[Editor's note: In conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots late last month West Coast Sound spoke with rappers and writers whose work has been influenced by them. Here's one more.]
Despite being born in New York, Everlast was a pivotal part of early L.A. hip hop, joining Ice-T's Rhyme Syndicate Cartel before House of Pain, and touring with Cypress Hill. His group La Coka Nostra brings real West Coast heat as well, though his latest project veers toward country. We talked to him about his memory of the riots.
Tell me about when you found out about the riots.
I think it was slightly before House of Pain was making any real noise and I was running with Cypress Hill. They had their show in Humboldt County that weekend — the day before the riots jumped off — and I went up there with them. We actually took a lot of mushrooms and we were super high. And actually, me and B-Real wound up driving back because everybody else was so stoned because they just ate a bunch of mushrooms.
So they finally dropped me off…The TVs were all on and everyone's watching the news. And the riots started.
How do you think the riots influenced your music?
It doesn't, at all [now]. Back then, it might have. It affected me in a sense that my city rioted, but it wasn't my neighborhood. And it wasn't — you know, we were all down for like the fact that these cops beat up this dude and it was wrong and all that. But it's like, it just didn't affect me that much, personally. You know what I mean? I was like “Wow, this is crazy.”…It turned into just what's it called, just riots. It's not like something revolutionary came out of it. It came up short on that.
So how much did they accomplish, considering where we are now?
It's hard to say really because I think the biggest thing it accomplished is that they got rid of [Police Chief Daryl] Gates, right? That was one of the big deals back then — Daryl Gates…But what it did for L.A.? I don't know. It gave us a reputation for being nutty.
What did you learn from the riots?
That shit can get real scary real quick. I remember watching the Reginald Denny dude on whatever street it was. Florence, I believe it might have been. That was it, where they yanked the guy out of the truck. Someone even took a shot at him with a shotgun and they missed apparently.
And if I remember correctly, when they slowed down the video, somebody hit him with a brick. Somebody else had a gun. People out here in L.A. live in ivory towers, and most of them are cars. And you think that their car or the space they're in is somehow protected and they all think they own that space in their cars.
I'll tell you what it taught me: how quickly people can snap when they're in groups. There's the whole saying, “A person is smart. People are stupid.” And that's kind of the way it is…I guess there was a comfort zone in that mob mentality. I can't say if I was right there when it jumped off that I may have gotten caught up. I think it's some kind of human, deep-seeded instinct that when the whole tribe is going nuts, you have to join in.
Did you know anyone in the L.A. riots?
Yeah, I know friends. If you're going to ask me who, you're out of your mind. I don't know what they did, how they did it. That's their business. But yeah, I knew people that were out there the first couple days, just like “Hey, we're going to go out and see what's going on the street.” There was looting to be done. If a Best Buy happened to be looted, and they could get their hands on a CD, I'm sure they did.