On 2002’s “Life With No Crime,” Tennessee’s Haystak summed up the seeming struggle a fatalistic Hip Hop generation has with adapting to adulthood by insightfully noting, “I thought of growing up, but never growing old.”
Almost every wide-eyed youngster envisions what their life will be like at 21, but very few give real thought to life at 41. And so even as Hip Hop culture creeps up on its 40th birthday (November 12, 1974 for the unaware), it remains stuck in what Nas would note as its “2nd Childhood,” defiantly refusing to face the reality and responsibility of aging.
But even gangsta rappers grow up. And there’s no one more familiar with that reality than Kurupt. A couple years older than Hip Hop itself, one-half of Tha Dogg Pound has matured far past his days of angrily “Callin’ Out Names” and recklessly risking his life in the time-honored tradition of ironically trying to prove your manhood by immaturely declaring that you “Just Don’t Give A Fuck” about anybody, especially yourself.
And it was with that air of growth that Kurupt got his grown man on with HipHopDX and engaged in one of the deepest conversations of his career. Before breaking down his personal progress, the left coast lyricist addressed his DX detractors, as well as youngsters who “don’t know no better” about this middle-aged culture we call Hip Hop.
Also, remember to check for Kurupt Presents Penagon Rydaz drops October 4th
HipHopDX: I don’t wanna start on a dour note, but since today, [September 13th], is the 15th anniversary of [Tupac’s] passing, I wanted to get any thoughts you might have in remembrance of the man who anointed you “Young Gotti.”
Kurupt: When I think about Tupac, the first thing I think about is that first day he came home [from prison]. I didn’t believe he was home, so Daz [Dillinger] told me to come to the studio. Daz hit me in the morning and was like, “Man, ’Pac home, he at the studio right now, at Can-Am [Studios].” And I’m like, “Yeah, right.” Then I’m excited, and I’m going there to go see, and when I walked into the studio he looked at me and – Me and ‘Pac always was cool, and we always was close, but when he seen me right then and there, it was just a different feeling. We always been close like family. Every time we went to Atlanta back in the days, we used to go to ‘Pac’s house. He used to live out in Atlanta, and we’d go to ‘Pac’s house when it was snowing and all that. Every time we hit Atlanta when he lived in Atlanta, and every time we seen him in the streets [it was love]. But this was different, he looked up and he said, “Kurupt!” And he came over to me and he gave me that hug and it was just like a different ‘Pac. It was a different feeling; it was a different closeness.
And then after that, he changed our work ethic. We stopped playing around in the studio. We started really concentrating on making certain kinda records. It used to take us a whole day and we’d only lay a verse, and be just messing with the music. And then after ‘Pac got there, he taught us [that] we should be making like about four or five of these songs, and just keep it moving. It just brings back memories like that on how my whole work ethic right now, to this day, was brought to the table by ‘Pac, and how that changed my life. And when I left Death Row [Records], it was that work ethic that helped me make Kuruption and helped me make [Tha] Streetz Iz A Mutha and helped me make Space Boogie (Smoke Oddessey) and every record that I made today. ‘Cause without that, I wouldn’t have that get up and go. If it wasn’t for ‘Pac, I tell you the real, I wouldn’t have that get up and go.
DX: While we’re taking it back to the “Check Out Time” days, I gotta ask about this N’Matez project. I understand this formation happened while you were on tour with Snoop Dogg performing Doggystyle, so y’all were obviously already in retro mode. But why the decision to revisit the Death Row days by calling y’allselves the N’Matez; why not come with something new for 2012 instead of revisiting 1992?
Kurupt: ‘Cause we’re not new, we’re originals. You understand me, man? And, we’re not mad at not being new. We love who we are. We not one of those people who [are like], Oh, I gotta come new in order to win. We don’t give a fuck about winning. We are the original inmates around this muthafucka, mayne. And that’s what represents us; that’s how we got into this game. That’s who we are. “Stranded On Death Row” [from The Chronic] was one of the records that was vital in me, RBX and [Lady of] Rage’s career as artists. ‘Cause [Snoop] Dogg was already on everything, and this was our opportunity to say what we mean and mean what we say. This was our opportunity to shine.
So Daz wanted to bring back an original formula – embrace who you are, don’t change your shit up. This ain’t about selling records and all the rest of that superficial shit, this is history. This is real, to us. So, yeah, we sticking to what’s real, and what’s real to us is the history of Death Row and what we were a part of. Like, how can we not appreciate that because everybody wants some new shit? Well, if that’s what they want, cool. There’s plenty of new shit out there for ‘em, don’t you think? [Daz] was like, “Shit, man, let’s take it back to the grain of things. We the inmates, that’s who we are. The more we try to not be who we are, the more we keep failing in this game … because we are chasing this other shit instead of [being like], Hey, look man, let’s just be who we are for a change and knock off all this bullshit, worrying about whether records are gonna sell and putting out records strictly to sell. That ain’t the way we started off, and that definitely shouldn’t be the way that we end.”
