Mekanix Producer Talks About Debut Album “F.E.A.R.”, His Struggles, and Hip Hop Not Being 4 Elements Part 1

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By The Minister of Information JR Valrey 

By far, the most dominant production duo in Mobb Musik is the Mekanix; made up of 4 rAx and Tweed the Great. 4 rAx, known also for his legendary hooks on the music of rappers like Keak Da Sneak, J Stalin, The Delinquents, Mozzy, E-40, and more, has just dropped his new album of heat titled “F.E.A.R.”. One would expect any and every Mekanix production to beat up the speakers in your trunk, but unexpectedly 4 rAx, an avid fan of Hip Hop includes styles of music, on this album, that point to his inspirations as being everything from Digital Underground and Ant Banks to Too Short. He also notably shows up rhyming. You could also hear some inspiration from J Stalin, Rich Rich, Donny Hathaway, Oakland, Busta Rhymes, Chicago, Chuck D and the likes. “F.E.A.R.” is definitely one of the best curated albums to come out of California, during this pandemic year of 2020.  

4 rAx is California and the West Coast’s Hip Hop renaissance man. After listening and participating in Hip Hop for well over a few decades, he decided to drop a hot debut album that is Oakland to the bone with him, at moments on the album, giving shouts out to the the revolutionary Panthers, the drug kingpin Felix Mitchell, and the legendary Hall of Fame baseball player Ricky Henderson among other legends that have lived in the confines of this concrete jungle. Here we have a very intelligent and thoughtful Q&A, so stay tuned. Definitely check out and support the music of 4 rAx and the Mekanix, and check out the album “F.E.A.R.” on all of your favorite streaming sites. Here is 4 rAx in his own words. 

The Minister of Info JR: What does F.E.A.R. mean?

4 rAx: It means to “Face Everything And Rise”. F.E.A.R. 

The Minister of Info JR Valrey: When you say face everything and rise, why did you put this collection of songs under that banner? 

4 rAx: First of all, I like records and music that gets under your skin; goose-bump music. I like music that talks to you.

The Minister of Info JR: Would you call that soul music: 

4 rAx: I’m not sure that this album is soul music. This album really was like a lot of different things for me. First of all, I’m like big bruh so for me to wait this long in my career to do an album, they say rap is a young man’s sport. It ain’t like I’m hella old, but I’m older, so for me to put out an album right now, it could be spooky and scary, because it is a young man’s sport. So I put my fears behind me to actually give, what I feel like, people want to listen to; young middle-aged, and old. Literally I’ve been around a long enough time to watch some of the beginning of Hip Hop, the golden era, the early 2000’s, and now where we’re at, 2020. So I’ve seen all of that shit in between, you know? So for me to put an album out now, it’s spooky. I was scared. I was like: what are they gonna think? Is it gonna flop? Am I too old? And all of the shit. You know what I’m saying? And this is me being totally transparent. 

The Minister of Info JR: Why did you feel like that when you are one of the main architects behind northern California street music? With people like C-Bo, Mozzy, and people like Keak Da Sneak… all of them shop with the Mekanix, and hold y’all in high esteem, why do you say that, when you have been one of the elite in HipHop in the area for a long time? Where does the fear come from?

4 rAx: I reinvented myself, and every time you re-invent yourself, you don’t know if they’re gonna fuck with you. I keep reinventing myself. I was known at one time as Dot. If Malcolm X would have died at 20, he wouldn’t have been known as Malcolm. We know this now. He would be known as Dirty Red. So at 20, if I would have put this album out, it wouldn’t have been called 4 rAx. I would’ve been called Dotrix. I re-invented myself a number of times, to get to where we’re at. So now, it’s like now that I have done all that I have done, are they gonna accept me? I was spooked, but there is also a part of my DNA, that truly doesn’t give a fuck, and loves a challenge, so that’s really what I stuck to. You know what I mean? Like, ‘I’m gonna show these bastards. These muthaphuckaz been had me fucked up. I can run circles around a lot of these niggaz, you know what I mean? So…

The Minister of Info JR: Now I can only think of one other producer/rapper from Oakland, and that’s Ant Banks. And no slight to him, but I don’t know if he took rap as serious as you took it, in the sense that you’ve done hooks for a number of years, for some of the biggest artists in northern California street rap. You have studied a lot of the greats from the area, did it help you that you were a producer, since you didn’t just look at music as the pocket that your lyrics fit into, but you were also into the constitution of the music, so you look at music differently than your average writer? 

4 rAx: I look at it like being a perfectionist. A producer is always trying to make it perfect. First of all, I gotta give a shout out to Ant Banks, because Banks is the truth. But getting back to what I was saying, being a producer, you want to be a perfectionist about everything. 

The Minister of Info JR: Are you a producer first? Or are you a rapper first?

4 rAx: I have no idea. I just love Hip Hop bro. I attacked Hip Hop in many different ways. I was drawing first, then djing, then I thought about rapping but I didn’t want to struggle. While watching my peers who were rappers struggle, I said let me produce, so I can get to a bag first. So once I started producing, I fucked around and landed a gig djing. Then I was djing, checking a bag. Then freestyling. And then from there, it was like I came back home wanting to produce the records that I was missing. Then from there, it was like how do I help sell the beats. So let me do the hooks, to sell the beats faster. Then from there, it was like what haven’t you done? And I missed dancing. But I did that too. I just literally walked you through all of the 5 elements of Hip Hop. 

The Minister of Info JR: That’s an interesting issue in and of itself. We got into it with KRS one about it, and you would be the perfect person to discuss this with, does HipHop only have 5 elements especially when you’re talking about, from the Town? Sideshows are an element, the kind of weed we smoke is an element, candy-paint on a car is an element, rims, the kind of tires. What do you think about that, does Hip Hop only have 4 elements in a New York-centric type of way, or does Hip Hop have to be expanded, as it goes international and we have a different understanding than even New York about what happened with HipHop, because we know pop-locking and breaking came from out here, and Los Angeles, so who is to say that Hip Hop started on Sedgewick and Cedar? 

4 rAx: I definitely hear what you’re saying. It’s arguable. It’s definitely arguable because if Hip Hop continues to evolve, why should it just stick to those same 5 or 6 elements being HipHop, you know what I mean? I agree with you, the sideshow. Things that are from culture, that we created, and gave it swag that didn’t exist…fuck it. That’s a part of HipHop. You’re right. I never, ever thought of it like that, so I give you kudos for even just saying that, and even thinking that way. Up until this point, when they say what’s HipHop, I say I am HipHop, because I literally listed how I, close to professionally, did every element of Hip Hop and got paid for it. I don’t know nobody. Although I am sure there is somebody else that exists that did it, but I don’t know nobody who did it like that. I used to draw, and literally would get paid from drawing on pants and shit. I checked the bag there. I checked the bag from dancing. I used to dance for Saafir. Then I went into djing. I checked the bag as a dj for Digital and the Luniz. Then I went into producing, I checked the bag from producing. And now we’re talking about rapping, I checked the bag from rapping. I don’t know too many muthaphucking stories where they did that bro. 

The Minister of Info JR: You are the Oakland Hiphop renaissance man. 

4 rAx: Niggaz said they did it, but I got paid from it…all the elements. I was always about a dollar. 

The Minister of Info: No argument there.

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