Producer Mike Mosley Recalls His Historic Work With 2Pac, E-40
Exclusive: The co-creator of Mobb music shares stories of 'Pac's near-collabo with Goodie Mob, 40's "other business" before Rap, and breaks some Nipsey Hussle news.
Mike Mosley may not be a name instantly recognizable to some Hip Hop heads. But the Bay Area-based producer’s name appears in the liner notes of some of the most successful releases from left coast artists unleashed during the west side’s reign atop the industry in the 1990s.
Speaking to HipHopDX via phone on Wednesday, (December 1st), the veteran beatmaker turned television producer broke down his history with two of northern California’s most famous Hip Hop exports: E-40 and 2Pac. Mr. Mosley concluded his lengthy, (but must-read for any die-hard ‘Pac fan), Q&A with DX by revealing some interesting information regarding the future of one of the new stars of the golden state, Nipsey Hussle.
HipHopDX: I wanna jump off the official Q&A by having you provide a history lesson for our younger readers by telling them who invented the "Mobb music" sound that the Bay Area rode on to national prominence in the ‘90s.
Mike Mosley: Well, basically how it started was there was a click of us: there was me, one of my business partners Sam Bostic, and then there was Studio Ton. So we were doing The Click’s music, and E-40, and Celly Cel and that whole [Sick Wid It Records] movement… And 40 and Celly Cel basically coined our style of music “Mobb music.” And then [that eventually] turned into Hyphy music… But [Hyphy] really was just danceable Mobb music… Actually Hyphy was an extension of me because it was [started by] Rick Rock, and Rick Rock was in my camp. He was in the whole Mobb music thing at first. His music was a little more upbeat, [so] then that turned into Hyphy. But originally me and Sam Bostic started the whole Mobb music thing, which is a slow, 808, sub-sonic, groovy, melodic sound.
DX: Let’s take it back to the very beginning… How long had you been making beats before you linked up with 40?
Mike Mosley: Um…maybe like in ‘92 or ’93 I had did a song, I had produced a guy named DJ Pimp… But, I hadn’t really been doing music that long before I got with E-40. So [he] was like my first [artist] I really started with…E-40, and then C-Bo.
DX: The years you’re mentioning seem off to me. I thought you did some stuff on that very first Click EP, Let’s Side, in 1990?
Mike Mosley: Yeah I did. That was in ’90?
Mike Mosley: Dude I ain’t – Man, pshh, it’s been so long I can’t even remember.
Mike Mosley: Dude, that was in ’90? I ain’t even realize that! I have to back it up. [Laughs] What! Yep, that’s right. Okay, first we did the Let’s Side EP. Then there was [E-40’s debut EP] Mr. Flamboyant [in 1991]. Then there was The Click album, Down And Dirty, [in 1992].
DX: You did stuff on Mr. Flamboyant?
Mike Mosley: I think I did a song called “Tanji” on that little EP.
DX: Were you a keyboard-based producer from the beginning, or had you started out sampling?
Mike Mosley: I had started out deejaying actually. And then I started messing around, doing keyboard-based playing… I would play the actual line, then I would have Sam Bostic come and replay what I did, because he was more of a musician. He came from the whole band thing [with Circuitry in the mid-‘80s]. He played all the instruments [on our productions]. So, I would play a line, then I would have Sam Bostic come in and spice my line up. And [then] I would add a line to it, and he would add a line to it. So it was a mixture of me knowing how to produce like a Quincy Jones or like a Dr. Dre: knowing to have somebody come in and give me a certain sound that I need that I couldn’t necessarily play it myself all the way. I would play it up to a certain point, and then I would hire this guy to come in [and be like], “Hey, play this right here.” Then he’d re-play it and funk it out.
DX: Were you and Sam already working together before you met 40?
Mike Mosley: Nah. I was with 40 [already], ‘cause me and 40 was like doing some – we was in [to] a whole ‘nother crime thing we was doing. [Laughs] We was doing other business. So,  happened to come by my house one day and he saw me with a keyboard… He was like, “Man, you do music?” I’m like, “Yeah, I deejay and do music.” So that’s when we first started doing the whole Let’s Side thing.
