Growing up as a street-racing enthusiast in the gang-infested streets of Southern California, Glasses Malone focused on creativity early on. It was a way to express himself as he shuttled between Watts and Compton, became a gang member, dealt drugs, and endured his mother getting a 20-year federal prison sentence. He became a gear head, someone who studied cars as much as rap. Thus, it’s no wonder several of his projects and songs have vehicular themes.
In his music, Glasses Malone’s remarkable blend of street insight, social commentary, and lyricism earned him ringing endorsements from a series of rap icons, including Jay-Z and Dr. Dre. The West Coast rapper was introduced to Mack 10 in 2006, who brought him to the Cash Money Records fold. Over the next several years, he released celebrated projects and was featured on the Netflix show “Fastest Car” in 2018.
As he prepares for the release of his next project “Glass House,” we linked up with the Watts rapper to talk about a wide array of interesting topics.
Okay, well let’s kick this right off. Let’s talk about the project’s lead single “6 ‘N The Mornin’ (G-Mix)” featuring Ice-T, Snoop Dogg and Ty Dolla $ign. It seems to be a reworking of the classic Ice-T tune who is also featured on the song. What prompted your decision to put this dope track together to pay homage to such an original?
I don’t think it’s a reworking. It is more or less homage to it, a small celebration to it. It’s real festive. It is a celebration of West Coast culture and West Coast Hip-Hop at its origin, with its true father. I felt like I had an opportunity to celebrate something that meant a lot to me growing up, so I took advantage of it. It came out dope.
Definitely did; I salute you for that! Your latest entry is entitled “Gangsta Boogie,” which features The Game and Kurupt. Kind of tell me about this track? What can be expected from it?
It was produced by Fingazz. Fingazz is probably the most underrated West Coast producer in history. In terms of big records, in terms of good jams. And just an amazing talent all together. But, man, it was just something I wanted to make sure I have something for the block party, you know, pandemic is over. People gonna be outside partying in their neighborhood so wanted to make sure I made something for people to party to in their neighborhood and have good time and celebrate making it through 2020, you know, I mean around the world at this point.
Absolutely! Both tracks come courtesy of your upcoming project titled “Glass House (The Prequel),” which I understand is kind of a re-imagined version of your 2012 debut. Conceptually, why don’t you tell me a little bit about the title and as far as it being the prequel what can be anticipated?
So “Glass House” is actually the name of a car, a low rider; a stylish Chevrolet ‘71 to ‘76 its Chevrolet Caprice, Chevrolet Impala and it was a name I got because I actually had the car and also one of my homeboys rest his soul… his name is Baby Fat Dog from the ‘hood of Compton. He was actually Kendrick’s [Lamar] first cousin at that, but that was a name he would call me whenever we would kind of get into some bullshit, and I didn’t use my intellect and just was an ignorant gang member. He would always say, “That’s Glass House!” So “Glass House” – that whole line of music – is more or less just my ego you know, my attitude. It’s very West Coast, it’s very festive. And because it’s that, just like “Glass House 2,” this is like it’s re-imagined because it’s with a proper respect given to West Coast culture, and all of the music and the culture that made me who I am. So, it’s just a celebration to that. It’s an homage to that; that’s why it was important to get with artists like Ice-T, like Snoop Dogg, like Coolio, Cypress Hill, Xzibit, E-40, Too $hort… all these guys… Tha Eastsidaz, Kurupt, all of these guys I grew up thuggin’ to their music and just connecting to that essence and making sure it’s that prominent, it’s that obvious.
Wow, what an incredible roster! How were you able to kind of assemble such a heavy hitting team of MCs? Were these personal relationships that you had already forged, or did this thing kind of take some time to come together?
Really, when it happened, it happened fast. It’s a lot of personal relationships. But it’s also like a lot of respect, just paying dues. I paid a lot of dues! So, it’s a lot more respect I get from the OGs in this culture than the average person, I paid dues. I ain’t just pop up and ask for this to happen the first day. A lot of these dudes, I’ve been in the business now for 13 years professionally – 12 to 13 years professionally – and this is our first time working together. So I’ve paid a lot of dues before I went to them and just started saying, “Hey, can we do music?” I put in my time so I would like to believe I earned their respect and I earned whatever respect I do get from them period or in this game period.
