Interview by Dove ~Sheepish Lordess of Chaos~
From Hennessey to Hollywood
Tash, J-Ro and E-Swift may very well be the hardest working men in show business. After ten years in the spotlight, several successful albums, numerous cameos and solo projects, and months upon months of touring, Tha Liks have yet to let the vicious industry jade their good-natured approach to music. The old adage â€˜work hard, play hardâ€™ is exemplified in the trioâ€™s new DVD film X.O. The Movie Experience. The independently produced DVD bears the testimony of those fun-filled moments when the world isnâ€™t watching, and Tha Alkaholiks crew lets loose for the camera at every turn.
The DVD combines live show footage with backstage antics and one-on-one interviews with each member of the Likwit crew, including commentary from Defari, Phil Da Agony and Xzibit. Tha Liks longevity in Hip Hop is covered non-ostentatiously with trips to J-Roâ€™s grandmotherâ€™s house, hugs from E-Swiftâ€™s sister, and in-studio sessions showing the men after long hours of working. Tash explains that the recording consistency they have been able to achieve is a reflection of their growth rather than doing things one way all the time. â€œWhen we get in the studio â€“ I feel thatâ€™s what people like about us â€“ they donâ€™t know what theyâ€™re about to hear when the album comes out. When we came out in â€™93, you canâ€™t drop that shit right there in 2001. A lot of people come out with a sound and they do good and they get a fan base off that one sound, and they just cling onto it til it just falls apart. Basically the radio listeners are brainwashed into thinking you have to do â€˜thisâ€™ or â€˜thatâ€™ to be successful. Since day one weâ€™ve always applied ourselves outside of the [normal] outlets that people have.â€?
Tash continues the conversation, displaying a â€˜no fearâ€™ approach to Tha Liks getting mainstream recognition. â€œThereâ€™s no category for us â€“ weâ€™re not a gangsta rap group, weâ€™re definitely not a pop rap group, weâ€™re not like an underground backpacking group. Thereâ€™s so many categories that people put you in â€“ I feel it holds people back in their careers and thatâ€™s why they only last one or two albums. We try to keep it moving, every single year we try to come with some new shit - every year we gain new fans and we probably lose fans by doing shit like with [people] like the Neptunes. We got so much love in this industry that I donâ€™t think weâ€™ll ever fall below sea level before we decide not to do this shit no more. All weâ€™re trying to do is come with something different from the West Coast. We could talk about shit we see every day â€“ gang banging, selling dope and shit like that â€“ but thereâ€™s so many people out here doing the same thing that it doesnâ€™t appeal to us to be the same as everybody else. We always gotta come with that different twist on L.A. Hip Hop.â€?
Being handsome doesnâ€™t hurt the Alkaholik-three in their endeavors. E-Swift proclaims that he never gave much thought to their looks, but he canâ€™t even deny the appeal is there. â€œWe never really try to portray the image of being super hard or gangstaâ€™d out. Weâ€™re in that environment, we donâ€™t even trip about it or talk about it, itâ€™s just something that happens. I never thought [being good looking] would hold us back at all, if anything I thought that would help us. From a marketing standpoint I think that it helped us,â€? he smiles.
To follow up their current album X.O. Experience, Tha Liks plan on concentrating on their next album in the midst of more touring to promote the DVD. â€œBasically weâ€™re trying to better the situation that weâ€™re already in,â€? explains Tash. â€œWeâ€™ve got two more albums left with Loud, and every time an album comes out the fans that really check for us love it, the people who expect to hear it on the radio or never heard of us before â€“ they like it. We want to get it to the point that everybody and their momma knows about Tha Liks, and we feel like we definitely gotta come up with a plan to do that â€“ because every time we come out we break even at a certain point â€“ certain number of records sold, a certain amount of publicity, and a certain amount of recognition for our efforts. Itâ€™s like a puzzle â€“ weâ€™re just looking for that last piece to put in there so we can just have the shit take off, and have all our efforts we put into this over the last few years pay off like itâ€™s supposed to.â€?
In addition to the Liks album, Tash and lanky lyricist Kurupt are putting out an album together as D.N.A. (Dogg Pound N Alkaholiks), and J-Ro is organizing an all-out smorgasbord of verbal flavors with the Likwit Crew, the Dogg Pound and special guests called The Vapors. E-Swift will be releasing a solo album in the near future as well, and he cites that he will be going after a diverse group of artists for vocals. His current production includes work with Ludacris, Phil Da Agony, the Cocoa Brovaz, and a few alternative rock bands. Visions of the future seem to come easily to E-Swift. â€œIn ten years [Tha Liks] will still be making records. We base ourselves not after just rap groups â€“ we model ourselves after bands like the soul groups from past eras. Someone like Quincy Jones had over twenty albums, and weâ€™ve got a long way to go. Itâ€™s good because weâ€™ve been consistent, weâ€™ve got a good track record, and everythingâ€™s lovely â€“ thereâ€™s not a lot of groups that can say that. Weâ€™re blessed to be still signed after all these years without just having one record out that was number one on Billboard â€“ thatâ€™s kinda rare. Even though weâ€™re independent weâ€™ve still got major backing â€“ but when you start seeing that independent money, thatâ€™s when it really matters. The DVD is independent â€“ we didnâ€™t have to rely on any major company to do anything for us. We funded it and we made it happen.â€?
