During his recent interview with HipHopDX, legendary left coast producer Mike Mosley spoke about the unshakable loyalty Tupac had to his Bay Area brethren in the Hip Hop game. And there was no greater loyalist to Tupac than his fellow northern California native Spice 1. While still teenagers, the two future stars of Reality Rap began a friendship and working relationship that would produce several classic collaborations (“I’m Losin’ It,” “Jealous Got Me Strapped,” etc). One of those collabos, which has never been released formally, “Can’t Turn Back,” was recently unearthed by Spice, who, as a display of loyalty to his fallen friend, decided to complete the previously unfinished song and then share the finished product with the world via his recently released mixtape, Notorious Bastards (a history lesson/holiday gift from Spice, available for free download at DeanlandStudios.com).
Unfortunately for fans of both Spice and ‘Pac, those plans were thwarted, as upon learning of the first formal release for “Can’t Turn Back,” the controllers of Tupac’s works, Interscope Records, sprang into action and ordered Spice to cease and desist.
After meeting with movie producers in Los Angeles on Tuesday, (December 21st), regarding possible film vehicles for his Thug World Entertainment, the “East Bay Gangster” spoke to DX about his recent struggles with the music industry powers that be, and his plans to continue the fight to see to it that the music two Bay Area artists on-the-come-up casually made without a concern of how, or if, they ever got paid for it is finally heard the way it was supposed to be.
HipHopDX: I’m in my early thirties so I remember vividly coppin’ my cassette copy of Amerikkka’s Nightmare with proceeds from my little Mickey D’s check. [Laughs]
Spice 1: [Laughs] Yeah, I can dig it.
DX: I just wanted to note that because I remember I did an interview with Mobb Deep for Murder Dog magazine [Volume 11, Number 3] around the time they were droppin’ their Amerikaz Nightmare album and neither one of ‘em knew that you already had an album called Amerikkka’s Nightmare. I remember thinking to myself, east coast or not, how in the hell do y’all not know that?
Spice 1: Yeah, that’s crazy. Like, especially considering I think it had sold like 900,000 to a million copies… I know they heard it, or had to hear of it. I mean, shit, it was #1 on the Billboard charts for like three weeks… But shit, I really wasn’t trippin’ [when they titled their album that]. I thought that they knew and they was kinda trying to –
DX: Pay homage.
Spice 1: Yeah! I figured they already knew and they was kinda just [trying to] pay homage or show love or something.
DX: I’m not trying to rehash the ancient east vs. west nonsense, but have you felt like over the course of your career that Method Man, Noreaga, only a few recognized and respected you as an equal, as a peer?
Spice 1: Yeah, [especially] considering how many artists there [are] out in New York. But, it really didn’t matter to me what artists of my [era] thought. Because when I got [to New York] I ran into LL [Cool J] and Run-DMC, and all the old school cats, [and] the deejays, and they was showing major love and respect. So if I got love and respect from them, fuck the rest. I’m not even trippin’. From Rakim to Slick Rick, all of them cats when they seen me [it was] like, “What’s up Spice? What’s going on?” And they before my time! So…it didn’t even matter what [my contemporaries] thought, because I had the go-‘head from they [elders].
DX: It’s good to see cats outside of Cali still showing that love, like Twista, still paying homage. Are you surprised at all that cats still look at “Trigga Gots No Heart” as a timeless track?
Spice 1: Yeah, I really am. ‘Cause considering the music of today, and it’s still actually being able to be re-recorded and re-done over…that’s good for me to know and see in 2011.
DX: “187 Proof,” “Dumpin’ Em In Ditches,” “Strap On The Side,” etc. Why the greatest hits on Notorious Bastards?
Spice 1: It was basically trying to familiarize the…cats who didn’t know about me with my old school shit – actually show ‘em how long I been in this shit. These songs are like [almost] 20 years old… So, I put that shit out there to let [the unfamiliar] know [about them]. But I wasn’t trying to put it out there like it was some new tracks… Some of these cats really think that I put that out [as something new], and they think it’s new material ‘cause they never heard “187 Proof,” or they never heard “Strap On The Side,” [or] the “Nigga Sings The Blues” song that was on [the] Jason’s Lyric soundtrack – that [album] went platinum.
DX: Why’d you cut “Can’t Turn Back” from the mixtape?
