with Lifted Research Group. And in 2008, he released his LRG presented debut mixtape, I Wear Glasses. His follow-up mixtape I Wear Glasses 2: I Told You So! came in May of 2009 and gained appreciation from blogs and admiration from fans. Still unsigned, Chrystopher released his debut album, A City With No Seasons, through iTunes in November of 2009. And as he ponders the possibilities of signing with a major, Shawn Chrystopher is confident in a future filled with continued success. “2009 was a great year for me, but 2010 and beyond is about to be something ridiculous,” he boasts. “And I know everybody says that, but I really have a great feeling of what’s about to happen because of what has already happened. This won’t be the last time you hear from me.” Words by Randy Roper Photos by Brian Tampol
Patiently Waiting C
alifornia has had its share of dance movements over the last few years. First, there was Krump in Los Angeles. Shortly after that, Hyphy exploded out of the Bay Area. Now, a new Hip Hop dance frenzy has emerged out of L.A. called the Jerk. At the forefront of this new movement is Audio Push, a rap duo consisting of 20-year-old Oktane and 19-year-old Pricetag. “The Jerk’s been out forever,” says Pricetag, of the origins of Audio Push’s breakthrough single “Teach Me How To Jerk.” “It was a dance that gangbangers did. They thought they were too cool to do any other dance, but they never did it as energetic as everyone does now. The teenage and party crowd saw it, took it, and turned it into a big movement.” Oktane and Pricetag were raised in Inland Empire, just east of L.A., where they met in middle school. Their mutual love for Hip Hop led to them joining forces in Krump battles and rap cyphers. They went on to record “Teach Me How To Jerk,” an ode to the area’s burgeoning Hip Hop movement. As the Jerk movement started to grow, so did the song, which caught the attention of production duo Kadis and Sean. They soon signed Audio Push to their production company, RozMusic Entertainment. Under Kadis and Sean, Audio Push remixed “Teach Me How To Jerk.” The song landed on local radio, and numerous major labels began offering deals. In the end, the Jerk duo inked a deal with Interscope Records, through RozMusic. Audio Push wasn’t the first Cali rap group to break their Jerk record on a national level; before them came Asylum’s New Boyz, whose single “You’re a Jerk” topped charts months before “Teach Me How To Jerk” broke nationwide. Still, Oktane and Pricetag insist they came out with their Jerk song first. “A lot of people that did their research on Jerk [music] know that we came out with [our] jerking song first,” Oktane says. “But what separates us from [the New Boyz] is we really rap. A lot of people put the New Boyz and this whole Jerking thing in a box. We’re not in that box.” Audio Push insists that they want to be respected as bonafide emcees, and in the process, lead a new generation of rappers into Hip Hop’s limelight. The duo hopes their latest mixtape, Soundcheck, and debut album in 2010 will prove their skills. “[Soundcheck] shows that we really make good music. We really spit,” Pricetag says, continuing, “This is a new generation. The style has changed, the music has changed, everything has changed.” “A lot of people think this new generation is a group of little dancing kids that wanna Jerk for a couple months, and then we’re just gonna fade out,” Oktane adds. “But we actually have something to say.” Words by Randy Roper Photo by Meeno
OZONE WEST // 9
G R O W Warren G GN oes
Words by Photo by DM-Raurice G. Garland ay 10 // OZONE WEST
As the West Coast continues tRYING TO find a new identity that isn’t somehow connected to the extended N.W.A family tree, Warren G finds himself trying to slide back in. Although he’s been active, a lot of people aren’t aware OF HIS NEW PROJECTS. With The G Files (his second independent album since 2005) out right now, Warren IS FACED WITH SEVERAL CHOICES: rapper or producer, independent or major. But if there’s one thing that isn’t up for debate, iT’s his loyalty to the west coast and good music. Ozone caught up with Warren to get his thoughtS on the new direction he’s taking his career, the state of West Coast Hip Hop, and why people forget that he helped save Def Jam in the 90s. Let us know what you’re up to nowadays. I have an independent album called The G Files out right now. I’m just testing the independent game, seeing how it is, and how I can work in it. It’s got a lot of great people on there like Snoop, Travis Barker, Nate Dogg, and Raekwon. I’ve got a bunch of new artist on the bubble too, so I’m just working on that. Other than that I’m doing my production, getting my beats stacked up so I can press play on the industry and get people back into Warren G the