Featured Story, Hustling & Hip-Hop

Kenny Kingpin Interview

kenny kingpin1It is a pleasure to interview you homie. I have been a fan of your movement for a  long time. I wanted to start from the very beginning of your career when you were going by Laquan. That first record was a real pro black project and reflected the way Hip Hop was at that time. I want to know how did you get your first deal with Island and how did you get the name Laquan?

First I would thank u for this interview, and I appreciate you taking the time to listen back then. Yes As you know it was the early 90’s and that was the state of mind of the streets at least where I’m from it was a lot going on from a street & political perspective and as a result the hip hop cultural movement was in a black conscious political mindset. It was beautiful on all levels and I was fully involved. I’m what most West Coast Hip Hop Pioneers would call a “Uncle Jam’s Army Baby” I was 9, 10 yrs old when they were full blast but I was right on top of everything. I mean every concert I knew about it or I was in the parking lot listening to it on 1580 K-Day while my people was inside partying and Gang Bangin. See in Cali, L.A. To be exact we know no other Hip hop then it being accompanied with Gang Bangin. Our gang culture is as old as Hip Hop itself or maybe older. At that time Bob Cat a member of Uncle Jams ( he also grew up in the 40’s ) he was LL cool J’ s DJ at the time. He was given back and working with local talent. I was in a group called Menace 2 Society with my partner Alim and this brotha from Philly LP.  Bob Cat seen potential in some of our music, or our talent or what have you. I had 2 turntables and a mixer my Pops bought me & some old records I stole from my older sisters or Moms record collection and found two samples. James Brown funky drummer and a Sly Stone Break . I blended the two songs by playing both breaks on my turntables and looping it on the sampler on my mixer. And we recorded a song to it called “Acknowledge The Blindness”. Bob Cat loved it, so we agreed he would  reproduce it by running it through the SP1200, in other words flip the sample for us but before he could get around to it he had to get ready to go back on tour with LL Cool J ironically that song became  Momma said knock u out. Now for whatever reason He ( Bob Cat ) called us to his house and personally told us he was going on tour and told us “If you guys want a record Deal work with this White boy”. My partners were like hell no, I was like let me hear his music first .I kept in contact with that White boy. The group eventually broke up and I started working with The same White boy who turned out to be ” Epic ” Bret Mazer of Wolf & Epic ( Peace Production ). Who did a lot of production for New Edition, BBD, MC. Lyte and others at the time. Epic is now in “Crazy Town” a Rock band. Well by working with him & his partner Richard Wolf I ended up with a Deal With Island Records it was myself ( Laquan ) and the Booya Tribe we were the only West Coast artist on the label at the time. Please believe the label did not understand our L.A. mentality. Now as for my name. I was given the attribute ” Laquan ” from my enlightener Kwame who was a student of the 5% nation Of GODs & Earths. He was from The East Coast Hempstead, Long Island I shared L.A. gang Life with Him and he shared the Supreme Mathematics with me. Our common bound was Hip Hop!

Now the Overhill area has been known to have a lot of influential gangstas, hustlas and even Gods like E Rule, Born Allah and I Smooth 7 to name a few. It is the only area I know of in L A that has that combination of proponents. As Laquan I definitely saw a combination of those three things in your music. How did all these mentalities come to converge in that area and were you down with any of the G’s I mentioned?

Well, as far as the Overhill area, I would say that was mainly E Rule, I Smooth 7 and myself. We’re all actually from R60s during a time when it wasn’t cool to say The Hood in your music. The homies was highly active. Born Allah is from a different part of Los Angeles but the GODs use to build & have divine cypher at Leimert Park which is basically in the Hood so his and the entire GODs & Earths energy surely did radiate.

