How did you and Saigon even get the idea to record an album together?
Sai had been coming through and working on some records in my crib. We had been working on some projects and we were drunk one night and we were just like, ‘Fuck it, let’s do a record.’ I threw on a beat and he knocked it out in one take and we kept going. Two or three records in we were talking about doing a whole album in one day. We were just joking around but we just knocked it out.
So everything was done in 24 hours?
I mean, he had some of the rhymes and I had some of the beats. Half of the beats I made on the spot and it’s not like we came up with everything from scratch but we recorded it all in 24 hours. And he never heard any of the beats prior to that. It’s not like he had all the songs and beats prior to that. He did it on the spot.
Who’s more like Jack Bauer, you or Saigon?
What’s Jack Bauer? What’s that?
Have you never seen 24?
Never seen it. I don’t watch TV, man. I know the concept of the show, I think. That’s the main dude?
I never seen the shit.
Anyway, what kind of beats did you want to give Saigon?
Honestly, it was just beats that I was playing. A lot of them were in the stash. It’s not like I put these beats aside for Saigon. I was just going through them and he skipped two or three beats all day. He rapped on everything I played. It was that easy.
Are you satisfied with the finished product?
I’m really satisfied with the finished version. The version that you have is a fresh mix. I even mixed all of that in 24 hours. That was literally the 24 hour mix. But I went back and I tweaked it a lot. I’ve been on tour in Japan and Australia and I just got back. The first record, “To Be Told,” sounds a lot better now. “My Crew” I mixed a lot better. “I’m A Loser” I tweaked a lot.
Why are there no guest appearances on the project?
I didn’t want any guests. I basically shut it down. I wanted to really just focus on Saigon and show the world how ill he really is. I think a lot of times he really gets put in a box because of the mixtapes and his album not coming out on Atlantic. I just wanted to really show people what we could do just messing around. And this is just some hip-hop shit. We just did this messing around and on some fun shit. It’s not about if we could do it or not. It was just, ‘Keep going. Keep going.’
How do you see this album actually coming out?
It’s coming out in stores. It’s going to be on iTunes and all that. We have three deals on the table that I was dealing with today. Some of the labels are legendary. We have some of the indies to some legendary labels to some crazy people that want to put it out. It’s not about the money but we might as well get some while we’re at it.
You’re also working on an album with Termanology titled Since 1982. How’s that coming?
That’s our version of Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth or Gang Starr. It’s coming crazy, man. It’s a whole process because Term’s been on the road and I’ve been on the road. He’s working on his album with Lil’ Fame too. I’ll have some beats on there too. He’s got a whole album with Lil’ Fame too. That’s crazy. The 1982 thing, we’ve got most of the beats done. We just have to record it. We’re not in a rush. We want to treat this real, real special.
All the legendary groups are known for legendary fights and arguments. Do you and Term go through that too?
Oh, man, me and Term go at it all of the time. But what we’re doing right now is way more important than a lot of the personal issues. There’s not too many cats that are as focused as we are. We match each other with the amount of work that we put in. We have a lot of chemistry. I mean, Premier and Guru worked it out and they made great music. And that’s what it’s about. It’s really about putting everything aside and making great music for hip-hop. Term’s one of my best friends and I work with Reks the same way. I’m actually mastering More Grey Hairs today. We’re about to put that out.
How do you and Termanology work together?
I mean, I don’t want to say that you keep the music and friendship separate because that’s what our lives are. Term is the only other person that I’ve seen come up with me and has only made music about his life. He has a daughter and all that but all he does is music right now. I want to say we keep friendship and music separate but we can’t, really. We know our priorities and we stick to it. The music’s our life. It’s kind of hard to separate it.
You’ve released two albums with overall good reviews. Are you happy with the feedback you’ve gotten for your beats so far?
I love it. Two days ago I was in Australia and people were coming up to me and recognized me. I was going into record stores and seeing my album 20,000 miles away. Every day somebody hits me on MySpace or Facebook and lets me know how much that album means to them. That really means something. Those are like my business cards because I wasn’t getting the production work that I wanted to be getting and I don’t think I was ready for it. I kind of forced my way in there.
How would you describe your growth as a producer over the past few years?
Every day I’m just learning something. I’m learning something every day as far as mixing records and making them feel right and all that. My next album is going to be crazy. I already started it. I have that coming out next year. I have 20 albums coming out this way. Me and Wale are doing a project. Me and Souls of Mischief are doing an album. I produced a lot of songs on More Grey Hairs with Reks and Reks’ new album is coming out. That’s like his official new album that I’m going to be doing. I did a bunch of shit on Joell Ortiz’s album. I don’t even know where to begin. There’s so much shit coming out this year.
How did your project with Wale come about?
