Glasses Malone speaks about the excitement of his first retail project, while Mack 10 speaks about his revived Hoo-Bangin' Records, and their shared opinions of L.A.'s restored lyricism.
Perusing through a slew of Mack 10 YouTube videos is like witnessing arguably the ultimate henchman turn-head honcho in sixty e-minutes or less. The Inglewood, California luminary who so viscerally defined Gangsta Rap riding alongside fellow Westside Connection members Ice Cube and WC, warring with other Rap acts from across the nation, embodying his “Chicken Hawk” alter ego in every lyric delivered in the early-1990s has spent much of the last decade-plus steering his Hoo-Bangin‘ record label like a certified boss. He recently added Xzibit to his veteran roster and, next month, looks to release the anticipated Money Music, a collaborative concept album with his own lyrical henchman, Glasses Malone.
It’s refreshing to speak with G. Malone, really. While Glasses has embattled extensive release delays with his debut album, Beach Cruiser, he’s never lost sight of the bigger picture. Rather than rant about his plight, he rewrote the album three times, always focused on growing as a lyricist, soaking in the business tidbits that come with being signed to Cash Money and Hoo-Bangin’. Rather than growing increasingly bitter, he’s focused his energy on becoming increasingly better.
With Money Music on the immediate horizon, HipHopDX spoke with Mack 10 and Glasses Malone separately about Hoo-Bangin’s revival, the challenges of marketing an album in today’s retail environment, Beach Cruiser’s frequent delays and why above all else, lyricism remains most important.
HipHopDX: First, I do want to say that I’m excited about Money Music. I think it’s really good timing for both of you especially coming off the strength of Soft White with Mack 10 and with the frequent delays of Beach Cruiser. You guys sound good together on wax.
Glasses Malone: I’m going to be happy to finally get one in stores. It’s like a mothafucking marathon for an artist to get a CD in stores. So shit, I’m happy. I’ll take whatever. I’ll take it with him or whatever. It’s great for me. Matter of fact, shout out to Saigon, 'cause I already know his struggle. To see him come out [with Greatest Story Never Told], that was dope too. I’m just happy [Money Music] is finally coming out.
DX: What’s [Money Music] going to sound like? Who's on the production on the album?
Mack 10: These new kids called Drastic Legends. They did most of the whole album and we wanted to make it like that so the album would have a certain sound. It’s a concept record. The whole record is about hustling. It’s called Money Music; the entire record is just hustling. It’s a concept record so sometimes you’d like to make it have a certain sound.
DX: Is there a lot of storytelling involved? It’s a concept record sonically and within the theme. But are you going to be telling specific stories more so? Is it still going to still have diversity?
Mack 10: Yeah, it’s got both. It’s some Hip Hop on here, too. There’s some rapping on here and we’re telling stories and really just painting a picture. It’s a real concept record it’s kinda like the same approach I would've took with a Westside Connection record or something.
DX: The setup kind of feels like "The Boss and The Henchman." It’s kind of like the Hall of Famer and the all-star.
Glass Malone: That’s how it is in real life. We’re kind of like "The Boss and The Henchman." That’s our get-down. I’m a boss in my own right, but when I’m with Birdman and Slim [Williams] and them, I’m a henchman. With Mack , I’m a capo, feel me? So, I wanted to keep it just that, I ain’t want it to be nothing else.
DX: This is released through Hoo-Bangin’/Cash Money/Universal, right?
Mack 10: Just Hoo-Bangin’.
DX: I was curious about that just given [Glasses Malone’s] Beach Cruiser and I know [Hoo-Bangin’ and Cash Money] collaborate frequently. I wasn’t sure how this one was being distributed.
Mack 10: Yeah, Yeah. That’s because we just do it the way we want to do it. Baby and them is my homies so we don't really follow no certain rules as far as how stuff usually go. When it’s your partner getting down with you, you just do it however it’s fit to do it.
DX: What was it like working together? How was the chemistry in the studio?
Glasses Malone: You know what’s funny? All we do is talk about everything else but music. We don’t even talk about music. That’s why [on] the record, we don’t got a lot of rap records where niggas rapping about how good of a rapper niggas is. We’ve got music that’s really reflective of living that street and shit and like that. You know, still being a part of that life and parts of the life that we experienced and that’s pretty much the whole record. It ain’t really no records rapping about rapping. Pretty much street shit in general. All the shit we’ve been through and all the shit we’re going through.
