The West Coast legend breaks down how to buy a fur, how he became a part of Tupac’s One Nation, giving Scarface the name Uncle Face, and much more.
On the phone, Yukmouth sounds exactly like you’d expect him to. You can definitely tell he’s from Oakland. His speech is peppered with his signature “ya-da-da-means”. He even stops right in the middle of an answer, begins to cough and excuses himself. In the background, you can hear a coughing spell that can only be described as violent. He hops back on the phone and calmly said “That Yukmouth Koolato, that shit went down the wrong windpipe, whoa. What we was talking about now?”
In our conversation, we discussed how long he’ll keep making music, Mac Dre, Pimp C, why Smoke-A-Lot Records won’t be signing new artists, and a whole lot more.
On United Ghettos of America Vol. 2, you were wearing some mean furs. Do you have any advice on how to pick furs?
Don’t get the reversible ones. You always want to have silk on the inside. You don’t want the reversible with the leather. Those are cheap, those are low budget. You buy those inside the mall. You really want to go to the real store, the store that sells furs. Fur hats, fur jackets, the fur trenches. Regardless if it’s chinchilla, fox, or just regular mink, you want to have a variety of choices. Whether if it’s colorful, multi-colored, whatever, you want to have a real choice. You want to go to the real fur spot that sells real furs.
I went to New York and got those 2 furs that were on the cover of United Ghettos of America 2. New York was cold, we had just got back from Germany. I was chilly and my homie Diesel Don had the hook-up on furs. So I just bought me a couple of furs. Freshly done. They had me there on a delay, we ended up staying 5 days.
Early in your career, you did a song with Seagram. Can you tell those who may be unfamiliar about him, and how y’all ended linking up?
About Seagram? That’s the big homie. He’s a legendary rapper from Oakland, who was signed to Rap-A-Lot Records. I always looked up to him growing up. He was the first successful rapper from my neighborhood, which is the Ville, 65th & East Oakland. So he was like an icon to me, since a little dude. Me actually signing to Rap-A-Lot after he passed was like me continuing the legacy we had in my neighborhood. We did a song together called “S.E.A.G. & Yuk Is Ridin” on his last album before he passed. Definitely I was able to get it in with the brother, the big bro. He was a legend in Oakland, period. Everybody loved him. He was one of the first ones to get a major record deal, besides the Hammers and the Too Shorts. We looked up to him like he was an urban legend, so rest in peace to that brother.
What was working with Pimp C like?
Me and him never really recorded a song together, but we was rocking with each other on Rap-A-Lot. I was more doing songs with Bun B. That’s my nigga, we’d be in the lab knocking shit out. With Pimp, Pimp was more focused on knocking his album out. Getting his buzz back out there. He wasn’t doing too much featuring on peoples shit, he was more having people featured on his shit. He died before we could record our song, but that was the big homie. He loved me. Rest in peace to Pimp C.
There’s a song out there with the two of you on it. It sounded official.
I ain’t never record a song with Pimp C, but if they put it together that’s dope. I mean if they can make a song with Eminem and Tupac they can do anything. If they can make it happen it’ll happen, but if it’s good then that’s dope.
Speaking of Tupac how’d he ask you to be involved in One Nation?
Aw, man, it was an honor. Shout out to Pookie, shout out to P Frank. My Oakland brother, also known as a huge director, huge film producer. He’s over there at BET, he does Unsung. He’s a powerful player in the game. He always tried to involve me in projects that concerned the Bay area. Especially in the Tupac situation. That was my folks. I made the dedication song “Still Ballin”. It feels like I’ll always still be a part of the music so thank you to them brothers for letting me be a part of the One Nation group.
When you were on Rap-A-Lot together everyone called Scarface your favorite rapper’s favorite. You’ve long been one of my favorites so I got to ask, is Scarface your favorite rapper?
He’s one of them, definitely. I actually gave him the name Uncle Face. When I went over there I began calling him that. He went from Scarface to Face to Uncle Face. Niggas started calling him that. I was the one who started it.
He was always one of my favorites. Between him, Ice Cube, Kool G Rap, those were my favorites growing up. With Face, you got the intricate storytelling, the bars period. How radical he was when he was talking that shit. Face is legendary, definitely an icon. Definitely one of the best ever, and definitely one of my favorites.
If I told you I thought Untouchable was better than Illmatic or The Blueprint would you think I was crazy?
I don’t know about Illmatic, but definitely The Blueprint. It shit on Blueprint. Maybe Illmatic but I don’t know. You know what? Not Illmatic.
Illmatic only got one vibe, Untouchable takes you through the full emotional spectrum.
Right, right. Untouchable got many different vibes. That production, the production is definitely way better. I’ll say that the production is better than both of those. That production is out of this world. It’s one of Mike Dean’s best albums
You’ve been doing a lot of work with J. Hood lately. How’d that come about? Is he on Smoke-A-Lot?
