While working on this story on Compton and the birth of gangsta rap in the winter of 2014, I ended up doing an interview with busy rapper Compton AV, aka AV LMKR, in the garage in Norwood where his producer Ayo Mecoo lived.
Compton AV released his debut album, Tru 2 the Streetz [edit: he calls it a mixtape] this April, and here’s my interview in full.
NORWOOD, 2014: Compton AV (seated), surrounded by Ayoo Meco (f.v.), Gucci Ass Remo, and Mac Ace in the winter of 2014. FOTO: SIGURD FANDANGO/D2
ØH: You seem to be hard at work?
CA: It’s the game we play, got to take it serious. Now we’re working on a mixtape, my tone and voice, we have to make sure my voice is right for the record I’m doing, som that I’m actually coming out with something that my core fans would like to hear. Then we’ll work on the video, my performance and shows, social media, a high school tour, and maybe going to Japan. This is the biggest moment in my career right now, everything I do now is what will determine where I will be next year, so I have to make it count right now.
ØH: It almost seems like you’re not enjoying it because of the stress?
CA: Sometimes, but I try to have fun for the most part.
ØH: When did you start?
CA: I’ve been rapping for about seven to eight years. I’ve been writing my whole life, but started using my voice seven or eight years ago.
ØH: How important is music for a teen growing up in Compton?
CA: I was into a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have been into until I found this music, it was lifechanging.
ØH: Is it different working in the music business today than when you started?
CA: Due to the internet, it’s way harder to sell music. At this point I give away some of my music, but not all. Just trying to make it as a local artist, while trying to step into the mainstream, it’s way different than how it used to be. If you had a hot record earlier, the label would be knocking on your door tomorrow, these days everybody got a hot record, and they look at marketing to kids, so it’s way different. And extremely hard.
ØH: What does it mean to come from Compton today?
CA: Our city have a lot of talent, but a lot of artists tend to be looked over, ’cause they don’t have the record that supports what they could become, they don’t have a street team that can push them to be what they can be. But as far as talent, we – and California in general – have a lot of talent. But I say the league has changed, because we’re looking at a time when everybody wants to be the leader of California, so you have everybody fighting over being the leader. How do we build unity, and how will we be what Snoop, Kurupt, 2Pac, Ice Cube and our greats were together? We had a mass movement, today there are so many of us trying to be «the one» that the fight is actually ruining it. The decision I make, will ensure that we get better as a city, or we get worse as a city.
ØH: Do you feel that you’re a part of the Young California movement?
CA: The thing about Young California is that it started mostly in the Bay Area, and there is also a southern California thing as well. But Los Angeles rappers like Problem and Joe Moses are also Young California artists, a lot of us are Young California arists too, they just give all the maintstream to the Bay.
ØH: How did the west come back in hip-hop?
CA: West coast music in general? There’s been more unity in the south, it slid through with Cam’ron, Jim Jones and Dipset, and then it made its way to the south, where it helped everybody. There could be a T.I. right alongside a Jeezy right alongside Gucci Mane right alongside Young Dro, they don’t hold back from each other. Out here, we lost a couple of champs, Snoop backed off the music he started, Dre backed off ’cause he takes his few projects so serious, 2Pac died. Kurupt is still young inside, so he tries to fit in with the new generation, but we haven’t had any who can fit the shoes, and when we do have someone, there are a lot of us, there are a lot of us trying to get that foot in the shoe.
ØH: The west coast sound sort of collapsed after the death of 2Pac?
CA: And it has been real hard to rebuild, but right now all the label execs are looking at California. Even southern artists are giving out west coast type of music now.
ØH: Who are you working with?
CA: Snoop, Kurupt, local people, I love the local scene, I mess with Young Sam, Joe Moses – who signed with Akon, YG just reached out, pretty much everybody in the west. Imma go with Battlecat to Japan.
ØH: How did N.W.A. change Compton?
CA: They gave you the raw, they gave you exactly how Compton was. They had the theatrics in the music behind what their voices were saying, so it made sense.
ØH: Who got you into writing?
CA: Myself. I say myself, because I was always in school, wanting to know what everything meant. I was the one who wanted to use the big words on the other students. We all go through this 2Pac phase, and if you actually pay attention and write down what he was saying, it will really influence you to write yourself. So myself and 2Pac.
ØH: When did you get serious?
CA: I got shot in 2005, I couldn’t walk for three months. As soon as I could walk again, I put together a street team, a promotional team, so it would allow us to do music and make the records we wanted to make. When I go home, and sit in my bed at night I think about how it’s not only about me no more. It’s about people that actually have given up their life because they believe in you, and they work for you, set up a show, so it’s about us now. If I fail, we all fail.
ØH: Are you working mostly on songs or a whole album?
CA: If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said an album,. But records change your life, so I’m more focused on records now. I need to come up with another hit record. On the album you will get more of me, but it has to be pushed by a record that you all love. It’s a single game right now!
ØH: What’s your favorite album?
CA: Makaveli! 2Pac was writing real true, he showed the love for a woman, showed the hate for what they did to him, showed the appreciation for mother, for living, and actually gave you hidden messages and stories that was about to happen. I can’t get to deep into that, ’cause then I will end up saying something crazy. But Makaveli!