Tucked within the city limits of West Los Angeles exists hip-hop collective Villain Park, comprised of members Smokey V, Bunge, and DJ Coly Cole. Their presence is truly one of Los Angeles’ best-kept secrets and their latest project, The Recipe, is a breath of fresh air amongst the typical West Coast sound of today.
Villain Park recently stopped by Uproxx, which happens to be in their neck of the woods, to speak about their journey as a group, as well as everything that went into creating The Recipe. Unlike most records put out by 20-something rappers, there’s no auto-tune on The Recipe — just straight bars brimming with youthful angst about life in West LA. Because of this, Villain Park often gets compared to the early ’90s rap scene, but they maintain that they’re just doing them.
Inspired by the likes of Ice Cube and N.W.A., Villain Park wants listeners to see them as more than just a ’90s rap emulation. They want to be seen as a true global force, and it sounds like they just might have what it takes.
Read an edited and condensed version of our conversation below.
Who is Villain Park?
Smokey: Villain Park is a brotherhood. We some villains. We really don’t care about the way everyone else does things. We don’t follow no trends. We watch it and we see it. We the watchers, that’s what Cole like to say. We just three brothers who linked up, met each other at Robertson Park in West LA and knew each other through different things, doing different things and we are now just making music.
How long have you guys known each other?
Bunge: Pretty much all of our life. I met Smokey at Robertson Park and I was bothering him at that time. I met Cole at Hamilton High.
Where did you guys come up with the name Villain Park and why?
Smokey: The name came from just being Villains. At first, it was just a click of Villains, just the all the homies come together and we would just call them Villains and then I just knew Villains wasn’t going to be the one so I had to come up with something real smooth. They got Cypress Hill but…
DJ Coly Cole: Can’t just be Cypress.
Smokey: Cypress… they needed a Hill. So I just shortened it to Villain then added Park. It’s a collective as well. It’s not just one villain or just villains. We are a collective which sets us apart. There are many things we can do within this circle. There’s a lot of different things that you can do at a park. Villain Park just comes from not giving a f*ck. We gon’ be us and do us.
What made you guys name the album The Recipe?
DJ Coly Cole: It’s just some shit that we created. This is what we got and what it took to make it.
What exactly is “the recipe”?
DJ Coly Cole: It’s a mystery. You can’t really put a finger on it. It’s us, it’s what we got, it’s our touch. Our touch is “the recipe.” It’s like an unbroken code that you can’t read unless we decode it for you.
Smokey: It’s magic. That magic feeling when you know you got it. Like, you were working on a song for a long time and you find that one little crack that you needed throughout that whole process to make it fall in. It’s like, boom, it’s magic and that’s the recipe.
DJ Coly Cole: I put my foot in it!
I really like the song “Visions,” it has a Texas influence. How did that song come together?
Smokey: Yeah, big ups to Texas. We tuned in.
DJ Coly Cole: It was really just off us vibing. He made the beat, then came with verses and hooks.
Smokey: The whole idea is to really do something we never did before and really step out of the 2016 era. The whole song format was, let’s just freely keep creating different ways to make this song crazy. We spoke our hearts out on that!
What song was the most fun to record?
DJ Coly Cole: I would say “Black Meadows” and “Elm Street.” “Elm Street” most definitely because we all got into the booth at once and just started chanting. We were screaming until we got tired. “Black Meadows” because we had to craft that one. It was already done but it was some little missing parts. We literally dressed it up and then played with it until it was good.
Smokey: A lot of the recording for The Recipe, though, was like, we have to be focused. We not having too many people in the lab. Certain tracks that you hear, it was people in a lab and it was a vibe, but there were certain songs where it was like y’all, everybody got to go, step out. So we can just blackout and do our thing. Once it’s done, everybody comes back in and vibes.
You guys have been out here grinding for a minute, tell me what’s kept you guys going over the past years.
DJ Coly Cole: Faith.
Smokey: And vision.
Bunge: And hunger.
Smokey: Just knowing that we had something that nobody else got okay. It’ll always be that way. We’re going to keep pushing no matter what. We know that we’re going to do this the most organic way and this is what we do.
Bunge: It’s that hunger to actually be at that top spot. At the end of the day, we want to go down as one of the most prominent factors in this game.
DJ Coly Cole: Everybody says the same thing and we’re tired of watching the same people do the same shi* all the time. We know with the sh*t that we got that there’s a whole open ass lane for it. We live in a world of people who are easily impressed. When you do start doing something actually tight, it’s like their mind is blown and the first thing they say is ’90s.
How do you guys feel about your sound always being compared to early-’90s rap?
DJ Coly Cole: I mean it’s cool. It’s flattering but this a whole new thing. You can’t really even put your finger on it. I think that’s the first thing they say because that’s the first thing they think about. I call it a ’64 UFO. An old classic thing but, but let’s tweak this up.
Smokey: I think they say the ’90s because we’re actually rapping. Kendrick Lamar, he’s crazy on the mic and he’s really spitting, but I don’t think they give them that reference because he’s one person. He’s an individual, but we’re a group. We kind of bring a youthful vibe and that reminds everybody of that. But I feel like we’re just speaking our mind. We ain’t trying to be ’90s, we’re just trying to be ourselves and that’s what The Recipe is.
Has there ever been like a time where you guys doubted or felt the pressure to sound like the rest of LA?
DJ Coly Cole: Nah. Never.
If somebody wasn’t from LA, where would you take them?
DJ Coly Cole: I’ll just show them this traffic first. This is where you want to go? This is where are you going to be, huh? It’s too many people that are moving out here. It’s too much traffic.
Smokey: World On Wheels.
Can y’all skate?
Smokey: Yeah, I can skate.
DJ Coly Cole: If I was a cold-ass skater it would be over with. I’d probably do it on stage. I’d take them to Hollywood and show them how overrated it is. It’s a lot of stuff that don’t really excite us because we been here but to somebody who is living in New York, they’re like oh my god, the beach is right there?
Smokey: Take them to Slauson and Crenshaw.
DJ Coly Cole: Take them to the hood! We’re going to take them to Florence with all the weed shops. Western and Vernon.
What happens on Western and Vernon?
DJ Coly Cole: Oh, it goes down at night. It goes down at night. The corners. East corners.
Smokey: You don’t want to go to Western and Vernon. We’ll drive ya’ll through the hood in the day time. Leimert Park. We’ll take them to Leimert Park and Fox Hills.
What is the ultimate goal for you guys?
DJ Coly Cole: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bunge: Traveling the world and performing all over the world. Just seeing the logo everywhere on t-shirts in Japan or the UK, not just here. I feel like what we do is for everybody and everybody can be in tuned no matter your age or if you don’t listen to hip hop like that. We just here to make good music for the world and we want to be able to just put a spark in everybody.
Smokey: Have people rocking the merch and it’s everywhere.
DJ Coly Cole: Basically everybody taking us seriously.
Do you feel like people haven’t been taking y’all serious?
DJ Coly Cole: Yes, but to the point where, if we get brought up in a top rap conversation you have to mention Villain Park. Even if you don’t like us, you have to respect us.
The Recipe is out now via Black Out Company. Get it here.