Your new album Loss 4 Wordz is out. Are you happy with how it’s doing so far?
Right now I haven’t asked for the actual amount of sales that happened but I’m happy with the record and I’m glad that it’s finally seeing the light of day and that a lot of people are really happy with the record. All in all, I’m just glad the record panned out the way it did.
You have a lot of different styles and genres on Loss 4 Wordz. If you had to put this album in a genre, where would it go?
Well, first of all, I wouldn’t really consider this a hip-hop record, especially with the areas it was being pushed. I wouldn’t consider it being that in its entirety. People heard Peedi Crakk and they heard Musiq Soulchild and Kanye West and M.O.P and from that, they made the assumption that they were going to get a whole album obtaining that material. Now the way the record was done and titled, I kind of made it self-explanatory to the record itself. So as far as the genre actually being categorized, I wouldn’t say anything. I would just say good music because that was the main principle of the record and what I was trying to achieve.
What was your favorite song to put together on Loss 4 Wordz?
I would say one of the songs would be “Too Late” with Damon Albarn and Talib Kweli because of how the song came together and how it was created, from me being in the studio with Damon and working with the 9-piece orchestra and putting that track together and then having to record the vocals on top afterwards. It was the most well…There was a lot of time and thought put into that particular track. It was the same thing with “Midnight Hour” because that track, we worked on it three or four times and I had to take trips to Germany to make that track possible because we kept revising it and revising it. We were happy with the way the melody was but we weren’t happy with the outcome of the track and we were changing it but we wanted to keep the foundation of the track but give it a newer edge and direction that we were going for as artists in this day and time. Times change and people change and we were trying to do something that sounded a little newer.
Was that a hard balance to find because you know what your longtime fans want from you but there are a lot of new fans that may not know what to expect from you?
With this album, I mean, I knew that the fanbase of the following that I already have is based on whatever I’ve done with The Roots or whatever I’ve done with other artists as features. I felt that it wasn’t just a change from what the music industry has done but also as a new coming for myself and as an artist, producer and for the talent that I was blessed with. With beatboxing, the first thing people assume is that it’s beatboxing/hip-hop. And that’s not always the way. I mean, it’s been going on for years. You have to look at people like Bobby McFerrin. He hasn’t done anything that’s remotely hip-hop but he was beatboxing and that’s the same thing for Michael Winslow. He was beatboxing but not one thing that he’s done was based on a hip-hop foundation or material. And that was the same thing and the route that I was thinking on, was just to do good music and have some beatboxing but at the same time not to say, “Hey, I’m going to totally switch up my fanbase.” So that’s why I did songs with M.O.P and Peedi Crakk and Kanye West, but at the same time, this is the direction that I went into when I introduced myself into the industry. I wasn’t doing the same old thing. From the point when I started to create the album, I realized that this was a new day and era and the things that I was into, I needed to put into the album, which was more on a worldly basis and not having a tunnel vision and having the same ol’, same ol’ and not having people look at the record like that because everything right now has been very repetitive in the music industry and I just didn’t want to fall in the same category as this group or that artist so I did something that was going to stand on my own but still keep the integrity of what I do.
Do you think you caught some fans off-guard with this?
I knew immediately after the record was recorded that it was gonna have people scratching their heads or looking at the record as, “Okay, this is not a good record because he’s doing something that I don’t normally listen to” or to look at the record as, “Where is he going with this? What is he trying to achieve?” The principle was to make good music, no matter what the genre is, which is why I gave it the title Loss 4 Wordz because you can’t put your finger on it and say it’s a hip-hop record or R&B record or a reggae record. No. It’s based on good music and that’s what the genre is and that’s what I brought to the people. Now the people that are open-minded and look at the material and see artists they like going outside of the box, that’s something that they would appreciate as opposed to somebody who wants to hear the same ol’ thing and wanting it just like another track. I think this album will have people more in tune because it’s not something that they would hear every day. So it also expands their mind because a tunnel vision of music and it’s not years of just being locked in on one thing. What I did was offer them something that was a little more everywhere and just say, “Here we are.”
As a producer, how do you decide what to beatbox on and how to do it on different tracks?
Well, with the record I decided not to go in and have one thought of how I was going to create the record. What I did was I just dealt with things that I considered sounding good that had a good movement, had great quality and what I did was I created the foundation and had other co-producers who got involved in this project in comparison to my last project because my last project, I went in there and I did it all on my own.
Now to get something different and raise the bar, I had to bring other people in because I didn’t want to have a repetitive sound throughout the record so I decided since I was doing a lot of traveling was to create that same vibe along with my travels to show where I’m at in this day and age with having producers involved in the album and to give a whole bigger picture instead of having a normal sounding record, like my last record. It was pretty much anteing up and putting it all in. I said, “Okay, I’m going to put this record out and observe what is going on today.” I was observing the talent I was blessed with and making the most out of it.
Does it ever bother you when fans still focus on your work with The Roots?
Well, pretty much what a lot of people fail to realize is that there had to be a situation with The Roots and myself when we parted from each other and not have communication with one another and that’s one of the things people didn’t understand. The last album that The Roots put out, I was actually on that record and a lot of people don’t realize that. A lot of people don’t realize that I’ve done shows with The Roots in the last year. But all in all, some people look at it like they don’t see me all the time with them so I’m no longer a part of that.
