Interview: Vince Edwards (aka CPO Boss Hogg)
One of the coolest things about social media is the ability to connect with so many people that we may never meet in real-life. That’s what happened with Vince Edwards (aka CPO Boss Hogg). My husband (a huge fan of CPO’s music) connected with him on Twitter and, much to our surprise, he actually responded to his tweets and messages. I ended up connecting with him over creative writing and business.
Eventually I reached out to him and asked him if he’d be interested in answering a few questions for me so I could share them on my blog. He agreed. I celebrated. Here we are.
As a fellow creative (writer, artist, etc.), can you share with us a bit about what first inspired you to pursue your creative craft? What is about writing and music that drew you in to it as a hobby and career?
Well I’ve always had an affinity for music and creative writing though singing was something I only did in the choir or at home, because I was too shy to sing solo in public. Writing was my escape. I loved to write Sci-Fi/Fantasy & ghost stories but, for the most part, I wrote poetry. I found I could make a few bucks writing romantic poems so that guys could give them to girls they liked, yet I could never seem to translate romantic poetry into song. It wasn’t until Rap came along, that turning a poem into a song became feasible for me.
What was your first “big” moment? What do you remember most about it? How did you celebrate?
I suppose I’d have to say my first “Big Moment”, came when Ren (MC REN) told me he was going to sign me as an artist to his new label (Ren Records). That was the most unexpected thing that ever happened to me during my music career because unlike many people, I wasn’t trying to secure a record deal at the time. For me it was mostly an entertaining daydream to pass the time. Not that I didn’t want to have the Fame and Hopeful Fortune of a Rap Celebrity, but at the level of skill I possessed then, it didn’t seem very realistic. I had absolutely no reason to even imagine I’d be in that situation which brings me to the “Celebration” part. I don’t recall celebrating too much, because I think I kept waiting for Ren to say, “Just Kidding”. It was really kind of a remarkably surreal experience.
What advice would you give your younger self today about pursuing your career as a writer and musician? Any triumphs? Regrets? Lessons learned?
The first advice I’d give to my younger self would be to get an Attorney. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed by the notion that you’re about to become a celebrity. At least that’s what was constantly being pumped into my ears, by the many executives and personnel at Capitol Records back then. They really have a way of making you believe that you’re about to be the next STAR!!! You’ll be seen on popular video shows, heard on all the major radio stations around the country, seen in all the major music magazines, having interviews, signing autographs, traveling the country, doing shows, Your Name in Lights. You know, The usual Hollywood Glamorous life thing.
The truth is, all of that is no more than an elaborate distraction because in the end, all that really matters is that this is, first and foremost, a business and it should be approached as such. All the glitz, glitter, and glamour is meaningless in comparison to making certain that you’re making the money for the product you’re creating. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the Fame, so long as it isn’t done at the expense of your proceeds. Regrettably, I missed some hugely beneficial opportunities as a result of being caught up in the hype but I’m immensely appreciative of the fact that I’ve been fortunate enough to have been associated with some of the most notable & memorable artists and projects in the history of this genre to date. That has been instrumental in having my name mentioned synonymously with West Coast’s most prestigious and I’m very grateful for that.
Tell me about a dream you have that you’ve yet to accomplish.
Since becoming the next voice of Darth Vader is probably a little far fetched I would say I still dream of writing at least one of the many Sci-fi/Fantasy or Horror books floating around in my head, or perhaps one of the comic books. Perhaps even if I were to simply accomplish the task of writing an autobiographical novel based on my music career. If I were able to do so I couldn’t possibly ask for more than to have one of my fictional Sci-fi/Fantasy works, turned into a feature length film. The way I see it, there was a time when I thought that being known as a recording artist was an impossible dream. But somehow, it actually happened. So perhaps, I might have the slightest prayer, at succeeding as an author of those literary works as well.
As creatives, we all struggle with doubt and self-worth. We often wonder if our work is good enough and if people will like it. We doubt our own skills and talent, often feeling that there are others that are so much better than ourselves. Would you mind sharing some of the doubts and struggles you’ve faced when it comes to your writing and music. How do you overcome it?
