MC Eiht Picks Up The Beat On New LP

Ex-CMW leader varies from his streetwise, downbeat style with a more positive sound.

Former Compton's Most Wanted leader MC Eiht wants people to know that

he's no one-dimensional gangsta rapper.

He's out to prove it.

His new album, Last Man Standing, he said, represents a new period of mental and musical growth that has been aided by maturity and working with outside producers such as Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs.

"I'm not trying to speak to the typical on-the-corner, drive-by killin' thing that Compton's Most Wanted is known for," the 27-year-old Compton, Calif. native said. "We're trying to show people that we've matured and the lyrics on the album was just showing the evolution of what's happened." In fact, Last Man Standing contains fewer of Eiht's typically grim tales about the streets of Compton, and the musical production is, perhaps, more varied and upbeat than on his previous releases.

In addition to the tracks produced by Eiht and long-time CMW collaborator, DJ Slip, The Dogg Pound's Daz produced the first single, "Hit The Floor" (RealAudio excerpt). Muggs produced four of the album's songs, including "Got Cha Humpin’" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Tha Way We Run It," which features B-Real. "As far as my music is concerned, I have to expand and explore," Eiht said. "I just thought it would be cool to try different producers. That's why I brought in Muggs and Daz to give me that other side of the feel."

MC Eiht, known to his mother as Aaron Tyler, made his debut with CMW in

1988 with the song "Rhymes Too Funky." Even though CMW gained exposure

after rappers NWA received national recognition, Eiht and his former crew were contemporaries of Ice Cube, Eazy E, and Dr. Dre, and were among the first to develop in the late '80s what would later become known as gangsta rap, a reality-based style of rap emphasizing the violence of inner-city life. In the past nine years, Eiht released six albums both with CMW and as a solo act. He also acted in the Hughes Brothers' 1993 film, Menace II Society, and he was featured on DJ Muggs' Soul Assassins album, which was released this year.

Last Man Standing veers from classic bass-heavy, slow-paced West Coast funk tracks to the more abstract soundscapes common to New York City-based hip-hop artists. Aside from the infectious Daz-produced track,

DJ Muggs’ productions are among the album's highlights, and Last Man

Standing wasn't the first time Eiht and Muggs collaborated. "I didn't

actually meet him until he came in and did the 'Throw Ya Set in the Air'

remix with Cypress," Muggs said. "We just got him in there and, boom, it

came off. I was impressed by the way he wrote so fast, so when I did the

Soul Assassins record and was thinking of West Coast artists, Eiht

popped in my head because I like the way the brother gets down with it."

And apparently the feeling is mutual.

"It was real cool," Eiht said of the collaboration with Muggs on Last Man

Standing. "We had worked together before so there wasn't no uptightness.

It was relaxed and I was real keen to the work he had been doing."

The Muggs-produced "Tha Way We Run It" will be the album's next single, and

the remix will feature vocal tracks by B-Real and Snoop Dogg, both of whom

will appear in the song's video. "Gotcha Humpin'," another collaboration

with Muggs, is also earmarked for a release as a single, according to Al

Masocco, vice president of marketing at Epic.

Despite the fact that there is an old-school party vibe going on and that the album is more musically upbeat and varied than his previous albums, Eiht isn't trying to pander to Top 40 radio, he said. Instead, he added that he still considers himself an underground artist. "The people on the street don't want me to become like Puffy (Puff Daddy) or Biggie (Notorious B.I.G.)," Eiht said. "Mase and Busta (Busta Rhymes) and people like that [have] their own original style. I don't sell records to the Puffy crowd or the Busta crowd or the Mase crowd. I sell records to the Eiht crowd. That's what makes it good to me because everybody can't be an Eiht." [Tues., Nov. 25, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]