DX: How’s it been watching G. Malone’s evolution? He’s done a lot of great work and you’re a major influence on that.
Mack 10: [Glasses Malone] was like, when I got him, he just needed a little bit of polish and I knew that if I threw certain shit to him he was going to be alright and he was going to be on his way. And that’s what I did. I knew he had all of the makings to be one of the greats one day. And since he had everything else, I knew that if I helped him out he’d get to where he’s going. He’s headed in the right direction right now.
DX: So we can look forward to that energy being translated onto the album?
Mack 10: It’s crazy! It’s crazy between me and him. Like, we understand each other. G is the kind of guy that I am. He’s really from the streets so we don’t play by no square rules and square ethics or none of that shit. It’s a good relationship.
DX: Glasses, I know you had to have gone through a lot of different emotions while making Beach Cruiser. This is your third time making it. You’ve done this a lot of different times.
Glasses Malone: Well, my music is nothing but a reflection of what’s going on. It’s forever shit, material and ideas for either Mack & Malone or Beach Cruiser. I try to stay away from rapping about some punk-ass problems I’m going through with having money and dealing with this shit. I always try to reflect on the shit that I deal with when I’m in the streets everyday because that’s something that everybody’s going to go through forever. So, I’ve made three different versions. I really could leak out a lot of the records. The only reason I made it three times was just growing lyrically over and over again. I keep growing lyrically. That’s why I keep remaking it because I’m so much better than I was. The way I’m rapping, the way I put bars together, how many times I’m rhyming in the same bar, how many times I can rhyme syllables. That’s why I keep redoing it and lyrically I’m just so much better than I ever was. I want to stay on top of my game lyrically. I want to keep getting better and better. That’s why every time somebody hear something like Drive By Muzik [they] are blown away by it. That’s why I keep updating Beach Cruiser. I almost feel like I need to do it again because like I’m starting on this White Lightning 2 and lyrically it’s better than everything. I’m just happy to keep progressing. I just don’t want to reach a ceiling.
DX: Do you feel like an outlier in that sense? You’re talking about how important lyrics are and it seems on shallow level -- when you look at rap commercially -- that lyrics are the least important part of the song. It seems like a lot of artists don’t even care about lyrics anymore.
Glasses Malone: You know what, people say that all the time and I always hear that. I don’t think that’s true. I mean, seems like a lot of rappers that have built swag, style and presence that are successful but they aren’t as successful as the people that are dope lyrically. If you look at Atlanta, everybody’s talking about who’s hot in Atlanta. And there are a lot of style niggas that come from there, but the lyricists are still the cream of the crop there. You’ve got the T.I.s. You’ve got the Outkasts. If Outkast put out an album, they’re going to outsell everything that came out. Period. When Ludacris puts out an album, it’s going to outsell everything that came out. Period. The top of Hip Hop will always be reserved for the elite. Period. If you’re not an elite lyricist, I mean, the top selling Hip Hop artists are all dope niggas: 2Pac. Eminem. Jay-Z. Outkast. The Notorious B.I.G. I don’t buy that shit. I truly believe lyricists and lyricism and being dope in general will always be the top of the shit no matter who’s hot at the time. It can be a million m'fuckers hot. There’s been a million m'fuckers hot since I’ve been growing up but the top, the elite part has always been reserved for the elite lyricists and the dope emcees. There’s nobody that can contest that. There’s no situation where somebody can say, “That’s not true in this situation.” Every situation that’s true.
DX: You mentioned in an interview in December 2010 with OzoneMag.com that being around Lil Wayne encouraged you to put the pen down. Did you stop writing? Are you going with a more train of thought approach now?
Glasses Malone: When I first started dealing with [Lil Wayne], dude is really talented. I don’t know if people can really tell. I think people know but I don’t think they really realize how talented that dude is. But when I watch him do it, the way it’s helped me -- I actually put the pen down two or three years ago -- that don’t mean I’m freestyling. That just means I’m writing the lyrics upstairs and what it allows me to do is, I’m not as wordy. It forces me to be wittier faster. When you’re writing with a pen, you’re writing to the end of the sentence. You’re writing from redline to redline. When you’re writing in your head, you’re writing to the music. You’re writing almost to a melody, to a flow. That’s what it’s allowed me to do. I haven’t penned nothing down in about three years, after about two years -- realistically two now.
