VIBE Digital Cover: Pusha T And No Malice 'My Brother's Keeper'

After weeks of planning, schedule shuffling and location scouting, VIBE has arrived in Norfolk, Virginia. The sleepy town isn’t quite Virginia Beach, but 25 minutes on the highway will have you on the boardwalk. It’s crunch time for Pusha T. His album, My Name Is My Name, is scheduled to be released on July 18 and Kanye is still making his final tweaks to the best “hip-hop album of the year,” as Pusha likes to call it. While his older brother, who now goes by No Malice, is also nearing the release of his first solo project titled, Hear Ye Him. Brothers by blood, the Thorntons are a rare breed of post '90s reality rappers who’ve really lived through the street tales that they’ve documented in their music.

Though the Clipse haven’t released an album since 2009, the brothers are finally ready to give the fans a dose of the “new” Clipse. Pusha T and No Malice say nothing has changed between them, but are now on two completely different paths musically.

No Malice arrives first to the Friendship Baptist Church. The modest building is just a 10-minute drive from the Downtown Marriot. He’s accompanied by his 21-year-old son and a few other close friends. There, Pastor Norris greets the camera crew with open arms as the baptism scene is prepared.

Pusha pulls up solo some time later, yapping orders to someone on his iPhone. His ear buds seem to be in throughout the whole shoot. The day also marks the grand opening of the younger Thornton’s second clothing boutique in Norfolk. P’s scrambling to finalize details for Crème’s launch party and has just a few hours of set time before he has to jet. Before long, we’re all holding hands in a prayer circle as Pastor Norris asks God to bless our shoot.

It’s clear that Pusha and No Malice’s brotherly bond hasn’t changed. They share few words on set, but they are seamless when it’s time to work. It may be rare to see the boys stepping out as the Clipse these days, but one thing is clear: brotherly love is sacred. —Mikey Fresh

The Interviews

Click here to read the Clipse talk about the current status and future of the group

Click here to read No Malice explain the direction of Hear Ye Him, his new path in life, and why he’s willing to die for the message

Click here to read Pusha T break down My Name is My Name, why it has to be about the money, and the prison conversations he still has

Video: Orson Whales (Shahan Jafri and Alexander Germanotta)
Story: Mikey Fresh
Music: Rico Beats

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Ice Cube's March 1994 Cover Story: 'The Devil Made Me Do It'

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March 1994 issue of VIBE Magazine.

“Four years ago, he was “the nigga ya love to hate.” Now Ice Cube has a wife and family and has embraced the Nation of Islam. The original Boy N the Hood has finally moved out of South Central. He says he’s older, wiser, and still true to the game. But, asks Joan Morgan, has hip hop’s leading prophet of rage lost his edge.

Written By: Joan Morgan

It’s a beautiful day in Encino, California. A good day, if you will, in the spanking new offices of Ice Cube’s fledgling company, Lench Mob Records. Cube’s wife, Kim—a very pretty, very pregnant woman—drifts by every once in a while to tell him about an important call he needs to take or affectionately chide him about the growing piles of clutter on his new desk. He says it isn’t messy; she says it is. Their wedding picture occupies the one spot on the desk that is relatively clear, a constant in a pile that seems to be ever-shifting, ever-shuffling.

It’s been almost four years since Cube’s debut solo album, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, marked his graduation from a mere nigga wit attitude to the nigga America loved to hate. Lookin’ back, we were ripe for it. Cube broke out at a time when hip hop was definitely on some ol’ “I feel pretty” shit. Nubians had discovered the elixir of self-love; Afrocentria abounded—sometimes ad nauseum. But as Langston Hughes once wrote, “We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs….”

Cube came ready to serve heaping mounds of ugly. On AmeriKKKa, Cube emerged as the sonic personification of unmitigated black rage. It was violent, sexist, powerful, relentless, funny, and painful. It was also seductive as all hell. For white America, it was a voyeuristic look into the world where racism causes its equality-starved victims to feed upon themselves. For black folks, it was a long, cold, hard look in the mirror. There we were, ass-out for the world to see, and all the Brooks Brothers/kente cloths, relaxers/dreadlocks, embarrassment/denial in the world were not going to change the fact that these “negative” characters were very real fixtures in the black community. In the pain and insane.

On his second full-length album, 1991’s Death Certificate, Cube stripped away the comforts of voyeurism and showed white America what real unmitigated black rage would look like if it ever made its way out of the ghetto. The picture was not pretty. Jews, gays, and Asians were the newest victims to get caught in the cross fire. And many of the oh-so-liberal observers who sang Cube’s praises when he was rhyming about niggas killing niggas and smackin’ up bitches (read: black) were now demanding he be silenced by any means necessary. In 1992, Cube gave his critics the definitive “fuck you” when The Predator premiered at number one on the charts.

A lot has happened in Cube’s life in the last two years. He’s happily married, a follower of the beliefs of the Nation of Islam, and the father of a little namesake (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), with a baby girl on the way. Fans and detractors alike will tell you that Cube seems a lot less angry these days. His new album, Lethal Injection—funky, melodic, and relatively laid-back—has left some listeners grumbling, “the Nation and married life done got to Cube,” and others wondering if the absence of ire means that they need to find a new vehicle for catharsis.

Over the course of several hours in his office, Cube spoke—full of riveting insights and maddening contractions—about work, life, family, relationships, and how he intends to survive the pressures of being the world’s most celebrated angry black man.

How conscious were you of your audience when you were making this record? On Death Certificate, for example, the concept was that side A would say one thing to your audience, and side B would say another thing.

Well, from Death Certificate to now, my audience is totally different. From the little white kid that’s nine years old to the old grandmother who likes “It Was a Good Day.” That’s my whole audience. So I really don’t have a pinpoint idea, even though I still do my records directly for black teenagers and young adults.

But I was getting feedback, some people saying, “well, Ice Cube lost his edge.” So I have to do records that you expect and records that you don’t expect. With The Predator, I really wanted to show that Ice Cube has skills—do “Now I Gotta Wet’cha” or “Wicked,” and show that I can do just a rap record with no social message. That was the main focus on The Predator. And one thing that’s never been consistent on any of my records is the music. There’s never been a certain musical feel to the whole record. So on Lethal Injection, I tried to keep the music consistent, and then throw the raps in for messages. My next record will be real put together, more like Death Certificate.

