Right around the time the national Hip Hop audience was being introduced to a place called Compton thanks to Eazy E and N.W.A., a new crew from the CPT were making their introduction to the world while strolling along some railroad tracks.
“That was our first video, we was 16-years-old, man,” recalled Tha Chill of Compton’s Most Wanted recently to HipHopDX of the late ‘80s visual for “This Is Compton.” “Black-and-white, [MC] Eiht with the Jheri curl, I was about 90 pounds or something like that. [Laughs]. I’m thankful for being able to do that video back then because that part of Compton don’t even look like that no more, it’s all type of shit over there now – we got the Compton Center, we got the casino. So, just to see that piece of land right there, with the train tracks and all that, it’s real vintage, that’s real O.G. right there for us.”
“That was the first song that we ever recorded in the studio, me and Eiht with DJ Slip,” further recollected the emcee heard alongside future west coast legend MC Eiht on C.M.W.’s seminal track. “We was raw back then, with the all black on [in the video]. You look and it’s hot as hell out here. It was hot as hell that day, and we got on all black and some plastic gang bang coats. [We were] out there burning up, but we trying to look hard for the video. [Laughs]”
Fast forward 20-plus years and that then 90-pound teenager is now a well-respected west coast veteran who’s still releasing new quality music. Having recently signed a joint venture deal with industry insider Chad Kiser’s Hoopla Media Group for Chill’s B.J.I. (Bump Johnson Incorporated) label, the dual producer/rapper is preparing for the February 23rd release of Chillafornia.
The album is led by the single “Have Dat Money Rite” featuring the legendary westside spitter Chill grew up right across the street from, MC Ren.
“Oh yeah, I do real music, mayne,” replied Chill when asked if those were live instruments one is hearing on the pimpish production. “That’s me playing all the music except for the bass. My homeboy A.J. is on the bass. I play every instrument born, mayne.”
The latest solo effort from the self-taught multi-instrumentalist (keyboards, drums, guitars, horns, etc) will sport a less laidback second single entitled “Squeeze Off And Let One Go” featuring King Tee, Lil ½ Dead and Bokie Loc. Chillafornia boasts appearances from an assortment of left coast all-stars including the aforementioned MC Ren and King Tee, along with Above The Law, Kurupt, Kokane, and Boss Hogg CPO.
“It’s for the 30-and-up…the people that’s in my lane,” said Chill of his LP for the traditional west coast Rap fan. “These days you got 50-year-old Rap fans. So with that I’m pertaining to them, I’m pertaining to the people my age, the 30-year-olds. And then if the youngs wanna get off into it, that really love that swagger music, then man, c’mon through the door, it’s wide open.”
Chillafornia is technically just the vet’s second solo album, following last year’s The Wind Chill Factor, which was comprised of material he recorded at the beginning of the ‘00s.
“I had went to jail, so I couldn’t put it out [back then],” explained Chill. “But, I had [already] went on tour for it – a little promo tour for it – and all of that. And it was still people that wanted it, so when I came home I went on and dropped it digitally. I didn’t do it as big as I wanted to do, but it’s out right now on iTunes.”
A three-year stint at Soledad from 2005 to 2008 put Chill’s career temporarily on ice as he explained of his imprisonment, “It was [for] an old criminal threats charge. Somebody had said that I was gon’ fuck ‘em up. And my record is bad, my paperwork don’t look good in the courts, so they ran wit’ it. I took the deal versus going to trial and losing at trial and taking 10 years, so I took the three years…”
“It wasn’t even like that [serious], at all,” he further explained of the charge. “It’s just my paperwork ain’t good. When I was younger, I was getting in a lot of trouble, and that follows you. To all them youngsters, if you fuckin’ up [and] doin’ bad shit it’s gonna follow you when you get older.”
Chill’s paperwork problems began after the release of the 1990 debut full-length from Compton’s Most Wanted, It’s A Compton Thang. Chill’s incarceration and subsequent absence from C.M.W.’s second and third albums, 1991’s Straight Checkn ‘Em and 1992’s Music To Driveby, basically turned C.M.W.’s microphone tag team of Eiht and Chill into an Eiht solo act going forward.
