Bad Azz: Crew Love
Snoop Dogg's longtime protege speaks about working with 2Pac, his years on Priority, and how the originally Doggystyle Records LBC Crew is coming back to life.
Every Rap collective, from Death Row to the Diplomats, has a member who plays the role of the unheralded soldier, the one who puts in work and garners respect, but not the superstar status. For Tha Dogg Pound family, that member is clearly Bad Azz. Although he credits Snoop Dogg's as a mentor, Bad Azz definitely carved marked his place in west coast Hip Hop with his debut album, Word On Tha Street. Although that album didn't exceed commercial expectations – the highlight of Bad Azz's mainstream career is the single “Wrong Idea” in 2003 – it was his work on that record as well as the feature on “Krazy” off 2Pac/Makavelli's The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory that earned him a place next to the Rap giants in the West.
However talented, Bad Azz couldn't escape the label logjam. Two albums in, Bad Azz went the independent route and the result was a slept-on but very cohesive Money Run, an album put out via Sacramento-based independent label owned by producer Big Hollis. Originally intended as a compilation to introduce artists from his own Double Dollar Sign record label, the 2003 release was instead perceived as a solo record. It was followed by Executive Decision later that year.
In the late '00s, while extended family Snoop, Kurupt and Daz, even Soopafly, released records, Bad Azz has largely been under the radar. In 2010, he hopes to join the ranks of Snoop and Ice Cube as veterans who are still relevant in the game. To do so, he is focused on the LBC Crew, the group that Snoop Dogg first conceived in the '90s that counts Bad Azz, Lil C-Style and Techniec as members. In the conversation with HipHopDX, Bad Azz says the group is working on new material and has an album that was never released.
With Snoop taking over the reigns of Priority over at Capitol Records, the idea that new Bad Azz music will be reintroduced by Snoop is within reach. In this exclusive interview, Bad Azz shoots the breeze about that possibility and shares his views on everything from the Iraq War to whether the adult industry and hip-hop mix.
HipHopDX.com: What's been up with you? What's new?
Bad Azz: Oh man, everything is beautiful. Just working on the Double Dollar sign record label and doing some stuff with the LBC Crew, world famous, ya dig? [Laughs]
DX: I'm definitely going to take you on a journey back, I got a lot of questions that go as far as your first album. So I really just want to start off with this, I know you had a song called “Last Time” featuring a little known producer back then, Lil Beau, who's of course Beau Dozier. He went on to work with Joss Stone and became a bigger name. You were the first to work with him, how did that come about?
Bad Azz: That was my little friend, we met through some mutual friends, became good friends. We started kicking it - we did a lot of chillin' first before we started doing music – but he was actually doing music from the day I met him. He's actually the son of a world-renown writer, producer, that actually wrote songs for Michael Jackson, The Temptations … I don't want starting going down Lamont Dozier's list of accomplishments…but that's his father. He was a part of the Holland-Dozier-Holland writing trio. His dad has several Grammys, multiplatinum plaques, you know, sold millions and millions of records. It was before our time, way before even Dr. Dre or Rick James. He wrote songs for Michael Jackson when Michael Jackson was a kid, the Jackson 5 type stuff. And another thing is he actually is a genius with music. He was one of the first triple threats in Hip Hop that I ever met, that produced, sang and rapped. And this was every bit of '95. I never met anyone who had those talents at that time and he rapped as good as Snoop Dogg, or Bad Azz or 2Pac. And he sang as good as Mariah Carey, or would you say, D'Angelo, Usher, any male or female that has real nice vocals. And he produces like a Dr. Dre, Timbaland or DJ Quik, not like an average producer. He produces on an upper echelon of everything, so it's just ill to see someone that skilled in all of those categories and not shabby at one.
DX: You said '95, that leads me into this next question. That's around the height of 2Pac's fame. I know “Krazy” was one of 'Pac's most potent songs at the end of his life. And I also know it's been a legal bother in your life, but can you talk about the process in working with him?