There was a time when you had to go to the ‘hood to hear rap, plain and simple. There are pros and cons to its commercial success, but do you think that the expanding audience affects its ability to really be a voice of young black people?

No, because the good thing is that the hardcore records are still respected more than the pop records. Once the pop records get more respect than a hardcore street group, that’s when the music will hurt. But any kind of pop, bubblegum, sugar-toast group out there, the hardcore still gets more respect, and that’s where it started from. So as long as we keep that base, I don’t think the music is hurting at all.

What about the people who front being hardcore, but really aren’t—who don’t come from where they say they come from. Those records aren’t pop, but they have a pop thing about them in the sense that people don’t know, so they buy it and eat it up. Do you think that waters it down at all?

If you’re black and live in this country, it’s an experience. You got a story to tell, and you’re legit in telling it. Because no matter how rich you are, how poor you are, this country sees black and white. You’re going to get treated pretty much the same way. I think what matters is what a group is saying: Nobody is harder than a bullet. I don’t consider myself a hard individual; I can’t step through the earth, I can’t stop a bullet with my bare flesh. I consider myself real, and that’s a difference.

We have generals out there that have never shot a gun in a war, but they could tell you about war because they know how to look at it. I know a lot of killers, but they’re in the pen now, so they can’t rap. And I know people who have witnessed things and can explain it. I don’t think that makes them less legit than a person who has—quote, unquote—been through it, because we all have been through it. Unless you’re black, you don’t know. Period. So no matter who you are, I don’t think it waters it down.

Some people are comic books, and some people are newspapers. Comic books have a whole lot of shooting and killing, but you ain’t getting nothing out of it. The newspaper maybe has less of that, but it’s true, or somewhat true. I think the audience can pick out who is the comic books and who’s the newspaper.

How do you think the mainstream media is handling rap right now?

Well, rap is the only thing where information is distributed that don’t go through these channels that information usually has to go through. Without a newspaper, Ice Cube could still sell records. Without a magazine, without a video, without the radio, Ice Cube could sell records. So there’s no way to control that. That’s scary to the ones who control this all. Because if you distribute information, you can teach the people.

Everybody else—movies, TV shows—has to go through certain channels, and music used to be the same way. If you didn’t get played on the radio, you didn’t sell. Nowadays, that’s not even an issue. Radio play can damn near hurt you. That scares the media, so they have to attack the media, so they have to attack rap and make it not so powerful. Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Ice-T, whoever is saying something, that’s the main threat, and their main focus is to try to bring us down. And they use different ways, they see exactly what tempts you. Some groups they watch and try to bury from the start—let you blow up fast, then get you buried.

Is Arrested Development an example of that? They got written up in places like The Wall Street Journal.

They saw that the group had some conscience. Let’s see what happens with their next record. It’s going to be like, damn, they was all over MTV last year. I didn’t hear nothing about them this year. It looks like you failed, because most of the people that’s watching don’t know the game. You look like you’re on top of the world, and next year, you ain’t nothing. So it looked like you just took a nose dive. And that can kill a group, if you play into that game.

People try to play that game with me. See, I know that game; I’ll take the long route. Don’t give me the short route. I don’t want to do that. They played “Good Day” all over the place, then they want me to play on the Rock and Jock basketball games. But, I’ll play with my homeboys, you know, because those people don’t love me. They don’t love what I’m saying, and I know it. So before you take the gift of the devil, you’ve gotta see exactly what’s in it for him.

Would you say that from the mid-’80s to now is the first time that young black men have had control over their public image?

No. Until we can control networks, movie studios, theaters, the only image that we really control is our image through rap. We are open people so the hell that we’re going through is all in the streets. The suburbs are going through hell, too, but you don’t see it in the streets. But you go in the household, and it’s all hell inside the household. The streets look quiet, because white people are really not open, emotional people. Their neighborhoods reflect that. But if you go inside each door, each household is going through a crisis. The tripped thing about it is, they’re going through a crisis, and they got all the damn money.

READ MORE: Interview: The 'Straight Outta Compton' Cast Shares What Made The Movie's Success Possible

What do you think of that crisis—the dissatisfaction that’s affecting not just black families but white families in particular?

In America, for any people to be powerful, they have to ride on the backs of the poor. How do you keep people poor? You keep them ignorant. So if you want people to be slaves, or have a slave mentality, you keep them from knowing those things that will set them free. That’s the aim of the government, to keep people ignorant, and I think what you have is people fighting to gain some kind of knowledge of who they are and where they’re going. It’s like they’re pushing down and we’re pushing up. And we’re going to meet somewhere in the middle, and I think that’s what tearing America up right now.

So pretty soon, it’s got to change, because I can’t see myself sitting on the back of nobody’s bus. And my sons probably can’t see themselves putting their hands up in the air when the police pull them over. If the government thinks they’ve got to worry about Ice Cube… it’s that 14-, 15-year-old, who’s buck wild and feels invincible—that’s the one you’ve got to worry about. And the ones coming after him are going to be worse, until we have freedom, justice, and equality.

Given the realities of poverty in this country, that there are poor people who are white, who are Asian, who are Latino, do you think economic conditions could ever unify people? Do you think that there could ever be a unified movement of blacks and other oppressed people?

It could be, and it should be. But when it comes to oppressed people, the black man is always at the bottom of the totem pole. The closer you are to white, the more arrogant you are. A certain kind of arrogance is breeded into people. White folks are snotty towards black people. Orientals are snobby, all the way down the line, ‘till you have lighter black folks more snobby than darker black folks. It comes all the way down the line to the blackest, blackest, blackest man, who’s everybody’s an enemy of.

Once we learn how to love each other, then we can reach out for other people. But how am I going to help you build your house when mine’s not finished? It don’t make no sense. I think we have to stop looking for so much outside help, and start to help ourselves.