DX: I asked that question because when DX put up its piece announcing the N’Matez project the immediate comments to it were from what I presume were younger posters taking shots at y’alls age and writing things like “it isn’t 1993 anymore.” I gotta ask because Hip Hop seems to be having a hard time growing up: Is there an age limit on spittin’ raw rhymes; can you be too old to lyrically gangbang?
Kurupt: Never. That’s because these young kids are superficial. These young kids, they don’t know what Hip Hop is. Hip Hop is something that you do regardless. You work at McDonald’s and can’t wait to get home to write a new rhyme …. It’s something that you do regardless of whether you have a deal or not. And it shows in what you’re doing.
These guys nowadays – and it’s not disrespect to ‘em, because I love all their music. I love where they’re taking Hip Hop. I’m not really mad that everybody’s enjoying themselves and dancing and having fun, ‘cause that’s what Hip Hop is about, it’s about doing what you love through the mic. These people like to make people party and dance, and that’s what it’s supposed to be. And what we like to do is rock the mic; we like rhymes. We not into too much of the dancing and all the rest of that type of shit. We are definitely into the party though. But, we not into making records like the new people are. We make our own type of records and we do ‘em for one reason only, which is to have fun the way we like to have fun. We like rockin’ rhymes. We like hardcore rappin’. We like Gangsta Rap. We like to make story raps. That’s what we like to do. The young folks don’t like it, more power to ‘em. [But] that’s not gonna stop us from doing what we do best, ‘cause if I didn’t have a deal, I’d still be rockin’. I’ma be 90-years-old still rappin’. As long as I can breathe, I’ma be rappin’. I am an emcee, I’m not a rapper, man. I’m an emcee; I was born for this shit. I used to fuckin’ not do school work and write raps in school. I didn’t write raps to get me a record deal and to win, it was everybody else who said you’re good enough to get a record deal …. I was like, “I don’t give a fuck, just give me the mic! That’s all I want.”
So, no disrespect to the youngsters, they’re supposed to do that because they don’t know no better. They don’t know what Hip Hop is basically about. They’re uneducated to why people rap. Their version of rapping is to make money and sell records. Our version of rapping is to – We had the era of time in our minds when we was young that we went from it was a hobby, to we wanna make money now, to we wanna get rich. Now we’re back to the essence of what we do; we just wanna rock. We just wanna rap, we just wanna have fun, we wanna get on the mic and we just wanna make records, man.
DX: And when are y’all planning to drop that Stay of Execution to show the youngn’s how it’s done?
Kurupt: We on tour pushing this Doggumentary, which is Snoop’s new album that’s out right now, and we’re gonna knock that down first before we concentrate totally on the N’Matez. But, me and Daz and all of us, we actually just wanted to make a record and show people what it is, get their responses on it and see if they’ll enjoy it, as well as us enjoying the fact that we’re back together doing it as a team. Snoop put us back together. Snoop’s back with Dr. Dre. D.O.C.’s over there with Dr. Dre. My brother, Roscoe, is over there with Dr. Dre. And, we’re back as a team, as a whole between Aftermath [Entertainment] and Doggystyle [Records]. Everybody is together as one now. And we’re just enjoying ourselves right now.
DX: You mentioned the good doctor, you think he’s gonna lay down something for the N’Matez? You think he’ll make it a full reunion?
Kurupt: Definitely. I think that we’re gonna show and prove first … and getting it to a point where [Snoop] Dogg is ready for the N’Matez. And then when he’s ready for it, we gonna take it to Dr. Dre as well. And yeah, we gonna put the full team on the N’Matez. I mean, anything else would be uncivilized. [Laughs]
DX: [Laughs] In addition to the N’Matez you got a grip of other group projects in the works I need to get some updates on, starting with the HRSMN. Are you, Canibus, Ras Kass and Killah Priest still coming with a full-length?
Kurupt: Definitely. Right now I’m on the road with Dogg, and Ras Kass is just stacking up slappers for the HRSMN project. We already knocked down about eight songs. HRSMN is definitely in effect. Right now, like I said, I’m on the road with Dogg, so we ain’t really gonna be able to lock down until first of the year for HRSMN. Ras Kass is also on the road. And so is Canibus. And so is [Killah] Priest. So we decided to give ourselves a little bit of space to knock out the things we gotta knock out now – these obligations – and then first of the year our first obligation, and main concentration, is gonna be the HRSMN.
DX: That’s saying something about all of y’all … that something that’s been in the works forever people are still asking about.
Kurupt: Yeah … we got ageless music. Our shit is ageless. It’s not for the youngsters, and it’s not for the older people, it’s for people that like our music. And that’s what it’s about. So next year, I’ma be loading up with about a good four projects, of these groups that we put together as well as my solo shit. We coming with the N’Matez next year, we coming with 1st Generation next year, we’re coming with HRSMN next year. I got me a Brazilian group called One Nation … with me, Jazzy Jas and Swagner. So I got something that’s strictly for South America coming out next year. Next year is gonna be a hot year.
