Wrongkind Records -- the label behind San Diego's most visible rap star, Mitchy Slick -- celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year. To commemorate the occasion, Wrongkind has re-released Mitchy's debut album, Trigeration Station, which is also turning 10 this year. I sat down with the label president CJ at the Wrongkind headquarters to talk about the beginnings of Wrongkind and Trigeration Station's effect on the local hip-hop scene.
Quan Vu: Why did you feel the need to start Wrongkind Records in the first place?
CJ: I actually had been living in Los Angeles. I was staying with Xzibit. From being up there and around his situation, I picked up a lot of information about the music business and about the industry -- how things are done. From being around the industry, I figured I had gained enough knowledge to start my own situation. Also, I worked at a record store for awhile. I was the type of person where I really studied the game, studied the music business. And I saw that one of the people that really had a lot of success, businesswise -- and coming from a city where there was really no music business there previously -- was Master P.
He came out of New Orleans, and before him, there was really no rap scene. No one had came out of that city and was big on a national or international stage. And he came and made a success out of it. I started to really study his situation and figure out why he was able to do that. And I think part of the reason that he had so much success so fast was because he approached the music business ... from a retail standpoint, whereas other record execs, they approached it from a different standpoint.
Being in a record store, having direct contact with the consumer, gives you a different perspective than someone who's sitting in the office or a studio and never comes in contact with anybody but the artist. I feel that he had an invaluable insight coming from the situation. When I went and worked in the record store, I feel like I got the same experience that he did, where I talked to the consumers every day and picked their brains, and figured out what it was that made them buy CDs, how they found out about music, the different ways they found out about music.
QV: Did you say you were living with Xzibit?
CJ: Yeah. He was signed to Loud Records. The owner of Loud, Steve Rifkind, he had a company called SRC, which now is a record company, but at this point, it wasn't a record company. Loud was his record company, and SRC was his marketing company. SRC, being around them and his situation, they were the people who actually coined the phrase street team. They were the first to actually have street teams in the music business. I was able to really get a closeup glimpse and understanding of what it takes to promote a record from a grassroots standpoint. I learned how you can have a lot of publicity spending less money, which helped me tremendously when I got ready to start Wrongkind Records with Mitchy Slick. Because we didn't have a great deal of money to promote the records from the company's infancy.
QV: OK, so you have this idea for a record label. How do you go from that initial idea to putting out Trigeration Station?
CJ: We originally started ... Mitch put out a little CD that -- it didn't have a cover, it wasn't in stores, it wasn't even a lot of songs on it. In today's standards, I guess it would be classified as an EP. And we didn't sell it. It had four or five songs on it, and the songs just got around. People were really astonished to find out that Mitch could even rap at all, because he was already really well-known from street activity and not being a rapper. People knew his name already, and a lot of people would get it just to see if he could rap. It would be like if you found out ... John Gotti had a great singing voice. He really kinda did it for fun. And when he saw that people were very receptive to it -- he recorded that in a studio that our good friends had. They had a situation called Bottom Up. Being around that situation, they would record a few songs. From there, Sir Jinx -- a legendary West Coast producer who would record Ice Cube's early works, WC and people of that nature -- we met him through a childhood friend.... We recorded some music with Jinx, and people kind of saw that Mitch was serious when he had a legendary producer like Jinx involved. Then we went on to record Trigeration Station. And it grew from there.
Trigeration Station was really a vehicle for the whole scene. Because on Trigeration Station, you had Cricet producing, Elo producing, and you had Ecay [Uno] producing. It was a vehicle for everyone involved in the CD being made. So when it dropped, the album was so popular, a lot of people felt like, "Damn, if Mitchy Slick being from here ..." -- a lot of kids at that point, they didn't know about the previous albums that had been people from San Diego rapping. To them, it was like, a rapper from San Diego and he put an album out on his own and it's popular and it sounds good sonically, good quality recording -- that was something to the town. So a lot of kids felt like, "Well, damn, if he could do it, I could rap, too." And they also see that there's producers in the town who do a good job of producing. So all of a sudden, Cricet started getting a lot of people wanting his production, Ecay started getting a lot of people wanting his production, Elo started getting a lot of people wanting his production. So from that record, they became able to make a living off of producing.
QV: Yeah I know Ecay and Cricet stay busy. But Elo, I actually haven't heard much from. Does he still produce?
CJ: I don't know, because I haven't seen him in some time. But from then until now, he was really busy. He had a TV show for a little while, The Grimey Wreck Show. He produced Lunchmeat, B-Stone, Hound Foundation, Black Mikey and so on. Ecay produced himself and a lot of guys from his neighborhood. They were able to have a little scene in their neighborhood. Cricet -- the same. So a lot of things catapulted off that record. And then, also, there were a lot of rappers on that record [like Black Mikey, Damu and Don Diego]. A lot of them went on to put out their own records out. So it was a good look for the city. That record gave a boost to the scene here.
Trigeration Station is available now at, among other places, your friendly neighborhood Fam Mart.
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog SD Raps.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by following him on Twitter or e-mailing him directly.