West Up. We had the chance to catch up with an artist by the name of Raj Hills for an exclusive interview. He’s worked with a long list of well known West Coast legends, including DJ Quik, Suga Free, Kam and more and has a new project coming out very soon. We caught up with him to get some background on his career, talk about the new project, Tupac, possible acting and much more. You can check it out below, along with some of his videos.
WestCoastRydaz.com: How long have you been rapping?
Raj Hills: I have been rapping seriously around 8 years, that’s when my Indie CD “Fetish” came out. I picked up 6 songs in Napster’s top 20 with that disc.
WestCoastRydaz.com: Nice. Who are your musical influences?
Raj Hills: My musical influences range from a lot of different musical genres, artists and decades. From Patti Labelle, Prince, Michael Jackson, Metallica and No Doubt. My biggest Hip Hop Influences however would be Tupac, DJ Quik and Eminem
WestCoastRydaz.com: Why did you choose the name Raj Hills?
Raj Hills: I chose the name Raj Hills because of the realness of it. It’s authentic and it represents me well. Raj Hills has always been used in my family & friends circle, besides being unique. Also the name Raj is translated into a special meaning.
WestCoastRydaz.com: Lets talk about your upcoming mixtape “World on Fire: Money Liberation,” why did you choose that name?
Raj Hills: World on Fire is because I know I been buzzing lately & appreciate the support and love from different regions. I had a couple majors interested in signing me within the last 6 month so it’s really business now; it’s no time for doubts. Also I know its people looking at what am I going to do next, and I feel I’m ready to take the next step. Now it’s about the business with me, so that means money and politics, but I’m fine with that. Also you never know who is watching and sometimes people and opportunities don’t fully present themselves until they know you really ready and focused. “Money Liberation” is too much to explain. It’s like the movement. If you look up the definition of both words you get a feel of what the title means.
WestCoastRydaz.com: How would you describe your sound?
Raj Hills: My sound is like good on the ears. It crosses different genres and walks of life. Hard enough for the streets and open enough for mainstream suburbia to party to and understand. It’s like an extension of me the Educated Hustler. It’s an authentic sound and music. I feel like I’m unique, so I don’t have to say I’m better or worse than any artist. I’m at peace, creating my own lane. No one can do a better Raj Hills than me.
WestCoastRydaz.com: What is your mindset going into this mixtape?
Raj Hills: Extremely focused. I just landed #1 for 2013 mixtape of the year on one of the charts. This type of mixtape I’m releasing is the type i can tour off of. I know it’s a lot of people rooting for me and a lot of people rooting for me to fail. I except that challenge. I’ll rise and believe I’ll have one of the best products in the game on any level. If you get a shot to make 1 great mainstream and street project or many of them and create revenue opportunities and more, you better lose yourself in the music like Eminem says.
WestCoastRydaz.com: Who are some of the features?
Raj Hills: Features I kept simple with this project. Also since one of the majors was interested in signing me late last year, it opened my eyes to things. So this is not a regular mixtape it’s like a studio album which I’m also working on for later, whether it’s released independently or corporately. So it doesn’t make sense to have known or established artists on this mixtape. It’s better to prove I can stand on my own and present a studio, street & radio genre crossover project of complete music on my own first. So I recruited newcomers. Nobail from Compton, Lupah Phaiym and a few other talented artists to make it enjoyable. Then for the business CD I’ll reach out to Tone & Quik to have the established artists on that CD. They both already know who I pretty much would like on that project. So this Mixtape is like a fun coming out CD of expression showing I’m ready for the mainstream and industry grind along with the politics that come at the corporate or high independent level of the industry.
WestCoastRydaz.com: Your industry abilities expand just beyond a artist, is that correct?
Raj Hills: Yes. A few actually. I direct videos, which i hope to direct this Suga Free video me and Black Tone have been talking about. Free has an amazing song I really like and I think the video will give people a chance to see him in a different, rare and amazing new light. I also produce, & song write for rappers and singers. Video editor, & script writer. I’m multifaceted on the business side to, because I constantly thirst for knowledge, learning and building a variety of skills. I have the mentors in Black Tone & DJ Quik, I just need the right management or label situation to help put it all together now on a grand scale.
WestCoastRydaz.com: Tell us about your relationships with DJ Quik and Black Tone, why do you consider them mentors?
