Spice 1: Murder He Writes
Fortunately, he has since fully recovered from the shooting and is prepared to stage a comeback with a new label and a new album, Home Sweet Home. Spice took some time out from putting the finishing touches on that record to talk about the early days and to drop some wisdom for the next generation of emcees.
HipHopDX: What inspired you to pursue rapping?
Spice 1: Mostly my inspirations came from just writing poetry. My pops was kind of like a Black Panther and he'd write a lot of poetry so I got that from him in the beginning, but when the rap game kicked in, it was more like N.W.A. [click to read], Too Short [click to read], Eazy-E, Run-DMC, back in the day cats. The biggest influences was like Ice-T and N.W.A.
DX: Were you performing a lot back then?
Spice 1: I really didn't start performing until I was like 16. I was opening up for them cats - N.W.A. - I was still in high school and everything. [The crowd] wanted to see N.W.A., they didn't want to see me, so it wasn't easy - especially a Bay Area crowd back in the day. East Oakland niggas, they want to see N.W.A.; they ain't trying to see me. So I had to do what I had to do.
DX: Tell me a little about the first tape you were on, Dope Lika Pound Or A Key. How did that come about?
Spice 1: That was an independent project that me and my homeboys in my neighborhood was working on. Me and PIzzo the Beat Fixer, he deejays for [E-40] [click to read] now, me and him was working on that project back in the day. He was one of the first guys that got with me, started working with me or whatever. We had put that little CD together and was pushing it on the underground. It did pretty good and then I did a deal with Triad [Records] and we pushed it and then, here come Jive [Records]...
DX: What was that transition to Jive like, to go from the indies to the majors?
Spice 1: It was real different. Because I graduated from high school, I ain't no dummy. I graduated from high school in '89 and you gotta think, my first album on Jive came out in '91. So two years out of high school and I'm signed to a major label. So I never really got to understand the independent game, the major label was the first game I ever really understood. All I had to do was rap and be Spice 1.
DX: It seems like Jive really had an interest in the Bay, with you and Short and 40 all on the roster.
Spice 1: Yeah. It seemed like that's what they was aiming for was to corner the bay area market. They did, with me, Short and 40, but it seemed like after that they didn't come back. I'm thinking some other artists should come in right about now. They should be looking for new Bay Area artists right now.
DX: How did you link up with the Dangerous Crew back then?
Spice 1: I think I was 16 and somebody had told Short that I was rapping and he wanted to see what I sounded like. He heard me get down or whatever and next thing I know he was picking me up from high school like every other day! It was kinda like an experiment for him because he had never put out no other artists and he was trying to find some little youngsters that he could put out on his label.
DX: That must've been wild having him come through your high school.
Spice 1: Yeah, I was telling motherfuckers that he was coming to get me and they was like tripping out like, they wasn't believing me. That was cool for me and it meant a lot because a nigga didn't have to come do that shit.
DX: So how did the idea for "187 Proof" come about, turning alcoholic drinks into characters?
Spice 1: It was more of... [I was] just trying to come with some funky shit, some tight shit, something different. I could've just told a story, but I chose to tell it in that way - simple, but clever. I got the game from Rakim [click to read] back in the day when he said [on "Move The Crowd"], "Simple ain't it? but quite clever." And that was the whole point of the song, doing some simple shit and making it entertaining to my audience. I didn't know if nobody was gonna really like it, but I liked the song and once a few cats heard it, they was on the shit. Everybody was feeling it.
DX: It seems like you don't hear as many well thought-out records like that these days.
Spice 1: Shit, that's what's missing in the rap game period right now. A motherfucker saying something actually entertaining instead of just talking about how hard they are or how much money they got or how many bitches they got. To actually entertain your audience is whole different story than to just get up there and rap about yourself.
DX: Is there anybody you think is doing that as far as younger artists?