DX: That’s some real analysis right there. For me personally, I appreciate hearing you describe it like that. Sometimes it feels like the art of emceeing is much farther away than it really is or where it always has to be. It doesn’t sound like there are a lot of emcees that really think about how to become better emcees the way they used to be when that used to be the standard.
Glasses Malone: Yeah, because everybody’s looking at the short success of people who aren’t emcees or who don’t consider themselves emcees. But they not looking at the fact that these people are far down in the totem pole. Me and my boys argue about that all the time! “Aw G, you rap too hard man. You see this nigga winnin‘ and he’s not that dope.” But I really think that lyricism is [the reason] why niggas like Crooked I can stay relevant without an album ever. Because that nigga is so nice you always have to listen to him. That’s why a nigga like Lupe Fiasco can come back after years and years and years and come back and have as much hype as he did when he first came out, if not more. Because at the end of the day, fuck all of the hype. When you get through all of the fuzz and all of the bullshit, lyrics is what sells. Period. Everything else don’t sell. Everything can sell. Lyrics sell. There’s always gonna be an elite. The top nigga, Jay-Z is always gonna be at the top. Eminem always gonna be at the top. Kanye West gonna always be at the top. T.I. always gonna be at the top. There’s niggas who’ve been rapping as long as Jay-Z that’s relevant but they not gonna sell as much as Jay-Z and I attribute that to just purely being nice. That nigga’s nice and when you’re nice and when you’re dope, that’s what this shit is built off of. People ain’t as dumb as everybody think they is.
Like I say, I want somebody to find something that contradicts that fact. The top of Hip Hop is reserved for nice niggas. Always has been. That’s why a nigga like Fabolous can keep coming back year after year because the nigga can rap. Nigga’s an emcee and emceeing is a for real sport. It’s like Scarface. Scarface can come out and sell 50,000-60,000 first-week today because the nigga’s dope. When you dope, you almost don’t even have an expiration date. Jay-Z, even though maybe the teenyboppers ain’t into him as much but Jay-Z gonna sell as long as he puts out rap records because the niggas good. He didn’t have a lot of commercial success early but he was selling a lot of records because he was just good. You can’t beat good emceeing. Everything else don’t even matter. You can have all of the swag, all of the energy, all of the charisma. You’ve got to be nice! You can make all the noise in the world and get attention and make money and make millions. But to be at that top slot of Hip Hop and be one of the top selling artist in the business, you name me somebody who’s a top selling artist in the business that ain’t nice. If you go over last year, you look at Drake. That nigga nice. Nicki [Minaj], she’s nice. Kanye West is nice. Jay-Z is nice. Eminem is nice. Swag rappers don’t even make records anymore. And you start talking about niggas doing Gold. You’ve got to be nice to go Gold. Name a nigga that’s not really a lyricist that’s selling 500,000-plus. Look at what Rick Ross doing. Lyricism, man, that nigga can rap. You can’t take it from him. Whether you like it, whether you like what he’s doing -- but hands down nobody can deny that he can rap. That niggas an emcee. He don’t need no muthafucking music. He can save half of his shit and get the same response from the crowd. That’s what emceeing is about. I always tell my little homies that I fuck with, “Turn off the beat, nigga. Say that shit to an audience, nigga. If they lose they mind then move with it. If they aren’t, no.”
DX: Is that what you’re preaching over at Blu Division?
Glasses Malone: That’s all I preach at [Blu] Division, Hoo Bangin‘. And Cash Money already know that so I’ll come in there with my A-game on. [But] when I talk to any nigga with Division that’s with us or Hoo Bangin‘, I tell them straight up, “If you can’t say that shit without no mufucking beat, you probably shouldn’t even ride it.” Sometimes you’ve gotta have a song that shows your style and charisma, but eight out of 10 songs, you need to be spitting.
DX: I 100% agree with you, especially when it comes to longevity. There’s no case of longevity with cats that can’t rap. Even though you still may have an MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice really skewing the sales charts, they didn’t have longevity. Then I think about the swag rappers that you just mentioned, and they have the internet going nuts and they sell more concert tickets than anything. But then there are other artists in California that are really making a lot of noise right now on the spitting principle. They may not have the sales to back it up, but I do feel like that energy is at the forefront of west coast music right now.