producer as well as the artist. Are you doing that to clear up the perception of you? Some people looked at you as producer first and rapper second. I did it all from the gate. As far as people thinking I’m more of a rapper than producer, I’m cool with it. I’m happy with people looking at me like that. But I’m a multiple artist, so I produce, rap and write. That’s just what happened when I started doing my thing. I’m trying to re-establish myself as a producer right now, that’s my main focus. That’s what the industry has wanted from me. I never stopped though. I’ve been in the studio grinding out beats for people to pick up. What direction are you going with your production? Everything I do is G-Funk. I’m just into producing great music. I try to make singles. I just do good music. Music that’s hood, but still appeals to the world. I want the world to love the sound. I try to make hit records, constantly. What made you want to go the independent route? Because a lot of guys I know that are independent were like, “The independent’s get all the money.” You get what you work for. With a major, you get 35 cents [per record]. Independent you can get $5 to $8 a record. I was trying it out. It’s cool, but you have to surround yourself with the right people to push yourself independently. I’m thinking if I do another record, I might do it on a major so people know it’s out there. Independently I’ve done all the promo I can do, but the world doesn’t know it’s there. I’m getting back into my production. I like scoring and music supervision. I did the music for this TV show on BET called Harlem Heights. That was my tester, and they loved it. As far as film, most of the records you’ve heard from me were made for movies I had in mind. So beyond that, I’m trying to get into sounds. If they need a fart, I’m trying to put the fart in. I’m a DJ, so I know how to place and blend things so they sound right. How do you feel about the current soundscape of West Coast music? We ain’t really got nobody besides Snoop out right now. It ain’t really nothing out from the West right now. I can’t really speak on it. I couldn’t tell you right now. But I do know when Dre drops Detox it’s gonna open up the new talent. It’s just hard to make the West like it was before because we don’t have any outlets. Snoop is the head of Priority Records now, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m trying to get a position too, so I can let this West Coast talent be heard.
Why do you think that is? It’s the industry. You got a lot of people here that’s heads of the company who ain’t from here and don’t understand what we do. I was told by a person that my record was too West Coast. How the fuck am I too West Coast? I do me. I make Warren G songs for everybody. So when you got people thinking like that, of course you ain’t gonna get no talent out here. These people can’t speak for the fans, and the fans actually want that. They want that old West Coast sound because the shit that’s coming out these days sounds like some electro shit. We need this real shit back cracking. How can we get music from everywhere heard everywhere though? A lot of it has to do with the DJs. The music was controlled by radio and DJs, so we have to start supporting. People are getting paid for playing records. We should get back to the love and the paycheck is gonna come. Radio and DJs have to understand, when you don’t play the records, we don’t get paid. This is how we survive and send [our] kids to college. This is our job. So when you tell an artist you can’t play their record, you’re crushing their whole world. People need to get back to doing it for the love. I get major love in Atlanta and New York, but when I come back home to L.A., we’ve only got West Coast Wednesday. How come the West Coast only gets Wednesdays in L.A.? When I went to NYC to let people know I was in town they wouldn’t let me get on the radio station to tell people. And I’m a guy that brought you tons of music. I’ve done a lot for Def Jam and New York, working with Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles. When Def Jam was down, I saved the day. There should always be love there. They should never tell me I can’t get on [the radio]. And the Program Director was from California, that’s what made it even crazier. Now that I’m independent, I see what the process is. A lot of the people I helped get into positions with major companies are like, “Fuck you Warren, thank you, we cool. I don’t owe you nothing.” And that’s fucked up. I’ve busted my ass, told companies that if you fire so-and-so, you might as well drop me. That’s fucked up. That’s why I’m not mad at dudes like Suge loc’ing up on these industry people. Despite your affiliations, we’ve never heard you do a lot of banging on wax like some of