I have been living in Leimert Park for years and ran into a lot of your homies from RSC over time. You were I’d like to say, the first guy from over there with a major record deal. Your hood is well known in the streets and in the industry with rap notables such as Battlecat, King Lou, Kurrupt, Baby S, CJ Macc, and now Nipsey Hussle. As Laquan you really didn’t touch on that but during the second phase of your career you dealt with it as you transitioned into Poppa L Q. What made you go in that direction and change your name and style of music?

I signed my first Record Deal at 15 yrs old. I had to go to court to get authorization to sign my recording contract. By the time I was 18, I had traveled the world and at the same time lost 10 or more love ones between family and close friends to gang violence. By the time I reached the second phase of my recording career as a young man, I was totally aware of my surroundings and being a artist. I wanted to reflect that personal experience, pain and frustration that was going on in my life and our community at the time.

My favorite album by you was recorded during this period “Your entertainment, my reality”. You sounded hungry and assertive and everything seemed to gel for you musically as well. You did the record through Rap-a-lot and it featured your RSC homie CJ Macc can you describe what that period was like for you?

Wow, That was a very vital and interesting period for me, not only in my career but my life in general. I had already left Island Records like 2 years now. I was in between record deals, my Pops was in The Feds and I just finished working on the artist Domino’s debut album with Battle Cat & AMG. I was living with my big homie “GB” R.I.P. Sleeping on his floor. My bro Battle Cat invited me to LifeStyle Ent owned By Harry O and his recording studio to finish a song of mine we were working on. That’s when and where Lil J ( Jay Prince ) of Rap A lot and I Met. He heard me in the studio rappin. I had no idea who he was at the time. By his hat and T-shirt I actually thought he was an A&R rep for Rap A Lot at first. He was so low key. He kept asking if I was signed to Harry O and I kept telling him no !! I wasn’t even thinking of signing with Harry O. I wasn’t feelin the person Harry O had working for him at the time. I felt like he came at me foul trying to sign me on the spot for 10k without mine, but with his lawyer David Kenner present with the contract already in his hand ,yeah the same shady lawyer who gave 2pac that shitty deal on Death Row. My pops who had heavy music ties and lawyer friends in high places already gave me the rundown on Mr. Kenner. Ex Real estate lawyer turned entertainment lawyer. So that was a no-go for me, But I still had a close friendship with Battle Cat. So I respectfully declined to sign with Harry O.  Next day I had a breakfast meeting at Roscoe’s With LiL J ( J Prince ), that’s when I found out he was the owner Of Rap A lot. In two days I Went to Houston, met with the staff, hit the studio with Mike Dean & N.O Joe and got busy. J Prince sent a contract to my lawyer Virgil Roberts and  the negotiations began.

KennyKingpin2I lived in Mid City for a few years and my cousin Lil Rascal used to make music with your Regime homie Phats Bossaline. I know you met Yukmouth during your tenure @ Rap-a-lot. How did you two link up and are you still active in the Regime?

I met Yuk at Virgin Records they distributed Rap A lot then in L.A. We had already heard of each other through his wife at the time Trina and her Brother Andre, who I grew up with. Yuk and I are like brothers. Our friendship is beyond rap and business. Therefore I will always be Regime. Phats Boss & Mad Max was brought into the fold by my street partner Tally R.I.P.

The next phase of your career saw you form the West Coast underground super group D B A with producer Bosko and Cool Nutz. I know you guys signed to Universal but had issues with the label. What exactly happened and will you guys ever come to the table again?

Good Question, The DBA project was a project Bosko and I was working on after my departure from Rap A Lot. Bosko actually produced 3, 4 songs on my Album “Your “Entertainment, My Reality” We had a working relationship before I signed to Rap A lot. DBA was our way of staying active and keeping our music out there. Coolnutz came in the studio with us. We released a full album Independently through Bayside distribution and made some noise in L.A. and The Bay, eventually Dino Delvaille the A&R who signed Cash Money heard the project and we got picked up by Universal. That deal was cut short by my incarceration for a multi state drug trafficking Case.