DX: I don’t wanna get you incriminated…
Mike Mosley: Yeah, we good. [Laughs]
DX: [Laughs] I didn’t know you knew 40 like that. Are y’all from like the same hood?
Mike Mosley: I mean, we from the same vicinity… Just popular street dudes in the town [that knew] each other.
DX: I wanna bring [the timeline] up a little bit – I was just listening to “Ballin Out Of Control” for the first time in a long time, and I can’t believe how well that distinct Mobb sound from nearly 20 years ago has held up.
Mike Mosley: That’s crazy, right? And also I was putting that MC Shan stuff in there too. I was lightweight sampling a little bit too back then. That was that deejay stuff I had in me from that old school era.
DX: “Sprinkle Me,” “Dusted ‘n’ Disgusted,” “The Story,” you had a grip of classic joints with E-40 in the mid-‘90s, so why did you and 40 pretty much stop working with each other after his Hall Of Game album?
Mike Mosley: You know what? I think…maybe because I started feeling like I may have needed a little more money or something but my pay [from E-40] kept staying the same. I just couldn’t keep getting the same pay when every album we’re achieving more and more. And the labels are wanting to keep you at a minimum wage rate, and I’m knowing my worth at that point. So I started going my own way and doing – like I did the TQ [They Never Saw Me Coming] project [and] it blew up. And then I just focused on producing other acts, because I didn’t have that much of a vested interest in that [E-40] project anymore. It had turned into business; it wasn’t passion like the first few albums that you were mentioning. [Those] were passionately done, and then it turned into business at that peak [of 40’s popularity]. And it had gotten to a point where wasn’t nobody really respecting on…cashing [me and Sam] out like that. So we was like, “Aw whatever. We ain’t trippin’. You got it figured out.”
DX: So have you and 40 been able to maintain a relationship?
Mike Mosley: Yeah, we have. We always stayed cool. We never fell out or nothing like that, at all. It’s good [between us]. It’s all love. That’s like my cousin. [But] we just hadn’t really did too much work [after the money issues] like I said. I went my way, and he kept doing his thing, so I kinda like – I was elsewhere, I wasn’t around no more. I just moved on.
DX: One more 40-related question: Did you feel like you got bit when ‘Pac’s people flipped the same Bruce Hornsby sample for ‘Pac’s “Changes” that you had already made known to the Hip Hop nation via 40’s “Things’ll Never Change”?
Mike Mosley: Uh…I felt like it was wack. I just felt like that after 2Pac died – They tried to come and get his core producers. They came and got me. And that’s when I did the “I’m Gettin Money” thing. But it’s just, it turned too corporate. It fell in the hands of somebody who really didn’t know what ‘Pac really would’ve wanted. It just turned into a bunch of commercial Pop-type producers. It fell into their lap. And ‘Pac would not have even liked that. But, those Pop producers were connected by the hip with [Interscope Records]. So of course they’re gonna throw who they feel they key producers is the $50,000 and have them produce the same thing that I was doing. Yeah, I wasn’t really feeling it. I ain’t really trip, but I recognized what it is. It’s just corporate business and whoever they’re connected to…[they’re] gonna get the jobs [remixing 2Pac’s tracks] first.
DX: Let’s take it back on the ‘Pac tip, when and how did you meet 2Pac?
Mike Mosley: I met 2Pac in…like ’93, ’94 at Jack The Rapper. That’s when I first met him. He already had known about me because of my C-Bo [single, “Liquor Sto’”], and one of his favorite songs was Celly Cel’s “Bailin’ Thru My Hood.” And [later] he was saying when he was in jail [in 1995] he was listening to C-Bo’s Gas Chamber. So when I had met him at Jack The Rapper – one of my friends…he had introduced me to ‘Pac ‘cause he worked at [the] airport and he’d always see ‘Pac at the San Francisco Airport coming in and out. And so he knew ‘Pac. And so he introduced me to 2Pac, and I was like, “Man, ‘Pac, I wanna do something wit’chu. I know I can get a platinum plaque if I do something with you.” He was like, “Man, Mike Mosley! Aw man, I love that ‘Bailin’ Thru My Hood.’ Man, I love that C-Bo… Let’s get down.” So we exchanged numbers. And, a couple months later he came to the Bay and he had called me and told me to come meet him at the hotel, bring him some tracks. And I took him [the] “Heavy In The Game” track, and he wrote to it on his way back to L.A. And then he flew me out [to L.A.] the next day, and then he recorded “Heavy In The Game,” and then we recorded “Can U Get Away.” So ever since then, we would get down. When he went to Rikers Island he would call me and [be] like, “Man, I want you to do the Outlawz stuff. I need you to do some tracks.” He just kept me involved no matter what. I turned into one of his favorite producers.