your peers. Why is that? I’ve got kids, so I can’t be on record talking about I’m cripping. I don’t want my kids saying I was a gangbanger. I want them saying, “My dad has been around the world and made great records.” I’m grown and sexy now. I still appeal to people, I ain’t old and shabby-faced. I ain’t in my 40s yet, but the ladies still like me. I just can’t do the gangbang thing on my music. I’ve got two daughters and three boys. We know you’ve been doing a lot for the community lately. Do they still have Warren G Week in Long Beach? I was just named as the face for all the Boys & Girls Clubs in Long Beach. I got a certificate from the district for the good I’ve done. That was big for me. They still have Warren G Week in the summer, but in the winter I go to the homeless shelters and pass out stuff to the homeless. They’re good people, they just get in bad positions when nobody wants to hire them. How is Nate Dogg doing these days? I’m going to see him this week. He’s in therapy. We’re trying to get him back up. He had two strokes; a lot of people don’t survive from that. We’re keeping him in our prayers and trying to get him back right, and that’s all we can do. It hurts because that’s my dawg. I do a dedication to him every time I perform to let my good vibes and prayers get out to the Lord for him to get better. But it’s a part of life we have to deal with. So I have to keep myself up and healthy. Lastly, since Dr. Dre is your brother, are you privy to any Detox information? The stuff I’ve heard was dope. When he drops it, he’s gonna change the game as far as the music. I couldn’t tell you how far along he is or if it’s finished. I really don’t know what he’s doing right this minute, but I know he’s gonna put the record out. I do know it’s coming out this year. //
OZONE WEST // 11
THE GAME HAS NEVER BEEN ONE TO HOLD HIS TONGUE, AND THIS OZONE EXCLUSIVE IS NO EXCEPTION. Words by Tone Swep
12 // OZONE WEST
ment. Wasn’t no convincing the nigga otherwise. But I love that nigga, man.
Gangsta rap is dead! At least that’s what Hip Hop’s reclusive legion of Facebook bangers, Twitter hipsters and blog’d out skinny jean b-boys would have us believe. And, on some level, they do have a valid argument. With the global economy tilted like your local pool hall’s pinball machine and Cali penitentiaries hella crowded like public housing, things just ain’t the same for gangstas. Consequently, it’s back to bangin’ for way too real estate and slangin’ rocks for rims in a dope spot nowhere near you. Knowing his golden state is a little bang’d up, THE GAME g-rides through rap’s OZONE layer leaking crimson R.E.D. comments. Chilled out in a so-Cal burger joint, we rapped about why he’s so much smarter at 30, why he and 50 never should have dismantled the “Black Beatles,” and why his R.E.D. Album is his most street of all. Get The Game str8 from Chuck Taylor’s bloody mouth. They say gangsta gap is dead, G! Is that true? That’s obviously somebody’s opinion. It ain’t mine. But I will say that what niggas consider “gangsta” is changing. Like, the hardest niggas I’d ever seen in the hood are wearing suits now. Dressing it up. Being more professional about themselves and aiming more at money than each other. Niggas in the hood are taking better care of their families and shit now, at least more than before. But as far as gangsta rap, as long as I got Eazy Duz It and Doggystyle spinnin’ in my changer, gangsta rap will never die. Is society safer now that these youngsters are tryin’ to be Drake and Wale instead of Game and Snoop? Especially on the West Coast? I’m loving the West Coast right now. Most niggas out here are on chill and, like I said, focused more on money than mayhem. Don’t get it twisted though. You can still turn the wrong corner and get your melon split, but everyone is on that cool shit. I call it the “Drake Era,” and you can print that in bold. I fuck with Drake because he is leading this sort of cool movement that is contagious right now in Hip Hop. I wish ‘Pac had lived to see Cali on cool like this. When you arrived in Hip Hop, around ’02, you were grinding to get you and the homies out of the hood. You were driven to build Black Wall Street. You’re rich now and established. What’s the motivation today? Two boys, my sons. One is six years old and the other is two. Harlem and Justice, man. You could put me on the Lakers and I’d score more than Kobe with how I’m feeling right now. I can tell, man. I hear it. I see it. The enthusiasm. The energy. I haven’t seen you this amped since The Documentary sessions. My sons advance my thinking. Fatherhood has forced me to think ahead and be smarter about things. I’m even more motivated to take shit over. We’ve followed your career from the gate. And in doing so we’ve been exposed to