Ok, so I get a notice on fb that it is Iroc’s born day and immediately I check to see if my blogs are available to download from the old myspace which I mentioned I requested in my last blog on the 1st so I could include my interview with him and they were! So here it is, one of my most fav interviews I have ever done, my interview with Iroc that I posted on 8/5/08 after the jump.
Wait a min wait a min wait a min, let me plug something of his real quick being that the new album is not out yet, I want to thank Iroc again for helping me get my first credit on imdb with his movie Blood Ink, The Tavalou Tales in which I got to have a nice short speaking role in. It was a great experience and while I STILL have not worked with him in a musical capacity yet, not everyone can say they were in his first movie and it’s not like he didn’t reach out to many well known folks in the hip hop community of Phx cause he fit a TON of folks in it. Make sure you get a copy by clicking the title of the movie above……………..where mine at though Roc? Lol, j/k. Ok, interview, the way it appeared originally without any changes made is below (d’void of the pics that didn’t transfer unfortunately )after peace, so there will be links that are now defunct.
My interview with AZ hip hop legend Roca Dolla
I’m sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on the I-10 freeway going west as the heavy rain continues to pour. Looking up ahead at the lanes being forced to merge towards the off ramp, I think to myself……..I bet this would not be happening if I wasn’t trying to orchestrate an interview with one of if not AZ’s greatest hip hop legend Roca Dolla.
Being the considerate person that is Roc, earlier when revealing to him how far I was coming from in Queen Creek (basically the outskirts of New Mexico for those that don’t know) he suggested that we could conduct the interview over the phone, but this was a chance for a more personal and intimate conversation to chop it up with the O.G. in the physical. To me this was the only option on how it would play out, especially with some of the topics we had planned to discuss. There is a lot of history in AZ hip hop that is basically unknown or untold that Roc wanted to shed light on plus this was an opportunity for my 6 year old son who was in tow to have a great experience up in a studio and see where all the magic artists he’s into make it happen. However, the weather and traffic situation is compelling me to doubt my decision and think…maybe I should have took Roc upon his offer.
As I continue to update Roc with texts about where I’m at and how long it may be before I get to his kingdom, his replies of “It’s all good” here and a “fa sho” there keep my attitude positive, it doesn’t detract from the embarrassment that is my tardiness though. My embarrassment would continue as I ring the doorbell to what I think is Roc’s home only for some stranger to answer which leads me to call Roc yet again to figure out where I went wrong.
While he is speaking to me on his cell, he comes out the house and tells me to turn around. As I do, I see Roc with his classic half smirk half smile looking like the O.G. who stands firm on the block surveying the neighborhood on his post. It’s an imposing yet inviting demeanor only a few have that Roc has had for as long as I have known him, the type of quality or presence that when he walks in a room demands respect and a three piece suit is not needed here, jeans and a black tee will do.
As we exchange hugs and pounds I make sure my son says peace. Roc greets me with a comment about the length of my locs and compares them to an artist he’s friends with named Sonny Black. It’s the first time Roc and I have had a chance to build since the viewing of the Hip Hop Project I did a blog on last year here, http://artofrhyme.com/aorblog/AORBlog.php?id=42
When welcoming us into his humble dwelling, at first I’m thinking what an honor. In 96 when I first bought his independent debut Finally on the Map (which will be referred to as FOTM for the rest of this piece), never did I think that one day I’d be interviewing him in his own home. This definitely beats doing the interview at his studio away from home which was the original plan. He introduces his lovely fiancee who I say peace to and make sure my son says peace as well and then Roc briefly shows me a hip hop award he won that sits in a display case which looks to contain even more awards. Usually I would of extended my hand out to shake any other person’s when introduced to them and would show more interest in anything in someone’s home they are proud to share with but my manners seem to have left me at the moment.
