You guys came together, said you were going to do an album and actually did it. I’m glad you went from Point A to Point B and got it done.
Torae: I know, right? To announce a project and to actually do it? Who would have thought?
Marco Polo: That’s so not hip-hop.
From listening to the album, it doesn’t sound like it was just beats and rhymes. It sounds like there was a lot of effort and thought put into Double Barrel.
Torae: I’m glad you feel that way. That was the intention and the aim and I think a lot of people get away from that. They think their names are going to sell the project. We wanted to make a project that was gonna be reflective of the type of quality that you’re used to hearing from us and Double Barrel is no exception. We went in and put work in on this joint.
Marco, you have the reputation for being a very meticulous and hands-on producer. How did you approach Double Barrel?
Marco Polo: We caught the vibe early for this record and I just picked the right beats from early on to present to Tor and we just kept it in the zone. Lucky for me I had a lot of those beats in the stash, ready to go. It was just about maintaining a theme and an energy and it worked out.
At what point did you guys realize the album was actually going to happen and it was going to be dope?
Torae: I mean, from the initiation of us deciding that we were going to do it, we knew that we were going to complete it and do it to the best of our ability. There’s no point to doing it if you’re going to half-ass it. And you don’t really get that from Marco or myself with our work ethic. We definitely try to deliver the best 100% of the time. It was just more a matter of us getting together and trying to come up with the theme for the album. Once we had the title for the album, Double Barrel, the rest was easy.
What was the recording process like for Double Barrel?
Marco Polo: I would give beats to Tor to write to or check but the whole recording process, we were in my studio working on everything. Even 90% of the guests came through my studio, like Sean and Masta Ace. Revolution was in L.A. and laid down the scratches and sent them to us. But this was hands-on. 90% of the album, we were there for every step of the way and I think that’s what made the big difference in making it sound like a complete, competent, cohesive album.
Torae: Everything that me and Marco did was together in the studio. Only one or two of the guests didn’t come through. Even writing it, I would write while Marco was playing beats and beats out the stash. He would email me beats and I would give him a yay or a nay. I would send him my concepts and we would collaborate and every verse I spit on this album, I spit in Marco’s spot.
So how much secondhand smoke did you get there?
Torae: Oh, man, I got bronchitis now, leukemia and lung cancer. It’s cool though ‘cause the album is hot.
Marco, you don’t have emphysema, do you?
Marco Polo: No! No. I don’t. And hopefully I never will. And this might be my last year of the Newports.
Torae: Let’s cheer him on. Let’s be encouraging. Marco’s trying to quit and I commend him and it’s not easy but we know he can do it. Let’s give him positive influences.
What’s holding you up from quitting now?
Marco Polo: I don’t like to be one of those smokers that talks about quitting while he’s smoking in front of you. I hate those people. I’m just gonna do it naturally, when I’m ready and I’m just setting a realistic goal. At my birthday at the end of this year, I’m going to make an effort to make it my last year of smoking. But I don’t want to yap about it and then you see me smoking next year. I’d rather just make it happen.
I work with some smokers and what amazes me is the amount of effort they go to just to get a smoke in. What’s the biggest amount of trouble you’ve gone to just to fill that jones?
Marco Polo: I smoked in an airport once. (laughs) I remember sitting in an airport waiting for a connecting flight and there wasn’t enough time to go outside. I think I was in Dallas or something. I literally found an emergency exit staircase that was kind of hidden, risking getting arrested and thousands of dollars in fines. That was pretty stupid but I made it happen. That’s as far as my smoking has taken me. Besides that, we’ve been outcast as smokers. You can’t even smoke in the smoking section. (laughs)
You’re the scourge of society. You guys are one step below child molesters right now.
Marco Polo: That’s terrible. But you know what? I’m one of those smokers that agrees with most of the laws. If you go in the road or my bedroom, I go to sleep around the smell of smoke and I leave clubs smelling like smoke and I’m a smoker and I think that shit is gross. But there has to be a point where they meet us halfway. You have restaurants with outdoor patios and shit and you can’t even smoke there. What the fuck? You can’t even go outside and smoke. New York’s on some bullshit with that.
Torae: People kind of just don’t want to die because you want a cigarette. Pardon us. I used to come home from sessions and my family would be like, ‘Oh my God, you stink. You smell disgusting.’ I just became immune to it after awhile. I was like, ‘What, I don’t smell anything?’ They were like, ‘You have to take your clothes out before you come in because you stink.’
Is it worth being exiled from your house and sleeping on park benches if you could consistently make albums like Double Barrel?
Torae: It’s all for the love of hip-hop! We both sacrificed a lot – sleep, time, vocal chords. (laughs) We did everything for the project and for the people, to make a hip-hop album that’s going to withstand the test of time and make a hip-hop album that people will look back on five, 10 years from now and still say this shit goes hard, if I caught a little emphysema in the meantime, then it’s worth it. It’s for hip-hop, baby!
Torae: See, that makes it all worth it. That makes it all worth it, that the people appreciate it.
Marco Polo: Stop feeding into my Canadian guilt. (laughs)
Speaking of Canada, with Kardinal and Drake, it’s actually cool to be from Canada right now.
Marco Polo: I’m proud of what’s happening right now with the Canadian scene. We had a golden era on the indie scene. Kardi was a part of that with Saukrates. It’s nice to get a little bit of shine and if Drake doing his thing can draw some attention to what we have up there, I think that’s a positive thing.
After listening to “Coney Island,” I’m thinking of cancelling my vacation plans there.
Torae: It’s not fun and games at all! It’s like any city there. There’s an amusement park and a beach so people kind of get it misconstrued. They think I live at the circus but there’s a lot of housing projects and you know, poor, disenfranchised people in the community. It gets real. It’s like any community. It has its good and its bad. I just wanted to shy away from what people hear on the movies and commercials. They know about Nathan’s and the amusement park but they might not be aware that a few blocks away from that fun shit is the gritty realities of the city.
That’s why the Jersey Shore gets so crowded this time of year.
Torae: Yeah. Go down to the Shore. You’ll be safer down there!
As far as promotion goes, you had videos and songs dropping every Tuesday with Double Barrel Tuesdays. How effective do you think the marketing was for Double Barrel?
Marco Polo: Oh, man, that is 100% Toreezy. Tor came up with that whole concept and idea and it made 100% difference with getting us out there. The whole viral plan with doing the videos and the audio every Tuesday, that was something that we just started to work on and just do interesting content to put in people’s faces and every week, too, because now with everything going to the websites and the blogs, people’s attention spans are decreasing. They want content all the time, nonstop, and we gave it to them straight and I think that was the key to getting the word out more than anything else. People aren’t buying magazines like they were so this is the No. 1 way to promote, as far as the viral stuff and all that. I gotta shout out Torae on coming up with that whole idea.
You guys are on the front line of the new wave of artists who didn’t come up through print magazines. How much more important is the online presence today as opposed to getting ink in print mags?
Torae: I mean, just overall, obviously everybody doesn’t have a computer but for the most part, a lot of the hip-hop fans that we cater to are on the net and they are active. I think that makes all the difference in the world because the content is coming so rapidly now. Back in the day you had to wait a month to find out what the bangers were and get The Source or XXL or whatever. Now there’s new content every day and 10 new songs up before noon. You have to be as current and move as rapid as the technology is moving. It can be a gift and a curse. You have to take it and get all the good things out of it. I have to be active online and I have to drag myself away from the computer because I’ll spend all day trading emails back and forth with the people who support the music. Especially now with Twitter, I get a chance to kick it with the people who support it and support what I do and I love talking to them. It’s fucking dope. They’ll tell me they were having a hard day at work and playing my music and it’s cool hearing from people trying to make it in business and life. It drives me and it helps me get through my fucked up days as well. The net is super-duper important and I think it’s going to be even more vital as the years progress.
