If you're interested in Ad Kapone's and Totally Insane's early history, please scroll down to read a lengthy article.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : How did two of you get signed to In-A-Minute Records?
[ Ad Kapone ] : Me, Mac-10 (aka Ten Dolla), T.C. and our executive producer Manny The Black was moving cds out of the trunk of our cars and a closet of my house on Alberni, East Palo Alto so fast that it got out of our control. We had no idea of what running a record label was like, we just freestyled thru it. We got introduced to Jason Blaine - the owner of In-A-Minute Records / Music People Distribution - thru Master P, so we approached him for distribution. The album "Direct From The Backstreet" was selling so many units we couldn't press them fast enough and Jason wanted in on the Totally Insane goldmind. So he offered us a 5 year, 3 album deal and offered us 30 thousand dollars. We signed late 1991, we would release 3 albums and end our contract in 1995.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : See, we wouldn't like to talk deeply about each and every release of yours as it would definitely take too much time. However please elaborate on the milestones - "Direct From The Backstreet", "Goin Insane" and "Backstreet Life" - what's the history behind them, what was the acclaim, what do you think about them from today's perspective?
[ Ad Kapone ] : After we met T.C. in late 1989 we recorded an album titled "Crazy Shit" in mid 1990, unfortunately before it could be released our executive producer and good friend Micheal (Mike D) Washington was gunned down in North Oakland. Due to disputes and disagreements with his older brother we were unable to release the album, so we teamed up with our new executive producer Manny and recorded "Direct From The Backstreet" in 7 days, little did we know that "Direct From The Backstreet" would become a West Coast classic and help establish Bay Area rap and catapult us into legend status. After the huge success of "Direct From The Backstreet" in 1993 the pressure was on us to create a follow-up to such a big album, it was crazy, not to mention being 19 years old with 2 kids, an underground star, dozens of run-ins with the law and living on the frontline in the murder capital of America.
So we went to the Enhancer at Bayview Studio and began recording our second album "Goin Insane". We wanted to put a more hardcore touch to the album and just wrote and said how we were feeling at the time and share some of what we were goin' thru. "Goin Insane" was a metaphor for how East Palo Alto was goin' crazy in 92 and 93. Not to mention the behind the scene music drama, management issues and issues with In-A-Minute Records. We wasn't sure how the public would receive "Goin Insane" or if we could top "Direct From The Backstreet", so we just threw the dice and bet on insane, the bet would pay off, "Goin Insane" topped "Direct From The Backstreet", opened us up to a broader fan base and put us in the top 20 of the Billboard charts.
1995 rolled around and it was toward the end of our contract with In-A-Minute Records. We wasn't satisfied with the way we were getting paid and was anxious to leave and search for something bigger and better, even though In-A-Minute helped make Totally Insane a brand. It wasn't personal, it was only business, (much love to In-A-Minute Records, Jason and Elliot Blaine). We had successful albums, traveled the nation and hundred of thousands of fans, not to mention a hit song on Master P's "Westcoast Bad Boys" which went gold, maybe platinum now. We wanted to go out with a bang rather than drop some bullshit out of anger, so we began recording our third album "Backstreet Life". Even though we had mountains of pressure on us we went into the studio and had fun. Everyday was like a party in the studio and it came out in the creative process, in my opinion "Backstreet Life" is the best album we released at In-A-Minute.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : When did Scoot Dogg join your team? How did it happen?
[ Ad Kapone ] : Scoot Dogg has always been around us, we grew up with Scoot, he always had fire. As a matter of fact my grandmother immigrated from South America, San Andreas island Columbia and Scoot's grandmother adopted my grandmother so she could stay in America (he probably didn't even know that). He officially joined the group in 1997 when Ten went to prison. We began recording an album titled Totally Insane presents "Bomb Threat" with T.C. The Enhancer and Felony Records (what's up J). 4 years before 9/11 we was almost done with it when Ten got released early to sheriff work program. That's where track like "So Real" and "The Newz" (which is one of Totally Insane's most popular songs) was recorded for "Bomb Threat". So we went back to Enhancer's. T.C. whipped up more tracks, my nigga Big Drawz laced us with hits and we recorded our 4th album - Totally Insane introducing Scoot Dogg - off the now legendary group Dem Hoodstarz.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : "Da Game Of Life" dropped in around 2001. What happened in subsequent years? Why didn't fans hear anything new from Totally Insane?
