[Journalist Ben Westhoff, author of the new book Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap, recently sat down with hip-hop personality and SOHH correspondent Shawn Setaro on his popular “The Cipher” podcast. Listen to the full interview and check out five gems he dropped during the Q&A.]

On Ice Cube:

“Even on his first recordings with groups like Stereo Crew, he can already really dominate a beat. He has this pre-pubescent high-pitched voice, but he already is just amazing on the mic.”

On Tupac:

“One of the amazing things about Tupac is, he loved being the center of attention, but when it came to stuff that he was doing behind the scenes like helping put gang truces together on both coasts, he really didn’t say much of anything about it. He really was focused on giving back in a lot of different ways.”

On Above the Law’s album ‘Black Mafia Life’ influencing ‘The Chronic’:

“If you listen to ‘Black Mafia Life,’ it’s just shocking how similar parts of it sound to ‘The Chronic.’ The only issue is that ‘Black Mafia Life’ came out in early 1993, while ‘The Chronic’ came out in late 1992. But according to everyone I talked to, ‘Black Mafia Life’ was supposed to come out a lot sooner. It was finished before ‘The Chronic.'”

On Suge Knight:

“Suge basically had at his disposal three different things. He had his brute force, because he was literally a big guy and he wasn’t afraid to knock people around; he had the power of Death Row, which was the biggest label in the country at the time, and everybody wanted to be cool with Death Row; and then he had the police on his side – not just the legal system, but the police. The Death Row security was made up largely of off-duty L.A. and Compton police. So he really insulated himself in a number of ways.”

On Jerry Heller:

“Jerry Heller is definitely a complicated figure. There’s no denying that without him, NWA probably wouldn’t have taken off the way they did. There were lots of talented rappers in LA at that same time, and plenty of them didn’t take off. Jerry was a veteran of the industry. He knew what he was doing. At the same time, when Ice Cube left NWA, he blamed Jerry Heller for screwing him over financially, and Dr. Dre did, too.”