Drunken Master

by Garrett Caples
San Francisco Bay Guardian April 6, 2005

When I'm drunk I don't think a lot

Wave your cups in the air if you drink a lot.

Eddie Projex, "Drank-A-Lot"

IF YOU SEE the video for "Drank-A-Lot" and aren't too distracted by the clubful of ass cheeks jiggling, you might notice the guy who spits the hook and first verse. He's Eddie Projex, from Oakland's Hittaz on tha Payroll, and the huge grin that never leaves his face throughout the clip is inspired by more than booty and booze. As the lead single from the soundtrack to episode two of the Sex and the Studio series, with verses by better-known buddies Numskull and Money B, "Drank-A-Lot" puts Eddie out front. The video has raised his profile, garnering nationwide "cable play" on BET Uncut, the station's adult-oriented music show (Wednesdays through Fridays, 3 to 4 a.m.). Now, after years of grinding away underground, Eddie's ready to shine.

"I like Hittaz on tha Payroll anyway, and Eddie's voice stands out," says Money B, recalling the "Drank-A-Lot" session. "I said, 'You pick the beat. Tell me which one you dig.' I went out the room, came back, and he'd already laid the hook. I was like, 'Yeeeaaahhhh.' "

Eddie's eagerness and efficiency reflect his persistence over the course of a decade in which Bay Area hip-hop got little mainstream love or major-label support. Along with MCs Polo, Curcinado, and Fletchberg Slim, Eddie formed Hittaz on tha Payroll in 1996.

"When 'I Got 5 on It' came out," Eddie says, referring to the Luniz' 1995 platinum hit, "we was in different groups. Everybody started fallin' off, and we were the only ones left standing. While the Luniz were making their mark, Num was busy doin' him. But we knew each other from back in the day, and when he came back, and sees we were still at it, he couldn't do nothing but accept it." Indeed, Num soon moved beyond acceptance. "He took me off the turf and flew me to L.A. Took care of me, gave me money, bought me clothes. He was like, 'Y'all gotta be my niggas.' "

Numskull premiered his new crew in 1999 on Good Laaawd, That's a Lot of Drank. In 2001, with no distribution deal, the Hittaz sold their debut disc, Underground Like Dead People, straight out the trunk, but it was with the release of Ghetto Storm (2003), on their own City Hall-distributed Hitta Records, that the Payroll began to attract attention. Produced entirely by the Mekanix, save for one banger by Sean T, Ghetto Storm was an instant East Oakland classic, due in no small part to Eddie's hook-writing ability on tracks like the atmospheric gangsta drama "Tha Game" and the sideshow anthem "Rims." Clearly Money B hadn't overlooked this elusive talent when he picked the Fifth-produced "Drank-A-Lot" as the single for Sex and the Studio's episode two.

Currently Eddie is shopping for a deal for his debut solo disc, Now or Never, even as he finishes two others: Ghetto Celebrity, for Hitta Records, and The Eddie Projex Project, for the Mekanix' Zoo Entertainment. In the meantime, taking advantage of the BET buzz, he's about to drop a street-only compilation, Eddie Projex Presents Oakland Street Music, Volume 1, which he hopes to turn into an annual showcase for emerging talent. Volume 1, which will also be sold at East Bay record stores like Rasputin's in Berkeley and Moses Music in East Oakland, features some of Oakland's hottest young artists – like Stevie Jo, E-Maculate, and R&B singer Naté – with production by the Mekanix, Sean T, and Harm and LT. Those unable to wait can check out the Hittaz' 2004 releases: Underground Like Dead People II, a recent Hitta Records mix tape, and Acid, a Polo and Curcinado duo project from FastLife Entertainment.

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