G-Stack and Dotrix4000 of the Mekanix arrive for our interview clad in Oakland's signature purple. The color looms large among the town's dread-locked youth, owing to the purple weed so popular here: in local slang, assorted leafy greens become "grapes," and references to "Urkel" proliferate for rhyming purposes. Forget Dipset's Harlem and OutKast's Atlanta Oakland is Purple City. And although a nonsmoker, G-Stack is its mayor.
As half of the Delinquents with partner V-White Stack went purple early, putting out the 2003 mixtape The Purple Project (Dank or Die). For his solo career, Stack has plunged deeper into the hue with his new persona, Purple Mane. A pot-dealing, wisecracking superhero, Purple Mane has documented his adventures on five discs for Stack's 4TheStreets label: Welcome to Purple City (2007), Tha Color Purple (2007), George W. Kush (2007), My Purple Chronicles (2008), and Abraham Reekin (2008). These have been among the hottest recent albums in the Bay no small feat for a rapper whose career began with the Delinquents in 1992.
"I'm trying to stay in this game," Stack says. "I'm a mistake or two away from cats being like, 'I don't want to fuck with this dude.' You can't think, 'I've been doing this so long I'm great.' "
Such realism is rare in the hyperbolic rap world, but Stack prides himself on being real. To invent Purple Mane, moreover, Stack acknowledges inspiration from Mac Dre, who released his own presidential-themed Ronald Dregan (Thizz) shortly before his 2004 murder.
"Dre was dropping numerous records and started coming with characters," recalls Stack. "I'm not trying to finish where he left off, but he was onto something. Without seeming like I'm biting, I'm doing me." This strategy allows the MC to incorporate humor into his music without sacrificing gangsta rap cred.
"Everyone knows I crack lots of jokes," he says, "but I don't want cats to think I'm a joker. I'm everything I say I am. What we did with Purple Mane was come with my funny side."
If Stack speaks as "we," it's to credit the role of his team in building his buzz. Besides Chronicles, a solo EP, his compilation-style purple projects have featured key collaborators like Deev da Greed, R&B songstress Naté, and producers Mike D, Quinteis, and the Mekanix. Among these, Dotrix4000 deserves special mention. Largely unheralded, he's played a vital role in recent Bay rap, having a huge hand in the careers of popular post-hyphy acts J-Stalin and Eddi Projex. Stack's success makes Dot three for three.
"Dot convinced me to go solo," Stack says. "V-White wasn't ready for another Delinquents album, and Dot was in my ear, 'You got fans out there. Why don't you do something?' "
In the process of helping to develop the Purple Mane persona, Dot's been all over Stack's releases, adding a beat here, a hook there, even demonstrating hitherto hidden rap talents. In the ultimate Bay accomplishment, he ghostwrote Too $hort's hook on "Purple City," among a handful of prior tracks resurfacing on Stack's latest, Dr. Purp Thumb, which is due Feb. 17 from SMC.
A full-blown national release, Purp ups the ante: it's true to the Bay yet expands into more commercial fare and even includes love songs such as "Me N My Chick," an unusually emotional display of passion. "Talk of the Town," with Deev and Stalin, is probably the funkiest groove from this region in years, while Stack's humor is evident in tracks like "I Fell in Love Wit a Hoe," a sort of AA meeting for gangstas tasting the infidelity they usually dole out.