Coming out of the expansive Oxnard ’90s hip-hop scene that birthed Oh No, Declaime, and Wildchild, as well as the legendary Beat Konducta Madlib, rapper Medaphoar—better known by MED—sits in a booth in Greek-owned Louis Burger in Long Beach, giving us some of the highlights of his artistic life. Having gotten his start with a heavy verse on Soundpieces, the classic underground debut by Lootpack in 1999, MED has crafted a credible following throughout the years, built on his impressive wordplay and a strong ear for beats that fit his vivid storytelling.
Through his long-time association with Stones Throw, MED has helped shape what the West Coast scene has been able to develop from his solid features on Dilla records to being the only MC to make an appearance on the beat scene’s staple, Shades of Blue, all the while affording younger members of the music scene the same opportunity given to him almost 20 years ago. Now at the head of his own indie label BangYaHead, MED talked to us about his new project, Bad Neighbor with the mysterious Blu, investing in himself as an artist, working with DOOM, his long time collaborations with Madlib, and the maturation of the local scene.
So we’re standing outside of the world famous Louis Burger in downtown Long Beach, I am with the ever-present-in-the-West-Coast-rap-scene MED. How you doing, man?
Doing good my brother, doing well.
How did your new project, Bad Neighbor, with Blu and Madlib come about?
Oh man, that came—years and years in the making, even through the whole process it was building as homeboys, getting to know each other, and then deciding to do a song that had nothing to do with the Bad Neighbor and then it just grew from there naturally. Just really a homies project, so just homies getting together and putting in some work.
This is the third project you guys have worked on together, starting with the Burgundy EP and the Buzz. What is it about Blu, specifically as a rapper, and Madlib, specifically as a producer, that you enjoy collaborating with?
I’ve been dealing with Madlib for like, generations. We’ve been doing it for a couple years. I actually first met Madlib as an artist in the city of Oxnard because he’s from there and we just crossed paths because I was looking for some beats. I used to perform, but I used to rap over other people’s beats. Then I started making beats, then I ended up meeting him and he was like, “Yo, run with us.” So we like family.
What I really like about Blu’s style is that he’s everywhere with it, man. He’s just naturally talented, he’s always been one of the most influential when it comes to lyrics and just being himself—original. The Johnson&Jonson project. I like all of that.
Me and Madlib came up, and that’s what I appreciate about Madlib, too—he always did what he wanted to do. So that’s pretty much what you’re going to get out of this album. We’re going to do what we want to do—which is good music, man. I think we’re real happy with what we got.
How do you feel—because you’ve been around for a long time now, doing stuff on your own, through Stones Throw, multiple labels—how do you feel about where the West Coast is as a music scene today?
I think it’s great, man. If I were anywhere else, I’d probably be trying to get to LA and do my music. There’s so much out here, everybody’s moving out here… we all get along out here, there’s good energy. I mean, there’s a few little riffs with certain rappers and whatnot, but not really. We don’t be beefing like that, I don’t think. You think so?
Not no more.
Not no more, I think we good. A lot of people are actually collabing; it’s great to see the Bloods and Crips doing their thing, it’s good to see hip-hop combining with the more G rap or whatever—street rap. I think it’s beautiful, man. I got songs with Kurupt, got a song with Kokane, so I’m definitely proud to be where I’m from. It’s the best place to do music.
I would definitely agree, I feel like now more than ever, specifically in LA, you find this whole […] alliance between underground hip-hop and gangster rap and whatever. With these subgenres, I feel like there’s a lot of blending because there’s—more than ever—this feeling of community within the music scene. Because here you are collaborating with Madlib and Blu, three different people with three different lanes completely, coming together as one.
But everybody at the same time… Madlib does his jazz, he’s crazy with the drums, he took time off from hip-hop just to learn how to do instruments. Blu, he’s a rapper/producer, as well as myself. And me, right now, I’m just venturing off into putting out the quality music that I feel like putting out and not having to wait on nobody. Being more in control because, in a sense, with the access to the Internet and sales history, you can get distribution deals.
“WE’RE GOING TO DO WHAT WE WANT TO DO—WHICH IS GOOD MUSIC, MAN.”
That’s a great thing to touch upon because this is one of the first major full-length that’s coming out on your imprint, BangYaHead. You want to talk about BangYaHead and how you, as an indie artist, came about to wanting to have your own label and do your own distribution for your own music?
Sale history always gets you a better deal, but a lot of rappers, they probably get their little deal and whatnot and still go act like a rapper and spend. I just flip my money, man. I just think you have to invest everything back into it and take it serious because I don’t really look at it like a label in a sense. I look at it as my career also, so I gotta make sure everything’s lined up the best way possible before I deliver the product. Right now, we’re doing pretty good. We going to be the top selling shit through Fat Beats distribution this year with our project. iTunes is showing love, Best Buy is showing love, we’re going to be in Best Buy, so that’s a good thing.
