Most rappers come into the game with little to no guidance. A love for the culture impels them to partake in the art of emceeing. For Long Beach, California group, Horseshoe Gang they began with a leg up on most aspiring rappers. The younger brothers of West Coast rhyme slinger Crooked I, Demetrius, Julius, Kenny, and Dice had the great fortune of learning from one of the best.
The Horseshoe Gang have honed their crafts over the years releasing a slew of projects at a rapid rate. Their latest project is a full-length album that takes aim at one of rap’s hottest trends – trap music. Anti-Trap Music is a 12-track album produced by KXNG Crooked, Jonathan Elkaer, DJ E.D.D.E.H., Tabu, Pitchshifters, Komplex, Aktive, and Serious Beats.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Horseshoe Gang about the knowledge passed on to them by their older brother, Crooked I, their beef with the Funk Volume record label, and their new album, Anti-Trap Music.
TRHH: Why did you name the new album Anti-Trap Music?
Julius: To be honest the title came from us just being pissed off. We’re a fan of this culture and we’ve been listening to music for years, and years, and years. We kind of feel the way Jay-Z felt when he made Death of Autotune. It’s needed. We don’t have a beef with trap music sonically, but the message is extremely wack. The beats sound cool, the hooks are catchy, and some of them can rap. For the most part the message is too repetitive. It’s too many cats trying to sound like the next trap star. It’s getting to lame and gimmicky. We feel like Hip-Hop is always supposed to be more than one dimensional. This album is about everything else. It’s not trap, it’s about struggle, relationships, police brutality, whatever. Hip-Hop is not meant to sound gimmicky and trying to sound like the next man. That’s why we came up with the title.
TRHH: Why do you think Hip-Hop moved away from music with a message?
Demetrius: Damn, that’s a good question. It had something to do with the fact that with technology it’s so easy for somebody to become famous. It’s hard to weed out the weak shit and keep the dope shit when anybody can be a star overnight on YouTube. Since that’s the case bullshit sometimes is funny and becomes popular with other fuck niggas. If you got fuck niggas making fuck nigga music, it’s a gang of fuck niggas in this world so they’re going to flock to that. It hurts the pure artistry and the ones who have depth to their music. Technology is a big part of the reason the substance was killed because it’s too easy to become famous even if you’re not talented.
TRHH: What inspired the song Shoe-icide Squad?
Demetrius: Just what’s been going on forever. Again, now that everybody has a camera on their phone we can now see what’s been going on. It’s real senseless crimes. Cops are shooting black people with their hands up who aren’t doing nothing. We had to make a song addressing that. To these niggas who think they’re gang members and thugs out there killing each other, okay while you’re out there killing why don’t you aim your guns at the cops because that’s what you need to be doing. Instead of killing each other go kill cops, how about that? That’s why we made that song.
TRHH: You don’t condone killing police though, right [laughs]?
Demetrius: I’m telling you right now when it comes to cops who abuse their authority and kill innocent black people, yes, I condone killing them.
TRHH: This kid here in Chicago Laquan McDonald had a knife and was slashing tires. The cop rolled up on him and shot him 16 times in the middle of the street. He was walking away from the cop when it happened. There are some people who say, “But oh he had a knife and he was acting erratically. “ What do you say to those people?
Kenny: I say dude in Colorado who shot up the Batman movie and killed I don’t know how many people and walked out, they cuffed him.
Demetrius: That other cat that went to that black church and sat there for two hours, stood up and killed a gang of people and left in handcuffs. He was unharmed when he left. Cops claim they feel threatened by the person, well they need to actually be threatened then. Like I said, cops kill innocent black people. When it comes to black on black crime, guess what bro, if you’re going to kill people why don’t you kill the enemy instead of killing each other? In a perfect world nobody would kill anybody. But the problem is we don’t live in a perfect world. While there is killing going on, kill the enemy instead of each other.
TRHH: Do you think it’s because people don’t view the police as the enemy? Even guys that are doing dirt.
Demetrius: Yeah, subconsciously they don’t view the police as the enemy and two, they’re more scared of the consequences that police can bring than what each other can bring. It’s almost a slave mentality. You don’t go against massa but you go against each other. I’m saying, fuck that, fight back. The underlying point is fight back.
