Producer Mike Mosley Reveals Several MCs Who Witnessed Tupac Record “Hit ‘Em Up” (Video)
In the mid-1990s, Tupac Shakur revamped his production personnel. While 1996’s All Eyez On Me would be his first album at Death Row Records, working extensively with the label’s production staff, those changes started taking shape even prior. On 1995’s #1 LP, Me Against The World, ‘Pac maintained a close working relationship with mentor Shock G, Easy Mo Bee, and Stretch from the Live Squad. However, this album would greater involve Thug Life hit-maker Johnny J, veteran duo Soulshock & Karlin, as well as Bay Area veteran Mike Mosley.
To many, Mosley is not a household name. However, to those following the credits of 1990s Northern California Hip-Hop, the “Mob-Style” music pioneer is a linchpin in the West Coast Rap scene. Mike was a critical figure to E-40, The Click, and the Sick-Wid-It Records movement even before the Jive Records backing. Mosley would produce early hits for Sacramento’s C-Bo, Mac Mall, and Santa Rosa pioneer Ray Luv. Further, Mosley mentored Rick Rock, the Cosmic Slop Shop member who would go on to make hits for Jay Z, Busta Rhymes, and Fabolous.
Last week, Mike Mosley was a guest on Sway In The Morning. There, he explained his career, especially his time with Tupac. When asked how he got started, the Fairfield, Cali native gets right to it, telling Sway, Heather B, and DJ Wonder about where it all began. “[E-40] would come through. We was street hustlers or whatever, and he came to my house one day and saw I was doing music and he was like, ‘I rap. Let’s do somethin’.” From there, the seed was planted and pretty soon the two were booking studio time and before they knew it, “Jive came and offered 40 a deal” (4:10). As 40 would become a platinum artist at Jive via 1995’s In A Major Way, Mike was a key member of those high-profile LPs.
The same exact March 14, 1995 that In A Major Way released, Mike Mosley was also part of another Hip-Hop album, the one that debuted at #1: Tupac’s Me Against The World. At he 4:23 mark, Mosley shares the history of how he first met ‘Pac. “I met [Tupac Shakur] in ’93, ’94 at [the] Jack The Rapper [Convention]. It was around the same time Freaknik was happenin’ too.” Noting that this was after Shakur’s costarring role in Poetic Justice, the MC was privy to a meteoric rise as a mainstream sex symbol. “‘Pac would literally be walking around by himself, and there would be droves of females followin’ this dude,” he remembers with a chuckle. “What happened was, he came up to me and was like ‘I wanted to meet you. I’m a big fan of Celly Cel. My favorite song is “Bailin’ Thru My Hood” by Celly Cel, which you did. Love that C-Bo; when I was jail, I work out to C-Bo.’ I see he liked all that hood stuff I did. I was like, ‘Man, I want to work with you, ’cause I’ma get a [platinum] plaque workin’ with you.’ He was like, ‘Let’s do it.'” In those sessions leading up to Me Against The World, Mike recalls enjoying car service and nice hotels—the fruits of Tupac’s top status within Interscope Records at the time. Producing “Can U Get Away” and “Heavy In The Game,” the album would mark only the beginning of the collaborations.
More than one year later, Mosley would join Dr. Dre, Daz Dillinger, DJ Quik, Johnny J, and others on the All Eyez On Me double LP. The album has since reached diamond-certified status at a combined 10-million units sold. Speaking with Sway, Mike recalls producing “Good Life,” which would appear on 2001’s Until The End Of Time just moments after ‘Pac’s vitriolic “Hit ‘Em Up.” While the late Johnny J—not Mike Mosley—produced the controversial “How Do U Want It” b-side that attacked The Notorious B.I.G., Junior M.A.F.I.A., Puff Daddy, Mobb Deep, and Faith Evans (among others), Mike was there.
Recalling, he says, “Matter of fact, after he [and Tha Outlawz] did ‘Hit ‘Em Up,’ we turned around and did ‘The Good Life.’ I’ve got footage of that.” “He wrote [‘Hit ‘Em Up’] on the spot.” He reveals that some unlikely Atlanta, Georgia natives were also present at the Death Row-owned Can-Am Studios in Tarzana, California that night. “I actually had called Goodie Mob [because I was close with their manager at the time]. I had them come through. Strangely enough, I had to look at the video footage to remember who was there. It was so long ago; I was drinking Hennessy. [Laughs] Left-Eye was there, at the mixing board, which is crazy—when did ‘Hit ‘Em Up.'” Mike does state that Cee-Lo, who has gone on to mainstream stardom in the 2000s via Gnarls Barkley, The Voice, and a celebrated solo career, was not with the Mob that night. EMI and Warner Bros. publishing executive “Big” Jon Platt was there too, according to Mosley. Notably, Death Row’s CEO and co-founder Suge Knight, who many have accused of igniting the Tupac and Biggie beef, was only in and out, according to Mosley. The producer referred to the controversial record exec as a “real cool dude” in their meetings.
In the 2000s, TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes would sign with Knight and Death Row Records. She recorded one album, as “N.I.N.A.” while at the label shortly before her 2002 death in an automobile accident. That album has never been released in the US.
Mike goes on to describe Tupac’s mood that night. “The conversation was like [we are] ready for war. He’d play it and laugh, and be like, ‘I got him.’ He was goin’ off so crazy in the vocal booth [at the end of the song] that the mics were shorting out. It was just craziness. We did that at like three, four in the morning.” While the song would be considered the most obvious musical attack in the beef between Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G., he says ‘Pac did not show caution. “He was laughin’ about it—he wasn’t in no angry, crazy mood. It was like a joke to him.” Tha Outlawz’ E.D.I., Hussein Fatal, and Yaki Kadafi were also featured on the non-album video single. Kadafi would be fatally shot within a year of the song’s recording. Fatal, who enjoyed a prominent solo career and years with Tha Outlawz, died in an automobile accident in 2015.
Further in the 20 minute segment, Mike Mosley discusses his Get Rich Wireless digital music-and-phone business. Approaching the end of the video (18:30), he plays on Sway In The Morning his version of “I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto.”
Originally, ‘Pac released the song as a B-side to 1993 12″ vinyl single “Keep Ya Head Up,” produced by N.W.A. affiliate LayLaw. Reportedly, ‘Pac wanted to attach the song to an album, and remixed it while at Death Row—prompting the Mike Mosley version. However, after Shakur’s late 1996 murder, the track would be remixed again, by Me Against The World‘s Soulshock & Karlin, and released as the first single to 1997’s R U Still Down? (Remember Me). That treatment received a video to the quadruple platinum release by Amaru/Jive Records.
While not in the video, this is Mosley’s unreleased version of “I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto”: