MC Eiht had been relatively quiet in the hip-hop world since the mid-2000s, when the Compton’s Most Wanted rapper began slowing down his output after more than a decade of putting out some of the West Coast’s toughest gangsta rap. But he flew back into the public consciousness—and the ears of a new generation of listeners—with his verse on “m.A.A.d city” off Kendrick Lamar’s outstanding major label debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city in October 2012. Building off his regained relevancy, Eiht has been working on finishing up his first full-length album since 2006, to be called Which Way Iz West, produced by Brenk Sinatra from Austria and DJ Premier.
“We’ve been trying to get this together for the last three years,” Eiht said in a phone conversation with XXL earlier this month. ”Premier is mixing the last song with Rage this week, so it’s finally done and we’re gonna try to get it out later this year. But it’s just one of those feel-good West Coast records; I’m not trying to stray away from anything or do anything different, not just focused on drive-bys and killin’ and low riders and 40 oz drinkin’. We different, we matured. But like I said, it’s one of those feel-good West Coast records that I think people appreciate coming from MC Eiht.”
These days, with Kendrick Lamar reportedly gearing up to release the followup to gkmc in the coming months (we hope), Eiht has been speaking with the young Compton MC, but hasn’t been back in the studio to reprise his guest turn on K. Dot’s debut. “I haven’t talked about getting back in the studio with him, because I really don’t know the direction of his next album or where he’s trying to go,” Eiht said when asked about working more with Kendrick. “He can go any way he wants to as far as the direction of what he wants to address to the people in hip-hop. But I’ve talked to him, we’ve seen each other on the road, performances. But as far as getting on the new record, I haven’t spoken to him about that. But you know, if people wanna use you, they use you, and if they don’t, good lookin’ on the first go-round.”
MC Eiht and Compton’s Most Wanted rose to prominence a few years after N.W.A broke down a slew of barriers for West Coast hip-hop, particularly gangsta rap, with their debut LP, Straight Outta Compton, in 1988. CMW’s three-album run of It’s A Compton Thang, Straight Checkn ‘Em and Music To Driveby were all important entries into the West Coast genealogy before Eiht largely went solo for the next decade or so. But over his time in the game, he’s seen both gangsta rap and hip-hop in general change drastically.
“Nowadays, the music is different, the element of gangsta rap music is different,” he said. “It’s more publicized these days, it’s more accepted; you wear rags, bandannas, say where you from and all that. But back then, when we just did it to speak on what was going on, you got a lot of bans and a lot of, ‘You can’t do this here, you can’t do this there.’ It was a different element, and to me that makes the records different.”
But it’s not just gangsta rap or L.A. hip-hop that’s different, he said, it’s that the whole genre is over-saturated.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why rappers can’t get a break, for those who are trying to come up and who are authentic and who do have some good-quality music; it’s just so over-saturated,” he said. “It’s hard to even listen to anybody, because there’s a million rappers. And when you’ve got YouTube and Soundcloud and mixtapes and all this that you can give away for free, it’s hard to distinguish somebody whose trying to really do it from somebody whose just trying to do a gimmick… I’m not trying to focus on what the state of new hip-hop is right now, I’m just trying to find that sound that captured the original L.A. hip-hop and try to get it back.”
Keep an eye out for Which Way Iz West in the next couple months. —Dan Rys