If you like your hip-hop strictly from the streets, Yukmouth is the man that has made it for you. A former drug dealer who once operated throughout the east side of Oakland, California, he’s since been nominated for a Grammy and has more than a dozen solid albums to be proud of, including 2012’s Half-Baked and his work with The Regime, a hip-hop collective of artists including Tech N9ne, Madmax and Govnormatic.
While some artists eventually sell out, Yukmouth has sold out stadiums under his own label, Smoke-A-Lot Records. In 2013 he and The Regime released The Last Dragon and Dragon Game, two albums that have together reshaped what’s expected from the underground industry due to their raw lyrics, guest artists (including the already immortal hip-hop artist, Freeze) righteous refrains, killer choruses, badass bridges and codas that crush the competition. Blessed by a talent that’s like candy for the ear, the future is sweet indeed for Yukmouth.
“I’m doing great. I’m blessed,” he says. “I’m shooting a music video for ‘Charles Bronson,’ a song from the Dragon Game,” he says. “I’m mostly just promoting that album, but after that I’m working on a solo project that’s a series of urban street tales about how I became a rapper,” Yukmouth says.
The new LP, JJ Based on a Vill Story, will tell the tale of how Yukmouth went from selling weed to slinging vinyl, complete with all the grit that being a gangster is all about. “On my first album, I was strictly street,” he says, talking about his 1998 release, Thugged Out: The Albulation. “It was really gangster, and the fans loved that. So with the next one I’m going to give them what they want.”
Right now hip-hop is rife with nothing but cheap copies, endlessly miming some hit that came out last month that no one cares about anymore. “Right now, everyone is following what’s hot,” Yukmouth says. If another dude is doing something big, everyone is tries to do that.” He recalls a time when artists strived to remain original, even though hip-hop was still fresh to the airwaves. “I remember when I was just 18, running around in a gang, and Snoop Dogg had just gotten big. Everyone was doing their own thing.”
There’s a grip of good news to rap about, though. “The best thing about hip-hop right now is that you don’t need a big record label,” Yukmouth says. “Back in the day you had to crush up your own vinyl. Now the hood niggaz are using RED to make music videos.”
Yukmouth is one artist who isn’t afraid to get candid about cannabis. “I think it should be legal. I think that will literally stop the recession,” he says. “Everybody smokes weed. Right now some retired grandmother is smoking more weed than you.”
They young man is positive that the whole issue is going to end up the same way it did for alcohol during the Prohibition Era. “They are going to legalize it. It’s going to be in the liquor stores, but it’s not going to be very strong. They already sell papers and fake ass weed. You know they’ll sell it for real.”
Just like a lit joint brings people together at a party, Yukmouth hopes that when weed gets popular it will help everyone get along. “If they had weed bars, you know how popular that would be. It would change the world,” he says.” There would be no more war.”