Your name has grown a lot in the last year as a producer to really watch for. Have you noticed?
Yes. I feel very good about the accomplishments I’ve had this past year and I feel very fortunate that I work with such great artists.
You produced a majority of Camp Lo’s latest mixtape Stone and Rob. What’s it been like working with them so far?
It’s been an amazing experience. They’re two highly creative people and I’ve learned a lot working with them. I’m really happy this mixtape/album has finally seen the light of day. We put a lot of work into it and I did 11 of the 13 tracks on there. It’s probably one of the biggest things that’s happened to my career so far.
You brought Camp Lo an updated sound with more synths and heavy drums. How do you bring Camp Lo into 2009 while still giving them the classic soul sound that longtime fans want?
During the making of this album it wasn’t just a random beats. We all talked about exactly that, not totally departing from the sound that they developed but let’s definitely try to bring it into the future. Me and Cheeba would definitely work with it closely. A lot of them are Smoking Apples productions, which is me and him. So we would work really closely with taking some of the samples that have that feel-good ‘70s sound but then put the crazy, heavy drums that I’m probably more known for and just try to make some music that is forward thinking.
How far can the Camp Lo sound be pushed?
We’re talking about that right now for the next project. We’re talking about how we can push it even further than we did. Stone and Rob is the first sampling of me working with Camp Lo so we’re always trying to push it further. We’re talking about if we should access some samples that aren’t always from the ‘70s and if we should get some from the ‘80s and some that are more current or if we’re going to go hipster/electro and if we do we need to make it the Camp Lo version of that. I’m definitely trying to think. I’ve been making a lot of beats and sending it to them. At the end of the day when you work closely with a group like that and we’re in the lab together making these songs and we’re not emailing them back and forth, the test is when all three of us think the sound is hot and then the sound of the album develops.
Are you happy with the fan response to Stone and Rob so far?
Yes. I’m very happy. The majority seems to really like it. As an artist I always feel like I could have done a lot better with it. I think most artists are happy when their album is finally out and done but there are always some little things with the mixing and I always wish I had more time. But I’m extremely happy with the response and the people love the group Camp Lo and I’m completely fortunate to have had such a close experience working with them.
As far as your production group Smoking Apples, how do you and Cheeba work together?
It’s a pretty simple process. Cheeba will bring an idea to me and then I’ll execute it. The idea will be either something that we can sample or something in general, like a feeling that he had in his head. It’s a really simple process. It doesn’t take that long to make a beat. I’ll send it back and forth or if we’re together in the room we’ll just sit around and start digging through whatever crates we have, whether it’s online or physical ones. We’ll keep going through it until we think we have something that’s hot. Anyone who knows Cheeba knows that he’s a real good ideas person. I guess this is an outlet to express ideas with him and I love it and anytime you’re able to work with someone you’re able to do something better than what you would have done on your own.
How has working with Cheeba made you a better producer?
Cheeba’s standards are pretty high, as anyone who has had the success that he’s had is. The bar is very high and he’s very particular about what he wants to hear. That’s made me just work harder because I have to please him and myself. There’s two people. And then on top of that Suede’s gotta love it too if he’s gonna get on it. It just pushes me to really try. I know they want to hear something different and they don’t want to hear just a run of the mill, normal beat. They want to hear something that’s twisted and different so I’m constantly pushing my creative boundaries with them.
Your drums always stand out in your beats. How do you program your drums to have such a dominant presence in your music?
It feels like a formula. I like to combine the electronic and the live so anytime you put something live on something it’s going to be different whenever you do it. I’ll have a beat like anyone else but then I’ll throw something live on it and mic it differently. It might be a hi-hat or a tom and just try to combine that sound to the electronic and the live. I grew up listening to the Roots, where it was all live and I also grew up listening to Timbaland and the Neptunes, which was all electronic. I grew up with a dream of combining the two worlds. I hope it is slightly different all of the time.
What element of the beat do you spend the most time working on, generally speaking?