I guess mixed with some nervousness as well as sub consciously feeling guilty about being late I just want to get down to the interview and bang it out real quick so Roc can get back to doing music or spending quality time with his woman or whatever he does in his spare time. My reasons are baseless as Roc is clearly showing genuine gratitude and has made my son and I feel more than welcome. I have to remind myself, this is not one of those self centered ego driven narcissistic diva males………this is Roca Dolla and this is part of what separates him from many others and why so many love and respect him out here.
Roc leads us to the back where he has his home studio which consists of your essential requirements, your mpcs, keyboards and monitors etc etc. There’s enthusiasm in Roc’s voice as he details how he is supposed to be hooking up with Juice (an up and coming AZ mc who is on Game’s Black Wall Street label) and goes through some beats I’m guessing are for Juice. If my son was feeling down cause there was no one here close to his age to play with, he sat up at attention on the couch as Roc’s banging instrumentals started blaring from the monitors. Roc hits me with some goodies and we briefly discuss small things local before we get into it….
TRUE: To start off, for those who are not aware of your vast work, can you give a brief history of a few things you have done in hip hop and some of the people that you have worked with?
ROC: Ok, some of the people that I have worked with professionally, well first of all, recently Kam and I, we are forming a group. You know they say Kam is like the O.G. in L.A. and I’m considered to be one of the O.G.s out here so you know, Kam approached me about putting something together. We’re supposed to be putting a little group together. We are still in the process right now but it’s going to kind of tie things together, so Kam is a good friend of mine.
I’ve worked with Big Mike from the Geto Boys, Kool G. Rap, C Bo, MC Eiht. Did a track with DJ Quik and El Debarge, AMG and cats like Too Short, Guerilla Black, Chingo Bling, Stat Quo, Mela, 702, Daz & Kurupt of DPG, they have all featured on tracks I’ve done…a lot of old school cats too…. Battlecat. I’m trying to think of all the people, just a lot of cats. Then a lot of cats come and I sell studio time, you know Sha Money, I worked with him and he brought Young Buck, Outlaws, JT the Bigga Figga, Glasses Malone, Dolla, Lazy Bone and many more.
TRUE: That’s interesting because I was going to ask you about Kam, how did you guys hook up?
ROC: Kam kind of got out to Phoenix and he did his homework basically. He said he kept hearing my name and we met through a cat named Cinematic. When we met we just clicked up and was hella cool with each other. He showed me nothing but love. He put me in his top friends on myspace and he in Snoop’s top so I get a lot of L.A. cats hitting me up and all that just off of Kam.
TRUE: That’s peace, so how long have you been rapping for?
ROC: I would say about since 86 but I’ve always had love for rap. Back then I didn’t really take it seriously. Professionally I would say about 90 or 89 is when I actually started looking at it as a profession.
TRUE: When you first invited me into your home you showed me an award you had on display. What were you recognized for when receiving that?
ROC: That award was for when all the local rappers got together. It was a big award for me because it was like 200 people that voted, 200 rappers that voted from different cliques and they voted me the producer of the decade from 1990 to 2000. They gave me an award at the Web Theatre. It was the first Rhyme and Reason. It was a big big award for me cause it was so many involved and I won by a landslide.
TRUE: I wanted to get into that because in AZ I’ve noticed……. there’s hate everywhere but I mean there’s an abundance of hate out here….
ROC: Yeah, always has been….
TRUE:…you are kind of like an exception to the rule where as people actually respect you and you don’t hear too many bad things about Roc. Why do you think that is, that so many people when you say Iroc’s (Iroc is Roc’s former mc name he first gained notoriety with) name it’s always, “oh that’s my man, that’s the big homie” and usually nothing but respect?
(looking very anxious and eager to reply forcing myself to speed up the sentence to finish it, Roc enthusiastically responds…)
ROC: Because I give! I mean, I had the new chairman at PC (Phoenix College) sign up on myspace and ask me to come teach a music business class. I taught two music biz classes at PC. One of them I taught had Bookie in it, J Times 3, Trapp, a whole bunch of cats. That was a few years ago, and I brought in Bruce St. James and I brought in a lot of industry people that they never would have probably met. So PC been wanting me to teach, I like giving back to the community. I like teaching classes when I can. I’m actually teaching some Pro Tools classes right now. The reason I got into education is because I want to start my own hip hop school and I been approaching a lot of industry cats, I want to start my own producer’s school.