I really wish we would build a wall {laughs}— not a physical wall, but a wall around our community—till we get our thing together. It’s like a football team just going straight up to the line of scrimmage—no play, no huddle-up, no nothing. Just out there doing plays, running into each other. You have to huddle up, get your shit together, and then you can go and attack the other team with a play. We refuse to do that. We refuse to huddle up and get our shit together. Then we can challenge the world.

There was an article that we did in the magazine about Japan. Right now, Koreans in Japan are really treated badly. They have something that’s almost the equivalent of a pass system. They make you take a Japanese name, and if you’re Korean, there are certain jobs you’re not eligible for. Just a lot of discrimination. And a lot of the kids are really big rap fans, because they say that they really identify with the oppression in the music. One kid said, even when you don’t understand the words, you understand the feeling and the anger behind it.

Do you know what I think about that? If Japan is for the Japanese, I ain’t got no problem with that. At all. Japan is for Japanese. Korea is Koreans. Now, the problem I have is, America is for Americans. But they tell you that America is for everybody. See, to me, that’s worse. Because you’re looking for something that you ain’t never, ever going to get. If they said, “Look {snaps his fingers}, America is for white folks. Black folks, here’s yours.” I ain’t got no problem with that. The problem is America saying, “oh, this is love, the melting pot.” But America is for fucking white Americans. Straight up—no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

I went to Japan. And in some places, it was like, ah, you can’t come in here. I had no problem with that. Because I knew that, up front. They didn’t disrespect me. Japan is for Japanese. You ain’t going to come over here, you ain’t going to get no Japanese job. But that’s honest; what you see is what you get. What I hate is the motherfuckers sitting behind a desk at the record company, with a tie on. Bigger crooks than my homeboys. To me, that’s worse. Deception is worse than the truth.

So if America is for white Americans, cool. But America owes us a spot, a piece of this country that should be just for black folks. And they ain’t got to worry about me ever going into that part of the airport, to where they are. I’m content.

Let’s change the subject a little bit. I want to talk about you as a family man. You got married. You had a son. You have another kid—a daughter, this time—on the way. You moved out of South Central. How do you think being a family man has changed your life?

It’s made me more of a man. Not as reckless as I used to be. I thought I’d never move. Never, man— this is me, right here. But when you’ve got a family, and you’ve got motherfuckers going, “We’re going to kidnap your wife,” and you’re in Baltimore...damn, how do I protect my family? When you’ve got niggas driving by your house that you don’t know: “Yo, Cube, man come outside.” So I said, let’s get to a place where I’m not as popular. Or a place where nobody knows where I live.

I used to think, how could you make money and then move out? But it’s like having a piece of meat in the jungle. All the lions and tigers want that piece of meat, too, ‘cause they don’t have none. So, what you’ve got to do is take your meat in your den, or your tree, or wherever you are and eat it. And then show everybody else how to get some meat, too. So you won’t become prey, sitting in a land of predators. I used to be a predator, and I never want to be the prey, but that’s how it is. You can’t fight off everything.

My family made me more cautious. I’m old and I lock my doors and all that stupid stuff that I never used to do. But, you know, you got somebody that’s your blood, that’s your purpose on earth, so you want to make sure your offspring survives. Some people say, “I’m never having kids”—well, fool, your history stops right there. I want to be able to sit grandkids on my lap, and tell them stories about how it was: “They burnt the city down in 1992, or was it ‘93?” That type of thing. I want to be able to play with my kids. You know, if my kids start running with the gangs, I’m able to relate to the things that they’re going to have to go through, so I’m cool with it. I think that’s my purpose, to instruct the youth—not only my own, but other youth— on how to keep out of this self-destructive cycle.

I think that people who just know your media image would be surprised that you’re married. You have this image of being a raving misogynist. So I want to know what was it that you were looking for in a wife?

Somebody that was strong. Just like I hate yes-men, I hate yes-women. I hate that. Because I don’t know everything, so I need somebody to tell me, “Yo, you’re fucking up over here.”

You always knew she’d be a sister?

A black woman?

Uh-huh.

Oh please. Please. Man. Nothing but. White woman took me to the store one day during a video shoot…. I felt so uncomfortable, just riding in the car. Just terrible. It’s true: the truth is true.

You mentioned yes-women. Do you think black women, in particular, have problems with self-esteem?

I think black men have problems with self-esteem. I think black women know what they want. And they make no bones about it, and they hold you up to that. But for black men, there’s extra, added pressure. That’s why black men are more likely to die of high blood pressure and all these types of things, because of all the pressure that comes from not being the man of your house—being a man physically, but not mentally. I think that’s why a lot of men beat their women, feeling like, “I’m not living up to what I am, and I can’t take it out on the one that’s oppressing me, so I’m going to take it out on a woman.”

I think you’re right—I think it is about lack of power. So what do you do? I know a lot of black women who are intelligent, and beautiful, and strong. And lonely as hell. Don’t really want to date white men, you know, not trying to do that. I guess I’m asking how can we heal as a community if we can’t come together and have positive relationships?

Well, I can’t answer that. Um...damn. That’s a heavy one {laughs}. The black man is going through a plight, and we are—oh, here we go: we are like children, the whole black community. Whatever the white man does, we want to do. Just like the child wants to do what the adult wants to do. And the white man disrespects his women on all levels.

So I think everything that he does, we do on a smaller level. Even killing each other. Yeah, we do Crips and Bloods, but then you look at Bosnia and Herzegovina. You take car-jacking, and then you take Panama—you know, country-jacking. He hates his woman, and he’s been our only teacher for 437 years, so we hate our women. He erased all of our knowledge and replaced it with his own. And his own evidently, is not good for us. We will continue to do what we’ve been taught, until we decide not to follow that way. Children follow their mother or father to a certain extent, and then they have too break off and do their own thing. That’s what our community has to do.

