Kokane, a.k.a. Mr. Kane, is still gettin’ it in the Rap game two decades since launching his career on Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records. Backed by the funky sounds provided by his cousin, Big Hutch, a.k.a. Cold187um, of Above The Law, Kane unleashed 1991’s Addictive Hip Hop Muzick and 1994’s Funk Upon A Rhyme during his Ruthless tenure. And while the spitter/singer from Pomona, California would go on to release several more projects via a variety of different labels, his dolo output would be dwarfed by his astounding amount of feature appearances (reportedly over 1,800 total) on other artists offerings, (see: Above The Law’s “Kalifornia,” Tha Eastsidaz “I Luv It,” Dr. Dre’s “Some L.A. Niggaz,” and Ras Kass’ “Back It Up” just to name a few.)
But now the hookman-for-hire is once again gettin’ it for himself with the aptly-titled Gimme All Mine, (due in stores tomorrow, June 1st). Speaking to HipHopDX recently from his homebase in Seattle, Kokane broke down the meaning behind some of the songs from his latest long-player. Additionally in his thought-provoking discussion with DX, the west coast O.G. chimed in on the old vs. new west debate, explained why Ice Cube’s jheri curled past provides him the right to declare himself the west, and maybe most notably, Mr. Kane let it slip that Mr. Noble might be joining him for Dr. Dre’s grand finale.
HipHopDX: You were telling me before I started recording that you just got off the plane from [Los Angeles to Seattle after] working with Dr. Dre. Can you give me any information about what you were doing, or is that cloaked in secrecy?
Kokane: That’s kinda [cloaked] in secrecy. [Laughs] I won’t let the cat out the bag.
DX: [Laughs] Can you give me an idea if you were camped out with him for a week or you were just there – –
Kokane: I was camped out for a couple days with him and [Aftermath Entertainment in-house producers] Chocolate and [DJ] Silk. They’re working on the record, the Detox. And I just submitted a couple of songs that – So it’s looking real good, and shit’s gonna be awesome… All I can say, watch what that dude do. Man, it’s whew!
DX: Let’s get to the questions I have specifically about what you got going on. First off, why do you think some cats on the west have wandered into the “Twilight Zone”?
Kokane: The south kinda picked up from the west coast…and had that unity. So I think it was more or less how the unity disbanded [on the west coast]… And then you had the new cats come in – which is a good thing, because we needed some type of presence on the west coast. But now that that void is being filled [with new artists], all the O.G.’s are starting to hook-up. It’s just like, I put out a mixtape, [in April called On The Backstreets], with [DJ] Crazy Toones, featuring Ice Cube, Snoop [Dogg], [WC] and Above The Law. And I was [at the same time] out mixing it up with Aftermath – Redman was in the studio with us last night too… [So] all the O.G.’s is hooking up to go ahead and tell everybody, this is not neither new west…[or] old west, this is just the west coast. You don’t go to [the] east coast and say this is the new east coast or the old east coast… So, it’s a good thing that the O.G.’s are all coming back together like Above The Law – just shot a video with them. And it’s gonna be a good thing. This year, and next year on, you gonna see some big stuff to come out [from the west coast O.G.’s.]
DX: One of the O.G.’s that is back on the scene…[is] Tha Chill, and he gave you some heat for that “Twilight Zone” track.
Kokane: Aww yeah man! That’s Compton’s Most Wanted, and you know what classic cuts they had… And I just [was] like, hands-down I wanna put this information on [the track]. And I wanna go ahead and really speak from the ghetto pulpit, how I feel and my outlook on it. I can say [those things in the song] because I was a part of that pioneer movement, an intricate puzzle piece [in] putting the west coast together with my G-Funk sound. So I wanted to go ahead and give that testimony, and talk about Dr. Dre…and talk about the homie Snoop…paying homage to them, and saying to these new cats, you can learn like they did, it’s no difference. The importance of Cube’s, and your Dre’s, and Snoop’s and myself, it’s not how we can put you on, it’s how you can learn how we did it… Why go give somebody a hamburger when you can learn to get a whole franchise?
DX: How are these cats on the west specifically “fuckin’ up Eazy legacy,” as you say on the song?
Kokane: Well…it’s many things that’s out there. It’s just like if you look at radio, they play a bunch of Techno stuff on there. It’s not really the west coast like it used to be. If you go to – –
DX: [Interrupts] The D.O.C. had a Techno remix of [“Portrait Of A Master Piece” in 1989.]
Kokane: Yeah, well he had a Techno mix, but wholeheartedly the sound of the west coast is The Chronic. The sound of the west coast is Too Short. Eighty-five-percent of that sound is our sound, so…it’s just that we gotta get back to the unity that we once had… When you look at D.O.C., that’s one Techno record [where] he probably had mixed it up for the world, international [audience], but 95% of D.O.C. stuff was west coast.