different people in your life. I’m going to ask you about a few of those people and see where you are, today, with those people. Let’s start with George Ausborne Taylor, Jr. Man… (pause)… Right now, man… (longer pause)… I ain’t seen that dude in a minute. That’s my pops. I’ve always had real mixed feeling about that dude. I haven’t really fucked with him in a minute because of different shit that’s going on in the family that I don’t really wanna talk about right now, but I recorded a song about it for the R.E.D. Album. You listen to that joint and it’s gonna bring tears to everybody eyes. Billboard. That’s my Beanie Sigel if I’m Jay-Z, not the [recent] beef but the unstoppable Roc empire days. If I’m Jadakiss that’s my Styles P. That’s my nigga for life, best friend ever. But you think I’m hardheaded (laughs)! That nigga wouldn’t listen to nobody. I’d be like, “Let’s not go out tonight. Let’s stay in and record.” And he’d be like “Nah, I’m riding. Serving this nigga. That nigga.” But to be honest, and that is my nigga for life when I say this, I think the way Billboard went out, being murdered in the streets of L.A., is how that nigga wanted to go out. He’d already accepted that as his will and testa-
Carol Edith Zeigler. Aw, man. You spinning me around the room right now. That’s my grandmother. That woman right there was a special woman. That’s my Lena Horne. My Oprah Winfrey. My Angela Bassett. She is another person that I lost way too soon. My grandmother is the person who called me Game. I wish she’d lived to see where I made it to, not necessarily all the negative shit I had to do to reach this point, but the pinnacle I’m at now. Lastly, I have to ask you about that little dude that was crawling around The Documentary photo shoot in chucks and a diaper. Harlem Caron. (laughs)… Harlem is good. That dude is Tiger Woods, man. He don’t know nothing about no hood. He doesn’t even know that I’m a rapper. He just has fun at school. Plays soccer, baseball, little league stuff. Plays with his toys. Harlem is all innocent and I’m grateful that I’m able to provide that for him. But my two year old, Justice, that dude knows my songs and shit (laughs). He knows all my business. He’s like,”‘You goin’ to tha dudio?” (laughs) You’ve obviously enjoyed tremendous success without 50. And, in turn, he has done well without you. But deep down, real talk, is there any part of that creative business relationship you miss? Any regrets? I made some of the biggest songs of my career with that dude. And it’s not about he wrote this or I wrote that, but it was just the collaborative effort. No different from Swizz working with Cass or Jay working with Beans or Puff working with Bigg. I miss us being the Voltron of Hip Hop. Em, D12, Dre, Nate, me. All of that power and creative energy and good music. I bet Iovine misses it too. To this day, every time I see Jimmy he says, ‘Why’d you guys have to go and break up the Black Beatles?” And, honestly man, that relationship didn’t have to spoil. But I’m principled. Things weren’t headed in a direction I was comfortable with and you know me. I’m not one to hold my tongue. I’ma tell a muthafucker when shit ain’t right. Back in the studio with the good Doctor. He and Pharrell are executive producers on this album. How’d that reunion happen? I wouldn’t say it’s a reunion. It’s more… (pauses)… Dre was kicking it with Snoop one day and called me to ask if I wanted to come in and work. We should all be happy Dr. Dre ain’t God, because the world never would have been created in seven days. It would have taken three years like my album… but yeah, they called me and asked if I wanted to work. One thing led to another and we’ve been working on my album ever since. There is so much energy in your sessions right now. Skateboard P and Dre, Snoop. And to think that you were threatening us all with your retirement after L.A.X. went platinum. What changed? I ain’t going nowhere. What happened is Hip Hop changed. And I told people that it would on my last album. You can hear how everybody is just having a good time. Gucci Mane, Soulja Boy, Wayne. These cats are just having a good time and that is where Hip Hop needs to be. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk to you about Compton. Everything from public education to public transportation to teen pregnancy rates, murder rates, violent crimes, gang-related crimes, are through the roof. What’s it going to take for shit to change in the CPT? 50 years of dedication to changing things. See, Compton is rotten to the core. Like you said, all the way down to the kindergarten level. By junior high you already know that you don’t really have a good shot at making it out. I don’t know what else I can do that I haven’t already done. We did a lot for the hood with Black Wall Street but shit hasn’t really improved except for a few people we helped directly. Do you think President Obama is going to cop the R.E.D. Album? I don’t know about cop it, but he’ll definitely have a couple songs in his iTunes workout (laughs). Because if he cops the entire album and listens to it his war strategy is gonna change. He’s gonna take all the soldiers out of Iraq and send the prisoners over there instead. What’s the biggest difference between Chuck Taylor at 20 and Chuck Taylor now, at 30? I was a dumb, dangerous muthafucker ten years ago. Walking around with loaded weapons and no brain. I understand life more now. I know how things are going to end. Not when, but I know how. When is up to God’s will. Only he knows that. Safe to say you’re a lot richer now too, huh? Yeah, that too (laughs). //
OZONE WEST // 13
KAFANI S A MILLION HUSTLE BEVERLY Words by JULIAOR TRAYNOR PHOTO BY TREV
You’ve got a couple videos circulating now on the internet and MTV Jams. Is the video with Dorrough the main one you’re pushing right now? Or is the Bobby Valentino song the newest? The one with Dorrough is the newest video I’m pushin’. It just got added to MTV Jams and hopefully to BET soon. This is my third or fourth video on MTV Jams. I still work with a lot of Bay Area artists but single-wise, I’ve been working with southern artists because I’m trying to get that nationwide look. My records are getting a better, different look with Southern artists. I’m basically trying to take my sound beyond the Bay Area. I think the whole hyphy sound has kinda died down. I think artists are doing them right now and creating their own sound. When you had the hyphy movement it seemed like everybody was doing the same thing, but now everybody is developing their own lane. The Bay Area sound has always been universal. When you hunt around for beats or you’re looking for hooks, what kind of sound are you looking for? Or what attracts you to a particular record? Single-wise, generally speaking, you wanna go towards the females. On “Need Ya Body” that’s why I hit up Bobby V and got him on the hook. That’s where the industry is going right now – R&B/Hip Hop. That’s the direction I’m going in right now. The new record with Gucci and Dorrough is like a street record. My main focus is the R&B/Hip Hop direction. I think the majority of the fan base is females, from what I see at my shows. Generally speaking, for a lot of artists, females re the biggest fans in the game anyway. Once you got the ladies, it’ll crack. When these cats be throwing parties and they whole fan base is dudes, it don’t be crackin’ like that.
14 // OZONE WEST
You gotta have the females, they the ones that come out and party and dance. A lot of artists claim, “I’m not a rapper, I’m a hustler.” Which are you? Honestly, I’m a hustler. I got in the game dealing with other artists. I’ve always been a hustler no matter what I do. It’s a grind. I be makin’ music for fun, but at the same time, by me being a good hustler, I’m able to network, make connections, and get it out there. When you say you got in the game working with other artists, you mean you were putting money behind them and it didn’t work out? Nah, it wasn’t necessarily that. My family members who were aspiring to be artists, I started off working with them in the beginning and going off they vibe. Then I took it to a whole other level really. When I was first getting studio equipment, I was just experimenting, but they was really taking it seriously. But then I was like, damn I can do it too. It seemed like every year I was taking it to a whole other level in the game. My game would elevate. I know you put the album out through Koch/E1. Did that situation work out well for you? Are you looking to go another route? The last project went aight. I mean, I had the “Fast (Like a NASCAR)” song and it was a big thing about it being marketing for NASCAR. We had a remix with Bubba Sparxxx and DJ Unk and there was a big situation about it. I feel like my whole album [release] was based around Nascar getting it hot and blowing it up to their fans, and then at the last minute it kinda fell through. The day my album
was supposed to drop, instead of me having record release parties and autograph signings in the Bay Area, they set me up to go do the video in Greensboro, NC at the NASCAR stadium. The day before, NASCAR cancelled it. I don’t even know why. It seemed like after that they never really worked a second single for me.
I try to make music I think people wanna hear that’ll take ‘em away from what they’re going through. As we know, it’s a recession and a lot of people ain’t doing too good. Why would you want to hear about that? Maybe you wanna hear something positive, that you can make it out the hood and become something else.
