MC Eiht: Which Way Iz West

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Photo courtesy of Depiktions

For nearly 30 years MC Eiht has had one of the most recognizable voices in Hip-Hop. Like Ice-T and Ice Cube before him, MC Eiht is a master storyteller with a hardcore California edge. Whether as a solo artist or as the lead member of Compton’s Most Wanted, Eiht’s smooth delivery and signature accent have painted the picture for listeners of just what it’s like on the streets of Compton. Ehit is undoubtedly on the Mount Rushmore of gangsta rap.

After taking a step back and surveying the land Eiht has returned with his first full-length solo album in over ten years. MC Eiht’s Blue Stamp Music Group partnered up with DJ Premier’s Year Round Records to produce a 15-track album titled “Which Way Iz West.”

Which Way Iz West is executive produced by the legendary DJ Premier and features appearances by The Outlawz, WC, Kurupt, Xzibit, Big Mike, J. Starr, MayLay, The Lady of Rage, B-Real, Bumpy Knuckles, and Eiht’s original group, Compton’s Most Wanted. The album is produced by Brenk Sinatra and DJ Premier.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to MC Eiht about his Blue Stamp record label, which Compton’s Most Wanted album is his favorite, the rivalry and truce with fellow Comptonite DJ Quik, and his new album, Which Way Iz West.

TRHH: It’s been over ten years since you released a solo album. Why did you wait so long to release a project?

MC Eiht: Shit, ‘cause the music was messed up. I knew at the time that fans was gravitating to one sort of music, so to not want to be washed up in the bullshit and the masses I decided just to sit back and observe how music was going instead of trying to put something out to try to either compete or do what somebody else was doing. That’s what I did. I just watched everybody else put out records and seen how the direction of music was going.

TRHH: Did a particular incident happen or did a certain artist come out to make you flip that switch and say, “Okay, it’s time to put out an album?”

MC Eiht: I just think everything evolves with music. When you listen to fans, listen to people who buy your records and they’re telling you what they don’t like, the direction of how music is going, how they feel that nobody is basically holding down the foundation of what we call Hip-Hop – as far as West Coast artists I’m speaking, I ain’t gon’ speak for everybody else, as far as I am concerned what I was hearing was nobody was getting music how we used to do music. Not to say we want to stay stuck in the times but that’s just what it was.

TRHH Premier told me in 2010 that you had over 40 songs that needed to be mixed and released. How many of those songs made it to this album?

MC Eiht: The album has 15 songs on it, so 15 songs out of those 40 made it to the record. It was basically Premier just telling me I had to stop recording because every time I sent him some stuff it would be a new batch of music that he would have to go over. He was like, “Eiht, don’t send no more records. Let me sit down and analyze these and Im’ma choose the best fifteen out of these.” That’s how it went.

TRHH: What went into the creation of the single ‘Represent Like This’?

MC Eiht: Basically me just wanting to bring back the old feeling of West Coast music that I miss. Taking us back to The Chronic, Nuthin’ But a G Thang, Snoop Dogg, and the Boyz n the Hood era.  I just wanted to make some music in that form or in that direction. Not that niggas wasn’t doing it over here, but because of everything else that was getting popularized we wasn’t able to get that. I started to make the single in that direction with Dub C to basically go back to the streets of West Coast music.

TRHH: On the last song on Which Way Iz West you take aim at the artists you aren’t feeling and you say, “Long as the shit catchy you ain’t gotta be lyrical.” Why was it important for you to get that off your chest?

MC Eiht: Well, in my opinion with the younger generation buying most of the music or in control of what was going on and what was popular, I just felt that nobody was putting the serious time in trying to create a good lyrical song. As long as you had a nice hook and it was danceable or something catchy then it didn’t matter what your lyrics were about. It didn’t matter if you told a story, were conscious about something, or were trying to describe what happened in the hood or whatever. I felt that as long as it was sing-a-long and everybody could pop their fingers to it then yeah, that’s what we’re doing now.

TRHH: Take me to the first album and ‘Duck Sick.’ Did you think that term would take on a life of its own the way it did?

MC Eiht: Man, really we was just some young cats in the studio clowning. It was a group of us – me, Chill, Slip, Mike, my man Tom, Rick, Jolly Joe, we used to be a tight knit group. We used to clown with each other and come up with things that we thought was hip and what was cracking. Words like “the Duck Sick” and “Killing ‘em off side by each,” we used to come up with stuff that we thought was identifying us as a crew. Did we know it would take off as far as it did? No, because to us it was our thing and we didn’t feel like people outside of our little circle would really get it. To be playing on the aspect of records and to be out in the Hip-Hop community, knowing how record executives are with censorship and all of that we decided to flip “get your dick sucked” to “duck sick” because we were trying to save ourselves from the headaches from the executives at the label. We would try to come up with slick shit to say.

TRHH: Do you have a favorite CMW album?

MC Eiht: My favorite CMW album was probably Music to Driveby.

TRHH: Why is that?