Spice 1: Um. I be doing interviews and a lot of cats ask me about younger artists, not to trip out or disrespect them or nothing, but I don't listen to them for that simple fact. It's hard for me to find an artist [like that]. Because I'm a fan of rap music too, and I'm not gonna buy nobody's shit or bang nobody's shit that I'm not feeling, just because somebody else said that they was tight. I gotta listen to they shit. Like I actually listened to [Lil Boosie & Webbie's Survival of the Fittest] [click to read] and them little niggas is tight! I didn't know them niggas was that hard! So I can give them their props, but it takes a lot for me to listen to any new shit because there is so many niggas out saying that they hard. I'm just like the average fan. I don't just listen to anybody. It takes a lot for me to just listen to another artist, especially if I don't think he can out rap me. [Laughs] I got all these platinum and gold plaques and people will say that it's hard to find an artist that's gonna out rap you. Well, that's just how it is. It's hard for me to listen to anybody who I think I can [rap better than]. I might as well listen to my own shit, if their shit ain't no better than mine. But like I said, there's some tight niggas out there and I'll give them their props, if I actually take the time and sit down and listen to them.
DX: It seems like the market is real over-saturated right now.
Spice 1: Yeah! That's the cold part about the whole rap game. Somebody gotta stand out. It's so many artists everywhere. It's probably more MySpace artist pages then there are regular MySpace pages! Everybody is an artist now. It's so many people trying to do what we doing it's ridiculous right now. Everybody can't be the artist. Everybody wants to be the star. They don't want to be a consumer, they don't want to just buy the music. Because rapping is like boxing you can't just say, "Oh that artist is better than me," because that'll lower your record sales. Everybody is in competition. Therefore all of my fans turn into competition [when they become] artists. When it come down to it, they gonna want they shit to sell and not mine. It's crazy right now. You can't tell the artists from the fans. Too many cooks in the kitchen.
I was telling my homie earlier that just because a motherfucker might have hella cars or jewelry, that don't make him a rapper. Lots of these young kids think, "He got more money than him, he's tighter," but that shit is crazy. I could be sitting in a two-bedroom apartment or a 10-story mansion, that don't make me no rapper. What makes me an artist is how I get down. How I spit, how I entertain my fans. It be some crazy ass shit going on. I respect young cats in the game, but I'm in Sacramento right now and ain't nobody heard of San Quinn [click to read] or Messy Marv [here] and then I come back out to the Bay, and cats out in the bay ain't never heard of a lot of cats out here from Sacramento. Motherfuckers need to make it to where their music is universal and then they can sell more copies. Like San Quinn, his shit is universal to me. That's my nigga, he put his shit out there, he don't just rep the bay, he talk about other shit beside that.
DX: What do you think it will take for other artists to move in that direction?
Spice 1: It's up to the youth, it's up to these little youngsters, man. They gotta believe in a cause that's greater than themselves. Instead of just rapping about themselves, they gotta rap about what's really going on out here and touch everybody instead of [just] motherfuckers in California or in the hood where they from. They need to relate to different subjects. "It's all about me," "I'm the shit," "fuck you" - That's not the way you get fans. You get fans by rapping about shit that they can relate to.
DX: What have you been working on lately?
Spice 1: We got the Home Street Home project jumping on my label. Thug World is my record label, I signed myself to my label. The album is called Home Street Home. We making this shit happen, right now, it's real big. The album is hot. Katt Williams [click to read] is on there, Scarface [click to read], Devin The Dude [click to view]. I came with a few features, but not a lot. Ever since I got off Jive, I've been releasing underground albums or whatever, but none of them are gonna compare to the time and effort and talent and lyrics that I put into this. Because this is actually coming out on my own label. Not saying that I held back on the other albums, but I put a lot more into this album.
DX: Did the shooting also inspire this new work ethic? Is that experience gonna be reflected on the album?
Spice 1: Yeah definitely, you know I gotta tell my story. I mean, shit, everywhere I go everybody asks me, "Damn you still alive?" But now I'm a real living legend because I can appear in somebody's face that that thinks I'm dead.