So ultimately, what you’re talking about is the need for us to develop a value system that’s not based on the materialistic, or sexist, or patriarchal, or racist ideas…

We need not just a value system, but a whole national system. We need to become a nation within a nation. We need to have our own everything inside this culture. That’s how we survive. Because this world is the devil’s world. You have to break from that, make a new reality, in your own way. And become something other than what this world is producing, which is shit, hell, destruction. And I trip off the preachers, because if this world is of the devil, you should be trying your damnedest to get away from this world. But you’re trying to fit in, you want to be there with Clinton, shaking hands. What the hell is that?

A friend of mine was in this position recently, and I want to know what you think of it. She was in the car with her baby’s father, and he was listening to The Chronic, and she was like, “I don’t really care when you play it in the house; I don’t like it, but you have every right to play it. But around our daughter, I don’t really think she should have to hear that.” And he was like, “This is my experience, my reality, this is a part of where I come from, she should hear it.” So I want to know, what are you going to do when your little girl comes, and she wants to know whether it’s okay to play the year 2000’s version of The Chronic or AeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, for that matter.

Now, why would I shield my daughter from anything that I can explain to her, inside the house? Why would I say, “No, don’t listen to that,” so she can go outside and hear it with no explanation, nothing behind it but what people her age know about it? I’d rather pick my child’s brain, to give her the right medicine, because I can shield her from it while she’s in here, until she steps out that door. And nobody’s shielded from nothing when they walk out the door. I don’t shut the kids out from nothing they want to look at—nothing. Def Comedy Jam, nothing. They don’t laugh at what we laugh about, because they don’t understand. But just break it down to them.

When parents are in the position to teach their kids, they don’t; and then they get mad when they got rappers teaching their kids, because the rappers don’t shield the kids from nothing. The rappers tell them straight up. And that’s really all the kids want to know. The kids don’t need to know lies, they want to know the truth. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny...how are kids going to grow up with that bullshit?

There’s been a movement, internally, to address a lot of these things in black music, like sex and guns in lyrics. What do you think about that?

I’ve been saying this for years: You can’t change the problem if you don’t got a problem. If rappers didn’t come out with “bitch” and “ho,” we would still not be addressing that issue at all. Now, in 1994, we’re starting to address that. If everybody comes to the conclusion that “bitch” and “ho” aren’t appropriate for the community, they won’t be used. Just like “Negro” is not used no more. It’s not appropriate, it doesn’t fit, it has no meaning. But until somebody brings that to the table—here’s what’s going on, here’s what’s happening—you’re never going to address it. It’s like, if your hair is messed up and I hold a mirror in front of you long enough, you’re going to use a comb. That’s our whole purpose.

You said earlier that there were people who say you got married and got soft. What do you say those detractors when they that your music isn’t as hard as it used to be, that you lost your edge, that you’re not as angry as you used to be?

I ain’t as stupid, that’s basically what it is. We hate ourselves so much that you ain’t hard unless you’re talking about, “I shot this nigga, I got 1,000 AKS, I killed 1,000 niggas.” Motherfuckers would rather hear you say you killed 1,000 niggas than hear you say you smoked one devil. They love that more than they love themselves. So that’s the only thing that’s changed in my music: it’s more focused. I know that killing a nigga down the street ain’t going to solve none of my problems at all. And I don’t put that into my records, unless I’m explaining a situation. I ain’t stupid no more. And some people can’t deal with that. Niggas are scared of evolution, niggas don’t want to be free.

They’re scared because with freedom, you have to make your own decisions. Freedom is responsibility. Shit, I live in my mama’s house, cookies are there every day. Bam—you move out, ain’t no more cookies in there, unless you put them in there. You’re like, “Damn, I got to buy dishwater liquid?” That’s the responsibility you want to take to be free. These are scared Negroes, just like when slavery was over; yeah, you’re free to go. Now what am I going to do? We sharecropped. Still a slave.

What would you say to someone who says, okay, you’re married, you have two, five, maybe eight kids. You got a house, you got a car, you got a business...Cube is really living the American Dream.

It ain’t no dream for me. You can’t compare one man’s wealth to a whole nation of poverty. If they foreclose on my house, I can’t go to my bank and say, “White man, let me get a loan until next month. Give me $20,000.” Until I can go to my people and get help out of any financial situation I’m in, there ain’t nobody rich. I’m as poor as anybody else. I know how to get some money, and my duty is to show people around me how to get it, and how we all can get it.

So might that mean taking a step like directing feature films after all these videos you’ve worked on?

Yeah. Directing is cool, but I need to grow. I’ve been offered films to direct, but I’m not ready. I need to learn this game more. I’m going to be in this movie with John Singleton, Higher Learning. So I’l be looking over his shoulder the whole time. I never went to school, so I really want to sit and learn the game, and not just jump out there and be weak {laughs}. I don’t want to do nothing weak. I want to make sure I win.

READ MORE: Library Of Congress Adds N.W.A's 'Straight Outta Compton' Album To Its Registry

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Jonathan Exley

Michael Jackson's June/July 1995 Cover Story: 'ACTION JACKSON'

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the June/July 1995 issue of VIBE Magazine.

Michael & Me

Reporting By: Omoronke Idowu, Shani Saxon, Joseph V. Tirella, Josh Tyrangiel, and Mimi Valdés

JIMMY JAM, producer/songwriter (worked on HIStory album) Michael's the most intense person I've worked with. For him, everything is about the music and how to make it better. He also makes work a lot of fun. He's a kid at heart—his office is not like a normal office. He has all the kids' toys. A lot of times we'd be in session, in the middle of playing a video game, and he'd be, like, "Well, we got to do this. But go ahead and finish your game, though—I don't want to mess your game up."

The thing about Michael is his talent. If you put Michael onstage without the explosions and the other dancers, he'll still command the stage.

There's a song called "Childhood" on the new album, and I think for the first time, Michael has put a lot of his feelings on record. That song, for right now, defines where's he's at—the way he feels about himself and the way people feel about him.

HEAVY D, MC/label executive (rapped on "Jam," 1991) I was in California the first time I heard Michael Jackson wanted to record with me. I was, like, Nah, no way, he's too big, it can't be true. Then I got a call from Michael's people at my hotel telling me he was interested. But I still wasn't believing it—I thought they were setting me up for a TV practical jokes show.

