North Carolina rapper Colonel Loud just scored his first radio hit, but the track ironically pays homage to the country’s other coast. With a slow-but-steady rise on the airwaves, “California” pairs Loud with southern rappers T.I. and Young Dolph, while Ricco Barrino delivers the vocal hooks over a 1983 Maze sample. The smooth-riding, feel-good track shows love to all the westside cities, but the verses clearly show their Cali crush on the “weed, women and sunshine,” in that order. Loud is a Fort Lauderdale-born, Atlanta-raised Tar Heel, and his southern charm matches perfectly the Golden State’s chill vibe.
Colonel Loud, who previously shook up the mixtape underground with his Project Pat collab Old Money New Money, made his commercial debut last summer with Plug Talk. The original “California” track did not include T.I., who jumped on the single, and now a new West Coast version is in the works with Snoop Dogg and Too Short. Loud clearly paid his dues in the rap community, and “California” appears to be his big break.
Why do a tribute song to the West Coast as opposed to the East?
It just ended up being a tribute song. We were just making a song. It came from a conversation with my partner, who arranged everything from getting the beat to getting all the artists on it, and he was like, "Man, you ought to just talk about them trips and stuff, how you be going out to Cali. Stuff that you used to do. You can talk about that." That's what happened, and everybody was like, "Oh, it's a West Coast anthem." They thought I was from the West Coast, but I was like, "Listen to the words." I took a trip to California.
What originally brought you to California?
I had a couple of friends out there. They'd be like, "Come out. Get your music out there." I used to go out there just slinging CDs. Not selling them. Just promoting them, giving them away from the Bay Area to Sacramento. Then on top of that, I like to smoke herb, so I'd go out there and smoke herb.
How's the smoke in Cali compared to the East Coast?
Oh, man. It's the best. On East Coast, we've got our haze, you know, from New York City down to Miami. Of course, you've got the California [out there]. I don't know how. I like to say it's out there, it gets out there to the East Coast. That's what everybody is smoking on. Cali is the best. Wherever you go, they're going to be like, "Oh, this guy Cali." Hell, you go to Colorado, they're smoking Cali even though Colorado got their own. If they going to be smoking Cali, Cali is where the best came from.
Do you have a favorite California strain?
OG all day.
Is it strange to be in a place like Los Angeles and San Francisco and see people smoking so openly in public?
It's funny you're saying. As you was about to say it, that's what was running through my mind, how crazy it is. My first time going out there and just seeing a regular dude, like a business dude, going to work in a suit, and he's sitting right there on the corner rolling up a J. Oh man, where am I? They just be open. It's cool. It's wonderful, man.
I assume you smoked in public in California?
All the time. It's regular here. Just walk down the street and smoke.
How much did that play a role in you wanting to do a song about California?
It was just part of “I love Cali,” man. That's like my second home. I spend a lot of time out there. It was enough to just talk about what I do.
On the music side of the song, there seems to be a real old school R&B vibe. Were you trying to capture a California sound in that?
It was a Frankie Beverly and Maze sample, “We Are One.” It's just a good vibe. Makes you think about a picnic. Makes you think about sunshine, palm trees, all that. Basically, that's how it is when it comes on. It paints a picture. That's all we did. Everybody shared their thoughts about California, and just all went in on it.
Did you get any push back from your friends on the East Coast?
What did they say?
Everybody like, "Where's the Carolina version?" This and that. At the end of the day, they know what time it is because they actually listened to the words and know I'm not ripping California. I'm not ripping the West Coast. I'm just giving them their big up. Wonderful, wonderful women and the wonderful weed.
When Plug Talk dropped in August, the original version of California did not include TI. How did he get involved?
I have a relationship with Empire Distribution. They arranged things and made it happen. Everybody wanted to jump on it. I said, "Go ahead. Let them." They jumped on it, and I was like, "Whoa."
Young Dolph’s verses only include one shout out, to the Laugh Factory. Did you ask him why he chose that place in particular?
