Conversations With Chad: Rick Rock Talks Experiences With Dr. Dre, Making “Tradin’ War Stories” For 2Pac, Mike Mosley Putting Him On + More

Bay Area producer Rick Rock may not have the headline-commanding name of Dr. Dre, or the media prowess of Kanye West, but the multi-platinum producer has been feeding your ears a steady diet of classic tunes for close to 20 years. Since those early years of producing for the Conscious Daughters, MC Eiht, Spice 1, and others, he has provided the sonic backdrop to many of your favorite artists’ songs.

Rick Rock has been platinum since 1994’s MC Eiht featuring CMW “We Come Strapped” and hasn’t seen any decline in his platinum and gold track record, as evidenced by a catalog that boasts production for 2Pac‘s All Eyez On Me, E-40‘s Hall of GameThe Element of Surprise and My Ghetto Report Card; as well as Fabulous‘ debut, Ghetto Fabolous, and Jay-Z‘s The Dynasty Roc La Familia to name a few.

With his first solo project, titled Rocket, on the way, Chad Kiser sat down with Rick Rock to talk about a few of his hits over the years working with music legends, his experience working with Dr. Dre, and coming into the game with production mentor Mike Mosley, as well as his opinion on Barack Obama, working with Mariah Carey, and much more.

Tell me about putting together the track “Symphony in X Major” for Xzibit’s Man vs. Machine album. How did you get Dr. Dre to hop on there?

I was looking for records and ran across a record called “Switched on Bach”. I sampled a couple pieces and added some claps, kicks, and all the bells and whistles to it, and sent it to Xzibit. X said he was f***ing with it, but I never thought Dr. Dre would get on it. That was just getting my cake and eating it too (laughs). So when X called me at my Aunt Doris’ house in the Gump (Montgomery, Alabama) and put me on the phone with the good Doc, I knew sh** was finna unfold nice. They added the whole negro opera sh** to it, but the dopest thing to me was getting to mix the song with Dre and get some good game from the Doc.

How did you end up working on Pac’s All Eyez on Me Death Row project, for “Tradin’ War Stories” and “Ain’t Hard to Find”?

I drove into L.A. as part of a caravan with C-Bo, Mike Mosely, and Richie Rich. When we got to the La Montrose Hotel, Pac was there, but was leaving so we all followed him to Can-Am Studio. I walk in, look to my left, and see DJ Quik mixing the song with Method Man and Redman in the first room. We go to the next room where Pac starts playing his album, All Eyez on Me, for all of us — which was Mike Mosley, E-40, Richie Rich, C-Bo, Tha Outlawz, D-Shot, and B-Legit. It was the dopest sh** I had ever heard at that time. When he was done, he wanted to do a song with the Bay Area artists but had no beats. They had an SP-1200, which I believe was Johnny J’s, and I had a bag full of SP-1200 disks I brought with me from Alabama. I put a disk in, loaded it, and pressed play. When Pac heard it, he was like, “what’s that?” I was like, “That’s you!” He started writing “Tradin’ War Stories,” then we got a keyboard and started doing “Ain’t Hard to Find.” It was dope-ass hip-hop moment in time and I was blessed to even have been there.

Were those the only two tracks you got to do with Pac? Or, are there some other tracks floating around that we don’t know about?

There are couple others floating around, fa sho!

Where were you the night Pac got shot? What went through your mind during that time?

I was at a house party in Fairfield, CA. What’s funny is Kurupt was there, too. I was like, “What the f*** is Kurupt doing in Fairfield? (laughs)

Do you remember your last conversation with 2Pac, and what was it?

Well, I did more listening than talking back then, but we were in Death Row Studios the day he recorded “Hit’em Up”.

What are your thoughts on the news of the 2Pac sex tapes that have recently hit the media?

I’m not up on that one, but just goes to show that great interest in Pac is still there. Damn, I need to start erasing some of my old tapes!

All Eyez on MeRestlessMan vs. MachineBlue Carpet Treatment, are a few of the projects you’ve worked on that Dr. Dre was also involved in. Have you crossed paths with the good Doctor? And if so, has there been any talk of you guys collaborating on something?

Yeah, we’ve crossed paths a few times over the years and he gave me mixing tips while we were mixing “Symphony In X Major” for Xzibit, but no, he has never talked to me and said he wanted me to collab on anything. I think it would be dope though.

You’ve worked with some of the industry’s elite artists like Xzibit, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Too $hort, Jay-Z, E-40 and the list just keeps going. Of the people you’ve worked with, who have you enjoyed producing for the most, and why?

I had hella fun watching all these artists work on a Rick Rock beat, but I think E-40, because of the volume of work and the impact we have on our side of the planet; and having a chance to be known as one of the best producer/artist combos ever.

With Jay-Z, what are your thoughts on the Illuminati rumors that seem to always come up when his name is mentioned?

Straight weird. Never could have seen these two energies crossing, a hip-hopper from Brooklyn and the Illuminati? I believe it’s a kind of all free promo is good promo thing. I think Kanye, Jay, and Beyonce are all milking it though (laughs).

What are your thoughts on Barack Obama and the job he’s done while in office?

You know, it’s hard to figure out who’s who and what’s what when people clearly are putting their own agendas ahead of the good of the people. But, he seems to be a good spirit and stand up guy. I mean, you have to think if Bush told you that a tsunami was coming in ten days and then Obama got into office on the 10th day, should people expect Obama to stop the tsunami? I mean, it’s already on its way, damn (laughs).

What was the first record you produced that got major acclaim?

My first record on a major label was “Gamers” remix by the Conscious Daughters, but I think it would be “Change The Game” with Jay-Z — it was nominated for a Grammy.

Who are your top five producers?

Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Neptunes, DJ Premier … I’m a big fan of Pete Rock, too, and I love what the southern producers are doing.

What artists out these days are you checking for?

I’m not sure, I guess the next innovative artist to take a risk and be them and not him.

Who would you like to collaborate with before it’s all said and done?

Lil Wayne has done so many songs; it would be a shame not to have produced at least one of them (laughs).

Mike Mosley was involved early in your career, talk to me about being brought in to the music industry with him and what your relationship has been like with him?

It was dope to be brought in like that, almost like I was a quarterback and a 1st round draft pick that had the luxury of watching the starting quarterback play the game first before I go in. I learned what to do and what not to do to be successful. Me and Mike are cool, I talked to him yesterday.

Of all the people you’ve worked with, is there anyone you learned from that left a lasting impression on you?

Well, Left Eye (of TLC) was so different than I expected that I will never forget that session. I was so shocked. (laughs) She was intelligent; she talked hella sh** and had views on issues that were real unique. She was a trip.

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