Ezy Reading: From The Reverb Music Archives - Don Lane & The Coffee Tables, 2002
Why keeping it real can save the world
The phenomenon of Don Lane & The Coffee Tables
Evan Kanarakis

In 1979 two upstart young MC's from the heart of America's project developments, MC Cougar from Watts on the West Coast and Eazy-E from the Bronx on the East Coast united to found one of the most compelling and influential groups ever seen on the contemporary musical landscape. While DJ's have come and gone, with the addition of Bobby Mofo-T and Anton Bambaatta on lead guitar and bass they laid the foundation for Don Lane & The Coffee Tables. Today, over twenty years later and on the eve of their European tour and one concert stopover in Sydney Australia on December 20, they talk to Ebony Antilles about the highs, the lows, and matters of hip-hop and a guaranteed legacy.

Reclining casually on a sofa in the Summit Suite of New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel and sipping 8-Ball out of Czechoslovakian crystal tumblers, Eazy-E and MC Cougar might not strike you at first as the talented yet enigmatic musical talents the world knows them to be. Though adorned from head to toe in a variety of gold and diamond chains and designer threads from the house of 'Ho-Garb', their favourite European designer, there is a relaxed, unassuming manner about the duo.

"The fame thing- the millions of dollars, the women, the mansions, the fast cars- people think it changes you..." comments Cougar. "But not us... we're the same homiez from the ghetto we've always been."

"That's exactly right" adds Eazy. "I mean, sure, we've had our problems with heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, crack, grass, E's, mushrooms, acid, ludes, PCP, speed and morphine, but that was always gonna' happen. And throughout it all we've maintained our artistic integrity".

Whatever the formula, one thing is certain, eighteen Grammys, fifteen American Music Awards, ten MTV Music Awards and eleven World Music Awards later, Don Lane & The Coffee Tables have maintained their success with the kind of consistency perhaps only artists in the realm of Madonna and U2 can boast of. Since their very first single in the Spring of 1978, the anthemic 'I Got's To Smoke That Pimp' rocketed to number 1, the gents of DL&TCT have held a tight grip over the Billboard and global music charts, as evidenced most recently when the single 'Bongs for Peace' stayed at number one for three weeks, accompanied by a re-release of their 1989 B-Side 'Sunday Drive-By' in the number two spot.

"Oh for sure... 'Bongs for Peace' was certainly a real treat" says Cougar as he smiles while admiring a TIME Magazine cover designating Don Lane & The Coffee Tables their 'Men of the Year for 2002'. "It was a song written with much love in hard times, and it was just really fulfilling to see how much it heartened people to look at the world in a happier, more joyful light, albeit a green tinged light. But a light of goodness nonetheless."

"And I guess it was 'Bongs For Peace' which started the whole Stevie thing" adds Eazy.

And by the 'Stevie thing' he refers to a new joint collaborative album featuring the combined efforts of Stevie Wonder and Don Lane & The Coffee Tables.

"We'd been fans of each others music for so many years, and way back in 1989 we'd fleetingly talked about doing something together, but you know, back then, Stevie was breaking us all with that 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' bulls*it so we just weren't down for it. Now though, the time was right, and it's been a real pleasure. We're so proud of the new album!" [the album has been tentatively titled 'The Gangsta's Leading The Blind' and will be due out in April 2003]

Our interview is interrupted briefly when Tyra Banks, the famous supermodel currently attached to Eazy-E calls in on the cell phone to check on her beloved. When the call has wrapped up Eazy blushes ever so slightly and merely adds with a nod, "She keeps me grounded".

At the same moment the Hotel Concierge enters with a basket of fruit and assorted condiments. Cougar examines the card and shakes his head. "Aww, they didn't need to do that..." He holds up the card for me to examine. It reads: 'Thanking you for a wonderful porcelain duck, Brad and Jennifer'.

"They've been a little down lately what with all the tabloid attention. They needed a little lift so I took 'em to a local cockfight..." says Cougar as he pours himself another glass.

Gradually this author wonders if there is more to these men than album titles such as 1987's 'Love is an AK-47' and 1992's 'Booty-Slide' may suggest...

Much, indeed, has been made in the press of the humanitarian work carried out by Don Lane & The Coffee Tables, especially abroad, but on this day the men are enjoying some time off from such pursuits, and eagerly discussing plans to journey down the Ganges in January, the jaunt a direct result of their new passion: Eco-Tourism.

Says Cougar, "When you're living the life of a rock star 24-7 sometimes you just need a little release. Somewhere where you can go and re-charge the batteries. Eazy has his ranch in Montana. I have my stamps. But we both love our environment. You know, trees and sh*t..."

"And grass" Eazy enthusiastically throws in.

Now about to embark on their seventeenth tour of Europe, their travels will include a side-trip down to their beloved Australia for the Reverb Music Christmas Party on Friday, December 20.

"We've commented on our relationship with Reverb Music plenty of times in the past, but I can never get tired of saying this- that company is at the frontier of music today." says Eazy. "Bob and Evan [the company's G.M's] are fearless innovators and have discovered some of the most outstanding musical talent we've ever come across... And we owe them a lot."

Cougar sits up, nodding. "When Reverb invites us to come to perform, we come, no questions asked... If it wasn't for Reverb Music, Don Lane & The Coffee Tables would still be two young teenagers singing in the Gospel choirs of their local neighbourhood church."

But when they've conquered the entire industry, achieved so much, what more could possibly challenge an artist? What more could be left to attain?

"Listen, G" says Eazy. "When music is in you, it is you. Nothing can take it away no matter what."

"Exactly my brother" remarks Cougar with a suitably hard high five in response. "We'll still be here in another twenty-five years... Still making tunes and still keeping the world happy wit' our wicked beats and rhymes of love and the occasional execution style killing."

My time with these men drawing to a close I study them carefully. Their every gesture, their every word. There is a child-like intensity in their eyes that belies their years, and yet they exude a spirit of giving and of love that this writer has never encountered before, especially not from men born on the tough streets of hard knocks U.S.A.

So what, I ask -their legacy intact on earth- would St. Peter say to each of them when the time has come and they, in turn, venture from this good life of theirs and approach the Pearly Gates?

"What up, homey, there's a bong and a bag of pretzels waiting for you in Room 5, now go and enjoy eternity" laughs Cougar, his eyes far away and lost deep in thought.

"What would St. Peter say to me?" muses Eazy. "Hmm.... that's a tough one." He goes quiet for a moment but suddenly a light twinkles in his eyes and he chugs down his glass of 8-Ball with gusto before shouting, "He'd say 'Yo Dawg, we been waitin' a while for you to come and raise the roof off this motherfu*ker, now get on in!'"

And so say all of us.

Don Lane & The Coffee Tables play London on December 7 and 8, Paris December 10, Berlin December 12, Rome December 15 and Athens December 16 before jetting to Sydney Australia for their one and only Australian show at the Reverb Music Christmas Party at Bar Broadway on December 20. They will be supported by Bionic Beatboy, Appleseed, Isherwood and Ant Whitehouse. Entry $10.

This article originally appeared on pages 7 and 8 of the New York Times, December 1, 2002.

Ezy Reading is out every Monday.