Like I said, it was never a song intended to be all the way about California. We were just like, "Hey, we're going to do a song on California, talking about Cali." He just talked about the palm trees and different stuff. I'm more of a story rapper, so I was just able to tell my story, reminisce, and just go right to it and put it in lines, basically. That's why I was shouting out to different places because those were the places I was going through. I didn't really talk about LA heavy because I wasn't going to LA until after the song started popping. I was always in Northern California. I guess that's the only place he went to, the only area.
As for Ricco, we gave him his homework to do, all the different cities. I'm pretty sure, Ricco, he travels a lot. He's been to most of those cities, but he just went ahead and put them all together and gave a shout out to all the cities he could, made it sound right. We don't have a Cali rapper on it, so at least try to win their attention by shouting out to all these cities. Now that we got the West Coast version coming.
A West Coast version?
Man, it's basically the same beat, but you got the West Coast rappers on it.
I don't know if I'd put it out there just yet. I will say it's some legendary rappers on that. Probably somebody most people will want on there. I can say that. Wait a second…
Loud asks his manager if he can start talking about the guest rappers and then comes back on the line.
Well, I don't know if it's all the way done, but I know for sure we have Too Short and Snoop on there. Now that we got the West Coast version coming, it's going to be on and poppin’ now with Cali. Man, it's basically the same beat, but you got the west coast rappers on it rappin’ it. I can't believe all the people I grew up that inspired me to just hop on my song. It's wonderful. It's been a blessing. Continue to try to do more songs together. I want it to be dropping before Super Bowl. That be what's up.
You lived in South Florida, Atlanta and North Carolina. How different are those scenes, and in what ways did the different scenes influence you as an artist?
Well, basically, everything is the same down south. It's just little differences. Different ways, different places, but everybody hustles. That's the life I came up with. It's not a happy ending today, so you do what you got to do to try and get out. I came up in the 80s, south Florida, of course. The dope was real bad. Crack was real bad, whatever. My dad, he was always in the streets so my grandma raised me. Then she moved to Atlanta to try to get a better life. Atlanta was sweet and all, but I got in a little trouble there when I was 17. Then she turned around and moved me to North Carolina. She turned around and passed not too long after we moved. I just had to do what I had to do to survive basically.
What was the pivot in your life where you were able to focus more on music?
I came home from prison. I did a little two-year prison deal, '06 to '08. When I came home, I made up my mind then that I needed to do something besides hustle. I was like, music is basically like the streets. It's still the same crowd and everything, so let me try to cater to this and talk about things that I grew up around that people can relate to. I just kept on staying with it, tried to take time out to do music. Then I found out that the music, if you're going to do it, you've got to put all your time into it. That's what I ended up doing. I made up my mind this is what I wanted to do.
You got a lot of recognition for Old Money New Money. How was that a new step forward for you?
Old Money New Money was my first project with the existing artists out there like Project Pat. That's somebody I grew up listening to, and it was a blessing to work with him. He liked my style, so we got together, and he opened up a lot of doors to lead me to where I'm at now. One door opened up another door. Basically, me and Pat, we did the Old Money New Money. Whenever he has shows to do, he be like, "Hey, I'm close to this area. You should come down. We'll do a song together or whatever."
In what ways does “California” represent or not represent what the rest of the tracks are like on Plug Talk?
The whole thing is Plug Talk. If they don't know what that means, they supposed to know what it means. It's like a dog whistle. Somebody blowing their whistle, you don't hear nothing, but that dog come running because he hear it. That's for that dog only. In California, where they say they realize it, “California” is Plug Talk as well because we just made it nice. Just put it on a nice beat. Put it on familiar sounds. We got a real catchy hook going with it all day. It's just not as hard-tracked out. Kind of disguised it a little bit.
Let me ask about your motto, "Haters make you greater." When did you come up with that?
One day it came out of my mouth. I was like hey, I'll run with it. That's basically how I go. I run into complications with people. Most of the time, everybody who got a problem with me is because they owe me some money. A lot of people hate on me, and they don't want to see me get farther in life. The more they do that, the more it makes me want to upset them more. I want them to hate more. You hate me because I'm doing this? Well, watch this. You really going to be mad. The more they hate, the more I'm going to strive. It gives me that muscle. It makes me want to go harder.