West Coast hip-hop fans were saddened this week to hear of the death of one of Los Angeles hip-hop’s most consistent producers, DJ Crazy Toones. Born Lamar Calhoun, Toones knew not just how to make the funk thump behind a variety of L.A. flows but also how to let that sound evolve with the times without compromising its foundations. It’s telling that he continued to work with heavy hitters like Ice Cube and WC throughout their entire careers, as well as how many artists have come out to publicly express their condolences.
Dying just short of his 46th birthday, Crazy Toones continued to put out impressive tracks for more than a quarter century. There are some of his finest moments.
WC & The Maad Circle – “Dress Code (Remix)”
Back in 1991, before rap artists could even think of having an album, they had to have a slammin’ single with enough vibrancy to warrant a full-length. WC & the Maad Circle’s debut cut, “Dress Code,” was a star-making turn, but DJ Crazy Toones’ remix really displayed how innovative the crew were. As oft-heard as some of the remix's breaks and samples were, Toones’ signature elevation of the sounds gave WC and Coolio's dissection of hip-hop attire an entirely new life.
WC & The Maad Circle feat. Coolio – “Quick Way Out”
Soundtracks in the '90s were infinitely important for rap artists to maintain their momentum and display their evolution. Non-album cuts like WC & The Maad Circle’s “Quick Way Out” from the Trespass soundtrack show where the group and Toones’ production were heading. Co-produced by Battlecat, the flip of “Atomic Dog”/“God Made Me Funky” was unlike the way any other producers were handling those sounds at the time — making them ominous but still knock.
Coolio feat. WC – “U Know Hoo”
After getting his start with The Maad Circle, Coolio reunited with WC and Crazy Toones for his 1994 solo track, “U Know Hoo.” Toones really had a gift for making party records sound threatening, and “U Know Hoo” is no exception.
WC & The Maad Circle feat. Ice Cube and Mack 10 – “West Up”
DJ Crazy Toones’ absolute masterpiece is “West Up,” a perfect banger that bumps and slaps in every way West Coast hip-hop can and should. Once that bass kicks in, it becomes one of the greatest West Coast anthems ever written. Mack 10 never sounded better, Cube never sounded cooler, WC displays his full arsenal of skills, and the beat just never quits. Absolute perfection.
DJ Crazy Toones – It’s a CT Experience
One of the most unheralded elements of Toones’ legacy is his innovative, changing-with-the-times approach to the mixtape game. It can’t be overstated how ahead of its time Toones’ 2007 mixtape It’s a CT Experience truly was. Released when the mixtape game was just starting to go digital, and the hand-to-hand hip-hop DVD-R market was huge in giving artists a direct visual connection with their fans, Toones’ It’s a CT Experience was the first visual mixtape of its kind, offering a complete, watchable counterpart to the music. Other artists have done the “every track on my album gets a music video” treatment, but Toones captures the exciting vibrancy of the mixtape medium and translates it to the screen in a way nobody’s really done before or since.