While he didn’t play or produce officially on C.M.W.’s early ‘90s classics, after his release from prison in the mid-‘90s Chill began gaining more acclaim behind the boards than behind the mic, netting his first formal production credit in 1996 for the mellow-yet-still-menacing single “You Can’t See Me” from MC Eiht’s second solo album, Death Threatz.
“I was just concentrating on being a rapper [back then], but I always had a love for doing music,” Chill explained of his pre-prison days as Eiht’s partner-in-rhyme. “When DJ Slip and [DJ] Unknown was doing those beats, I was the dude in the studio [that] as soon as they turn they back I’d jump on the drum machine and been erased they beat and all type of shit. Or [I would be] steady on the turntables droppin’ in break records to they beats. And some of those ideas they [would be] like, ‘Oh that’s pretty dope, let’s use that,’ and they took it and flipped it in they own way.”
Subsequent production credits of note in the ‘90’s for Chill appeared in 1998 via MC Ren’s Ruthless For Life on the ominous “Shot Caller,” and in 1999 on both Above The Law’s Forever Rich Thugs: Book One (“Smoke”) and group member Big Hutch a.k.a. Cold 187um’s solo project that year, Executive Decisions (“Ways 2 Come Up”). Chill’s most noteworthy credit of the ‘90s however came in 1998 for producing the track to, and providing the hook for, Sylk-E. Fyne’s Gangsta Rap/slow-jam smash “Romeo And Juliet.”
Post millennium Chill put in work on 213’s sole full-length The Hard Way in 2004 on the tantalizing two-stepper “Run On Up” and while co-producing alongside longtime collaborator Battlecat (who was credited under an alias, B Sharp, for the project) on “Ups & Downs.”
Chill would also net some notable production credits while in Soledad, including for Redman’s 2007 effort Red Gone Wild on the decidedly un-west “Get ‘Em,” a production that was arranged when Red crossed paths with Chill at Battlecat’s house prior to Chill’s imprisonment.
Per an interview Chill gave to DubCNN.com in June of 2008, he alleged that during his incarceration Eiht essentially stole his hard drive full of beats, some of which were used for the entirety of Eiht’s 2006 effort Affiliated. Those accusations by Chill subsequently led to Eiht’s “Def Wish V” diss and Chill’s returned fire on “Hood Court.”
“We all go through some thangs,” Chill said solemnly in retrospect of the now deaded beef with his childhood friend. “Unfortunately I was incarcerated, and we was working on some thangs before I left that what he had took and did with it – just to be honest, because we done got through it on some brotherly shit. ‘Cause you know that’s like my brother. His mama call me 'son.' My mama call him 'son.'"
“But,” he continued, “the people that we was dealing with – And it was a [decision] that he had to make like, ‘Here, keep mashing the record.’ And if you listen I’m on some of those cuts, on the last couple of records that he tried to put out. But I wasn’t happy with him [billing them under] Compton’s Most Wanted. I was like, ‘This ain’t Compton’s Most Wanted, dog. Don’t mix up the fanbase like that. Don’t mess up the name. If you gon’ play around, play around with MC Eiht name, don’t play around with Compton’s Most Wanted… Music To Gang Bang, I totally wasn’t feeling [that album]. And I wasn’t feeling the fact that it was called Compton’s Most Wanted, but at the same time I’m like Eiht was doing what he had to do to take care of his family.”
Thankfully with their differences now in the past, the two old comrades will be appearing on one another’s new projects.
“[Eiht] want me to get down wit’ him on this album that he’s doing…with [DJ] Premier,” Chill revealed. “He got some surprises on there - DJ Premier and Easy Mo Bee doing his record. That’s gonna be real big for Eiht ‘cause you know Compton’s Most Wanted do got that east coast love, for real.”
