E.D.I. Mean is here to keep the legacy of The Outlawz alive. The Brooklyn native is best known for his feature on Tupac’s “Hit Em Up,” one of the greatest diss songs in hip-hop history. Not only was Tupac a dear friend, but damn near a family member.
Real name Malcolm Greenidge first befriended Tupac’s cousin Katari “Kastro” Cox (their mothers were close) in the third grade. Their families would then move to New Jersey as they linked with Tupac’s godbrother Kadafi, and formed a rap trio. Back then, Greenidge rapped under the moniker Big Malcolm.
When Tupac was released from prison in 1995, the Outlawz was formed. Pac named each member of the group an alias after an enemy of America, with E.D.I. Mean inspired by former Ugandan president Idi Amin. One year later, Greenidge was featured on 3 records on Tupac’s standout double album All Eyez On Me: “Tradin’ War Stories,” “When We Ride,” and “Thug Passion.”
E.D.I. Mean is an AllHipHop OG, who remembers the beginning days receiving alerts via a 2-way pager. AllHipHop caught up with E.D.I. Mean in downtown Los Angeles to discuss the Tupac days, recording “Roses” for Kobe Bryant, his journey into concert production, an Outlawz bopic in the works, and more!
AllHipHop: How are you holding up during quarantine?
E.D.I. Mean: I’m holding up really well. Sitting still is not hard for me man. I do it periodically to slow down. I used to live a really fast paced life, now I appreciate downtime. Really putting the finishing touches on the new album. I also wrote my first book. I actually wrote it a few years ago, but with the extra time I decided to get it edited and get it ready.
AllHipHop: What’s the premise of the book?
E.D.I. Mean: I don’t want to give the idea away because I don’t want anybody to steal it, buE.D.I. Mean: t it’s a crime drama. It’s not about my life. It’s not about Tupac. I write scripts too, so I’m starting this book. It’s called Street Fame.
AllHipHop: Did you always want to get into that realm?
E.D.I. Mean: I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always excelled in writing. When I went to school, writing was the only subject that I really excelled in to be honest. The love for it never left, even through music. Whatever I was doing, I always loved writing.
AllHipHop: I feel like the wave now, everybody’s freestyling. You were actually writing with pen and paper?
E.D.I. Mean: Well back in the olden days, we used to write our s##t. It’s ironic. I don’t write raps anymore, but I do write stories, books, scripts, things of that nature.
AllHipHop: What are your thoughts on all of these Tupac sightings?
E.D.I. Mean: It’s just indicative of how much people loved him. They miss him, so I get it.
AllHipHop: How about the media and the Tupac alive stories?
E.D.I. Mean: Again, they miss him. They love him. He left too soon. He left abruptly. They feel like he had a lot more to do, me included. When somebody is snatched from you like that, it creates a vacuum and people have to come up with their own theories or ideas of what happened. Thinking he’s still alive is like hope.
AllHipHop: Your song “Roses” pays tribute to Kobe Bryant. Did you know Kobe?
E.D.I. Mean: I did. I knew him through his playing on the court, his passion and love for basketball. Similar to what I had for music, Kobe starting his career in ‘96 is literally the beginning of my career in ‘96. When we first started becoming known to the world. We were out here in LA, we heard about the kid who was supposed to be next. Used to watch all the Laker games. A die-hard Laker fan, so I know him through that way. I never met him personally but when he died, I felt like I lost a family member.
AllHipHop: There was a story that Tupac and Kobe met once at the House of Blues. Were you there?
E.D.I. Mean: I would’ve had to be there, but I don’t remember. Because at the time, meeting a Kobe Bryant wasn’t like meeting the Kobe Bryant we have right now. We met a lot of people at that time. Sometimes it’s just an introduction, “yo Pac, this is such and such.” Pac would dap them and keep it moving. So if it happened, I don’t remember it.
AllHipHop: How did Tupac come up with the idea to name everyone after enemies of America? Including yours after Idi Amin.
