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    Digital Undergrounds Co-Founder Chopmaster J Interview -Disses Shock-G, Atron Gregory (TN Exclusive)

    Chopmaster J is the Co-Founder of Digital Underground (along with Shock G) and is the man behind "The Lost Tapes". He also has a close connection with Quincy Jones (Through Force One Network).
    I interviewed him (by phone), here is this interview. In it he talks about a various range of topics including his problems with Atron Gregory and Shock G, his plans for a squeal to The Lost Tapes, of course 2Pac and more.
    Some interesting stuff here. Enjoy.

    Chopmaster J - Exclusive Interview

    TupacNation: Tell us a little about the beginning of your music career.

    Chopmaster J: The beginning of my music career goes back to being a little kid and playing drums since I was 6 years old and playing in the Berkley California Music School District back in those days. I got a chance to play with Duke Ellington when I was like 6 years old, Donal Bird from Jazz Legends. It was basically just a very musically area where I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. I've been playing all my life, playing a lot of Jazz fusion with Lenny White, Danny Clarke and all that kind of stuff. Gino Farrelli, grew up playing them records as well as Cool And The Gang and any old school funk stuff you can think of. That's how I started playing, having garage bands and talent shows.

    TN: Have you been working on anything special in the last few years?

    CJ: Yeah, I've been working on some new stuff with George Clinton, some new funky stuff for my “Sex, Drugs, Love and Funk” record. We got a new dance called the "Nigga". It's a song called "No, No, Nigga" and a dance called the "Nigga" and I'm doing that in conjunction with the 20th Anniversary of The Humpty Dance. Last time we were sampling George Clinton, this time I got George Clinton on the record. I got a whole bunch of new stuff with him and it's real funky.

    (Check this out at:

    TN: Sounds interesting. You call yourself the "Big Brother", tell us about some of the artists you have helped in launching their careers.

    CJ: Well you know, at the end of the day, I've always come in and worked with cats that have obviously been working, developing and building their craft themself. I guess I'm the guy who takes them into the endzone for the touchdown. David Hollister. Humpty and Shock. I took Shock and made things happen for him, kinda being the executive producer and manager with these guys. Tupac. Saffeir, the other rapper. A lot of people came through Digital Underground, I was very fortunate in developing their careers and making things happen.

    TN: You mentioned there that you helped 2Pac come up, when did you first meet him?

    CJ: I first meet 2Pac some part in early 1989. Basically he was dropped off on me to get some demos recorded with his group Strictly Dope: Ray Luv, Dizzy and Mark Durado. Those were the three of Strictly Divine, Strictly Dope was a much bigger crew out of Marine County. There was Abe out of 51/50 who was a dope producer. I got with 'Pac. He was the squeaky wheel that got the oil. He was the guy that always made noise and we paid attention to him. He was like a bad ass little cousin that someone dropped off on you and made you take care of. I initially didn't really care for it but it's something about him was endearing and fun to work with but I don't really know what it was. He was a headache but a joy at the same time.

    TN: So would you say you seen the star in him at that early age?

    CJ: You know, I don’t know if I necessarily seen the star as much as I seen a person who was very much trying to get on and do what he had to do to get on. He had a different attitude about it than others, he was aggressive and he would make comments like: "Tell me what I gotta do to help so I get to be put on". I thought that was a really refreshing thing because people just always want for you to put them on and help them do their thing but not with the giving back attitude.

    TN: The Lost Tapes, is the production similar in a way to the original recordings?

    CJ: Yeah, you know I have a few more songs that I'm looking to release. A few Strictly Dope songs, they're still very raw. I thought it would be cool to leave them how they are. I grew up as a Bruce Lee fan and I never liked when they tried to chop him up and put him in different stuff, put peoples face over his, all that stupid shit. I always thought it was cool to leave it raw, but then I’m also looking to make some club mixes, some Chemical Brothers type stuff.

    TN: So this is going to be a Lost Tapes Volume 2?

    CJ: Yes, absolutely.

    TN: I’m sure the fans will be interested to hear that.

    CJ: Yeah and I’m down to work with people who are 2Pac fans on this. I do have the right rites to this. I went to court with Afeni back in 2000 and I’m good to go on the earliest master recordings of 2Pac.

    TN: How did you get permission for the Lost Tapes? Was it a long and hard ordeal?

    CJ: Well basically what I have is a Production Company Agreement that 2Pac signed with me back in 1989, or the very beginning of 1990 when he was getting ready to be part of our touring group, and what it does is give me the right to put out all the stuff I have on him. I do pay the Mom, I do pay the estate as-well to the 2Pac Foundation. I make sure that I do that and I really want to make clear that.

