By Dylan Deprey
Flash back to September 18, 2001.
Milwaukee rapper, Coo Coo Cal, releases his second album, “Disturbed,” on Tommy Boy Records, with the single, “My Projects.”
The bassline snaps harder than a rubber band around a stack of $100 bills. The haunting strings and snapping synths create an energetic bounce. Cal’s gritty, aggressive voice bounces over the beat with an animated flow and a story of flash and hood resilience.
Seven days earlier, the United States had experienced one of the deadliest terrorist attacks it had ever seen. That same day, Jay-Z had dropped his classic album, “The Blueprint.”
Although, all eyes were on New York, “My Projects,” gave Milwaukee a voice in the Hip-Hop community, one that had been stunted by an industry focused on the more prominent East and West Coasts and upcoming stars from the South.
Whether “My Projects” was blasting from a boom box in the projects, or over the airwaves in a suburban Mom’s soccer van, the hit climbed the Billboard Hip-Hop charts. The video aired across MTV and BET, and even showcased several local landmarks, including Cal stunting in front of the Milwaukee Mall.
Though Cal had put his city on his back, after two underperforming albums, label drama, legal problems and drug and alcohol issues, the bright flame that had ignited in Midwest was eventually extinguished.
Flash forward to Present Day.
After getting sober and releasing a steady stream of street singles and mixtapes, people still wanted to know, “What happened to Coo Coo Cal?”
“It’s been 20 years since, ‘My Projects,’ and I wanted to transform the music into another medium,” Cal said while stopping through at the Milwaukee Courier offices. “I figured a tell-all documentary would be a perfect way to re-introduce Coo Coo Cal…The Vet.”
“The Product” documentary series, by executive producers KB Barrell and Swift Sloan, begins with Coo Coo Cal, and will host several other major Midwest Hip-Hop music players. “The Rise and Fall: Untold Story of Coo Coo Cal” narrates his early days and upbringing, his connection to music and the downfall that was a result of cocaine and the street life.
“We’re telling it all, from having the biggest song in the country to the drug and alcohol abuse,” Cal said. “You know: the music, the sour deals, the broads, the hotels, the travels, we’re telling the whole nine.”
Along with first-hand accounts from Cal, his friends and entourage, local media like V100.7’s Reggie Brown, and local clergy, Pastor Radontae Ashford, shared their stories to unfold the true Coo Coo Cal story.
Sloan Swift, Executive Producer and Cal’s longtime friend, said the documentary was a long time coming, but all it needed was the right people and right ideas in the same room.
“I always wanted to see Cal succeed because he was a genuine brother,” Swift said. “For me to being doing this with him, it’s just a wonderful thing.”
As for new music, Cal most recently dropped several singles including, “Home,” an anthem that is a pseudo, more adult version of “My Projects.”
“The day we shot the ‘My Projects’ video every gang and clique was in one spot, and nothing bad happened,” Cal said. “I want to recreate that.”
Along with an upcoming album, “Mandatory Release,” Cal said he wanted to give underground talent and several protégés the information and resources that was not available while he was coming up.
“I want my legacy to be that I helped some of these younger artists because there is a lot of
talent out here, and the streets is nasty,” Cal said.
Check out Coo Coo Cal’s new singles and teaser for “The Rise and Fall of Coo Coo Cal, The Untold Truth,” at https://therealcoocoocal.com/.