Raj Hills: My relationship with Black Tone and DJ Quik is based on realness, friendship and placism, ha-ha. We genuinely got love for each other. Black Tone is the General, business mastermind as well as the head of the ship. DJ Quik is the legendary music mastermind. Black Tone has opened the door for me to be myself, meet and create business as well as personal relationships within the industry. He has groomed me for years on business and never just gave me anything. He made it clear I have to continue to earn it and work as if he wasn’t around like how he met me, which I have no problem with. By doing that he let me know he will provide me with the opportunities to help me excel to make my dreams reality. He is the biggest single reason I have a platform to blow up besides God, my talent and extreme work ethic.
DJ Quik is the single biggest reason I have the opportunity to be presented to the world on a grand scale. Quik is like my biggest musical influence and guidance when it comes to the music side. He is like that Ace you don’t expect to have but if you get it, it changes the whole game. Like you know playtime is over with, & it’s time to go full steam ahead. He is like you ready Raj you a star it’s time to show it and we pushing the button fast, because I believe in you that you can star in more than music, but you got to be ready for the whole ride, and no running. That trust came from his trust in me and Black Tone’s relationship and Quik dealing with me as a person, not just an artist.
With that he is willing to put his name and stamp on me because he believes in me as a person and entertainer, they both do. It’s like you got to be ready for the highs or lows and hold your nuts strong as a man and say I’m here no matter what. The placism lol is that they both like “yea Raj you can shine bright and you can be real big but remember you still the lil homie.” That’s cool I respect that, we ride for each other on different levels. Whether we talk or see each other everyday or we take months to talk. They always know or get what’s going on with me musically first. That’s just the love and loyalty of Raj Hills.
WestCoastRydaz.com: How did you link up with a West Coast OG like Kam, and what was it like working with him?
Raj Hills: I always liked Kam before I started rapping and always wanted to work with him when I got in the business. So at Krush Groove Quik or Tone had him come in to just hang out. I was like dam that’s Kam lol and they all start laughing. Me and him vibed at the show and I found out he is just a real ass dude. It was great working with him. We vibed, chopped it up and he was really into the record and layed the verse down with no problem. It was a great opportunity and one music goal checked off.
WestCoastRydaz.com: You’ve performed with heavyweights like DJ Quik, Kurupt, Suga Free, WC and more, what was that like?
Raj Hills: Working with them was humbling, exciting and surreal, especially Quik because I admire him so much musically. Working with them all happened in one night last month at a sold out show and it included EDI from Tupac’s Outlawz as my special guest on my set. That night was surreal, exciting and history making. It was the first time Quik, Kurupt and EDI were all on the same bill and stage since Tupac was alive during the Death Row days. The best part is it all happened at a DJ Quik show on my set, prime time before Quik performed with the rest of the legends. Also it was the first night Black Tone had all his artist or homies doing a set at the same show and night together. That would include DJ Quik, Suga Free, Hi-C and myself, simply amazing. Also a special moment for me was doing the show with Ice-T. I was honored the love he showed me, since I always looked up to him as an entertainer. Another goal checked off as well. Being on the same bill as the incredible E-40 was also exciting. The one thing I like about all of them most is a lot of them gave me they time because they said they respected my humbleness, realness, and extreme work ethic. My ability to except advice or be critiqued and learn from it is a good trait.
WestCoastRydaz.com: How did you link up with the Outlawz and Tupac’s family?
Raj Hills: First let’s start off with the Outlawz. I was like so many people that followed and respected the group and Love Tupac had for them as well as the movement and opportunities he set in place for them as a group. So when I came across a record from my partner and engineer/producer Lupah Phaiym I just got lost in the track. I started writing and a lot came out. I said u know what the Outlawz would be perfect on this. I reached out to them and Young Noble set up the whole situation. We touched bases, chopped it up, vibed and then he connected me with EDI, who holds the flag down for Tupac business in California. We got the business right, vibed and made an incredible record “Destiny”. The 2nd version for my actual album will have all the Outlawz on it. Those dudes are real cats, and it was an honor to perform with EDI on Quiks show. I was able to give Afeni Shakur, DJ Quik, Tupac, Black Tone, and the Outlawz their own personal tributes on my set.
When you say Tupac’s family I take it you mean Money B from Digital Underground. Well you got the Outlawz story but Money B that was all DJ Quik’s doing. He brought Money B to the Nokia show when I played Tupac for the tribute on Quik’s set at Big Boy’s Power 106 show. It was a surprise to me. After I walked off stage Quik introduced me to Money B and Ladlaw (California Luv-Video Director). We all went back to Quik’s dressing room and just vibed as they talked to me about the highs and lows of the music industry. They gave me a lot of music insight and some great Tupac stories. I cherish that Money B told me thanks for giving him a little piece of Pac back for a few moments. That was the first time the Pac stuff made me truly emotional, but I didn’t show it. I thanked them all and told them I appreciated them sharing with me, and the work they put into the game. Hearing them reminisce and talk about times with 2Pac and his different sides of him was touching. I was just happy I could help give them a flash or piece of memory back of someone they love and lost.