    TN: So the songs that you have, they are with Strictly Dope?

    CJ: Yeah, they’re with Strictly Dope and I also have another one that he recorded with me with my Force 1 Network project back in the day with David Hollister. That’s how David Hollister got to sing on “Brenda’s Got A Baby” and “Keep Ya Head Up” due to the connection that we had at the time. Tupac came back and recorded some stuff that I was doing when I was signed to Quincy Jones as a group called Force 1 Network. Basically that’s how we supported him back by having David Hollister sing on a couple of his songs.

    TN: I’ve heard about some sort of DVD that you’re working on, is that true?

    CJ: Yeah, there’s DVD called “The Apprenticeship of Tupac Shakur” from my book “Static” that I wrote some years back. Basically it’s the Tour Bus, Backstage stories of fun stuff. Celebrating that aspect of it. That was the last Hip Hop tour, Hip Hop didn’t really tour after that until Jay-Z and DMX in ‘98/99. Hip Hop tours were being shut down and they were basically a mix of R&B and Rap so that it could be a R&B tour instead of a Rap tour because they were so hard to get insurance for. So those times are very interesting. It’s basically just talking about those times aswell as people who were coming up at the time like Queen Latifah, Treach, Diddy and all types of people who worked in different capacities that are now Moguls and are now running Pop culture, period.

    TN: Have you heard the Born Busy sessions? Some of the Acapellas got leaked to the internet recently.

    CJ: I have not. I’m interested to hear what that is, it sounds cool. If you haven’t gone through Dina Lapoole, the attorney, and the estate over 2Pac you got problems because they’re not bullshitting.

    TN: Yeah, Darrin Keith Bastfield was trying to release an album called “Shakurspeare” which now looks like being blocked. Have you thought about helping him to release it?

    CJ: I haven’t. There are ways and means of releasing stuff. If it looks like making money then they will be interested and if you look like wanting to work with them then they’ll be interested. But you know, if you don’t have any rights then you are really spinning your wheel.

    TN: How do you feel when you saw the change in Tupac, starting out as a Political Rapper and then becoming a so-called "Notorious Gangster Rapper"?

    CJ: I never really understood how he got that name of a “Gangster Rapper” as much as him having to explain how he sees things, how they work and how it goes down. He really wasn’t a Gangster, he wasn’t any of that stuff. He was speaking on Social issues and being Political, basically the message got more encrypted. I guess because he was on Death Row he was misconstrued as a Gangster Rapper when he never was. I don’t hear it in them lyrics, I hear him explaining how situations are but not explaining it as things that he goes out to do.

    TN: How did you feel when he was joining Death Row? Were you pleased, or what?

    CJ: I knew him and I understood that when he’s with you he’s an advocate of you and what you’re about so at the end of the day he’s going to speak up and basically articulate what’s going on around him at that time. I really felt he did what he had to do to make things happen and continue his role instead of being stuck in a cage and being in Jail. I have a lot of issues with that and it’s going to be in the film because I felt really pissed at how Atron, the manger of Digital Underground and executive producer for 2Pac for his first three albums, basically just left 2Pac in jail. That’s how Suge was even able to go and get him. If he hadn’t left him there, abanded him then I do believe that chances are ‘Pac would not have signed with Death Row. He would have been able to continue what he was doing. The Film and the story I have coming up will explain a lot of that stuff. Atron Gregory was a student of Jerry Heller, the tour manager for Eazy-E. I recruited Atron but I didn’t know that he was a Jerry Heller student. We all know what Jerry Heller did to N.W.A. . That’s basically what Atron did to Digital Underground and 2Pac.

    TN: So you’re saying that Atron betrayed Tupac?

    CJ: He left him to hang out to dry, he couldn’t deal with that energy. He made a lot of money would didn’t want to deal with responsibility of having Tupac at that point. Atron is from the suburbs, he’s not a real street guy. That shit was a headache to him and he didn’t want to deal with it.

    TN: Where were you when you heard that Tupac passed away?

    CJ: I was in Berkley on my way to a club called “Passons”. I remember when they said it I stopped, went outside, looked up at the moon and said “Damn, Pac!”. I remember saying that to myself. I got really, really choked up and I went downstairs in that club and poured myself a couple of Jonny Walker Blacks. One was for me, one was for him.

    TN: This is a very general question, what comes to your head when you hear the name “Tupac”?

