Presented to the Rap game by the legendary E-40 back in 2004, Turf Talk started making a dent on the game right when the nation’s eyes were on the Bay Area. With Hyphy on the cusp of blowing up, he released The Street Novelist and established himself as a major presence in a fertile regional scene. While Hyphy did not seem to last, Turf showed that he was about more than just the gimmicks, and with Thug Therapy, his third proper release, set to drop early next year and a new single [“Do Me Right” featuring R.O.D. Project] currently available on iTunes, he’s hoping to write another chapter in a short-but-notable career.
With an admittedly slower sound on Thug Therapy, he’s planning to let people really hear what he’s been saying all along. As he tells it, his high-energy tracks and fast-paced may have been overshadowing his past words, and as an artist who prides himself on his wordplay, he is now setting himself up to be heard in ways fans may have never had a chance to hear before.
In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX last week, Turf explained why hyphy never blew up, how Atlantic Records was choosing between him or Mistah F.A.B., and how a new batch of producers finally gave him the chance to be himself.
HipHopDX: First off, tell me a bit about how your next single “Do Me Right” with R.O.D. Project came about. Were you familiar with R.O.D. Project before you two linked up?
Turf Talk: Yeah, that’s a friend of [E-40’s label] Sick Wid It Records, plus he had a song on the radio out here called “I Can’t Stand You” that was blowing up on the radio. I had [the idea for] the song “Do Me Right” in my head for a long time [but] I hadn’t had a beat to go to it. I had the idea for like a year or a year and a half before I heard R.O.D.’s song. When I heard his song, I was like “This is a great song to follow his song with” because it’s on the same type of issue. We collabed in the studio, did it together and everything just worked out smooth. It just felt right, you know what I mean?
DX: The single is dropping on November 1st on iTunes, right?
Turf Talk: November 1st on iTunes, produced by Hallway Productionz. They out of Stockton, [California] and it’s fire man. It’s a new sound. It’s just letting people know what is to come off of my new album, Thug Therapy.
DX: Any expected release date for Thug Therapy yet?
Turf Talk: We gonna drop first quarter. I don’t have the exact, exact date – I don’t like saying dates no more because I keep pushing ’em back, but I know the first quarter, guaranteed. To all the fans: the album is done. It’s completely done, so you don’t have to worry about that. [With] each one of my albums, I feel like I’ve elevated to another level and this is just another piece to add on to that.
DX: Who’ve you got on it in terms of guest verses or production?
Turf Talk: Well, as far as production, [I’ve got] my younger cousin Droop-E. He did a lot of the album. I fool with a lot of new producers. I’ve got a couple tracks from Rick Rock. I used Hallway Productionz, Droop-E, Tone Capone – he made “My Beat Bang” by E-40. Basically, besides Droop-E, these producers are producers that I’ve never used before, but when I’m making my music, I don’t go off of names. I just go off of what sounds good to the ear.
DX: Did this new crop of producers take you in a different direction lyrically?
Turf Talk: Yeah, it’s funny that you’d ask that because it took [me in a slower direction]. I know a lot of people are used to my uptempo, rapid, fast [tracks where I’m] rapping real fast, but when I first came with “Sick Wit It,” that was never me. I just did what I had to do to get on at the time. My CEO was E-40, and he like uptempo, fast, in the trunk music, so it kind of rubbed off on me. What I wanted to do on this album was to slow it down and really show people my skills and show them my metaphors and my wordplay, because a lot of times [when you’re] rapping too fast, some people can’t understand and your point don’t get across. On Thug Therapy, I slowed it down a little bit.
I can actually say that this is a real Turf Talk album. You’ll get a full dose of who Turf really is on this album right here.
DX: So this is you really getting a chance to do you this time around.
Turf Talk: Exactly. This is me when I would see other emcees that would probably get more props than me and I would be like “Man, I know I’m nicer than this guy. I know my wordplay is better than this guy.” [On past tracks I would be] rapping so fast that a lot of things I [said] would go over a lot of people’s heads. I would quote back some of my lyrics and they would be like “Damn, what did you say that on?” and they wouldn’t even know the song because I said it so fast. I just slowed it down to let everybody know that I am the nicest out this way, man.
DX: E-40 has been a constant collaborator. Is he gonna be making an appearance on Thug Therapy?
Turf Talk: Oh yeah. Of course, man. That’s the big cousin, the big homie. He’s all over the album. We’ve got a song called “She’s a Winner” – that’s gonna be my second single to come after “Do Me Right.” We also got a song called “Runnin’ Thru The Projects,” produced by Rick Rock. It’s slappin’. We also got a song called “I’m Feelin’ Pimpish,” so as of right now he’s on three tracks, but he’s very instrumental with the project, from the top to the bottom.
