This column originally appeared in the Feb. 14, 2014 Edmonton Sun.
Substance and originality seem to work against artists in the pop world.
Rapper WC, who rose to fame as part of Westside Connection with Ice Cube and Mack 10, remembers a time when that wasn’t the case — at least in hip hop.
“It wasn’t cool to do that s—back in the day. If you wasn’t talking about nothing, or you wasn’t original, you was bitin’, motherf—ers would call you whack to your face,” he says. “You couldn’t get no buzz around you.”
WC, born William Calhoun, will join veteran Detroit rapper Obie Trice and D12 member Kuniva at Union Hall Friday night.
WC started rapping in the late ’80s as a member of Low Profile and then WC and the Maad Circle, before scoring a hit with Westside Connection’s 1996 debut album Bow Down.
He was one of the lucky ones to make it out of a rough lifestyle on the streets of Los Angeles as part of the up-and- coming West Coast hip hop scene.
“We stood up against a whole world out there that really wasn’t taking us seriously at the time,” he says.
Westside Connection split in 2005, but the dismal state of mainstream rap keeps driving WC as a solo artist and collaborator. The 44-year-old family man’s latest release, the Daz Dillinger collaboration West Coast Gangsta S—, dropped last year.
“The lack of substance, the lack of originality, the lack of loyalty, the lack of respect for the art — the more I see cats lacking in all areas on those topics, that keeps me going,” Calhoun says.
BUSINESS SAVVY HELPS
Business savvy has also helped him stay in the game. Aside from small acting roles in Friday and other movies, he’s dabbled in marketing clothes and has his own line of shoes coming out this year.
Kuniva, a.k.a. Rondell Beene, is a newcomer as a solo artist despite rapping with Eminem-led group D12 since the late ’90s. You can find videos online of him freestyle- battling Slim Shady as far back as 18 years ago.
“I guess this is my coming out as a solo artist party,” he says.
D12, which scored massive hits with songs like My Band and Purple Pills after Eminem’s rise to superstardom, became the first hip hop group from Detroit to go platinum — and then did it 12 times over.
“It’s still mind-blowing. I have a legacy that I can leave behind to my son. I’m in the history books,” Beene says.
“All of us saw our dreams come to life. ”
It’s been a decade since D12’s last album but Beene says a new one is on the horizon. “I’ll just say, to be safe, that we are all working together and we are all standing really good with each other right now.”
Kuniva has dropped mix tapes and freestyles and appeared on tracks with the likes of Classified and Jon Connor. Now he’s ready to dig deep and tell his story on his debut album History of Violence, due this year.
“Not everyone can relate to partying and ballin’ out and all that kind of stuff. So when you incorporate a lot of real life substance inside your music, you become timeless,” he says.
Calhoun agrees, and urges rappers not to lose themselves in shallow trends.
“There comes a point in time when you gotta say, ‘Damn, do I want the time and energy I put into this s— to mean something when it’s all over with?’ Cause it’s going to be over with one day,” Calhoun says.
“Nobody’s around forever. And your music is going to be there forever.”