DJ Yella on life after NWA

DJ Yella will be doing his first set in Singapore at Ce La Vi tonight.
DJ Yella will be doing his first set in Singapore at Ce La Vi tonight. PHOTO: CE LA VI SINGAPORE

DJ Yella, a lesser known member of American rap group NWA, spent years making adult films until Straight Outta Compton came out last year

Oscar-nominated movie Straight Outta Compton told the tale of seminal American rap group NWA, whose members include those who went on to become successful entertainment industry figures, such as hip-hop mogul Dr Dre and rapper- actor Ice Cube.

But it did not say much about the lesser known members such as DJ Yella, who maintained a low profile in the music industry after the group disbanded in 1991.

In fact, in the mid-1990s, he left the music industry to produce pornographic films.

"I stopped film two years ago. After 300 movies, I don't need to do no more," says the DJ, whose real name is Antoine Carraby.

The 48-year-old has seen his DJ-ing career revived after Straight Outta Compton came out last year.

Tonight, he will do a set at MBS rooftop club Ce La Vi Singapore, his first performance here.

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"I've gotten much busier, I mean real busy. I've been travelling the past six months since the movie came out," he says in a telephone interview from his home state of California. "I've been in way more countries than NWA were."

Going back to DJ-ing after a long time is fun, he adds, even if it means he has to embrace new technology.

"It's like I never lost a beat at all. I'm using a controller and Serato and stuff like that, you can't travel with turntables and records no more. I like the new technology."

His DJ set tonight will be full of NWA tunes, but he will also spin tracks by the group's contem- poraries such as Snoop Dogg and the late Tupac Shakur.

"I play old-school sets - late 1980s and early 1990s. I stay old-school," he says.

Carraby keeps in touch with the other remaining members of NWA and will reunite with Dr Dre, Ice Cube and MC Ren for a performance at their induction into the 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in Brooklyn on April 8.

"Yeah, we are supposed to perform, all four of us. That would be the first time we perform since 1989. Just us being together is a good thing."

He does not know if the one-off performance will lead to more NWA gigs or even new music, but he is also scheduled to perform with Ice Cube and MC Ren at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, taking place over two weekends this month in California.

Named after NWA's 1988 debut album, Straight Outta Compton captured the rise and demise of the group that took the gangsta rap genre from its roots in the streets of Los Angeles to become a worldwide phenomenon.

While their music topped the charts, they were also criticised for their explicit lyrics depicting misogyny, violence and crime.

"We never tried (to provoke), it just happened that way," he says of NWA's popular, if controversial, body of work. The original line-up lasted from 1986 to 1991.

"We changed the way music was, we changed hip-hop, we changed stuff we never thought we would change. We put out Straight Outta Compton 26 years ago and, here it is again, Straight Outta Compton 26 years later," says Carraby, who was played by The Walking Dead actor Neil Brown, Jr in the biopic.

While he says that it was necessary to fictionalise some parts of the movie - or in his words, to "Hollywood a couple of little stuff" - to condense a decade's worth of events into a two-hour film, the biopic was "pretty close" in capturing what happened in their lives.

Watching the drama, which included the group's many confrontations with the police and main member Eazy-E's Aids- related death in 1995, gave him a new perspective on the group's legacy.

"It was different seeing someone portray me, portray all of us, in our story. Our story was all right, but I never thought it was like that until it was exposed in the movie. I was like, wow, we were really like that, we seem kind of big."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2016, with the headline 'Life after NWA'. Print Edition | Subscribe