Dice, where have you been lately?
You know, man, I’ve just been working on music. I’ve been working every day in the studio, helping the Roots make their records, doing some A&R’ing and some producing. I’m staying focused. I did some commercials. I’ve just been working, some light shit, nothing too serious. I did The Antidote mixtape for free download. It’s got Peedi on it, Freeway, Black Thought, of course, and it was called The Antidote. It was samples of ‘80s classic hits. We did well with that.
How involved are you in the Roots’ album Rising Down?
I’m co-executive producing it. I pick all of the music and I picked 90% of the concepts for it. I’m working real closely with Thought. We’re like partners. That’s it. The album is crazy. It’s featuring Fall Out Boy, Common, Mos Def, Styles P, Chrisette Michelle, Wale, Peedi and myself.
Why does it seem as though your involvement with the Roots’ albums is always changing?
Well, even though I might not rap on an album like The Tipping Point, I still came up with a lot of the concepts for that, as well as Phrenology. I still had some kind of involvement. The Roots are on tour a lot and I stay home. I just work in the studio on the records. I work on the songs. Ahmir will send me a track or someone else who works closely with us will send me a track or they’ll send me a bunch of songs and I’ll just go through and see what I like. But I work real closely with them.
It doesn’t sound like you mind being behind the scenes.
Oh, nah. I don’t mind being behind the scenes. But I love to rap. The Antidote is 13 straight joints. We just did it and put it out where you could download a MegaUpload of music. I didn’t upload it but somebody hooked it up for me. It’s like a Zip and you can just download it. It’s 13 joints. I just love making music.
What’s been going on with your group Nouveau Riche?
We’ve been working on that album for two years. We put out our first album Long Tale, I think that was in 2006. We’ll be coming out with another album soon. You should get it soon.
How do you balance working with the two groups artistically?
That’s a good question because actually, I don’t balance it. My music comes out so crazy and it’s so sporadic. My music has been in one zone lately. It’s real electro with ‘80s influences in it, influenced by Duran Duran and some Jay-Z type shit. I might make 50-100 songs a month. It’s up to somebody else. Rich Nichols, who is the Roots’ executive producer, he’ll pick the songs and I’ll make them or me and Tarik will fuck with some shit and tell me what he doesn’t like or what’s not cohesive. Every artist needs to be produced. Even though I’m behind the scenes, I’m still an artist. Rich still has the final say.
Game Theory was a very dark album, especially by the Roots’ standards. Is Rising Down like that?
I think the darkness of Game Theory might stem from Jay Dee dying that year. We were in his house with him, working on beats. Him and Thought are really, really close and him and Ahmir are really close. I think that when that happened, that took over the tone of that album. There were some more commercial songs that weren’t in the original lineup, like some songs that they might have done with Scott Storch or another producer, but as we listened to it totally, it stood out so much and it was so bright that we decided at the last minute to take some radio songs off. It was like a tribute to Dilla.
Do you think the fans got Game Theory?
I think it went over some fans’ heads, but not the diehard Roots fans. If you don’t have a single blowing up in a major market, then it’s going to be hard to sell anybody’s record. But look at a group like the Roots as opposed to a Lil’ Boosie’s “Wipe Me Down”, the Roots will still sell more. It’s like Talib Kweli outselling Swizz Beats. There’s young kids out there who might be on the internet who have never bought music before, ever in their life. Even if they are a Roots fan, you can’t expect them to spend $10 on a Roots album on iTunes when they can just get it for free. I think the album was actually well-received by the critics and by the diehard Roots fans.
It seemed like the main problem with Game Theory was the marketing and promotion of the album.
Oh, well, you know, Jay-Z thinks he’s Michael Corleone. He set everybody up, basically. He was just trying to promote his own records. I have to be honest. I think Def Jam is a weird company. They really are understaffed. They need to hire some more people over there. They had Jay-Z, Steve Bartels and L.A. Reid. You can’t expect L.A. Reid to be hanging up posters.
Have you had any problems with Def Jam on Rising Down?
They’ve been pretty good with this one. With Jay out of the way, well, I don’t want to say that. Maybe I’m going off on a tangent. They’re more accepting on this album. They helped us get a couple of features with Fall Out Boy and Chrisette Michelle. I think they’re going to do good with this one.
The Roots and Jay-Z seemed to have a good relationship before Game Theory dropped. Was there anything personal that happened between the Roots and Jay-Z?