Glasses Malone: Like, for example?
DX: Well, like Fashawn for example. Blu for example. These are lyricists...
Glasses Malone: Oh like, Dom [Kennedy] and them. Dom, Blu, Fashawn. Yeah, but, that’s purely why niggas like them niggas get recognized. I’m from Watts. I’m from the city, you feel me? I’m from Watts, Compton, the whole area. They get so much attention period because they are nice. They ain’t got no gimmicks. Niggas don’t really know [them]. They don’t got no [street-backing]. I sold drugs so niggas kind of knew me before I started rapping. This is my same name that I got down in the streets with. Dom Kennedy, I heard of that nigga 'cause he was nice. Niggas like, “Yo, that nigga’s nice.” So you know, lyricism carries a long way. Blu, with all the noise he’s been making over the years is because he can rap. Period. Even bloggers wanna be a part of a nigga that’s nice. Everybody wants to be a part of a nice nigga because at the end of the day, that’s what Hip Hop is built off of. I don’t give a fuck about who’s coming in here trying to make a dollar. Hip Hop is built off of being witty and being nice with words. Period. And anybody else who isn’t will always be, not even second place but they’ll be third, fourth, fifth place to a nigga nice with words. Look at niggas like Nas, man. Nas don’t got to put out an album this year or next year. [If] Nas come back with an album next year, people will be like, “I’m buying it.” Nice niggas are gonna sell. It just is what it is. Niggas fight it but that shit’s the truth. And like I’m saying, the Top 5, that’s evident. You can’t deny none of them up there can rap.
DX: Where does someone like Odd Future fall? This new wave of LA kids that are everywhere right now. Are you familiar with Odd Future?
Glasses Malone: Yeah, yeah they’re from L.A. They’re from the other side of town. To be honest, I’ve only heard one song of theirs. I can’t really base it. But shit man, for them not to be pushing no gangsta line, them niggas are making all the noise in L.A. I think that music always had crazy genres and I think they’re just doing whatever they feel. And I think that’s another part of Hip Hop -- real Tribe Called Quest-ic. They ain’t to that extent, but Hip Hop didn’t never have a format. You didn’t have to have an album way back to do it. You didn’t have to have three verses. You didn’t have to have a chorus. You just had music and you were entertaining with words. That’s what emceeing, the emceeing part of Hip Hop was about and I think that people are getting back to those roots. You’ve got people that are coming in and just making any element of the song. You’re just making what you think is music and kind of part of the original roots of Hip Hop. A lot of people think that Hip Hop is dying. I think it’s just reborned. You look at groups like those and groups like The Cataracts, different people that are a part of Hip Hop but they just don’t conform to anything. They just make what they think is dope.
DX: Is it fair to say that Hoo-Bangin’ is having a revival right now? Your lineup is loaded. You got Richie Rich, The LBC Crew. You got G. Malone. Xzibit just announced in December on Lopez Tonight his next album is coming out with you. But you’ve always had a veteran approach to your label in the first place. Does this feel like a rebirth -- a changing of the guard -- for Hoo-Bangin’?
Mack 10: Yeah, only because this time around, my number one focus is on the business side of it. As an artist, I have fun. I have fun doing it but my focus is really on the business side of it. I guess you can call it that because I’m just constantly moving. I’ve got a good roster and everything lined up to just go nonstop. So, when you’re like that, you’re definitely going to get noticed and I guess you can call it [a revival].
DX: It’s Exciting to see. I’m excited to hear these projects. Another thing I’ve noticed is that you kinda seem like a -- dare I say -- a peace ambassador in a way these days. After all the Common stuff in the '90s, Cypress Hill in the '90s -- over the past 10 years you’ve stayed above the fray on the whole generational thing that was happening out west. You stayed way above the fray on the “kiss the ring” comments [by Ice Cube]. Is this a conscious shift? Is this just another representation on how focused you are on Hoo-Bangin’ and dropping banging music?
Mack 10: I ain't gonna say it was an act or nothing like that. It’s just the way it happened. I think that’s just how my growth had happen like in life period. If I thought like how I thought in the '90s and now it’s 2011 then, at that point, I wouldn't have showed any growth at all. Smart people show growth at some point. I think that’s all it was. I think I just grew up and me growing up naturally just took me in a different direction when it come to certain things.
