By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“See, I knew Pac from being up in Oakland, part of Digital Underground,” chimes Dre, “so I’m more of a fan. But every time I turned around, that muthafucka was claiming someplace else. Oh, Pac from Baltimore, now? Oh, he from New York? Now, he from L.A.? Well, damn, how many places this muthafucka gon’ be from?”
“But that was his genius,” admits Jason. “He took something from all these places and upped them, so they all could claim him. And he took corny shit, like wearing that bandanna long after [that style] had fallen off, and made it work for him. I used ta think that was corny as fuck. I actually felt sorry for him when I saw him wearing that shit, but then he just rocked it, and it became iconic.”
“True,” nods Deon, uttering maybe his sixth word of the night, which sparks Jason to reveal that Jank was based, in part, on a nephew of Deon who grew up listening to gangsta rap and took the lyrics as a lifestyle blueprint.
“Yeah,” chuckles Jason, “we could see where he was headed when that nigga was 5.”
“But,” laughs Dre, shooting Jason a coded look, “[Jank] was also based on this one dude we know who had a baseball scholarship but was like, ‘Aw, man, I’m not gonna be able to kick it wit y’all.’”
An exasperated Jason jumps up and exclaims, “We were like, ‘Hey, dude, how come you ain’t out there playing ball? You got scouts jockin’ you . . .’ And he was like, ‘I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now.’ And I’m like, ‘Man, what the hell are you doing now? We ain’t doin’ shit! We just sittin’ here! You wanna hang out? That’s why you sacrificing millions of dollars, a baseball career, and me living vicariously through you, and maybe getting some of your groupies? To hang the fuck out?’” He shakes his head. “Now, that nigga pulling run-outs at the liquor store. Not even credit card scams, but run-outs: the most janky, pathetic shit you could imagine. And this nigga used to be on television! He was set to do some shit. We was like, ‘He gon’ make it, dawg!’ Next thing you know, you look up and see this nigga pulling his hood over . . .” Jason pantomimes the acts of grabbing a bottle, hugging it to his chest, pulling a hoodie over his face and running out of a store, then jumping on a scooter and sliding away. Deon convulses with laughter.
On a roll, and vibing on his appreciative audience, Jason glides into a story of a ski trip where, at one point, he found himself on a lift next to a young white guy. “So, he looks over at me,” says Jason, “and goes, ‘I’m from L.A., where you from?’ So, I tell him, L.A., and he goes, ‘Oh, Compton?’” Everyone chuckles. “So, I go, ‘No, Inglewood,’ and he goes, ‘Oh, I know Inglewood. I used to buy drugs there.’”
“He don’t know Inglewood,” says Nikki. “Not our part, anyway. His ass was down at the bottom.”
“Exactly,” nods Jason. “So, I go, where are you from, Orange County?” Everyone laughs. “And he goes, ‘Yeah, how’d you know?’ And I was like, ‘Lucky guess.’ Then this muthafucka turns to me and goes, ‘You ever smoke crack?’” The room erupts into howls of laughter as Jason wraps the anecdote with, “Man, I wanted to push his punk ass off the ski lift.”
“See, he was only asking,” says Nikki, “so he could cop.” Head nods and a chorus of “Yeps” and “Hell, yeahs” follow the observation.
As music continues to play in the background, I start to pack my tape recorder and note pad. Jason comes over and leans into the recorder to make a final point.
“Our goal,” he says, “is to maybe start up a black distribution company. Maybe we’ll just be this big production house that grooms talent and puts stuff out, like Hitsville, USA [the early name for Motown Records]. We’re not just about us. We try to go out there and encourage everybody, but especially black kids. All you guys wanna be rappers and got a studio in your garage. Go pick up this shit [filmmaking equipment] and tell your stories, your way. If you can buy them Jordans, that goddamn Xbox, Play Station, cell phones and two-ways, then you can buy the means of production. You can have what we got right here.”
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