I've just been working on beats all the time. I'm sleeping in the studio.
I'm staying real creative right now, working on remixes of "GZA vs.
Muggs." I just added Ras Kass on a song. I'm working on some remixes
off my album "Change." We're trying to stay creative. I'm also
working on a lot of beat-CD's.
"Change" been doing?
doing really well. It's almost like we're a new group again because we've
been away for so long. We've got to get back out there and let people
know who we really are. The reviews are incredible, the critics love it,
I'm happy about that. We've just got to get out and perform. Everybody
that hears it is caught off-guard because they didn't expect it to sound
that good. We're going to work it over the next year. We definitely started
on the next one. We already got songs for it. We recorded 50 songs for
"Change," so some of them will make the next one. This is the
beginning of where we're going, on the production and song end.
were a lot more diverse than on "The Self-Science." What did
you want to lay down on "Change?"
album was definitely more of a Latin-jazz influence. I was sampling a
lot of Spanish records, and you could hear that. This album has more of
a rock influence, and songs like "Tears" and "What You
Need" have a gospel feel. I listen to a lot of progressive rock.
That's my favorite music. I listen to a lot of electronic music. I wanted
to incorporate all of that into the music we're doing. I didn't want the
music to stay in a loop, so we added live music to it. This album is a
lot more musical. We had horn sections, flute players
I think that's
where our production and music is going. Our music is going to a wider
feel, it's gradually getting there.
was it to the album to get live musicians down on the beats?
for me to work with musicians because most of my stuff is melodic and
they pick up on it pretty quick. I want to see what the live musicians
bring to the table. Some producers are the opposite, where they already
have an idea on how the track has to come out. I'm completely the opposite.
I want them to bring their creativity to the track because they may think
of something that I never thought of. I like to have the freedom to create.
Making music is more than one person's idea. I think when you come together
with musicians and writers and everything, it's a collaborative effort.
I definitely want to keep that vibe and have them come in with their own
ideas and contribute. I definitely have an idea of what something can
sound like, but they bring their approach too. I learn a lot working with
musicians. I'm learning scales and what keys certain beats are in, stuff
I didn't know three years ago. I can have them play on a piano what I
want to hear and what I like because I have a better knowledge of music.
It's a lot easier now. I enjoy working with musicians a lot more. I used
to be intimidated. I've grasped music a lot more.
off of that, how would you say your production has changed since "The
I think every
creative person has different levels. Where I'm at now is totally different
than where I was at then. Working with Dr. Dre and Muggs, and different
cats, that's helped me shape my sound a little bit better. I am definitely
going for a bigger sound now. Before, I wasn't really concerned. I was
just making stuff. Now, I want it to have a bigger, cleaner sound, but
still have that grittiness to it. When I started back then, I was very
raw, in terms of my knowledge of music. It was also cool, because when
you make mistakes, sometimes your best product comes out of that. Sometimes
if you know too much about music, a lot of musicians say this, when you
study music for however long, you can lose your creative edge because
you're programmed to think in a certain way. Your best stuff can come
out of when you go by ear, especially in Hip Hop. I definitely have more
knowledge now, but I'm not a trained musician, so I still approach it
from a real creative standpoint in terms of thinking with no boundaries.
I think that is what creates my sound, is having no boundaries and experimenting
a lot more now. I experiment now a lot more than I did back then. I add
a lot more layers to things now. I create a lot of sound with computer
software and stuff like that. My attention to detail when it comes to
sound, I think that's my strongpoint. I think that's how I've grown. I
just experiment a lot more. I want to try more and more stuff.
the difference between a beat for anyone and a Self-Scientific beat?
definitely beats that I set aside and say, "This is ours." We
have a certain sound, and we can hear when we have a Self-Scientific record.