Bad Azz: I mean I actually felt that you know that a lot of stuff that I did with 2Pac was going to hit the fan because of the level that he was on when he came to Death Row [Records], the level he was on when he dropped All Eyez On Me, his first project on Death Row, which I was there for a lot of the recording of those songs. And I was behind there with him and just getting to know him, I did a couple of songs with him around that time, and those were the first songs I did with him, before even “Krazy.” It was a different era, Hip Hop has yet to see those kinds of days again to where you have a superstar. Ever since those days I've always considered myself a star but yet to have superstar status and have that magnitude of Snoop, 2Pac or Biggie, you know, someone who has that magnetism, that is incredible.
DX: Back in 2001, when Suge Knight was released from prison, there were reports that he attacked you. Can you speak on that, is it true and if it is, what prompted it?
Bad Azz: Well if it was smaller than a lot of people made it. It was a confrontation that was more verbal and got little physical. They got a little physical. I felt like I was basically taken advantage of in the sense that I was a part of Tha Dogg Pound and he hadn't had an opportunity to verbally confront any of us, or physically confront any of us. So for me to run into him and even having that conversation that I had with him that was pertaining to you know some of my friends and our business with Death Row and us leaving Death Row. He was just trying to uphold whatever reputation that he had that would make for a confrontation with us. That's all it was, it was a circumstantial situation. A lot of people to me made it bigger than it was. There were reports that I was greatly injured way worse than I was. I was a little shaken, I had some scuffs on me. I even got touched a couple of times that didn't leave no marks on me or nothing. But it wasn't, like I said, at the end of the day, I brushed my clothes off and walked away from the incident. It wasn't anything that was more damaging than somebody socking me in the face while I was talking to Suge Knight.
DX: I know that you and Ras Kass were label mates at Priority Records. Being that you guys both made good music but weren't pushed that hard by the label, did that develop any rapport between you two?
Bad Azz: No, I was friends with Ras Kass before I went to that label.
DX: So you've been cool ever since and still are?
Bad Azz: Yep. I actually went to Priority because of Ras Kass.
DX: What do you think of the fact that Snoop is Creative Chairman of Priority now? Is there a possibility of a reunion or do you think any older material will be re-released?
Bad Azz: Yeah, I spoke with him and we're supposed to be doing something as far as letting him hear some of the stuff we're working on. But there's nothing guaranteed, like Snoop is like a brother to me. At the end of the day, it's not really about business with us right now, if we do business it's something we came across and it was a good idea for us. I actually don't even really talk business with Snoop when I see him. It's all love, we're like family, I ask what's going on with him and he asks what's going on with me. We always interested in doing work together because we both recognize talent. I'm actually his protege, he's a mentor to me. He's an older cat in my hood that got a little start before I did put me on gave me a lot of my first shots in the Rap game. And now me being an independent entity and him being an entity of his own, there's always an open opportunity for you to see Bad Azz and Snoop Dogg make records together, such as a lot of other people that are from the family and you know even from the coast that I became friends with or have done business with or developed
DX: Who's currently in your circle, I know you do shows here and there? So, who's still in the mix?
Bad Azz: Me and the LBC Crew you know, the group that Snoop actually founded and put us all together in 1994 and then in 1995, 1996 we kind of done some stuff together and we had actually planned to drop a record. We did our record and didn't drop it. We kind of then separated and went our own ways and worked on different projects. We didn't separate over no negative stuff like you always think in the Rap game, we basically we were put together by Snoop, so it was easier while we were around him, some of us parted ways and went different ways business-wise with Snoop.
DX: The Death Row box set released last year, you had a standout moment with “Troublesome '96” and a couple other unheard songs and if you look back on that time in your art, with LBC Crew, how would things have been different if you guys were given a proper release?
Bad Azz: I mean I think it would have had a nice shot, but I dont really dwell on those times and think about what could have happened or didn't happen. When we do have those moments, it's just a thought, it's just a look back, it's not something that I regret or anything or I'm very bitter about things not going a certain way, because the first project that I did with Snoop I was very interested and eager to put that stuff out. But, I think it made way for me to become the artist that I became and obviously, the stuff was supposed to come out in the light that it came out later.
DX: I recall that your third album Money Run came out independently. In fact, you were one of the first artists to go indie, through a Sacramento-based label. I remember buying that album at the Virgin store in Manhattan, so obviously it had distribution and the right marketing, if not necessarily promotion. Can you talk about that album?