DX: Yeah, the greatest lyricist in west coast history is from Dallas, Texas.
Kokane: Yeah, exactly. And I don’t like to put my ass up on my shoulders, but one of the chief architects of G-Funk is Kokane and I was born in [the] South Bronx, 1969.
DX: So when you say they’re fuckin’ up Eazy legacy, you’re not saying we need to go back to Jheri curls and Raiders caps?
Kokane: Hell nah! We moved forward… [Look at] the contribution that Ice Cube had [though], not only from a standpoint of west coast gangsta music – which back then we didn’t even call it gangsta music, it was [a writer] from the L.A. Weekly [who coined the term “Gangsta Rap”], we called it “Reality Rap.” Eazy and them called it Reality Rap, [but] the media tagged it Gangsta Rap so everybody ran with it. But, the true essence of what you call Gangsta Rap is that sound, with that bottom-bass, that George Clinton feel.
DX: Is there space for U-N-I, Pac Division, the modern day Pharcyde’s?
Kokane: Right, right. So the good thing about it between the new cats and the older cats, or the O.G.’s as you would put it, is that now we’re starting to perpetuate unity, because anger begot anger. And I’ma say this for the record, gangbangin’ don’t have nothing to do with selling records. So [by] the time all these walls come down, it [won’t] allow the west coast to have boundaries. And that’s what I was saying from [the] standpoint [of] it’s fuckin’ up Eazy legacy, because Eazy was the type – There’ll never be no Eazy! From his tree, from his loins, we are the fruits. Because if it wasn’t no Eazy, it wouldn’t be no Cube…wouldn’t be no 50 [Cent], wouldn’t be no Dre, wouldn’t be no Eminem! So he allowed us to take his blueprint, and principle, and our sound that we have – of course with Dr. Dre being the chief architect [of that] – to go ahead and push it out there again. So I guess it was a good thing that we went through that void for a little bit, but now we all realize that look, strength come in numbers… [Now] you got cats that’s mixing it up in the studio [again]: Cube is mixing it up with Dre, I’m mixing it back up with Snoop and Dre… And it’s a beautiful thing, because you gotta realize, wasn’t nobody ridin’ Six-Fo’s like they was in the south like they doing now… It’s the whole culture, [and] it’s the whole respect for [it.] And when I was choppin’ it up with my boy Mac Boney and…Killer Mike at Grand Hustle [Records]…it’s not so much that south and east coast was hatin’ on [the] west, [it was] west coast artists hatin’ on [the] west, and west coast radio hatin’ on the west.
DX: Now, I seen you sportin’ the We Da West hoodie in the “Twilight Zone” video, and you shout-out Ice Cube on the track for always keepin’ it gangsta, so I wanted to get your thoughts on Cube declaring that he is the west for his upcoming album title.
Kokane: Him and Dre can say that… He had the Jheri curl in ‘88/’87, [so] he can say that. Him, Dre, or Eazy can say that. Even Too Short can say that.
Kokane: You see what I’m sayin’? Because they’re the pioneers… See, the thing that’s so kinda like bland to me is that…how come people say when you get a certain age y’all should give it up, throw in the hat? Rappers be doing that, but then when you look at George Clinton, or you look at Ron Isley, they still gettin’ it, and they 70-years-old! So good music is good music, regardless if you been coming out 1987 on up.
DX: When Cube announced that his new album would be called I Am The West, he wrote that the west “lost our way” and was trying to “cater” to “the south and Midwest.” And on “Twilight Zone” you too note that, “It’s like the south came in and snatched the west heart.” But I’m just gonna be direct and ask you why then did you make tracks like “Jelly Jar” and “Rollin’ Up On Hoez” for your new album that sound like the pandering to the south that you and Cube are currently denouncing?
Kokane: It’s not totally denouncing nothing… It’s not dissing; it’s telling the truth… And at the same time, it’s a lot of real players out in the south, so therefore – Do we wanna be that small-minded enough to close out the south? No. But do we wanna speak the truth? Yes, we do… When I say “it’s like the south came in and snatched the west heart” – [I] played that in front of all my folks, from T.I., to Mac Boney, to Tomcat, to [Gorilla] Zoe, and they said “I feel you on that.” Because they don’t get the [feeling] of that I’m dissing the south or denouncing the south… They wondering what’s going on with the west [like], “Why y’all can’t hook-up? Why when we come out here…we don’t hardly hear no west coast records unless you Snoop Dogg or E-40, or [an artist] waiting on Dre.”