Sometimes Chace takes records that I don't really think are Self-Scientific
records. I'll work on beats and I'll say "I have the perfect beat
for us" and Chace will want to go in another direction. For the most
part, we agree on the kind of music we should be making. Now, it's kind
of wide open. There are certain parts in his personality that he wants
to bring out that maybe girls will want to hear or are maybe more mainstream
records. We approach our albums like Outkast, where every album is a progression
going towards something. That's what we want to do on every record. That's
our challenge as a group. We don't care if five people buy it, that's
our challenge and we love to do it. That's just something that we have
to do. We can make anything we want and apply it to the group.
you end up linking with Dre?
an artist that he signed a couple of years ago named Brooklyn, and she
had a whole demo that Dre really liked. He was really feeling it. She
demo'd a lot of my beats, as well as some other producers. When Dre heard
the stuff we did together, he loved them and wanted to keep them for her
record. I was making so many beats, and I had so much material. Dre really
loved my sound, he thought it was different. That's how the relationship
grew. They decided to bring me in and I've been a staff producer for them
for the last three years. I've done work with Rakim and Joe Beast even
though they're not there anymore. I have a song with Game and 50 that
never dropped that's sick. I have some other tracks with Game that didn't
make his album. We came in around the same time. I did a joint for his
new record. I have that tie with him because we started at the same time.
That's how I was introduced to Dre, through her, and the music that she
recorded, and it just developed over time.
Rakim up to today?
I don't know.
I haven't talked to him in awhile. I don't know what's up with that guy.
I hope he has a record coming out. I heard he was doing something with
Koch but I don't know what happened with that.
I don't know.
She just sort of vanished. I haven't heard anything from her. I tried
to reach out to her not too long ago, but I haven't talked to her.
in Aftermath get caught up in the beef and politics?
encountered that yet. I definitely think about it because I know Game
and I know the cats over at G-Unit because I've recorded with both. I
just make music. I'm not getting involved and I'm not picking sides because
it's about music to me at the end of the day. I don't even think it's
necessary for them to beef. They're all making money. I just want to work
with the best cats in the game, and those are the guys that are doing
it. It's just sad that they're beefing. I'm not trying to get caught up
in that. I'm just here to make music. I can't really deal with the other
you about Dre when you started working with him?
he is. How creative Dre is. For him to be as big as he is, and being a
legend, he's still very creative and it's very personal to him. He's really
an incredible engineer. His ear is incredible. People have talked about
how his records sound so incredible, but that's really him. He called
me out one time. We were working on a Brooklyn record, and I had changed
the drums on one of the songs because I had wanted it to knock a little
better. It was very subtle changes, but when he heard it, he said "you
changed something, didn't you. That's not the same snare or high-hat."
I was like, "Damn." When I have beats and maybe the drums aren't
that hot, he can touch them up. He really has that magic touch. That's
definitely something that I heard about but I never witnessed it. I watched
him take one of my tracks with maybe eight elements in it and fix it up
to where it's ready to go to Power106. That was something really incredible
for me to witness. He's a true producer. He knows what he likes and he
knows what he wants to hear. And he makes beats and engineers. That's
a complete producer. That's where I'm trying to get to. I haven't mastered
the engineering part.
you in the studio with G-Unit when they record?
never in the studio with the producers they work with, which is different
from everyone else in the industry. I've been there in terms of mixes,
for a G-Unit record. I mixed the record with Sha Money, and I mixed a
song from the soundtrack with 50 and Dre. 50 recorded it on their own.
That's pretty much how all the songs work. If they like the song, then
they call the producer and say they want the song. I wasn't involved in
the Tony Yayo track, I heard that when the album came out. They make dope
is it for the producer to be present when the MC is recording?
I think it's
real important because I think the producer is being taken out of producing
right now. Everybody has Pro Tools and everybody has their own studio.
You can two-track a beat and make your own songs. There are some things
that producers can really help on the song. When we make beats, we have
a vision of how we want the rapper to sound on it. It's hard right now
because people are recording so much now. They just record on songs without
you being there. It's not hard. People walk around with whole albums two-tracked.
