After serving 10 years in prison, the General is back on the streets and Tha Eastsidaz have been reformed!
Big Tray Deee sat down with DubCNN to give an exclusive in-depth interview where the Long Beach legend opens up about fixing his broken relationship with his group-mates, to his conversion to Islam and what’s next for Tha Eastsidaz and himself.
Interview was done in July 2014.
Questions Asked By: Tim Sanchez
DubCNN.com Presents: Tray Deee x Big Petey – Long Beach State Of Mind (Mixtape)
DubCNN: You were released from prison just a few months ago. What’s been going on with you since you’ve been out?
I’ve been out for than 90 days, so the only thing that’s been going on is reformulating Tha Eastsidaz and promoting the mixtapes that I made while I was behind the wall. I’ve also been re-establishing relationships with producers and different people in the industry. A lot changes in hip-hop every 2 to 3 years, so you can imagine the changes that I’ve had to get used to being away for the past 10 years.
DubCNN: Has there been a type of culture shock in regards to the changes you’ve seen?
I was aware of the direction that music was going while I was in prison but I didn’t follow it. My take on hip-hop is based on my own lane in it. I don’t really focus on what’s going on with the emo-rappers or the over-the-top commercial ones. I’m not hating on them or anything like that, it’s just not a realm of my interest. Motherfuckers that kick that street shit hard and rugged and are really about that life, those are the ones that attract my attention.
DubCNN: It’s not just the style of music that has changed though. Since you’ve been away, the way that business is done in the music industry has drastically changed as well.
You have to get out and work for yourself now. I’ve seen that in this day and age, you have to have an instant connection with people. With so many viable options to connect with people, you have to outwork the next artist to stay on top in this game.
DubCNN: You once stated while you were in prison that Tha Eastsidaz were done with. Then a few years back you told me in an interview that you made amends with Snoop Dogg but you still weren’t talking to Goldie Loc. How and when did you two patch things up?
Goldie Loc and I had a few conversations before I made it home. This was a big concern of mine because I’m not a fake person and I don’t act like I’m cool and straight with someone when I’m not. I really needed to clear the air with him and let him know the concerns that I had about not maintaining the friendship that I thought we had formed. I knew he had a few rough times but I also know that he had a few peaks. I can’t count the next man’s money and I can’t say how the next man spends his time but I wanted him to tell me up front of what he was going through and where he was mentally and career-wise. I saw an interview that he did years before I got out where someone asked him what he’s up to and he said that he was just waiting for Big Tray Deee to touch down. He was young at the time and he’s younger than both Snoop and myself so he was probably overwhelmed any a lot of things going on around him. I chose to forgive him and move forward. He didn’t do anything negative for me to forgive him but it was just a perception that I had of him because of the things I felt he should have communicated to me during the 10 years that I was locked up – but we’re good now. That’s my boy.
DubCNN: You guys rocked the KDAY Krush Groove concert together but a lot of people were wondering why Snoop Dogg didn’t join you guys onstage. Then a week later, the three of you were in the studio together.
I was talking to each of them separately while I was still in prison. Goldie had his business dealings with Snoop with a group called Warzone but I wasn’t sure where they stood with each other and I wasn’t sure for a while where I stood with Snoop. Like you mentioned previously, Snoop got at me a couple of times when I was locked up and we put our differences in the past. Goldie and I did that KDAY show and then we started working with Battlecat and Fredwreck putting a few things together. We were letting everybody know that Tha Eastsidaz were back, but just as me and Goldie. I guess Snoop picked up on it and we talked about it. He said that he wanted everything to come back together but he wanted it to be natural instead of forced. We all have real love for each other. Goldie is the little homie, Snoop is the homie and I’m the big homie. That whole interaction between us all was still there when we all got back together. We have fun making music together and that’s the main reason why we are doing it.
DubCNN: You wrote two books while you were in prison.
The first book was “Streetz Gon Cry” that I co-wrote with Anthony Barrow and the second one was “Los Angeles Tymez: Urban Tales” that I co-wrote with J.D. Cooper of The Lench Mob. “Streetz Gon Cry Part 2” will be out by the end of the year. We just struck an agreement with Snoop Dogg in which he will be publishing the book under his new book publishing brand. All of the urban authors are going to get behind the push that he’s going to make in that market. It’s going to be major from east to west coast. These urban books are just another side of revealing the culture.
DubCNN: You also converted to Islam while you were locked up. How does your religious belief system coincide with the street gangster lifestyle?
Being a gang member and making that transition to Islam, I had to put that before my gang. A lot of conflicts and bad episodes come from when people try to walk a different path than what people know them to actually walk – but of course I’m an O.G. I was an O.G. before I went to prison and almost one when I first started rapping. It was more of a maturity and acceptance of what I’ve closed eyes to most of my life and that was the existence of God. I lived my life the way I wanted to and I mashed on some gangsta shit and didn’t give a fuck who I ran over. Being forced to take the time and analyze my behavior and my perception of life period, paralleled with my responsibility as a created being of God to honor him in my actions, words and every aspect of my life. It came upon me to ask myself if I wanted to continue to ignore God or to reach out in righteousness and ask him to guide and bless me. And it’s not just asking to receive something but it’s about having sincerity in your heart. I’m still not perfect by any means. I still argue with my wife. I still get loud. There are a lot of things that I do that probably wouldn’t expect from a devout Muslim brother but I’m human and God accepts me. To answer your question, it’s understanding that God made me and God knows me. I can’t act like I’m someone else to God because I don’t have to. He knows who I am and he knows when I’m striving to be dedicated – as long as whatever I’m doing doesn’t conflict with striving to be righteous. If I’m confronted with a situation, I don’t feel like I have to respond any different just because I’m a Muslim, the difference is that someone has to approach me with aggression for me to respond like that. It’s not me being aggressive anymore but I still know the streets.
DubCNN: There had to have been people who dismissed your conversion as “jailhouse religion.”
I was actually going to mosque before I went to prison, right there on Manchester and Vermont where Minister Tony Muhammad is. I had one foot in the hood still but I was accepted. I was trying to learn because I never had an interest in God. But I grew that desire to learn by becoming a platinum artist. I grew up in a welfare environment, getting free lunches from churches and at the park. I was stealing bicycles, items from the liquor store and going in and out of youth camps and eventually prison. I went from that in life to a place where people wanted to meet me and get my autograph. I knew then that it could only be God. When I got out of prison, someone asked me about Snoop and I told him that I didn’t know Snoop but I would check out what he was doing because I was writing little raps myself. It just so happened that I grew up with a guy who was Snoop’s right hand man, Big C-Style, at the time. He introduced us and it cracked off from there. I know that I did nothing to warrant or deserve this on my own and that this was placed upon me. I went to a church on New York and Atlantic and dropped my Dogg Pound chain right in the collection plate. It was a $71,000 chain and I slapped it right in the collection plate and I left. A lady came running out and told me that she couldn’t accept the chain. She told me that if I wanted to sell it or pawn it and then donate the money, that would be acceptable but otherwise, she couldn’t accept it. I turned to Islam because every Christian church I went to went from thanking the Lord to talking bad about gangsters and I’m like, “I just came to feel the spirit.” I felt like they were putting the spotlight on me by doing that. I was just trying to show God my gratitude because I felt him telling me that I got away with a lot of bad things in my life. I felt like I was sent to prison to get off all the drugs and get my mind right. I wrote and I read and became someone that God can use in his service.
DubCNN: Tha Eastsidaz released a new track called “Get U Right” produced by Scoop Deville. What else are you guy’s working on?
We’re getting the mixtape mixed right now, it’s by DJ Drama and Snoop called “That’s My Work Volume 4.” We’re narrowing it down to 17 tracks and we’ve got some bangers on there. We are also working on a new album but the mixtape is to get the audience familiar with us once again and to introduce ourselves to those who don’t know us. They’re either going to push with us or get with that off-the-wall Mohawk fake boy music. I also started my own label called Supreme Circle. I’ll be debuting a new artist named Tim West from the Eastside of Long Beach and Big Beats from the Westside. They have two different sounds but they’re dope. Big Beats has melody, hooks and can cater to the ladies, something that you would never imagine me being involved with. Tim West has straight bars and he comes from the C.O.B. camp with Crooked I and he’s lauded amongst the circle of new rappers. Their mixtapes are being prepared right now. I will be releasing my own solo album on Supreme Circle along with Coniyac’s from Doggy’s Angels. She’s putting out a solo album too.
DubCNN: You’re doing a follow up to the General’s List?
The General’s List was more like a compilation album where I was creating a movement. That’s why it’s the “General’s List.” I put my boys on that album and just had fun. Ice-T even came out from New York for a song but we couldn’t put it out because I couldn’t get him back out to re-record the song. I needed him to do something with his vocals in order to finish the song but our timelines were messed up. I wanted to give a voice to all the artists around my circle. This album is going to be Tray Deee to the neck bone with only a few features. Some features you will expect and some you probably wouldn’t. I’ve got a song called “Do You Want To Get Funky With Me” off of that old Pete Brown song from 1976. I’m having fun with music and I’ve never looked at it as a chore because when I started rapping, I was doing it for my homeboys.
DubCNN: Your fans love you for your signature flow that has its own unique cadence and melody. How did you develop that?
I have to give a shout out to the rapper who influenced me to get in the game, and that’s Rakim. He’s been my influence. I’ve never tried to emulate his content because if you use any word that he’s used, it’s apparent but there are different ways to pay homage. I took his infamous “7 MC’s” line and switched it up to some gangsta shit one time. You can mix it up and pay homage but biting is some really big shit or at least it used to be. You used the word “melody” and that’s my favorite Eric B and Rakim song. He had 5 verses on that one song! I myself want to be recognized as someone who didn’t play when it was time to get on the microphone. I want to be acknowledged for bringing it the way it’s supposed to be done.
DubCNN: Was there any rust or getting back on the mic after all this time?
There might have been rust if it wasn’t from a homeboy that I will call “Lil Iceberg” who knew how to work his phone like a studio, and that allowed me to record like 50 songs before I came home. I’m not going to disclose how all of that went down because I might sell that whole procedure to Apple (laughs). But I’m not rusty, I stayed working all of the time.
Big Tray Deee speaking to Tim Sanchez for DubCNN.