Richie Rich's credentials as a Bay Area rap pioneer are surpassed by perhaps only Too $hort. When Rich hit the scene back in the late-'80s as a member of the Oakland-based quintet 415, they scored big with the regional classic "41Fivin." Since then, he's journeyed a career arc that's taken in a spell on the legendary Def Jam record label, a period incarcerated for cocaine possession, a friendship and close working relationship with rap rebel 2Pac, a guest turn on the remix of the Luniz's worldwide anthem "I Got Five On It," and connections with effectively every Bay Area emcee of note.
Now as he gears up to follow the recent release of his Town Bidness mixtape with volumes two and three in the series, we got Rich to list off his top five memorable musical collaborations. True to his status, he was soon reminiscing over buying rap tapes from out of Too $hort's backpack, watching old funk musicians record bare-footed, and lamenting on 2Pac's terrible driving skills...
1. Snoop Dogg (Richie Rich feat. Snoop Dogg "I Fux Wit U")
"After 2Pac got signed to Death Row Records, I was always down in L.A. hanging with 'Pac and I met Snoop with 'Pac on a photo shoot. My first impression of Snoop was that he was real cool, a real laid back dude, and a real old soul for such a young guy. He said that he was influenced by my group 415, and Warren G and Nate Dogg also attested to that: They said that 415 was the reason they started 213 [the group the trio formed before they pursued careers as solo artists].
"I go to a lot of Snoop's shows and whenever he performs in the Bay Area I come out and hang with him. It's been numerous occasions that I've gone into the dressing room and they don't know I'm coming, but he'll be listening to 415. It happened most recently just six months ago, so I definitely believe they're serious about being influenced by me."
2Pac (2Pac feat. Richie Rich "Ratha Be Ya Nigga")
"I met 2Pac through a girl named Theresa that I knew in Berkeley. She wanted me to meet him because he rapped too. She said, 'I know you know everything and everyone around here so I think it would be good for you two to meet.' Theresa hooked us up and, shit, we were homies ever since.
"To me, 2Pac was my little homie who turned into the big homie. He'd ask me advice on different things. He wrote me a letter from prison saying he was thinking about signing to Death Row Records and was asking me what I thought about that. That's actually how I got to know guys like Suge Knight - a lot of stories have been told about Death Row but I ain't have nothing but good times with those guys; it was top notch big ballin'.
"As I said, 'Pac would ask me a lot of questions, but he wasn't good at taking a lot of advice! I think the best piece of advice I gave him was to learn how to drive before attempting to drive! That boy got a brand new Jeep Cherokee and took me for a ride. We didn't make it that far; we went to the store to get some blunts. But his car was parked in an apartment building out in the back and it had a thin driveway and he wasn't a good driver at the time. We drove down that driveway and my side of the car just dragged all the way down the driveway along the fence - the window broke, the mirror broke... So my best advice to 2Pac at that time was maybe he should let me drive!"