I don't really care for that part of it, especially if the song doesn't
come out dope and you really liked the beat. Sometimes it's disappointing.
It is what it is. I've just accepted it as part of the game. Until you're
Timbaland, Dre, and Muggs, where they have to use you, then you can say
something. As an up-and-coming producer, you just have to accept it. That's
just the way the game is now.
the competition out there, how hard was it for you to break in and get
in the inner circles?
hard to break in. It all stems from hard work. I work hard. I never leave
the studio. You have to pull me away. I don't go out, I don't go to clubs.
The only things I do is go to the studio and spend time with my family.
Even when I was DJ'ing in junior high, you couldn't pull me away from
the turntables. When you work hard and you're developing your music and
you're getting better and better, people are going to notice. When you
put out good music, everybody listens. When me and Chace go to New York,
there are so many executives that come up to us telling us how they bought
"The Self-Science" and love it. Everybody knocks the underground
but people listen to it because they're looking for something dope. You
can't listen to the commercial stuff all the time. These industry people
like real music, but they're just not able to put it out because of the
way the music business is. I work hard, and me and Chace hustle, and we
keep putting our music out. The Strong Arm Steady movement helps. We all
help each other as far as keeping our names out there. With everything
going on, everybody's going to hear the music. You have to just keep pumping
it out. I have beat-CD's with 40 to 50 beats on them, and when people
hear them, they realize it's dope. My philosophy is to just keep working
hard and hope that it gets accepted. People are paying attention more
now because I have some big records.
DJ Muggs helped you?
similar to working with Dre. He's a legend and he's a real creative person.
I was surprised with Muggs because he goes through the same stuff that
I go through, in terms of creative blocks. We talk about that all the
time, about the creative blocks, the distractions
Muggs, Dre, and
I are alike because it's really personal to us. When you play stuff for
people, you want them to like it because it's a reflection of you. That's
something I was surprised to hear from Muggs because he's had hits, he's
part of one of the biggest groups in Hip Hop. They love what they do.
They love Hip Hop. They love to experiment and keep learning. And Muggs
to me, as a businessman, that's where he's really teaching me, how to
stretch money out and what we need to hustle at, what we need to learn
about and what we need to focus on. He's incredible at that. Just being
around him, you feel like you need to hustle and you feel that you're
not doing enough. He's incredible.
are you using now?
I use mostly
computer-based stuff. I use Reason 3.0. I have a lot of outboard gear,
like synthesizers and stuff. I have a lot of vintage synthesizers, but
I use Reason mostly now to make all my beats. I love the computer-based
software. There's so much more that you can do with computers now, it's
incredible. You don't need a whole studio. You can do everything on your
laptop. I have an Apple Powerbook and it sounds just as good as an ASR-10.
I love it. I have a lot of keyboards just sitting around collecting dust.
do you see your production going in the future?
going to be doing a lot of Hip Hop stuff, more original material with
less samples. I'm trying to keep my sound but make it more original. I
want to make my own compositions. I'm just trying to eliminate the whole
sampling element in my music. I get bored just looping stuff. I need a
new challenge. I'm trying to create the music I'm sampling. That's what
I've been working on. I'm trying to link with as many musicians as possible.
People are looking for something different.
I also have
an artist I'm working with. She's a singer on some new-age '80's stuff.
It's experimental. I'm just trying to get more creative and experimental
with music. Everybody knows I can make beats, now I have to make songs.
Everybody has dope beats, now you have to send them the whole idea. I'm
just trying to be a complete producer and send people a whole idea instead
of a regular beat.
working on an album?
haven't even started working on it. People are telling me how I need to
do it. I haven't really focused on it yet. It probably won't be for another
year before I drop that. There are a couple things I want to do beforehand.