Bad Azz: My homeboy Daz [Dillinger] he actually was the first person to put me up on independent and he got the information from, he met D-Shot, E-40's little brother, and they started hanging. Then we started hanging with B-Legit and hung out with E-40 a few times and this was every bit of like '95 and '96, maybe even before 'Pac came to Death Row. It was way back and they kind of schooled Daz on the independent and how they was getting it in. And Daz was kinda fascinated in the sense where we hadn't jumped on it yet but he would relay what the information he got from them over and over again. He'd be like, "We need to do this, and all we have to do is do this," and basically reciting the information that he got from them and playing it back in his head and to us. Kinda letting it resonate how this new game could be something that's lucrative and beneficial and a new way to go. As it all boiled down, it was like we felt independent was the way to go a long time ago. Money Run wasn't even a solo record, that actually messed a lot of stuff up because it was a compilation to introduce my label Double Dollar Sign and to present some of the artists, even to re-present myself at that time. And the producer that I did it with kind of made it into a solo record and it kind of messed up the solo deal that I did have, which I was supposed to drop the Executive Decision album through and all this stuff that's been talked about seen.
DX: How have you evolved, in the sense of working with a major and an indie, at this point? Is a major deal something that you maybe interested in at this point?
Bad Azz: All these independent projects kind of made me ready to make an independent out of myself. Because even having major distribution you still want to have an independent grasp on your career and your music, you know?
DX: What is the situation right now?
Bad Azz: I've got a few things that are coming out. I got digital distribution. My main project right now is the LBC Crew so that's what I'm currently focused on right now.
DX: Who are the current members?
Bad Azz: Same original members. Me, Lil C-Style and Techniec.
DX: Okay. Going back to Executive Decision, you had a song on there, an Iraq War protest song in “Down With Us.” That was a big deal online back then. What prompted you to make that? Where do you stand on the present state of this war?
Bad Azz: Well I always been I've been very like stand-up about certain issues I wouldn't say political but in the sense of political where you go at certain issues, I've never been into issues like that. But when I do feel strongly about something, I do stand up and make a point. I think that's how that came about. Just because a lot of us share similar views on that song and because Fred Wreck was a producer on that song, he kind of incited the direction of that song.
DX: With Ice Cube's comments where he was addressing the New West and felt that he doesn't need to support them necessarily, not to incite controversy again, but what are your thoughts on his words? Is there anyone you're feeling coming up?
Bad Azz: I feel everybody got their little light under the sun, everyone got a little room to shine. I've heard about all that stuff and even in another interview they asked me something similar about it and the question was phrased a little different, but I feel that everyone has to be an individual at the end of the day. You have to go to sleep in your bed, you have to wake up and put your own shoes on. Regardless of how each individual feels but a man has to stand on his to accomplish whatever accomplishments he's trying to accomplish. You can't leave it up to some other person to make sure that your success is solidified. You don't have to make allies with someone established to even solidify yourself in getting into the game. And I think a lot of these new cats think that, and I'm not speaking of anyone specifically, but sometimes I think they feel like how a Bad Azz had a relationship with Snoop Dogg or whatever, like a Mack 10 had a relationship with a Ice Cube, that that is the only way. A lot of people did come my way, but when you become on a certain level you want to give back, you want to reach back you want to find something to add to your mixture that's good. For whatever reason, if it was only for 100% to give back to the youth then give a Snoop Dogg or Bad Azz a shot at making records and you sought out the good talent and you opened the door for them, like nobody could be mad at that. I look at some of these cities who don't have any Snoop Doggs or Dr. Dres and you still see kids pop up from these towns. Like you see Nelly, he became Nelly and he didn't have a Snoop or Dre or Jay-Z putting him on. He made his own self and he brought out St. Lunatics. That's what I tell some of these kids, if you're from L.A. and you might live down the street from Dr. Dre or Snoop Dogg, you can't depend on them unless you guys have crossed paths and ran into each other and made a conscious effort for a Snoop Dogg to put a Bad Azz on and I'ma make sure you get on some of these records Bad Azz' and blahzay blazhay blah and to make that a responsibility instead of saying the older guys have a responsibility to the younger guys…In general essence, we do.
