Hip-hop pioneers Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, E-40 and Too Short have nothing left to prove.
In Los Angeles, Ice Cube sparked the rise of gangsta rap as part of N.W.A in the late ‘80s, before Snoop Dogg broke out of Long Beach to introduce G-Funk to the masses through his landmark 1993 album “Doggystyle.”
With colorful lingo and slick-talking raps, E-40 and Too Short have steered the sound of the Bay Area since first emerging in the 1980s.
And in the past decades, these four have taken their sound around the globe through countless tours and millennium-defying hits. Their accomplishments spill outside of music, too, whether it’s Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league prolonging the careers of NBA stars, Snoop Dogg’s ubiquitous presence in Hollywood through movies and brand deals or E-40’s budding spirits empire.
But when the world ground to a halt in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, they joined forces to create Mount Westmore, a bona fide super-group connecting the Bay to L.A. On their debut album, titled “Snoop, 40, Cube and Short,” they’re quick to remind you of their founding father status, advising you to follow their footsteps on “Lace You Up” before flipping culture vultures the bird on “Have a Nice Day.”
It’s easy to tell how much fun the foursome, all of whom are now in their 50s, had making the album, which was released this summer as an NFT before arriving on all platforms on Dec. 9. But when they gather on Zoom shortly after Thanksgiving, they’re just as excited to talk about their families as their music.
“Congratulations, cuh,” Snoop Dogg told Ice Cube, who logged on from Mexico where he and his wife vacationed for their 30th anniversary. “Thirty-year vet, walking underwater without getting wet,” said Snoop. “I’m trying to get to that mountaintop right now … I’m at 27 years. But my baby girl [Cori Broadus] just got proposed to on Thanksgiving. I cried, cuh. On some real s—, like a grown-ass man. I cried. That s— was beautiful.”
How did the idea for Mount Westmore come about?
Ice Cube: I think everybody saw an opportunity to do something bigger than just us. Something fun. Hip-hop can be so serious … but ain’t nobody having more fun than us. We all love each other, it’s like being in a group with your cousins.
Snoop Dogg: If I’m the baby of the bunch, these are my OGs. These are the guys that I looked up to before I had a chance to do it. And once I got in the industry, we became brothers.
What was everybody’s role in the project?
Too Short: We didn’t utilize personal assistants, managers or label execs. Nobody got involved. We A&R’ed this ourselves.
Snoop Dogg: You was the A&R, Short. N— you lying. [Laughs]
Ice Cube: Everybody used their specialties, from visuals to lingo to beats to production. Even stage production. Everybody was able to pass the baton, like “this your area, we’re gonna rely on you.” This wouldn’t have come together without Too Short’s diligence. He really kept the project together.
Too Short: If it wasn’t agreed on by all four of us, it ain’t happening.
You made this album at the height of COVID. Were you in the studio together, or was it all created through Zoom?
Ice Cube: It was mostly us Zooming each other. We realized we could get a lot done and not be on the 405 for an hour every day. It was fun to have this to focus on. 2020 was f— up.
Snoop Dogg: It felt like being a kid again, being able to be with your friends and not have to go in when the street lights come on. We can have a friendly argument and then talk about football, basketball, whatever. We want to show the youngsters how to grow into Ice Cube, Too Short, 40, Snoop Dogg. How you can grow into your 50s and still be relevant.
You guys are all family men by now. How does that change your approach to music?
Too Short: I’m what you call a granddaddy-daddy. My daughter will be four in a couple weeks. I’m late to the party, but I’m here.
E-40: My son, Issue, recorded all my parts for Mount Westmore right here in my studio. I paid him just like I paid any other engineer so he could feel good about it.
Ice Cube: I had my kids my whole career. My youngest is 22. My hardest records were done when they were the youngest. So the records I do now, I’m trying to teach the youth about what they should be doing. Not just what they’re seeing already.