[ Ad Kapone ] : "Da Game Of Life" dropped early 2001, unfortunately I got locked up Februray 26 2001 on a possession of 480 grams of cocaine (almost half a kilogram) and was sentenced to 8 years in prison. I served 6 years (85%) of the 8 years and was released on February 22 2007. Even though I was away and couldn't help promote the album it was still a success due to the Totally Insane's legacy.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : When you left the pen you recorded your debut solo "The K Word" - tell us a bit more about it. Why is it so hard-to-get?
[ Ad Kapone ] : I jumped back into the studio at the end of 2007, beginning of 2008. I recorded "The K Word" (my first solo album) to explain a little about what happened to me and let the fans know the real, that I was still in the game and that I was back. It was hard recording my first solo album, it was weird not having Ten helping me create and Scoot was established with Band-Aide (who started in a group Neva Legal that I produced) and Dem Hoodstarz was a huge success. I recorded "The House Of Pain" (which features Dem Hoodstarz and my son Lil Ad), a tribute to the house we all grew up in on Alberni. I financed the album myself off work checks and paid features and it was hard trying to manage an album with all the different things I was going thru, being fresh out of prison, not fully understanding how much the game had changed, family, finance, living situation, probation, relationships. I pressed up a couple thousand units and they went so fast I knew I was still relevant. But I lost control and then tragedy. My mother had a stroke that nearly killed her. I had spine surgery that saved me from being paralyzed from the neck down, I kind of just let "The K Word" fall off, luckily for me I signed a deal with Ingrooves / Empire Distribution to release the album electronically on the Internet (I wasn't a total fuck up). "The K Word" is online now - check it out.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : 2010 brought your sophomore release. To be honest not everybody's aware of it yet. What can people hear on it?
[ Ad Kapone ] : After I got a clear head from everything that was going on in my life things started turning around. 2009 was a rough year for me, I struggled a lot, I was homeless for a minute had to go into a shelter with my wife, 2 step kids, and a sick mother. I was still attempting to track down money owed to Totally Insane and put a stop to people eating of us these past 6 years or more and we wasn't getting a dime. But 2010 brightened up for me. I went back into the studio and began recording my sophomore solo album "Kingpin The 6 Year Theory" with a new team, some new producers including T.C., built my own studio and established the record label me and Ten started 15 years ago (The Insane Empire). It was released on August 31 2010 digitally and my video "Representin / The Villian In Black" was released on youtube on November 1 2010.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : I was kind of surprised that an OG like you initially went for "digital only" album. What made you do it? Are you going to press it anytime soon?
[ Ad Kapone ] : I went digital, because of the decline in cd sales, I'm relearning the rap game at this time, because it changed drastically in 6 years from 2001 to 2007. I'm on training wheels with my label, but I'm learning fast. I will be releasing physical copies very soon, I'm just trying to get my buzz back right now and let everyone know the legend is alive.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : You are in the game for like 20 years now. What are the main differences between recording now and back in the days?
[ Ad Kapone ] : It's easier to record now, it's all computerized, back in the days it was more technical more of a process, striping the reel, or formatting the ADATs, studios was more expensive to book and build. Videos are even a lot cheaper now, you'd spend 10, 15, 20 thousand dollars and your only video outlet was MTV or BET as opposed to the Internet now. Everybody got reasons, protools, fruity loops, recycle at they house or in they garage now.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : What do you think about the whole digital game? Is it an opportunity for artists or a curse?
[ Ad Kapone ] : I think digital is cool, it helps independent labels compete better with majors. It levels the playing field and stops majors from monopolizing on record stores and retail outlets and shutting independents out. The bootlegging and hacking is what's killing the game, they are stealing food out of the artists' and labels' mouths. The Internet could be used to give every artist an opportunity to be heard even if they don't have a big budget and it gives competition from hungry artist and makes them step they game up.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Right now there are also way more rappers repping EPA. Who do you consider the most important factors from your hometown nowadays?
[ Ad Kapone ] : I think Dem Hoodstarz picked up where Totally Insane left off as far as rawness and owning they own brand. I love all the artists from EPA, but I feel that Hoodstarz is out there pushing the line the hardest right now for EPA. They smashing on major artist, makin'em respect us, the music is edgy, grimy and original, they look their concepts are on point. But my group T.I.E. is gonna cause problems for a lot of artists everywhere in a major way. T.I.E. consists of veterans like Chunk and Young Life, new comers DB Da Gamblah, Mz Kelly Kkapone and semi vet Assasin Alias Tone. My dudes Neva Legal is back in the lab too (Neva Legal is the group Band-Aide of Dem Hoodstarz originated from, that I produced) they hard as hell too.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Is there any chance for another Totally Insane record?