DX: So whats your take on the whole generational thing -- the whole "old school versus new school" tension that was happening. Because when I think about it, a few years ago Snoop organized the Protect The West summit and under the same context, it’s kinda interesting how [another rift] happened so quickly.
Mack 10: I love the new generation. Only a sucker would hate on the new generation. How could you hate on someone else new? That’s like somebody that’s a sucker and they’re probably insecure about their position. I ain't insecure about my position at all and I love the new generation. New generation means there’s new money. It can’t stay the same all the time. I ain't got a problem with the new generation. I respect whatever movement they got going. If that’s what they doing and it’s cracking for them, working for them -- I'm cool with that because I'm sure at some point when I was 19 or 20 years old, the dudes that was before us didn't really understand what we was doing. But you had certain ones that would still get down with whoever was up and coming. Dudes like Eazy-E, niggas that kept it real like that, that’s who I patterned myself after -- somebody who approaches business with that kind of approach.
DX: You’ve been consistent on that too. You speak about how you don't understand how there could be any jealousy or protectiveness against a new generation of artists.
Mack 10: I really sincerely feel like that I'm not insecure. If I meet 10 hot rappers and all of them is 19 years old, shit I'ma think I hit the lottery. I'ma be happy. I ain't gonna have nothing bad to say. I'ma see how I can help the little homie.
DX: Yeah, you always throw that rope.
Mack 10: You got to. That’s how you keep us alive. It won't stay alive if you don't keep adding new pieces to it. You’ve got to keep it fresh. Anything will get old after a while. You’ve gotta redo it.
DX: Taking it back to the Protect The West summit a few years ago, was it effective?
Mack 10: I don't know how effective it was or whatever. If [Snoop] Dogg did it, he’s a G from out here so it’s cool. But I don’t know, man. This is Hoo-Bangin’, man. This is home of the New West [Laughs]. I support the New West. That might make some of my peers a little upset, but I really don’t give a fuck. That’s not me.
DX: “Go Big On Em” is one of my favorite tracks of yours, Glasses.
Glasses Malone: That’s crazy. That was supposed to be the original single on Beach Cruiser and “Certified.” That wasn’t even the regular version. The regular version had Mack 10 on the chorus. We went with “Haterz” because that’s what the label wanted to go with - not even Cash Money, but Universal. But that was the original single. MIDI Mafia and them were like, “Let’s just leak this shit out, dawg. This shit is hard.”
DX: They were smart to do that. That track goes hard.
Glasses Malone: That shit’s like three years old, you feel me? We work so hard. I work so hard. I’m just really starting to work hard. When people hear [Money Music], they’ll just get a dab of what I can do. The first track on [Money Music] is called “Everybody Gotta Go.” I did that from the same place as goon and boss for me and Mack but it’s like, it touched on the people that I was into when I was a kid. I used to be into Ice Cube. I used to be into Biggie. I used to even be into Slick Rick. I wasn’t around when his albums came out so much as I was listening to him later. Scarface is one of my favorite emcees. When people hear “Everybody’s Gotta Go” they’ll know that.
DX: Where’s Beach Cruiser right now?
Glasses Malone: Beach Cruiser is done. Right now, I’ve got a plan. I’ve got to [meet with Birdman] and we’ll chop it up, come up with a plan because everyone wants to get it out this summer.
DX: You and Mack 10 have talked a lot about how marketing is the most difficult part of making music right now. It’s difficult to get stuff in stores. It’s difficult to find the right plan that’s going to sell records because every album leaks. It’s just part of where the technological environment is right now. With Money Music, have you laid out the complete marketing plan? How are you looking to push this?
Glasses Malone: Really man, I ain’t gonna lie, as far as marketing goes for that record, I think we’re just gonna market with the music. The shit is just dope. You get to see what it is. Any of my stuff, I think that’s really one of my strong points is the creation of a project. I’m really good at creating a whole project. I’d leak Money Music, preferably. I’d leak that shit today, if it was up to me because I believe that when people hear something dope they want to support dope music. I think everybody know that when they get Glasses Malone and Mack 10 album, I know they’re expecting Gangsta Rap. They ain’t expecting no type of pop records. They ain’t expecting no type of muthafuckin hit singles. They’re expecting Gangsta Rap and that’s what we deliver with. So me and Mack was having an argument about that shit maybe about three weeks ago and I was telling him that shit could leak out and I don’t think that would stop us from selling one record. Because the people who download it and get it for free, they’re the people that’s gonna want to talk about it. And when people talk about that album, they’re gonna have to respect that it’s a dope ass album. It’s dope lyrically. It ain’t short stepping on production. We didn’t short cut on concepts and continuity. It was a thought out record that we took time and developed it. So I think music sells music.