TRUE: Like the Conservatory? (Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences)
ROC: But different where it’s more straight about production, mpcs, how to make beats bigger. That’s my goal because I look at some of these colleges selling programs for $20,000.00 a year and they have over 1,000 students. You do the math 20,000 times 1,000. So I’m trying to get to that level where I got a school that hip hop artists can go to.
I been in this community and I’m always in the community and I’m always giving to cats and putting cats up on game, a cat can’t hit me and not get some kind of game from me. I’ve always been nutritious, I aint never been like this is just mines. I think that has a lot to do with it is the fact that you nutritious widdit! I mean it is a business, I still separate business from that but I always give to the community. I truly believe you are put in your situation to turn around and give it back to the people who deserve it. I just did something last year where I gave to like 10 kids where they can get in the studio for free.
TRUE: I wanted to ask about that because I do knowledge that you do a lot of things in the community and I did want you to speak on some of those things because it seems like a lot of artists when they are doing something positive they’re involved with, they don’t want to talk about it, like it’s going to mess up their image as far as being rough and tough or they don’t feel that it’s as newsworthy as some of the negative ish they get condemned for, so I wanted you to speak on some of the things you do in the community cause I know you had some workshops right?
ROC: Oh yeah, did you go to the one at Phoenix College? It was phenomenal, a lot of mcs came up there man, it was about 300 mcs, we made all of them register for classes. I held workshops, I had like 6 or 7. Cats came in with mpcs, showed the young producers how to work on their beats. I had the music business class. I was teaching them about soundscan and how to do their upc codes and pretty much stuff they didn’t know and I mean I’m telling you there was like 300 mcs there, a lot of mcs and it was phenomenal that day, just the spirit, and it rained that day too! A lot of older heads came out. I had a panel, the Watts Prophets was up there, they was on a panel. I had Swindoe from Tucson and his brother, Wax, Johnny 2 Gunz from Ill Streets. We was talking about the state of hip hop. Dr. Westenberg (teaches a hip hop class at the community college) helped me out with it. It was a big event man, but stuff like that man has helped me, just the fact that I always try to give cats some game.
TRUE: I also remember a while back on 602 streets (a now defunct local hip hop website in AZ that was very popular) you posted a very important list of things that’s essential to have, understand or take care of in the music business for those that weren’t aware of them. What compels you to do things like that?
ROC: I always do just because……you know what? To me a lot of cats need to unite and put it together and that’s my album. It’s pretty much everybody united and putting things together and they aint even realize it. I drew everybody in and now we all on one project, a whole bunch of mcs from different cliques is on one single project, my album and I did that cause I always been pushing unity because we can go one direction……you got other places like the Bay area and Texas where for the most part they support each other and we can go that direction or we can separate and everyone can just be crabs in a bucket. It’s like as soon as somebody get on then they a target…for a dis track, it’s just ridiculous, it’s time for cats to get on some grown man stuff.
TRUE: Word, I want to talk about the song Memories now. When I saw the Irocumentary video presentation you put together ( http://www.arizonabeats.com/forum/showthread.php?t=13546 )….I remember that song when it came out and it was funny because you were talking about a lot of people came up to you….
ROC: It was like late 91, it was on the radio.
TRUE: Right, and I remember hearing it because I didn’t know too many mcs out here and I remember that inspired me and helped me to see that it can be done out here and I don’t think… FOTM came out in what, 96?
Briefly, Roc and I discuss the differences between the original version of Memories and the one that was on FOTM. Then I’m informed he plans on making it available for download on his myspace, http://www.myspace.com/icild
Next, we discuss the Product Click which consisted of who Roc has described in the past as a beast on the mic, Price Capone as well as other mic rippers Dame, Swin and E Dog and how the project was never released due to some “hard times” with the system a couple of members would fall victim to here and there. He hands me a snippets tape of the Click’s entitled Terrazone from 99 and broke down how factions from the scene argue over the origin of heads calling Arizona, “The Zone” when this crew was calling it that way back then.