With todayâ€™s youth being affected so much by Hip Hop music and videos, some parents may wonder where Tha Liks stand with regard to the nudity in their new DVD. Tash and E-Swift both agree that it is the parentsâ€™ responsibility to guide the media that their children are potentially subjected to. E-Swift explains his viewpoint with quiet confidence. â€œFrom the time we made our first album, we felt like weâ€™re responsible to a point but we canâ€™t control what everybody watches. We try to put the Parental Advisory stickers on everything â€“ but basically we canâ€™t raise everyone elseâ€™s kids. You just gotta be responsible and monitor what your kids watch. Itâ€™s no different than pornos or anything thatâ€™s accessible â€“ you get Playboy magazines delivered to the house and try to hide it from the kids, but if the kids get in it then the parents ainâ€™t monitoring their kids right. Overall itâ€™s not that bad, no super-sexually explicit scenes where itâ€™s triple x rated. I feel like all theyâ€™re going to get out of it is â€˜oh those girls are naked?â€™. Weâ€™ve always practiced freedom of speech. Weâ€™re grownups and this is for people of our age - mature people that can handle it.â€?
Tash remarks in his animated fashion, â€œWe are definitely going to influence people to react a certain way when they see the video, but not to any [bad] level. Not to be cocky, but I busted my ass years before we even got a deal to be in the position to do what the fuck I wanna do. Personally, I like certain visions â€“ I like naked chicks. People gotta lighten up a little bit. They arenâ€™t â€˜thatâ€™ naked. They were just as naked as the girls on Baywatch, and once youâ€™re over 21â€¦ câ€™mon now. If it offended you, then Iâ€™m going to tell you â€˜donâ€™t ever play that video again in your lifeâ€™. If it came down to letting my kids see that, I would definitely turn the TV off â€“ I wouldnâ€™t act like this is cool.â€? Although the conversation is amicable, Tash seems to be momentarily distracted and pauses. â€œWe do so much on top of rapping. I donâ€™t even want to go into it because itâ€™s just gonna sound like weâ€™re patting ourselves on the back.â€?
After a few moments of discussion and persuasion, Tash opens up about the good deeds that he, J-Ro and E-Swift have been involved in. â€œWe just spoke at a high school in Cleveland, Ohio when we were on the Snoop Dogg tour. Last year at Thanksgiving we threw a whole parade on Crenshaw - we blocked off the streets. All these kids see is a lot of negativity in their lives every single day â€“ dope dealers and gangs â€“ these little six, seven and eight-year-olds need to be able to see Mickey Mouse, so we hooked up with the people from Disney and they brought the characters and everything. We had floats, we had Crenshaw High School, Locke High School, Banning High School - a bunch of high schools come down. We had the mayor of L.A., Eddie Griffin, a lot of R&B singers and rappers and passed out turkeys to the under-privileged kids. We didnâ€™t even go to press with it â€“ we just said â€˜letâ€™s do itâ€™ â€“ and next year those same kids will be looking for us saying â€˜hey, we need the Alkaholiks back here againâ€™. Thatâ€™s the type of people we are â€“ weâ€™re not trippin off press running wild with it, because thatâ€™s not what the point is. The point is that everybody needs help sometime. Usâ€¦ muthafuckin Puffy probably even needs help sometimes you know? Weâ€™re about uplifting the best way we can, but to tell the truth, I donâ€™t go to church the way I should â€“ so Iâ€™m not gonna front like Iâ€™m the most perfect muthafucka on earth. Weâ€™re all people, we all make mistakes, we all do these things. When you meet me as a person, all I can do is basically tell you my life experiences and then youâ€™ll learn from that.â€?
Just knowing how much of their hearts and souls Tha Liks put into their work, one can only imagine the level of energy each of them possesses in order to maintain balance. A healthy dose of fun can come in many forms, and the new DVD gives fans an inside look at the world of these avid emcees. E-Swift endorses X.O. The Movie Experience with enthusiasm, â€œItâ€™s us â€“ live, raw - just how it is every day. It represents the real side of what goes on without keeping the public in mind. Itâ€™s fun, itâ€™s action â€“ a lot of girls.â€? Youâ€™ve just gotta pick it up and see what weâ€™re all about â€“ itâ€™s fun, itâ€™s exciting, itâ€™s got a lot of shit that people would be scared to put on their [videos] â€“ we donâ€™t hold back.â€?