Spice 1: We had a lot of drama about the song from Interscope [Records]. And it was just crazy that I can’t [release] a song that me and ‘Pac did before he was even signed to Interscope. If you listen to the song, we talking about Sega Genesis and fuckin’ pagers. And here come Interscope with all of that bullshit. I’m like, “Man, get the fuck outta here. Y’all don’t know how long me and ‘Pac been knowing each other.” I knew that nigga before either one of us could buy alcohol. I was 20, and ‘Pac was 19, when we did that song… I had just got a major deal [with Jive Records], and he had just started doing his thing [with Digital Underground]. So, muthafuckas just really don’t know. They just see somebody doing something and wanna come in with they greedy-ass hands and try to get some money outta that shit.
DX: So “Can’t Turn Back” was originally for your first Jive album…?
Spice 1: We was just two homies ridin’ around, smokin’ and shit, and we stopped at the studio and recorded a song. And it fuckin’ disappeared… It popped back up on the Internet and it had some other dude on there. And they had it on the Internet for like two or three years… I didn’t know who it was, so I just took him off and finished my verse because that song was sentimental to me… ‘Pac was mad at me that night because I had got high and went to sleep in the studio. It was some funny shit; we was laughing about it. But I got high that night in the studio and I couldn’t finish the song. So, I find the song after he [was] dead years later and go and finish my verse. And here these [Interscope] muthafuckas come with that bullshit. This is the reason why great music will never be released because we got too much politics and too many technicalities and all of that bullshit when it come to the music because of the money. It’s a shame that muthafuckas can’t just let a song that was supposed to be heard years ago get out there to his fans like it was supposed to.
DX: Do you have any sort of relationship or connection to ‘Pac’s mom where you could talk to her to straighten things out?
Spice 1: I don’t think it was ‘Pac’s mom [that stopped the song from being released]. If it was her then I could talk it out and I’m pretty sure chop it up with her and let her know that it’s me doing it, it’s not some people that I’m dealing with that’s trying to get money off the song. So once I talk to her maybe things [will] calm down…but till I talk to her it’s like, I can’t back down from these muthafuckas talking that shit about the song is theirs and they own the rights to it and shit, when they don’t even have the fuckin’ masters. And we did the song way before [Tupac] was signed to Interscope. So it’s like, What the hell are you talking about? So, that’s the reason why we took it off [Notorious Bastards]. But, we still gon’ do that shit. If it come down to it, I’ma put it on [my upcoming] album, [Home Street Home]. ‘Cause I’m not fin to just lay down like that when I’m trying to ride for the west coast. I got all these technicalities and obstacles to go over, but that might just be some shit I gotta roll over.
DX: Just out of curiosity, do you have more early ‘Pac joints in the vault?
Spice 1: Yeah. I got like a couple…one or two that I know that no one heard before. The real, original song called “Fame” was a song that me and Kokane and Tupac did a day before he got killed in [Las] Vegas. They took me and Kokane off of that [for the Better Dayz album] and put E.D.I. [and] the Outlawz [on it]. But I considered that song something sentimental to me too, because it was two days, or a day, before ‘Pac went to Vegas. And we had been hangin’ out, kickin’ it with Kokane… And for them to take me off that song was kinda fucked up. For them to take me off shit like I’m a nobody-ass nigga [when] I’m sittin’ up here with all these God damn plaques…that shit is insulting. It’s insulting to my intelligence and to me as a artist.
DX: I just wanna hit you with one last ‘Pac question. Recently I did an interview with 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] So I figured if anybody’s GOT to have a crazy-ass ‘Pac story to share, it’s Spice 1. [Laughs]
Spice 1: Aw yeah, man…I could tell you a million stories. As far as the one when we did the “Fame” song, the day before he went to Vegas, he was shooting [Gang Related]. And me and Kokane went up there to the set…[and Tupac] come get me and he [was] like, “I want you to meet James Belushi.” So I go up there and I meet James Belushi, and James Belushi, he grabbed my chain that I was wearing and was like, “Where did you get the balls to wear that?” [Laughs] We was jeweled up. So ‘Pac started laughing… Then ‘Pac come out dressed like a cop. [Laughs] I was like, “Nigga, you gotta take that shit off. I don’t even know who you is.” We had a real fun day. We was kickin’ it real heard the day before he went out to Vegas. So if anybody questions what was he doing the day before he died, he was kickin’ it with me and Kokane on the set of [Gang Related], hangin’ out, smokin’, laughin’.