"Hip hop groups were once the heart and soul of the genre’s early movement. During the 70’s, 80’s and the 90’s some of hip hop’s best acts were compiled of young spitters all reigning from the same crew. Usually members originated from the same neighborhood, some were even related whether new or old friends their impact and individuality fused together took hip-hop music to another level."
Would you say there’s been a generational shift from hip-hop groups to soloist careers? Gaging from the beginnings of your career to where hip-hop music is now. How have you seen the genre's dynamic change?
Richie Rich: Well back then there were more groups but they were a bunch of solo rappers too. I think the difference now is that there are hip-hop groups now, you just don’t get to hear about them as much because it seems like mainstream radio focuses more on solo artists when talking about hip-hop music.
Mainstream radio receives a lot of the finger pointing when reflecting on issues in hip-hop music. Is there another catalyst that could have triggered this change in scenery within the hip-hop landscape? Has the music industry helped advance agendas of soloist careers? How much does it matter financially?
Richie Rich: I would say it’s 50-50. The industry likes to take advantage of people and it’s easier to take advantage of one person than two or three people that’s just simple math. But at the same time let’s be honest with the culture there is a lot of self-greed so being solo is more of a lucrative look for an artist.
So the impact sources from the financial benefits of being solo versus in a rap group?
Richie Rich: What I’ve seen in the past is groups can be together and successful when there’s no money involved but once there’s money involved people start having differences. Once again I would blame some of that on the label because they would rather deal with the most popular person in the group solo but as artists you don’t have to succumb to that scrutiny from the label it’s still up to you. It all boils down to wanting the spotlight.
When we step back and look at some of the iconic lyricists that paved the way for the dominating genre that exists now a lot of them started out rapping with a group. Thinking back on your time spent working and being apart of West Coast groups 415 and 213, do you think that experience provided you with a different skill set?
Richie Rich: I was in a group called 415 with DJ Darryl and one other rapper D-Loc. To me D-Loc was a far better rapper than me and I’d always felt like that. But that feeling alone put pressure on me so that every time I picked up my pen or went into the booth I felt like I had to compete. So I feel like when there’s groups there’s healthy competition.
And even if you’re in a group and you don’t feel like there’s competing when you’re bouncing ideas off of other people you have the opportunity to deliver your best work because you’re collaborating with other people. It forces soloist ego to be dialed back. Whenever you have the opportunity to work with more than one person it makes for a better result because you have that feedback. You know someone else is looking, someone else is listening, you can’t just put forth any type of crappy effort because there are other people around.
Warren G: Being in a group everybody can make sure everybody is doing what they’re supposed to be doing the right way. Constructive criticism – it may cause arguments but at the end of the day it helps and it’s fun being with your friends and traveling all over the world.
There’s been conflict in the past when older and newer generation hip-hop artists try to talk about the differences in the music between then and now. Not just sonically but changes in the messaging, delivery and style. Naturally a shift is to be expected but what are your thoughts on the differences within hip-hop music now?
Richie Rich: The beats are hard and it’ll make you bob your head in the club or what not but the substance is just so shallow. Mainly I would say times have changed though that’s not really an excuse. The substance of the music is more related to what people give a fuck about and some young niggas don’t really give a fuck about shit right now honestly. We made songs where we talked shit but there was a message in the shit talk, there was an over-arching message.
Warren G: Not all of it has changed, you still have some guys that put a message out there. There’s artists that haven’t changed but the majority of the music these days is more on throwing money up in the club or who can be the biggest dope dealer or the hardest thug. People praise a lot of these cats that go to jail and call them an OG because they went in for a couple of years over stupid shit. They glorify a lot of that type of shit in rap without looking at the bigger picture. But in reality motherfuckers ain’t trying to go to jail, forget that.
Richie Rich: When we made music we talked shit but we would talk it in a slang to where your mom could listen to the record and she wouldn’t know what the fuck we were talking about but your homeboy could listen to it and he knows exactly what you’re talking about. So when we were talking gritty we would disguise the music in such a slang to where it was still digestible for kids and out of the reach of parents. Now everything is all one level, it’s spoken in plain English it’s just different. To me it’s a lack of creative effort but I can’t blame it all on the artists the labels are in full control of what we hear.
Warren G: A lot of the new and younger artists think that other artists that’s been in the game for a while are hating but I don’t have a reason to hate. Because a lot of them will never get to where I am because of what they’re doing.
Do you think then mainstream hip-hop acts both group and solo played a larger role in confronting political issues that directly affected their communities within their music? Was that an element you were actively thinking about when making music?
Warren G: Yeah we were definitely doing that but we were partying at the same time. A lot of the Chronic album was based around the riots that happened at that time, that’s what we were going through so we talked about it. We did songs about it because that was stuff we were going through.
If you could name two of your favorite groups from the golden era of hip-hop who would it be?
Richie Rich: Eric B. & Rakim and EPMD.
Who is one of your favorite rappers from the new generation?
Richie Rich: Big Sean. I actually didn’t like Big Sean at first and he kind of earned his respect from me. I fuck with Sean’s music I like that he’s a rapping motherfucker, he took that respect from me.
Warren G: I like a lot of the new guys. Drake, Big Sean, Kevin Gates, Troy Ave and Young Dolph.
Any advice you’d give to young artists as far as longevity within the rap industry?
Warren G: Stay humble and don’t get caught up in the hype of what’s going on, be yourself. Stay in your own lane and don’t burn a lot of bridges.