When E-40’s 2006 hit “Tell Me When to Go” broke into mainstream radio, it introduced the energetic sound of the hyphy movement to the masses. Since then, intrigued listeners have questioned whether the West Coast’s version of crunk was merely a passing fad or a powerhouse here to stay. While the musical craze has its devout followers, cynics have suggested the fascination with the Bay Area’s unique brand of music has come and gone. Looking to disprove that notion is the Federation. Comprised of Goldie Gold and Stressmatic from Fairfield, Calif. and Doonie Baby from Alabama, the trio broke ground in 2004 with their debut LP, The Album. Produced entirely by the group’s unofficial fourth member and legendary beatsmith Rick Rock, the LP helped the upstart MCs gain a local cult following, but was ultimately overlooked by the mainstream. Now, after E-40’s success and the increased visibility of hyphy, Federation is ready to capitalize off the buzz and drop their sophomore release, It’s Whateva, on Warner Bros. Records. XXLMag.com talks with Stress, Doonie and Goldie about their new album, the staying power of the hyphy movement and the Bay Area’s influence on hip-hop.
How did you guys meet and form the Federation?
Stressmatic: I met Doonie when I was 16. We’ve known each other for over 10 years now. I knew Goldie from high school and we went to the same church. We all met at a record shop in Fairfield where they were having a freestyle battle I entered.
Doonie, you and Rick Rock are originally from Alabama. How did you guys meet?
Doonie: We had two rival cliques on the local scene in Alabama. Me and a mutual friend [of Rick Rock’s] Swinger had our own clique. So Swinger was like, “Man, they tight, our clique tight, we need to bring them together.” So that’s what we did. Me and Rick still weren’t feeling each other, [though]. But [one night] Swinger had a vision he was gonna pass away. He made me and Rick promise we would stay together. And like a month after that, [Swinger] passed away. Then Rick came to California and a year later he called me and said he had a plane ticket for me. I came out here to Cali and been here ever since.
Were you satisfied with the way your debut LP, The Album, was received?
Goldie: [Long pause] Um, it depends on how you look at it. The album came out in 2004. It’s 2007 and it’s still relevant for some odd reason. That’s the good thing. We’re able to do shows and our name still carries a bit of a buzz. As far as the push we were supposed to get, well, that could have been better.
Stressmatic: I think it may have been before its time. Sometimes it takes a long time for a certain genre of music to grow. Sometimes the fans have to grow with you, like with OutKast. They didn’t just blow up like how they are now. It took them awhile. If you blow up overnight, you might be gone just as quickly.
Describe the sound of your new album, It’s Whateva.
Goldie: If you’re familiar with our first album and you liked that, this is a total upgrade. We sound more mature and the lyrics are more up-to-date and relevant. We sound like a breath of fresh air.
You guys have stated you want to diversify your sound with this release. What are some examples on the album?
Stressmatic: We’ve got a song on there with a famous choir from Oakland—Walter Hawkins Choir. That’s something different we didn’t do before. It’s a song you would perform at the Video Music Awards or Grammys.
Goldie: I’d like to add on to that. On our first album we had a rock song. This time, we said, “Hey, let’s get Travis Barker to play the drums live.” [This album] is upgraded.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in the hip-hop industry so far?
Doonie: Not having as much knowledge of the game. It’s easy as fuck for us to do this music, but we’ve had to learn the game ’cause nobody taught us. We ain’t had no chance to go to school to learn the music industry. You sign a contract and they explain to you what they want, but all that other fine print shit really fucks you up on your percentage of publishing. You’re not getting the best deal [or] right amount of money.
Rick Rock is essentially the fourth member of the Federation. Any plans to work with other producers down the line?
Stressmatic: Until we get a platinum plaque with Rick Rock, we’re not going outside our camp. Goldie does beats, too. So it’s like we’ve already got in camp producers just like how Cash Money had Mannie Fresh. We do work with other producers on other projects, but not a Federation album. [Rick Rock] knows exactly what we want and he let’s us do whatever we want. He’s not scared to do something that sounds rock, East Coast or West Coast. There’s not one sound with Rick Rock. If we were a rock band, Rick Rock would be the drummer.
The Bay has influenced a lot of hip-hop slang. Do you look down upon artists from other regions who jack your slang?
Goldie: The music industry has been mimicking and imitating what the Bay Area has been doing for years, from “oh boy” to “fo’ shizzle.” The Bay has been a melting pot of creativity and new talent. The only thing that upsets me is they act like we don’t exist. They don’t pay homage to us. If you’re going to act like us, come and see how we’re living. Don’t shout us out on the radio station like, “Oh, yeah, what’s up?” Come out and build with the people!
How do you feel about the negative press and safety issues concerning hyphy staples like “ghost ridin’?”
Goldie: I got something to say about that—you can’t stop it! The only thing you can do is teach [people] how to do it safely. All you idiots out there who want to ghost ride your whip, quit hoppin’ out of your car when it’s in drive! Put it in neutral! That’s how you ghost ride. A lot of people are fuckin’ themselves up over this. If you’re going to do it, do it right. Safety first.
Stressmatic: It’s just a part of the culture, man. I love it when it’s done safely. I wouldn’t say we’re promoting ghost ridin’, but we can’t stop it. It’s not our fault. I just watched Arnold Schwarzenegger kill five different people in The Terminator [and] he’s the Governor. We can’t stop it [just because] they’re playing our music while doing it.
There are critics who say hyphy is already dead. How do you respond to that?
Doonie: It’s bullshit. The main muthafuckas who started it are still here. Out album ain’t come out yet. We ain’t went nowhere. It ain’t dead yet. A lot of artists in The Bay haven’t stepped outside the box. They expect every track on the album to be a hyphy song, but that’s not what it is. It ain’t finna be what everybody expects. We finna make the world go back to the drawing board, even other Bay area artists.
Stressmatic: The movement didn’t catch on because we didn’t’ have a lot of mainstream media attention. E-40 came out and that’s all they saw. Everybody thinks, “Okay, E-40’s the hyphy movement.” They don’t know there’s a lot of other hyphy artists. What the mainstream media doesn’t realize is it’s not over because it hasn’t even been exposed to the mainstream yet. It’s far from over.