Brainwash on KSMC 45.9
What's good Brainwash? It's been a minute! What have you been up to?
Yeah bro, I've been tackling some other interests in life - all sorts of non-music business endeavors. Opened a retail store in Arizona, got married - just retired the jersey, so-to-speak, in 2007.
But you're back now? What made you want to get back into music again?
It's funny because I always said I wasn't gonna do music ever again. Especially after Ball (The Black Rhino) passed in 2012, I wasn't interested in getting back into music ever again after that. But something kinda clicked for me in 2016, after I put-out a 20 Year Anniversary Collector's Edition re-release of "Skitsofrenic" and saw the incredible fan support & realized that I still had a massive, global fan base that wanted new music from me. And it's crazy because making music & writing lyrics has always been second nature to me, I never had to really TRY that hard to do it. That sounds cocky but that's not what I mean, I just mean that when I sat down to get down on a track, it just kinda flowed out of me without a whole lot of effort. And I realized quickly that the old adage of "use it or lose it" is pretty fuckin' accurate. (laughs) I had writer's block, had no inspiration really, couldn't find that mojo. I couldn't put a beat together that sounded good, it just was suddenly something I was struggling to do and that was abnormal for me and I didn't have my mentor, my brother Ball to call on for inspiration. A lot of people don't realize that, even though I produced far more of my songs than he ever did - even if he wasn't directly involved in making whatever song I was working on, he was still kinda involved as a muse, in a way. Maybe without even knowing it. But whenever I was working on something and had a block or whatever, I'd hit Ball and by the time we got done talking, I had inspiration again - and what's funny is our conversation might not have even had anything to do with the song and still, I would feel more confident with my purpose after we'd talk and the next time I'd see him like 3 days later, I'd have like 12 new songs done or some shit and play 'em for him and then he'd get motivated to stop working on whatever he was working on at the time and do something with me.
It was definitely a huge loss to the rap game when The Black Rhino passed. It was a heart attack?
It was Diabetes-related. He was sick for a while, he had lost his vision for a bit, he never really took his health all that seriously but after his daughters passed away, I think he just kinda stop caring. That was one of the most horrible days I've ever experienced was when that car accident happened - I can't even talk about it in detail. R.I.P. Chenelle and T.T. - I'm glad yall have your pops back now at least. Let's change the subject.
No problem. So, you were having a block again when you set-out to return to the game in 2016 - how'd you end up getting past that? And what's the first song you did once you finally found your vibe again?
The first song I did was one called "Bulletproof" and I was trying to figure out the equipment I just bought and teach myself how to do this shit again. I wasn't feeling the song, I didn't like it, but I sent it to a couple brothers of mine and they loved it. So I knew I was on the verge of finding it again. The next one I did was "Young & Restless", which actually ended up making the cut for the new album. I got Domino to spit the hook much later though. But when I first made the beat and laid the vocals, that was around March of 2017 and that's kinda when I really got serious and started working out all the aspects that would become my return to the game. The goal was to do 50 new songs and then pick out the best 18 or so and put them on the new album and by the end of the year, I was already past that. By the beginning of February 2018, I was at 62 new songs and knew I had to wrap it up at some point, otherwise I'd never get done. But I wanted to take advantage of the creative spurt I had because I remembered how brutal it felt to have that block and wanted to get as much out of myself as I could, while I could. The original release date for the album was actually New Years Eve 2017 but I still had hella new shit pouring out and didn't wanna sell the project or the fans short by putting it out if I still felt like I had more to give to it. The when I started to run out of gas a little bit, I knew it was time to finalize the track listing, get the artwork ready and really begin the 2nd phase of the album process which is the business aspect of it. My least favorite part - I hate the business. I love the music, I hate the business - always did.
You've said that before - and that's why you never signed a major deal with anyone, right?
Yeah, man. Especially back in '96 when I finished "Skitsofrenic" - the majors were signing up everybody in the 90's - all the Bay artists and Sac artists that we all kinda came up with - were all getting deals. And when I finished that (Skitsofrenic) album, a lot of labels had interest and were pursuing me. I was holding out for a distribution deal and turned down some big money, which may have been a mistake I guess, when looking back on it, because had I taken one of the big deals I was offered, I might not have ended up getting in legal troubles later and my art woulda reached a wider audience than it did - but it is what it is, man, there woulda also been a lot of downside to it too - can't really dwell on those decisions I made 22 years ago. But yeah, man, to answer your question - I didn't like the music business at all. I was seeing all the dirty shit and hearing the horror stories and seeing artists with big deals borrowing gas money to get to their own show that night and what not, it just didn't feel right. And I was cocky as Hell, bro, I had big multi platinum artists and major label A&R's and managers and label owners and shit - all telling me that I was the next big thing and I felt like I deserved the world and I was just young and dumb, man. I had spent so many years paying dues and doing underground tapes on my own and building a little following or whatever, and I just felt like, by '96, I was 7 years deep into it and thought I knew everything but I didn't know shit. (laughs)
Bro, "Skitsofrenic" is one of those underground classic albums that everyone should own a copy of in their collection. That album broke a lot of ground in a lot of ways too - it was way ahead of it's time, in my opinion. How'd that album come about?