E.D.I. Mean: That came about when he was incarcerated. He was brainstorming on how to return to the rap game, at the same time introduce us. What was popular at that time was Wu-Tang Clan and rappers taking aliases. Nas had Escobar, so on and so forth. Instead of taking Italians or gangsters from that perspective, let’s change our alias to actual enemies of America. Dictators, people who bucked the system that America was about. We just started picking names. He came up with his after reading The Prince by Machiavelli. Some names he gave us, and some of us picked out our own names.
AllHipHop: What about yours after Idi Amin?
E.D.I. Mean: It was a foregone conclusion that I’d be Idi Amin. From the physical similarities and how aggressive I was when it came to getting on the mic, I thought it was obvious at the time. We all were like “yo, you got to be Idi Amin.” I’m like “yeah I know.”
AllHipHop: Are you new releases dropping independently or do you have a deal?
E.D.I. Mean: We’ve been independent since 2000. The Outlawz, we ran our own company since the year 2000. Always done well independent. This is distributed by EMPIRE, shout out to Ghazi and the hometeam up there. We’ve been with them for 10 years, it’s a pretty good relationship.
AllHipHop: What’s it been like for a veteran such as yourself to navigate through the waters of social media and transitioning to digital sales?
E.D.I. Mean: Man, it’s a learning curve definitely. s##t is moving constantly. Every 90 days, there’s something new with social media. Think about it, every 90 days or so there’s something new or some new wave. You have to adapt or die. I like to always quote Miles Davis when I talk about older artists moving forward, he laid the blueprint on how to move forward and stay true to yourself. For anybody that doesn’t know who that is, go do your research. One of his famous quotes was “adapt or die.” As simple as that, you either get with it or get left.
AllHipHop: What inspired “Respect and Pride”?
E.D.I. Mean: “Respect and Pride” was actually inspired by the death of Nipsey. The beat and the hook was already done by this dope producer collective called Local Astronauts. When they gave me the beat and the hook, I immediately thought about Nipsey’s situation. Not only Nipsey but Pac and recently Pop Smoke who died in [Hollywood] hills out here. A lot of our problems come from having too much pride and not having enough respect. He didn’t respect the rules of the game as far as how to navigate out here in LA.
AllHipHop: You mean his posting of the address?
E.D.I. Mean: Absolutely. That’s a common mistake people make with social media, because it’s all about showing off and putting on. That can be a mistake if it’s not done correctly. He made one fatal mistake, it cost him his life. It’s extremely sad.
AllHipHop: What is your take on hip-hop beef today compared to back then? Everything’s on Instagram.
E.D.I. Mean: It’s corny the way it’s done nowadays. Going on social media to air out your grievances is corny, but I’m sure some people felt like we were corny for saying what we said on wax in the ‘90’s.
AllHipHop: Like what?
E.D.I. Mean: How we went on wax and dissed our competition. That’s the nature of hip-hop. Hip-hop is competitive and that’s what we’re doing. What we felt like we’re doing was as hip-hop as it can be. Instead of making the s##t something that had to be violent, take it out on wax. Unfortunately, cooler heads couldn’t prevail sometimes so it got physical, but that’s what it was supposed to be about. Okay, take your aggression and anger out on wax. I always say: so long as it stays in the studio or on social media, it doesn’t have to get to a point where it’s violent and cats are losing their life. I’ll take that over the other one.
AllHipHop: Did you know “Hit Em Up” was going to be one of the most aggressive diss tracks of all time?
E.D.I. Mean: I didn’t. Even when “Hit Em Up” came out, when it was on the radio everywhere and the streets were talking about it, I still didn’t see it having the impact that it has now. It’s a part of history as one of the greatest diss records of all time. It’s usually up there in the top 3. From that perspective, it’s cool.
AllHipHop: Talk about shifting to concert production. At what point in your career did you decide to move towards that?
E.D.I. Mean: Shout out to my partner Jason Gazzini, he’s the one that pulled me in that direction as far as having something else to do besides music. I know a lot of people. I have a lot of good relationships with a lot of artists, that I can reach out and get them to come get down. We partnered up and decided “let’s do our own festival.”
