by Alex Shtaerman
While many trends in music have a tendency to come and go within the context of a single calendar year, there are those special legacies and traditions that are able to endure for decades despite seemingly endless attempts to erode them or dismiss them as no longer relevant. Thriving through adversity to reemerge stronger than ever, they form the very foundation for the forces that try to eclipse them yet fail time and time again. Such is the case when it comes to the long and proud institution of West Coast Hip-Hop. While no longer basking in the limelight of mainstream pop-appeal, the West continues to do what the West has always done, and will most likely continue to do well into the foreseeable future. Exhibit A: Young Maylay.
Since bursting onto the scene in 2004 as the voice behind the lead character of Carl “CJ” Johnson in the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game, Young Maylay has been keeping things hot by collaborating with a slew of certified West Coast legends including King T, WC and DJ Pooh, among others. Staying true to the signature formula of West Coast Hip-Hop, the Los Angeles MC continues his onslaught with a brand new mixtape appropriately titled The Real Coast Guard. “The Real Coast Guard is what a mixtape is supposed to be; cuts, scratches and blends, all done on original turntables by the one and only DJ Crazy Toones, Ice Cube’s official DJ, for those who don’t know”, explains Young Maylay. If you’re one of those cats who thought Cali wasn’t puttin’ it down in ’08, you need to peep out this interview and see what’s really poppin’ off!
RIOTSOUND.COM: Since your music really seems to fall in line with the long and storied tradition of West Coast Hip-Hop, the first thing I want to ask you is: why does it often feel like a lot of music that’s coming from the West these days often sounds like it’s coming from somewhere else?
YOUNG MAYLAY: In my opinion, a lot of people are misguided, or mislead into thinking they have to sound like what’s selling at the moment instead of being themselves. And also, some record labels will point you in that direction. Not to mention the radio stations over here giving artists from other regions a lot more repetitions than us, if we get any at all. So a lot of young rappers just tend to mimic a certain style or artist that they are used to hearing.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Your new mixtape is called The Real Coast Guard. What is the title meant to signify? And also, what kind of music can the fans expect when they cop it?
YOUNG MAYLAY: With the title, [I’m saying] that I’m guarding the [West] Coast at all cost. The fans can expect to hear me rapping over various beats from other artists and also a few original tracks. The Real Coast Guard is what a mixtape is supposed to be; cuts, scratches and blends, all done on original turntables by the one and only DJ Crazy Toones, Ice Cube’s official DJ, for those who don’t know.
“If you can imagine a young fighter being trained by
some of the world’s best to ever do this. It’s like
I’m in a position to follow in the tradition and
be led in the same footsteps as my OG’s”
RIOTSOUND.COM: You’ve already worked with a slew of legends, including WC and King T. What does it mean for you as an artist that’s coming up in today’s rap game to be endorsed by Hip-Hop luminaries of such caliber?
YOUNG MAYLAY: It’s almost indescribable when I’m dealing with real legends and they’re from over here, you feel me? If you can imagine a young fighter being trained by some of the world’s best to ever do this. It’s like I’m in a position to follow in the tradition and be led in the same footsteps as my OG’s throughout my career – like a vintage style with a new twist. I’ve been knowing King T since I was a teenager. He would pick me up and I would be gone for four or five days at a time. And by me always being around in the studio while he was working, I eventually had the chance to meet the legendary WC.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You did the voice for the character of Carl “CJ” Johnson in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. How did that come about as far as you getting involved with Rockstar Games and then being cast as one of the main characters in the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise?
YOUNG MAYLAY: I actually got aligned with Rockstar Games through DJ Pooh, another West Coast legend, if you know a little bit of our history. Pooh was having a meeting with Rockstar about the project when I got a phone call from him as I normally do, not knowing he was in a meeting with the top shot callers and had me on speaker phone. So I’m talking shit, telling him how tight these new songs are that I’m working on, yadda, yadda, yadda, and that I need a DJ Pooh beat for them; and the Rockstar [staff] is just listening to me talk and be myself.