DX: Is he playing just as active a part in your career as he had early on, because he was really instrumental in getting you out when you dropped your debut.
Turf Talk: Yes, he’s playing just as much of a part, but I’m playing a bigger part because now I have my own label, Hoodboy Ent. / Sick Wit It Records, which is joint ventured into his label. We doing a 60/40 thing on the projects, so I gotta put a lot more work into it myself this time around because he’s trying to groom me to be a young CEO, you feel me?
DX: On that same feature note, did you work with Erk [tha Jerk] at all, by chance?
Turf Talk: No. I haven’t got the chance to work with him. I really don’t trip off of features, to tell you the truth. I got Layzie Bone on my album. I got 40 on there. We’ll probably get a couple more people, if we even get anybody else. I’m in competition with everybody, so I feel like my album is so dope that I don’t need nobody on my album cause it’s good music, man. Like my West Coast Vaccine album, I didn’t need too many people on that album. The music spoke for itself, and that’s how I feel about this new album.
DX: With that said, do you think a lot of artists rely a bit too much on features nowadays and that they should just scale back and let their own lyrics do the talking?
Turf Talk: Yeah. I think a lot of artists do depend on features because they’re not artists – they’re rappers, you know what I mean? There’s a difference. There’s a difference in a guy just grabbing a piece of paper and rapping his verse and it sounds like he’s reading it off of a piece of paper. That’s a rapper. As far as artists, an artist is somebody that music lives inside his soul, from when he was a little baby. An artist feels like he can do it by himself. When [Pablo] Picasso did a painting, he didn’t invite nobody into the room when he did the art because he felt like he could do it himself. A lot of cats, they depend on features and whatnot because I think it’s an insecurity of their wordplay.
A lot of people may not have realized this, but I’m the only rapper, as far as out in the Bay, that has like no Rap videos. I had no big push on the radio. I’ve only had two albums out – two albums – but yet I’m steady talking about saying I can make the top five in California. I’m talked about still and I only have two albums out. These other guys that’s been rapping out here for years have like eight, nine, 10 albums, so I feel like I’m doing pretty good being that I’ve made a buzz for myself with only having two albums out.
DX: And do you think that’s a case of quality over quantity, that people worry too much about steadily churning tracks out instead of grooming albums to make sure they have the right batch of tracks?
Turf Talk: I think it’s because people don’t have they own style. For instance, at a time, we would go to a studio to get a beat and a guy would be like “Hey man, do you want a Hyphy track?” Or “Do you want a down South track?” That’s what puts everybody in a box. When you do that, you get put in a box. I don’t pick my music off of “I need this kind of track” or “I need this kind of track.” I go into the studio, and whatever catches my ear is what we roll with. We don’t go into the studio thinking “I need this kind of track.” That’s why everybody’s music starts sounding the same, because every other guy comes in there and says “Give me a down South beat” or “Give me a Hyphy beat” or “Give me a West Coast, gangster beat.” That’s what fucks up everything, because music is music. It’s not no certain type of [genre] of music to me. I always look at music as music.
I’ve always tried to veer away from the normal Bay sound. That’s what I always tried to do. There’s some beats that people will hear me on and be like “Wow, what made him get that beat?” I never really tried to sound like the Bay sound, because I always [felt I wanted to] be in competition with the other cats that’s outside of the Bay, like the Southern Cali cats, the South cats, the East Coast cats. I always wanted to have a different sound. When they hear Turf Talk’s music, they can’t just point and say “Oh, that’s some Bay shit,” you feel me?
The Bay still has their own sound. I could go anywhere in this world and you could play five rappers for me and I bet I you could point out each one that’s from the Bay Area, but to me, to be successful, you’ve gotta get outside that box. You have to have your Bay flavor, but you have to add a lot more to it to be better than everybody in your region, so you don’t want just a Bay sound. You want the world sound. You want a little of this, a little bit of this, but you want your foundation to be the Bay.
DX: I want to revisit the whole hyphy thing for a bit. Being from the Bay, I remember back ’05 when Hyphy and the Bay were really about to blow up, and then it just never did. Do you think that part of why that didn’t happen is because of what you’re saying – it just became too much of the Bay staying in a box and maintaining a certain sound instead of trying to further it?