So me and my partner go to the place, and while we were waiting we were talking and cursing up a storm—I was thinking that if it was a blooper show, they wouldn't be able to use it. Then Michael called and said he was on his way. When he got there he was just, like, 'Hey, how ya doin?'"

Michael's just as regular as everyone else. We talked about all the normal stuff guys talk about. He's real smart. People forget that he's the most incredible entertainer we've seen in our lifetime. His name is Michael Jackson, not Super Michael Jackson. He makes mistakes just like all of us.

My favorite Michael Jackson song is "Music and Me." It's an old one, about him and his music, his love for music, and the time they've had together. It's like a song that would be sung to a girl, but it's all about music.

R. KELLY, singer/songwriter/producer (worked on HIStory album) I thought it was funny when I told Michael Jackson I didn't want to fly, and he was giving me reasons why I should. I kept looking him in the eye, and I kept saying "uh-huh, uh-huh" and "oh, I see," knowing all the time that I would not be getting on a plane.

Working with Michael was definitely not just another day at the office.

KENNY GAMBLE AND LEON HUFF, producers (the Jacksons' Destiny album, 1978) Gamble: When we took Michael in the studio to overdub his voice, he had so many different ideas about songs, writing, and producing, I told him he could really record himself. He was very curious about a lot of things. He's a creative, spiritual, caring person.

Nineteen eighty-one's "Rock With You" is the most what Michael's about. I really believe he and Quincy have a magic together. Michael is a miracle.

Huff: When Michael and his brothers first came to Philadelphia, Gamble decided to walk them from the hotel to the studio. As they were walking, they were rushed by a group of girls. The brothers escaped by going into a movie theater. Once they made it to the studio, these girls camped outside the studio—and this was for a six-month period. To see 100 girls laying outside a studio at 3 and 4 in the morning for Michael and his brothers was something else.

My favorite Michael song? Nineteen eighty-seven's "Show You the Way to Go."

NAOMI CAMPBELL, supermodel/actress/singer (appeared in "In the Closet" video, 1992) Michael is very involved and on top of everything he puts his name on. He's shy and sweet, considering all he's accomplished, but he's a prankster. When I was doing the video, we had water pistol fights. He's a perfectionist.

TEDDY RILEY, producer (worked on Dangerous and HIStory albums) He's the greatest. Innovative. Black.

SLASH, Guns N' Roses guitarist (played on Dangerous and HIStory albums) He's a fucking brilliant entertainer, a complete natural. He's the only guy I've ever met that's real—for that kind of music. I grew up listening to the Jackson 5. I used to love "Dancing Machine."

We've been friends for a while, so he just lets me do what I want to do. I get a basic framework, and I just make up my part and they edit it. I wonder sometimes what it's gonna sound like, [Laughs] but every time, they do a great job. He's very shrewd. He's got a great, sarcastic sense of humor. People always ask me, "Is he weird?" Well, he's different. But I know what it's like to be weird, growing up in the music business.

I have to admit working with Michael Jackson is different than working with your basic, gritty rock 'n' roll band. One time when I went to play for Michael, he walked in with Brooke Shields, and there I am with a cigarette in one hand, a bottle of Jack Daniel's in the other, and my guitar hanging low around my neck. And he doesn't care. That's not the way he is, but I don't have to change for him. He accepts me for what I am.

TATUM O'NEAL, actress/friend I never worked with Michael, but he and I had a really wonderful friendship when I was 12 and he was 17. He used to dance with me, we'd talk on the phone all the time, and he'd say how funny it was that I was 12 and I could drive and he was older and couldn't. Michael used to come to my house when I was living with my dad, and I remember him being so shy. Once he came into my bedroom, and he wouldn't even sit on my bed. But another time when he was over, he played the drums, my brother played guitar, and someone else played another instrument, and we had a jam session. I had the tape of it, but I lost it somewhere.

When I was 12, he asked me to go to the premiere of The Wiz with him, and my agent at the time said it wasn't a good idea, maybe because they felt he wasn't a big enough star yet. He never talked to me after that. I think he thought I just canceled, but it wasn't me at all. I was a child doing what I was told. I want you to print that, because I don't think he ever knew that. I lost touch with him because of it, so I don't really know him anymore. But I love him; he's one of the nicest, most innocent people I've ever met. I love "She's out of My Life" because I think it describes our friendship at that time.

DALLAS AUSTIN, songwriter/producer (worked on HIStory album) Working with Michael is a different type of work. You're pressured timewise, but not by creativity or money. So you're left with mad freedom. You'd think he'd be very controlling, but if he likes you enough to work with you, he wants your expertise, not just another Michael Jackson record.

"Heal the World" and "Stranger in Moscow" from the HIStory record are, like, the makeup of Michael. I think he's taken on the responsibility to make changes in the world. He's the only real superhero. Think about it.

LISA MARIE PRESLEY-JACKSON, former wife Michael is a true artist in every facet of its nature—extremely aesthetic and very, very romantic. This is who he truly is despite degrading comments made in the past by certain larva.

Michael, as well as myself, have been severely underestimated and misunderstood as human beings. I can't wait for the day when all the snakes who have tried to take him out get to eat their own lunch and crawl back in the holes from which they came.

We know who they are and their bluff is about to be called.

QUINCY JONES, longtime collaborator/legendary producer Michael can go out and perform before 90,000 people, but if I ask him to sing a song for me, I have to sit on the couch with my hands over my eyes and he goes behind the couch. He is amazingly shy.

What people forget about him is that for the first time, probably in the history of music, a black artist is embraced on a global level by everyone from eight to 80 years old. People all over the world, especially young people, have a black man as an idol.

Reporting by Omoronke Idowu, Shani Saxon, Joseph V. Tirella, Josh Tyrangiel, and Mimi Valdés

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Dan Winters

Snoop Dogg's Sept 1993 Cover Story: 'HOT DOGG'

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Sept. 1993 issue of VIBE Magazine.

His album is the most eagerly anticipated debut in hip hop history. Join Kevin Powell for a Snoop Dogg-day afternoon.