I’m still a part of the family that created hat I am and brought me to the forefront. I noticed what someone said on the album based on the intro I had on the album took it as me dissing The Roots. It wasn’t a diss. It wasn’t a diss whatsoever. The whole intro was based on whatever happens in life, we still move on and we still do what we have to do with the talent that we’re blessed with and that’s why the guy said, “Bands don’t last forever. You gotta keep on playing, no matter with who.” That’s what I’m saying. It’s not saying that I’m not messing with the group no more. It’s showing that I moved on and that I’m working with whoever wants to work with me. That was the whole explanation of the intro. When people ask me if I’m still working with The Roots and whatever, perfect example, I just did a show in Switzerland last week and that was based on The Roots putting me onto that gig. It’s not about me having any issues or problems with The Roots. I have no problems when people ask me about them.
Are you involved at all in the new Roots album?
Well, on this new album, they wanted me to come through. They’re always asking me to come through if I’m in town. But right now I’ve been doing a whole bunch of promotion and doing whatever I could for this record right now. That was one of the main purposes of me taking some time out, to put a record out and to give it the time and dedication that it needed. When I put my first record out people didn’t really know about it and there wasn’t a lot of promotion. With this album I’m putting the time and effort and a tour so the record gets the time and dedication and the nurturing that it needs.
I’ve heard horror stories from rappers about getting to rap in all sorts of public places. How many times do you get asked to beatbox in random places?
When I’m around people who don’t know or have an idea that I might do it, then they ask. Other than that, a lot of people don’t really ask as much because I try not to travel in a circle of where I would be out there like, ‘There’s Scratch! Can you beatbox for me real quick?’ The only time that I basically ever really do it is when somebody’s putting a recorder up for me and asking if I could do a drop for their mixtape or radio show or doing some sort of drop for them. Other than that I don’t really get into it as much on the regular as I used to when I was younger. I’m much older now. No one that’s 35 years-old is going to ask me to beatbox.
What’s the weirdest place that you’ve ever beatboxed in?
I would say there’s two places. One was China, in Shanghai, and the other place was in Dubai. And the reason why Dubai was actually one of the most unique places was because I was performing there and we only had two weeks to promote the show and the place had a capacity of 2,500 people, which I thought was going to be impossible. It was on a Sunday and people work on Sundays in Dubai. 1800 people showed up and that was one of the most amazing performances I had ever dealt with. I thought it was amazing that that many people showed up.
How popular do you think beatboxing is in hip-hop today?
The thing about it is it’s about movements that are involved that create carrying the torch for it. For example, this guy in Germany has Beatbox Battles. He had one last weekend and it was placed in Germany and they have people that are beatboxing all over the world, from Australia, Japan, Italy, America…All these people came out. There were 50 different beatboxers from 50 different countries, pretty much, and to see that and to see that people like Kid Lucky have a big push to the artform, it’s a good thing because I’m glad to see that people are showing that this artform never died and it’s still strong and it’s based on events that didn’t happen when I was a kid.
There were no beatbox battles when I was a kid. It was about breakdancing, who was the best DJ and who was the best MC. It wasn’t about people putting you in a venue for four and a half hours and listening to people perform the talent that they were blessed with and trying to do something new and different. It’s still growing but it’s changing and it’s changing along with the times where years ago, you just heard about some kids doing it and now they have it in commercials, from cameras to alcohol to chewing gum to cars and whatever. It’s changing but it’s about the media and the people who are going to help push it forward instead of just having somebody rap or somebody singing.
How effective can beatboxing be to selling cars or getting drunk?
(laughs) Well, first of all, some of the people who are actually getting a car who are old enough, they will know what beatboxing is. It’s about what marketing strategies that you use to tempt somebody. I mean, you could have a commercial about cereal and the kid eats cereal and then he starts making some beats. Some kids will want to get that cereal because they’ll want to do that. It’s like Popeye eating spinach. Every little kid thought, ‘I eat the spinach, I could pick this car up and throw it down the street!’ It’s all about how you market it. Underdog used to pop a pill in his mouth and he’d have all this energy and strength. If you did this with the beatboxing method of marketing, every kid would think, ‘Dang, this is the way to go.’ It’s the same way with the adults. It’s because beatboxing has no boundary whatsoever to say it’s rap, hip-hop, R&B or whatever. It could be anything that you want it to be.
What can kids do to get better at beatboxing?
I would say practice, practice, practice. For me, I was just very fortunate. It’s a God-given gift to project my sound the way that I do it and pretty much visually see what I’m doing with my mouth, as far as sound-wise. But as far as anybody that’s up-and-coming and trying to do whatever, I would say if you’re really trying to put together something impressive, put together your best stuff and then put it in a routine and then it seems like your stuff is just flowing like crazy. Learn your breath control and stick to your methods. Once in a while go outside of the box and go online and see other guys that are doing stuff so you can learn their techniques and how they project their sound and how they create other sounds and maybe that will help inspire you to come up with something new. Anything is possible. It’s all about you believing in what you do.
Will you be doing more producing in the near future?
That was one of the objectives of putting out this album, was to show that I had both sides of beatboxing. That’s what people fail to realize with this album. They think that I just beatboxed and then I had people play. I had people play and use their talents but I would play on top of things. They were using their talent to help me get bigger and use what I might have been missing myself. One of the things this project was supposed to show was that I don’t just do beatboxing. I can do songwriting. That’s another thing the record is supposed to show. It’s showing a lot all at one time. It’s all about making good music first. A lot of people, when they hear the record, they don’t hear the beatboxing going on. They’re like, ‘Where’s it at?’ They don’t see it until they come to a live show.
What’s the next move for Scratch?
I’m getting ready to start working on the next record right now. I’m going to be working on the next album in the next week or two and I’m going to be going on tour in about a month. We’re going to be shooting a video for one of the songs real soon and pretty much whatever else happens to come forward, if it sounds good then I’ll be involved in that too. But right now it’s about working on the new record, going on tour and promoting this record right now. I got other things going on but I don’t want to say just yet. I want to make sure all the situations are put down on paper and then I can sit down and talk about it.