Your debut album The Death of Adam has been out for a few months now. Are you happy with the response you’ve gotten to the album?
Yeah. I’m happy with the critics’ response. It’s critically-acclaimed but I think more people need to go out and support it as opposed to burning copies off their friends or downloading it off of Limewire or wherever people are downloading it off of nowadays. We just gotta get the awareness out there.
Do you think The Death of Adam will be one of those albums that fans continue to discover years from now?
Oh yeah, definitely. The album is definitely gonna gain momentum and stuff like that. It’s just that right now it’s a bit of a slow burn. But the word is definitely being spread out there. I’m just trying to get the word to translate into sales. That’s the important part right there. That’s the whole mission.
Do you feel that you took a risk making a concept album as opposed to an album full of singles even though the songs can be played by themselves without knowing they’re connected?
I would have felt like I was taking more of a risk if I did the opposite. Then I wouldn’t have been satisfied with the end result and the product. I wouldn’t have been as satisfied as making a single after single and having an album of three dope songs and the rest of the album sounds like crap. I wouldn’t have been happy with that. I’m glad I did the album the way I did. I’m just waiting for people to catch up to where I am right now.
Do you feel like more people are catching on to 88-Keys today?
Yeah. The whole blogosphere is keeping an eye on me and things are getting around via blogs and stuff like that, like video clips and audio clips of me, which is all great. I love it and I appreciate it all and stuff like that. It’s just funny to me that as many people who visit these blogs and do check for my music, when I get out in the streets and ask the people if they heard my album, not only have they not heard my album, they don’t know who I am and they haven’t seen my video for “Stay Up” which is being played on MTV 24/7 and on all MTV networks and stuff. It got picked up by a lot of blogs and stuff like that.
When we first spoke about The Death of Adam, you said you were on the fence about letting Kanye West executive-produce the album. When did you decide to hand over the EP honors to Kanye?
Oh, at the end of the day, it took me about eight hours to come back around and decide to let him do it. At the end of the day, when he first asked me, the first thing I thought in my head is that its’ going to be perceived as a Kanye West album and I totally disregarded that he was my best friend and had my best interests at heart. He was trying to help me and take my album to what he called a “classic hip-hop album” to the level of being something that’s going to be well-received and accepted by pop culture. When I went back and I thought about it and I weighed the pros and cons and what outweighed all of the pros and the cons was that he is my best friend. We’ve been like that for the last 10 years. It was gonna be fun and I knew he had a bunch of creative ideas to bring to the table and stuff like that. He didn’t change my album up dramatically, which I appreciate. And I didn’t lose the element of it being a storyline, which was my big feat and which gave my album an edge anyway. But he definitely enhanced it and put a little spin and twist on the ending. It’s all good.
Specifically speaking, what changes did Kanye make?
I still don’t want to give it away because a lot of people haven’t heard the album yet, but I think the original ending was to be taken literally, like he literally died. He literally got murdered. But his death came in the current version of my album as a surprise. He dies in a different way, which is kind of funny. (laughs)
Kevin Smith once spoke on Clerks, his first movie. He originally had Dante, one of the main characters, getting shot at the end and someone got him to change that. Kevin Smith said that was the best decision he ever made. How glad are you that you didn’t kill Adam literally?
Oh, man, I’m really glad. It put a whole different spin on the album, man. It actually made the album somewhat more controversial than it already was, from the original version of the album. Controversy is, I won’t say it’s always welcome, but it’s definitely a plus with keeping people’s interests once they get wind of it and latch on. It’s not hurting me. (laughs)
If fans haven’t heard the album, they can skip this question, but I would assume you caught a lot of heat for Adam “dying” when the girl he impregnated had a baby.
Yeah, exactly. But I probably haven’t caught a lot of heat about it because the people who would be up in arms and causing an uproar about it haven’t heard it yet. I almost see it as a good thing. But yeah, they probably haven’t heard it yet and I may not be making that much noise for it to be a significant issue as of yet. But just give it some time. Give it some time. It’s a slow burn.
Do you think that it’s easy for some fans to take away the wrong message from this album?
They could but then I would hope that fans would dig a little deeper into who I am, not just, ‘Okay, The Death of Adam is a great album.’ Look at the man who created this album, 88-Keys, who is a happily married man and father. When Kanye suggested that ending and put the spin on that ending, at first I was a little apprehensive about it but that was going to bring more awareness to the issues that I present on the album from infidelity to catching STDs to referring to females in certain ways to having children with a person not only are you not in love with them but you don’t even like them that much, just having children with people who you look at as insignificant in your life at the moment. I’m hoping that with all these songs being made that people catch the message and realize that man, this probably isn’t the way to go in life and to bring back the traditional family unit, which is almost nonexistent nowadays, sadly enough. I’m cool with the fact that the spotlight is on social life and that issue. It pretty much puts the spotlight on that issue and brings the awareness out so people can really soak it in and look at themselves and the people around them and see really where we are as a society today.
Being that you didn’t kill Adam off, does this mean we may have a sequel?