Julius: The song is a protest. We’re metaphorically a vigilante group. Somebody asked me what the solution could be and I feel like maybe they need to change the process. The process that soon-to-be cops go through. It ain’t like they’re making a ton of money. A lot of these cats were probably bullied in school and they basically have a vendetta. They wanna be the bully now. They want to walk around with the gun on them and chastise people. Maybe they need some type of program that you go through before you become a police officer where you have to spend X amount of months in an inner-city church or something where you understand the people you’re policing.
Demetrius: It definitely needs to be some type of fundamental change so the mentality of the people they let into the academy is different. Again, that’s in a perfect world. You gotta some time fight fire with fire, unfortunately.
TRHH: Is it easier or harder working together when you’re family?
Kenny: It’s way easier because we’re closer. We’re way closer than your average people. We can understand what one another is trying to convey before they make a track and as they’re doing so. The chemistry is there. Plus we’re around each other all the time. I would say it’s much easier.
Julius: A lot of these groups aren’t built for being a group. They’re suckers, really. To be honest some of my favorite groups that I looked up to didn’t stay tight and didn’t stay a unit. Shout out to the people like Bone Thugs and the groups that stick together, but some of these groups after the first or second album they let egos or whatever else get in the way and disband.
TRHH: When you think about all the great groups in Hip-Hop somebody left or had beef – Wu-Tang, N.W.A, EPMD, Tribe Called Quest. I think De La Soul is the only one to really stick together from way back.
Demetrius: It’s tough. I think some of it has to do with the fact that you have certain groups where you have a clear cut person who is more talented than the rest of them. Fortunately in a group like ours we’re all pretty even. We’re evenly matched and we help each other become better. This person might be great at this and this person might be the best at that, but all around we’re even. That helps us out a great deal, also. There is no clear cut best in our group but Ice Cube was the best rapper in N.W.A. it’s just what it is. Every rap group has their own Beyonce and they’re going to want to be Beyonce.
TRHH: Crooked I…
Kenny: That niggas hard.
TRHH: [Laughs] He’s been around a long time. He’s seen a lot of ups and downs and has a lot of knowledge to share. What are some of the jewels that he gave you guys coming into the game?
Demetrius: Crooked is like Kobe Bryant…
Dice: Or Jordan.
Demetrius: That’s a different debate for another time [laughs]. Basically it’s like having somebody that great in your house at all times able to drop jewels at any given moment. Growing up with Crooked in our house is the number one reason why our skill level is where it’s at. I don’t like to pat ourselves on the back like that but you have to say what it is. The skill level is that high because we had the luxury of being brought up with a lyrical genius in your house every day. That’s why our chemistry is unmatched. If Crooked is the best rapper ever, which we believe, then we’re going to be the best rap group ever because we’re students that live in the same house.
Some of the jewels he would drop would be maybe double-time our raps or punchlines. Punchlines are like examples in a debate. When you’re debating somebody you’re going to have bomb ass examples to prove your point and best them in the debate. An Example is basically a metaphor, just like in a rap. It’s jewels like that, that Crook would drop every now and then and we’d be there to pick them up. He taught us how to rap in general. He would say, “I’m going to school. Learn these four bars by the time I get back from school.” And at the time we were 3-4-5. We learned them by the time he got back and then he would give us four more. By the end of the week we’d have a whole verse.
Kenny: As far as the ups and downs, he went through a lot of ups and downs in his career being signed to Virgin, Death Row, and Shady and in between that sometimes there was no label and sometimes there was independent labels. He kind of told us that you don’t let one setback discourage you. He had a bunch of them. Sometimes Crook would play us a song that we thought was the hit and we’d be on with that song but one thing or another would happen. A lot of dudes turn to drugs or selling drugs, or quit. He stayed with it and that taught us perseverance and shit.
TRHH: I remember seeing him with Suge all the time and then he was gone. It was like, what happened to him? And then Slaughterhouse happened. The Funk Volume thing, what happened and where is that thing now?
Dice: We won and haha suckers! I’m just fuckin’ with you [laughs].