Nah, J Hood has his own label, ODG. So we just did a partnership with our album Savages through Empire. Me and Hood have been rocking for a long time period. I used to be managed by Uncle Ray from Ruff Ryders, he’s DMX’s uncle. He also managed DMX, some of the other Ruff Ryders. I’ve gotten production over there from Dame Grease & P Killer Trackz. That created a relationship with Hood from way back. When I came across him we started fucking with each other. It started out with trading verses. We sounded so good together we decided that we might as well do an album. We came up with the concept and knocked that bitch out of the park. I love that album. Y’all need to hear it, Yukmouth and J Hood Savages, go grab that thing.
Do you have an album with Pete Rock coming out?
Yeah, we in the lab cooking right now. So we looking like the first quarter, beginning of next year, we’ll be dropping it. That’s another guy I looked up to in hip-hop, him and CL Smooth. It’s an honor just to work with him after the shit he did for Nas and everybody else. He’s one of the biggest, the top super producers in the game, period. He’s like an East Coast Dr. Dre, one of the guys you got to go to if you want your shit to sound right. It’s just an honor to be able to go in the booth with him and have him give me that good shit. That legendary iconic sound that he’s made. I’m just excited, big goddamn shout to Pete Rock. This Crack Rock album is fire, he done gave me some shit.
What else has Smoke-A-Lot got planned for 2020?
Basically dropping a few albums, I got a lot of touring next year.
Who’s on your roster right now?
Just me man. I’m done with signing niggas. Artists don’t appreciate a deal no more. They want to be like Rick Ross overnight. They think they’re going to have a million dollars worth of jewelry on their neck and drive the million-dollar cars without selling one album. I’m tired of that. I’ve been through that same story about a thousand times. With almost every artist I’ve signed. They can’t get past the fact you got to work, they just want to sign and not work. We got to take care of them like kids. I got kids to be taking care of, I can’t be taking care of no grown-ass man. It’s a lot to sign up for, so…
They should have followed your example from J Prince and learned how to fish instead of asking for some fish.
Exactly. You got to learn how to fish and I was trying to teach them. They weren’t trying to grab that fishing rod. They wanted me to give them fish. I got tired of that. You’ll break yourself trying to feed everybody, and nobody’s trying to bring anything to the table so we all can eat. I’m done with that shit, but good luck to everybody out there doing their thing.
Tech N9ne definitely learned how to fish. Did you see him being so successful when you put him on your first album and your group The Regime?
I seen him beyond the level of success he’s at now. He’s super successful independently but I seen him going beyond that. I saw him on the status of an Eminem. Big like that, huge, on the radio. Huge, huge, but he’s huge independently. The biggest independent artist ever, but at the same time, he’s supposed to be up there. He should have radio play all day, video play all-day, that level. He’s had some big hits, some major waves, super singles, platinum and all that. It could have been even way more. He got the lyrical ability, his style, the showmanship when he performs. All of that shit is the very top, the top of the top. I’d put him up against Jay and Eminem any day. As far as rap wise, in the booth certainly.
He does have an impressive grasp of melody on top of all of that. More than them.
Yeah, he does. If you got all of them on one song I think Tech would do his 1-2 and those motherfuckers would have to rewrite their verses. I put him up there with people like that. I expected him to be at the top like that. He’s at the top independently. He’s still beating their ass regardless. Shout out to Tech N9ne, one of the dopest, if not the dopest artist I rock with, period.
I feel you don’t get enough credit for lyricism. Where do you think you rank as a lyricist?
I definitely consider myself lyrical. I don’t consider myself an ABC rapper. I definitely consider myself tricky, lyrical. Just a nigga that’s good with the craft. I don’t do basic rap. Not at all. Not at fucking all. If you hear it, it’s going to be good. You going to say “OK, he’s crazy”. When I came in the game it was all about eyebrow-raising bars. You couldn’t rap if you didn’t make motherfuckers ooh and ah. I’m from the ooh and ah days, you had to have them or your shit would be considered wack. So that’s still the feel I try to get to this day when I write rhymes.
What do you think your best verse is?
Probably “Revelations” or “The New Testament,” the whole songs. The ones where I talk about my life. Them two are my favorite. On them, I went crazy, especially “The New Testament”. I love them two.
If you could go back and say something to yourself the day you got nominated for the Grammy what would it be?
Shit. I’d say “you did it man, congratulations. Go fuck it up” Everybody doesn’t get a Grammy nomination. It’s not like being nominated for a BET award or a Source award. That Grammy nod is a huge accomplishment. Even if you don’t win it. We took it with a grain of salt when it happened, but now looking back that was huge, huge accomplishment even though we didn’t win. So I’d tell myself “nigga you did it, you made it, this shit huge, snap out of it.”
Do you still have the letter?
Yeah, it’s framed up. I got everything framed.
So you save things? What else do you have saved?
I save everything man. All the magazines I’ve been in, all the albums. All the shit. Floor shit, badges and shit. Certain merch. Old school, you know keep a little bop. When I get old I can tell my grandkids that “This is me, this is what I used to do, Poppadopolous.” Or whatever my grandkids are gonna call me.
Do you plan to reissue Thugged Out: The Albulation on vinyl? Maybe on the next Record Store Day? I’m asking that for myself because I can’t find that record anywhere.