Can you talk about the collabs you have on Bad Neighbor? As well as how you came about working with people from, like, Jimetta Rose on there, you got Anderson Paak, you got a lot of heavy hitters.
Everything was just natural, everything was natural, man. That’s the good thing. Thank God we didn’t try to rush it because we got like 30 songs, so we didn’t really rush it. We just kept doing songs and having fun with it and I think it was perfect because through the whole process, songs got tighter when we started letting people put their piece on there too. Like Anderson Paak, that was some easy joints right there. He’s actually from Oxnard—I know his family—so that was nothing. We got some more shit in the works, me and him, and some stuff he connected, he got it coming on his album. I’m not on it though, but I helped him out with connecting some stuff. Some Madlib joints, he got Madlib on there, the song is ridiculous too, man.
Aloe Blacc, that’s natural. That’s the homie. He’s actually Dirty Science crew. That’s actually when I first met Blu… So that was like 2006, I think I was 13 or something. Nah, I’m joking. [Laughs] Trying to act like I aint older. No, but yeah, that’s where I actually first met Blu. Who else we got on? Jimetta—that’s the “Burgundy” joint. That’s something Blu organized and I just jumped on there, he already had that ready to go. Phonte, I reached out to Phonte and shit and we got that popping. That was actually a joint that I was creating and we pretty much turned it into our joint.
Talk about what’s getting a lot of buzz right now, the Doom track that you guys had together. Because Blu was telling me that he didn’t actually come in and record it with you. But you guys placed it together with Doom. Can you talk about that experience?
Doom—I recorded the “Madvillainy 2” with Doom, which is dope. So I’m not that. But we recorded that in Highland Park, I think Highland Park or right before Highland Park on the 110. On this one—where’s he at? He’s somewhere.
He’s in metal face land, he ain’t in the States. So we just pretty much communicated through the phone and whatnot. He laced me, man, it’s crazy. I don’t know if you’ve seen that animated video.
“IT’S JUST THAT NATURAL MADLIB SOUND, THAT FILTH.”
Take your DVDs and stuff.
Yeah, stealing my shit! Villain, man! But he came up with that whole concept, which was fun. I think that was dope, people didn’t really want me to drop it because they wanted to save it for the album, but I was like, “Naw, man. People want to hear it, that’s that Madvillain.”
The sonics of the album are very amazing; it’s the typical, dirty, raw, unfiltered sound that we expect from Madlib. And you guys just flowed the beat.
Yeah, we just had fun, man. It wasn’t really trying to—we just did music, so that was the good thing about it. I hope people come across it and they actually feel it, it’s just that natural Madlib sound, that filth. That J/Lib-era raw shit, but newer and cool because it’s us. I did overcompress the album at one point though, I was like, “Man, bring that shit down.” So I just remastered, trying to make it all louder and whatnot. So me and DJ Romes were like, “Naw, just keep it a natural feel, like how Madlib pretty much gave it. Just give it little touches.”
He’s featured on the “Peroxide” joint right?
Yeah, DJ Romes scratching and he put the cuts down.
What’s coming up in terms of you? Any solo projects coming up through BangYaHead?
Yeah, the next thing is BangYaHead 4 compilation. That’s what I’m dropping next.
Who you got coming on there?
I got Dibiase on the beats, got a song with me and him, Kokane, Guilty Simpson. Then there’s a song with me, Blu, eLZhi, Jimetta, Chris Key. Just some dope stuff, man. I got Gangrene on there. It’s just me letting people know that I can bring shit together and make some good projects. So I’m developing my label so that next I can start putting out other artists and helping them collab and just helping good music come out from the artists that most likely can’t.
For the artists that are listening to this, can you tell them why it’s important to always invest in yourself?
I definitely think it’s the most important to invest in yourself because labels don’t really care. Not to diss the label because it’s good to be on if it works. But sometimes it might not work because your buzz ain’t there, so you gotta put that extra effort in because it’s hard out here. There’s so much going on, there’s so much music dropping day to day, so you just gotta stay relevant, man; Do as many shows as possible and invest and shoot some videos. You don’t need to go get a chain or a nice car, just shoot some videos. You ain’t gotta pay for World Star. Flip that and make two videos and pay somebody to push it to the hip-hop blogs in your lane. Just wisely invest, don’t over-invest, don’t overspend, too. You gotta spend your money wisely because you gotta stretch it out and make it work for you.
So you have a tour coming up?
Yeah, we got a whole world tour that’s in the works, so we’re going to see how it works out man.
Is there anything that you want to end on? In terms of the fans and everything?
Naw, just make sure you all go out there and support the album. It’s real important to support the artists out here, we work hard to give you music and we hope you enjoy it. Come out to the shows.
Buy Bad Neighbor on CD/LP on rappcats.com and on iTunes here.
Photos by Kaleb Marshall.