Oh, nah. At least not by me. Adam’s Case Files and The Death of Adam, that’s it. I’m looking forward to working on one of my six other albums that I have to work on and that I’m gonna work on and bring to the people. It’s going to be mixed feelings and good vibes and mixed with a little bit of controversy. It’s going to be all good .Even though Adam is alive, he’s six feet under and pushing up daisies.
How did you first come up with Adam’s story in the first place?
The story pretty much wrote itself. I came up with the beats initially and then I came up with song titles for each beat and then I just realized that the song titles were telling a story depending on how it was sequenced. And again, Kanye came in and helped me re-sequence the story. He helped me re-sequence the song in accordance to what felt right or what had a better feel on playing the album and then we rewrote the story according to how the songs were sequenced. I would say maybe three or four songs were kind of switched around instead of really forcing a story out of the words in the song titles and stuff like that.
How were you able to place the different concepts with the beats?
I was just making beats and the concepts pretty much formed themselves for each song. I just put the icing on the cake when giving each song its title and from the titles that’s when the story started to write itself. There was a lot of thought put into it but at the same time there wasn’t a lot of thought. I would make a beat and wound up keeping it and making it sound like an incredible beat and then an incredible song once the vocals were added to it, whether it was myself or the features on the album.
How much did personal experience play into Adam’s story?
Just as much as any male and/or female would admit to. My album is more like every man’s life or every woman’s life. Certain people could take some songs and relate them to their own personal experiences and some people not so many. But I could personally identify with “Nice Guys Finish Last” and “The Friend Zone.” I’m actually happily married with children so I can’t relate to “MILF” but I have children so I can relate to “MILF.” “The Burning Bush,” no comment. I plead the fifth. “(Awww Man) Round 2?”, I can relate to that and those situations. Damn-near the whole album, I would say, is not just my life but is everybody’s life, both male and female. With the females on the receiving side and with the males on the giving side.
Did the success of “Stay Up (Viagra)” catch you off-guard or did you expect it to do that well?
It both caught me off-guard and I see every song on my album as being successful if it’s serviced as a single with a great video attached to it. It didn’t really surprise me. And then the superstar factor of having Kanye West on it both lyrically and conceptually and giving his 100% of it and sitting in the make-up chair for four hours and riding out with me, I’m not too surprised at all. It’s catching on. It’s catching on. More and more people are starting to be aware of its existence and the fact that it’s not his song featuring some kid but that it’s my song featuring him.
“The Friend Zone” video is coming later in April. What should we expect in that?
Oh, man, that video is coming out crazy! That’s a concept that I came up with. Yoram Benz is basically the main art dude in-house at Decon Records and he really executed my ideas and brought it to life. This video is coming out crazy. What few people saw of the Vimby clips, that’s just a small taste of what the video is about and what’s to be expected. I would say the Vimby clip pretty much showed the layout of the scene. Not even that. I would say that the Vimby clip basically showed the layout of the Polo outfit that I wore but other than that people are going to have no idea. It’s properly executed and I’m really looking forward to this.
Do you really have over 700 Polo shirts?
Just clothes. Shirts, hats, ties, pants, boxers, all sorts of stuff. And the collection’s growing. I’ve been doing interviews since about 1, maybe 2:00 today. I was actually going to go cop some Polo clothes. I may still have time. I just have to hop in the shower and get right.
Do you rock anything besides Polo?
No other designer’s fabric touches my body right down to my undergarments, my shoes, my socks, my glasses.
Even if you work out you gotta wear Polo?
Yeah. Unfortunately I don’t really work out but yeah. I don’t own any other…besides t-shirts that are given to me when I go to events and parties and stuff, which I appreciate everybody who gives me free t-shirts from their companies. Those go straight to my wife when she goes to bed. When she turns in that’s when those shirts come out. You would never see me wear anything outside of Ralph Lauren Polo Clothing.
What got you hooked on Polo?
You really can’t go wrong with Ralph. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not just about the clothing. A lot of people don’t know how deep his clothing is because they don’t have the product knowledge. When most people think about Ralph Lauren, they think about the chino pants, cable knit sweaters and the short-sleeve polos that come in the various colors. Most people don’t know about his kids collection or Trapper Lake or Evening Post, which is his new spring collection of ’09 where he’s inspired by the whole fishing scene out in New York, so he did a whole collection, which has boxers mixed with Indians, serapes mixed with camouflage, all mixed in one collection. As different as those fabrics are, both in texture and the patterns, he makes it all work together. It’s incredible.
If you don’t get a marketing gig with Polo then something’s wrong.
I mean, I’ve been wearing his clothes for the past 16 years of my life and him being the billionaire that he is, he certainly doesn’t need me to keep his stock up. It would be nice but if not, I’m good going in stores and buying his clothing for me and my daughters and my wife, if she ever decides that she wants to get a piece of the action, then it’s all good. I got her too. (laughs)
You received some criticism from fans for having a white girl as the lead in “The Friend Zone” video. What do you think of that?