Man, great question. I got to get with Rap-A-Lot, get the licensing. I’m going to put that out. I was going to do a 20th year anniversary this year. It’s the 20th anniversary this year, but I doubt I’ll get it out this year. It came out in ’99, but you might get one before the end of the year. You never know. That’s what we doing. We doing vinyl and digital. It’s some nice money in vinyl.
Have you ever considered releasing a biography?
It’s coming. When the time is right, I’m going to tell my story. I have an outline with chapters, what I’m going to put in there, chapter by chapter. It’s definitely coming out. Too much history, there’s just too much history for me not to.
What was Mac Dre like off-camera?
The coolest motherfucker you would ever meet. Hella funny, hella charismatic. Down as fuck. Solid. A guy that’d die for you, take a bullet for you. Spend his last money on you. Dre was the type that if none of his niggas was getting paid to do the show, he’d get his check & bust it down ten or fifteen ways. He made sure everyone had money, that everybody’s good. He was a nigga that really unified the Bay. Literally.
At one point he had The Luniz, The Mob Figaz, 3X Krazy, Sacramento Something Terrible, and his group Cutthoat Committee under his roof. Just rocking and recording shit all day. It ain’t never been done. He was the type that would see the potential in people and rock with them. He wasn’t the jealous type. A lot of people be jealous and hating on niggas. He was more the type to say “I love the way Yuk rap, he one of the tightest niggas in the Bay.” He always fucked with us. I don’t think that if we wasn’t dope that he would have rapped with us. Dre was that unifier that pushed that movement that made niggas want to get that paper. Rest in peace and Thizz in peace to Mac Dre. There will never be another.
You were one of the first rappers to have their own strand of marijuana, & one of the first to stream your music. How do you stay ahead of the curve?
Basically I just keep my ear to the street. I was one of the first rappers with a DVD too, United Ghettos of America. A DVD with a soundtrack. They were both doing numbers, I was getting paid twice. Marijuana, shit we got five on it so of course people been invested in it. With the Luniz we were on that smoking shit since the nineties. I’ve been all around the world, smoked with everybody. Doing all that stuff. Shout-out to Burna. We been had our hands in the cookie jar.
Were you in Original Gangstas with Pam Grier?
Yeah. Me and Dru Down. Dru Down played a starring role in that motherfucker, the whole movie. We all was in that bitch. The Geto Boys, Bushwick Bill, Scarface, Shyheim, etc… Virgin put that movie out and did the soundtrack, they put us all on there. Not just the soundtrack, the movie too. It was a lot of Virgin artists, Shyheim was signed to Virgin at that time.
Did you shoot your shot at Pam Grier?
Nah man, hell no. She was hella old by then, ancient. She wasn’t Coffee or Foxy Brown or none of that shit. The boy Jim Brown was on it, handcuffs on her ass. His militant ass, old ass Jim Brown with them Zulu hats on and shit. We didn’t want to do nothing disrespectful around the O.G.’s though. We wanted to be highly respectful. We didn’t even say nigga around him. You wanted to be real cool around that dude. He had the cuffs on though, wasn’t nobody getting at her.
Will you work with Mike Dean again?
Potentially. He’s another one that blew out of this world. With the team he got, Travis, Kanye he’s busy. When would he have time? Shout out to Mike Dean. He deserves all the love, all the accolades he’s getting right now. I knew that he would blow out of this world. Besides Dre I think he’s the dopest producer, dopest mixer. He’s produced so many dope ass albums and he plays all the instruments. I’ve seen this guy at work, he’s a genius. A master. He definitely deserves everything that he’s getting and more.
That’s out right now. We’re dropping videos left and right. It’s out on all digital platforms, we got some hard copies out at the mom and pop stores if you got one in your city. Yeah, we out here. My Regime niggas, my Sacramento niggas. It’s like an Oakland and Sacramento connection. We really wanted to do that in the wake of all this Oakland/Sacramento beef that’s been going down with these other rappers. We just wanted to let people know that it’s love. Sacramento and the Bay area is damn near considered as one. Even though they’re further up we consider them a part of the Bay. We just wanted to show that love, that camaraderie. After that the album with Pete Rock, another Thug Lordz project with C-Bo. Hopefully another Regime album, definitely another United Ghettos of America album. The podcast is popping, Smoke-A-Lot radio. Yukmouth TV, all that YouTube shit. We working.
How long are you going to be doing it for?
Until they stop buying it. I’m going to make it until the fans stop fucking with me. I see Jay-Z, Too Short, all them dudes is like 50. They still killing shit so that’s motivation. I’m only 44 so I got a little bit more time to do my stuff. Especially when there’s cats that’s 52 still on the radio, still touring, still making fresh hits. New music that the youth is fucking with so it can be done. They say that hip-hop is a youthful sport but I disagree. You see al the O.G.’s still making money. Jay is the richest out of all of them, still beating they ass. One of the oldest too. Kanye in his forties, 2 Chainz is in his forties, Gucci Mane is almost 40, they all still tearing it up. So as far as it being a young man’s sport I beg to differ. I see everybody getting it, the youth and the older niggas. I got hope.