For Los Angeles natives, only getting drafted by the Lakers can top signing a deal with Dr. Dre, the legendary producer who has directly or indirectly helped shape the career of nearly every great rapper the city has produced in the last 20 years.
But four years ago, when Carson-raised Bishop Lamont released his first mixtape, “Who I Gotta Kill to Get a Record Deal,” the idea of signing with Dre seemed quixotic. Originally, his goal was to ink a contract with Kanye West, who had been rumored to have liked Lamont’s debut. So when Lamont learned that West was slated to appear in the video for the Game’s “Dreams,” he and his friend Glasses Malone (currently signed to Cash Money Records) broke onto the set, swiped a video cart and loitered around the craft services table, waiting for the self-proclaimed "Louis Vuitton Don" to appear.
Instead, Dre emerged from a nearby trailer, causing Lamont to jettison his original plan and beg a mutual friend for an introduction. Promising that he’d bump it on the drive home, Dre took a mixtape from the skeptical Lamont, who never expected to hear from him again. Yet two weeks later, on Power 106, Dre name-dropped Lamont and expressed his desire to meet him.
Nearly five years later, the now Aftermath-signed Lamont continues to labor on both Dre’s mythically delayed “Detox” and his own similarly dilatory debut, "The Reformation." To sustain subterranean buzz, he’s released six mixtapes in the interim, including "Caltroit," his 2007 collaboration with Detroit production phenom Black Milk featuring guest spots ranging from Dre, Busta Rhymes, Ras Kass and Royce Da’ 5’9".
It’s this readiness to breach the increasingly irrelevant gap between major label and independent, coupled with a brutal, unedited and hilarious honesty that makes Lamont so refreshing. Moreover, in the course of his seven mixtapes, Lamont’s flashed an artistic breadth that delineates him from the DatPiff horde, writing everything from introspective eulogies to crossover 50 Cent-like ballads to slaughterhouse battle raps.
While “The Reformation” remains sans release date, Lamont stays sanguine and always in the studio, planning a sequel to "Caltroit," continuing work on “Detox,” his own album and upcoming Xzibit and Warren G efforts — unless he gets drafted by the Lakers first.
You just got back from New York. What were you doing out there?
I was doing some records with 50 Cent, a little bit of radio stuff, a Source article, just trying to finish my record, doing some documentaries and DVD stuff for it. You know how it is.
Were the records with 50 for his album or yours?
How’s it coming along?
It’s coming along amazing. I’m good friends with DJ Whoo Kid, and 50, Yayo and Banks are like my big brothers. So we set something up and they always show me love. I was trying to plug myself correctly in New York, because I rarely have the opportunity to get out there. 50 and Whoo Kid always give me the best advice on the industry.
So can we expect to see you in the next Pimpin’ Curly skit?
Pimpin’ Curly is between Rick Ross and 50. A lot of people have been trying to jump on the bandwagon and take sides, but I’m cool with both of them.
Last time we spoke, you’d expressed frustration about the time frame related to the release of “The Reformation.” Has the situation improved?
It always gets better. We’ve got a time in place. We have to put “Detox” out first and we’re finishing it now. Eminem’s going to drop soon, then 50, then Detox, then me and Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks. Smash after smash. You’re always dealing with the politics of the labels, but it’s a million times better now. There’s a lot more communication.
You’d also mentioned a who’s who of producers that you were working with. Have you enlisted any new contributors?
It’s still a who’s who of producers [laughs]. We’ve got new amazing stuff from Scoop DeVille, that guy is incredible. And Kahlil, King Karnov, who is insanely good. Of course, Hi-Tek, Clark Kent, DJ Premier, there’s always somebody new. I’ve been fortunate to come in contact with a lot of amazing people. I’m looking forward to working with will.i.am. I also challenged Timbaland to a bench-pressing contest for a beat, so hopefully, I’ll get a beat from Timbaland.
How much can you bench?
That’s what stress and this business will do to you.
So how is the album itself progressing?
It just keeps getting better in terms of the direction of where I want it go. It’s like “America’s Next Top Model,” when a hotter model comes along, another one gets out. They still might get a contract and do magazine work, but I want to make sure that what I have is the freshest and best stuff out there. And, of course, continue to put out dope street albums for the people.
Whatever happened to your plans to make a “Team America: World Police"-themed project?
It still must happen, but “Caltroit: Metropolis" is probably the next thing I’m going to put out, and me and [highly regarded Long Beach rapper] Crooked I are doing a “No Country for Old Men” tape. I just don’t want to lose focus. When it comes to my album, I go into overdrive — I want all my craziest energy into the project.
So is it true that the “No Country for Old Men” tape is targeted at Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg?
Yup, they wanted to speak on Crooked and I in a derogatory manner, as though we couldn’t hold up the West Coast. We’re not doing it in a manner of trying to slander them, but we’re facing adversity in trying to establish ourselves and it’s frustrating to see guys we looked up to not wanting us to succeed, Snoop in particular. We still love those dudes, but we won’t tolerate any disrespect. It shouldn’t be like this, with outsiders looking at us and saying the West Coast has no unity. Those guys are like Larry Bird and Dr. J, they’re not still trying to play ball. Either show love or go to work as a color commentator... and it’s not like the old days, where we didn’t have our business down right. We know how to make it work. But if they don’t want to pass the torch and they think they can still ball, then they need to step on the court.
You also spoke about problems with the Game recently. How does that situation currently stand?
I’m not trying to hate on the Game. At the end of the day, his mom and my mom are close friends. They go on vacation with T-Pain’s mom and Lil Wayne’s mom. It’s an issue of disrespect. He knows what it’s about. I’m not on some Wrestlemania-type stuff; he talked about me and I dished it back.
If someone had never been to a Bishop Lamont show, what can they expect?
Always something ignorant, comedy, surprises. I’ll be sharing the light at the Knitting Factory show, giving shine and exposure to new artists. It’s about positivity. People come in with problems and you want them to leave with good energy.