Written By: Kevin Powell Photographs By: Dan Winters

INSIDE the television room of the Village Recorder studio in West Los Angeles, Snoop Doggy Dogg stands nose-to-nose with his cousin, a tall, copper-complexioned man who is wildly defending his point. “That’s how you want it?” his cousin says, trying to cover his concern for Snoop with a display of machismo.

“That’s how it’s gonna be,” Snoop replies.

“You’re doing it, there it is,” says the cousin, dejectedly.

“This shit don’t make no sense to me right now,” Snoop retorts with a wave of his hands. “I want to be loved.”

I half listen to their disagreement and stare at the massive television set mounted on the wall behind them. On the screen, the talking head of former Los Angeles police sergeant Stacey Koon is babbling about Rodney King, the need for law and order, and the South Central rebellion, which occurred a year ago this day. Like a restless toddler, Snoop spontaneously lunges over his cousin’s left shoulder blade, molds his long fingers into a gun, and aims at the screen, directly at Koon’s mouth: “Bam!” Taking the oral bullet as a cue, the man eases off Snoop’s case and retreats. Confused by the swirl of events on and off screen, I ask Snoop what’s going on.

“He was telling me,” he begins in his syrupy southern twang, “for security purposes I need to probably hire him….” I fade out Snoop’s voice for a moment, mentally juxtaposing last year’s explosion of black rage with the fact that at that time no one, save the local underground scene, had ever heard of Snoop Doggy Dogg. Like that display of raw energy, Snoop blazed through rap music last summer on a mission, his drawl chanting from jeeps and groove-filled clubs— “‘Cuz it’s 1-8-7 on a undercover cop” —helping propel Dr. Dre’s “Deep Cover” single to number one on the rap charts. If that tease wasn’t enough, on Dre’s multi-platinum The Chronic (the title was suggested by Snoop and by his own estimates he contributed a good 65 to 70 percent of the lyrics), Snoop’s singsongy-hardcore style broke loose from the other guest vocalists on the album and stole the show. These performances marked him as one of the few rappers in hip hop history to establish a firm and identifiable presence before the release of his own debut album, Doggy Style, slated to hit the streets in early September.

But in spite of the buzz around Snoop’s rap career, he refuses—as evidenced by his argument with his cousin—to succumb to the demands of fame. Until recently he had no car, and he still shares an apartment in Long Beach with his first cousin That Nigga Daz, and barely notices any of the women who parade in and out of the studio in search of him, Dre, or rapper the D.O.C. So here he is—21 years old, six foot four, pencil thin, and quite obviously only one generation removed from his family’s Mississippi roots—arguing about his ability to protect himself against overzealous fans and envious knuckleheads. In essence, then, Snoop is more than hype. He’s just a regular kid from the block who happens to have a rhyme virtuosity that’s the envy of rappers on both coasts.

With his weary, understated cadence, Snoop Doggy Dogg has upped the hip hop ante: No waving of baseball bats on album covers, no spitting in music videos, no bald heads. If you want a rapper who dramatizes the harshness of ghetto life, this is it.

And, on the surface at least, Snoop’s lyrics are his reality. He still packs two guns (“It’s just a protection thang. A nigga ain’t gonna be out there slippin’”), and he never roams without the Dogg Pound—Daz, Kurupt, RBX, and his other buddies from the ‘hood. So he doesn’t even worry about the static that inevitably results from walking a fine line between ghetto life and life as a rap star. Perhaps subconsciously, Snoop’s final response to his cousin’s interrogation is also his declaration of who he was and who he claims to be. “I ain’t young no more,” he concludes. “I’m grown.”

Snoop's weary understated cadence has upped the hip hop ante: No waving of baseball bats, no spitting in music videos, no bald heads.

THE VILLAGE RECORDER, according to an engineer and the platinum and gold albums that punctuate the walls, has been home to Cher, Eric Clapton, and Alice Cooper. For Snoop it is currently the only home he has other than Long Beach. Inside the studio, former N.W.A member Dr. Dre sits behind the control boards snapping his head back and forth to a contagious, bass-driven sound. Contrary to his media image, in person the burly Dre is reserved, even shy. The Dee Barnes incident and other legal entanglements still haunt him—most recently, he is being sued for breach of contract by Ruthless Records, Eazy-E’s label. But there’s no denying his talent: With The Chronic, Dre managed to produce one of the more innovative albums—rap or otherwise—in recent memory. Now the head of his own company, Death Row Records, Dre isn’t hesitant to praise Snoop Doggy Dogg’s contribution to the rap genre.

“Snoop is gonna be around a long time,” Dre says, his thick hands palming each other, searching for words. “He’s always coming up with different concepts and he’s good in the studio. He can go on and ad lib a fuckin’ song if he wants to. And it would be funky.” Dre pauses again, then flashes an uncharacteristic smile. “Matter of fact, we did that on ‘Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang.’ We put a little freestyle thing on there—I don’t think they knew I was recording.”

Meanwhile, the studio overflows with young black men milling about, some eating Fatburgers, some staring into space, others whispering loosely constructed rhymes to no one in particular. Snoop walks around the tiny studio like a wound-up scarecrow with a pink notepad tucked beneath his armpit. Snoop’s hair is braided, his long, dark body a mannequin for a Death Row leather jacket, a black WeedWear T-shirt, very baggy gray pants, and old-school low-top canvas Converse sneakers. As accessories, a gold stub sparkles from Snoop’s left ear and a gold chronic leaf pendant rests firmly on his chest. Like most homies in the L.A. area, Snoop is overdressed, but he’s such a cool brother you would never know it’s 85 degrees outside. Snoop is so laid back one gets the impression that he’ll never write the lyrics for this latest Dre track. Between puffs on a blunt, he jots words down on the notepad, then turns around to me.

“You want some smoke?”

“No, I’m ay-ight,” I say, because I don’t smoke marijuana, and besides, the chronic is so potent I already have a contact. Oblivious, Snoop blows more smoke in my direction. Someone flips on the studio television set and coincidentally BET’s Rap City is playing “Deep Cover” and “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” back to back. I look at Snoop: the smoking and writing have ceased. His eyes are glued to the screen.

