By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
BOO YAA! That’s the sound of a shotgun. Like a sneak attack, the Boo Yaa Tribe is back for the kill with a bangin’ new album, West Koasta Nostra. So let’s go down to the outfit’s Santa Monica offices and catch up.
Ever meet a small Samoan? The Boo Yaa tribesmen are 6-foot, 300-to-500-pound, tatted-up, braided-down, white-T-shirted, sagging-khakied, Chucks-shod, street-talking dawgs. Growing up, these seven sons of the Reverend Tauilima Devoux learned by ear to handle the instruments their dad bought them. He preached; they played. But growing up in the eight-ball city of Carson, the brothers exchanged the house of worship for the harbor streets: They got jumped into the O.G. Piru West gang and became Damus (Swahili for Bloods), known in order of age as Godfather, Murder One, Youngman, Kobra, Ganxsta Ridd, Monsta O, and the baby of the family, 500-pound Gawtti.
During the ’80s N.W.A era, gangbanging and doing time became a way of life for the brothers. Ganxsta Ridd, who had always written dirty poems to beats, decided he’d turn to rap. The Tribe put their money together, hooked up with DJ/producer Tony G., and in 1987 self-released the 12-inch single “One Time,” which drew A&R attention at Island Records.
In 1988, as the Boo Yaas were about to get signed, Youngman (Robert, the youngest to attend Folsom) was shot to death by rival gangsters, their uncle was smoked by a Shermed-out homeboy with an AK-47 as he watered his grass, and their grief-stricken grandmother followed. Three deaths in one month — but the Tribe kept their focus, inked with Island, and in 1990 busted out with New Funky Nation.
The day before the Boo Yaas were to board the bus for the 1992 Lollapalooza tour, says brother Gawtti, he was “caught slippin’” as he took out the trash in front of his house, and was shot at close range six times with a .45; doctors said he survived only because of his size. Once again the group turned to the music, and on the tour played the style they call “ghetto metal,” a mix of rap and rock they’d come up with before Ice-T’s Body Count went that way. Kobra and Ridd say that all the main acts, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, were coming down to the second stage to check them out. The Tribe got offers to perform with the headliners, but they weren’t into “alternative” acts; they just wanted to bang backstage.
Between then and now, great stage shows haven’t helped the Boo Yaa Tribe in the studio: A number of small labels have seemed unable to get beyond the image and let the brothers’ rapping, singing, playing and dancing shine. “They let the intimidation overshadow the talent,” says Kobra. So the Tribe invested in a new label, Sarinjay Records; G-funk producer Battlecat (Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg) marinated Boo Yaa’s sounds in the studio; and 11 bumping tracks resulted.
One cut, “911,” was produced by Eminem; according to Kobra, he “saw the struggle, the blood in the eyes of the Boo Yaa Tribe.” The number is a warning call: “Hip-hop is in a state of 911,” rap Eminem and Cypress Hill’s B-Real to the sound of gunfire (à la Tupac’s “Against All Odds”). A regular gangsta gumbo, West Koasta Nostra also ended up including Mack 10 (on the flamed-up single and DVD video “Bang On”), WC, Kurupt, Crooked I, Knoc-Turn’al, Kokane, Short Khop, Eastwood and Gail Gotti.
No set-trippin’ here; do the ghetto math: red + blue = green. “We’re tired of pointing guns at each other, when we could go make this money,” says Ganxsta Ridd.
You’ll feel a family’s pain on this album, but just listen to the funky last cut, “Beautiful Thang” (a remake of Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing”), featuring Baby-Down; it will take you back to old school, when times were simpler. With the brothers playing live bass, keyboards and drums, Ganxsta Ridd sings: “Boo Yaa Tribe till I die/In a all-burgundy Bentley/It’s a beautiful music flowin’/Three-part harmony blowin’/And you can tell that they’re churchgoin’.”
“Tupac put impact in our life, now we’re trying to hit an artery; Boo Yaa goes straight into your heart,” says Ganxsta Ridd. “I’ve been telling my little homies in the hood, it’s all about divide and conquer. They put labels to divide. Fuck that, music is music.” Brother Kobra jumps in: “Chaos brings order. Boo Yaa’s been through every fuckin’ chapter, and it was the music that saved us.”
BOO YAA TRIBE | West Koasta Nostra | (Sarinjay)