DX: Does it ever seem like the people who download the leak and like it end up buying it anyway and the people who don’t like it end up not buying it? So it ends up coming back around to only the people who like the music end up purchasing it? Is there a positive angle to albums leaking?
Glasses Malone: You know what, I’m a business man and I am putting out a project. I feel like that was part of Hip Hop back in the day. I buy Hip Hop music everyday, everyday, but I remember when singles weren’t to sell singles, they were to sell albums. That was like late '90s-2000s and you would listen to a song from somebody, like a single marked the album. You put out a single and that was your way of saying, “Check this out. This is a good indication of what you’re going to get from this person.” And you gambled and you bought a whole album. When I first bought Eminem, when I first heard “I Don’t Give A Fuck.” I remember seeing that video on The Box and shit, when I was in the trap when I was slangin’, and I remember going to buy that CD and just thought that nigga was hard. Now sometimes an artist will put out a dope song and you’ll sleep on him because you start to think, “Well, I need to get ten more songs from this nigga before I buy his album,” instead of saying, ‘You know what, I like this song. Let me go buy his album. Let me go gamble on getting a dope artist.” I mean you can listen to a nigga’s single, pretty much, if the label did their job, and see what they’re about. When I put out “Certified,” for me, that was the perfect song. I didn’t even think it would be a commercial success like that, the way it did. I thought it was just a great song. And when we were getting twenty spins a week on Power 106, that was it. So when it went number one on the west coast; when it went number one at Power; when it went number one on a lot of stations I was just like, “Damn, that was a perfect indication of what you’re getting compared to the other singles which I don’t think those were great indicators of what you got from me.” But that’s when Birdman really got at me and sat me down and was like, “You need to just do Gangster Rap. If radio fucks with it, if they don’t, fuck it. We’re going out anyway. We got money over here. Don’t trip.” I was like, “Fo’ sho.” So, I think back then you had to gamble on more artists and you ended up getting better artists. You ended up finding people that you liked. Now you don’t have to do that. Now you just go to iTunes. I don’t even steal music. I don’t have to. If I liked a nigga song, then I just went and bought it. When I heard “H.A.M.,” [by Jay-Z and Kanye West] I just went and bought it for 99-funky-ass-cents. I think the record industry is killing itself, honestly.
DX: Mack, you’re approaching 20 years now. You’ve got nine albums, approaching 10 albums. What still surprises you about Hip Hop?
Mack 10: Of course now, everything is different. With the Internet now, everything is different. It still keeps going. We find a way to pull it off. Hip Hop is contagious. Once you catch it, you’ve got to have it. It’s addictive. You’ve just got to figure out a way to play the game now, you know? But this Mack & Malone record is kind of like one of them records probably like what “Chicken Hawk” would be today. It’s hard. It’s gritty. It’s grimy like that.
DX: How'd you get the name “Chicken Hawk”?
Mack 10: I don't know man, Chicken Hawk was one of my alter egos. If you know what a “Chicken Hawk” is, it kinda speaks for itself. I was one of the first dudes talking about that kinda stuff on a record. Now it’s real popular, you know. I'm liking it. I’m enjoying.
DX: Do you ever reminisce over that time in the mid-1990s? Your energy was different then. It seems like you are having fun now. But it always seemed like you were having a good time back then despite what the environment was like.
Mack 10: I reminisce on it sometimes. I’ll think back but I’m so focused in the future that it’s hard for me to focus too long on the past. You’ve got to get past that looking back. Muthafuckers will ride right by you while you’re looking back. I just try to keep it moving. That was me then. And this is just me now. It still is what it is. I can only rap about certain things. I ain’t good at too much nothing else. I can give it to you about whatever couple of subjects that I’ve been giving you the last how many years because that’s what I’m good at.