Long Beach veteran Lil Bam just released his new album “Point Guard of the Streets (Second Quarter)” on Snoop Dogg’s “The Return of Doggy Style Records” label. It’s been a journey for Lil Bam who was rising on the rap scene when I first encountered him back in the mid-2000’s. After releasing several projects, Bam decided to get into the clothing business and that’s where he’s been until his recent emergence back into the music world. I caught up with Lil Bam to talk about the new album and getting back into the rap game. The album is now available on iTunes.
I’m glad to see that you’re still making music. You and I go back to the old WestCoastRydaz days and longtime fans of that site who still follow me know that you were on the site all of the time with updates and music. In recent years though we haven’t heard much from you. Where have you been and what have you been doing?
Back when I first met you, it was such a different time in the music world. It all gelled and felt right – even though there were still some frivolous and funny things going on as far as Hollywood type politics. But there was a reliable underground scene going on and even resources like yourself that could provide outlets. I’ve always been on my grind though, but a lot of it in regards to the music business was done behind the scenes. Then once I got into the apparel game and once I got into that, it was whole other beast. It’s like being an artist all over again – just in a different form. Now you are catering to what people like on the fashion side. You have to know the seasons, the colors, the cuts and fabrics – you’ve got to be in deep with it and I loved it. Once I got into it, I took off with it and never turned back.
During the WestCoastRydaz days we used to always wonder when we were going to see new stars emerge. Isn’t it nice to see some artists shining now?
Yeah but you know success is really determined on an person’s own perception of what it is – so it’s always going to be different. Success is a path that you take and there are some who are content with being the person next to the “man” while others want to be the “man.” Right now the unity is not there like how it used to be. The rep for the craft is not how it used to be as well. Now you can put anything together and it’s going to be a hit. People aren’t really paying attention to the content anymore – it’s basically about the beats. I remember when we used to get mad at people who came out with jingle and dance songs – now they’re just mumbling over the tracks! The West Coast used to have its own distinct sound. The thing with the West Coast and I’m not speaking on all artists, but the majority of them just want to go with whatever’s hot at the moment. But once you do something like that, you’re stuck with it – until it’s time to go on to the next one. An artist can ruin themselves by getting that one hit with a certain sound but then that sound is outdated six months later. If you’re unable to keep up with the changes, then your stardom will fade. I believe that you have to be yourself in whatever you do. It might not work right away or even this year but when you’re true to yourself, anything and everything is possible.
I think some artists just don’t want to sound old.
But what’s considered old? Let me put it like this, a lot of the artists that are still around from the WestCoastRydaz days, they are around because of their work ethic. Problem has a good work ethic. Problem is Problem – everything that he’s done has been parts of his personality. He never tried to make you think he was a gangster but he fucked with them. He’s always been himself and that’s why it’s worked for him. He stayed consistant. There are a few other artists who have done that as well. Just by me knowing him, I can speak on that. Problem has always wanted to be better than he was last week. Some artists are content with where they are at – and that’s cool. But going back to sound, I mean at one time the West Coast was known for its hard sound – we loved it but out of towners didn’t like it until they had to implement in their music in order to sell. People will do that. They’ll shit on something and then use it later for their benefit. It’s kind of like the Ja Rule and 50 Cent thing. 50 shitted all over Ja Rule about his singing and then took that style and ran with it.
Talk to us about the Long Beach movement. Is there unity amongst the artists?
It’s a silent competition and the reason I say that is because nobody is beefing or any bullshit like that, but it’s like trying out for the basketball team – everybody wants to be the best and make the team. There are also a lot of good players that don’t have the right coaches – and that goes for other cities as well – I’m not just talking about Long Beach. Then you have artists who have gotten lazy. How often do you go out to an event and have an artist hand you his project these days? That’s how I used to get a lot of CD’s back in the day – from guys out there hustling their projects. Everybody wants to sit at their computer and upload their projects and then call it a day. When you take the original ingredients out of a recipe, the recipe is no longer authentic. We used to exchange our projects to each other at events and that doesn’t really happen anymore. Being an artist is your first introduction to being a businessman. If you can’t sell yourself, then you’re in the wrong field.
You left music for the apparel world and then recently I saw Snoop Dogg promoting your new album on his Instagram page. What brought you back?
When you have a love for something, you never really leave it. I stepped away from it because there was a lot of bullshit going on and sometimes you get tired of it. You’ve got managers that act like they want to be the artist, producers acting the same way, and everybody’s lane is being plugged up. Take clothes for instance, when I got into it a lot of artists weren’t doing clothes. I’ve always been a hustler. Once I do something, I’m going to take the time to learn it. When I learned the clothing business, I figured out that I could pay attention to the music business without feeding into it. My music was my baby but clothing became my new baby. After a time, I got that music bug back in me and when I did, I couldn’t ignore it. I fell back in love with it just like a relationship. You can’t force it, it just needs to happen. Nobody could force music back on me – I just needed to find it again on my own.
How did Snoop Dogg get involved?
That was something that was being watched from afar because he pays attention to everything. He’s been watching my clothing business and my music. It was presented with my business partner and we all sat down and came to an agreement and he executive produced the project. It was only right for it to happen this way. It’s a damn good opportunity too. If I’m going to make a comeback, I might as well do it right. The music is back with independent artists. If you’re in the music game and you’re independent, then you already know. Snoop has a hell of a platform and an audience and I respect him for all of the plugs he’s given me on Instagram. His audience loved my snippets that he dropped. They’re a tough crowd – they even try to clown Snoop sometimes. They love authenticity in music and that’s the one thing that’s missing in a lot of the stuff we listen to.
You’ve named the album, “Point Guard of the Streets.” What is the meaning behind that title?
Good question. It’s basically to show a point guard’s role from an artist’s standpoint. A point guard’s job is to move the ball around and basically to show unselfish ball play for 3 quarters. A point guard will show that he’s not afraid to share the floor with people. These first 3 quarters, I’m sharing the light with people. When the 4th quarter hits, the point guard takes over the game. The 4th quarter of my project is going to be all me – something I’ve never done before. I’ve always written my own shit, but like as far as hooks, I’m not going to have any singers on there – everything is going to be me except for production. I’ll be doing a little bit of production as well, so the last one is going to be focused on myself. When that 4th quarter comes, the ball will be in my hands and I will take that game over. I’m not talking about the rap game, but this game that I’m in. You’ve got to create your own game within the game.