DX: What about the itinerary for the rest of ’11? ‘Cause you got even more stuff on deck: The Academy [compilation], Y.A...
Kurupt: Yessir. Academy dropped today. As we speak, The Academy is out right now. Me, Raekwon, Jadakiss is on there, Styles P is on there, [Method Man & Redman] gave us a great intro to the album. M-Eighty and Terminal 3 put they heart and soul into that record. And, between Terminal 3, M-Eighty, Penagon and Bonzi Records – which is a company that I merged with [founded by producer] J. Wells. That’s my little brother. So between all of that, and the Penagon album [dropping October 4th], we’re really moving pretty strong, man. We’re having a good time. And that’s what it’s about, more than selling 18 million records and all the rest of that. ‘Cause I got cheese. I gets my royalties, man. And I gets my publishing, man. So in the cheese department, I ain’t gotta worry about nothing for the rest of my life! Now it’s back to the fun of it. And that’s what I’m loving most.
DX: What I would love, personally, is a Streetz Iz A Mutha II. I know the sequel thing has gotten a little played, but what’s the chances of you adding another chapter - ?
Kurupt: You know sequels have never gotten played, man. Let me tell you this: one thing about this game is there’s nothing new under the sun and you can do what you want. The people who don’t accept it, you’re always gonna have them. You cannot let them dictate the way that you run your life. ‘Cause if you don’t enjoy it, then how can anybody else? So you gotta understand, today’s society is made up of people who step on people’s backs to get their point across or to win in the game. All these people with these comments and everything, these are people who do not like – whoever they’re talking about bad, they just don’t like their situation or music. But that’s not the end of that person’s life or career, because these people don’t like it. You’re not making it for them, you’re making it for those who do like it.
So, I don’t see a problem with a Streetz Iz A Mutha II. Me personally, I can see myself doing that. ‘Cause it’s never gonna get old to do what you love. I could see that right there. I think I’ma drop me one more [album first before that] of a different thing, ‘cause I got something I want the world to hear from me - seeing a different me, different ways that I’m living, this mature, grown G shit that I’m on … traveling the world, [in the] Bahamas at The Atlantis and Cancun, Mexico trips. Snoop and us is traveling the world, doing what we love. This new grown man that’s out here now is super superb on the mic. My mic is an axe now; I’m just axe murdering muthafuckas right now. So yeah, I got that I’m gonna throw to and then I think I’ma go straight back to the streets and I think I will do Tha Streetz Iz A Mutha II. I’m glad you said that.
DX: I appreciate that. I know what you’re talking about [with] the grown up G-Funk though. I got that vibe from listening to [your] 420 Mixtape, and Soopafly’s new album, DJ Quik’s latest album …
Kurupt: Soopafly’s [Best Kept Secret] album is off-the-chain. Me and DJ Quik jumped up in there [with our grown up G-Funk projects too]. And also next year, we will be working on our next album together, DJ Quik and Kurupt. Every year me and DJ Quik are gonna drop us one of these slizzappers!
DX: You got that grown up side, but I definitely want angry Kurupt back. [Laughs]
Kurupt: I ain’t even gonna lie to you, it’s hard to be angry when you’re not angry. … It’s just, I’m on such a different page. But I know people love that part of Kurupt. My thing is really based upon my real life, it’s not based upon making something to get a dollar. I’m not a sell-out nigga, never have been. And I love the fact that everybody loves that part of Kurupt, but I’m a father now, I’m a grown man. I’m into nicer things … I’m into good music. And, you know, Kurupt ain’t angry like that.
That certain vibe that I had with Streetz Iz A Mutha, I was back to gangbangin’ and I was back into a real solemn – a real low state, angry and upset and pissed. And that’s something that I had promised to keep myself away [from]. Now if people don’t like that, and that’s all they want from Kurupt, then they don’t want the best for me. And I would prefer them to go and get somebody else’s music.
DX: I did hear a little bit of agitation from Kurupt on “Questions” from Streetlights. When are we gonna get an “Answers” joint to address those queries …?
Kurupt: You know, I never thought about that one before. You got me on that one. [Laughs] I never thought about answering “Questions.” But you know what, I kinda got something in the works that I’m working on that kind of fits what you’re talking about. “Questions” really was created because of a movie I had about two twins. … I just made [the song] about my life. That’s what me and Terrace [Martin did for the song]. But I got a movie that me and Terrace is putting together that basically is based upon that video, with the two twins. You got the twin that’s the boss and does all this negative shit, and then you got the other twin who, he’s just the regular nigga who everybody loves. And they kinda get into it, because this twin is trying to clean up the streets. The other twin is the one that’s fuckin’ up the streets. … And so, that’s really gonna be the answers to “Questions,” because that’s what the whole concept of that [video] was. So, when they get a chance to see this straight-to-DVD film that me and Terrace is gonna put together, they’ll get all the answers they need.
Kurupt Presents Penagon Rydaz drops October 4th on iTunes, Amazon and all digital retailers