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La Coka Nostra - Hip Hop Gets a Bump
La Coka Nostra - Hip Hop Gets a Bump
by Emerick Tackett
What started as a way to showcase new artists began to evolve slowly into a collective that features the long anticipated reunion of L.A's House of Pain. Assembled and run by Danny Boy, and consisting of Rappers Big Lefty, Slaine, Everlast, and Ill Bill, with production by DJ Lethal along with other friends and family, La Coka Nostra is coming out throwing bolos. With their first album- A Brand You Can Trust- tentatively scheduled to drop in the first half of Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ007, these vets are consolidating power to bring back hardcore rap that celebrates rowdiness, belligerence, and aggression. Make some goddamn room. Ill Bill is ready to get motherfuckers back in the mosh pit.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The reason House of Pain didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get back together and do a reunion is that would just be some rehashed shit," Bill tells us. "This is like a resurrection of House of Pain, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s with a twist of Non Phixion in there as well. A little bit of east-coast-west-coast-bang-Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem-in-the-head type music. Back in 92, when House of Pain would do Ã¢â‚¬ËœJump Around,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ there would be a mosh pit. That was the era when Onyx first came out. Cypress, Wu Tang. People were bringing that heavy metal rock kind of response. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the same thread that ran through every thing Non Phixion did. As of right now, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s missing from the game. I been doing solo shit but I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do it all on my own. Everlast been itching to get back on the mic and spit. This is it. This is our outlet.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Danny Boy thinks back to the genesis of La Coka Nostra, the early sessions before it became the official Underground super group. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Originally the deal was, DJ Lethal was doing beats and I was kind of acting as an A&R for his thing. I had met this kid in Boston named Slaine who was spitting fire and I was like, Ã¢â‚¬ËœOh shit IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m a bring him to Lethal.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ And then the same week I met another kid named Big Left from the Bronx and this kid was fire too. They both happened to be in L.A. at the time. So instead of producing two separate records why donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t we put Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem together and see how they click? They did a few tracks and they were Fire. We were like, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœoh shit this could work.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t something that came together quickly,Ã¯Â¿Â½? says Slaine. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was real relationships over ten years. Over a few years time we been doing this thing but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really hard to pinpoint exactly.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Danny remembers the moment when it officially became La Coka Nostra. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Unfortunately at the time there was a lot of people going heavy with the drugs and the drinking. My man said this whole thing feels good. Like one big family. La Cosa Nostra! I said, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœman you putting that shit in your nose you gonna be la Coka nostra.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ We were on the floor. And it kind of stuck.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Things took a detour along the way. With Lethal wanting to make a more Ã¢â‚¬Å“popÃ¯Â¿Â½? oriented album and Danny, Slaine and Left wanting to go in a strictly hardcore direction, the project stalled for about a year.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Everybody was doing their solo shit or what not and I was like, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœfuck this shit thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot of good material these cats did we should try to revisit that.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ I called Ill Bill.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“In the last year me and Everlast have come into it,Ã¯Â¿Â½? says Bill. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Once the five or six of us got in the room it just went more or less from being a mix tape kind of situation to being a real group.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We were all cool and had group connections and just came together to do this thing,Ã¯Â¿Â½? adds Slaine. After Lethal came back in they began to record for real in his Los Angeles studio. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Me and Bill try to fly out there (from New York) once every 6 weeks and just get in the lab.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
With half the group being L.A. based and the other half in New York getting everyone together was difficult, but the Nostra wanted to keep it tight and in an atypical fashion recorded together in the same room rather than emailing the tracks back and forth. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That was one thing that from the beginning we said we werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t going to do,Ã¯Â¿Â½? says Bill. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The thing that made us want to push this forward as a group rather than a one off is the fact that we were having a really great time in the studio together. We just felt like that would dilute it. It would have been way easier to do it over the Internet, but we still got like 30 songs in less than a year. I thought it was going to be me spitting like three or four verses on a La Coka Nostra mix tape but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s turned into something else.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Once Slaine, Lefty, Bill and Everlast got things moving to LethalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s beats, other producers and MCs were eager to throw down for the family. Ã¢â‚¬Å“B Real came in dropped a joint,Ã¯Â¿Â½? Bill continues. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sick Jack from Psycho Realm came through with beats, Q Unique came through. SaabÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gonna spit on some shit. Muggs is doing some tracks. He did one with Mobb Deep on the hook.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The way B Real and Jack got on Ã¢â‚¬ËœFuck Tony MontanaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ [La CokaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s current single in which Ill Bill criticizes Scarface for being too soft for the game] was that they simply stopped by the studio. Ounce of weed and a couple bottles of Jack later the song was done.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
They donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to call it a competition but in the lab everyone brings their A game. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even spit on it,Ã¯Â¿Â½? says Danny. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Just because, these cats are animals and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m so busy doing the coordination. But when it comes to the rest itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no joke. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like blood sport.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Some of the newer cats gotta fight for every inch of ground but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all love,Ã¯Â¿Â½? Slaine agrees. Ã¢â‚¬Å“When somebody spits something ill, you want to come ill you own way. More than anything I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s great to be in an environment with people who you really respect. Everybody raises their game up and you can hear it in the music. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot of laughs, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot of fun, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot of creativity.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We all have different creative processes. I know Bill does a lot of writing on his own. I write to the beat in the studio. Everlast writes everything in his head; he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t use pens. He makes it up when he hears the beat.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I heard Jay Z talking about that kind of shit,Ã¯Â¿Â½? says Danny. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I was like yeah whatever, but cats who been rhyming long enough, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s how they get it in now.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
It ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t all about lyrics though. Danny wants people to know that they most defiantly are on the grind as far as the album is concerned and all the good times got to take a back seat to getting the quality right. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more of a brand than a group,Ã¯Â¿Â½? Danny prides as he lists the products that are coming soon from La Coka Nostra, which include everything from clothing to toys. This is a natural fit considering DannyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s work in the design world for companies like Nike.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I hope this is the beginning of a nice little empire. Like a family - a conduit to putting out other peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s records. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a tall order but it takes a lot of work. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want people to get the impression that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot of old cats with some rhyme game that just get in the studio and just spit some whatever shit. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a daily grind that includes interviews, making sure the shirts look right, they get delivered, that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an online presence, blogs are updated. The thing about the Internet is that it moves so fast that if you arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t updating your shit people move on.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Although nothingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s set in stone yet as far as plans for releasing and distributing the album go, DannyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s glad they got the freedom to develop their own style and identity free of a majorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s influence.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The shit weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re putting out I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if many majors could fuck with. House of Pain experience, it was all a commercial record label type shit. I want the type of record where if a kid takes it home the parents are going to get upset. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the beauty of not having to go through a major label. We put out what we want to put out. Whatever the general consensus of the group is. Whereas dealing with the A&R and the marketing guy from a label itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwe canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get in this magazine, we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel you should put the guns on the logo, we shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t put that t shirt out.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Fuck all that shit B. We go straight to the people and so we been killing it.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
La Coka Nostra has been hitting the Internet hard, getting the word out through sites like Imeem and the ubiquitous MySpace. Although they have been successfully recruiting a diehard network of disciples (some already sporting La Coka Nostra tats) through the Internet, there are mixed feelings about the networking sitesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ place in an industry that changes daily.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The lines between TV the Radio and what the internet has become are more fuzzy everyday,Ã¯Â¿Â½? muses Everlast. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The emergence of MySpace and YouTube are more significant than we are capable of knowing yetÃ¢â‚¬Â¦the internet truly gives power to the people.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s helped blow our shit up and bring the awareness back where conventionally you need a label to do that shit,Ã¯Â¿Â½? says Danny. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The upside is that everybody and their momma can put a record out, but the downside is that everybody and their momma can put a record out. So you gotta sort through a lot of trash. Other than that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been instrumental in what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been doing.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“So far itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the only outlet weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been using to get the word out,Ã¯Â¿Â½? says Everlast. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The computer changed the whole game. Now a kid can record his album, sell it on MySpace, make a video and put it on YouTube all with a fucking laptop.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
As founder of Uncle Howie Records, Ill Bill is quite familiar with the independent game, so when he speaks, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best to listen. Ã¢â‚¬Å“MySpace is a major label. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all the same thing. To break through in a major way you have got to be plugged into major outlets. MySpace works on two levels, on a small level and a major level. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re gonna use it to sell a lot of units you gotta use it the way a major label would use it. If you can do that without a label then god bless. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about. Being able to do that.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“At the end of the day, the La Coka Nostra family is out there letting people know that when the album drops itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be a change from the pop rap thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s become the norm.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the hard-core hip hop shit thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s missing from the game right now. The same kind of shit that you heard Cypress and House of Pain, Nas, Wu Tang, and Non Phixion doing, all of that mid-nineties shit but with a 2010 twist. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not on some throw back shit.Ã¯Â¿Â½? You can hear the enthusiasm in Ill BillÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s voice as he lays it out for those that donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know. Everyone else is right there with him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“When people hear the shit that weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re making, their minds are gonna be blown. I mean it blows me away to listen to some of the music,Ã¯Â¿Â½? adds Slaine. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re representing a lifestyle and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doing it over grimy production and boom bap shit. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not knocking anyone elseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shit but hip hop is in a flossy place and I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel like itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reflecting the world we're living in right now. I think all of us feel that way. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re trying to put that feeling, that rage, that animosity into the music.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Danny Boy sums it up: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The energy of a Public Enemy, of NWA, is missing from hip hop. These records ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t dangerous no more. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re mad watered down and commercialized and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s great. Get your moneyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦but for me, I got a legacy to keep intact and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not trying to make a bullshit record for some light money. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d rather make a record that we love, whether it sells or not. I want it to sell but what I really want is to leave something for these cats coming up behind us. Solidify some real hip hop shit.Ã¯Â¿Â½?
Ã‚Â©2007 Kotori Magazine