Thanks, bro. Appreciate that. We started recording "Skitsofrenic" in 1995. Actually it really kinda started in '94. I met Ball (The Black Rhino) in '93 or '94 and I was fuckin' terrible - I had done a bunch of underground tapes, like I said, but I hadn't really found myself artistically yet. I wasn't comfortable in my own skin so the art kinda reflected that. I had a ton of writing talent and I was super smart so the technological part of figuring out the equipment and making it do shit it probably wasn't designed to do, all that came easy to me - but I just didn't have a distinct vocal style in my delivery and my rhymes were all over the place, bro - I was trying too hard to be like those who inspired me and it just wasn't right yet. But there was one song that I put out on an underground tape in 1992, and Ball heard it shortly after we met and called me and was like "Yo, this is the shit. You need to do more shit like this." So I took his advice and started writing more shit like that and he brought over a drum machine and a 4 track and laid down some skeleton beats for me to write to and all this was in '94. In fact, on my final underground tape that I did and put out that year, one called "Death Around the Corner", it was my 5th tape, Ball actually produced an early version of "Sick In The Head" on that tape. So we were figuring out what to do with me. (laughs) Next thing I knew, he and I were working on the album - first at his house then at my house we'd do some and then we got into the studio in 1995 and really started hammering out that album. That was one of the best memories I have of this whole music shit - were those times making that album.
I bet it was pretty amazing to be there for that! So, after that album came out - it seems like you and Ball went your own separate ways? I remember when Black Rhino's 2nd album came out, "Paper Route", I expected to hear you all over that album and there was no Brainwash. Then I ran to the store and got the "Razor Blades & Bloody Bathwater" album and there was no Black Rhino on there. It was a weird, sudden distance for a while, no? I didn't hear yall together again for a couple years?
Yeah, we did kinda fall out. I mean, he and I never really fell out but D-Cal and I did, and I kinda felt like Ball shoulda had my back in that situation, and looking back on it - he was trying to diffuse it or whatever, he was, but I was all butt-hurt about what had happened and just kinda drifted away from everyone, for the most part, after D-Cal and I got into it. It wasn't until '99 when we reconnected again, after I had put out "Posthumous" and did the movies and stuff, and we hooked back up one day after a concert I had done and started kickin' it heavy like we never spent a minute apart.
You and D-Cal also, or just 8-Ball? Because I remember that compilation coming out with you and Ball on it and he was billed as "Crazy-8 of Black Rhino" and then later he just kinda assumed the name Black Rhino for himself, right? It never really explained where D-Cal went though? What happened exactly?
Nah, I actually didn't see D-Cal again after our incident until Ball's funeral in 2012 - that was the first time I had seen him in 15 years. He and Ball broke-up as the group at some point in '99 I think and I don't really know all the details about what happened with them exactly, but I know they squashed it all later and were buddies again but yeah, Ball kinda just took the group's name as his name because the group name had a lot of stock value at that point, and if D-Cal wasn't gonna do music anymore, it'd be a waste to just flush that group name away so Ball just became The Black Rhino and it was cool. What happened between me and D-Cal is really kinda stupid, to be honest, looking back on it. What happened was that, during the recording of "Skitsofrenic", D-Cal had left town and moved to Atlanta I think or Oklahoma or somewhere far away, I don't know where for sure. And during this time, Ball and I had become even closer friends and were always around each other, constantly, making songs and kicking it, meeting celebrities and doing a lot of big things together. I was also really developing my style and becoming Brainwash - and part of that was through experimentation with styles and vocal inflections or whatever and in that process, without doing anything deliberately shady, I guess my use of a lot of higher pitched deliveries in some of my rhymes, once D-Cal had heard them from afar, reminded him of himself and I think he kinda saw that me and Ball were kickin' it heavy and doing a lot of music and then probably felt like I was trying to replace him or something. Which was ridiculous - I never once thought "I'mma start rappin' with a higher pitched voice than my more monotone