TRUE: How would you describe FOTM as far as where you were at artistically and how do you look at that album in comparison to what you are doing today?
ROC: I think FOTM was way ahead of it’s time and still we kept it all musical. We had live instruments back then and we was just doing something different. When I first met Justus ( a local cat who’s part of a group that has been putting it down out in AZ for over a decade called Cut Throat Logic) he was on the mic and he said, “you know what Roc? I aint gonna lie I was in Westridge Mall and stole FOTM. I couldn’t afford it and stole it dawg.”
FOTM was something I put a lot into. I mean I had a studio but I was trying to use the best studios as possible. I remember I put like 30 grand into just studio time, trying to get the album done and get it recorded with bigger microphones and all that.
FOTM was the number one album in AZ at that time, we was on the road and…you know what, it probably would have worked if another group had came right after that and another group came right after that and right after that… that’s the problem, people are so busy trying to get signed right now which is like to me the last thing you want to do. You want to build your own thing! Everybody is so scared to just get out and hustle and grind and instead on some, “man I need to get signed.” When you get signed a lot of times you just sitting, you know what I’m saying? I know 3 people that signed to Interscope and I know 3 people that got dropped from Interscope this year that the world has never heard about so…it’s about the independent game man, independent game getting ready to come back real strong man. You need to understand your publishing, how to put out records and understand soundscans and all that kind of stuff, it’s really really important man.
Roc and I discuss the Product project again (while typing this I’m kicking myself because I realize out of all the things he gave to me I left that snippets tape at his place) and it’s a mix of much exuberance and frustration on Roc’s face as he again relays instances of cats getting caught up, which stifled the release of the project, as well as detailing how incredible the snippets on the tape were, primarily a joint called Verbal Kung Fu
TRUE: Now I know one thing you really wanted to get into was as much as everyone looks to you as “the man” when it comes to the AZ hip hop movement, I know you wanted to talk about some other pioneers that don’t get recognized as much.
ROC: Yeah, because people talk about me but you know, before me there was some cats that I looked up to that was grinding and one cat I put on my album. He had a song called Just My Imagination, that had to be like 1986, that was like ridiculous. 84-85, it was Fun Time Crew which was Domino and Paradise, you had the Exotic MCs which was Sean Beasley, you had Rock House and Rock House is still around, he one of the few producers that’s still around.
Producer wise you also had Wax, RK, Greg Washington who was a hot producer, he one of the hottest producers man, he taught me a lot. You had T-Bone, he taught me how to use a mpc. Doing the parties you had Kenny P and Phillip Jefferson. Then there was the Good Times Breakdancers, the Wall Street Rockers. Dave Hollins was the pop lock king, he shut down a talent show at South ( South Moutain in AZ) in 1987 something terrible. Scratch teams you had WRST, World Reknown Scratch Team, Gerald Dye, umm, Brian Craig, you know….it was, I mean, hip hop was big back then, like the culture was big! It hasn’t been like that since the eighties. Terry Smife, beatboxin’ rapping.
Then later .. that period you had Pooch, Overweight Pooch, she was the first rapper to get signed to a major which was A&M. Then HBO came with their crew, that was early on. Lloyd, DA, Jabar, Mike, Mikey White, rapping..dance crew and then I was working with Ronnie Gilford, Pound for Pound. Jabar called me one day and asked if I could produce some cuts for them and I was like…you know what, I’m starting to produce but I don’t think I’m ready. So I connected them with Pound for Pound and that was history, that was the Weirdoz put together and then they turned into Big Five.
