Compton Cowboys’ Randy Savvy on Sparking the New Revolution, Dr. Dre, and Opening Up the 2022 Oscars

The co-founder behind Los Angeles’ equestrian group inspires the Black community to be more self-sufficient.

If you don’t remember how impressive Beyoncé’s opening performance for the 2022 Academy Awards was, let’s recap shall we?

Picture if you will, a young Black girl atop a horse, coming down the streets of Compton, California, flanked by a group of kids who were part of Compton Jr. Equestrians, an organization developed to serve at-risk inner-city youth. As the camera sweeps to a makeshift neon tennis court, we see Queen Bey and a host of dancers ready to perform “Be Alive,” the Oscar-nominated song from the film, King Richard, about the father of tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams.

The moment became an instant classic and little did most know that it showcased just how horses could save kids from the streets.

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That’s the message and mission that Randy Savvy, co-founder of both Compton Jr. Equestrians and the Compton Cowboys, wants Black America and the world to know. With a culture that incorporates hip hop, self-sufficiency, farming, and learning about horses, Savvy, a community activist, entrepreneur, and musical artist, wants to use what he learned as a child to combat stereotypes of what it means to be Black in America.

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The Compton Cowboys, themselves kids at one point, became a collective and utilized their lifelong friendship to uplift their community through horseback and farming lifestyle. Alongside Randy Savvy, Stona Mane, Carlton, Kee, Lay, Ant Dogg, T Man, Ceejay, and Kika were coming straight outta Richland Farms to protest the murder of George Floyd to make music, film, TV, and grooming products for people and animals.

In this chat to celebrate Black Music Month, Randy Savvy sits with for a candid conversation about the history behind the Compton Cowboys, inspiring the Black community to be more self-sufficient, and how Dr. Dre helped in a major way during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. For those who are not quite familiar with the Compton Cowboys and yourself, may you share how it all came together and what’s new with you all currently?

Randy Savvy: I am proud to share our story with and let folks know just how much the Compton Cowboys are a staple in our community. We call ourselves alumni of the Compton Junior Posse, which was an organization started by my auntie in 1988. She was a cowgirl and grew up always wanting to be involved with horses, and be a real-life rancher and farmer, even though she lived in the city.

She stumbled across Richland Farms through her work as a real estate agent, and it was a no-brainer for her to move there. It meant that she could have horses and a farm, but still live in the city and all that. And she did that! But Compton in the late ‘80s was the wild, wild West in itself, as you had drugs, crime, gangs — you name it! She chose to stay through it all to make a difference because that’s just how our family rolls. So, how did you all grow from that to become the Compton Cowboys?

Randy Savvy: We were a crew of young kids who came up through my auntie’s program and had a bunch of moms, friends, and family who supported us. Compton Cowboys started with eight of us, seven guys and one girl, and we met as kids and rode horses together. Now that we are the adults in the community, we have figured out a way to pay it forward after my auntie retired after 30 years of service to the community.

We started through social media, placing Compton Cowboys on Instagram, and showed us as a crew and our lifestyle. That’s where we are at now, doing all of this cool stuff in the community, and using our influence to help sustain our ranch efforts. With that, we’re able to keep our ranch open, take care of our non-profit operation, provide unique programming for the kids and have them invested in nature. We’re in our fourth year as being Compton Cowboys and it’s been a pretty exciting ride. It has been a personal goal to meet you and the Compton Cowboys since the team has been at the forefront of keeping that equine life embedded in Black culture. What has this resurgence of cowboys and riding meant to you all with films like Concrete Cowboys and The Harder They Fall impacting in a major way?

Randy Savvy: We’d like to think that we had a pretty strong hand in bringing the Black cowboy back into popular culture over the last few years. Whether through our platform or in person, we’ve made the Black cowboy relatable and accessible to our community while having an appeal that speaks to audiences all over the world.

For a long time, the quintessential American cowboy has been considered John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. All the very popular Western films from years ago have been exclusively white men in starring roles. Even with country music, you’d consider the “cowboys” there as white guys in Stetson hats with guitars. Part of that is the Hollywood machine but the other is cultural appropriation in a way that history has long ignored.

It is what it is, we can’t go back and rewind that, but our thing is to show how inaccurate that was and represent what this space and culture is in its entirety. We show Black and brown faces doing what they’ve done for centuries and update using art, music, and our neighborhood style to make it a thing that matters for others around the world. And so, to play off of the “Black Lives Matter” saying, we use “Black Equestrians Matter” or “Black Cowboys Matter,” as a way to feed into the current energy and bring Blackness into the forefront of a long-ignored part of American culture. Gas has been a huge talking point for all Americans. From how high it has been to how it has harmed the planet, Black people are really advocating for us to become more self-sufficient through farming and riding. How do you and the Compton Cowboys feel about inspiring others to be self-sustaining?