I wanted to touch on being from RSC and touring and traveling in other markets on the road? I remember hitting certain markets back in the day with my artists and Seattle, Tacoma Washington, Portland, Denver and Las Vegas all had a heavy RSC presence did that help or hurt you as an artist?

Both, being from a Hood as notorious and hated as the R60’s doesn’t come without drama and being in a position of celebrity or entertainment doesn’t help. Maintaining ties with your Hood and being an artist or athlete will always have conflict, cause the two worlds by nature don’t Mix. The balance of conducting your business and reppin your Hood will always be challenged or questioned by those who don’t benefit from it. That’s always up to the individual how much they value his or her career. Myself it was never to difficult because I’ve always stayed true to who I am and what I’m doing. I’ve always treated my talent like a gift.

During the 90’s as I managed artists here in Los Angeles and I would peep you in the streets and at industry functions. I have seen you hold court from the Century Club to the Slauson Swap-meet. I know for a fact firsthand, you were doing your thing out here heavy on the turf. I also heard you had to do a federal sit down as well. With that being said, as someone who has lived the life and rapped about it how do you feel about the overt lies and fakeness prevalent in today’s rap game?

It’s Sickening at worst. It’s an insult to the intelligence of the fans and occupants of this culture called Hip Hop. When I was coming up in this industry at 14, 15, it was all about using rap as a tool not to get out or leave but bring more opportunity to the turf. That’s what Big U, Lil Looney, Big Smac, Big Dee, Waco. Big KeyStone, Big GB, Eddie Boy and other big homies of mine always told and stay on me about. There was no room to be fake cause everything had to be verified or no one would even listen to you. The criteria was you had to be real with yourself, your community and what you said you were about or the people would take the platform away from you by simply ignoring you. Somewhere along the way the people stopped even caring what’s real or fake as long as it sounds good. Kind of like how we don’t hold our politicians in office accountable for lying to us. We expect them to, so we accept them lying to us as the norm. The real question is why would rappers be any different?

You no longer go by Poppa L Q and have changed your name to Kenny Kingpin. What brought about that change and where do you see yourself going forward?

The Name change to Kenny Kingpin represents my growth and evolution as a man and artist. The name was actually something E40 came up with during a domino game in a recording session we were in, as a compliment to my demeanor and it stuck with me every since. E40’s Words and phrases don’t just sound fancy they usually have meaning and substance which is why they resonate well in this culture of ours. I’m moving forward as a artist and business man by writing, producing and developing artists. I’ve also started my own company RUBBER BAND READY Ent.

My favorite song by you is “Let the streets tell it” which really delves into the history of Southern California D Boys and brings up some major players from back in the day. You have always been pretty adamant about hustlin’ in your music and it was obvious by seeing you in person that you breathed the lifestyle. How important was it for you to make a record like that and convey its message about the culture of gettin’ paper in the streets out here?

I wrote “Let The Streets tell it” in Terminal island FCI when I went back in 2009 for 11 months on a violation. Going back at that time was a reality check for me cause I was still out there in the streets. I was on the yard with Hustlah, Lil Dee from up north in Oakland and his Co-Defendant and some other major Cali players. That’s when that American Gangster documentary series was running. Well, l what I’ve noticed was not only that documentary but Don Diva, Feds Mag and other platforms covered very and I mean very few underworld California hustlers in comparison to the number of players I personally knew and countless others. So I took the opportunity to share a few of their story’s with the Hip Hop world before the Hip hop community begin to think we don’t have any and we all know that’s Not True.

As a twenty year veteran who has endured everything that the music industry and the streets of Los Angeles has thrown at him what type of advice can you give to those that follow in your footsteps?

Keep your business professional at all times. If you do include some of your friends or associates hold them to strict professional conduct. The streets and the music business only have few similarities, they are not the same.

Any shoutouts?

Yes, Everybody in the current struggle to preserve the value of urban culture. Cause there is an effort to devalue all things in business that are Urban.. Pay attention!


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