Too Short: During this project, at some point, each one of y’all’s sons chimed in and was like “Pops, that ain’t it, man.” We got the feedback from Cube’s son, Snoop’s son and 40’s son, like “that’s it.” “Or that ain’t it.”
Ice Cube: They really told us what they want from OGs like us.
What songs did they gravitate to?
Snoop Dogg: “Have A Nice Day (F— You).” My son loves that record right there.
E-40: Because your son has an old soul. My sons do too, they love that song.
Ice Cube: My son likes “Activated,” “Free Game.” He was tripping off “Tribal.” It’s fun asking people their favorite songs, because everybody likes something different. But what I really liked about working with Short and 40 was that they were pulling out beats that were more Bay friendly. Northern California stuff. I might not have rhymed on a beat like “Free Game” if it wasn’t for them.
Each of you proudly takes up the OG torch on this album. When you were coming up in music, how much advice did you take from the people before you?
E-40: We had OGs, but not OGs as far as the music. [Snoop and Cube] did, they had a legend as their mentor. They had Dre.
Ice Cube: I learned a lot from not only Dre, but Lonzo [Williams] from World Class Wreckin’ Cru. He used to throw all the parties. But I’d see people on their own grind like Mixmaster Spade, DJ Pooh, King Tee, who had their own flavor. But as far as the OGs in my hood, when I got into hip-hop, they became less important. They didn’t know how to get you to the promised land when it came to hip-hop, because it was so new.
At what point in your career did you want to take up that mentorship role?
Too Short: I just realized I was an OG like two weeks ago. I thought I was still a youngster. [Laughs]
E-40: You’re an old-ass youngster Short, that’s what we all are.
Ice Cube: For me, it was getting with Chuck D, Ice-T, the real political motherf— in the game, who were spitting it and getting venom spit back at them. I knew at a certain point that I wanted to do street knowledge. Not just talking about gangsta s—. I decided to be that type of artist going into “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted.”
Too Short: You said Ice-T’s name. I gotta say on the West Coast, I remember back in the ‘90s he used to keep his phone line open if you needed to call and get some OG game from somebody who walked the path before you. He’d always sit down and powwow with young rappers, and give his perspective.
Ice Cube: He gave me the best piece of advice I ever got in the game. He told me to know why you wrote each line, and be able to intelligently break down each rhyme. So if they ever question you on any of your lines, you’ll be able to put them in their place. You gotta be on point when you’re doing controversial lyrics.
Snoop Dogg: That was great advice. When I was getting off into Hollywood, movies were coming left and right. I was taking every role they gave me. I remember Ice-T was like “Snoop, less is more. Sometimes you gotta say no to these movies.” I was in B-level, C-level movies, but when I started saying no, I got better opportunities.
You’re four of the biggest artists from Los Angeles and the Bay Area. What’s been your relationship with each other’s cities?
Ice Cube: We keep each other on point. We [in L.A.] can be caught in our own flavor and style, and then we see some s— from the Bay, where the energy is on a whole other level, and then we like, “we gotta pick it up a little bit, we’re too laid back.” I’m pretty sure the Bay looks at L.A. like we gotta smooth it out a little bit.
Snoop Dogg: When me, Warren G and Nate Dogg were selling dope, our favorite group was 415. So naturally, we created 213. That’s the California connection.
Too Short: It’s like when Dr. Dre dropped “The Chronic.” Up in the Bay, we went back to the drawing board, like, “we gotta switch some things up here.”
What did it mean for you all to see Snoop onstage at the Super Bowl in February?
Too Short: Coolest s— ever.
Ice Cube: It was amazing to see, from where the music started, to being on top of the world. He let the world know. From a producer like Dr. Dre, artists like Snoop, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent. I don’t know how they’re gonna match that.
Snoop Dogg: I got to be in N.W.A one time with “Chin Check,” and I got to do the Super Bowl. Two dreams came true. When I’m dead, I’m good.