DX: I recently interviewed Sir Jinx and he recalled for me the story of he, Kool G. Rap and ‘Pac riding around together during the ’92 L.A. Riots while ‘Pac was bustin’ his gun out the sunroof of Jinx’s car. [Laughs]
Mike Mosley: [Laughs]
DX: [Laughs] So I wanted to ask if you too have any crazy-ass ‘Pac story you could share with us?
Mike Mosley: I mean, I got a couple different stories… When we were doing the Me Against The World album that was one of the only times where it was just me and him by ourselves. Any other time it’s like crowds and crowds of people. But [for our sessions] it’s like me, him, and maybe two, three other people – no big entourage thing. But he was just like trippin’ off of the whole Janet Jackson wanting him to take the AIDS test [during Poetic Justice], and him talking to Madonna, or being up around Madonna or something. He was hanging out with her. [Laughs] I was trippin’ off of that. But that was one of my funner times when it was just me and him and we [would] just talk, and [he shared with me how] kinda depressed and down he was that the chick had accused him of rape. He was feeling wrongly accused and he was kinda like in a somber, I know I’m fin to go to jail-type mood - they let me down-type thing. But I think the craziest thing was um…’Pac didn’t really go too crazy. There wasn’t too much crazy stuff when I was around him.
DX: He never came to the studio one day [and] kicked in the door with an AK in his hand or nothing like that? [Laughs]
Mike Mosley: Nah, it wasn’t too – I don’t know what it was, I guess he felt like at home or comfortable. He was relaxed. You know how a person act when they relaxed, they can come and let their guard down-type of thing ‘cause you around certain people that got you? I think it was more so that. He felt at one with us. When Bay Area cats came around him it was a whole different thing. He knew he was around good people that had his back. So, he never wyled out when I was around.
DX: There is another story that I think you can share with us. You were there with ‘Pac when he recorded “Hit ‘Em Up,” correct?
Mike Mosley: Yes, I was there that night… Actually, I got some video footage from that night [Writer’s Note: see above]. I don’t know how I got in the Death Row Records studio with a camera, because they wasn’t letting nobody in there with nothing. But like I said, when it was the Bay Area cats [it was] a whole different vibe… I probably got there at like two or three in the morning. I had got lost and we ended up getting there [at] two or three in the morning and he was just starting [to] record “Hit ‘Em Up.” So everybody was all pumped up, hyped up… It was in the heat of the battle at that point. So he was playing it to us, was laughing and joking. We was like ready for war at that point. [And] I had Goodie Mob come – good friends of mine. And Left Eye was there… It was more of a fun thing. It wasn’t really like a angry type of [vibe in the studio]. And then we did my song, the “Good Life.”
DX: And you said you were the one who brought in Goodie Mob, were you planning on doing something between Goodie Mob and 2Pac?
Mike Mosley: Nah, it’s just that I had a good relationship with my dude Bernard Parks, their manager at the time. So I had knew them from me going to Atlanta… And they were in town for some type of show or something and I called ‘em. And ‘Pac had wanted to meet ‘em, so I’m like, “Hey ‘Pac, you mind if Goodie Mob come through? They wanna meet you.” So he was like, “Man, have ‘em come through.” So I hit ‘em and told ‘em to come through. That’s all that really was. I wasn’t really planning on doing a song [with 2Pac and Goodie Mob] – even though it woulda [eventually] translated into that. But like I said, it was already so late in the night. It was already like 3, 4 in the morning. And he had already did “Hit ‘Em Up,” then we did “Good Life,” and then he kinda got burnt out after [that].
DX: I wanna go back about a couple years [before that “Hit ‘Em Up” session] to the Me Against The World sessions. Why isn’t the timeless “Can U Get Away” held in the same regard in ‘Pac’s catalog as “Keep Ya Head Up” and some of his other female-friendly classics?