MC Eiht: Because I was able to express myself on that as far as control of the record. It was my first time producing and being an executive producer on a project. It was the first time in 2-3 albums that I had put out before that I was able to take control of my career and give a project my direction. I came up with the title Music to Driveby and with the cover how you were looking in the back seat. It was the first time I was able to control my works of art.

TRHH: I interviewed DJ Quik in 2011 and he told me how he was messed up about the issues that you two had because he loved your voice and was a fan of your music. He talked about you two recording together and hanging out at Snoop’s wedding. While all of that was going on did you share the same sentiment that Quik had about you guys’ beef?

MC Eiht: I mean, I thought the beef started on some bullshit. I thought it was a misunderstanding of people outside of me and Quik. The beef happened and that’s what happens in Hip-Hop. We’ve had a lot of beefs so I took it for what it was. Growing up and becoming a man, an executive, and a business person you tend to want to get past the drama in music. I’m the type of dude that I like to fuck with everybody and work with everybody. My sentiment was, “If everything is cool, that’s how it is.” I’m a street nigga but I’m also a grown man with kids and a family. I had to look beyond the beef. I feel like when we got to Snoop’s wedding everything was cool and we talked. We didn’t plan on working in the studio at the moment, but I think at the time our mutual feelings were how did the beef happen, it should have never happened, let’s get over it, and if we’re gon’ work we gon’ work.

TRHH: You did an interview with Vlad where you talked about how 2Pac went backwards affiliating himself with gangbanging after coming from where he came from. Did you get flack for that because people are really protective and loving of 2Pac?

MC Eiht: No. I didn’t get not one negative comment about it because I wasn’t trying to portray my nigga in a negative light. Because I knew 2Pac. He was one of my friends. We toured together, we worked on Menace II Society together, so I never used it as a tool to try to downplay or do some of that other shit that dudes are doing today trying to disrespect his name or whatever. My point to that was, coming from somebody who grew up in Compton, who grew up into the gang system, it was just a backwards trip for my nigga who was already a multi-mega-star to get affiliated and start banging. He was already a militant cat and a strong-minded lyricist. I just felt coming from Compton and growing up into gangs that it was a backwards transition to come from New York and come here and feel like you have to start gang banging because you belong to the clique. Some dudes do, some dudes don’t. I just felt it was a backwards move. So no, I didn’t get flack for it because I wasn’t trying to downplay him or say he was somebody he wasn’t. In my opinion somebody who don’t have to get into the life of gang banging shouldn’t want to get into the life of gang banging.

TRHH: Were you surprised when you heard about people in New York being Crips and Bloods?

MC Eiht: It caught me off guard. I been going to New York since 1987-88 – back when it was cliques, crews, Latin Kings, and stuff like that. They’ve always had their projects and blocks but I never knew of actual Crips and Bloods until a few years ago when it just became so large. I was shocked at first because I looked at New York as a place that was the originators of the craft and themselves being original. To go to the aspect of ragging it, bandana flagging, and having colors it was kind of crazy to me.

TRHH: What inspired the song ‘Compton Zoo’?

MC Eiht: Basically me just wanting to get off my chest and talk about the direction of where I feel cats was going in the music game. I wanted to express myself and then pay homage to my man ODB and Wu-Tang. They originated the Brooklyn Zoo and the concept was that we’re wild out here, we’re still crazy in the streets, and they’re still animals in the concrete jungle. Like I said music is so happy now and so about money, big wheels, and big this and that I just wanted to show cats that it was still on that level.

TRHH: A lot of younger fans have been introduced to you from your verse on Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city album. Have you encountered new fans that went back to discover your catalog after your appearance on Kendrick’s album?

MC Eiht: Cats have discovered the catalog and told me that after hearing my verse on Kendrick’s record that they’ve gone back and watched me in Menace II Society or seen me in Thicker than Water. I’m appreciative of the new fans and the young crowd who appreciate some real good Hip-Hop. Not to say that everything is bad, but the young crowd has the music that they like. I don’t fault ‘em for it. It’s just not what we did and they’re not used to what we used to do back in the days. With doing the Kendrick song it garnered me some new younger fans, but it’s not like they took to a direction where they think that Eiht should do what the new people are doing. They appreciate what I’ve done and they’re able to go back and listen to records like Music to Driveby or We Come Strapped. It’s enabled them to see where MC Eiht has come from and he’s not just been around from the Kendrick thing.

TRHH: What’s your goal for the Blue Stamp record label?

MC Eiht: My goal for Blue Stamp Music is just to try to put out some good music. Stuff that’s authentic, heartfelt, conscious to the streets, and has a good feel to it. And stuff that would be true to the origins of Hip-Hop. I don’t want people forgetting about where Hip-Hop came from, the foundation of Hip-Hop, and who are forefathers are. That’s what Blue Stamp Music is about. We’re about trying to keep the integrity of real good Hip-Hop music alive.

TRHH: Who would you say the Which Way Iz West album is for?

MC Eiht: I’d say it’s geared toward those people who want a story in their music. It’s geared for people who want more than just a catchy hook in songs. It’s for people who want to understand what an artist is about and what he does with his music, and people who can understand what we’re talking about.

Purchase: MC Eiht – Which Way Iz West

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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