The drums are the easiest and the most fun for me but I probably spend the most time wrapping my brain around the melody and chopping the samples. That’s probably the biggest challenges for me. Anybody that knows me knows I don’t spend a lot of time making a beat. If it doesn’t come out in 10 or 20 minutes I get frustrated. I can’t say I spend a lot of time on it. Once the idea hits me it has to be out really quickly. Once the beat is out I’ll spend a lot of time mixing and tweaking certain things. But I spend about half my time on the melody and half my time on the drums. And if I had decided to bring live musicians in, horns and keyboard players and stuff like that, that takes a lot of time but once they get in the studio, if they’re not laying it down in five or 10 minutes, I’m moving on.
How have you grown as a producer in the last couple of years since we last spoke?
I have grown from making 45 second beat battle tracks to making 3:20 songs for albums or singles or hits. That’s a huge growth for me. When you interviewed me a couple of years ago, I was a beat battle producer, really, and now I feel like I can really make a full album and hit singles and feel comfortable letting that energy ride throughout three minutes instead of just 45 seconds. So I’ve taken the beat battle energy and put it towards stuff that could be commercially viable.
Are you still entering any beat battles today?
I don’t want to say I’m done with the beat battles but I want to do whatever’s going to be the bigger challenge. I don’t want to do a beat battle that I’ve already done. But if there’s something that comes up that will be a bigger platform or something that I think will be fun to do, I’ll do it. But I can’t say I’m putting a lot of energy towards the beat battles anymore. I would say that phase of my career has come to an end and the new phase is emerging.
Before you got into hip-hop you were more known as a drummer. Do you still play with any bands today?
I definitely still drum. I play about three gigs a week here. I also travel all over playing the drums. I like to push my drumming to new boundaries and I just started playing with DJs in clubs. I got a project called The Breaks where it’s two drummers and a DJ playing for an entire three hour set, just making people dance. I definitely still play the drums a lot.
Does your drumming background give you an advantage as a hip-hop producer?
Yes. Definitely. I mean, the most obvious thing is I get to play the drums on my tracks and that’s a huge advantage. The other thing is when I bring other musicians in, I know how to speak the language of what I want to hear and I feel that it makes the depth of my tracks a little deeper and gives me more options than someone who does not know how to play an instrument.
What other projects are you working on?
That’s a good question. Freebass 808 is still a project that we’re going to launch and that’s with Suede. Smoking Apples is with Cheeba and that’s two different entities. The Freebass 808 project is coming out next month. We’re working with a really talented person named Battalion Armour and he just did the latest Kid CuDi unofficial video. Some people know him for that. He’s doing a whole video project with Freebass 808 called Moonbass.
One of the biggest projects that came out for me last year was the Miles Davis remix album with Okayplayer and illroots that got 10,000 downloads. One of the artists on there was Yahzarah. I’m working on her next album. We got a couple of dope tracks. My company with Suede is called La Universe. We have a bunch of artists and a clothing line, Halos and Vines that we’re partnering to launch. And one of the things I’m excited about is working with Fatman Scoop. We’re going back and forth right now to try to make a couple of hits. I really feel that my energy in production really matches his energy. He’s one of the first people I met in New York City as an artist. It’s been a couple of years and we’ve been plotting to do something. Those are the projects that are coming up for me
You released a Freebass 808 project last year and it showed Suede in a different light as an MC. Are you happy with how things are moving with Freebass 808?
Musically I am happy. It’s such a creative outlet for me and Suede. Camp Lo does have a certain sound and we try to have no boundaries or limits over what we’re going to do. I’ll be a lot happier when a project actually releases into the universe and people can start hearing what we’ve been doing because right now it’s just little things here and there and little things. I can’t wait. I’ll be a much happier person two months from now when the world hears this project coming out. We have a lot of songs that we haven’t released and we’ve been working on developing our craft and our sound. That’s a really exciting project that I did.
The last time we did an interview you ended with a joke about up-and-coming producers not sending you beats because you didn’t want to hear them. I don’t think everyone got the joke.
Yes. And that’s something that I feel really bad about. I do have a sarcastic side to me and I definitely love that. Part of the joke during that interview was that I didn’t really feel like an established producer then so I was just making a joke about how people were coming up to me all the time. Of course I want people to come up to me and ask for advice or collaborate with them or whatever. I’m really glad you mentioned that because I would love to clear the air on that. It was a complete joke and everybody didn’t get that. I really don’t feel that way. It was a joke and I was trying to be funny and sarcastic.