With Eiht and Chill concentrating on their respective solo albums at the moment, a new C.M.W. effort will have to wait for the time being. But Chill still sees a reunion project on the horizon for one of the west coast’s original gangsta groups, as he noted to DX, “After we finish with all of this that we doing [solo]…we gon’ form Voltron and get it in again. A lot of people are like, ‘It might be too late.’ I’m like, nah man, if Rick Ross can get it in, if Jay-Z can get it in, then me and Eiht can get it in.”
One notable name that tried to get it in with Eiht and Chill recently was Game. Chuck Taylor apparently attempted to join a revamped lineup of Compton’s Most Wanted that would include Game rhyming alongside his Compton forefathers.
“It was talk about it,” Chill revealed. “It was really Eiht and Game [just] choppin’ about it, and then me and Eiht choppin’ about it, so it wasn’t nothing that we really just sat down at the table and just inked out or shook hands and said that it was gonna be official. It woulda been a good look at the time, but Compton’s Most Wanted is MC Eiht, Tha Chill, Boom Bam, Mike T and DJ Slip. That’s like trying to add somebody back off into N.W.A. The fans we’re kinda mixed up [by the Game talks]. But I would love to get down with Game on some Compton’s Most Wanted shit. I would love to get it in with Gangsta Dresta, Game, DJ Quik, 2nd II None, MC Ren and B.G. Knocc Out on some Compton’s Most Wanted shit, that’d be dope – and Boss Hogg CPO.”
For now Chill will have to continue building his production resume for fellow west coast vet’s away from the platform provided by the C.M.W. brand. Having crafted a half-dozen tracks for MC Ren’s recently-released Renincarnated, as well as the whole forthcoming new Above The Law album, Reloaded, and along with overseeing the production for an upcoming Kurupt-led group project with a few newcomers billing themselves G-Hood, in the last couple of years Chill has quietly become the go-to-guy for Cali’s finest in search of heat.
For the G-Hood project Chill will be leading his team of legendary westside trackmasters comprising a super-unit called The Cleaners, which in addition to Chill also includes the aforementioned Battlecat, Sir Jinx and Rhythm D.
“We talking about doing an album [together] as well, a producing album,” Chill revealed to DX of The Cleaners’ current plans as a collective. “But we trying to do it on some European shit, like totally out our box. Real music, we trying to birth a new sound, sorta like…Art Of Noise, Kraftwerk, on that feel.”
While Chill helmed most of the production on Chillafornia, his fellow Cleaners did contribute to some of the tracks on the album. Chill also gave some newer names – Joseph Lineberg, A.J., A1 - a shot behind the boards on his sophomore solo effort.
But while willingly working with some new production talent for his new album, Chill resisted working with any “New West” emcees on Chillafornia.
“I had to stay in my lane, totally,” he explained of that decision. “No disrespect to them at all, but I didn’t wanna do a song with Glasses [Malone] or Nipsey [Hussle] or [Jay] Rock or…Bad Lucc. Them all my loved ones, but I didn’t wanna capitalize off of they shine… That’s like me going and doing a song with Lil Wayne, I only would be doing it because I’m trying to capture his fanbase. I already have a fanbase to attend to.”
And although Chill’s fanbase is decidedly 30-and-up, the in-demand beatmaker will be showing some love to the next generation by lending a hand to his son’s musical endeavors.
“They got a crew called Conceited Inc., they with the jerk shit,” said Chill. “And man, they terrible out here in Lakewood, they get it in! I’m thinking about doing some things with them, just to appeal to the younger crowd. Bring ‘em to my world though, take they swagger music and make them know they history in Hip Hop so they just ain’t a fly-by-night group.”
In addition to his work with Conceited Inc., Chill is also currently crafting music for upcoming projects for his B.J.I. label including a new album from fellow oft-forgotten Compton veteran Kill At Will, a long-awaited Pimp Clinic project with Kokane and KMG, and music from Chill’s new Wanted Gang crew, who will be releasing their own mixtape, Big Homie Muzic Volume 1, in a couple of weeks.
But for the moment Tha Chill’s focus is firmly on Chillafornia which he simply noted is, “some Compton’s Most Wanted 2010 shit.”
Chillafornia is due in stores and online February 23rd from B.J.I./Hoopla Media/LRT Music/Universal Records.