Bring That Beat Back presents Ask Mass part 3, featuring questions from Milen from Bulgaria and a final question by Kiefer from L.A. If any readers have questions for Mass, please leave them in the comments.
Which rap artists were your inspiration back in the days?
On the west coast, it had to be Ice-T, Evil E, CMW, CPO, "this is the ballad of a menace!" [laughs] RBX, Too $hort. On the east coast, Tribe, most of the classics. Down south, definitely Scarface, Geto Boys, 8Ball & MJG. I think my biggest inspirations were probably Gangstarr and Rakim. In terms of energy, it had to be LL. On the west coast, of course Cube, Dre, our west coast heroes. But for me, it was pretty much the standard one hitters out the park.
When people ask you, “What do you do?”, what do you answer them?
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I work with clients with disabilities on their job sites. When they ask me about music, I tell them I used to work with the producers from Compton's Most Wanted back in the day. I don't usually tell people I produce or rap. I'll just say I like doing music. You can see people get excited when you mention music and they except big things. When you're not able to deliver that dream, it almost feels like you shit on them a little bit. They feel let down.
Do you agree that the fans are responsible for the current situation with the rap music? The whole media – TV, radio, internet fully supports bad rappers.
Quite honestly, man, I'm not sure if I agree with the term "bad rappers." I think rap, at times, is an aquired taste, you know? I think rap can be like wine or cheese in a sense. At one time, I didn't like blue cheese. At one time, I thought that was one of the worst tasting cheeses in the world. But as I got older and had it with different types of food and different combinations, it started to grow on me.
Yeah, blue cheese is pretty delicious with chicken wings [laughs].
Damn straight! [laughs] You see what I'm saying? It's an acquired fuckin' taste! And it is good. But back in the days, I wouldn't have liked it. But here we are. We're evolving. Tastes are changing. I still think there will be a market for that style. And I think you'll have more young people who come out and say, "I like that old style."
It's just like a lot of people don't like country music, but country is big as fuck. They have millions and millions of fans. Here's a prime example: I've given people copies of my record recently and they told me, "If you would've come out in the 80s and 90s, you might've been a hit. It's tight, but it's an old style." That's kind of a kiss and a slap in the face at the same time. I never felt like my music was dated or aged, it just is what it is. If they listen now and they expect a different vibe, it's because that's what their acquired taste is. It doesn't mean what I do is bad, or what they do is bad. It means there's a change in the market's taste.
Do you think things will go right and the underground rappers will become the face of the rap music?
I think the young rappers of today will begin to age and mature and see how disrespectful it was to be out there and not show respect and not know your heritage and show proper respect to the older hip-hoppers. Just like a lot of our generation, who were young at one point, didn't show respect to where hip-hop came from. Our generation, the 80s and 90s, even though we knew where our hip-hop came from, still did a lot of dissin', still was a little bit disprespectful to those older styles.
I think as artists evolve, they either grow more socially conscious or devolve. They either improve with age like wine, or they degrade and break apart and disappear into infinity. If they rise above, they realize that isolation and alienation and exclusion weren't good things. I've got people that I tried to put on that ain't never tried to help me. I still look at them with love and respect though.
Can you talk about the KXLU theme track that you and Awol One did?
Back when I first started doing beats with DJ Slip, they had this thing that they called "beat harvesting." Beat harvesting was basically staying up and doing as many beats as you can to eventually use them someplace else. We did a lot of beat harvesting. So I would take samples from everything, from movies, soundtracks, and at the time, I had a Nintendo 64, which was a gift from my kid's mom. My favourite game was Goldeneye! You could shoot people's asses up in that game. And they had this beat. [hums the James Bond theme] I wanted to make that beat so bad! 'Cause when you played that, when you pushed pause, I think, you'd hear that beat! And I didn't want to sample it. I wanted to recreate that beat, so that's what I did. So Awol had this thing coming up with that radio station, and I had that beat. That's where that beat came from.
When I did that beat, Nintendo 64 was like the hottest system out and I was waiting for somebody to recognize that it was that Goldeneye beat, but nobody did. I just replayed the parts, used 808, kicks and snares, and that was it!
The only thing about that radio drop that bugged me was that I fucked up the name at the end, man. I think we recorded it at somebody else's spot. Because it was for a radio station, I really wanted it to be good and I wanted it to be something they'd play. So I did my best to make sure it was a good track. That's why I gave up the Goldeneye beat. They didn't keep me in the loop afterwards and say, "Mass, let's do some more stuff." It wasn't like that.
I try not to talk too much about that situation because working with Awol was a positive experience, but he never really brings up the fact that he came through me before he got to any of that other stuff. Before the Shape Shifters, before Massmen, Awol came through me through a group called MTS (Menace to Society). When he came with me, he was with some other kids and I took him to Fat Jack and that's kinda how his relationship with Fat Jack and Massmen started. But even at that point, we never were able to work on a lot of stuff.
You would think with all the projects they did, that they would come and say, "Hey bro, let me get you on one of these projects and put a couple pennies in your pocket." I don't want to say a lot about it so I don't seem like someone who's bitter, but it felt kinda fucked up 'cause here's a dude who definitely benefited from your connections to people, and sings their praises all the time, but never really invited you to be on their shit, you know?