In truth, there’s almost never a time when I’m not plagued by doubt in relation to my writing. Initially, when it weighed most heavily I literally tricked myself into being confident. I was of the mind that it’s always someone else who succeeds at making it, it’s never you. As I began to try and imagine who that someone else was and where they might come from I suddenly realized, that whomever they are, they could be thinking the exact same thought. They could be thinking, it’s never going to be them that makes it because it’s always someone else. That’s when it dawned on me. To that person, whomever they are, I’m someone else. And if I’m someone else, then I can actually make it. As goofy as that may sound, it made perfect sense to me. It immediately gave me the confidence to believe in myself. Of course it didn’t hurt that I had friends named MC REN, EAZY-E, and Dr. DRE of (NWA), who were already successful, but in the end, it comes down to belief in yourself because to doubt yourself is to stand in your own way.
If you try and aren’t successful, you simply make adjustments to your material until you find the formula. It’s a proven fact, that Trial & Error eventually lead to success.
We all have heroes that inspire our creative work. Who do you admire as an author or musician? Why do their works inspire you? How have they influenced you as a person? As an artist?
I have many favorites as writers go but a few of them are Piers Anthony (A Spell for Chameleon, Incarnations of Immortality), Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone, The Night Gallery), JRR Tolkien (Lord of The Rings), Gene Roddennberry (Star Trek), and George Lucas (Star Wars) to name a few.
My favorites in music, are far too many in name & genre to list them all but George Clinton, Prince, Barry White, Michael Jackson (and The Jackson 5), Chuck D., KrsOne, LL Cool J, MC REN, Ice Cube, D.O.C., John Williams, Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer and Michael Giacchino are certainly among those who stand out.
Each of the aforementioned writers, I credit with helping to seed my imagination and provide me with entertaining examples of the significance of an education. The artists and composers have given me guidance, either in person or by example, in comprehending how tone, rhythm, vocabulary, and style, to name a few elements, are all necessary for achieving a level of success in music that exceeds monetary gain.
They say that the first story of a writer is almost always semi-autobiographical. The claim is that it is easiest to write about what we know so most authors start from home and their writing expands with experience. Have you found this to be true in your case? Do you find that you base characters off of family or friends? What about situations or settings?
If I’m simply writing something to be read, as in a poem, story or composition etc., then of course it could be either fictional or non-fictional. When it comes to my music, yes it’s either entirely or largely based on either autobiographical occurrences, or at the very least, true to life situations. After all, we initially titled this particular form of Rap as, “Reality” because all we spoke of is the things we’ve either lived, encountered or saw on a daily basis.
If you were going to write a novel inspired or influenced by your life what genre would it be? What about the synopsis?
It would be relatively the same genre as The “Straight Outta Compton” movie. After all, the timeline and the location of both my life and career is the exact same as the individuals that movie is about. Interestingly enough, had that movie spoken more extensively on MC Ren’s life, there would’ve almost certainly been mention of me because I was his first artist, and then signed to Dr. Dre at Death Row. So, the genre of a movie about my music career would be a mixture of Biography, Drama, Crime, a bit of Comedy etc. It would be about my Life which is like the lives of many people who grow up in the inner cities of Compton, Los Angeles and similar places growing up amidst Gang Warfare, Drugs, Negative influences. All the various elements of Street Life.
If you had to choose between writing and music, which would you continue to pursue? Why?
That’s a good question. I’d like to say music, because I’m already acclimated to it but writing has always been what I’ve wanted to do. In fact, my initial hope was that writing music would somehow open the door to writing other things. Honestly, I’ve been writing Rap for so long, admittedly I haven’t had the opportunity to become accustomed to writing things like books. However, the flip side is, that I’m not as hyped about writing music anymore, especially the way Hip Hop and the music industry have changed and I have no desire to alter my craft in favor of this new music.
Share a personal anecdote about your life, writing, and/or music. Tell us about a special encounter, a memorable fan moment, a night that changed your life, etc.
The only moment that comes to mind, that relates to my writing is from the days when I was very involved in computer programming. I’d started a service that offered Tailored Software to small companies. I called it “Softworks”, our slogan was, “Softworks: Software Engineered for the World’s Finest Computer. The Mind”.
