The Staples Center is the home to L.A.’s two NBA teams — the Lakers and the Clippers — as well as the NHL’s L.A. Kings. It’s also known as a venue for the Grammy Awards as well as legendary concerts by world-renowned artists. The 20,000-seat arena opened on October 17, 1999, with a show by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus have all performed there too. Beyoncé first played there in 2007; she will be back with an even bigger and better show to kick off the BET Experience on Friday, June 28. Michael Jackson rehearsed there, preparing for his This Is It concerts before his death in 2009. His brothers, the Jacksons, will perform there for the first time on Sunday, June 30 along with R. Kelly and New Edition.
But one genre that has not been particularly well represented there has been hip hop. That’s about to change on Saturday, June 29 when night two of the BET Experience brings Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, J. Cole and Miguel to the Staples Center. Miguel is an L.A. native who’s changing the sound of R&B and J.Cole is one of the most exciting young artists in the game today. But the most exciting aspect of the night is having so many great L.A. rappers headlining at the Staples Center. Not since the Up in Smoke Tour in 2000 — which featured Dr. Dre, Snoop, Ice Cube and Eminem, among others — has such a concentration of West Coast rap greats played a major venue in L.A. It’s a moment comparable to Jay-Z performing at Madison Square Garden or Barclay’s Center for the first time. The BET Experience show will definitely go down in West Coast rap history.
This landmark event comes at a perfect moment, just as Kendrick Lamar and his Top Dawg Entertainment crew have brought the spotlight back to the City of Angels, largely on the strength of Kendrick’s brilliant album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city. L.A. rap had been languishing in recent years as Southern artists took control of the rap game. We caught up with T.D.E.’s next to blow up, ScHoolboy Q, who is readying for the release of his first album, Oxymoron, on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath imprint at Interscope, and asked him about whether the BET Experience might be L.A. Rap’s best night ever.
BET.com: How’s it goin’ man?
ScHoolboy Q: I’m chillin' man.
So you and your peoples are about to take over the Staples Center during the BET Experience on June 29. When was the last time that rappers were headlining the Staples Center? Has that ever happened?
Um… I don’t know man. I was a little too young to really get into concerts like that. My mom wouldn’t let me go to a concert when Dre and them was doing the Up in Smoke Tour. [Laughs] She definitely wouldn’t let me go to the Up in Smoke Tour back in the day. I don’t know if Game ever did it. I know I’m not headlining it.
It’s you, Snoop, Kendrick.
It’s definitely an honor to be on the stage with all of them. Even though we’re close as brothers and whatnot, it’s still an honor to be on that stage with him with the success he had and how people perceive him now. It’s still an honor.
What Top Dawg has done in terms of putting the focus back on Cali hip hop is pretty major. I don’t think people saw it coming, really. It’s almost like you just snuck up on the whole game.
Yeah, we knew it was coming. We knew. We planned this out years ago. We knew this day was gonna come. That’s why you don’t really see us as happy over every little thing we receive. Or we seem like some humble dudes. We knew this was coming.
You would sit up and plan this? Like, we’re gonna take over this game.
Yeah, we’d say sh-- like, 'What you gonna do when they call you up to the balcony to say your Grammy speech? What you gonna say? Who you gonna thank?' We’d say stuff like that, joking around, but we was dead serious at the same time. 'How your first album gonna sound? How many albums you gonna make? What you want people to say about your album? We used to talk to each other like that. How you want your album to be perceived by the people? How many records you think you gonna sell? You think you gonna flop or what?' You know what I mean? That’s how we used to get at each other.
It seems like putting those words out into the universe has given them power.
Yeah, yeah, yeah — you have to man. You gotta think positive. You gotta believe, man. If you don’t believe it ain’t gon’ happen. Like, it all starts as a thought. And then that thought just becomes real. It’s just a dream and then it just happens. You gotta make the dream reality.
You said your mom didn’t go to rap shows when Dre and Snoop were doing Up in Smoke. But what kind of inspiration did Snoop give you as a youngster? Do you still remember the first Snoop record that you heard?
Of course! “187.” I mean, my cousin was old enough. He was like in high school in ’92 when Dre and Snoop and them like really, really, really, really, really took over L.A. You know what I’m sayin? He was in high school. So I used to be in the car with him and he used to play all the records, like “Tha Shiznit.” I remember that record specifically more than any record. He used to play “Tha Shiznit” more than any song. Like he used to always play that record. And that’s one of my favorite Snoop records to this day, probably cause I done heard it so much. You know what I mean? “187” was the first record I heard of Snoop, but “Tha Shiznit” was the one that I could recite word for word cause my cousin was playing it nonstop on repeat.
Did you envision that you would be on the Staples Center bill with Snoop 20 years later?
Never. Never. I wasn’t even thinking I was gonna be a rapper until five years ago. Even when I was in high school I wasn’t thinking of that.
This BET Experience is a major moment. This reminds me of Jay playing the Garden in New York. To have Snoop and Kendrick and you at the Staples Center along with J. Cole and Miguel…. That’s major.
Yeah that’s a big deal, man. That’s definitely gonna be an honor to be on that bill. And hopefully next year I could headline it. Even by December you never know how things may turn out. I may drop that record that takes me to the Staples Center. You know what I’m sayin? Be able to perform there by December. I’ll put that energy out there and it may actually happen. I just want a Grammy also.
So you’re on a Grammy mission with that Oxymoron album?
Yeah, yeah, man. A few BET Awards wouldn’t be bad also. Definitely appreciate that.
Do you have your acceptance speech worked out already?
Aw yeah, I already know what I’m gonna do when I get up there. It’s gonna be my day. I already know.
On that Staples Center show, are you planning to bring out any special surprise guests?
Nah, I’m gonna leave that for Kendrick. I don’t wanna spoil anything. Cause me and Kendrick kinda got the same friends. So I don’t wanna spoil nothing cause I’m the first going on. I wanna save something for the end of the show too. I don’t wanna end up bringing nobody that Kendrick would bring out. Cause we, like, talk to the same people. Who he’s cool with is who I’m cool with. Who he brings out is more than likely who I woulda brought out.
OK, but there might be some surprises in store though. Safe to say?
Yeah, for sure. Never know. Come out and see.
They haven’t announced the BET Awards nominations yet, but you gotta figure Top Dawg is gonna be in there.
Somewhere, I would hope. I would like to be nominated for something, hopefully. Just being nominated for something is good. I think I’ma be there too.
A lot of people say that your crew brought the West back. Do you feel like that’s a true statement?
I don’t wanna say that to discredit no other artists out here in L.A. Cause they definitely helped it too — bringing L.A. back to the forefront of the music. I don’t wanna just say we brought it back. But, like, all eyes is on L.A. and the West Coast right now, you know what I’m sayin’? I would say a big part of that is us. At the same time you have artists like Dom Kennedy. You have all these artists out here in L.A. — Skeme and Casey Veggies, Odd Future — I can’t discredit them guys. Odd Future held it down before us. I think we definitely the ones that gave it the stamp.
I’ve got a feeling that show on June 29 is gonna go down in L.A. rap history. That’s gonna be a hot ticket.
Yeah, man, that should be real fun — Miguel performing, and I heard J. Cole just got added. So you know that’s always great. So Miguel, Snoop, Kendrick, Cole and me — that’s a crazy lineup. That’s the future and the king of the coast. You know what I’m sayin? Snoop is the king of the coast. It’s not Tupac. It’s ain’t nobody but Snoop. Snoop Dogg is the king of the coast.
Quote unquote — ScHoolboy says so.
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(Photo: Roger Kisby/Getty Images)