Two veterans of Northern California Hip Hop, Oakland's Yukmouth and Sacramento's C-Bo, released their third collaborative album this week. The two independent Rap stars team as the Thugz Lords to release Thug Money on Smoke-A-Lot/West Coast Mafia/RBC Records, furthering a lineage that dates back to the early '90s.
Speaking with HipHopDX.com last week, Yukmouth and C-Bo explained why Thug Lordz is more than another makeshift group collaboration. "Me and [C-Bo] are homeboys; we fuck with each other heavy, so [Thug Lordz] is more than just a group, it's a lifestyle," said Yukmouth on a three-way call with C-Bo. The veteran gangsta rapper originally known as "Cowboy" added, "I've been wanting to work [together] since I was first listening to Yukmouth, back in the day. He always had his own lil' type of spittery, so he's always been one of my favorite [emcees]. To do this album with him is a blessing on my side." Although the two early '90s emcees were from neighborhoods 80 miles apart, they were very much on each other's radars, from the early days of hood cassette tapes. "Hey was my competition in the hood," admitted Yukmouth. "Before I ever came out, niggas was puttin' me against you, Bo. [Laughs] Like he said, it's a lot and a privilege."
Asked about the first time the two met, C-Bo insisted it was 1994, as Yukmouth recalled dropping off some Luniz product. "You was up in the offices with Killa Tay and shit." Both icons laugh in remembrance of those days before the national recognition.
Although those 80 miles divide Sacramento and Oakland, both emcees insisted that the Thug Lordz show the rest of the west coast the importance of peace and collaboration. "We're showing unity, like how [rappers in the south] are doing. We been doin' that shit. It's just that the rest of the west coast gotta hop on board and team up and really use our talents," said Yukmouth. "Everybody is afraid to do the group shit or put hella people on one song until they go down south and [see] it." As far as why more left coast emcees don't work together, Yuk deduced, "West coast niggas won't [work together] 'cause there's so many egos. Me and Bo put away the egos. Hip Hop, period, that's how we do it." In the same year that saw Dr. Dre unavailable to work on N.W.A. brother Ice Cube's latest album, that may be a telling statement.
Another thing the duo touched upon was fellow veteran Spice 1. The former Jive Records star was involved in 2006's Thug Lordz album Thug Lordz Trilogy, but is notably absent on Thug Money. C-Bo explained, "Me and Yuk got that [strong] relationship. We all cool, but Spice was doin' his own thing. Me and Yuk are more together. He's stayed in L.A., I stay in L.A., you see what I'm saying? It was more about access." Yukmouth revealed that Spice 1, who has been actively releasing solo albums was difficult to reach. However, just as the sophomore release hinted upon, Spice was intended to be a group-member at one time. "We had to hunt Spice down. Spice was supposed to be part of the original Thug Lordz, the first album. We were supposed to be a group: me, Spice and C-Bo...He was goin' through his thing, so we completed the album without him. That's definitely a loved one though; we fuck with Spice. [However], the Thug Lordz is me and C-Bo."
In an era where a lot of emcees are claiming street activities, these two rappers have a history of incarceration, and come from neighborhoods that have long stood by them. Yukmouth asserted how the Thug Lords defy studio gangsterism, "You've got two niggas, from the block, spittin' that real music, you feel me? This is different 'cause this is believable. Some niggas spit that shit and it's not believable. They're from nowhere. We fuck with their minds like that, no matter what we're spittin' about." "Niggas can vouch for us from our hoods. I'm from the 'Ville, he from the Garden Block. Niggas can vouch for us."
Lastly, the often evasive C-Bo was asked about a landmark 1998 arrest and trial whereby the rapper's anti-police lyrics on his album Til My Casket Drops song "Deadly Game" reportedly broke a parole agreement that C-Bo would no longer rap against authorities, stemming from a 1997 arrest. The case was later thrown out after the lyrics were determined to be written before the agreement was signed. Looking back at that affect on Hip Hop, a jovial C-Bo said, "Shit. I went through that. It's already in the book. It's already written. That can never be an issue, it's a First Amendment right. They already tried me. They can't try nobody else, 'cause it's already been done." He was speaking to a new generation of rappers speaking out against authorities of all sorts. Yukmouth pointed to Hip Hop history as he said, "I don't see nobody goin' through the same shit [that] C-Bo went through. Nobody can say that shit but Luke Skywalker [of 2 Live Crew]. Period. Not even Luke, C-Bo went to jail! Luke just went to trial! It's a difference."
Asked why he thinks that Luke's famous 1990 and 1992 cases of obscenity are more publicized than his own, C-Bo referred back to his independent grind, the very element that's made him influential to artists-turned-label heads throughout the genre. "I just keep pushin'. I didn't have the right people around me to capitalize on that. I was doin' my independent thing. If I was signed to Def Jam or something, I'm pretty sure they would have capitalized off of that right there - or any of these major labels," he said. To C-Bo it was just about making more music, "I got out of jail and made Enemy of the State, and hit 'em with that one. Right back and kept it movin'." The movement led to six additional solo albums and nearly a dozen compilation and collaboration projects in the last 12 years.
As far as more material from the Thug Lordz, "Get used to it," asserted Yukmouth, of the two friends of the late Tupac Shakur. "We're dropping every year from now on. We got a joint venture with each other: Smoke-A-Lot Records and West Coast Mafia [Records]. Ain't no hands in the cookie jar, ain't no other mothafuckas, ain't no politics. That's what also held up the album: politics and bullshit. Now we're on point, and we're grindin' - two independent bosses gettin' it in."
Thug Money released this week on Smoke-A-Lot/West Coast Mafia/RBC Records