He was on the road with me and Q-Tip and the Pharcyde in Australia. We were at some parties and we got to build on it and basically me and him were eye-to-eye with how people view him. I thought he could really rap but he was being boxed into that whole hipster and new age category with the XXL cover and all that. People kind of put him in the same group with some cats that he shouldn’t be in a group with. He’s got a lot more potential to make some real street records than I think people give him. We’re going to make some real grimy shit because people really haven’t heard Wale pushing to make some hard, hard records.
How did you and Souls of Mischief come together for a project?
I was on the Redman and Method Man tour and I met Opio through a friend. Basically they were talking about how they would love to work with me. We had talked about it and then we hadn’t seen each other. They came to New York and everybody always talks about doing stuff and then it doesn’t come through. He did a record and then the next night they all came through and we knocked out two records and I’m going to fly out to Oakland to finish it up. I gave them all the beats that night. I’m excited about it and they’re excited about it because I literally grew up with Souls of Mischief and all that. I don’t think the masses of hip-hop fans understand that they’re still working together. I think a lot of people think they went and did their own thing but we’re about to go and do a project.
How do you adjust your production to each artist you work with?
I mean, I don’t really adjust beats for people. I just pick the ones that I think they would sound good on. I don’t sit there and think it’s going to be for so and so. In the free time that I can find to make beats, I just do it and then when I’m done with it I think about who could be on it. When the artist is here I know which ones to give them or which ones to burn or which ones to record. Most of the time it’s some spur of the moment shit.
How do you make sure you give each project the time it deserves?
I work really fast so the main thing with me is just to give the right people the right beats because at the end of the day, recording and mixing is where it’s at. I work really fast. That’s how the whole thing with Saigon went. We were knocking out songs in 15 minutes. I’m talking about doing the mixing and making it sound right. The Saigon album really got me in the right mode because I really hadn’t been in the studio. I was going through some personal shit where my ex moved out and the day she moved out we did the Saigon thing and then the day after that we went on tour. These projects I’m knocking out, we’re doing them now. The next month I’ll be telling you about the next 10 albums I’m doing. I’m more focused now than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m in such a positive mode right now.
Where do you want to take your production in the next year?
I want to take over everything I can. I don’t really look at other cats as competition because I think everybody does their own thing. I’m trying to do my brand of hip-hop. I want to make music that I’m a fan of. There are only a couple of cats like that out there. I’m a fan of Alchemist and Primo and cats like that. There’s very few names of producers that when you see they did a new record you pay attention to, like Hi-Tek and cats like that. I want to at least be a name that you look for. I’m not saying I want to be held on the same pedestal and all that, but especially after the Saigon thing I just want to smash everything. I had a record on Jadakiss’ album that Def Jam didn’t clear the sample on at the last minute but I’m trying to have a record on everybody’s record coming out from Bun-B to Jay-Z but in the next year you’re going to see a major, major growth.
You haven’t dropped any mixtapes in a long time. Are you still working on any?
I’m not doing Statik Selektah mixtapes but I’m doing other people’s shit. I just did Skyzoo’s Gangsta Grillz mixtape with DJ Drama. That’s real dope. I always work with Term and Reks and cats like that but unless someone cuts me a check you’re not going to see any other Statik Selektah mixtapes. I’m just focused on doing albums now. Shade 45 now is kind of my weekly mixtape where I get to play exclusives and all that.
How did your Grand Theft Auto project come about?
That shit was amazing. They reached out to me. It was between me and a huge, huge hip-hop legend, one of my favorite producers ever. It was between us and I got it and I feel blessed to get that opportunity. They gave me a lot of freedom to work with who I wanted to work with and they approved it. I got to work with Term, Freeway, Saigon, Consequence, Skyzoo and Kweli. That Kweli record is getting crazy feedback. That’s probably the people’s favorite.
I started working on that in November and the songs came together slowly. It wasn’t as easy as doing an album. It came together in a couple of weeks but we had to deal with clearances and all that. There’s a lot of clearances for video games. It was a challenge for me. There’s no samples so I had to really focus on making the beats sound like my beats without samples because most of my stuff is usually samples.
Would you make the switch to making all original music?
I would say that most of my beats are 60% samples or I would have someone else play on it. I normally don’t have anyone playing on my beats. Really I do all my basslines and I do all my synthesizers and all of that. I’m learning slowly how to play more but I’m always going to keep that element in there because it gives it the grittiness.
What’s the next move for you?
Knock out these albums and keep it moving, man. I’m trying to get everything I can get. I’m trying to work with everybody that I haven’t worked with yet. I want to give people the records that they should be on because a lot of artists don’t know how to pick beats or they don’t know what the fans want and between DJing and being on the radio shows and all that, I talk to a lot of the fans and I know what they want as far as the sound. I’m trying to make these artists make the right records and I think that’s the true definition of a producer.