This batch of new music, of course comes on the heels of your 2019 single “Tupac Must Die,” which I have to say is a very impressive track. Do you feel like the message was received by the masses or do you feel like people were kind of confused by the song’s topic?
I think the message – I mean no different than when N.W.A. dropped “Fuck The Police” in ‘87 – I think the message is tough to digest because the message kind of gets lost when somebody hero is kind of, you know people feel like their hero is being stripped down a bit. That’s not the point. The point is, it’s all perspective. My goal with “Tupac Must Die” was really to tap into to the truest essence of Hip-Hop, and Hip-Hop being culture, and morality being a huge fueling part of culture. So to visit the morality of this culture, that we call gang banging that I grew up into what’s right and wrong, it was exactly what Hip-Hop is all about. So just like I said, in ‘87, ‘88, ‘89, when “Fuck The Police” came out, people didn’t know how to take it; the black community, the whole pop world frowned on it, Hip-Hop frowned on it and a lot of black people frowned on it. But it represented this small niche group of culture that was trying to explain to the world like, “Hey man, this is going on, like these people aren’t being fair! Injustice.” And at this point, it didn’t make sense to everybody until ’91, ‘92, when Rodney King got his ass whipped on TV by the police. And that was the first time they understood what they meant with that song. And now 30 years later, they playing the song on CNN. You know it makes sense. So great Hip-Hop is not always…I was already prepared for the lash back. I was already prepared for fighting this education of morality. But I think as time progress something’ll happen. And it’ll make more and more sense every time.
Now, let’s kind of take it back for those that don’t know. Tell me your whole inception into music? When did it kind of first begin for you? Or when did you become interested in music?
So, it’s 2002/2003 that’s when I first picked up the microphone. It was just a way to bring me and my brother closer and to try and keep him out of trouble like my mom asked. At that time being a gang member, being a dope dealer, my life was just in such a dark place. Like, I was just living this really rich, rich, rich, rich experience. But it was like dangerous. And I looked at not believing that I was gonna survive and music came along. And it was a way for me to express myself. I mean, it was really therapeutic. Like I was able to express myself and get off a lot of the demons that was kind of surrounding me at that time and explain it to the world. Like, this is what it’s like to be from where we from. Music happened…I put together a great mixtape with a couple buddies of mine. It was received well, all this deal stuff happening, but I didn’t really fall in love with Hip-Hop until around 2011/2012.
You are a native of Watts, California. You spoke earlier a little bit about some of the features on your upcoming “Glass House (The Prequel).” Were those some of the artists that kind of inspired you to do what you ended up doing today?
To be honest, I don’t think I was inspired by artists as a rapper, I didn’t think that start happening until I was already like a professional. The guys that I grew up listening to and really were near and dear to my heart; like Scarface, Ice Cube…those were the guys that I truly celebrated. I didn’t want to become a rapper because of them for sure. But those were the music Tupac “Makaveli” kinda got me through different times, Scarface got me through a lot of hard times; Scarface got me through a ton of stuff. Cube kinda molded my attitude. But as far as being a rapper, no rapper inspired me to be a rapper. The circumstances I grew up in is what kind of molded that.
With that being said, how do you describe or define that style of music you create and perform? How would you classify it?
That’s a great question! I don’t know, it’s tough for me because I still always try to include so much soul in it. So, it’s almost like a ‘G Soul’ like a ‘Gangsta Soul‘ because it’s always reflective. Even at times just be funky and just make funky music… It’s tough, I still have to include some of my soul some of the struggle in it. So I would like to call it ‘Gangsta Soul’ to be honest if I call it anything.
Now, where does your moniker Glasses Malone? How did that come about?
My neighborhood name from the gang I’m from is Glasses Loc. My big homie gave me the name ‘cause I just got horrible vision. It’s bad, it’s trash; I can’t see at all.
Now early on you signed a, then, unprecedented deal with Sony Music, what particular string of events actually led to that inking?
One specific project. So it was weird because I put together this project that started impacting the streets, completely different. It started impacting the streets and it was three radio stations at that time in Los Angeles that was playing Hip-Hop. I had a song playing on all three stations. They were three different songs. At that time, Power 106…so at that time, The Beat, right, which ended up becoming The Real now. The Beat was playing “Two Hunned”; shout out to Twyla Sharp for that! K-Day which was like Hip-Hop’s first Hip-Hop station in the country. They were playing this song I had called “They Sayin.” After that, Power 106…”The Ghost Unit” mixtape happened. And at that time Game kind of had the war going with 50 Cent. And that created this really big like bidding war. I don’t think nobody had that kind of thing going on before they were signed.