Randy Savvy: We definitely have an influence in that regard because there’s a glaring disconnect between “being cool” and “being environmentally-minded,” which is no longer as separate as one would think. At one time, it felt as if you were a community person then you were not a cool person and vice versa. To us, we wanted to bridge that gap between community and cool.

We’re in Compton, not everyone has massive amounts of land, or access to these animals and different kinds of experiences. So, we noticed that our people have been disconnected from it all and wanted to change that. We know the city life, we’re city boys, but we also have this country education where we farm, we ranch, and we ride. Our platform can be that bridge. So, we make our appeal cool enough with the way we talk, our music, and the fashion, and then show why what we do doesn’t make you a country bumpkin.

And when it clicks, people wonder aloud about what is being a Compton Cowboy all about. Once hooked on the vibe, then we give the game about how important it is to be a person of the land, who loves animals, who loves the community, who is family-oriented, and who thinks about being sustainable and protecting the environment. Yeah, you can drive a Lamborghini or whatever, or you can have a dope a** horse that can make all the difference in your life.

Things like that make all the difference because it shows the young kids coming up that cool can be oriented towards your community and enrich the environment, which is the disconnect that we’re working on. The pandemic halted a lot of things for everybody, including the Compton Cowboys. Thankfully, there was a unique silver lining with your story. How did a certain legend assist in keeping the Compton Cowboys active while things were tough?

Randy Savvy: Yeah, man, Dr. Dre, a certified Compton icon, called my phone during that time. The pandemic did put a squeeze on things, but I’m a hustler and have been since I was a kid. I learned how to be an entrepreneur, run the streets, move and make money, and when in a pinch, we put together some plays and got the word out into the streets that the Compton Cowboys were trying to get with Dre.

He didn’t know the stakes that we were facing, but he got back to me and told me that he loved what the Compton Cowboys were doing. He loved what we were doing for the city and asked how he can help us. That’s when I told him that we got to feed these horses and connect with these kids. So, Dre said that he would provide feed for the horses for a year, no problem.

I was hesitant in talking about music because this is Dr. Dre, but he was open to it and I sent him my music. He invited me to the studio at his house, set up a session, and we just had a whole day together. He produced my song, “Up My Joint,” which ended up being my debut single, which got the ball rolling with growing the Compton Cowboy brand. The first-ever single you dropped was a Dr. Dre-produced record? Incredible!

Randy Savvy: Yeah, the song got picked up by the Recording Academy and placed in the Grammy Museum here in Los Angeles. I did a performance there and it helped raise money for the Compton Cowboys as well as awareness about what we’re attempting to accomplish. Dre is an icon in Compton and, after doing the Super Bowl, he’s lifted Hub City to another plateau. Compton will forever be on the map thanks to Dr. Dre, thanks to Ice Cube, thanks to Kendrick Lamar, and it has been great to have support from people like Dre and at the city level from the mayor’s office through to local community members. With the 50th anniversary of this thing we love called hip hop coming up next year, what made you fall in love with it and how would like to see the culture honored during the celebration?

Randy Savvy: Man, [laughs], I don’t remember if it was a specific song or anything. I think it was my dad playing Too $hort, Snoop Dogg, and “Today Was a Good Day” by Ice Cube when I was a kid that first captured my imagination. Those songs were epic, man. Then Tupac Shakur came out, I was hooked. The first album I ever bought with my own money was Tha Carter by Lil Wayne when I was in high school, and I used to listen to that s**t every day on the bus heading to class.

[For hip hop] it has been a long journey, but every step of the way has been great and important for us to experience. If you were in the streets, producing at a studio, or just messing around and working with talent that would become the next stars in the game — hip hop has been a journey that has saved lives and been important to a lot of us who came from where we came from. People get us better know because hip hop just works.

They get it. They hear it. They see me, then they hear the music, and then it opens their eyes to the movement — the Compton Cowboys. It all makes sense to them after that. And it is being well versed in the community, in what we’re doing with the equestrian and environmental culture that not only shows why we have a bright future but how it makes for a great time to be Black, beautiful, and creative. Speaking of all that, people may not know that the Compton Cowboys were involved in that legendary Oscar performance from earlier this year. Can you speak on how all that came about?

Randy Savvy: The Ivy Park team reached out to us, saying that they wanted us to work with them for the Oscars performance with Beyoncé. We got on the phone with them and they told us what they wanted, which was easy for us to do. I got our students together, grabbed the horses, and made it happen. With it being an activation in Compton, it spoke to the city’s essence, and the Williams family’s history in the area, and proved to be an important moment in pop culture. It was important to have been a part of that performance and exhibit how influential Compton is to the world.

Much love to the Ivy Park team, Beyoncé, and Adidas for getting this all together.

Kevin L. Clark is a screenwriter and entertainment director for BET Digital, who covers the intersection of music, film, pop culture, and social justice. Follow him on @IAmKevitoClark.

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