Hard to believe, but a lot of artists used to come through this otherwise quiet house, which used to be the home of the publisher’s Lauchlan’s mom. Goodie Mob, Master P, Silkk the Shocker—they all came through. All the label reps and indie promoters would be there, too. We used to listen to new albums, discuss our editorial coverage, lay out and edit the magazine, and smoke hella weed. The publisher also had a record pool so there would be tons of vinyl there. All the DJs picked up the new shit there. He used to do ad trades for gear so there was always a lot of clothing by these hip-hop fashion companies, like Pimpgear, 3rd Rail, Kingpin, Conart and Echo Unlimited before Marc swapped the h for a k.
The first cover story I did for 4080 was on Spice 1, who they used to call Chico. The interview was pretty unremarkable—Chico was pretty blunted —till I asked him if he thought rap came from a warrior culture. All of a sudden, he perked up.
We did a lot of cool shit at 4080, including the first theme issue dedicated to female MCs with the Conscious Daughters on the cover. We had a reggae-themed issue. I remember I hooked up my man Eddie Campbell, who sold ads, with a Shabba Ranks interview. Eddie got murdered a couple of years back while he was on vacation in the Caribbean, but I’ll always remember how chill he was when he worked for us.
The classic 4080 moment came when Lauchlan was on the phone with Master P. P had a new album coming out, I think it was Ice Cream Man, and he wanted a cover. Lauchlan didn’t think he deserved the cover, and I didn’t either. I wanted Busta Rhymes, who had just come out with “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.” But P fired a gun into the air over the phone to show he meant business. Long story short, he got his cover. Then he hustled the hell out of that, using it as leverage after he moved down South. Within a year or two, he was on the cover of Forbes. But we had him first.
I remember after Tupac died we planned our ‘Pac tribute at the Parker Street house. We dedicated an entire theme issue to it, which had never been done before. By the time it came out, though, we had moved to the other office—it was getting kind of hectic for Lauchlan’s mom, so he had to get another spot. We were almost 40 issues deep at that time and a lot of people thought we were better than the Source or Vibe or RapPages because we weren’t corporate; we were literally hip-hop heads who lived the music and the culture—and it showed in the editorial content.
The other office was on Spruce Street in North Berkeley. I can remember B-Legit coming by a few times, he would roll these huge blunts they call Beelas. It’s like a double-size cigar filled with the most potent, sticky weed you can imagine. Jeru tha Damaja swung through there once, as well as Gorgeous Dre, this pimp dude who wanted to be a rapper. He would bring three of his hoes with him: one white, one Asian, one black. They were all exquisite. Later on he was featured in the movie American Pimp. I remember when 3xKrazy got signed to Virgin/Noo Trybe, they asked me to do the bio. Keak Da Sneak came by with Agerman and B.A. and their manager Spenc. I sat down and interviewed them for a half-hour. Their slang was so deep, I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. It was all "weezy in the heezy fa sheezy." This was like 1997.
I have so many memories from there, like the publicist from Priority Records trying to hype me up on this then unknown, Jay-Z, when “In My Lifetime” was all he had out. She was like, “He’s a character, he pops Cris in the clubs”—nobody was poppin’ Cris back then. I didn’t think the record was so hot. But then she sent me Reasonable Doubt—I used to make label people send me vinyl records—and we had one of our N.Y. writers, Cleon Alert, do a feature. That might have been the first time Jay was in a magazine as a solo artist—we were way ahead of the curve on that. Even though we were supposed to have this big coastal beef at the time, I always respected NYC hip-hop if it was quality, and there was no denying that Reasonable Doubt was a classic. We also put Nas and Supernatural on the cover, as well as Souls of Mischief, E-40, and Saafir, but those are other stories.
The best issue we ever did was the ‘Pac issue. We commissioned this crazy artwork depicting him as half angel, half-devil. We had testimonials, essays, and song lyrics at the bottom of the pages. We sent a reporter to Las Vegas who talked to a prostitute who was working the strip the night ‘Pac got shot. She claimed that the gunman got out of the car and talked to Suge before opening fire. Later we heard that the prostitute was murdered. Who knows if that happened the way she said it did, but it kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it? People were coming up dead left and right, and our reporter had to “disappear” for a little while after the story came out.
In that Tupac issue, I did around an 8,000-word cover story where I talked to a lot of folks from the West who were real close to ‘Pac, people like Big Syke, Money-B, Leila Steinberg, and also Tracey Robinson, who directed his videos. That was before Vibe had even talked to Leila, so we had that story first. We conducted all from our second office on Spruce Street. I remember after we did the ‘Pac tribute issue, Suge called wanting to talk to Lauchlan. Lauchlan was on another call, so he put Suge on hold for like, a minute at most—then he hung up. We never found out what he wanted.