As we continue to celebrate Hip-Hop 50th birthday, we caught up with the Long Beach OG himself, The General, Big Tray Deee! In this exclusive read by our own Todd “DG” Davis, Big Tray Deee gives updates and insights to his life and company. Read away!
First things first, this year (August 11th) marked the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop — What exactly does that mean to and for you?
Happy 50th to culture! First and foremost, to me Hip Hop is an overall state of being. Hip Hop, for the true devotee, embodies all facets of one’s lifestyle; language, dress code, social circle, mentality, etcetera. There is no point in which you’re not immersed in it. Especially as an artist. For me, Hip Hop is my lifeblood. Before I began rapping, I was already a factor in the street gang culture, so I didn’t particularly choose Hip Hop to become “famous,” but because I was enamored with sharp lyricism, stylish delivery and dope beats. I first began writing raps while incarcerated in California State Prison as a way of release from the weight of my circumstances. I would spit what I’d written for my homies on the yard and their response inspired me to continue at it. I am but one of thousands that Hip Hop actually saved. Therefore, it only makes sense that I TRULY love Hip Hop.
To quote the late, great The Notorious B.I.G., “You never thought that Hip Hop would take it this far!” — Was this something that you ever could’ve imagined?
Back to incarceration again LMAO! I was a bad kid, what can I say? Anyway, I was walking the halls of Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, CA, when I first heard “Rapper’s Delight.” I liked it right off. I never saw it as a fad in music; like they tried to pigeon-hole it as being. And remember, I’m from the West Coast, so we really weren’t “on” until NWA made it huge. I watched Kurtis Blow, Run-DMC, The Fat Boys, Rakim, KRS-One, EPMD, Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J, MC Lyte, Heavy D, Big Daddy Kane, etcetera, all do their things before it even landed on my side. So, no, Hip Hop was very deeply entrenched in American mainstream music faster than the nay-sayers and Tipper Gore’s could count it out , marginalize it or suppress it.
What are some of your fondest, most stand-out moments / memories from your lengthy tenure in this thing called Hip Hop?
Performing on Soul Train. If you know what that show meant to Black people in the 1970’s through the early-2000’s, you clearly understand why this is at the top of my list. Going on the Snoop Dogg World Tour in the mid-‘90’s and performing in Japan, Germany, Amsterdam, Scotland, Switzerland, Jamaica, and England. Shout out to Canada as well! And definitely selling platinum on both Eastsidaz albums (Snoop Dogg presents Tha Eastsidaz and Duces and Trayz The Old Fashioned Way). That was a very major accomplishment for me as an artist.
That said, what are your future plans and / or goals throughout the remainder of 2023, going right into ‘24?
I just released a new album MALICE on Aug. 25th. It is widely being hailed as my best solo work to date. No disagreement from me. I really went in on this one to prove that you can remain as dope as ever and even get better as long as you sustain a passion for the art. I co-executive produced my wife Coniyac’s new album Duffel Bag Music, hosted by Snoop Dogg, which dropped September 8th. I’m doing shows everywhere and waiting on the writer’s and actor’s strike to be resolved so that I can bring the sci-fi crime series Gangsta back to the screen. I’m also completing my non-fiction book, “The Deeeclassified G Code,” hopefully before summer ‘24. The mash continues.
Switching gears here, what exactly do you want people to get from your music?
Me. I want them to get me. Who I am as an artist, and underneath that a strong warrior who has faced and survived whatever was thrown at me. Without compromising my integrity as an artist or a man. I want my skill as a wordsmith to be acknowledged, on top of being a good song maker. Whether one agrees with my perspective or not.
On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop?
Music-wise, I’m okay with it. It seems like artists are being more daring in their approach to creating music and nothing is wrong with that. I’d say it’s more vibe and image now as opposed to substance and presence. But that, to me, reflects where the youth are today compared to where we were back in the ‘90’s when I hit the scene with Tha Dogg Pound.
What do you feel has and will continue to be the key to your longevity?
I would surmise that it is my authenticity as an artist and an individual. I didn’t recreate the wheel, so I can’t even claim total originality as my style was heavily influenced by those who preceded me. Yet I have a signature delivery that can be immediately identified as soon I engage the microphone. And once they hear it’s me, they expect viciousness, intelligent wordplay and an icy vocal tone to cement what I’m expressing.
Do you have any other outside / additional (future) aspirations, maybe even completely away from entertainment?
Like I said, I’m completing a non-fiction book about the gang culture. It’s my third book; the first two were co-authored and they were urban fiction novels. I have a cannabis brand, Sunrocks, and I help run a couple of companies connected to music / entertainment. Of course, I am co-CEO of Supreme Circle Music Group. Also, film and clothing are also things I’ll be doing as well.
What’s an average day like for you?
Beginning every single day with prayer and (time-permitting) scripture reading. If needed, I’ll do a quick bit of gardening. Then either make a cadillac (Folgers, almond milk creamer and agave) or a fruit and herb smoothie, twist three blunts up and execute whatever plans that my wife and I have devised for the day. If it’s one of my workout days, then I’ll devote 45 to 90 minutes to exercising. Being mindful to eat healthy, stay fit and remain positive and productive.
Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans…
I love my fans! Mostly because I know that I don’t present myself as an angel, yet they still stand firmly beside me. I treat my fans like we know one another. It’s nothing for me to give dap, take a photo, or sign an autograph. I don’t do the nose-up-in-the-air celebrity attitude. Fame is fleeting, while a solid character is enduring.
What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? And, why?
Favorite is being able to entertain the masses with my God-given talent. I love being appreciated for the craftsmanship that I apply to my music, and being able to transmit that upon the stage and witness the reaction. Another favorite is ascending to the level where I’m regarded as a peer amongst those I’ve long admired. Least favorite would be deceptive business practices of many in the industry who cheat unknowledgeable artists out of what they should have coming. It sours you on loving it (Hip Hop) as much.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Make your own footprint. The path that got me here is one I’d advise for no one. It’s okay to admire and even emulate someone to a degree, but this is YOUR life. I suggest striving to be uniquely individual in your view and approach to life. And if at all possible, pursue your passion because it will allow you to get a greater sense of fulfillment out of life no matter how far it takes you. Whatever you do, give it 100% and you’ll have no regrets.
What’s up with Goldie Loc [Tha Eastsidaz]?
He’s solid! We just finished the last few shows together on Snoop Dogg’s Death Row 2023 tour (Wiz Khalifa, Warren G, Too $hort, Berner), and we’re currently tinkering around with another project. It’s just not materializing as rapidly as I’d prefer Lol! He’s been heavily involved in the cannabis industry as well over the last decade plus, so he’s good.
Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
Still on my G tip! It’s in me and on me, so I can’t envision changing course this late in the game. God-willing, within that time frame I plan on vacationing with my wife more to exotic and exciting locations and helping our children continue to excel in their lives. I’ve long been a boss, so I’ll just get bossier and bossier Lol!
Is there anything I left out or just plain forgot to mention?
Nothing comes to mind. These were great questions by the way. I enjoy having to contemplate my answers, as it invites introspection and self-evaluation. So, thanks for that, DG.
Any “parting” words for our readers?
NO LET UP! Go as hard as required at all times. Setbacks and failures are character and resolve builders and provide valuable lessons to help prevent repeating mistakes. As many times as you might fall down, get up stronger. It’s not over until you surrender. Stay respectful and appreciative; it generates good karma. Peace.