It started because the Outlawz weren’t being added to a lot of different festivals. He’s like “f##k it, let’s just do our own.” We did it. Our first year Nipsey, was our headliner and we did very well. The second year, last year was Ice Cube. The current situation with Coronavirus slowed up this year’s production, but we’re still shooting for September. We’ll keep you posted on that.
AllHipHop: Can you bring back Rock the Bells and Paid Dues? Those were the concerts I was looking forward to.
E.D.I. Mean: I know. I think somebody owns that. I wonder if LL owns Rock the Bells, because he has Rock the Bells Radio. That was his song…
AllHipHop: Now it’s Rolling Loud, which is overrun with new kids. I like the new artists, but I can only handle so much ignorance.
E.D.I. Mean: I feel you, it’s over the top now. What made ours a little different is that it’s a hybrid. We got older artists and new artists on the same stage. Last year, it was Cube and Roddy Ricch. Year one was Nipsey and Mozzy, but we also had Mack 10 and Dogg Pound. We put it together because that’s the only way the generations are going to collaborate and f##k with each other, is if people put them in the same room together. See that the only difference is I started then and you starting now. I can give you something, you can give me something. That’s what we seen happening at those 2 festivals, the younger and the older artists were linking up. Cats that never met each other were f##king with each other, and still f##k with each other to this day.
AllHipHop: When you’re producing a show like that, do you get the inkling to get back on stage and perform as well?
E.D.I. Mean: Well year one, I did. That was one of the longest days of my life. I had to f##king run around backstage and do my part as part of our team, then also do a show. So Year 2, I didn’t. I pulled us off the bill, I made an executive call. My partner Young Noble was hot at me, he’s like “man, what we doing?” But he understood. Year 3 we were going to make a return, but it’s hard work doing both.
AllHipHop: How is it management Malaynah? What’s it like being on the other side after decades of being an artist yourself?
Oh, Malaynah’s dope. She’s one of the things I’m most excited about. Her talent is limitless. She has a lot of potential, I’m really excited about her future. Introducing her to the hip-hop world. She got an old soul. She could’ve been born in the 90’s. She don’t really f##k with a lot of our generation s##t. You have to remind her like “yo, you’re 19.” [laughs]
AllHipHop: Who’s in your Top 5 now?
E.D.I. Mean: S##t, E-40 is still in my Top 5. He’s still creating at a high level. Of course, I also like Malaynah. She’s definitely a force to be reckoned with. Damn that’s a tough question. I like a lot of what Roddy’s doing. Kendrick and J. Cole of course, that goes without saying. There’s a lot of cats who I f##k with their music.
AllHipHop: OG Vol. 2: Classics In Session, what can we expect?
E.D.I. Mean: It’s probably one of my favorite solo projects to date. You can expect some top notch lyricism, some soul music. Some hip-hop on there. I got features: everybody from Berner to Jay Worthy. Of course, my team. It’s a dope project. 12 songs, I’m not going beat you in the head too long. You’re going to be playing it again.
AllHipHop: Anything else you want to let us know?
E.D.I. Mean: Appreciate the years of love from my fans out there who rock with the Outlawz. We’re still moving. Be on the lookout for new music, more projects. The Outlawz story will be coming to Netflix or Hulu. It’s not etched in stone, but it’s in the creative process. We’re writing it right now.
AllHipHop: How is it revisiting those days?
E.D.I. Mean: It’s funny because when I work with the writers and they ask me certain questions, the memories come back. Because it’s not something you sit around and think of, we’re always in the moment. But when they take me back, I can recall certain s##t. Whatever I don’t remember, one of my group members remembers.
AllHipHop: It must be heartwarming to look back…
E.D.I. Mean: It is. Our story is crazy, a lot of ups and downs. It’s a hell of a story. When I seen the Wu-Tang story, it reminded me about our struggle. It’s not the same, but it’s definitely similar. It’s a tale of the ‘90’s. Not just our story, but it’s about the ‘90’s era. An era that a lot people feel is the golden era. I see someone put up something today about the best albums of ‘96, and pick one. It’s so many great albums from that year, it’s hard to pick one. This story is about the ‘90’s, and the Outlawz as well.