Hasan Bin Hinton, formerly known as B.G. Knocc Out, just came out with a new solo album called “Eazy-E’s Protégé.” It’s inspired by his mentor Eazy-E, who gave Hinton and big brother Dre’sta their first big break. Hinton has made quite a journey from Compton, California - the birthplace of “gangsta rap” - to this album. The album is Hinton’s first after being released from prison, where he converted to Islam.
Hinton talks with ILLUME about his new perspective on life – and his music.
How would you describe the music you produce?
My music is based on my experience. Nothing but raw feelings and emotions and experiences are expressed in my music. However, some things are of a storytelling nature, where events are embellished to make for good story lines as well. But I think people can identify with my music.
Tell us about your new album, ‘Eazy-E’s Protégé.’
The album ‘Eazy-E's Protégé’ is based on all the things I previously expressed. It was my rekindling Eazy's memory in the minds of people who've known him and may have forgotten about him. But I also wanted to introduce him to people who may have never heard of him, and to keep him alive in the hip-hop community with the likes of Tupac and Biggie. Eazy, in my opinion, has not received the proper respect for being a pioneer of hip-hop music, and he is more deserving of recognition than the other people who are the only ones we seem to hear about.
Thus, my music includes a lot of frustration and anger, but more importantly raw stories, sick rhyme schemes, and a call to loyalty, freedom and mobilization of like-minded people and groups.
Did you and your brother resolve the differences you had with Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, etc. after the death of Eazy-E?
Yes, but in an informal way. It’s not like we sat at a table and conversed about it. But we sort of threw our hands up at the situation and it became understood between us all that the issue was dead.
What inspires your music?
What inspires my music is the lack of substance in music today, and how people have come to accept it. So I do my best to stick close to the roots of west coast hip-hop, while at the same time adhering to today’s popular sound in the hip-hop industry.
Also, Islam inspires everything in my life. My spirituality is the most important thing to me; it has definitely influenced parts of my music. However, I approach it in a subtle way because hip-hop has a thing about sounding too preachy and perfect, so I watch how I express it musically. But I feel that as I open up more to people through my music, eventually I can pull them more into my world and not be prejudged. So my strategy is a gradual process of elevation, insha’Allah ta'ala.
You've said the first thing you did after you were released from prison was pray in a mosque; tell us about that.
I prayed at the masjid when I first came home because I needed to experience that spiritually. Also, I needed to just to thank Allah for getting me through that hell-like experience. Prison has a tremendous effect on you mentally and emotionally. It can deaden your emotions and callous your feelings in many ways. And it causes you to lose a sense of reality because the environment is unnatural. That’s why Islam serves as such a Godsend - because it keeps you grounded in reality and it opens great potential in the spirit of people who may never have known themselves in that way. Some of the most crude and criminal people have been transformed by Islam to be the most pious and intelligent, to the point where they guide others to the Deen, by Allah's Permission. It’s truly a miraculous thing to witness and feel.
What do you hope listeners will gain after listening to your latest album?
My hope is for people to be refreshed after hearing my music, happy that substance is back in hip-hop, and not just the partying, freestyle type of hip-hop that’s so widespread today. As in Islam, staying close to your roots is a must, I believe, because otherwise you lose something invaluable. So, in that regard, I hope I did a service to hip-hop with ‘Eazy-E's Protege.’ Moreover, I hope people like it, support it, and help in its circulation.
Eazy-E’s Protégé can be bought via iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby.com, and knoccout.com