In between time you had MC Magic who put out the first song that was on the radio, that was Lost in Love. The first vinyl I ever saw was Po Boy Rappers, that was early on, that was T Wax. They was one of the first cats to put something together. You had female mcs, Tasha, Kriminals of Poetry who put out a joint in 91. Nobody ever talks about Kriminals of Poetry, major factors in the hip hop industry out here. Boys in Black, you had Lady X, Sugar and Sweet. Then later on Magic put out his, I started Iroc Records, then Soul Sauce came about, their main group was Boondocks. They also signed Kool G Rap, they had Tech Nine and Nutmeg.
Then you had Time is Money. Time is Money was Low who was working with Mayhemm who was my peoples, my little homies. They dropped a record with MC Eiht. I was working with Big Shot, that was the main cat from Mayhemm and Laru. They hooked up with one of my homies working together, Tim Wright. To me Mayhemm got further then a lot of people, you know, the fact that they got their album reviewed, they only got two and a half mics in The Source but they got their album reviewed and they made it on Rap City.
I remember Tim’s grind on that project was phenomenal and there aint hustle like that these days, everybody’s like I need to get signed. You had other labels coming up Time is Money went to Our Mills, you had Major Players, Teki and Mark Dark, Rich Rollin, on 75th, you had Come On In Productions, Baby G, Fo Life Records put out Vontel and Bookie who have the same over seas following I have… and Grim Reaper, RIP, he would of been the biggest artist to blow outta Phoenix but he was tragically killed in the Vistas.. I still miss dude..he gave me a lot of game…these are many of the people who are hardly mentioned.
TRUE: Tell me about your creative process. How do you come up with concepts as far as putting songs together? I know some like to make ish on the fly up in the studio, do you favor that or prefer to have some kind of direction where it’s going already before you come in the studio? I mean a lot of times……. and you can tell, it just sounds like cats just smoked some good and was like….. play the beat.
ROC: I mean sometimes it’s like that, usually I start with the music, I start with the drums. I’ll be here at the house, start with the drums then put the bass lines and keys on it and then I’ll take it into the studio and I might put some singers and live instruments on it. Then I’ll ride around and try to come up with the hook and once I have the hook I’ll build the concepts around that. Sometimes it’s instant, sometimes songs come like in 5 minutes. So you know it’s both ways.
I been fortunate to be around. I got family members, a fourth cousin of Cab Calloway and then I got Vincent Brantely who produced on New Edition’s first two albums, you know Cool it Now, Mr. Telephone Man, Candy Girl, so I was around him and he also used to do vocal arrangements with Boyz to Men and all that so early on I learned how to structure songs through him, through his ears and stuff. So to me I just, it’s however it comes and now I’m fortunate enough to have my new business partner Che Vicious who works with Aftermath as Dr. Dre’s right hand man, he did the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill…
TRUE: So is he one of the cats who sued her (Lauryn Hill) for not getting album credits?
ROC: Naw, he got his credit on the album. He did like 85 percent of that album. He’s done work on Santana, Game, 50, Fugees album, like all the big records, he’s done a lot of big records. He liked what I was doing with 5th Coast so he came aboard and he’s out there working on the Detox with Dre right now, that’s pretty much how Ocean ( another young up and coming AZ mc on the 5th Coast roster http://www.myspace.com/youngocean ) met Dre.
TRUE: How did becoming a father change your perspective in making music, didn’t you take time off?
ROC: I started getting more into production. When my son and my daughter was born was right about that time, well my daughter was born in December 95. I was done with FOTM in 95 but it came out in 96. When it was coming out my mindset was already changing, we had been working on FOTM in 94 and I had my kids, two kids in 95 so I was doing too much you know what I’m saying……?
Roc pauses for the first time in our discussion in deep thought for a second like a weathered war vet reminiscing on past battles, then continues after seemingly getting his thoughts together with the right words he wanted to come with next…….
That really started making me take things a little more serious. I took some time off, sold my studio for a minute, then I really started messing with Battlecat, I sold my studio for like $50,000.00
TRUE: When you hear about artists saying things like they couldn’t be in a relationship with their children because it took away from their craft or artists that got mad at partners in their group for being a family man, feeling it would have diminished the quality of the music being made, what are your thoughts on that?