Nah. I don’t know Jay-Z. That’s Ahmir’s friend. I look at it from an outsider’s point of view. Jay-Z wouldn’t know me if he saw me walking down the street. I think he had other priorities. Think about it. You work at HipHopGame.com. What if you came up with a clothing line and you made $200 million off of it. Would you still work at HipHopGame? I’m sure you would still write and try to do as much as you could, but you would be bigger than that. I don’t know. It didn’t really make sense to me for Jay-Z to be president. He had too much on his plate already. That’s Dice Raw talking, not the Roots talking. Him and Ahmir are really tight. This is just an outsider looking in.
Would the Roots be better off going independent?
I don’t know. That would be hard. I don’t know. That’s an interesting question. Maybe. They didn’t get any promotion last time. If you put songs out there and they just start growing legs on their own, then you got something there. Maybe. That’s a good question.
How involved are you as an MC on Rising Down?
I do a couple choruses on there, maybe three or four of them. And I’m on a song called “Apologize” which has Kweli singing on the hook. It’s me, ‘Rik and Porn on it. He’s hot. I’m on another song called “Get Busy”. We shot the video for that yesterday. Peedi Crakk is on that. It’s raw.
What can you tell us about the “Get Busy” video?
It’s just a raw video. I don’t want to give it away before it gets a chance to come out, but it’s featuring Dice Raw and Peedi Crakk. It’s good. I don’t want to give anything away because I just did it yesterday so everything is fresh in my head.
Are you surprised by how seamlessly Peedi Crakk fits into the Roots’ music?
Oh, nah. Peedi’s a real hip-hop guy. Some of his fans might be more gangsta or more street, but first, I think Peedi’s a hip-hop guy before he’s a street thug. I don’t think it’s hard at all. It’s just people who love music getting together and making music.
Are there any outside producers on Rising Down?
There really weren’t any. It was all in-house. ?uest did a lot of the shit. He did the majority of the shit. This guy Ritz did “Get Busy”.
How much time are you spending working on your solo career?
The same amount of time. It’s so crazy. We just finished the Roots’ album. It’s getting mixed and mastered now and I don’t have too much to do with that. We wrapped up the recording of that in December and January. I got a solo album that’s coming out this summer. It’ll be kind of ill. It’s called The End of the World has Some Benefits.
How’s the album coming?
It’s pretty much done. It’s pretty much a wrap. It’s real electric. It’s uptempo. It’s real honest. It’s just a real honest hip-hop album. I don’t think one has been out like this, ever. Of course I’m going to say that. It’s my record. But it’s pretty good. (laughs)
And I’m going to release it digitally. I’m trying to do a green album so there’s not a whole lot of CD manufacturing and plastic and more trash out there. I’m doing a digital album to stay green. It has some benefits. And look for that in early July.
Are you spending more time online today?
I think the only way people are going to see you today is online. TV and MTV, as far as videos, they’re all TV shows and shit like that. I think online is really the only way to hear music. Or on the phones. There’s more people looking at stuff on their phones than watching TV at home.
I heard you’re also working with an artist named 2 Face.
Oh yeah, definitely. 2 Face is a new rapper from Philadelphia. There’s Nouveau Riche, 2 Face and Patty Crash. It’s just a real good vibe. We have the same integrity and the same ability as far as our music and we really mesh well together. 2 Face is going to release something digitally on OkayPlayer as well. That should be coming out around the same time as my album or even sooner. Look for that and Nouveau Riche next year.
You also work out of The Studio, which is owned by Larry Gold. What’s it like working with him?
He’s a great guy. We all love Larry. He’s super-cool. On the last Roots album, he did a ton of strings. He’s a real perfectionist. That’s all I can say. He’s like a painter, a real, eccentric painter. He’s very into what he does. He doesn’t like to be disturbed. He’s very focused and he’s definitely focused on delivering a quality string arrangement to whoever he’s working with. The studio is always packed. LL Cool J was just in there and Timbaland might be in there. You might come in and see J. Lo sitting on the couch or Janet Jackson sitting on a chair. It’s crazy. Larry’s great. He brings a lot of the younger people together too in his studio. It’s just real cool. He’s a cool guy.
What’s the next move for Dice Raw?
We just shot the “Get Busy” video and The Antidote is out. We also have the Money Making Jam Boys. We’re just having fun and putting music out.