Things didn’t quite go as planned once you signed that deal with Sony. You then later ended up with Hoo Bangin’/Cash Money. Kind of tell me about that transitional time. Why do you think things kind of played out the way that they did and how did you wind up over there at Cash Money?
Well at that time Sony Urban was with a company Mike Lynn had a deal with; Sony Urban at that time they just collapsed the company. I don’t know the depth or the history of Sony Urban. Sony Urban collapsed. So coming off that label wasn’t tough. What was tough is like, at that time, they had invested money already into the music. So KP, Kawan Prather [Executive Vice President of A&R, Sony Urban Music], he was really important person in my career. He allowed me to leave out of their system with my records, and that was probably the most important thing that happened.
So from there, you were able to come to the powers that be over at Hoo Bangin’/Cash Money?
No, I wrote a blog on MySpace about Jay-Z, when he had released “Kingdom Come,” and Mack 10 was like a friend of mine on MySpace and I didn’t know and he read the blog and he called me and asked for my number and called me and we were talking about it. He just thought I was just really dope writer. And so he called me and he wanted to have lunch. So we went and sat down and had a lunch, he realized my situation was wide open and that’s how I ended up at Cash Money. Because he did a collab deal with them.
Having said all of that, do you feel that you’ve gotten your just due as an artist, ‘cause I know when you first kind of came into the game, there was a lot of hype built up around it. You’ve never changed as far as who you are artistically, but I don’t think that – in my opinion – that you reached the masses in the way that I think you deserved to. So do you kind of see it the same way and do you kind of feel that?
I feel like at that time, what I knew, I was able to achieve much more than what I knew. For a person that’s not in love with the culture, you know, at that time, for a person that was ignorant on so many things when it came down to records, and Hip-Hop, I think I’ve overachieved honestly. I didn’t deserve half of the shit I got, you know what I mean? Like, I think that was God’s way of saving my life, and blessing me, you know, for not losing my soul during this whole street thing. Now, my level of achievements will be much greater because my sacrifices and my knowledge, my information is much greater. So I feel like if I’m honest, Big Dog, I really feel like I overachieved like I was overcompensated for what I knew and what I had put into Hip-Hop at that time.
Okay, fair enough. Longevity, let’s touch on it. What do you feel has been the key to your success so far? What’s going to sustain you in this industry?
Learning, learning! You only get old when you stop learning. As long you keep learning, long as you keep finding and digging for it, and caring about this culture and understanding what Hip-Hop is about, and knowing your role in it, and have a true desire to just be great. You could never burn out, you gonna always make content that’s gonna hit back; it’s always gonna come for you. You know what I mean? That’s how it works. I keep learning, I keep reading, I keep studying, you know, and I keep looking to build on what’s already there. I keep trying to bring the culture together even at times when it feels like, you know, people feel like I’m sawing it in half, and it’s not. It’s like, you have to address the wound. You can’t just put a band aid on a bullet wound. You have to truly address the wound if you want the body to heal. So, I constantly learn about what it is I do, what I’m a part of and I keep reaching for it and I keep fighting for it and I keep building on it; that’s the only goal. Every day I wake up just trying to be dope, trying to be doper than yesterday. I don’t keep my old magazines. I don’t have a ton of my old stuff because I’m always trying to be doper than yesterday. Every day, as long as I can keep learning, I can be doper than yesterday.
I like that, I like that! On a more serious note, is it fair to say that you’re happy with the current state of Hip-Hop and even more specifically West Coast Rap?