ROC: I mean to me you got a seed, that’s your responsibility to handle your business as a man. If you aren’t handling your business as a man you’re going to have bad karma in life. If dude felt like….you know, not everybody got they priorities straight in the music game too, a lot of cats is really messed up, I know nothing come before my shorties. My son live with me, you know and I grab my two daughters every weekend.
TRUE: Many times people go through a metamorphosis when they change their names often and it signifies a new perspective or outlook if you will. Would you say it’s the same case from when you went by Iroc as to now Roca Dolla?
ROC: Yeah, I mean when I went by Mr. Iroc that was like to me the old school and Roca Dolla is more like the new school, just reinventing myself and changing the name, cause Iroc was kinda like the old school and I just wanted to put that to rest because when people think of Iroc they think of… (Roc starts reciting the sing songy chorus to Memories that I can’t help but to join in and assist with as we both have a good laugh)
Roc briefly discusses running a recording studio on ASU West College campus as well as the vast differences and extreme opposites of the two sides of his family growing up.
The reason my mother’s side was so influential was because my cousins was so gangsta back then. You know, that fight the power mentality back then, they going against the grain basically, knocking out police and all kind of stuff man, so I was all into that. I mean I see my uncle knock out the police and then running down the streets with handcuffs on (We both bust out laughing at this point) so I’m sitting there like that’s gangsta! I’m idolizing that, I aint even going to lie to you. My uncles getting out the pen swolled up, you know, the same thing.
This was glorified back then you know what I’m saying and maybe it shouldn’t have been and hopefully it aint now, I would never want to glorify that now, but when we was young? My uncles getting out like, boom! Swoll up with the afros? You know what I’m saying? Knocking out police? The police stopped messing with my family cause they ended up getting scrapped. That was one of them things now that I look back, I still…….it kind of gave me a certain kind of pedigree though where I can go into a professional environment and I can still go into the hood, so it made me who I am. It definitely made me where I can go into the neighborhood and I can go over here and talk to somebody about a multi million dollar deal.
TRUE: You rep AZ to the fullest and you have a lot of state pride……
ROC: I have pride in the hip hop culture but I don’t have pride in a lot of things that AZ has done from a legislative standpoint. Like John McCain is up for President right now and I don’t see how one black person could vote for McCain who voted against the Martin Luther King holiday along with Mecham…
Seeing that the usually very calm and laid back Roc is starting to get riled up about what he is getting into here, I quickly try to push the topic to something more hip hop based as getting into politics and black people voting republican could open a whole can of worms that would take focus away from the subject which is the man speaking.
TRUE: Let me ask you this, how did you feel when you first heard Public Enemy’s By the Time I Get to Arizona cause I mean it was all over the news and….
Unable to wait for me to finish as if this was something brewing up in Roc ever since Mecham ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evan_Mecham ) made AZ a sore eye on the U.S. map, Roc gets the most animated yet as he replies…..
ROC: I felt the same way! Like, I mean I could of….
TRUE: But didn’t you feel like, aww, they gonna make it hard for us, cause the number one group in hip hop right now is……
ROC: Naw, I didn’t feel like that, I mean they was talkin’, I mean I was with them! You know what I’m saying, like…man! But at the same time I’m not gonna say I’m not from here. I’m gonna say it’s b s out here and the police is sending blacks to jail at a phenomenal rate and we gonna talk stuff about em. I’m not going to say that I’m not from here. Somebody ask me, I’m going to say where I’m from. A lot of people say they’re not fixing to represent, I don’t blame them or fault them but for me? This is where I’m from. I might not like what’s going on out here with those particular folks in legislation like Mecham and them but at the same time…I’m from here. So what I’m supposed to do, say I’m from….Virginia? You know what I’m saying, I aint got no options, you know, this where I’m from.