Julius: We feel like that’s the way a Hip-Hop battle is supposed to be unless you have a personal issue with a dude and you wanna see him and fight or take it to the streets. Unless it’s all that, that’s what it’s supposed to be. They threw out a challenge, our name was mentioned and we were ready to go. That set off the rap battle. After it was done we salute them, they salute us and it’s all G.
Dice: Don’t ever say our names. That’s the problem. Don’t ever say our names. If you got a name, don’t say our names. An under the bed nigga rappin’ and just started rappin’ three weeks ago, you say our name and we’re gonna laugh at that. If you got a name, nigga, don’t say our names ‘cause we hungry, we starving, and we ready to go at all times.
TRHH: Did y’all really take that seriously though?
Demetrius: Knowing about Horseshoe Gang we got several songs. We got a song called Waiting to Get Dissed, we got a song called Still Waiting to Get Dissed, and we got a song called Praying to Get Dissed. When you got ravenous dogs like us that’s starving if we hear anything that sounds like “horse” and “shoe” together niggas is there. That’s kind of what it is. They were on a platform where they have a big following. A lot of people saw that. We can’t let that slide. Hopsin said “Anybody,” and bless his heart, he didn’t know no better. Niggas is starvin’!
Julius: A bunch of times it will be an artist with five views on YouTube going at us or on his own Facebook page saying he’ll body Horseshoe Gang and putting a long rap in his thread. If that’s what you wanna do, that’s cool but at the same time it has to be on a platform. If you’re putting out a challenge it has to be on a platform that people can see and recognize. You can’t just be on your IG page talking greasy ‘cause then we’ll be battling everybody.
Demetrius: We’ll be battling everybody all day. Motherfuckers hit us up all the time doing that. I’m like, come on nigga, get your follow game up.
Dice: Not only get your follow game up but if you don’t get up out that bunk bed nigga and quit trying to rap and knock it off! They knew lyrically they couldn’t fuck with us. They was trying to lure Slaughterhouse and everybody else out to get their buzz. They should have bypassed us. The other people didn’t even bite. We biting everything.
TRHH: It seems like lyrics are the most important things for you guys. How do you balance being lyrical and trying to make a hit?
Dice: Lyrics is at the top but not really for us. I don’t know if a lot of people know but we did a mixtape series last year called Mixtape Monthly. We put out a mixtape every month for a full year. What we were trying to do was show people that we can do everything. Not only that, each mixtape had a different theme. We had a mixtape called R&B – Rap and Bitches. Half of it was rap, half of it was R&B. We can do radio songs, we can do whatever. We’re trying to showcase all of our skills, not just some of them. Niggas wanna get their heads chopped off, we there. Niggas wanna make songs about bitches, we there. Niggas wanna make songs about the club, even though some of us don’t even go to the club, that song will be dope. We got something for everybody. We put out 14 projects in one year. We was working and our mixtapes went under the radar. A lot of people didn’t hear ‘em but if you hear ‘em, they’re dope.
TRHH: Who is Anti-Trap Music made for?
Demetrius: Everybody. I swear I was saying this in another interview but a lot of cats lose sight of what it’s supposed to be about. They say, “I’m gonna make this album for the d boys,” or “I’m gonna make this for the bitches,” that’s cool but don’t you want everybody to bump your shit? Don’t you want a song for the females and a song for your homies? LL Cool J, he would make I Need Love but he made Mama Said Knock You Out, too. He wasn’t a dude trying to cater to one audience. That’s what you do if you wanna make your whole career around one small group, then that’s you. As far as us, we feel like we’re sticking to the essence and making songs about everything.
Dice: Not only that we’re getting tired of our nieces and nephews running around saying they’re trap queens. They not trap queens and they don’t even know what that is and you’re pushing a message that they don’t know nothing about. The tune is cool, I kind of like it. I don’t know what they’re saying because it’s kind of gibbering, but what I’m saying is I don’t want little kids running around saying they’re trap queens when they’re not and they don’t even know what that is. The nigga that’s making the song probably don’t even sell dope. They’re just making a song. Im’ma need y’all to calm down with that shit.
Purchase: Horseshoe Gang – Anti-Trap Music