“That’s like classic shit,” Snoop says matter-of-factly. “The beginning of the whole episode, how we put this shit together. Just watching our work from the beginning to where it’s at now is to see a drastic improvement.” That “drastic improvement” understates the relationship between Snoop and Dre. They have become friends who clearly respect each other’s talents. Snoop eagerly sums it all up: “Whatever it takes to keep it as a family thang,” he says. “We don’t want it to be just business—we want it to be family and business, so whenever shit gets salty, niggas can break away with no problems.”

SNOOP DOGGY DOGG was born nearly 22 years ago in Long Beach, California, the second of his mother’s three sons (his older brother is 24 and his younger brother is 14). Southeast of Los Angeles, Long Beach is a bustling, multicultural port city known for its beautiful split-level homes. However, much like South Central L.A., Long Beach’s black community is bunched into the East Side, where poverty, drug trafficking, and gang activity is just part of the day.

Snoop’s family—like most black families on the West Coast—migrated to California from the Deep South after World War II in search of work and better economic opportunities. Snoop’s parents were never married, and none of the three boys share the same father. Nicknamed “Snoop” when he was a youngster—perhaps because his long face, thin lips, and wide ears resemble those of a cartoon canine—he refuses to tell me his real name.

“That’s my real name,” he says, amused at the secret he is keeping from the public. “That’s the key to my life, Snoop Dogg. I snoop. I don’t like nobody snoopin’ on me, I snoop on them, youknowhumsayin’?”

And I do know what Snoop is saying. Ghetto life creates its own terms for survival, its own names, its own heroes. Nicknames like “Mook” and “Pop” and “Smoky” populate every inner city in America, each moniker attached to a body that is repelling the constraints, both real and imagined, placed on that world. In Snoop’s case, yeah, he may have grown up a lil’ ghetto boy—fatherless, poor, more a student of the streets than of school—but at the very least his name debunks the myth that you know him. You may know his type but you don’t know him.

His childhood was rough, he says, though early on Snoop had a passion for sports and his mother took him and his older brother to church every Sunday, where he sang in the choir. Instinctively, Snoop leans into my tape recorder: "I want to thank my momma for putting me in the church.”

But neither the church nor sports were enough to keep Snoop out of trouble. His older brother, the most tangible male presence in his life, was his role model. And his brother’s inclination toward street life influenced Snoop. “I would want to smoke weed and just kick it in the mix, but he’d be like, ‘No, nigga, I don’t want you hangin’ with me.’” Unwilling to take no for an answer, Snoop formed his own clique and hit the streets.

Raised on the East Side of Long Beach until he was 15, Snoop moved with his family to North Long Beach and began in earnest his career as a hustler. When he noticed several of his homies from the East Side selling drugs in his new neighborhood, Snoop figured his chances of making real money were worth the next step he took. “I started selling every kind of narcotic you could think of,” he says. “It wasn’t no shit I was trying to hide. I mean, the preacher knew I was selling dope—everybody knew. It was getting me paid and I was like, fuck it, a regular job ain’t paying this much and I ain’t got to be dealing with no boss. I’m my own boss on the streets.

Snoop says he was also affiliated with the gang element of street life. “I really don’t even say I was involved with no gang as far as Crips or Bloods,” he states. “I was associated because that’s my surroundings. That’s what I was brought up with and that was just me.”

However, Snoop is critical of the gang violence in Long Beach, a violence so deadly he insists that we cannot conduct any of this interview there, even though this anniversary weekend is allegedly devoted to gang unity. “It’s Crip on Crip out there in my neighborhood,” he says. “I hope they wake up and smell the real flavor and see there ain’t no positiveness in killing each other. I wouldn’t want to chance me and you being out there doing an interview, youknowhumsayin’, and somebody come at me wicked and either I have to let off on them or they have to let off on me.” But there is an up side to gang life. “Niggas will do anything for you: do time for you, take a bullet for you, kill somebody for you. You can find that kind of love on the streets.”

Snoop was arrested for drug peddling only 30 days after his graduation from Long Beach Polytechnic high school. Over the next three years, he would be in and out of county jails on three separate occasions. It was the time behind bars that changed his focus.

"My name is the key to my life," he says. "I don't like nobody snoopin' on me—I snoop on them."

“That was the key to my whole life,” he says, leaning back as if considering where his other options might have led him. “I was always good at rap, but I never really had no study habits because I didn’t think nobody would put no money into me or see my talent—my true talent.” That talent had been there all along. Snoop’s interest in rap dates back to its early days and a song called “Super Rhymes.” He memorized the lyrics and performed them for classmates, even taking credit for the song. As admiration for his rhyming skills grew, he abandoned the plagiarism and created his own songs.

Throughout his hustling days, Snoop maintained his interest in rap, closely monitoring the careers of N.W.A., Eric B. & Rakim, and his all-time favorite rapper, Slick Rick. The parallels between Rick and Snoop are particularly clear: both have unusual voices and rhyme styles that have helped to redirect hip hop, both tell stories—serious and comical—about the urban milieu, and both are young black men who have been incarcerated.

Once he was out of jail, Snoop produced several underground tapes in hopes of getting a record deal. One was passed onto Dr. Dre by Snoop’s homie Warren G, also a resident of Long Beach and Dr. Dre’s brother. Snoop and Dre connected in early 1990, and Snoop was invited to sit through the recording of N.W.A’s Efil4zaggin album. Broke and unemployed but determined to make it as a rapper, Snoop suffered tremendously during this period—borrowing money, being fed by friends, sleeping on whatever couch was available. “Shit, I was doing bad, man. That’s what you call paying dues, you know? But that’s the shit I had to go through after I gave up selling dope. I told myself I had to be right in life and when you say that, you’ve got to give up everything that’s negative.”

While he was living with an aunt on the East Side, Snoop signed a 90-day record deal, but it wasn’t the kind of rap he was interested in doing. “I didn’t want to be no R&B rapper and no motherfuckin’ crossover rapper," he says. “I don’t want to be wearing no flat-tops and all that other R&B-ass shit. That ain’t me. I want my shit to be 100% gangsta shit.”