I’d gone to meet the owner of a small company, a somewhat elderly lady, who was interested in modernizing her office and joining the rest of us in the computer age. I’d written an example program using Application Software, or an App as they now call it, to give her a glimpse of how much simpler she could keep track of her revenue, accounting, employees attendance, stock etc, whatever she might like. She seemed impressed, which was indeed good for my business. But then she asked me, where I had gotten my slogan? When I told her I had written it the topic of her office abruptly halted. She expressed that she readily believed I’d created the program, but that she’d been in business for almost 50 years and that my slogan was clearly the product of a professional business marketing company and that there was simply no way a 20-year old kid could possibly have written it. Shocked, but amused, I told her I’d only been programming computers for a couple of years but I’d been writing my whole life to date. She thought that was all fine & dandy, yet adamantly refused to believe I’d written it and took exception to that fact that I refused to relent and admit that I hadn’t written it. Well I was sorry to disappoint, but I couldn’t very well admit to an untruth. As a result, I lost the account.
Well that was weird, I thought but it made me wonder if perhaps I was in the wrong business. Perhaps, I should’ve been writing slogans instead. At any rate, that’s the funniest, albeit, strangest thing that’s happened with my writing.
Favorite fan moment and life changing experience goes to Rap Music.
It happened one night at a party in Long Beach, CA. It was a house full of people and I was being my usual shy self. I was there with two friends who were anything but shy. I hung out with them daily, especially one of them who, over the past couple of months, convinced me that we should try and become Rappers. It didn’t matter that neither of us knew how to Rap, that was merely a formality. We’d just have to learn how.
We spoke of it so frequently I actually started believing it was going to happen. Then, as always, he decided he no longer wanted to pursue a career in Rap. This was a normal thing for him. He’d come up with a great idea, he’d entertain it for a while, and then, on to the next idea. Never letting any of them come to fruition. My hopes were dashed. I’d hoped to convince him to rethink his decision because I really felt that I couldn’t do it without him. So I pleaded with him, “Dude!! I cannot do this without you”. Til this day, I can clearly hear his reply echo in my ears. He simply said, “You’re gonna have to”. I was devastated. Do this alone? It was an impossibility. I mean he was The Guy, he was The Frontman, He was Batman, and there simply was no Robin without Batman. I couldn’t get the dream of perhaps making it, and becoming someone, out of my head.
So here we are at this party, and in the middle of everything, the person who threw the party announced that he was going to play some music from a new Rapper and he wanted everyone to check it out. I was standing outside with my buddies. The guy puts the song on, the Rapper’s voice comes in at the top of the beat and almost immediately the entire party is rockin. Everybody inside and outside were dancing. Apparently everybody was loving this new song. I’m standing there with my buddies. One of them is dancing with his drink in hand. The other one is bouncing but slightly intrigued about the Rappers voice. He looks at me and says, “You know what Vince? If you were to Rap, you would sound like that.” I replied, “You think so?” He answered, “Yeaah,” as he continued bouncing to the beat and listening to the lyrics. Again, he remarked about how much the guy on the song sounded a lot like I might sound, if only I knew how to Rap. About that time the music cuts off. The whole party let’s out a collective “Awwwwh!!!”.
The guy whose party it was explained he didn’t want to play the entire song, just a verse of it, to get everyone’s reaction. When he asked what they thought of it, everyone clapped, yelled and cheered. By this time, I’ve walked back into the house. Just when someone asked, “Who was that Rappin on the song?” the guy looked in my direction and said, “That Big Dude leaning against the wall right there.” At that moment, everyone in the party swarmed on me. I was totally surprised and I couldn’t stop smiling & laughing. They were treating me like their favorite celebrity rapper who’d stopped by the party unexpectedly. I was ecstatic, but still a shy guy so I made my way back to the door and walked out. When I got outside my two buddies were, more or less, in a state of shock. They were astonished that it was actually me on the song. The friend who had told me, “I’d have to do it alone” had no idea that he’d only motivated me to have the confidence to, at least, make an attempt and it worked.
