DJ Yella tells Chris Schulz why a movie about rap group NWA has resurrected his career.

When DJ Yella's close friend and band mate Eazy E died, so did his faith in music.

"I said, 'Okay, I'm done, I'm cool' and that was it." says Yella, who, alongside Dr Dre, produced all of Compton rap collective NWA's biggest and best songs.

Consisting of Eazy, Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren and Yella, NWA had a meteoric rise and dramatic falling out that left a legacy of just two albums, 1988's Straight Outta Compton, and 1991's Niggaz4Life.

Eazy's shock death from an Aids-related illness in 1995, four years after the group split, saw their celebrated but controversial career cut short just as reunion plans had begun.

Advertisement

After Eazy's death, Dre and Cube continued hugely successful solo careers, while MC Ren released several albums with middling returns.

Yella, real name Antoine Carraby, gave up on music completely, instead producing more than 300 adult films.

But this year's successful biopic about the group, Straight Outta Compton, has resurrected interest in NWA.

Their 1988 album has been re-mastered and re-released, Dr Dre's companion album Compton is one of the year's best rap albums, and an official soundtrack and director's cut of the movie is planned for release early next year.

That means Yella, real name Antoine Carraby, is in demand, back DJing, back on tour, and back playing the music he loves.

He's been on tour for three straight months through Canada and Europe, spending just one night at home before flying to New Zealand.

"The energy from younger generations is amazing, they go crazy," he says. "They came from the movie, they had no idea who we were. It opened the eyes to a whole new generation of people."

Yella is in New Zealand for three shows, performing in Auckland on Saturday night where he'll soundtrack what he calls "a strictly old school" hip-hop party.

Advertisement

"The early '90s was the best time for hip-hop," he explains. "The Cube's, the Snoop's, the Dre's - that was a golden time with great music, great albums, great groups, everything."

It was also a time of great excess. Straight Outta Compton shows Yella getting arrested after performing NWA's seminal song F*** the Police, sleeping with a groupie during a hotel orgy, and chasing foes armed with automatic weapons hidden under a mattress.

Played by Neil Brown Jr, Yella was a consultant for the film alongside Dre and Cube, and says events are portrayed exactly as they happened.

"That was how I used to be, that was definitely my character ... I loved the girls. I told them what the studio looked like, what equipment was in there, what machines we had, what we wore ... they were really detailed."

As for the renewed interest in NWA, Yella says you can't wipe the smile from his face.

"We broke up in '91, but we didn't fade out, we didn't burn ourselves out, we were on pause for 26 years. We stopped at the height, we were No. 1 and we just broke up.

"Since the movie came out it's like it restarted the motor again, but it's bigger. It's all over the world now."

As for those rumours of an NWA reunion tour without Eazy, Yella admits surviving members have talked about it.

"In the New Year, something may come up. This is the time to do it if something's going to happen. You never know."

Who: DJ Yella from NWA
Where and when: Neck Of The Woods, Saturday

- nzherald.co.nz