[ Ad Kapone ] : I would love to do a lot more Totally Insane albums, if Ten and TC said "AD come on" I'd drop what I'm doing on the spot, Totally Insane is the foundation.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Do you have any concrete plans for the nearby future - musicwise - that you could share?
[ Ad Kapone ] : Yes, my label is getting stronger, I got strong artists, producers and management. My staff at the Insane Empire is so diverse and dedicated we could be the next Death Row, G-Unit, No Limit, Cash Money, Bad Boy, hopefully even Def Jam, but that's reaching lol.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Big thanks for this interview, Ad.
[ Ad Kapone ] : Thanks for the opportunity, Bay Undaground. I think I touched on a lot. Just check out my albums "The K Word" and "Kingpin The 6 Year Theory", my new group T.I.E. dropping early 2011, all the classic Totally Insane music available online. Our youtube channel www.youtube.com/theinsaneempire1, MySpace, Twitter and checkout my new video "Representin / The Villian In Black" on youtube. Like Ice Cube says "google me biiitch".
Be also sure to check Ad Kapone's ReverbNation page. Digital version of "Kingpin: The 6 Year Theory" can be purchased at Amazon.
History of Totally Insane written by Ad Kapone
It all started in EPA California. Me Kapone (Adam Hicks) and Mac Ten (Philip Allen). We became friends in kindergarden. By elementary school we got introduced to rap music, we started rapping and break dancing on the school playground. We both went to Ravenswood Middle School, that's when we took it to the next level. We were introduced to Ms. East, our drama teacher. She taught us an appreciation for music, dance and performing. Ten already had musical background, he played the drums and piano at his grandmother's church (Big Mama Vaghn). We started doing plays and holiday assemblies at school. When we told Ms. East about our rappin' she made it possible for us at recess lunchtime and created an after school program to allow us to practice our raps and perform. We built a crew called the K.O.D. (Kings Of Def). The crew was deep. It was me, Ten, Glenny Glenn (Glen Spotwood), Tiny T (Tyrone Burst), The E (Eric Rizzell), Icee D (Donnie Fambro), Spicy D (Dajuan Brown), Brucie B (Bruce Leapoga), Chunk (Leon Aiyers) and Doc Louie (Steven Williams). We started doing local talent shows but we were losing, because we were disorganized. So my mom, Momma Kapone, got us together in my living room and backyard and helped choreograph us. We wasn't no New Edition or nothin', we just needed to learn to be organized on stage. Plus our arch nemesis J.V.C. led by my homeboy C-Funk, Captain Crunch at the time Marcus McKinley had they shit tight. They kept killin' us in talent shows. We worked hard and got our shit tight. We entered this big talent show in San Jose called The Jabber Walk. Ms. East got us into the show and had confidence in us that we could win. We had one problem - Ten's grandmother wouldn't let him come and he was a big factor in our group. She was very religious and I guess she didn't feel that the music we did was appropriate. But knowing how sweet and kind she was, on top of being very strict, she just didn't understand. So I convinced my mom to go talk to her and she convinced her to let him come.
Right before the summer of 1989 we won 2nd place. After that show the KOD dismantled. Tiny T moved to Mississippi, Icee D moved to Sac and the rest of the members just faded away. A couple of weeks before our show that put us on the map, the Juneteenth festival, Ten moved to Mountain View to live with his aunt. This was our one and only chance to defeat our rivals JVC. So the remaining members, me, Chunk, Doc Louie and E got ready for battle. JVC tore the house down. They performed right before us. Nervous as hell, we took the stage. We did good, but we couldn't beat JVC, their shit was too tight. We had one more chance to prove ourselves at the talent show at Kelly Park, also known as the Onetta Harris Community Center in Menlo Park. We had to come with something hot. I remember back at Ravenswood, Doc Louie bought this kinda like a portable Kareoke machine, it had 2 mics and we could play an instrumental and rap over the beat. All this time we were doing the beat box but it was time to take it to the next level. We had this song called "Cartoons" that Ten used to play the piano on, it was actually his song and we couldn't do it without him. Me and Doc used to do "Rock The House" by Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, featuring Ready Rock C on the beat box, so Doc used to do the beat while I did Fresh Prince's part, it was hella tight. Going through some of my mom and Doc's mom's old records we came across "Do Wa Ditty" by Zap and came up with a some called "Ad and Docs In The Place To Be". With that and my remix of "Rock The House", we had strong weapons.