Snoop’s patience paid off. With the disintegration of N.W.A. following the dispute between Dre and Eazy-E, the door was opened for the haunting “Deep Cover,” which introduced a nation of rap fans to Snoop Doggy Dogg. Like Ice-T’s “Cop Killer,” “Deep Cover” attacked crooked police, but not too many people picked up on the song’s slippery lyrics. “Murder of an undercover cop,” Snoop says, his face crinkled into a mischievous smile as he explains the meaning of the police code number that served as the song’s hook. “We was hollerin’ that shit all on TV, ‘1-8-7 on a undercover cop.’ If they would have went in-depth on that song, there would have been some shit out of that. But it’s the way we put it down.”

Snoop’s performance on The Chronic, especially on "Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang,” “Dre Day,” and “Lil’ Ghetto Boy,” only solidified his status as hip-hop-vocalist-meets-gun-toting-renegade in the tradition of rebel artists as diverse as John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Marley. “‘G’ Thang” has to be the hardest top-five hit in pop-music history, its unfettered melodies and cocksure lyrics doing for black boys what Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” did for the long-haired grunge crowd: providing a naughty anthem for a subgroup with a constantly changing self-definition. For Snoop’s audience, that definition suddenly included the word “gangsta.”

By Snoop’s reasoning, “a gangsta runs his own thang. He’s got his own mentality, he’s his own gang, he don’t listen to nobody but himself. And he programs himself around being intelligent and staying above the rest of the competition out there.”

“Would you describe yourself as a gangsta?” I ask. He smiles wickedly. “Oh, I’d like to say I’m a smooth macadamian."

SNOOP and Daz are sitting in a corner of the studio, bobbing their heads in unison to Dre’s track. A dwarf in comparison to the lanky Snoop, Daz nevertheless has Snoop’s respect and freely offers revisions to the lyrics Snoop is mouthing. Because of the unprecedented success of The Chronic and the tremendous potential of Doggy Style, concern has been raised about Snoop’s lyrics, particularly his frequent use of the word “bitch.” Not anticipating getting called on this issue, he answers weakly: “I don’t call a woman a bitch until I feel that she’s a bitch,” and justifies his use of the word as “studio work.”

I think back to his comments about his mother, particularly the gratitude he feels toward her for all the support she’s given him. The question begs itself: Are all black women “bitches” except our mothers? Later Snoop would, like a child feeling cornered, feebly respond, “It’s just a word, you know, that you grew up with. It’s some shit that’s hard to shake.”

Given the paucity of role models and leaders in the black community, it is now a foregone conclusion that rappers are the voice of youth and, as such have the potential to mold opinion. Snoop, like too few black boys before him, has managed to survive and represents something real, something doable to ghetto youth trapped in inner cities across America. The challenge for someone of Snoop’s stature is in understanding who he himself is and how his past binds him to his core listeners; to use his lyrics not merely to tell stories but to offer other possibilities, other definitions. It won’t be enough for Snoop to say he has “skills like a motherfucker” if those skills prompt more young men to kill each other or to disrespect and abuse women.

Rap, in Snoop’s opinion, shows “that a lot of kids are trying to do something positive. Young niggas was killing each other and they was getting a lot media hype. Now you’re getting a lot media hype because there’s a lot of black teens that are doing rap. So, which sounds better to you?”

Actually, it might sound better if rap were truly the great liberator it claims to be. Individual freedom (in the way of money in the pocket, groupies, etc.) does not equal community uplift. But perhaps that’s going too far ahead of the game. Brothers like Snoop just want to get paid, be able to move their mothers out of the ghetto, and have a nice car and a nice home. Snoop says that given the chance to live his life differently, he might’ve even gone to junior college, unaware that that option in and of itself shows the limitations of a black boy’s dreams, if there are any dreams to be had at all.

Snoop knows the kind of stories he wants to tell. Real stories, violent stories, misogynistic stories, stories that have no beginning, no middle, no end...they just are.

THERE'S a song on Snoop’s debut album called “Who Am I?” —a smoothed-out track with a chorus of female vocals passionately harmonizing his name. Snoop sits in a corner rocking back and forth, still mouthing lyrics for another song with Daz as the crowded studio bops to the groove. “Motherfuckers be trippin’ off me, but I be trippin’ off of them,” Snoop says, whimsically, of his growing legion of admirers. It surprises him, all the hoopla, and Snoop claims he didn’t know about the buzz until interviewers told him it was so. Perhaps he really is that focused, that unconcerned about fame and women. Perhaps his life and hip hop music are one and the same, on-edge, provocative, challenging, yet still limited by their particular worldviews.

Much of Snoop’s life has been a reaction to external forces: the instability of his family, the poverty and crime and gang life in his neighborhood, his years spent on the streets hustling drugs to survive. Hip hop has afforded him a path out—not only a way to make money, as he puts it, but also the means to define himself, for once. Snoop is adamant about asserting his independence at last. “I demand my respect,” he says. “Every move I make is for me and I’m a man, so can’t no man tell me how to make my moves in life.”

Some apparently think otherwise. In recent months, numerous rumors of Snoop’s death either by murder or drug overdose have filtered through the streets. Some people have gone so far as to call Snoop’s grandmother and announce his death to her.

Still obviously uncomfortable with his new celebrity status, Snoop grudgingly admits these rumors are probably fueled by simple jealousy. “I don’t want to think like that, but I have to, ‘cuz it’s like that sometimes,” he says, his facial expression blank, unfazed by the thought of dying young.

Frankly, the imminence of death is in Snoop’s head every day. One can imagine him scanning local newscasts filled with reports of homies dead from street violence. “Yeah,” he mumbles in another direction, “it’s on my mind heavily ‘cuz I lost a lot of homeboys at an early age….” And he doesn’t complete the thought because he is tired of reacting. Snoop really wants to believe he can finally make his own moves without others dictating his steps.

“I ain’t dead,” he says defiantly, his long body again bent toward the tape recorder as if the machine were broadcasting his words straight to the streets. “I’m still breathing. Stop trying to mark me dead before it’s my time.”

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