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How Four West Coast Legends Made a New Rap Supergroup During COVID

todayJanuary 30, 2023

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It’s August 20, 2020 and the Dogg Days of Summer are still here — the Snoop Dogg Days. While many of us remain in the house waiting out the global pandemic, Snoop Dogg is on the go. The laid-back MC is boarding a private jet en route from Los Angeles to Atlanta, and just as the metallic bird carrying the forever-hustling superstar ascends into the stratosphere, former President Barack Obama sits down with his staff a few thousand miles away. Obama and company go over notes and meeting agenda, then the beloved 44th Head of State puts out the mandate, “Get Snoop Dogg.”

In a few hours, Obama will be speaking at the virtual Democratic National Convention and he wants Snoop to introduce him to the audience tuning in to watch on the Twitch channel Behind the Rhyme TV.

When Snoop lands late in the afternoon in ATL, he gladly accepts Obama’s invitation (the collaboration at the DNC was abuzz with CNN writers). Later, the Dogg settles in his hotel room, he fires up some smoke and listens to a few selections from his new group on a portable speaker.

“We ain’t announce it yet, but me, Ice Cube, E-40 and Too $hort just made a group cuz,” Snoop says with a grin. “We already started on the album and that s–t is jammin.’ We’re having a ball making it. It’s gonna be big.”

And historic. The teaming up of Mount Westmore is the first time a collective of this magnitude has officially come together in rap. All four MCs have over been dropping hits for at least four decades. This year marks Too $hort’s 40th anniversary in rap, while last April Snoop celebrated the 30th anniversary since he debuted on Dr. Dre’s “Deep Cover.” Cube and 40 came out the Wild Wild West in the ‘80s. Everybody in the group is over the age of 50, and still exudes double energy that is beloved by the culture. Most importantly, they’ve all been friends for years.

Northern California natives 40 and $hort have been Bay Area fixtures both individually and together, ranging from collaborative albums to their mutual affinity for the championship-winning Golden State Warriors. The ties between the Southern Californian half of Mount Westmore run deep too: After all, Snoop took part in the N.W.A reunion in the early 2000s, standing in for the late great Eazy-E alongside Cube and Dre. All four have collaborated as solo acts and performed on the same concert bills throughout the years, too many times in total to count.  

The four are so close, assembling Mount Westmore was as easy as making a few phone calls. A few months before Snoop got the call from Obama — when COVID-19 first put the world in lockdown — E-40 needed a distraction from making frequent trips to the kitchen. Ask 40 himself, and he’ll joke that he was eating so much, his refrigerator told him it needed a breather. The legendary rapper’s culinary break would come in the form of making music. His manger put the battery in his back to take advantage of his downtime by teaming up with his iconic brethren.

“That sounds groovy like a drive-in movie,” 40 recalls thinking when the idea of supergroup came up.  The Vallejo King of Lingo hit up Ice Cube first. “‘What you think about putting a group together, man?” 40 asked Cube who was “doing a lot of nothin’” himself at home. “Who you talking about?” Cube retorted, thinking 40 was joking around. “Me, you, Too Short and Snoopy,” 40 replied. After a few seconds of processing, Cube responded with two words: “Hell yeah!”  “What we gonna call it then?” 40, getting excited, questioned in his signature high pitch. Cube dropped another two words on him: “Mount Westmore.”

The group name was inspired by the great hip-hop debates by media and fans of who belongs on hip-hop’s Mount Rushmore. Two and a half years removed from the pandemic (or as E-40 calls it, “the Plan-Demic”), Too $hort’s compound in LA is serving as headquarters for three quarters of Mount Westmore. While Snoop has been back in the ATL shooting a film and traveling the states on tour, the other group members have been holding down the publicity run duties. It was only four days until the collaborative project Snoop Cube 40 $hort hit streaming services and showcased the West Coast legend’s rap prowess.

Today though, while Cube and Short are waiting on 40 to arrive, the powerful South Central LA street narrator gives some great stories about his Oakland counterpart’s younger days on the come up. Cube relays making calls from the road while they were on tour, playfully teasing him and Dr. Dre because they “were still at home” and weren’t popular enough to perform concerts in different cities yet. Cube also reveals that “A Gangsta’s Fairytale,” off his classic solo debut AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, was originally written for Eazy. Cube then further delves into the construction of Mount Westmore.

“When I see his name come across [my phone], I always know he’s gonna say something slick,” the rap hyphenate says about 40. “I always look forward to talking to him, ‘cause you gonna hear some new s–t you ain’t heard before.”

Almost on cue, you can hear 40’s signature squeaky voice in the adjacent room getting closer. In walks 40 Water with a smile and joke to greet everyone. “He has on a Raiders shirt and 49ers pants,” Cube says about 40’s plain black tee and red jeans when seeing his friend. The three laugh simultaneously. “I’m mixing it up!” 40 retorts with a smile.

Although they share a brotherhood, football is one thing the foursome don’t agree upon. A big debate takes over the room when they talk about the New Year’s Eve NFL matchup between the visiting Niners and the Las Vegas Raiders, which 40, Cube and $hort will be attending. E-40’s allegiance is to the Niners, while Cube and Short give him a million reasons why they are going to lose to their team, the Raiders.

