THE ORIGINATOR – DJ YELLA (N.W.A)

THE ORIGINATOR – DJ YELLA (N.W.A)

Congratulations on being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year. What does that honour mean to you?
It’s a great honour to be nominated and picked into the 2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a bigger honour to be the first West Coast group to be picked.

With this in mind, what are your thoughts on the legacy N.W.A left for hip-hop today?
It’s crazy because we didn’t even think about nothing like this, we just made music we liked .It’s amazing how it affected so many up and coming artists and how we opened the doors for so many of them like Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, The Game, the list goes on.

As someone who helped to shape it, what do you make of the current state of hip-hop and its future?
Right now it’s the same thing going on. Not too many groups, just solo artists or guest appearances. Music right now is just sounding the same. Not much separation. It seems like nobody has their own style like it was back in the day, but Hip Hop is still here to stay.

What did it mean to come from Compton when N.W.A first began, and how is it different for the new generation coming from Compton today?
In the beginning, Compton didn’t mean nothing to nobody, it was like a bad name. It was a name people was scared of and scared to come visit. So we had to change it to something good. So now Kendrick Lamar and The Game put Compton back on the map.

What is your opinion on hip-hop producer using button pushers rather than turn tables?
You know something I push buttons myself now. It’s just moving with the times, vinyl’s are old, they are outdated, I mean they are good for a battles or things like that but think about it even the battles are not using real vinyl, they are using laptops to control the vinyl’s. The days of real vinyl like that are over. I mean, me, I can’t travel with that stuff, that’s like three, four bags of luggage and they will charge you an arm and leg. You just gotta keep up with the times. I use the pioneer DDJ SX and it’s the closest thing you can get to a turntable. I got 10000 songs on my laptop and I can carry all of the music in the world. It’s just simple and easy plus it sounds better. It’s the same with recording in the studio, it’s all digital now. You just have to change with the times, it may not look as pretty as turn tables but it’s the same thing.

The internet has certainly affected how hip-hop and music in general is created and released today. Has that allowed hip-hop to become greater, or has it lost some of what once made it so important?
The internet has changed music. Not just Hip Hop but all music. It’s made it bigger, stronger but the only down fall is that it seems like it’s starting to be more artists than fans because it’s so easy to make songs now anywhere, in your bedroom, in your garage, wherever. There’s not many big studios no more.

Similarly, how has social media affected music and connecting with fans for you personally?
Social Media is a great thing. It has its ups and downs but it helps you be relevant around the world. People can instantly look you up from all around the world. You can be an instant success or an instant flop.

What were your favourite sampled track?
All the ones we got sued by (laughs). George Clinton, James Brown. We were the poster kids for everybody getting sued, we were the originators. (laughs)

So what were the samples that you wanted but couldn’t get clearance for?
Herbie Hancock. Listen to this, he called us in the studio and told us we couldn’t use the sample. I look right at Dre, he picked up the call and said we couldn’t use it. It was for the song “she swallowed it”. Originally it was his sample on there, we had to replay and play something else on there but there was a sample on that song first. He called the studio and said no, straight up cos he didn’t like he morals of the song.

Considering how important N.W.A has been in terms of a very specific location and culture within the US, what are your thoughts on the way people from all cultures, races, countries etc., interpret and understand that music?
We was probably one of the most rare and neutral groups because our music related to everybody, all races all countries. Our music was just so different. A lot of different cultures from all over the world could relate to it.

What was it like being in NWA at its peak?
You know what’s so crazy, we didn’t reach our peak back then, we are reaching it now. The movie made hundreds of millions, we paused 26 years ago when the group broke up. When the albums went number one we weren’t together. We didn’t grow old, or outdated or fade away we just paused. It was great, it was fun. It’s a fraternity that nobody can get into. It was 5 people now its four- cant nobody get in, it’s a fraternity.

The money issues that NWA got into got quite a lot of press, if the money issues weren’t as huge as they were, do you think NWA would still be together?
No, we had to break up. If we would have stayed together we would have fell off. We stopped right before we peaked, I’m telling you. We broke up at number 1, nobody breaks up at number 1, everybody breaks up when then not on the charts. We broke at and number 1 and its amazing.

NWA were bold. Say what you will but they were bold and straight to the point- how to you feel about boldness in hip-hop artistry today, if indeed you think there still is boldness?
Well you know something, it was so different back then. We started something that we didn’t know we started. We just did what we wanted to do and we just stood out. We didn’t think about it, if we were to have thought about it, we wouldn’t have made it. Talking about the police how we did, that is bold, I don’t mean to brag or anything but I haven’t heard anybody speak about it like that. They just talk about the usual, women, sex but hopefully it will change and get back to how it was. Because you know, hip-hop is still here, it aint never going nowhere. Hip-hop is there to stay.

What is your proudest music accomplishment to date?

I guess producing all NWA , Eazy E. JJ Fad too, that was our first gold album and single, producing Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. I would say NWA and having a film about us, it’s crazy, I’m still amazed.