Kennedy had a chat backstage at Sankeys Warehouse opening party with N.W.A member DJ Yella! Talking about Manchester Sankeys Warehouse and the movie ‘Straight Out Of Compton.
Listen to the interview here:
Antoine Carraby went on to become the least vocal but longest-lasting member of the controversial rap group known as N.W.A. Calling himself DJ Yella (from the Tom Tom Club’s “Mr. Yellow”), he was the sole member of the group to stay loyal to Eazy-E while the other members threw around accusations of missing money and bad business deals. Maintaining a quiet dignity about the situation, he remained the one member to not choose sides and avoided any of their solo attacks on one another. Born and raised in Compton, CA, DJ Yella grew up listening to funk music and learned to play the drums. DJing in Los Angeles clubs as a teenager, he soon met Dr. Dre and the two became fast friends. Influenced by Grandmaster Flash, Dre and Yella formed the World Class Wreckin’ Cru in the early ’80s to try and capitalize on the new form of music. After watching Run-D.M.C. perform in California for the first time, the two DJs were amazed to see them on-stage with nothing more than a DJ scratching records. They attempted to make a few records with the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, but financial problems resulted in Dre contacting high school friend Eazy-E about starting a group. Eazy-E was a successful drug dealer who had money to burn and an enthusiastic mind for business, and the two soon left Yella back in the Wreckin’ Cru. Dre brought Yella into the group when a track they had produced and written for another group, “Boyz in the Hood,” was turned down by the rappers who were originally going to do it. They convinced Eazy-E to rap it and suddenly they had their first single. MC Ren came into the picture soon after and Wreckin’ Cru associate/lyricist Ice Cube was also drafted into the situation. They called themselves N.W.A. and crafted a hard-edged, angry sound that was highly influenced by Public Enemy, among others. Between their original singles and the recording of the classic Straight Outta Compton album, DJ Yella and the others worked on the single-promotions angle of the group while Ice Cube attended college. Dre and Yella also worked on beats together, while they continued to try and convince Eazy-E to keep rapping because they liked his image. When Straight Outta Compton came out, the following media explosion planted the seeds of dissent in the group. Ice Cube asked Yella about working on a solo album with him, but when the group decided to concentrate on Eazy-E’s solo album first, Cube left the group and began accusing them of financial misgivings in the press. Their political edge disappeared with Cube and the group began to split apart when Eazy-E started writing his own lyrics and Dre and Yella’s production styles began to audibly clash on their material. Dre left the group over his contract with Eazy-E in 1992, leaving MC Ren to wander off on his own while Yella and Eazy-E agreed to continue working together. They didn’t collaborate often, but in 1994 they worked on material that would eventually end up on Eazy-E’s Str8 off Tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton and Eternal E albums. At this point, Yella’s contract with Eazy’s Ruthless Records had run out, but his loyalty to his former boss prevented him from leaving his side. Eazy-E died three months after those recording sessions, with Yella claiming he was the only N.W.A. member to see Eazy-E in the hospital before he fell into a coma, despite different claims from Dre and Ice Cube. Not including that odd clash of stories, the hatchet was buried between the four remaining members and they went their separate ways to pay tribute to Eazy-E. Dropping the DJ for a spell, Yella released his solo album in 1996, the aptly titled One Mo Nigga ta Go (all of N.W.A. had released solo albums but him). He collaborated with several rappers on this album, still refusing to pick up the microphone despite years in the genre. The album was a flop, but it did establish a relationship with Big Man, an associate of Eazy-E’s, who appeared all over the album. After a few years of relative inactivity, N.W.A. reunion rumors ran rampant, with the general idea being that Snoop Dogg could take Eazy-E’s place. DJ Yella (the DJ was back in his name) expressed interest in the project, but was not approached for the various interviews and live appearances that MC Ren, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre were making. Still being a good sport about it, he appeared in a video with the old members and agreed to work on their reunion album after their 2000 Up in Smoke tour. Although Yella wasn’t brought out on tour with the group, he anxiously awaited the reunion until December of that year. Dre bowed out of the project because he was disappointed with the results, while Ice Cube was due to start filming Ghosts of Mars with only a few songs recorded. With the reunion scrapped, Yella and Big Man decided to try their hand at other industries. Yella had produced the occasional porn film throughout the ’90s under the pseudonym Tha Kidd, but in spring of 2001, he announced his intentions to bring his small-time Lo-Key Productions to the Internet and release his own pornography, known as DJ Yella’s Chronic Volumes, through his website. His approach was to blend hip-hop music and “reality based” situations into a more mature version of pornography, while continuing to champion the ill-fated N.W.A. reunion. Although Yella managed to produce a significant amount of porn, the website closed down and he dropped out of the spotlight again in 2001.