Andrew Z of 92.5 Kiss FM is the last guy I thought would put on a two-day Old School Hip Hop concert in Perrysburg at Levis Commons … but he did and I had no choice but to go. I mean, come on! Young MC, Tone-Loc, Coolio and Naughty By Nature?
Friday’s storm prevented Naughty By Nature from performing, but Saturday proved to be a new day. After it was done, I called Andrew Z to wish him a happy Father’s Day and ask him a few questions.
Martini Rox: What made you bring old school Hip-Hop to Northwest Ohio?
Andrew Z: I grew up in LA and this is really the stuff I grew up on. I knew it had never been done, I knew people would like it. Back when you were in high school you were dancing to this and having a good time so I knew it would work.
Coolio and Andrew Z.
MR: What difficulty did you face planning an urban event in Perrysburg and why not in the Toledo city limits?
Andrew Z: About eight weeks ago we started putting this together, and usually for a concert some people work on it for months. I’m a last-minute guy; I tried to get it at Festival Park and the City of Toledo was behind it, but there had already been a couple of events booked. My restaurant is at Levis Commons, so that’s why I ended up going that route.
MR: Does the Miller Lite Music Fest have a future? Will you do this again?
Andrew Z: Most definitely! I may do something like this two or three times a year. When I envisioned this, I knew I wanted to have a concert and a party. It was great because it was a bunch of people who had never done anything like this and we didn’t know. If you build it they will come, and they did. There were three or four key people behind the scenes who really drove this thing and they did such a phenomenal job and I was lucky that I found them.
NAUGHY BY NATURE
In 1993 I wore open-top knit hats with my hair wildly hanging out and denim outfits from Merry-Go-Round with “Jodeci boots” while riding around town blasting Naughty By Nature’s “O.P.P.” This was a part of the soundtrack to some of the most carefree days of my life. Hits like the aforementioned “O.P.P.,” “Hip-Hop Hooray,” “Feel Me Flow” and “Craziest” were constantly played on the radio and on “Yo! MTV Raps.” The aptly titled “19 Naughty III” and “Poverty’s Paradise” were successful albums that provided urban hits from the New Jersey natives Treach, Vinnie and DJ Kay Gee.
Naughty By Nature still drew a crowd as the headliners of Andrew Z’s Miller Lite Music Fest at Levis Commons.
Acts like Tone-Loc, Coolio and Young MC warmed up the crowd in the hot weather that turned to storms, canceling Naughty’s June 18 appearance. But the group gave a spectacular performance the next day. Within minutes after the show, I was backstage watching the groupies swarm DJ/Producer Kay Gee and a shirtless Treach Quietly, his co-MC/hype man, Vinnie, retreated to a couch alone and with that, I had found the perfect place to inquire about their recipe for longevity.
MR: How did you maintain the dual role as the group’s hype man first, MC second? Most stars would have a problem staying in their lane.
Vinnie: I tend to stay in that lane because when we first started I was the beat box, Kay Gee was the DJ and Treach was our MC. We started the group like that in high school and as we went on and started recording a lot of people liked my voice and said, “Yo, Vin, you need to step up, you need to rhyme more.” Naturally, I wasn’t a writer and just being under Treach’s apprenticeship, especially with Kay Gee on those beats, I just had to step it up and I started to write a bit more.
By this time Treach decided he wanted “in” on the interview, casually sitting on the couch while wiping the sweat off his body. This is where Vinnie, as if on cue, quietly made his exit.
MR: Treach you have been concentrating on film and television for the last 10-plus years; have you found it hard to go back to touring?
Treach: It never stopped. They were both going on at the same time. Whenever I do a movie on my days off, I fly out to do shows. We keep the brand popping whether Kay Gee is doing production, whether I’m doing movies, Vin’s doing websites and the mechanics behind that, we all just bring it back to the brand.
MR: I understand you are newly reunited as a group. Was your appearance on MTV’s “The Buried Life” the first performance all three of you came back to do?
Treach: Kay’s been performing in shows with us for about a year; me and Vin never stopped. We’ve been doing 100 to 150 shows a year worldwide since 1991.
MR: How would you advise older MC’s who are looking to get back into the rap game when its focus has changed so much from the “golden era?”
Treach: It’s more of an independent hustle now. With the Internet and everything else you could set your career up that way. You could have record labels, radio stations looking you up if you have enough hits and your website is hot and you are out there grinding.
All it took was a phone call. I called; left a message and a half hour later Marvin Young called me back. When we met up in the hotel lobby it was apparent (not just from the phone call) that this man was about his business. I have interviewed many artists but never one who introduced themself using their legal name. Yes, this interview would be different and I decided to have a conversation based on his ability to continuously generate money in his 20-plus years in the Hip-Hop music industry.
You may know him from his hits like “Bust a Move” and “Principal’s Office” or for his role as the writer of Tone-Loc’s hits “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina.” You may just know him from his stint on VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club.” Prepare to know Young MC in a different way as he schooled me on how an artist takes care of business and earns “long money” in the music industry.
MR: Did you ever think 20 years later you would still be performing?
Young MC: None of us did, none of us did, the best way to say it is, my experience with Tone-Loc. He had “Wild Thing” before I had “Bust a Move” and “Funky Cold Medina,” which I helped on before “Bust a Move” came out. Both of us had a local record in L.A., but we didn’t have anything that was near national. When we finished “Wild Thing” we were like, “OK, 30,000 units, 50,000 units, that will be enough for him to get a car and for me to pay off some student loans,” because nothing from the West Coast had blown so big to where we could say not only would it get out of the state, but out of the region and sell enough records.
MR: Can you explain as a writer in this business what publishing or writing for others has done for your career?
YMC: Stage is short money. I come out, I’m doing shows like this, it’s great, I get a check, it pays bills, people feel good and that’s great. Long-term money you’re talking about what you got to put in your will, what you build your future around. That’s publishing, to a certain extent it’s master ownership if you get the deal down.
I have a bachelor’s degree in economics, never wrote it down on a job application but it’s helped me so much in terms of taking meetings with people, and they think, “well he’s as equipped as I am, he knows what I’m doing on the other side of this desk, so I can’t put one over on him.”
The publishing angle really helps when the shows aren’t happening as much, when things aren’t going as well from the traditional artist standpoint. The publishing aspect is the one that takes my records that may not be selling a lot in stores and say, OK, we just got you a nice five-figure license for this project, or we just got these uses or we just got this overseas vehicle to make you some money on your masters.
The Internet has been a great thing as well because I have a bunch of masters that I have not been able to really get a lot of traction with retail that all of the sudden I’ve been able to turn around and get sold online and I own them. Publishing is the thing that I can really focus on and make it a career as opposed to being at the mercy of Billboard or being at the mercy of a radio station.
MR: What advice do you want to give to artists planning to embark on a career in music?
YMC: I’ve been giving the same advice for the last 20 years. If you have a job, keep your job, if you are in school, stay in school. Make music your hobby until it becomes lucrative enough to become your job. The reason I say that is from my own personal experience. As soon as someone realizes you’re desperate and the only thing that can benefit you is them giving you a deal, they will give you the worst deal possible.
MR: Thanks for the lesson.
As we continue on …
Tags: Andrew Z, Coolio, Levis Commons, Martini Rox, Naughty by Nature, On the Rox, Tone Loc, Young MC