Did you record that song with the intention of getting NASCAR involved? Nah, that happened after the fact. I think that was more of the label’s idea. Everybody was saying I could get NASCAR behind and it’d be big. When I was having meetings with the label we were talking about making that happen, but it ended up falling through. It was some type of politics, I don’t know exactly why. You know how it is, they throw everything against the wall and if it sticks, it sticks. I guess that didn’t really come through all the way. But as far as me getting national attention, it was a good look ‘cause I was able to release a national album.
If you look at Hip Hop, you’ve got artists wearing skinny jeans now, and trends that are constantly coming and going. Do you think it’s ever gonna get to a point where the ice and jewelry and all that is played out? Kinda like grills? I think it’s gonna play itself out. To me, once you get famous and you got money, you don’t really need to show it. In the beginning, when you coming up, you may go crazy with the jewelry ‘cause you wanna be seen. It’s a statement. But once you make that statement and everybody knows you got it, ain’t no need to show it no more. If you look at bigger name artists, they don’t even really have to wear jewelry no more. You know who they are when you see ‘em. A lot of up-and-coming artists probably wear jewelry just to show that they’re somebody. Eventually, jewelry is getting so crazy with designs, and as technology grows they startin’ to go crazy with it, so eventually it’ll come to an end. Nothing lasts forever so I don’t think it’ll stay in Hip Hop forever.
Next time around, are you gonna take things into your own hands a little more? I know now you gotta make sure everything’s situated before you drop an album. Just ‘cause you have a label putting you out, you still gotta do the same footwork you did to get there. You can’t depend on the label to do anything for you. You gotta still do everything on your own. The label is only gonna go so far. They’ll only go off the hype for so long; after that, you’re on your own. It seems like a lot of Bay artists would rather put out a project themselves than sign with any label. Do you share that mentality? Or are you looking for more of a major label situation? At the end of the day, I can do a lot of the stuff that the major labels can do. I’ve developed the contacts for people behind the scenes that run a lot of the industry. The only difference in having a label deal is having that name and money behind you. If you got the connections and the money you can do it yourself. The difference in being independent and being with a label is them putting that money up and having a stamp on it. It’s really about how much money you’re gonna spend marketing yourself. You mentioned that off the ads and some of the previous stuff you’ve done with OZONE, a lot of people think you sell jewelry. Have you thought about going that route? Nah, I researched the jewelry game. It’s not a real good game to get into unless you’ve been in the game for like 20 years and you bought the gold when prices were real cheap. That’s the whole game – these jewelers have a reserve of gold. They’re selling you a piece for whatever the market value of gold is at the time, that’s how they eat. If you bought some gold bars 10 years ago when gold was $10 a gram, and now it’s at $30 a gram, you make $20 off every gram. Have you researched any other types of businesses you think would be good to get into outside of the music game? I invested in a bail bond company in the Bay Area and I had a trucking company at one point, but when I got my record deal and all that, I was on the road so much I kinda let that falter a little bit. You were dealing with gun charges at one point. Were you able to get that cleared up or are you still looking at possible legal consequences? Nah, I’m still dealing with that. That’s been 2 years almost, but I should be straight. That’s all I can really say. I’ll probably end up going to trial, but it’s looking good. If I was looking at any time, it shouldn’t be too long. I’m innocent. Gucci Mane was featured on your single, but he isn’t in the video. What happened with that? Yeah, that was a clearance issue we had with Warner Bros. They [wouldn’t clear the record] in the 4th quarter because it was around the time they was droppin’ his album. You paid him under the table to do the record? Yeah we got it hooked up. It was done a while ago and you know how it is when a buzz goes crazy and the label gets behind it – it’s a whole different story. You’ve got a lot of expensive toys in the video. Is there anything you want to buy that you haven’t been able to get yet? Nah, I got a lot of toys already. I just copped a Maserati a couple months ago so I’m kinda content right now, but you never know. Your last album was called Money is My Motivation. Money can only take you so far, though, you’ve gotta have the passion for it. What else motivates you? Taking care of my family and friends, and just having fun. Just trying to live, and stay out of jail. That’s basically it. The music takes you away from all the stuff you’re dealing with, that’s why I like doing it. Doing music takes me away from whatever problems I may be having at the time. Not saying I have a lot of problems, but if I’m going through something I can go in studio and vent. With a lot of people going through hard economic times, do you think they’re more or less likely to listen to ballin’ music? Sometimes music is motivation. Hearing somebody else talk about what they’re doing may motivate them. But sometimes it’s depressing. If you’re going through the struggle and you’re only hearing about the struggle, people dying, and you’re really in the streets living that, that might not be something you wanna listen to.
