New & Cool: Meen Green's The Smoking Section

The main MC calls on friends from hood to help with new LP.

Some MCs just look out for themselves in the world of hip-hop, making music and

a name for themselves without any thought for the other guy. But for Meen

Green, it's a family affair.

The 26-year-old MC said he is not just in this for the music, but is out to help

his friends, spread the wealth and make good-time, party hip-hop that doesn't

forget the reality of growing up in South Central L.A.

"All the people on the album are good friends of mine," Green said, adding that

he brought in many of his friends from the old neighborhood to contribute to his

debut album The Smoking Section. "A lot of the MCs that rapped on it

were just people that I know that I feel should get deals. I try to put them

out there first so they can get deals too like everybody else."

Even though Green -- whose real name is Darrin Johnson -- is in many ways far

from his old stomping-grounds and is now a part of the respected L.A. hip-hop

crew, Western HemisFear, he considers himself to be "tri-coastal." That is, he

associates and records with a variety of producers from the West Coast, the

South, and the East Coast. Green's new album on the indie-label Patchwork is a

varied but cohesive record that contains slow, funky, bass-heavy beats that are

a staple of SoCal hip-hop, as well as the swampy, Southern-fried funk

popularized by such Atlanta-based hip-hop groups as Outkast and Goodie Mob.

The Smoking Section features production assistance from

Voodoo of the Western HemisFear crew, Master P, Pimp C and Swift

C, who has produced Outkast and Goodie Mob. A variety of guest-MCs

appear throughout the album as well, including Aceyalone, Microphone Mike and

Mykill Miers. The guests assist Green in his sometimes humorous tales of

smoking weed and hanging out in songs such as "Fat Sacks," "Hey Meen Green,"

and

"The Last Song" (RealAudio excerpt).

The 24-year-old Voodoo said that the two songs he produced, the laid-back

and soulful "Life in the Streets" and the more complex and upbeat "L.A.'s

Finest," demonstrate how he has expanded his style as a producer. "A good

producer should sound like a whole bunch of different producers," he said.

"That's what I try to do." Green agrees, saying that since Voodoo first began

producing two or three years ago, "That cat has grown a whole lot."

As a fitting closer to all that went into the album, the posse cut "The Last

Song," which features 13 of Green's friends crammed in the vocal booth, all

apparently intent on having a good time. "I had all 13 guys in the booth,"

Green

said. "I had all my friends in the studio. Some of 'em rapped and some of

'em didn't, but we all in the room gettin' high, clownin' around, jokin'

around. I turned on the mic, put the beat on and everybody spoke their

parts. It was all done freestyle."

In addition to members of Western HemisFear, "The Last Song" includes

contributions by members of The Freestyle Fellowship and a few other individual

MCs.

"The Last Song" not only is an appropriate ending to an album that featured

heavy teamwork, but it also stands as a tribute to friendship. "I got on the

album my guy Klev, he's signed to a production deal on Patchwork, and my guy

Pockets, he did production for Ice Cube. I've known Pockets since elementary

school," he said, adding that the person who shot the video, Darius Henderson,

is also a childhood friend. "It just so happened that I started rappin'. They

started doing videos. Pockets started producing. We all just started doing the

same things around the same time."

Because The Smoking Section is the result of a kind of feel-good

party-vibe, the album can be listened to with the same attitude. According to

Meen Green, the best place to play the record is in the car where you can get

the full effect of the beats and the movement. "It's just a lot of ridin'

music," he said. "You just sit back with your friends and there are nice bass

lines, nice hooks. Some you can chant while you ridin'. Some people choose to

smoke, some people choose to drink, whatever they do when they ride. Turn the

sound up and go."[Mon., Dec. 15, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]