TRUE: Why do you think that is, why do you think there’s this whole stigma that when people ask heads where they from they don’t want to say AZ born and raised, what’s that all about?
ROC: It’s because of the negative, I’m telling you man, that set us back, the negative stigma they made, they put a real dark shadow, a dark cloud over AZ for years man. McCain, Mecham, everybody else within those administrations by just going against the grain and against most of the rest of the 50 states. They put a negative image over us so bad that I don’t blame anybody for not wanting to represent this mug but for me I’m like this is where I’m from, I’m from Phx and I’m a rep it. Everybody else like eff Phx! Back then you go to the club and they say where my N.Y. cats at and it’s rah rah rah, and everybody screams and that’s in Phx! Then it’s where my L.A. cats at and it’s rah rah rah. It wasn’t nobody from Phx screaming Phx at the club, period! Where my Chi town cats at, whoop whoop rah rah rah. If they said Phx, wasn’t nobody…….it be quiet. Wasn’t nobody reppin’ Phx.
TRUE: Would you say it’s different now though?
ROC: Oh yeah, you walk around now, I trip now! I trip at it now cause I was one of the few cats reppin’ this mug and back then you wouldn’t see nobody wearing no birds and no 602 hats. Now everywhere you go, AZ hats, it’s ridiculous how much pride and joy people have in their city and so now it’s finally in the environment that rappers can sell independently and everybody trying to get signed.
Back then it was like a melting pot and there was no cats from Phx, everybody was from other places. I’m from Boston, I’m from L.A., I’m from blah blah blah because it’s a military city and a lot of people was from other places but now we in a situation where people have been born and a couple of generations have come up. So now there’s a lot of grass roots from AZ and so we finally can sell to these people. We have our own people that love 602 and everybody repping this mug so we can sell within our own community now but instead of selling cds everybody trying to get signed and not pushing that indy. Right now everybody need to be Master Ps in AZ and they can get some money.
TRUE: How did 5th Coast come about and if you could speak briefly on some on the artists on the roster like A State ( an AZ super group featuring other local staples in the hip hop community like Jabar from Big Five, Bookie and Swindoe) for instance, is that coming out?
ROC: A State is kind of on the back burner right now because everybody’s been doing their projects and when you got cats that’s that high up where they in the game like as far as out here, everybody scrambling to do their own thing right now. Eventually A State will come together, I might even work on that project with Kam.
TRUE: Would you say 5th Coast is sort of an upgraded version of your first label venture Iroc Records?
ROC: Yeah, somewhat, just moving in a different direction. Now I got business partners, back then it was just me by myself, now I got Che Vicious of Aftermath and RTZ.
TRUE: I know you had the song Swell that got a lot of radio love in 06, but what was the first official project to come out on 5th Coast?
ROC: The first project was the Remedy Compilation. That came out already and we moved 5,000 units of that on the street so far. Swell is on my album. So we’ve had the Remedy Project come out, Tray Gutter mixtape and Ocean mixtape I Am Not A Rapper. We shot a video for Skate On and put out over 4,000 with I Am Not A Rapper also. Shouts out to Todd A for that one.
TRUE: Speaking of videos I saw you in that Hip Hop Lives KRS video, how’d that come about?
ROC: Oh shoot, because me and Todd, Todd’s my dude and I went out to L.A. and I sat on the set with him. I played….
ROC: Oh U seen that!? (laughs), dang, U got some good eyes to see that!
TRUE: What would you say is your greatest achievement as an artist? What are you most proud of in your career musically?
ROC: Musically? Ummm…(Roc has his longest pause of the interview thus far as he contemplates on what I can only imagine is numerous great achievements)
…probably shoot, I’d say FOTM because so many people out the country… Mr. Iroc has a cult following. You go on the internet you see it in Japan and Europe. You go on ebay and I guarantee you somebody selling FOTM for like $200.00
TRUE: So you saying I put my FOTM on there, I can come up? Cause gas prices aint no joke!
