Conversations With Chad: Rappin 4-Tay Talks ‘Still Standing’ Album, Ant Banks & TWDY, Working With 2Pac + More

Rappin’ 4-Tay made his debut on Too Short‘s 1988 album, Life Is…Too Short, and the Fillmore, San Francisco rapper would never look back. After a short prison stint, 4-Tay started off his solo career with Rappin’ 4-Tay Is Back in 1991. Three years later, the follow-up album Don’t Fight the Feelin came, which included the hits “Playaz Club” (which hit #36 on the Billboard Hot 100) and “I’ll Be Around” (which hit #39 on the Billboard Hot 100).

His third studio album, 1996’s Off Parole, peaked at #10 on the Billboard charts, and also featured the radio smash, “Ain’t No Playa (Playa Sh**)”. It’s safe to say, he’s had a prolific mainstream career, and has collaborated with some of rap’s biggest stars — including Snoop Dogg, MC Breed, 8 Ball, and even Tupac on “Only God Can Judge Me” from the diamond-selling All Eyez On Me.

With two decades dedicated to the game, and ten albums deep, 4-Tay is still here. In May, he dropped his latest offering, Still Standing. To this day, his two worldwide mid-90’s hits “Playaz Club” and “I’ll Be Around” fill up dance floors around the world, and after a long hiatus, Rappin’ 4-Tay wants the new album to add a couple more classics to his catalog.

In this Chad Kiser exclusive, we sit down with the Bay Area legend to discuss his longevity in the music business, what he’s been up to in recent years, his new project Still Standing, his relationship with Tupac, and more.

A lot of people have been wondering where you’ve been these last few years, what have you been up to lately?

I will clear that up right now. Basically, I have been exercising my independency, bouncing around this world like a frog on a lily pad … you know, doing shows, opening up for Snoop, DJ Quik, for my cousin Suga Free, doing things with RBL Posse. Just basically letting the world know that I’m still living in the shadows, but I’m in the lab too, as well stacking up tracks. I’ve got over like three to four albums just stacked up. I’ve just been trying to figure out what machine I’m going put them inside of, you know what I’m saying? I’ve stayed humble for so long, I might as well first make some music for the soul, and that’s what Still Standing is based on. There’s a lot more to come as well, fatherhood has done kicked in like a slot machine…

Over 20 years in the game, you’ve seen a lot go on in The Bay. What’s your thoughts on the Bay area’s current status in the rap game?

I love the Bay area’s current status in the rap game right now. I just wish there was more unity because when I first started way back in the day, we focused on the four corners of the Bay area like Richmond, Oakland, San Francisco, Palo Alto; it was spreading like a virus and I respected that. What I would respect more, is more unity, less yellow tape, and chalk lines after events that keeps the door wide open. The Bay Area has always been looked at as young business men, handling their business. If we could focus on that, this sh** would grow more. That’s how I see it right now; youngsters have a lot of talent, real big talent going on right now. If they would respect the OG’s who kicked the doors open more, and we could unite, instead of huddled up like the 49ers and the Raiders … hey, Super Bowls!

One of the first releases you were involved in was back in 1988 with the original incarnation of the Dangerous Crew. Tell me about the original crew, how did all that come together?

First of all, I was the cat kicking the doors down, trying to keep Frisco on lock. At the time, it was really hard because when people hear Frisco, they think of the gay parade, homosexuality, dykes and what have you. It’s a free world and sometimes it’s a little too free, but that’s all over the world. So what I would do was show them that playeristic-type style that they didn’t know was going on in Frisco, and by me hooking up with Too Short, that was more of a collaboration as well. With the Dangerous Crew, it goes back to what I was speaking of at the beginning … you know, unity in the Bay Area, two heads are better than one. It was a beautiful thing and it was a nice introduction to the beginning of my career. Me, Spice 1, JJ Hard, Danger Zone, you know, that was the beginning, the seed that was planted.

Why weren’t you more heavily involved with the second coming of the crew? Were you just more focused on the solo part of your career or what?

No, it wasn’t just that, it’s just sometimes you have to exercise your independence. What you could do is you could just stay hanging … you could stay hanging from one sack, you feel me? Sometimes if you stay hanging and do not exercise your independence, you get left behind. So I thought I would just exercise my solo thing, and come up with “The Players Club” and what have you. You know, that’s what it takes sometimes, venturing off.

Going with the “Players Club” theme, you had what’s considered your first hit singles with “Playaz Club” and “I’ll Be Around”. Tell me about the making of those records, and how they set off your career.

It goes back to what I spoke on in the beginning; I thought I would shine a different light on Frisco. In Frisco, there are players all around the Bay Area, so I thought I would hit the world with a real nice, smooth, different kind of style; no murder rates or nothing like that, just some playa type sh** where everybody be having a good time. And from that, the world took a liking to it, so we took it to a whole other level of the game.