When the impromptu hip-hop version of ESPN’s First Take is done, the three peel back some of the layers of their new album. Even though the Mount Westmore members were separated during the COVID outbreak, every MC had a studio in their home, so recording the LP was relatively easy.

“We all got track records for making really good, classic, timeless music,” $hort surmises. “So you gotta trust the process of each individual that they know what they like.”

They all called upon familiar producers that they used throughout their careers, such as Ant Banks, FredWreck, Rick Rock and 40’s son Droop E.

“You gotta find X amount of songs that all four people like at the same time,” $hort explains. “That’s the magic. So it couldn’t be just one producer. We put the word out, the floodgates opened up.”

Every time each member of Westmore got a beat they liked, they sent it to a group text. If none of the three other MCs responded, then the collective knew that track wasn’t it. The songs began to take shape when one or two of the other MCs responded to the group text by sending back the tracks with a verse on it. $hort took charge of keeping track of all the song files.

“I think the process was dope, because when you layer it like that, the next person is actually building on what the last one said,” $hort says. “As opposed to we all sitting in the studio and we’re gonna make this song one day while we’re here. This was different. You had a little moment to sit at home. I’ll listen to what 40 did or listen to what Snoop did. ‘All right, so he said all that, I’m gonna come with this.’”

The spirit of the Mount Westmore project lies in its versatility. The four members weren’t afraid to rhyme on soundscapes that may have been out of their wheelhouses. There was just one agreed upon mandate: Each MC had to bring their signature style to the table.

“It’s fun to be in a group,” Cube certifies. “This is my third group; N.W.A, Westside Connection and now Mount Westmore. It’s always fun, because you’re not carrying the whole load. You got f–kin’ Hall of Famers you can pass it to. That could be a point where you relax — but with us, we don’t relax. We know we’re all going to be on point and show each other why we’re here. We don’t take each other for granted. We all know we gotta shine.”

Snoop Cube 40 $hort has slappers throughout. The supergroup goes anthemic right out the gate with “California,” they touch the clubs with “Too Big” (with Dr. Dre speaking on the intro) and “Lace You Up” gives unapologetic real talk advice to the younger generation. “How Many” broaches the subject of snitching, and on “Nice Day,” Ice Cube discusses how people tried to cancel him for being in contact with the Trump administration.

“In 2020 they was trying to cancel me,” Cube describes of the song that was made right after the controversy. “So to me, it was to get it off my chest on how I was feeling. A lot of people got their political team, or people they want to be down with. I ain’t got no team politically.  I don’t care about Democrats or the Republicans. All I care about is, are we winning as Black people? Are they breaking bread or are they helping us make our lives better?”

Cube came under fire because he presented his “Contract With Black America,” an economic plan for financial reform for Black Americans to the Democrats as well as the Republicans. Some people blew it out of proportion and accused Cube of working with Donald Trump, which he clarified as being untrue. He simply wanted Black people to get a higher percentage of the wealth in America and wanted to get information to see what both parties were going to do for the Black community.

“It was cool to have a record to be able to get s–t off like that, ‘cause everything I said in that record is true,” Cube continues. “Look at the type of people trying to cancel [you]. That’ll let you know what you’re dealing with. It is a lot of gatekeepers out here who want to push the status quo cause somehow, some way, they get paid off of it. Those are the ones that want to cancel you. Not the ones that are going through it and want a different way. Not the ones trying to figure out how to break [the destructive] mental and political cycle that we’re under.”

Mount Westmore look to do just that, whether it be overtly or subtly. Bigger than any statement they could make artistically, the aligning of Snoop, Cube, 40 and $hort shows the entire Black community that four kings can come together, put egos and politics to the side, build on friendships and form a business. Mount Westmore isn’t just a group name: The four have officially started a LLC with the same name, making them an actual corporation. They all promise big deals between their crew, as well as tours and more music, of course.

The collection of legends made in excess of 50 songs for their current project, and only 16 were chosen for the final tracklist. While a few of the remaining records will be rationed out for their various solo efforts, $hort promises at least one follow-up Rushmore LP, more than likely two.

“If I sat here right now and said, ‘Let’s go in the studio’ and I played you 20 songs that didn’t make the album, you would be like, ‘What the f–k? Why the f–k that ain’t on there?’” $hort details. “You would be mad. We got some s–t. The next level, it’s going to continue. It’s gotta be no less than two albums. Easily three.”

“We’re the most fun group in hip-hop right now,” Cube attests. “Ain’t nobody having more fun than us. It’s a good story for hip-hop in the sea of tragedy [going on right now]. This is a feel-good story in a lot of ways.  Hearing our record, the sh-t is fun. It feels fun and we’re showing the youngsters, this is how you can do it. It’s important. This ain’t a record. This is a movement.”

Cheers to that. Before everyone leaves out, 40 pulls out two bottles of his Earl Stevens Sweet Red Wine and makes everyone repeat after him as he gives his “traditional toast.”  

“I ain’t above you,” Cube and $hort say following their partner’s lead. “I ain’t below you. But I’m right beside you.”

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todayJanuary 30, 2023

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