ROC: Put it on ebay and watch what happens. I guarantee you you going to get at least a buck 50 for it. They trade em like cards man! It has a cult following, just type in “finally on the map Mr. Iroc” and see what comes up, it’s crazy man.
TRUE: Who would you like to work with that you have not had the chance to yet?
ROC: Well Juice just called me and was like I got to get you on my project so that’s one cat I want to work with that I haven’t worked with. Hmm……let me think for a minute…you see the only MC hanging on my wall right? (I look above my head on Roc’s wall to the right above my son where Rakim’s infamous Hennessy ad with the mic stand draped across his shoulders is posted, the image that is similar to Bo Jackson’s famous pic wearing the football shoulder pads with a baseball bat draped across his shoulders) Ha ha ha! That’s the only mc hanging on my wall, Rakim man! Shoot, you know, I worked with Kool G Rap too, that’s my dawg. But yeah I’d like to work with Rakim, that’s the only poster I got on my wall besides Bob Marley.
At this point of the interview Roc starts to yawn and I’m thinking it may be time to to wrap it up with a last question as I’m not sure if Roc said he was going to be working on more material later that night, I’m just glad my son who only interrupted once to use the restroom showed discipline and did not embarrass me in front of AZ hip hop royalty. So I skim through my questions to find a fitting one to end this dialog that I feel for Roc fans is one for the ages and history books to archive.
TRUE: For young cats coming up what kind of advice would you give in succeeding in the music business?
ROC: The main thing is BUILD YOUR RELATIONSHIPS MAN, go and meet people. Don’t be afraid to network and shake somebody’s hand and get an opinion on what they feel. Don’t be all hollywood and DON’T BURN BRIDGES! Don’t, excuse the term, shit on people unnecessarily because you never know where that person is going to be later on in life.
I remember a time meeting this cat who was a producer or promoter and I was like 16, 17 years old. I was like man I’m getting ready, I’m fixing to move into this studio, I’m a do this I’m a do that. He was like alright whatever, I’m just a little kid, he older than me. Then about 4 or 5 years later, here he come walking into the studio and everything I said came to fruition. He didn’t dis me or anything like that but he just blew me off cause I was young, but everything came to fruition, he walked into the studio and was like……….man! You know?
Aw yes, I definitely know. Roc and I exchange pounds again after wrapping it up. We do not leave the studio though before Roc gets a chance to do something he loves first, and that is teach. Bringing my son over to the mpc he shows him how to build up a beat and put tracks together, going through selections and letting my son choose which sounds he likes best as he subsequently goes through drums, snares, hi hats and and then horns I think one at a time. Roc being the perfectionist that he is even changes a snare my son chose that he didn’t think sounded right thus my son was helped in creating his first beat at 6 years old, something I had yet to teach him, so jealous, lol.
Walking out of the studio, Roc and I reflect on a beautiful brother we both had love for in Dominant Born who was a fellow writer and avid supporter of the local scene. While we both agreed on the small turnout of fellow hip hop Phoenicians and Arizonians at his funeral as being unacceptable, leaving his home I think the excitement in the atmosphere of AZ with the release of another incredible project by AZ hip hop’s favorite son will help to create more lovers and supporters for the movement out here.
On my way to Roc’s spot earlier, driving in the pouring rain I was skimming through his first two lps to help me warm up to our meeting and now on the way back home listening to an advanced copy of the new joint Roca is a Classic, just like when Memories was first being played on the radio way back when, Roc continues to make history close to 20 years later cause from what I am listening to now, Roc is in the zone and has never sounded as sharp or swift, a definite seasoned vet getting better with age like everyone should.
The ride home ended up less eventful but as far as all the drama on the way to Roc’s beforehand, all I can say is……. it was worth it. Roca isn’t just a classic, after sitting down and building with him anyone could see he’s a TRUE classic. It’s like he said, “a cat can’t hit me and not get some kind of game from me.”
Indeed, each one teach one.
Don’t forget for more on Roca Dolla and his latest lp Roca is a Classic make sure to check out http://www.myspace.com/icild