Let the image start the story. Kings and Raiders caps and gold ropes. Murderous grimaces and Eric Wright in the middle, mean-mugging the camera. It’s difficult to extricate N.W.A. from Above the Law because that was how it began. Livin Like Hustlers had Dre on assistant production (and two full beats of his own). Eazy oversaw the entire opus and N.W.A. even appeared on the finale. Needless to say, when it came out in 1990, it was another bullet that connected with the underground — #3 after Boyz in the Hood and the D.O.C.
Over the course of their career, Above the Law forged their own identity, despite largely lurking in the shadows of the Death Row axis. Black Mafia Life and Uncle Sam’s Curse are minor classics too, even if none of the local stations really played them much after 91 — let alone the national media outlets. I don’t know if Ruthless ever even issued Above the Law CDs. They were a cassette tape rap group. One of the greatest. And now KMG the Illustrator is dead, apparently of a heart attack. He was 43. I’ve written a eulogy for my Bizarre Ride column at LA Weekly. Maybe you will want to read it. Or maybe you will want to click below the jump and scoop up some of their greatest songs and watch their videos. Maybe you should.
For the column, I also spoke with Kokane, a some-time member of the group and a G-Funk icon in his own right (look him up). I’m including his quotes below too because otherwise they will linger in the chronic-choked ozone of my hard drive. And when you’re out next, order a VSOP and pour some out for the Illustrator.
Quotes from Kokane:
“Hutch is my cousin, so I knew KMG for most of my life. He was a good soul, a good spirit, and a hell of a writer. He came up with the concepts for “VSOP.” It was he and I who came up with “Black Superman.” Above the Law and KMG helped draw up the blueprints for a lot of people even Dre. We created this thing called G-Funk. We’re all a part of it and KMG was a big part of that movement.”
” I took it hard. Me and Kev (KMG) would talk on the phone and pray over things. We were trying to keep our health together and we’d sit on the phone and pray, and talk about the whole thing about being in the music industry. He had finally started to get that glow back and Above the Law was going to come back with their record. They’d just put out their single “Doja.” We was right there.
In my opinion, we was ahead of ourselves. The blueprint for funk wasn’t really started by George Clinton. It was actually started by James Brown, Fred Wesley, and the JBs. Originally, George Clinton was doing the doo-wop thing. With G-Funk, Cold 187 (Hutch) wa sthe first to call it that. We were from Pomona. We call ourselves G’s and we did G-funk. I was the youngster out of the group, but they brought me in because I had that voice like George Clinton.
All the NWA guys were around when we were creating Livin Live Hustlers. So was Warren G, We don’t want to get into pissing contest, especially not at this time, about who started g-funk first, but the proof is in the pudding. KMG was our dude and supplied that gangsta funk.
KMG was a funny dude. He was the last of the Mohicans to have “the shag” haircut. He was so talented and a really nice person, but if you crossed his line he would fuck you up for real–a solid cat around. We used to sit and laugh and joke. I was young watching above the law do their thing. There was just something else that I can’t put words to. He impacted my life so much, all of his comrades life. It’s good that we let this out the bag now. There’s a new generation and he definitely helped build the foundation for them.
We never got play on Power 106 because a lot of that shit had to do with them playing favorites. We came from the root that started this whole thing — what we call reality rap –themedia turned it around and called it “gangsta rap.’ But there were plenty of fans and they were really the ones who paid attention to the architects of G-Funk, our sound. You can hear it on “Black “Superman,” “VSOP” and “Kalifornia.”
“Growing up in Pomona affected our sound differently. It was a small town but also one of the murder capitals of the Southland. That’s where we got our funk from, from seeing different lifestyles and witnessing different events from a sequestered environment. Look at your KMGs, Hutch, Suga Free, and myself — that sound is authentic because it was bred in Pomona. Above the Law had a chance to definitely do their thing; we paid homage to Compton because Eazy was from there. He put Pomona on — people didn’t want to mess with them at first.
“KMG had that first raspy West Coast voice. He had a spiritual prophetical feeling about him. As long as I’m breathing on this planet, I’m going to remind people of his legacy, Hutch is going to remind people too. I’ll be damned if these artificial people try to re-write history or try to displace that brother from the things that he deserved. The good thing about it is the fans feel it, things that were stolen from Above the Law are now being put out. You reap what you sow. There’s not so much that we have got to be mad about though. We just need to keep breathing and creating good music.
We would get mad sometimes because y’know, once a lot of people have their food, it’s hard to get your props, but I thank god that the true hard core fans recognize KMG, Above the Law, and Kokane.
He was living on the outskirts of Pomona, Above the Law had a big record they’d been working on. It was so creative. We went back to the roots when we did Uncle Sam’s Curse. We did some songs and they started bubbling. Above the Law had plans to do tours, they had stuff set up to do the touring. We’re still obviously in the healing process. But Kev said don’t ever throw in the towel, so to the world and the fans, I want everyone to celebrate him and Above the Law. They deserved it.