A twenty-something year career in music usually sees its fair share of evolution. From name changes to member changes, to image changes, to genre changes, the music can become nearly impossible to link to the original sound. In some rare cases though, the sound is so funky, the vibes of the group are so genuine, and the audience so loyal that the music can stand the test of time. So goes the story of LA based trio Funkdoobiest, once prodigees of Dj Muggs of Cypress Hill, and now legends of the underground hip hop scene. The guys kicked off their latest European tour in Copenhagen so Bitchslap caught up with them for a chat about the good old times and what’s to come.

Interview by Danika Maia
Photography: Bobby Anwar

Welcome to Copenhagen! Is this your first time here?

Son Doobie: I thought maybe we were here back when we were touring Europe in ’93 but if not… then this might be our first time ever playing in Copenhagen. T, do you remember?

Tomahawk: Yeah I was also thinking maybe back in the early 90’s but I honestly can’t remember either.

Ralph M: Yeah see I would get it mixed up with Cologne, and then confuse the Dutch with the Danish, you know what I’m sayin’, all the D’s in there. But we’re really excited to be in Copenhagen now, it has a bit of a London vibe and the underground scene is just dope.

You were on another European tour just about a year ago, what brings you back now?

Son Doobie: We were on a tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of our first album “Which Doobie U Be”, or breakthrough success if you will, and now we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of our second album “Brothers Doobie”, which is basically an extension of the first album. We did the songs from the first album last time so I’m just excited to do the songs from the second album you know, different aesthetics and with Ralph M always switching it up and Tomahawk always having my back it’s a Juggernaut show you know what I mean, I love it.

I imagine people are always dying to hear the classics, how do you switch up the set lists to keep everyone happy?

Son Doobie: It’s extremely methodical, honestly, it goes through a huge process. Ralph M is meticulous when it comes to planning the sets and he takes everything into consideration from the audience to the location to the size of the venue, so it changes all the time you know. Keeping it fresh. There’s so many intricacies when it comes to planning a set and Ralph M takes all that into consideration with the beats and the set list and just packages it up all tight like at Kinkos, hole punched and binder, thank you very much.

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Do you guys have a little choreography planned when you play live?

Tomahawk: I mean in general yes, we’ve done it enough so that everyone pretty much knows what role to play, which space to occupy, and who’s gonna go where.

Son Doobie: Sometimes I’m having so much fun though I’ll just slam into Ralph and T, and then the crowd starts going crazy and I think to this day our shows are the only hip hop shows where I’ve seen a mosh pit form. When Bow Wow Wow comes on they lose their minds. I’m over 40 been doing this since my twenties, and every time it happens I’m still in total awe. It’s like a parallel universe, it’s magic.

That’s the magic that keeps you looking so young, eh?

Tomahawk: Hey we’re not that old!

Son Doobie: It’s all about not letting the stress of life get to you, you know. You make mistakes, you learn from them, maybe you make the same mistakes again. All the time though you need to respect your friends and family and stay true to yourselves. I’m happy that we’re still together me, Ralph and T, driving this raw underground hip hop locomotive that’s become almost an endangered species. I’m happy for my health too, of course, except I ain’t got no hair I’m still bald as fuck. It’s all good.

Have your goals changed along this journey?

Ralph M: One thing I can say about us is when we were younger and starting out, we did plan for the future and thank god we did. So now we can be here 20 years later, no substitutions, no new members, just the same group with the same heart and the same great songs that we produced back then.

Son Doobie: We’re just happy doing what we’re doing. We were happy back then touring and everything with Soul Assassins and we’re incredibly blessed now even the last year has been incredible. We did High Times, we did Frank’s Chop Shop, we’re getting laced up by all these clothing companies, and now we’re here with you doing this interview with a fine girl for Bitchslap Magazine, it’s all surreal, it’s all good. 

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Have you ever felt pressure to change your sound?

Son Doobie: Right now it’s all about just making money and selling your song however you can whether it’s a download or an album, but we’re lucky because people liked our music from the beginning and they want THAT sound. So we’ve never tried to mess with R&B or tried to dabble with rock, we might experiment but we always go back to the hip hop.

Ralph M: We’re part of the original Soul Assassins crew you know so right away we had something to stay true to, a sound that we were trying to push the envelope with, and we never drift from that. That’s the problem with these recent artists man, they’re drifting.

How did you guys feel about Snoop’s and later Lil Bow Wow’s versions of “Bow Wow Wow”?

Son Doobie: For us, this is just a technicality. We had bought the sample from George Clinton in Atlanta and we went out there and made the track and George was super happy about it and everything, and we have mad love for him too. Then when we got back to LA, Snoop was still recording The Chronic album, so ours came out first, and they’re totally different versions. His is dope, but for us it’s all about the funk and our track embodies that. We love Snoop and we love his version, but ours was the original man, and that’s for the record.

Ralph M: When those two tracks were out on the charts we were going neck and neck too it wasn’t like one was way more successful than another. And by the time Lil Bow Wow came out with his version we didn’t mind at all I mean that’s just a kid trying to do his thing. We all gotta give it up for George Clinton though because he’s the godfather of that hook.

When you started, there was a clear way to represent yourself and your image and that was through basically music videos, album art, and interviews. Now an artist has to manage their persona on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and whatever else, how have you adapted with those changes?

Tomahawk: That’s for sure not my thing you know, I’m 48, so when I was growing up we had phones on the street. Payphones, that’s it. I don’t bother trying to keep up with all that you know I check it once in a while but that’s not really our style.

Son Doobie: Of course we love being tagged on social media, who doesn’t like seeing their name on someone else’s page with a whole bunch of likes?

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How do you fund everything these days with the music industry changing so drastically?

Son Doobie: We just budget our time and our money excellently, honestly. I won’t lie, it does get frustrating in Los Angeles sometimes because there’s a whole bunch of competition these days but what keeps us safe and out of confrontation is just our seniority. We’ve been doing this the longest and we were some of the first as far as Soul Assassins, so nobody questions that.

Ralph M: That’s important to us is to educate people on where we came from and make sure everybody knows that we have nothing but love and respect for each other and all the other Soul Assassins out there.

How tight knit are Soul Assassins now? Is there a Sunday BBQ or how do you keep in touch?

Ralph M: That’s always going to be our foundation and we’ll never forget that but now we’re out doing our own thing pretty much and we’ll do things with them if we get called to do a show or something.

Son Doobie: Truth be told, we all got our own successes and our own dimensions going on now so we don’t do as much with Soul Assassins as we used to, but when we see each other, it’s like no time at all has passed, we pick up right where we left off. That’s genuine and that’s real and that’s what Funkdoobiest is all about and we can’t wait to show Copenhagen that tonight!

Funkdoobiest: Thank you Danika, thank you Denmark, D-slap to the B-slap thank you and hope you enjoy the show!

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Check the concert photos over here

Bitchslap would like to thank Pumpehuset and Baws entertainment.