Mike Mosley: You know what? I kinda think it’s like, not really a conspiracy but I think it’s…because at one point it was a toss up between “Dear Mama” and “Can U Get Away.” It was a toss up between those two being the single. “Dear Mama,” it did have more legs but “Can U Get Away” was just as equally good as far as in a different category for the women. [It was a song for] battered women… So, I really don’t know [why “Can U Get Away” was never released as a single], but like I said, it seems like it’s to show favoritism [to certain producers] sometimes. Then ‘Pac went to jail after the fact, so he couldn’t really push for [that song to be a single]. He couldn’t really go crazy on [Interscope Records] like he normally would.
DX: You ever seen the video footage of that interview he did from [prison] where he’s got on like the brown t-shirt and he’s listening to the Me Against The World tape and he’s singing “Can U Get Away”?
Mike Mosley: Nah, I didn’t see that.
DX: Yeah, you could tell that was one of his favorite joints.
Mike Mosley: Right, definitely. It was. He loved all of my stuff. He made sure – Even after he died, it’s kinda weird, I was on two more albums after he died. He made sure that I was on his albums. When we was doing All Eyez On Me it was like, “Man, Mike, I’m in L.A. I’m here, why you up there in the Bay? You need to come down here and work with me. Come get down. What are you doing? Why you up there?” So that’s when I ended up moving to L.A. When we were working on [the] All Eyez On Me album it was like 30 or 40 of us in the studio. And [one time] Johnny J was on the drum machine and on the keyboards and stuff, and so ‘Pac was like, “Johnny J get up, move out the way, let my dude Mike Mosley [work]. He fin to bless us with this beat right now.” And [so] that’s when I grabbed Rick Rock and we went over there and did “Tradin’ War Stories” and “Ain’t Hard 2 Find.”
DX: You know I gotta ask if you got any unreleased ‘Pac stuff stashed away in the vault?
Mike Mosley: I know, man… [But] it’s like, everything I did with ‘Pac, he used. There’s one other song that he didn’t use, and I think it was a song with Marvaless and C-Bo… I don’t know where that is, that’s lost in the shuffle… But every song [besides that one] that I did, I couldn’t even do nothing – we couldn’t have nothing on ice, because every single song I did he’d release. We were never working enough to where we could stack up on so many songs. And I’m sure [his mother] would’ve used ‘em anyway. Like I said, it’s only one [that hasn’t been released]. But I’ve had acapellas sent to me for remixes. But, that [remix] stuff is out probably by now: “Tearz Of A Clown” and some other stuff.
DX: One last production for ‘Pac you did I gotta ask about is one you already mentioned, “I’m Gettin Money.” Did you do the keyboard-heavy version on the R U Still Down? album or the version with those hard drums and the sample [that was originally done] for the Thug Life album?
Mike Mosley: I ain’t even heard the one on the Thug Life album… I did the heavy keyboard [with the] bassline album [version of the song].
DX: Wow, you did that one?
Mike Mosley: Yeah, the [starts humming beat to the version on the R U Still Down? album].
DX: That’s crazy. That’s a ugly-face track, ‘cause that’s the face you make when you listen to that ‘cause that beat is disgusting. [Laughs]
Mike Mosley: Man! That was one of my favorites. And you know how [I] did that? That was straight off of a acapella… I did it off of a two-inch [tape], and just created a track around that acapella of 2Pac’s.
DX: So they brought you in – this is after ‘Pac passed – to remix it for the [R U Still Down? album]?
Mike Mosley: Right.
DX: So just so I get the timeline right, you didn’t do anything for the Thug Life album, the first thing you did with ‘Pac was for the Me Against The World album?
Mike Mosley: Yeah, Me Against The World. [But] I did some stuff for Thug Life [after their album dropped], but I don’t know if they used that or not. And then I was working on the Outlawz, but they were called Dramacydal at the time. I did a lot of little things for them… I don’t know what happened to that stuff. I think [Death Row Records] dropped them, [and] ‘Pac was gone so he couldn’t [be there to] control the ship…
DX: Just out of curiosity, ‘cause I know Johnny J was like his main man, but was he talking to you at all about maybe coming into the squad a little bit more – for like Makaveli Records? Like, trying to bring you more in-house.
Mike Mosley: Uh, yeah. When I ran into him…right before we went to go to – I think we were going to the “California Love” video shoot is when we re-connected [after 2Pac got out of jail]. I think that’s when he was basically telling me to move to L.A. and come get down wit’ him over there at Death Row. Not like come join the squad or nothing like that. He didn’t formally say that, but that’s basically what he was saying, [that] I need to move to L.A. and just be down there. But I’m the type that I really ain’t trying to impose and be letting nobody have to take care of me like that, ‘cause I’m such a one-man hustler myself. [So] I wasn’t trying to be spoon-fed like that, even though I could’ve, and sometimes I should’ve been like that. [But] I’m not no groupie, hanger-on type of dude. [It was just] you my homeboy [and] I’ma come and get down wit’chu.
I don’t wanna appear to be like I’m just tagging along or just hanging on your coattails like that. Like I could do that with Floyd Mayweather. That’s my dude. I could do that with a lot of people that are really friends of mine before they blew up. Like, [Too] Short wanted me to move out to Atlanta when he first went. And that’s one of the times I wish I had a did that – swallowed my pride and just hung out, and just been up underneath [him], chillin’. I coulda did that back in the early ‘90s, mid-‘90s.
DX: Speaking of the ‘90s, I would love to keep choppin’ it up with you about arguably the greatest decade in Hip Hop but we both gotta get back to 2010. So let’s go on ahead and wrap this thing up by getting a rundown of all the music and film projects you currently have in-the-works?
Mike Mosley: Well what I’m doing right now is I have a artist by the name of D Buck. He’s like [more of a R&B and] Pop artist – what fits radio format right now… And I just had Cognito. We had him signed. He was one of my artists we had got signed over there to Strange Music. He’s no longer there, but he did one album over there and now he’s dropped.
And I have some TV things I’m working on. I have about 15 reality TV shows already shot in-the-can with a lot of celebrities. I got Gabrielle Union on a celebrity makeover show… I have a 310 Motors show that I’m doing, something with this guy named Mike Merengue. And T.I. and Floyd Mayweather’s in it. I have like a lot of celebrity-driven T.V. shows. Brian Hooks [from High School High and 3 Strikes] is one of my business partners in that whole venture. We’re gonna be launching our own video on demand channel pretty soon here.
I’m just basically trying to compile everything [I do media related]. I’m trying to include everything, ‘cause you have to do everything to sell records now. You gotta give ‘em a TV show, you gotta give ‘em a video, gotta give ‘em a CD, gotta give ‘em a t-shirt, gotta give ‘em a poster. So I’m trying to [create] a full package to give people… It’s not even the music industry anymore, it’s the entertainment industry.
DX: Is this TV stuff why your music production credits seemed to fade in number over the past decade?
Mike Mosley: Yeah, it’s partially that. And [it’s] partially me not networking and being out [there], because all of the traffic moved to Atlanta. All of the traffic moved down south. [And] you gotta be around these people, you gotta know these people to get on [their] projects. You gotta be constantly hittin’ A&R’s off. But there’s so many people hittin’ ‘em off it’s ridiculous. So it’s kinda like a rat race. It’s so much work that I was just like, “It’s too many people standing in line over here, let me go over here where it ain’t nobody standing in line and let me go ahead and create my own line and do this TV thing.” I have a lot of connections in the whole TV world… And I could always do music. That’s easy to me. Plus with the downloading thing, it became no more money [in producing music].
DX: That’s true. I just think – especially after listening to “I’m Gettin Money” again today for the first time again in a long time – the west coast needs that.
Mike Mosley: Right. Speaking of which, I’m sitting right here with Nipsey Hussle. I’m at this little car lot thing.
DX: You gonna do something [together]?
Mike Mosley: Yeah, I’m talking to him about it. He [was] just giving me the whole rundown about his whole Epic [Records situation]. So I’ma try and work on something with him.
DX: Yeah, that’s the dude right there to do it with.
Mike Mosley: Right. That’s what I was just telling him. I’m like, “Man, you got a lot of [buzz] on you.” He say he’s fin to go ahead and do his thing independently right now.