With “I’ll Be Around”, my mom always asked me to make a kind of song that she could listen to, so I thought I would just dig in the crates, and go with the Spinners. I always listened to the Spinners coming up. It’s more than one crowd; it’s a grown up crowd and a young crowd as well. The Spinners like what I get into as well, and they came out to do the video as well, so that was even better, know what I mean?

So with 1996’s release of Off Parole, you were really beginning to shine as an artist, especially with the radio-friendly “Ain’t No Playa” record. How big was that record for you?

That was a huge record for me because at the time my independency had gone on a nationwide scale, and I got signed with EMI records. What they did was take it on a worldwide scale. So it allowed me to do features with the E-40’s and the bigger names in the game, it was spreading like mayonnaise. I learned that in the music game as well, these bigger entities like EMI, Universal, and Jive … with those type of machines it’s easier as far as promotion and spreading on a worldwide scale. I just thank the Lord that I was able to serve the world what they needed. That’s what I always do.

Off Parole was dedicated to all my homies that’s locked up in the pen, keeping them focused on getting that paperwork back, and getting off of parole.

I also loved what you did with the song “A Lil’ Somethin’, Somethin'” using the Leon Heywood sample that Dr. Dre used for “Nuthin’ But A G Thang.”

Right! I’m always focused on never leaving the OG’s out. That’s what a lot of people do in the game nowadays. Can’t leave the OG’s out because they listen to music as well, they kicked the doors open for us and gave us opportunities for what we’re doing. I’m trying to do the same things for the youngsters coming up right now; trying to blow their opportunities wide open, just respect it, know what I mean?

On your record Introduction to Mackin, you worked on several tracks with Shorty B, who worked on several multi-platinum albums with Too Short and Digital Underground, T.I., TLC … you know and the list goes on. Tell me about your relationship with him and working with him on that project so heavy.

Well, much love to Shorty B, that’s my big bro. He laced my boots in this game, showed me a lot of things I didn’t know about like dotting my “I’s” and crossing my “T’s,” know what I mean? Shorty B gave me a call and had me come down to where he was at, because he was working with many different artists. He was exercising his independency, as well where his music was concerned. So, you know what I’m saying, just to let you know what he has is magic, my literature with his production magic… it’s just as snug as a bug in a rug. So I went down there to lock down with him, and we put it together and I want to thank him for that.

It was an independent situation that was going on and he called upon me and I was there for him. I feel like that on a production level, that album is so underrated. But if you go way back to the Dangerous Crew, etc., I just like the way he exercised his independency. He bounces around the world like a frog on a lily pad and his music is felt. It’s love because we just had that gift. We got together just getting the concepts, etc., so we came out with “Introduction to Mackin”. He introduced me to macking, he showed me that he was the real mack. Shorty B is a cat on a higher level, up there with Snoop Dogg, and Roger Troutman and many other prolific individuals. That’s what Shorty B was about; he was macking with those types of individuals. Once again, I want to thank him and give him all the shouts and props for hooking me up. He played a strong part at the end for my homeboy KoolAid at Celeb Entertainment. It was like a box of chocolates with assorted flavors, something for everybody with the Kid Frost’s, Latino Velvet, I mean the list goes on, Bobby Womack. That’s how Shorty B gets down. That’s my big bro, and I love him for that.

Another high-profile project you got involved in with your career was with Ant Banks for the first TWDY set. How did you get involved with that group initially?

I moved to Antioch, Calif. and coincidentally, I ran into Ant Banks while leaving the grocery store. He mentioned, “Yo, I’m staying right around the corner 4!” So we just started tapping in, doing music; he’d call me over to check out beats, so we just put our heads together and we thought we would come up with the TWDY. It was for “The Whole Damn Yay.” Basically with that collaboration, it went back to the “Never Talk Down” thing, we was trying to gather everybody up in the Bay Area, just huddle back up and that’s when we went with the “Player’s Holiday”, Mac Mall, Short, know what I’m saying? That was like a reunion situation, that’s what that album was about.

With “Player’s Holiday” being such a huge, commercial success for the group, did everybody come to the studio at the same time to work on that record? How did “Player’s Holiday” come to fruition?

No, that’s how we would do it. Ant Banks would give me a call, “Yo, come on around the corner 4.” There would be a big bbq going on, dominoes, etc. Artists would be up in there doing their thing — 8 Ball, MJG, Ice Cube, Too Short, Spice 1, the list goes on… Mac Shawn, B Legit, Keak Da Sneak. But that’s what I miss so much about the Aay Area, that’s why I’m trying to keep the torch lit; because individuals like Ant Banks, and brothers like him was able to make certain calls, put all us brothers together and collaborate and get the ball rolling. That’s what “Player’s Holiday” reminds me of, a reunion of all the Bay Area hard hitters, know what I mean? I honestly feel like that’s what’s missing in the Bay Area, that love and that unity. Once we get that back in tact, ain’t no stopping!