I haven’t read all of the blog comments on that. I know XXL Magazine, they actually interviewed me specifically on that and I answered as true as I could. My wife is white. I married a white woman. I come from a Cameroonian background. My parents and older brothers and sister were all born in Cameroon. My whole thing is I don’t really see color. I just see people’s attractiveness, for lack of a better word. That song, I would say the majority of the audience would be of the Caucasian persuasion, who that song appeals to, whether it’s a hip-hop based song or a “neo-soul” song or a country song, I would like to have a person in my video who is attractive if the role calls for an attractive female. The female who wound up playing the part, she actually wasn’t my first choice but she fit the bill quite nicely so it’s all good.
Other than that, for me to have to explain myself in terms of why I got a white girl to play the lead in my video, I think for that question to be raised is kind of, I guess for the question to be posed to me, is kind of a jab at me to see if I’m being racist. I think for the question to be even raised reverts back to them. I’m attracted to attractive human beings whom I find attractive and I find women from all different ethnicities attractive. I just chose her for the video.
Truthfully you shouldn’t even have to answer those questions.
Yeah. And the thing too is my wife is white. My children are half-black, half-white. My president is half-black, half-white, which a lot of people totally disregard and call him the first black president. He’s also half-white. You know, it’s all good.
When fans listen to The Death of Adam, do you want them to listen to the album straight through or do you want them to hear the singles first?
I think it would be more to their advantage to listen to the album straight through. The people who have listened to my album straight through, that’s one of the most notable things that they say about my album. They say my album is one of the first albums that they could listen to from start to finish without skipping through tracks. I worked on my album for 10 and a half years just for that to happen. It’s been happening lately. Each track stands on its own as it could be a single. Like, when I released “Stay Up (Viagra),” the album version, you would notice that the segue way isn’t attached to that because the song is a stand-alone song. It’s a single. I made sure that each song on my album has its own single version and then there’s the LP version. With the exception of the last song on the album, which is “Another Victim,” no other songs on my album actually mention Adam. I was careful. I made sure each song could stand on its own two feet without you having to go to a club or go to a party and you being forced to think about Adam or being forced to think about a story in the middle of you having fun.
After looking at what happened to Adam, what advice would you offer to other guys when dealing with girls?
Really know your partner and be upfront with them and just be purely honest with them. Honesty is always the best policy and sometimes it’s hard but at the end of the day, the truth comes out whether you wanted it to or not. It always comes out so just be honest with yourself and how you choose as a partner and take it from there.
Are you and Kanye working on any new projects together?
Oh yeah. I’m sure. I worked with him in the past before he was signed and when he did get signed, the stuff that I worked on with him, unfortunately or fortunately, it didn’t make the cut. But all in due time. Once the stars align, we’ll have a finished product for the public consumption made by both him and himself, another collaborative effort. It’s all good.
You made your name producing tracks for Black Star and other artists. Will you go back to working on songs with artists or are you going to focus on producing entire projects?
I would like to more so focus on working on projects as a whole but I’m at a different place in my career and with the industry where I’m not really just trying to get on any old thing just for the sake of having a check or having a placement. I want to get on the right project and have it make sense to me. I’d rather do a song with Guilty Simpson, who, no disrespect to Guilty Simpson, but he might not really have the Def Jam budget. I would rather do a song with him than do a song with someone like Young Jeezy because I feel Guilty Simpson more as an artist.
And that and also I’m not really trying to chase people down to be a part of their project. I would like for them to recognize what I’ve done and who I am and have them invite me to be a part of their project and have it conducted how it’s supposed to be instead of me just submitting demos and doing free work for them when they can just decide whether they want to keep it or not. I would rather get hired then just do stuff and see what’s going to stick to the wall.
What new artists are you feeling today?
Colin Munroe, definitely, definitely’s got something. I was just in the studio with him and worked some stuff out. Shitake Monkey and the Morning Benders are my favorite bands right now. Guilty Simpson, I want to get in the lab with him. There are a lot of people who get me excited as far as working with them. There are only a handful but yeah. If the business is conduced properly I’m down to work with almost any and everybody as long as I’m hired to work. Other than that, people who I would be excited to work with, Morning Benders, Rah Rah Riot, Guilty Simpson, Kid CuDi, Kanye West and Colin Munroe. I can’t think of anybody else at the moment but all of them are great artists.
Where are you on your next 88-Keys album?
I’m probably gonna start that within the month of April, I think. But I’m really cutting it close with this album. I’m trying to do Weezy numbers with The Death of Adam, a million plus and I think it’s possible with the awareness getting out there and people really stepping up and supporting the album. I’m going not just for hip-hop music but music in general. I’m trying to be as creative as possible and put the fun back in music and at the same time put out lessons of morality as an extra nugget. You get all this plus more. All that fits into one album – The Death of Adam.
And I’m not really certain when the next project will come out as I have yet to choose which one is the next out of the six albums I have in my head but I feel confident that I’ll make a choice sometime soon and start getting to work on it.