Turf Talk: Hyphy didn’t blow because we kind of shot our own selves in the foot. I was at the forefront of Hyphy. There was a few of us that was really at the forefront of it, but when we would go places outside of the Bay Area, even to L.A., everybody would be like “Yeah, man. Let’s do this hyphy! Let’s get it hyphy! Let’s do it!” but to us, to the Bay Area people, it was old, so we started down talking it. When we would go outside of the Bay, people would be like “What’s up man? Y’all be getting’ Hyphy out there in the Bay, huh?” and artists would be like “We don’t do that shit, man. We don’t fuck with that shit no more” and it kind of choked our whole thing off because even though we didn’t fool with it out here in the Bay any more, the world still loved it. When they had all seen that we wasn’t supporting it no more, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot and it just faded away.
When the Hyphy shit started, a lot of people started putting out garbage-ass music, and it was [when] we were getting looked at by the world. We had the spotlight on us for a minute, and there was so much garbage music coming out that every song you would hear, everybody would be like “Let’s go dumb, hanging out the windows” or “Going stupid, stunner shades, woo woo woo woo woo” – that was every fucking song. Every rapper that made a song during that period talked about the same things. So when these other cats [were] looking at us that are straight about they verbal skills – like, you got the East Coast cats, the mecca of Hip Hop, that’s about straight having skills on the microphone – when they listen to our shit and they hear “Gooey gooey gooey, gooey gooey gooey, stewey ooey ooey,” we don’t get respect in the Rap game with shit like that. Coming from a motherfucker that come from the place of KRS-One and Nas and Jay-Z, and even L.A. with Tha Dogg Pound, Kurupt and Ras Kass and all these niggas – these are verbal assassins, so they can’t relate to no shit talking about “Gooey gooey, dooey dooey, stewey dooey dooey,” know what I mean?
I think that’s what the fuck happened, man, the world [couldn’t] relate to that shit. We was ahead of our time with that shit. We had fun with it, but it’s over now.
DX: I remember when national attention got to the whole “ghost ride the whip” thing and it started to overshadow the music, stuff like you, Federation, and Frontline. All of a sudden, it became about the gimmick more than the sound or the lyrics.
Turf Talk: Exactly. You’re right. It looked past the real emcees. The real emcees got looked over for the goofy shit, you know what I mean? The goofy shit won.
I sat down with Atlantic Records. They said they wanted to bring back Gangsta Rap to the West Coast. They said “It’s either you or Mistah F.A.B., who we talking to right now. We like you because you have a distinct voice and nobody sounds like you, but at the same time, Turf, we like Mistah F.A.B. He has the whole gimmick. He has the Yellow Bus movement and the whole package.” I said “You know what, that’s my brother. I love F.A.B., but you just told me you wanted Gangsta Rap, you wanted to bring Gangsta Rap back to the West Coast, and then you turn around and tell me you like the Yellow Bus and you like this and you like this…” They decided to go with the Yellow Bus movement and hey, here we are today.
DX: Another thing I wanted to touch on, from roughly the same era, is your collaboration with DJ Shadow, “3 Freaks.” I interviewed Shadow a few weeks ago and it got me thinking about that track again.
Turf Talk: That’s my dog. I love DJ Shadow.
DX: What was that whole experience like? I’m sure DJ Shadow wasn’t the first person you’d think to link up with when you do a track with Keak Da Sneak, so I was just wondering if you could shed some light on that track for me. It’s a fantastic song, but when I still think about that pairing, I just think “How the hell did that happen?”
Turf Talk: I’m gonna tell you like this, man – I got a call from DJ Shadow out of the blue and I didn’t even know DJ Shadow at the time. He was like “Look man, I want to do a track.” I guess what it was was [that] we was in the forefront of the whole Hyphy movement. It was me, Keak [Da Sneak], Mistah F.A.B., Clyde Carson, The Hoodstarz. I guess DJ Shadow, he called the people who were in the forefront. He called me and he called Keak, and then on the remix he got Mistah F.A.B. on there, so I guess we were the three hot ones at the time. He called me to the studio, man, and we just knocked it out, but after we knocked it out, DJ Shadow took me overseas and everything, man.
I love DJ Shadow, dog. I’ve experienced things in my life that would never have been able to experience without him. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really like [“3 Freaks”]. I didn’t like the hook. I didn’t like the song at first, but it got a cool response and people go crazy when I perform that shit to this day.
DX: That about does it for me. Anything you’d like to add before I let you go?
Turf Talk: I just want to tell my fans sorry for the wait. I’ve been going through a lot of little legal issues and shit, you know, family issues and shit. Sorry for the wait, and they can guarantee to expect two albums from me next year, but they might get three. I’m gonna give them one in January, and then four to five months later, I’m gonna give them another one. I’ve got Thug Therapy, and then after Thug Therapy, I’ve got Tough Skin.
You can follow Turf Talk on Twitter (@realturftalk)