    CJ: Static, confrontational, in-your-face, speaking up, commandeering respect and trying to own the room. He really was a person that had something to say and was raised to be a leader. He had to come through the doors of Hip Hop, Rap and Popular culture versus going in to be the leader of a political group because they didn’t really have the following or respect that them groups (Panthers, etc.) had in the 60’s & 70’s. He had to do it another way and I think he was getting ready to turn the corner when he was killed. He was cut short because they don’t want that, people in this country don’t want someone like him to be The Voice.

    TN: Tell us a little about the members of Strictly Dope, why did they break up?

    CJ: We had just got back from touring Europe and were getting ready to go on tour with Big Daddy Kane and then we were going to go out in the summer with Public Enemy. I’m not exactly sure but I know when we got back from the tour Tupac was at our band house sitting there and he said that he quit Strictly Dope, he was ready to move on and he was going to go down and be with us or go to Atlanta and be down with the Young Black Panther Party. We had just got back from Europe and I didn’t like carrying my gear and stuff because it was snowing so we said that the next time we went on tour we needed a roadie so Pac was the roadie. He was also the dancer and a backup MC. Strictly Dope were a talented group. Ray Luv is a really good rapper and Dizzy was an incredible DJ at the time. Dizzy was even younger than ‘Pac and Ray, I think he was 15 back then. They were 17, 18 and he was 15. I’m really not sure but I think Ray Luv had some really strict parents that didn’t want him to be in a rap group, they had some other aspirations and goals for him. He was a descendent from Cab Calloway, the great star from the 20’s and 30’s, and they really didn’t want for him to have anything to do with Hip Hop. I really didn’t know Mark or Dizzy. They were talented but Tupac was looking for the bigger and better thing which was Digital Underground.

    TN: Just want to move on to Digital Underground. Shock G, do you keep in contact with him?

    CJ: No. I went my own way. I have some bitter feelings from that back in the day. It was something that I helped to built and grow and did everything for the situation. It’s almost like you helped build or plant a tree and then when it starts to grow the people don’t want to share in the fruit. I left and when I left so did the Hit. No so much that I was the guy making the hits as much as the guy who kept the influence around where it was party and fun and not being too serious and taking it too seriously. Shock is a great front man and a talented guy but he wasn’t the leader of the group. To lead (is) the guy who will take charge, speak up and take no shit. I was that guy. For example, we were offered commercials by: Sprite, Doritos, Bubble Gum, like with 7 or 8 different sponsors who wanted to do it and they didn’t want to do it! Shock turned it down. Turned down all of the stuff, the money, everything that we had worked for because he wanted to be a more “Pure” Hip Hop but once he put the nose on and became Humpty Hump it wasn’t that any more. It was a novelty, fun type thing. He didn’t want to go that route, he wanted to go back and be serious. It was really a shame because Tommy Boy was down to do a Shock G album, a Humpty Hump album and MC Blow fish album. Atron Gregory really didn’t know how to manage Shock. I was the guy who was managing, dealing and helping him make the right decisions up until that point but when the shit got big I just stepped off and signed and went and signed a Multi-million dollar deal with Quincy Jones. I just went that way.

    TN: What was Atron’s role in Digital Underground?

    CJ: Atron was a guy that I had met through a mutual friend of Rodney Franklyn, who is a very well established Jazz recording artist of Colombia Records back in the day. Atron used to be road manager of Rodney Franklyn and at the end of the day we ended up signing a production deal with Rodney and Atron only to find out that Rodney was not part of the deal. I wouldn't have signed that if I thought Rodney wasn’t connected. I’ve been with Rodney since I was 5 years old, he’s 7 years older and kinda my hero as a Jazz legend. Basically I went to sign with a buddy and a friend and ended up signing with his friend and not with him. That right there was shaky ground to being with. It was sad how it turned around, Atron was really not a guy who was able of handling all of the money and opportunities that came our way. 20th Century Fox wanted to make a Sex Packets movie with us back in the day and they turned it down. It was just stupid. There was a lot of stupidity and greed and they ran it into the ground. Digital Underground was able to gig and tour because it was a good performing act, it has a few hits under its belt so it gets a tour but the group itself never reached its full potential.

    TN: There must be a lot of frustration on your part, I imagine.

    CJ: Yeah, very frustrating. I slept in my car. I sacrificed my family, my wife and kids. I was married at the time. I did a lot of things to make that (Digital Underground) happen only to watch someone come in and grab what they could grab and then abandon it.

    TN: What are your feelings on Digital Underground now?