How do you view the West Coast movement right now? There are a lot of upand-coming artists from California. Do you see a whole wave of artists ready to take over, or do you view yourself more solo? The West Coast needs to come together. I think that’s the reason why the west coast isn’t what it was before. I feel like a lot of the veterans artists ain’t put on the newer artists. It’s a lot of stuff in the west coast. Me personally, in the Bay, we’re tryin’ to come together. We startin’ to do a lot of stuff together, put tours together, and different things – tryin’ to make something from nothing. On a national level, I’m just tryin’ to get my name out there and take it beyond the region. You got a lot of cats just tryin’ to break the region and I already did that, so now I’m trying to take it further. Whatever artists that are trying to do the same thing, get on the boat with me and let’s do it. A lot of West Coast artists mention that lack of unity as something that’s holding them back. What do you think the problem is? I think it’s just the mentality of the people in this area. The South is more welcoming. It ain’t like that in the West Coast –the hospitality of welcoming someone into your house, so to speak. I don’t think cats on the West Coast are like that. What about the relationship between Bay artists and L.A. artists? Do you feel like that’s getting better or worse? I ain’t really worked with any L.A. artists. A couple of cats reached out to me and I’ve reached out to them. We gotta put it together and get it in. But I haven’t actually done a record with anyone from Southern California yet. I know a few cats out there, we just haven’t had the opportunity to get it in. I gotta make an effort to do that. In the South you feel like you get more support from the artists? Nah, I’m not even really saying that. I’m just saying us West Coast artists as a whole need to start reaching out to each other and doing it. There’s no west coast artist that’s really on, besides older cats like Snoop or maybe somebody like The Game. There’s no new West Coast national artists that are real superstars. But there’s new artists from the South every year that go national. Maybe it’s the DJs. Maybe the DJs need to step it up and break more records from the West Coast, instead of just South records. Do you think part of the problem is the records aren’t commercial enough? Prime example is my record with Bobby Valentino. The same producer that did that for me, did “Trickin’ If You Got It.” If you listen to the two songs, they sound similar. Originally, the dude from the Mullage hook sang my hook. I released it on the West Coast with him on the hook first. I didn’t get the response I was lookin’ for, so I took him off and put Bobby Valentino on the hook. Three months later, they do a similar record and it comes out in Atlanta and it blew up. My record touched the South, but it didn’t really blow up on the West Coast. Do you feel radio is supportive of your projects? Yeah, the radio supports me for the most part. Every record I come out with I get support from radio. Of course you wanna blow up and go everywhere with it, but I guess I need to have the right people working my records. I don’t know – I’m just putting out records and if it happens, it happens. Every 3 months I’m dropping a new record and shooting a video. Something’s bound to happen. I’m just really putting out singles till I get that right buzz. It’s really nothing to do an album, you just need a single to sell your album. I’m making my money doing shows, selling ringtones and digital downloads. I’m still eating off putting out singles – I don’t necessarily have to put out an album to make money. If people want to buy a ringtone or check out your music, where’s the best place for them to go? Search Kafani on iTunes and it’ll pull up all the mixtapes and singles I got out right now. I be on Twitter – @Kafani. If you wanna check out my videos you can hit me up on KafaniDaIceKing on YouTube. I think you can buy music off Myspace too. I’m about to release my street album. It’s called My Daily Bread. I’m still working on my album I.C.E. – I Create Envy. I’m waiting to get a big record and get that buzz right, then I’ll drop an album. //
OZONE MAG // 15