Shock G I met briefly once when I opened up for Ice-T at the Key Club. I was waiting for Ice at his dressing room to do our interview together and there comes Shock G. He was a little faded ha-ha so he probably doesn’t remember the encounter.
Afeni Shakur the Queen & matriarch I have never met. She is who I really dream to meet, but I don’t know how difficult that would be. It definitely would be a inspiring emotional moment for me. She is the truest and closest essence of Tupac. I have so much esteem for her not just as Pac’s mom but for her movement as a Black Panther and the political fight she endured to help create opportunities that helped all walks of life.
WestCoastRydaz.com: What was it like playing the tribute role of Tupac on a DJ Quik show?
Raj Hills: Honestly it was an honor and a blessing. That’s a once in a lifetime experience. Not too many people can say they got to give an Icon like Tupac a tribute with his real friends and loved ones as well as share a bond with fans and supporters like that. I thank Quik for the opportunity, because we got to touch a lot of people’s different emotions and we wanted to keep his name out there to bring attention to him getting a star on the walk of fame. I believe we got to see both come to fruition. Thank you DJ Quik.
WestCoastRydaz.com: We hear you might be a candidate to play Tupac in the upcoming movie biopic. Would you ever want to play the role if asked?
Raj Hills: To be honest I really don’t know if I’m a candidate or not. You hear talk or rumors sometimes. I don’t know if I’m farther ahead of on the list than others, further back or even in the running. Is it possible yes. As far as playing Tupac in the movie biopic I would be honored, humbled, extremely dedicated to it coming to life. I just want to see the beauty of Pac’s soul really come to light no matter who plays him. I’m not a divide and conquer hater person. I want to see Afeni smile and feel a piece of her son come to life in any instance for the movie. Do I think I could really do it, yes. Only because I respect who he really was, his family, his legacy, his trials, and not just his music, fame, and thug life some people see. With me it’s tricky or eerie because I do realize some of the real similarities besides appearance we share.
His mom was a big influence on him and a black panther. She was his heart and hero he adored, clashed with, and loved dearly and was so much alike in personality. My mom is a self-willed hustler and cousin of Alex Haley. She is my hero, heart I adore, and clash with because we are so much alike. Both women dealt with addiction and trials, overcame them and are very strong, educated no nonsense women. My mom’s temper and tongue is sharp. We both say want we want and go hard at everything, but so loving and loyal. I and Pac also share a lot of the same musical associates. All the way down to DJ Quik, The Outlaws, Digital Underground and more I have access to.
How he looked up to Suge Knight is a little similar to how me and Tone are (except me and Tone are closer), and I met Suge once thru Tone. Also us being educated men that are familiar with the street life helps. Me being athletic and working out constantly, even has the same muscle structure and shape. DJ Quik made me stare these traits in the face and deal with it head on and told me accept it and be the best me as an artist when it comes down to it and not worry about comparisons to Tupac. EDI from the Outlawz told me no matter if people want to compare you don’t fall into the hype. He said I’m Unique already just being Raj. So knowing I can capture the essence naturally of Tupac, and take criticism and be willing to research and learn makes me confident. Also having the will to put in whatever hard work or transformation necessary to bring Tupac to life and see Afeni happy more than anything, is really the best I can ask for. The fans getting the best product is what it’s all about. Raj Hills has to come second and Tupac first in the role, but Raj Hills has to come first when I’m dealing with my real life.
WestCoastRydaz.com: How has the response been from fans, the radio and more?
Raj Hills: The response from fans has been great. At shows they have been amazing with the love and supportive. I understand some people are going to love me, some going to hate me, some will support, and some will not care for me no matter what I do. I can live with that. As far as radio I honestly have nothing to say bad about them. It’s politics in it, but hey you know that is to be expected. The personalities I have met like big boy from Power 106, KDAY, KJLH, even Latino 96.3, and indie radio stations like Getloadedtv have been cool to me upon meeting them and some even follow me on my social sites. I’m thankful and hope they support a product I’m giving them that is quality and has unlimited potential. I understand politics, and willing to fulfill any of the radio politics that comes in return for them giving their support. In ending I want to thank you westcoastrydaz.com for the in depth interview, and all the people that took time out of their life to read this. Thank you.
WestCoastRydaz.com: Thanks for catching up with us. Before we go, where can fans follow your career?
Raj Hills: Fans can follow my career on Rajhills.com with links to all my social media sites starting April 22. Until then check me at the following links.