El Prez Saw a Liquor Store Go Up In Flames
[Editor's note: All this week West Coast Sound is speaking with rappers and writers whose work has been influenced by the L.A. riots, to coincide with their 20th anniversary on April 29.]
South L.A.-raised rapper El Prez is all about the city. He named one of his albums Animal Style! after the In-N-Out add-on. On the cover of his 2008 album Prezanomics, he poses in front of the Forum. And on his Tumblr, he forms the initials "L.A." with his fingers. Believing that town's true colors get eclipsed by its Hollywood image, he spoke to us about the riots and their influence on his music.
Where were you when you found out about the riots?
I used to live right behind where it all started. It started on Florence and Normandie, and I used to stay at 71st and Normandie. You could just see it all going down. And you start seeing people getting pulled out of cars. People were getting rocks and all types of stuff thrown at them. They showed the Reginald Denny thing on tape, but there were all types of people getting pulled out of cars and beat up. There was a Mexican guy I remember. For sure, he got fucked up...But you know, there were cats really getting messed up. And it was just pandemonium.
I was at [a] liquor store, basically in front of where everything was going down. They started raiding the liquor store. So we ran over there to see what was going on. You saw the liquor store going up in flames.
What did you learn from the riots?
I remember we talked about it in school afterward and all the kids had their little stories and stuff. But honestly, that's just the way of life out here in L.A., especially in South Central.
Have the riots influenced your music?
It definitely influences my music. It definitely gives me a better awareness, just like the music that came out around that time. You know, this was when Ice Cube made Death Certificate and stuff like that. You had a lot more conscious music. Even like street, gangtsa, hardcore -- whatever you wanna call it. They still were dropping a lot of that type of knowledge into their records and stuff. I still have that street awareness in my records today. It's not all me trying to preach per se, it's nothing like that. I'm gonna tell you from a real perspective.
What are some examples?
On a new song I got called "Steady Mobbin,'" I say "Even though the rags hang from the West to the East, the world's biggest gang is the fucking police," which is true because we experienced that. The people that I feel rough people up the most is the police. You see the cop units and stuff...They don't care if you look like a gang member.