Snoop Dogg Malice In Wonderland Priority Though Snoop Dogg has become more known as a character and celebrity in recent years, the man still knows how to make dope music. Recreating himself once again, Snoop blends in with just about every beat thrown at him. Although this album features more cameos than Snoop albums of the past, he still remains the star. – Maurice G. Garland A.R. of H2 Hardheadz The IntroducTion of… H2 Ent. Carrying on the legacy of his Bay Area forefathers RBL Posse, A.R. comes with a fresh but familiar sound on his introductory mixtape. Providing street raps with a perspective that offers both reality and celebration, you can tell that A.R. is out to remind people why you fell in love with Bay Area rap to begin with. His choice to use production (provided mostly by Rome aka Slapadelic) that leans more towards mid-90’s funk ala Sam Bostic and Ant Banks immediately sets him apart from his many peers who are struggling to find a musical identity post-Hyphy. If you’re looking for some vintage Bay Area rap with a new school appeal, you can’t lose with this CD. - Maurice G. Garland Young Shaad of H2 Hardheadz Cold Game Official Business/H2 Ent. Falling from the same family tree as A.R., Young Shaad does a good job in blending his Bay Area roots with a national appealing sound. However, the “young” part of his moniker definitely shows at times. While he obviously puts forth effort in each song on this mixtape, his heavy accent and decision to use the same cadence on many of the songs will have the listener struggling to identify him from the average Bay Area rapper. To his credit though, Shaad is able to approach everyday themes with a different angle. Surely not an artist to sleep on, Shaad at least interests you to the point that you’d want to hear what he has to offer next time around. - Maurice G. Garland
Balance & Big Rich Good A$ Money Ayinde Music/Bang Bang III Story Gang
Picking up where their 2007 effort Unda Dogg Kingz left off, Balance and Big Rich continue to show why they’re two of the more universal artists in the Bay Area. While both have unique styles and perspectives, here they’re able to tone down their respective personalities just enough to make sure teamwork is the priority. With all but one track, “I’m Back,” not featuring a cameo, this album actually comes off more like a compilation in disguise. Fortunately the solid performances from allies like Glasses Malone, Allen Anthony, Messy Marv, The Jacka, Clyde Carson, Yukmouth, Freeway and Jay Rock make this a good problem to have. - Maurice G. Garland 40 Glocc Concrete Jungle Zoo Life Ent.
Mostly known for checking your favorite rapper’s gangsta whenever they set foot in Los Angeles, 40 Glocc has finally decided to prove that he is actually a rapper, and a pretty decent one at that. He holds his own on “Another Angel Dies” with Ras Kass and shows traces of vulnerability on “Hell On Earth,” where he ponders some of the decisions he’s made in his volatile past and questions if there’s a spot in heaven for him. Backed by adequate production that gives him and his Zoo Life cronies enough space to get their point across, 40 Glocc proves that he can actually make some good music when he’s not busy terrorizing other rappers. - Maurice G. Garland Roccett & DJ Drama Free Agent After departing CTE, Roccett recruited DJ Drama to announce his independence. Roccett stays true to form when it comes to punch lines, metaphors, and tales of West Coast living on songs like “City I Love,” “How We Roll,” and “Bang That.” However, there’s an appreciated upgrade on some of his hooks (“I Do That” ft. Bobby Valentino and “I Don’t Think So” ft. Primo). Other than awkward female-oriented records like “All a Woman Needs,” this may be Roccett’s best work, or pretty close. Being on the free agent list has obviously upped Young Roccett’s stats. - Ms. Rivercity
Tech N9ne Event: K.O.D. Tour Venue: House of Blues City: Los Angeles, CA Date: October 22nd, 2009 Photo: D-Ray
18 // OZONE WEST
YOUR FAVORITE RAPPER’S FAVORITE MAGAZINE
O DDR IDDY
ARN SE AR ETT G ICEBERG
THE E M A G WARREN G KAFANI
PAUL W ALL
& DJ SMALLZ I N AFGHAVADE NISTAN
E A R T H T U R T A TH
Birdman, Paul Wall, Trae, DJ Smallz, Young Dro, Diddy, Sean Garrett, Iceberg, Audio Push, The Game, Warren G, Kafani, TV Johnny