He hadn’t known that after he told me that my brother had begun teaching me how to Rap and that I spent every waking moment determined to learn to put poetry to music. He hadn’t known that MC REN of NWA, had heard a song I’d written and actually decided to sign me to a record deal. Now that he knew, the look on his face was priceless. The other friend of mine seemed just as happy for me as I was and he was the first person to hang a poster of CPO on the wall at his house when my album was released. I always appreciated him for that.
That night at the party, was the standalone best moment in my life at that time. I’d emerged from the obscurity of the background of nobodies to take my place in the forefront as a Somebody. It was proof that what I had believed was an impossibility was nothing of the kind so long as I had confidence in myself and put my best foot forward. It reminded me of the words from a Gospel Hymn I’d heard as a child, “All things are possible. Only believe.”
I never will forget that saying, or that night.
About Vince Edwards (aka CPO Boss Hogg)
Many cities are famous, but one city in Southern California, is INFAMOUS. It is known as the birth place of The World’s Most Dangerous Group. That city is COMPTON. That group, was NWA.
While visiting his old neighborhood in Compton, the member of NWA known as MC Ren, discovered something unexpected. Something “BIG”. A Rogue 6ft 300lb Menace called Lil Nation. Ren had known him for years, but was only now made aware that he was into hip-hop. Lil Nation, whose given name is Vince Edwards, was very reluctant to let the seasoned MC hear his material even if they were friends but eventually he relented. Much to his surprise and relief, Ren was impressed, and immediately took Lil Nation to the studio to record him.
When the session ended, Ren informed Vince that he was going to sign him to his company, MC Ren Productions. Initially Lil Nation was meant to be the spearhead of a crew called C.P.O., the “Capital Punishment Organization.” But by some strange turn of events, everyone mistook CPO to be his name, and the name Lil Nation, was lost in the shuffle.
The debut album from CPO entitled, “To Hell and Black” dropped on Capital Records. It did nicely, after excerpts of his video for “Ballad of a Menace”, were chosen to air in the opening credits of the popular hip hop show “Yo MTV Raps”, and his video for “This Beat is Funky” became well-known for his hilarious comedic antics. All topped off by his album appearing on the cover of Billboard Magazine that year.
CPO would soon become disenchanted when it seemed to him that Ren, Capitol, and his manager Jerry Heller appeared to lose interest in the project. He decided to disconnect from Ren, Capitol, and Jerry but with no regrets. Ren had given him his first deal. He had even gotten the opportunity to make a guest appearance on the hugely successful N.W.A. CD “EFIL4ZAGGIN”, yet again adding comic relief as the memorable character, “Mr. BIG DRAWS”.
After a three year hiatus, he decided to link up with another member of N.W.A., when he signed to Dr. Dre’s mega-label, “Death Row Records” where he attempted to sever all ties with his former persona. He changed his name from CPO to Boss Hogg, not that it did him any good because now people were calling him CPO and Boss Hogg.
Boss Hogg was given a spot on the “Above the Rim” soundtrack, for the motion picture starring Tupac (2pac) Shakur. Boss Hogg’s notability gained momentum, when the soundtrack went multi-platinum. He followed up by landing a spot on the next multi-platinum Death Row compilation entitled, “Murder Was the Case” with his song “The Eulogy”.
Having somehow foreseen the ill-fated future of Death Row Records and accurately anticipating Dr. Dre’s departure, Boss Hogg took his leave of the company but not before performing his most recognizable lyrics yet. He recorded “Picture Me Rollin” with Tupac and Big Syke, which was featured on Tupac’s “All Eyes On Me” double CD and his Greatest Hits CD. That song achieved worldwide acclaim catapulting CPO – Boss Hogg to the status that had managed to elude him while at Capitol. He made a few more guest appearances on projects such as Snoop Dogg’s “Bones” soundtrack, Warren G’s “Return of the Regulator”, the debut CD of “The Eastsidaz”, and some scattered cameos on various projects before falling into relative obscurity.
Over the years fans have wondered what became of him though he has remained a topic of discussion receiving huge praises from fans around the globe. CPO Boss Hogg recently teamed up with his friend and business associate “K-Tone” Downing, also from Compton, to form “The Tilted Brimm Entertainment Group LLC”.