Living Obituaries: Cold 187um

Will Hagle's series -- offering a memorial to singular artists while they're still alive -- returns with a tribute to the G-funk pioneer.
By    December 5, 2018

Will Hagle‘s hitting corners from South Central to Ponoma.

G-Funk isn’t dead and neither is Cold187um. Both have evolved, maturing and changing with age, but the man and the genre he helped pioneer remain intact. Although the legendarily overlooked producer and rapper is only 53, there’s no better time than now to celebrate his life. It’s 2018, but G-Funk still permeates L.A. hip-hop from Ice Cube’s South Central all the way down the 10 freeway to Big Hutch’s Pomona. And not to comment in any manner on Cold187um’s health, but his Above The Law group mate KMG The Illustrator passed away in 2012 at the age of 43, before the Straight Outta Compton film brought a renewed media interest in the origin story of G-Funk. So by giving him a Living Obituary, we can do what we didn’t do for KMG and honor Cold187um while he’s still around.

Cold187um didn’t singlehandedly invent G-Funk, but he and the rest of Above The Law claim responsibility for creating the term that so accurately described the genre that they, like their peers around Los Angeles, were creating. As is the case with any genre name, the origin of the term “G-Funk” might be pinpointed back to one person or moment, but couldn’t have permeated mass culture the way it did without the help of others. Still, the self-mythologized legend says that Laylaw, another member of the Pomona-based group who doubled as a producer and writer for Michel’le at Ruthless Records, was the first to speak the words “G-funk.”

He allegedly told KMG that he should change a lyric in which he mentioned “P-funk,” which heavily inspired Cold187um’s production, to “G-funk,” for no reason other than it sounded right. Later, when recording a track with the group for their sophomore album Black Mafia Life, 2Pac asked Above the Law what they called their music. They told him that they called it “G-funk,” because it was indeed funky, and 2Pac used the term on “Call It What U Want.” Ironically, 2Pac’s line was: “I’m bumping G-Funk but you can call it what you want.” Of course, following the success of The Chronic and subsequent West Coast albums, nobody called the genre anything else.

Cold187um exists in that story as he’s been his whole career: on the fringes, yet an integral part. He may not have come up with the term itself, but G-Funk as it’s known today couldn’t have come to fruition without his unique production prowess. Like G-funk’s name itself, the style Cold187um crafted flourished from an exposure to the innovators surrounding him. As the nephew of R&B singer Willie Hutch and a self-described “protégé” of Dr. Dre, Cold187um accumulated a deep musical knowledge along with a mastery of the technology available to him in his heyday. Dr. Dre’s influence is palpable in his work, but perhaps only because Dre’s music is more ingrained in the minds of the most casual music listeners.

Although the term “protégé” gives Dre an elevated hierarchal status, there’s no doubt that the in-studio learning and creativity flowed, to some degree, both ways. Even if Cold187um didn’t inspire Dre at all, his beat style is different enough that it deserves praise of its own merit. Cold187um tends to take a rawer, less shiny approach to production than Dre, while still adhering to the funk-inspired synth recreation style that characterizes the genre they fostered in roughly the same time and place. He also took on a similar role as Dre did with N.W.A. within his own Above The Law, putting all the pieces together to form a cohesive vision stronger than the individual contributions. He was, and still is, a G-funk production mastermind.

If you visit the Wikipedia page for Above the Law, you’ll find that Jerry Heller wrote in his Ruthless memoir, “Above the Law would have been N.W.A. if N.W.A. had never existed.” Paradoxically, not too long ago Cold187um told DJ Vlad, “Without N.W.A., there’s no Above the Law. They’re why we exist.” No matter who came first, the fact remains that N.W.A. became the cultural powerhouse that they are today, while Above the Law remains relatively obscure to mainstream audiences. Cold187um has had a career overshadowed by those around him, and has spent much of his life under-appreciated for his contributions to a musical and cultural movement that appealed to the global masses of the early 90s.

As the G-Funk genre widens and deepens in its current state of renaissance and rebirth, spearheaded by a generation that wasn’t alive when Above the Law or N.W.A. first formed, Cold187um risks slipping further into unfair, unforgotten territory.

Gregory Fernan Hutchison, the man behind the Cold187um and Big Hutch monikers, espouses a thoughtful level of humility to his career that’s likely held him back from more widespread success but also makes him a more endearing historical figure, in retrospect. In recent interviews, he tends to brush aside questions about Above the Law’s infamous verbal and physical feud with Ice Cube’s camp in the mid ‘90s, dismissing the incident as nothing more than a flare-up amongst misguided youth. He claims that there’s no ongoing problems between him and anyone in N.W.A., and that only those who weren’t around them at the time try to find drama where there is none.

At the time, of course, Big Hutch and Above The Law positioned themselves as angry youth with hustling experience, ready to fight anyone who spoke ill words against them. Even now, with his composed air of nostalgic maturity, Cold187um understands that his musical and cultural contributions don’t receive the respect they deserve, and he humbly accepts praise from those that recognize his importance. Evidence can be found in this video of him and Laylaw, adorned in his NWA t-shirt, talking and taking calls from longtime fans on Sway in the Morning.

A Living Obituary of Cold187um couldn’t exist without mentioning those that surrounded him during his early career, because he, his music, and his narrative are so tied to that scene. Like the rest of the G-Funk greats, his lyrics depicted the reality of Los Angeles in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and asserted his opposition to police brutality and everything else that comes with a messed up system. He claims Above The Law funded their first album with dope money. They sought to make emotionally expressive music that represented the anger and hopelessness that they felt as participating members of the crack epidemic. G-funk was a wave bursting all around Los Angeles, and Cold187um happened to be in the right position to ride it. It didn’t carry him as far as it did his peers, but his being a part of it certainly helped the genre itself crash farther from shore than anyone ever imagined.

That initial G-funk wave did, of course, crash. Not long after Eazy-E died in 1995, Cold187um and Above the Law left Ruthless Records. Cold187um’s debut solo album Executive Decisions came out on the independent Street Solid Records in 1999, the same year he went to work with Suge Knight at Death Row as what he described as “head of production.” He’s released six solo LPs since then, including his lone release on Insane Clown Posse’s Psychopathic Records, 2012’s The Only Solution.

The contrived concept album narrative of the “Psychopathic Assassin” isn’t the best example of Cold187um’s abilities, but it is interesting to listen to him rapping over Insane Clown Posse production.

The purportedly-strained relationship between Cold187um and his former mentor came full-circle in 2015, when Dre enlisted Cold187um to provide a verse alongside Xzibit and Sly Pyper on Compton’s “Loose Cannons.” If that album and Straight Outta Compton were the 2015 equivalent of cementing G-funk history, at least Cold187um wasn’t entirely left out of the process. Although he’s never been a superstar, Cold187um helped birth a genre, has continued to work in the music industry, and seems to have resolved any and all of the alleged, infamous drama that plagued West Coast rappers of his era.

Although The Only Solution isn’t on most streaming services,there’s plenty of Cold187um music available for you to listen to online right now. Start with Above The Law’s debut Livin’ Like Hustlers, then go from there, and make sure you listen to Cold187um’s solo discography up to the present day. “Untouchable” and “Black Superman” are undisputed classics. Whether you’re an L.A. native from the ’80s or a 3-year-old kid reading this on an iPad, you should do this today, because Cold187um is still alive, and it’s time to celebrate him. There could, of course, be more music to come. Even if his newer music isn’t as culturally relevant as it was when Above The Law first formed, it’s good to keep in mind that the rest of modern-day G-Funk wouldn’t be what it was if Cold187um was never born.

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