I want to do mixtapes and stuff like that. I have to start doing that
stuff a little bit more before I drop my own record. I don't feel like
I'm there yet. I'm almost kind of intimidated to make that record because
I don't know how to approach it. I wanted to have a theme for it
guess it'll just hit me. I have rhymes lying around like joints with Chace,
I've definitely been thinking about it but I haven't focused
on it. I want to just stay creative and make beats like crazy. That's
what I feel I have to do. I just have to step it up. I still have a lot
to prove as a producer. Before I drop that, I definitely want to build
my profile up even more so it's ready. By the time I do it, people will
really be paying attention. If I put something out in six months, people
will be like, "it's dope," and move on. I definitely want to
get the attention.
off of your own experiences, how important is it to be a DJ before you
start banging out beats?
I think it
helps. I think it's a natural progression for a DJ to become a producer
because after you hear all those records and you DJ, you want more, you
want to be able to create even more after you hear all those other records
and you spin for so long. Then it turns into, "I could do this."
I think it's important to have that background. For me, sampling and working
with old vinyl helped me learn how to synch records up and how songs are
structured. That's how I learned a lot of that stuff about how Hip Hop
records were structured. When you're doing parties, you have to know when
the hook is going to end and when to bring in the next song and stuff
like that. It's a good background just to know how songs are structured
and how records are supposed to sound. When you hear a record in the club,
that's when you can gage the elements of the song and what people are
looking for. It's good to have that background. You know what records
are hot and what works. You learn how to make party cuts, album cuts
definitely a good background to have.
you doing with the remixes?
to do a remix of "Change" and the GZA album. We're trying to
remix everything. I've talked to a lot of producers I know that are dope
have agreed to do remixes for the project. That's what I want to do with
our records. I definitely want to have producer-driven material. I think
that bringing in a lot of cats that I'm good friends with, I want them
to be involved in our projects and I think that it's going to be better
for the consumer. Anything is going to help us. Anything that will help
us get the music heard. I think a remix album to me sounds like a great
idea, maybe to put out in the springtime, and maybe sell them exclusively
on the website. That's definitely something that I want to be a part of.
teaching now too
what's that like?
I teach down
at Washington Preparatory High School. They have a program called "Hip
Hop to Bebop." Apple donated a lot of G5's to the music department,
and M-Audio donated a lot of keyboards. I've been teaching kids how to
use Reason down there. A lot of kids wanted to learn about music production.
I bring my laptop down there. We give them old jazz samples, and they
have to chop it up and make their beats. Yoyo teaches down there and works
on lyrics with them and how to write. They have to basically make a whole
song. We grade their projects. I speak at colleges too. I've spoken at
Cal State Fullerton because they have music industry classes and people
want to hear about my experiences in the music business and what I've
done to get to this point and what I need to do to further my career.
It's just fun and it's cool to do that. It's therapeutic for me because
it just makes me realize what I've accomplished up to this point and I
can share it with people. People really find my experiences fascinating.
I've met a lot of dope musicians too, and we stay in touch. They send
me all kinds of music.
next for you?
I'm developing this artist I have. I'm working with Muggs on several different
projects. We're working on Mitchy Slick. We're working on the next Soul
Assassins. We're working on some mixtapes. We're working on making more
records. We're getting to the point where we're really familiar with each
other, and we've done records with Mitchey Slick. I just want to soak
up as much knowledge as I can from Muggs. I'm trying to work some more
with Talib Kweli. I'm working with Strong Arm Steady. I did a song with
Game, hopefully it will make his new record. I'm trying to get on some
new records. I'm trying to submit some stuff for Mobb Deep and Lloyd Banks.
I have a song on Cypress Hill's "Greatest Hits" called "The
Only Way," it's a brand-new song. That's it right now, and I'm always
working on beats and getting Angeles Records cracking.
you want to say to everyone out there?
go out and buy "Grandmasters" and Self-Scientific "Change."
Support people that are really putting out great music. There's more to
come. I'm just looking forward to making my mark. We definitely want to
make our mark on the West Coast because there's another element out here
besides Aftermath and Snoop. That's what we want to put out and we want
to give the people that product. Definitely support these projects.