Rap Atlas: Oakland

The Grill

4770 San Pablo Ave.

Lev Berlak, a producer of Bay Area “mobb music” during the ‘90s, runs the Grill. Lev is real cool, this white guy from St. Louis, but he’s real so people fucks with him. Originally, the Grill used to be off of Fruitvale Avenue, but then he moved it to Emeryville. Richie Rich is always there; Lev and Rich are real tight. Lev did a lot of Rich’s post-415 stuff, also a lot of the Mac Dre stuff after he left Young Black Brotha and before Thizz started. When we went to the studio to do this article, Lev told me Dre used to be a permanent fixture in the same chair I was sitting in.

The night we were up in there, the Jacka and Husalah passed through, and so did Rich. Jacka brought a bunch of medical marijuana he had just got from the cannabis club; he laid it out on the table like a buffet. Lev played him beats, everybody smoked, and then Jacka went into the booth and knocked out two verses he wrote on the spot. Then Rich arrived and these guys start trading war stories. You could see how much respect the younger cats have for Rich; he’s a Bay Area OG fa sho, like the CEO of Town Bidness. He just got a deal with Mack 10’s label, so he’s fixing to put some new stuff out. Anyway, we’re shooting the shit, smoking joint after joint. Then Jacka got the munchies and ordered like a hundred rack of wings from Wingspot. The wings were gone in, like, five minutes.

Rich spoke about Tupac, telling a story about a rapper friend of his suing Afeni Shakur over a song ‘Pac wrote for this dude. This rapper friend now claims that he wrote it. Rich was like, “I can’t be involved with this, Tupac was my boy.” Rich will joke around a lot, but anytime he starts talking about Tupac, he gets real serious. Then he starts talking about how dude lost it, came into the studio with a two-page contract with two goons trying to sign Rich to a fucked-up deal. Rich had to draw down on him and show him to the door. Then Rich gets in the booth and just murders the mic. You could see Jack and Hus’ jaws drop when they played it back. That was a good night.

Richie Rich - "D.O.E."

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