I’m happy with it. I mean, I think people are getting out what they put in. I wish we were obviously a lot closer to our prominence in the ‘90’s. I think you get in what you put out. I think the producers that are coming up, they need to learn more, they need to put in more if they want to get out more. I feel like the South, I think Atlanta and Memphis. I think them dudes and their producers are putting in a lot. They’re putting in a lot, they’re putting in a lot to just their culture. I think the West and New York, the West and the East are struggling because a lot of us are so busy looking at the South versus looking at Ice-T, looking at Ice Cube, looking at all our essence, the origins of where our stuff began at. We don’t study enough Dr. Dre, we too busy looking at the other rappers. It’s like you’re a basketball player, a professional basketball player and the player that’s being celebrated is let’s say a Bradley Beal and you come in the NBA and you’re like, “Yo, I want to be as dope as Bradley Beal!” But Bradley Beal is not a top 25 player, with all due respect to that man ‘cause his game is crazy, but you’re not looking at shooting guards that are better; the Michael Jordan’s, the Kobe Bryant’s, the Hondo’s John Havlicek’s, the Dwyane Wade’s, you don’t have an essence of who those guys are you’re just looking at what’s in front of you. I think that’s what’s wrong with if something is wrong or we’re not returning to prominence like the ‘90’s, it’s because we aren’t looking at the best players who played the game. So it’s a lot of our jobs to start looking at the best players who have played the game and aspiring and building your game after those guys in today’s times.
Right, right! You have your imprint Blue Division. In addition to your own project, what are your future goals and plans for the label? Is this something you’re going try to do to bring more notice to what you were just touching on?
Man, I’m working on it. I’m working with Playa Hamm’s sons [Young Giantz]. I’m not looking at always signing artists. I’m looking to help every artist. Some artists I do need to sign…some artists, you do need to sign and you do need to do everything to. But some artists like, like the Giantz, you know Playa Hamm’s sons, which is West Coast royalty, they don’t need all of that, they need their own system. I just need to kind of help them with their marketing, help guide ‘em. You know, teach them all the stuff that Baby taught me, that Mack 10 taught me. And guide ‘em. Working with a girl group named Foursome. Just trying to really bring it back to the essence, talking with one of our main producers to cultivate the next generation of West Coast producers that will give us a chance to have that prominent run that Dr. Dre was able to do and Battlecat, and DJ Quik, Hutch from Above The Law, Slip from Compton’s Most Wanted, try to match that run; that’s the goal. So that’s what my imprint Division Movie Company; it’s always a movie with us. So that’s what “Tupac Must Die” was all about.
In terms of other aspirations, I know you have the “No Ceilings” radio show through iHeart Radio. What can we look out for in terms of this platform, you have anything planned in the coming days or weeks?
You know what’s funny? I’m just turning it up. I took me a little time to get it together. To get comfortable with it and now I’m starting to feel comfortable. So, I’m just about to ramp it up. The conversations are going to get deeper. The conversations will be about more polarizing topics; pariahs, larger than life pariahs, conversations with still staying true to what it is we’re trying to do.
I know too that you are featured in the “Fastest Car” documentary on Netflix. What about acting? Is that on your radar at all? I know that was more of a documentary thing about cars, but is acting in kind of the realm of what you want to expound on in the future?
I don’t know. Like writing for sure. I’m definitely going into film. I’m a natural storyteller. So writing films, I’ve just wrote a new film. I just wrote a new comic book. I’m writing a new TV show. I’m writing a book. So I’m a writer. Acting, I don’t know like maybe if I could write the right film and then I could play the right role to where I’m not looking crazy, I’ll be fine.
Since you speak on the writing aspect, why don’t you kind of tell me when you sit down to pen whether it’s your lyrics or a screenplay or whatever it is that you’re doing creatively, where do you find that inspiration? Where do you draw it from?
Man, I’ve lived the life of 15 men; so I’ve lived 15 lives so it’s pretty much stuff I’ve been through at this point or stuff I’ve witnessed, or stuff I’ve been into; it’s always some of that.
Since you say that since you have lived such a rich life of everything, I guess, you can imagine. To date, what do you feel has been your biggest highlight? Is there a particular moment that kind of stands out for you?
Particular moment and how that stands out…lemme see…a particular moment or thing that stands out…Scarface telling me I was dope.
Okay, can’t get a much better co-sign than that, right?
Yeah, yeah! Between that and Jay-Z telling me I was one of the dopest rappers he heard from the West, and Scarface telling me like dropping fire emojis on like a piece of content I sent him. That’s it! That’s like God coming down and saying you lived a good life.
I agree, I agree! Looking ahead, say five maybe even 10 years down the line, where do you see yourself?
Man, providing more content, that’s it. I just want to provide more content.
We’ll definitely be looking out for everything that you’re doing. And, I want to thank you for taking your time out with me today.
Thank you for having me! Thank you for giving me a chance, man, much love.