    CJ: I’d love to work with Shock again, one day. He is a talent, he really is. I would love to make a musicianship-type record with him. Just get some instruments and play, jam and make some stuff. I’m not really sure thought because on the other side of things I think he felt like I abandoned him and left but I don’t think he understands the full story of what happened 18, 19 years ago. He’s a talented dude but they have a real hard time of showing appreciation of people that helped.

    TN: So is there a bad relationship between you and Shock?

    CJ: Not really a bad one as much as we don’t really talk. We don’t really talk that much at all. He actually lives right up the street from me out here in L.A., like a mile from me. I’ve only helped to put millions of dollars in him pocket and make his dreams come through and we don’t talk!

    TN: It’s a pity, really.

    CJ: Yeah, no doubt.

    TN: Are you still in touch with Money B?

    CJ: You know, I talk to Mon every once in a while. I’m glad I was able to work with him and help put him in position to do things. He’s been riding the Digital Underground wave since day one and he’s been doing a good job at it. He’s a nice guy, I always liked him and his family. Very nice family. He’s a cool little dude.

    TN: He has a radio show “Going Way Back”, do you listen to it?

    CJ: I tuned into it a couple of times. I haven’t really checked it out right. I’ve been dealing with a bunch of things that I’ve been trying to get happening. I never stop doing what I do and that’s being a musician and playing, gigging and making records as Big Brutha Soul. Now I’m getting ready to put all this content that I’ve put together over the last 20 years and start releasing it because a lot of the stuff now has a lot more value and a lot more interest to people than when I was making it.

    TN: Talking about releasing stuff, do you have any unseen photos of Tupac?

    CJ: I’ve got some interesting stuff, that’s for sure. Don’t have a whole lot of stuff because a lot of shit burned up in the fire of 1991 up in Oakland. A lot of my memorabilia and a lot of my stuff burned up there. Stuff that I do have is my memories and stories. Some of the stories that I can tell are very interesting and fun for a lot of people who have an interest in ‘Pac and that era of Hip Hop.

    TN: Do you have any stories that you can share with us now?

    CJ: I remember one time where we were in Oklahoma, pulling into a truck stop late at night where a waitress brought us a dirty fork. Pac sat and looked at his fork and he felt like he wanted to make a show over this dirty fork where he was going to go “If I’m a black man I get a dirty fork but if I’m a white man in this motherfucker I know for goddamn sure I wouldn’t have no dirty fork. You brought a dirty fork because I’m a black man!” I said “Tupac, man, WE ARE IN OKLAHOMA! Do you know where we at?! They’ll kill us out here!” I said “you act like the world owes you something, no one owes you shit. You better be appreciative of what’s happening.“ and that’s when he looked in my eye and said “Let me tell you something, every black man owes me”. Everyone was like “Woah” and just looked at him like “Mothafucker , you crazy” and we laughed it off but now as time has it and we look, that motherfucker was right! He knew who he was, he knew what his goal was. We just didn’t know. For him to say something like that to me “every black man owes me” I was like wow and I made that under a little caption in the Static book, that was pretty heavy.
    Even the thing with the bandanna, I used to wear bandannas on stage and I used to wear them covered them covered over my head and used to wear a lot of wild outfits. I was really out there. I remember ‘Pac was starting to wear bandannas on his head too like I was wearing and I’m like “wait a minute, you can’t come in here and start taking MY style and doing stuff like me, you gotta do your own shit” so then the motherfucker left, rolled the bandanna around his head, tied it up in the front and created the look that everyone has been imitating ever since. That’s the bandanna story.

    TN: So the Tupac Bandanna style originates from you?

    CJ: Yeah. He created his own style with it after me chewing him out about trying to wear it like I wear mine. So he went and made his own style and his style spoke LOUD!

    TN: Were you a fan of the 90’s So-called Gangster rap?

    CJ: The 90’s Gangster Rap had its place. There were people who did that well (like) Dre and the cats back in L.A., they did that very well because they had a flare for drama down here in Hollywood and they know how to create drama. It (the industry) got saturated with it though. I remember going to a label, Priority Records, and I brought some music over there where this Asian dude was the A&R, this Korean brother, and he told me “hey man, your music is not black enough”! It wasn’t black enough. The music wasn’t black enough because I wasn’t talking about killing and selling drugs. I remember that and think that that shit had basically fucked up the whole industry. It shouldn’t have been about that, it shouldn’t have been judging the content of our music based on the content of us talking about killing and hurting each other.

    TN: So it’s definitely true that it’s easier to promote a track like that than a positive track?