I was introduced to Sean T through Chunk. He lived on the other side of town called The Gardens or the "G", me and Chunk used to catch the bus or ride our bikes over to Sean's house, Sean had the beat machines and keyboard and turntables in his house. Back then I thought Sean was the shit, he made tight beats and me and Chunk recorded a few songs over at his house. We had this one called "Smooth" to Zapps "Be Alright", the one 2Pac used for "Keep Your Head Up". At that time, the summer of 88, Doc and his mom had fallen out and so he moved with his aunt and started grindin' and gettin' his hustle on. So he took some money and rented some studio time at this place behind my house that me and my homies used to hop the fence, break in and steal boxes of Too Shorts old "75 Girls" and "Born To Mack" tapes, called Music Annex. We recorded "Ad And Doc", and "Mic 1,2 Reality" which we started calling ourselves Facing Reality. As Chunk was spending more and more time working with Sean T working on solo projects, me and Doc was at Music Annex until it got too expensive. Luckily Doc's uncle Jabbo had a studio at his house and we started recording there.
The big day had come, the talent show at Kelly Park, the house was packed but again, another problem had arose. The spot that Doc was hustlin' at and me and Chunk's part of town had beef, due to my homeboy and his disagreements, plus we had a new threat - The KS Rappers (a group of youngstas like ABC Anotha Bad Creation - Quazzar, Reese Cup and my homeboy Scoot Dogg). I had heard they were tight but we didn't know they were that tight, plus JVC. It was almost time to go on, it was a lot on tension in the air. It had already been a fight in the parking lot and Doc hadn't showed up yet. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned to see who it was it was Ten, he heard we was performing and came to see JVC and KS Rappers rocked the house and now it was our turn. Doc had ran in right on time, I insisted that Ten come on stage with us. We had about a minute or 2 until we went on, I was nervous as hell. We went outside, got some fresh air in my head, I was praying that I don't mess up. This is our night to prove ourselves in front of our whole city. We heard them calling our names to the stage, I heard the crowd clap and cheer, we let Ten go on and get the crowd hype, then we came on with the "Rock The House" number, then me and Chunk went into the "Smooth" song, then Chunk went into a song he did that I did the hook on. Then we went into "Ad And Doc", the crowd went wild, so wild that a fight broke out then gun shots rang out. 2 people was shot, people were getting trampled over and stampeded on. The police made a couple arrests. The next day in the newspapers front cover read "A Riot Breaks Out At Talent Show And Rap Group 'Facin Reality' Is To Blame". That would be the end of "Facin Reality" and the birth of Totally Insane.
The fall of 1988 was rough, Doc had gotten into trouble and moved back to Texas, me and Chunk continued doing music together. The next coming school year we was starting high school and me and Chunk couldn't attend the same school because of the areas we lived in. I lived in Midtown so I had to go to Carlmont High, Chunk lived in Menlo Park so he had to go to Menlo Atherton. The school year had started and I had to take the long bus ride to school. Carlmont is a predominantly white school so we had some problems, we couldn't wear Buckwheat or Doing Da Butt shirts, we couldn't wear "EPA is Kickin It" shirts, nothing that they thought was offensive, but the white dudes could wear Megadeth shirts with skeletons and shit on them, I knew this was gonna be fucked up.