DX: You still “take it back to the clap, mixed with the Zapp” for most of Gimme All Mine, with a healthy supply of your signature George Clinton-esque crooning sprinkled around a lot more spittin’ than I think most cats know you for. Or as “French Dude” wrote in the comments to the “Twilight Zone” video post on DX: “What? Kokane can rap? [Thought] he was just a singer. Nice song.” [Laughs]
Kokane: [Laughs] Well see, people don’t know really the contribution I had to add. And it’s a whole ‘nother generation… Sometimes when these kids, and the next generation, know that I was on [Bad Azz and Snoop’s] “Wrong Idea,” and know that I was with [Diddy] [on “Lonely” from The Saga Continues…] too, or Busta [Rhymes on “Ass On Your Shoulders” from Genesis], or whatever song [I] had [back in the day], it’s just an enlightenment situation, because they didn’t know.
I originally checked in the game as a B-boy. I started singing because I seen Parliament come down in the mothership in Oakland Coliseum…way back then in the ‘80s. So [the singing] kinda like bloomed into something. And people gotta know…you got your Drake’s…but Kokane was really one of the first [emcees] to introduce singing and rapping on records.
DX: [And] shout-out to Nate Dogg.
Kokane: Oh much big-ups to Nate Dogg, man! It’s two hook masters in this game, that’s Nate Dogg and Kokane. As far as the most featured artist in the world, it’s Kokane. As far as the most featured artist on hot singles, it’s Nate Dogg. That’s the real.
DX: But you felt like for [your new] album you needed to get the rhymin’ out a little bit more…?
Kokane: Yeah, man! That’s that New York B-boy style [from my birthplace], chillin’ in my B-boy stance. So I had to go ahead and go back there, to let everybody know – And it’s crazy, brother, because a lot of people be like, “Well, he decided to pick up and rap,” but I been rappin’… My pitfall [as a solo emcee] was when Eazy died [and] that kinda stopped my own individual success, because he was the tree for us, man.
DX: Switching gears here, I gotta admit that I was genuinely surprised by your positive-without-being-preachy jewels you drop throughout a lot of the album, [like on “Killing Fields”], [and] maybe most notably on “Made A Difference” when you say, “We need more leaders than bangers / We need more doctors than slangas / We need more teachers than sangas / More unity amongst the people instead of them flame aimin’.”
Kokane: I was always touching on it [in my music]. And it gotta be in ya and not on ya. I just felt like [I] gotta say something, because I love X-Clan, but I love N.W.A. I love D.O.C., but I love Public Enemy too. So…even though you can shake ya ass, talk about something. Because it’s a problem when these kids out here are continuing to be raised by us and we’re not perpetuating some type of positivity.
DX: You punctuate the song by speaking to anyone who might be giving you flak about these topics…when you say, “Even if these niggas hate what I say, God knows I made a difference in the hood today.” I noticed there are a few shout-outs to the Lord on the album, most notably on the smooth, self-explanatory “Can A Thug Get To Heaven.” Is Kokane making that transition to Gospel rapper?
Kokane: Oh, yeah. Everything in life is a process… So the thing that’s relevant for you to do in your walk with the Lord, and your personal relationship, is let God break the yolk… He allowed me to be a work in progress. Because if you look at all those people from The Bible or The Qur’an, those people went through some horrific things to get transformed around… I was in quicksand…[and] when you struggle in quicksand you only sink more… So [by] the time I…put God first, and put my family first, and [stopped] any guilt trip that I ever [had about anything that I did in the past], or anything that was hindering my purpose…I got tired of struggling in quicksand. So that is the significance of me saying gimme all mine. Gimme all mine devil. Gimme all mine right back to the industry. Gimme all mine right back what you took from my family. Gimme my sanctity back. Gimme my mind back. Gimme my freedom back… And I ain’t gonna say I’m all perfect. I’m gonna say I’m a work in progress. Yeah, I still roll up O.G. kush. Yeah, I still got a couple songs on there talking about that life and what cloth I was cut from. But 85% of this album is talking about something [meaningful.]
DX: A perfect title for this album might’ve been “Contradictions,” ‘cause you’re clearly working through that duality of man on here. And [so] I gotta ask you about that line…from “Made A Difference”: “Twenty-thousand-and-ten bangin’ is played out / How you gon’ let a color interfere with ya paper route?” But then on your joint with Above The Law, “Lay You Down,” you note that, “My name is Jeremy Long, a.k.a. Kokane/Crip gang.” And you’re also C-Walkin’ in the “Twilight Zone” video, so is – –
Kokane: [Interrupts] Yeah because the thing of that is, is that you can’t be a hypocrite, you gotta be honest… And the reason why I move like this is just like the principles of Jesus. Jesus Christ never ministered to nobody unless he met a need of love. So therefore if I gotta go tell that youngster [like], “What’s up, cuz? What’s crackin’? Come here,” man, I got his attention. Then I can say, “Look what God did for you and me.” Because it’s a balance.