You’ve worked with Ant Banks throughout your career; do you have anything on the Still Standing project or anything in the near future with him?

In the near future no… the Still Standing project is just to let everybody know, it’s going back to the question you had asked: “What’s been going on with 4-Tay?” I’m still standing, but I’m taking care of home right now, some bills, and fatherhood and certain parts of life. But in a career aspect to the world, I got to let the world know I am still standing. I gotta feed the world something. I got a gang of tracks stacked up … tracks made with Ant Banks, etc., tracks that we made, that was just the beginning, like an appetizer. We Still Standing is volume 1 of some appetizers that I have before the main course, know what I’m saying? As well I want the world to look out for my independent tracks… this year is about to be my 25th year anniversary of being in this rap game. So I’m going to give that to the world before I am going to hang the mic up and retire. It’s going to come with all of the back-to-back hits, bonus tracks. I mean from Wyclef, tracks from Naughty By Nature all the way down to Bobby Womack, Tony Toni Tone! It’s on its way!

Getting back to TWDY for a moment, how come you weren’t on the second TWDY album?

Well, with the second TWDY, we ran into some disagreements shall I say. There were some disagreements going on with that. As you go through this music game, you learn to dot your “I’s” and cross your “T’s” a lot better than others. You know, as far as publishing is concerned, as far as points are concerned, as far as BDS spins are concerned, know what I’m saying? As you gradually… or the longer you’re in this music industry, you learn about the business part of it. A lot of that was more or less promotions to me. So I had to back up like a crawdad and let my loved ones go on and do what they do, because if I can’t go to the mailbox and add it on, so I can pay bills etc. then it’s just defeating the purpose basically. To make a long story short, it’s a business thing basically.

Speaking on huge successes, you worked with Tupac on the All Eyes On Me, on the track “Only God Can Judge Me”. Tell me about your relationship with ‘Pac, and how that specific track came together with you guys.

Well you see, me and ‘Pac met years ago in the Bay Area. It’s always been like a brother thing with me and ‘Pac. What was the delay is it would always be like I would be free and ‘Pac would be locked up, then I would be locked up and Pac would be free (laughs). One time, we were both free, I see him down there when he had just signed with Death Row. We hooked up and you couldn’t separate us. So we went down there to the studio and put that song together, and I let ‘Pac know I wanted to do a song that had nothing to do with the whole East Coast-West Coast rivalry beef or nothing like that, and that I had the perfect track for us. Then we put up the “Only God Can Judge Me” and hey, the world took a liking to it. It happens to be true as well, “only God can judge us.” He was very prolific; he had so many plans for the Bay Area, so many plans for the West Coast. They say the good die young! May he rest in peace, I miss him. That was a good man right there.

Reading the press release for Still Standing, a certain name is noticeably absent to me: Frankie J.

Oh yeah, Frankie J he was my manager back in the day. He laced me with the game, know what I’m saying? I learned a lot from Frankie J, but then again, that’s when the business end takes place. I don’t want to put nothing faulty out there or nothing like that, but I just learned about the aspects of this music game and I want to send this out to all the youngsters that’s coming up and to the independent business men in this game: if you don’t dot your I’s and cross your T’s, you are going to run into a brick wall and at the end of the day. You won’t receive nothing for your works. It comes down to, when all the smoke clears, what are you getting? You know it’s “I’m doing this for him, and I got this on this soundtrack and I got this one here” … you know I’ve learned. I’m glad the Lord blessed me with that gift to learn about the business aspect of this game. That’s what some artists lacked, and I did as well, at the beginning. And as you grow and find out about it, the end result is what it is.

Tell me about your relationship with Too Short. From when you started up until the present day, what has yours and Too Short’s relationship been like?

Oh, brothers! That’s like my big bro right there. He kicked the doors open for me and it’s going to always be like that. Call me up, you need me, I need you, let’s do a show, let’s collaborate, let’s make this happen. That’s my man, that’s the man that kicked down the doors for the Bay Area and I love him for that. Congratulations to him and I want to thank him for everything that he has done for me.

So with Still Standing, you got a Volume 2 already in the works?

Yeah I have a volume 2 in the works, and I have at least three albums, shall I say, stacked up right now. I’m just basically trying to do it, slowly but surely, give the world what they want. I’m going to see how “Volume 1” does. Thus far the world is giving it an all thumbs up from them, so they are going to be surprised when they hear this next one. Going to hit them in the face with it and all of my loyal fans I am going to give them what they want, what they have been asking for. I’m not copying anyone else’s style, just going to keep my same O.G. style that I always have. Just keep it going smooth with some of that O.G. style mixed up with some of this new stuff in like a gangsta combo.