After me and Pooh got off the phone they asked him if he could get me into an audition. I went in and really didn’t think I was going to get it because there was more than a couple of people trying to get the role of CJ and it was my first time ever doing voiceovers. But a few weeks after the audition they went over the tapes and decided to go with me. About three or four weeks after that I was in New York working. It was and still is a blessing.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Growing up in Los Angeles, what was your experience like as an adolescent? L.A. went through a lot of difficult times during the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, was it something that had a big impact on you at the time?
YOUNG MAYLAY: Growing up in Los Angeles wasn’t bad at all to me. I saw and learned a lot more than the average kid in America just because this is Los Angeles, and on this side life has a tendency to go real fast. But you also learn to adapt to the atmosphere, or whatever environment that you’re set into, for those who couldn’t move away. I can remember during the daytime it would be the traditional L.A. sunshine, a couple of fist fights here and there and groups of older teenagers drinking 40 ounces of Olde English. I can still remember hearing the sound of loud music coming from the cars of the neighborhood stars that was having money. When nightfall hit, it was helicopters flying and continuous gun fire. Some sounding like it was coming from far away and other times it was going down right on our street, or on the next block, and yes, it had a major impact on me.
RIOTSOUND.COM: At what point did you initially start MCing and how did you decide it would be something you would pursue as a career?
YOUNG MAYLAY: I’ve always been a decent writer and could rap, but I never really got serious about it until I had no other options of earning an income that I felt was satisfying enough without continuing to put my freedom in jeopardy.
“to live a straight and narrow life trying to keep
it together and having no part of what’s going
on in the streets whatsoever and then still
suffering the effect of it – that’s some bullshit”
RIOTSOUND.COM: With the political climate really heating up again, do you think Hip-Hop can add anything as far as perspective when it comes to all the things that are happening right now?
YOUNG MAYLAY: I’m not extra heavy on government politics because we see and know everything that’s going on in today’s world with crooked politicians and government officials. But we can’t do anything about it. So we’re forced to sit back and watch it happen. The only thing I can see Hip-Hop doing is influencing younger people to vote, but what good is that, when we watched Bush cheat his way into the White House for two consecutive terms?
RIOTSOUND.COM: If you could snap your fingers and change any one thing about the way L.A. is today, what would that be and why?
YOUNG MAYLAY: Innocent people being victims of escalating gang violence. Because it’s already hard enough not to gang bang or to be involved in a certain lifestyle out here. But to live a straight and narrow life trying to keep it together and having no part of what’s going on in the streets whatsoever and then still suffering the effect of it – that’s some bullshit.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Right now, what direction do you feel West Coast Hip-Hop is headed in? In New York, for example, so many MCs talk about “bringing New York back”, but nothing ever seems to happen. What’s the attitude like in L.A. as far as where the Hip-Hop scene should be going?
YOUNG MAYLAY: It’s the same situation in L.A. with “so and so is gonna bring the West back”. We ain’t never went nowhere, but I’m sure what they mean is coming back to the top of the rap game and I can’t speak for everybody else, but I’m not happy with it being just two or three artists from here getting that mainstream shine. It’s a lot of good unsigned talent out here spittin’ some cold lyrics that we don’t see on BET or MTV. But as long as we continue to put our own records out with music to satisfy our fan base, the doors will eventually open.
RIOTSOUND.COM: If you could work with any producer, besides say a Dr. Dre, on an entire album, who would it be?
YOUNG MAYLAY: I don’t know why you excluded Dr. Dre as if I was gonna say him. I guess because that’s every rapper’s dream [to work with Dre]. Dr. Dre is the shit and one of the best producers that ever lived – and no disrespect at all when I say this, because he’s one of our G’s – but I got DJ Crazy Toones and DJ Pooh, not to forget King T. A lot of people don’t know that [King T] got tight production skills. All three have the work that speaks for itself plus they’ve all known me for years as a person not just as an artist, and chemistry is very important.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You got The Real Coast Guard out now, what else should all the fans be looking out for?
YOUNG MAYLAY: I’m writing music all the time, that’s no question, so I’ll have another release coming soon. But lately I’ve been expanding my writing skills and attempting to take it in another direction as well and we’ll see how that turns out. And also, if you’re into hearing real mixtapes, you can order The Real Coast Guard on www.MySpace.com/YoungMaylay.