One day I'm sitting at home and theres a knock on the door, it was the summer of 89, when I opened it it was Ten. He said that he had moved back to his grandmothers and he would be going to Carlmont in the fall. Aw shit, it was on, we started kickin' it like we used to, we even did the Juneteenth festival that year and turned it out. One day I'm walking home from summer school, I'm walkin' down Westminister St. when my homie Mike D called me over to his 1979 cocaine white Cadillac Broham with the 14 inch 75 spoke Zeniths and Vogues - see Mike was one of (if not the biggest) hustlas in our neighborhood. Along with both of his brothers Ray (Burger) and Chris (C-Dub) may all 3 of them rest in peace. He said "Yeah Lil Ad (Lil Ad was the name I grew up with, my father Big Adam was a well known hustla in my city) I saw all y'all at the Juneteenth, y'all was tight". I said "Thank you" and he said "have y'all ever thought about recording songs"? I said "we did a few" and he said "no, I'm talking about at a professional studio, maybe cutting a single or an album". I said "yeah, but we don't have the money to do it, it's expensive". He pulled a wad of hundreds out of his pockets, he said "nigga, the money ain't shit, I got that, you find out how much the studio costs and let me know". I ran home top speed and jumped on the phone, called Ten and told him what Mike said. He said he knew this dude named Zero Lark (Andre Gibson) that got a demo, he said he recorded in San Francisco at Bank Roll Studios and a dude named TC (TC Witherspoon) produce the tracks, the studio is owned by Nate Banks. It's the same studio that Cougnut and IMP (Ill Mannered Posse) records at. My boy Gayland had put me on to IMP a while back and I was a big fan so I said "cool, get the number for me". He called me back and gave me the number, I called and talked to TC, he gave me a quote for 100 hours of studio time. As soon as I got off the phone I ran around the corner to Mike and told him, he pulled out 2 bundles of money and said "is this enough"? I had never seen that much money in my life, he put it in a grocery bag. Nervous and scared, I ran home. When I reached home my mom was pulling into the driveway, I ran in the house and threw the bag on my bed, my mom busted in my room and asked "what the hell is your problem Adam"? I sat her down and told her everything. I could tell by the look on her face she was kinda leary but she saw how excited I was, plus she knew how serious I was about rapping, she knew Mike all his life and knew his mother, so she helped me count all the money he gave me, even went and bought me a receipt book and showed me how to fill out receipts and keep records.
The first time we went to Bankroll Studios there was all kind of flipped gangsta cars in front, Cougars, Mustangs, Suzuki Samaris, Cadillacs and Cutlasses, even a few Mercedes, everything had rims on it. When we entered it was beat shaking the windows - I heard a familiar voice comin' from the speakers, it was Cougnut. He was recording "Merciless" which would become a Bay Area classic. We booked the studio time but we had a problem - me and Ten was only 14, we didn't have a car, so at first we started ridin' with Zero in his tan 64 Impala. One day he had brought a female named MC Silk to do a song with us (LaTrice Brown). She was so tight we immediately made her a part of the group. We were called 10 Thousand Maniacs, then NGC (Niggaz Gone Crazy).
By early 1990, Mike and Zero had a fall out and Mike kicked him out the group. Me and Ten had broke a rule that Mike had laid in stone, we both started hustlin', we both bought cars and stayed in the studio, we was hustlin' behind Mike's back. Well at least we thought until one night I'm outside my house making money, I got a friend named Dirty Harry serving for me. I had just got off the phone with Ten, Silk and Mike, we had discussed how NGC sounded too much like NWA who was the shit, so just off the top of my head I said "fuck it, Totally Insane", I got it from a verse I had used in one of our songs "2 Stoges". Everybody loved it so it was official. A white RX-7 hit the block, I gave the head nod to Harry, he signaled the car down to the corner. I have Harry 2 rocks and followed him half-way to the corner which was like a house and a vacant lot away from my house, as Harry ran up to the car all I saw was bright lights from every direction. Luckily I threw my sack on my neighbor's roof before they drew their guns and yelled "freeze"! See Harry had served the undercover 20 mins before, and brought me the money. So when they checked all the bills in my pocket, they found the marked money, so I went to Juvenile Hall where I stayed for 3 months during the holidays.
Then I was sentenced to a 90 day revue at Glenwood Boys Ranch. I was at Glenwood for 30 days before I got my first visit, it was a Saturday, my mom and my nephew Pooter came to see me. They had my favorite KFC - hot wings, cheesecake, strawberry Welch's, a radio, Chunk's album "Menace To The Game" (Chunk had signed to Tandem Records, he hooked up with C-Funk and Sean T and made a Bay Area classic). I was sprung. Especially when I heard the skit they had did in my honor, "Don't bring Adam and them 'cause they don't know how to act. Who? Adam and them!". And I heard Ten and Silk was doing a show that night with DJ Quik. I laid in my bunk all night staring at the ceiling. The next day I wrote 2 songs, "From A to D" and "Trouble Man". I was released April 24th 1990. April 25th I recorded both songs, 2 days later I redid a song I had "What You Know". Before we released the 10-song album which included a song called "Mike D Speaks", the only song Mike ever spoke on, Silk and Mike had a falling out and Silk moved to Florida. So we was back in the studio working on a new album, just me and Ten. The album was called "Crazy Shit" and would've been a bomb ass album but was cut short by the tragic murder of Mike D in late 1990.