    CJ: Yeah. They not interested in us talking about something positive, at all.

    TN: Tell us a little bit about other producers that have your respect.

    CJ: I'm really a fan of old school producers, all the stuff from the 60’s and 70’s. As far as Hip Hop I definitely like some of the stuff of Pharrell and those cats have done. I like some 9th Wonder stuff right now. J Dilla, I liked some of his stuff. Paper Chasin’ Yellow Boy who’s a dope DJ and producer who’s coming up right now. I still like some Dre stuff although it’s become a little formula now. Just Blaze, like some of his stuff.

    TN: What’s your opinion on the industry today?

    CJ: Basically it sucks. The kind of stuff that you have to do to be famous or make things happen is pitiful. It’s really sad. The other side of it is the power is in your own hands and it’s what you want to make of it. The mainstream is all bought up. That’s why I’m trying to teach youngsters how to work the underground scene, college radio and all of that.

    TN: Do you feel that today’s rappers aren’t as creative and original as before?

    CJ: They most certainly are not. I like the guy Lupe Fiasco, he’s incredible but I think what happened with him was he practiced, got his chops together and became a great MC but then when he got there he encountered the Down South swagger of guys who “Rap Like This and Rap Like That and Blah Blah Blah” [Imitates the Chopped and Screwed sound of the South]. It’s all about how much drugs they sold, how many times they’ve been in Jail, who they killed, whatever. All about the “swagger” that they got going on versus their actual writing skills. I watch people like Talbi Kawle who might host shows like BET and he has to sit there and keep announcing these guys from Down South and you can watch him trying to muster up something positive to say because he’s trying to look like he’s down with the Hip Hop nation but the guys that practice getting all their chops together and their skills together only to come along and people who don’t have those skills to be dominating the industry. It’s really kinda sad. It’s almost like me growing up playing drums, practicing drums only to come up and a drum machine is what’s happening. Makes you go FUCK! The cream will rise to the top, the real shit is coming back around. This trendy shit will sit down.

    TN: The trendy shit as in the Lil Wayne sort of rapper?

    CJ: Lil Wayne, he’s the king of swagger. I guess he does have a little more skill than a lot of the other cats. A lot of people that were hot 20 years ago are having this situation where their shit is coming back around because Pop culture circulates every 20 years so a lot of the people who do have skills are coming back around and that’s really cool. A lot of the shit that you see live like T.I. , that shit doesn’t even translate live. You go to see that shit live, that shit don’t work. You sit there in the audience like “what the fuck?”. Fuck this shit. When Digital Underground was gigging we were like a variety show and it was fun and entertaining to watch. You watch this shit now and this shit sucks!

    TN: That concludes our questions, is there anything you would like to add?

    CJ: To all the 2Pac fans: Viva la 2Pac. He was the man, he is the man. There was a lot of hurt and pain inside that guy that he had to get out and also there was a lot of joy, happiness and positivity that’s in there. When you look at him and listen to him just know that he was the kind of guy that would go “hey, what can I do to help?”. I want people to really understand that that is the attitude that they should have, giving back aswell as receiving. Sometimes you have to give before you can get, don’t just think the world owes you something because it does

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  3. #2
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    Looks like we're getting a Lost Tapes vol. 2 and there's nothing Afeni can do about it.:thumbup:

  4. #3
    V.I.P. 50 N.I.G.G.A.Z.'s Avatar
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    Excellent Interview Thank U For Posting It

  5. #4
    Resident farisz's Avatar
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    Good interview thanks for posting.

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    bringing NEW things soon!! Idan's Avatar
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    This interview contains some good info. ChopMaster-J dissed Shock-G on it.. I wonder what Shock has to say about it...
    Atron Gregory too, he says that Atron left Pac when he was in prison.

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    The Poetic Uploader aisback's Avatar
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    great interview..........
    The poetic uploader.

    "You can quote me now cos i'm still talking shit."-still talking -Eazy e

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    bringing NEW things soon!! Idan's Avatar
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    Atron Gregory (Tupac's manger 1989-1995) just sent me a message. He wasn't happy to read this interview.
    According to him this interview is full of lies and the thing that Chopmaster-J blames him are all lies. I'll ask him to comment on the blames.

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    great interview- i liked his book static on pac- i hope that dvd apprenticeship of tupac comes out soon

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    nice interview and ask atron if he really was jerry hellers protege because that makes him a bitchass right away

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alija View Post
    nice interview and ask atron if he really was jerry hellers protege because that makes him a bitchass right away
    He was a good friend. Read this Jerry Heller interview

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