DX: If a new artist, like say Jay Rock or Nipsey Hussle, reached out to you, would you be down?
Bad Azz: I've already done, I haven't personally been reached out to by Jay Rock, but one of my youngsters from Long Beach is cool with Jay Rock and he did a song wit him and I got a song with just us three. It was something that I thought was dope. I met Nipsey Hussle, I seen him at a party, I told him that I liked his stuff and heard a couple of things. It was actually that some of my people threw and he just showed up and I've been hearing a lot about him. I think somebody tried to introduce us a while back, a few years ago, before he became as popular as he's now. We actually had a good conversation and we smoked. But I have no reason to not like anyone, I don't have favor any type of music. I can't say that anyone of these kids are my favorite or they're not or they have a certain thing that they like or they don't like about them. I'm so focused on my life, my music and my kids, that the things that I favor, if I tell you a couple of my favorite little Hip Hop songs that I play when I wake up, some of them are fun, some are educational, some are just shit you want to bump in your car. Every day I'm not on the same exact song, I don't even listen to my music like that all the time, I don't listen to my old stuff all the time. I've got favorites, I got stuff that I perform but I've got songs of mine that are five years old that I haven't listen to in five years, you know? So as far as giving anything a chance, if it's something that motivates me, I'm going to give it my natural attention.
DX: You had a song called “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto,” it was a Christmas song. You ever hear stories of that record being played around the holidays?
Bad Azz: Oh yeah, they play it every single year since 1996. I haven't heard one year where it wasn't on MTV or BET or on the radio around December and January.
DX: That's a good 14 years. Alright, I remember when you worked with porn star Jake Steed on his Rap album. Do you think it cheapens Rap when porn stars are rapping and rappers want to be porn stars?
Bad Azz: No, I think that it's just the diversity of Hip Hop. I actually came across – I'm not that big into porn - some of his work from some girls and guys that were involved in doing music with him. It was more of a fun thing to do. I met Jake Steed while they were shooting some pornos with some chicks. It was a different experience. At the time that I did it I had never experienced that stuff, I've never been on a porn set. So just for the experience factor I did it for that, and then as far as entertaining, the songs I did, the concept of the song, the whole ambiance, not to mention that I got paid. All that stuff and then Jake Steed would throw parties and stuff, all that brought elements of Hip Hop with the entertainment of pornography. I feel that we've always had sexy women in Hip Hop songs with all the shaking asses. To even to go to the extreme level, whether people know it or not, Hip Hop industry and porn industry go hand-in-hand, you know?
A lot of people that do Hip Hop music watch pornos and a lot of females that do porn buy Hip Hop and listen to it. Nowadays, if you watch any up to date, recent porn, they have hip-hop music in them. Back in the day, you had corny music, guitars, porn music was porn music. Nowadays you might have Bad Azz, DMX, Snoop Dogg playing in the background so … that's just how it goes these days. I don't think it lessens the value. I think what lessens the value is the creativity and the negativity, because it's art, if it's music, if it's any element of Hip Hop, if it's someone rapping coming out of a gas station blowing up, and they did artistic, how could you say that's not dope and it's not creative? I don't want to see no smut ass porno that's not artistic, not well done and doesn't have nice looking people.
DX: Well put. That's all the questions I've got. Thanks for your time. Any last words?
Bad Azz: We should be releasing a single soon. The team has grown very big. We are opening doors. We are putting something together as far as Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound family that's going to be historical and legendary. I think a lot of people want to see us together. Tha Dogg Pound never broke up, only Kurupt left for a while, a lot people may remember if they kept up with our history. But other than that, everybody's tight. I just talked to Kurupt and Roscoe on the text a little while ago. They said they're out in Montana doing a show. Kurupt got the Streetlights album out. Daz and Kurupt will forever be the Dogg Pound. We got the LBC Crew. Everybody that's connected with us will forever be the Dogg Pound Gangsta Family. Big shout out to Nate Dogg, who's not in the best health right now. All our prayers go out to him. Right now our family is just mashing and is just trying to keep the legacy alive and pass it on to the next generation. Big shout out to the Beat Bullies, that's my group, big shout out to C.O.B., that's Crooked I shit, we keeping it crackin' like a bag of knuckles. Mr. Bad Azz, president of California.