Marco Polo: I just go on there to look at porn. I didn’t know you could do all this other stuff. I thought it was just for porn. (laughs)
Torae: It’s helpful too though! You were just talking to this porn chick.
Marco Polo: Avina Lee went and downloaded our album. That’s progress.
How much would it mean to you if she had sex with Double Barrel blasting in the background?
Marco Polo: Unless it’s the instrumentals, I don’t need to hear Tor while I’m doing that. No thanks. I’m good.
Torae: No. He said if she was having sex while the album was playing in the background.
Marco Polo: Oh, that would be great! That would be great. (laughs)
I had a roommate who used to do girls to M.O.P. What’s the most hardcore music a guy should play with his lady?
Torae: I don’t know if I can even answer that, but me, it used to be a prerequisite of mine that the first time I banged a chick, it had to be to Biggie’s first album. If she couldn’t rock with that she wasn’t cock-worthy.
Marco Polo: Wow.
Torae: Yeah. I used to smash to Ready to Die all the time.
Did it work out okay?
Torae: Oh yeah! I used to get bitches! (laughs) Yo, don’t put that in the interview, yo. (laughs) Oh, man.
I don’t know where to go from here.
Torae: Yeah. Where do we go from here? (laughs) This is awesome. I like when interviews are fun and it’s not the same wack-ass questions.
So I shouldn’t ask how you feel about Autotune and the current state of hip-hop?
Torae: I’m sure everybody on earth doesn’t have an opinion on that.
Marco Polo: Autogoon. That’s what I have.
Torae: That’s the effect I used on the album. Marco had a bunch of plug-ins and I asked what’s that? Double Barrel came out on Autogoon.
Let’s go back to the porn chicks on Twitter. What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you guys on Twitter since you got your account?
Torae: I don’t get to do cool shit on the net because I have a wife and kids. The most I can do is talk to fans and tell them Double Barrel Tuesdays is out. I’m sure Marco has great experiences though.
Marco Polo: It’s so funny because for the longest time I refused to use that shit. I got an account and I would put up a whatever, tweet thing, and now it’s completely out of control and I’m on that shit all the time. I don’t have any crazy stories on Twitter yet. The Avina Lee shit is up there, her saying she went and bought the album. That’s definitely interesting.
Torae: What was dope from me was when Pos from De La Soul hit me and told me he was listening to my music and to keep doing my thing. I was like, ‘Wow.’ I’m a super-duper big De La fan and whenever I speak to anybody and they like my music, it means a lot to me and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Preem and Pete and Ace and I got everything they ever put out in their catalogues. When Pos hit me from De La Soul on Twitter and told me he was watching me and to keep doing my thing, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s what’s up.’
Still, Pos is no porn star. I think you’ll have to live vicariously through Marco.
Torae: I’m trying to push him. I tell him I have to live vicariously through him but he’s boring. I try to push him to be a smut-monger and he don’t, you know, he’s real conservative the way he moves. I’m like, ‘Yo, smash out! That’s what I need you to do. For the group. For the both of us!’
Marco Polo: Don’t worry about how I live my life.
Marco, I’m getting married in July. I’m with Tor on this.
Torae: Do it for the team, yo! (laughs)
Marco Polo: I’m so uncomfortable right now.
Torae: Carry on tradition, baby!
Marco Polo: You know what it is? As artists, we’re put out there. With the internet and MySpace and Facebook and Twitter, I’m just seeing people that I know and a lot of people that I know have dealings with meeting fans and stuff that got really out of control so I like to separate that shit. I actually prefer to meet girls who have nothing to do with hip-hop because it’s just better for me.
So in other words you have to meet chicks who are into Canada and cigarettes?
Marco Polo: (laugh) Actually that’s my rule of thumb though. If you meet a girl who smokes cigarettes, that’s probably an automatic sign that she’s a little freakier and crazier than most girls. That’s a theory that usually proves to be right. It’s an instant-whore signal! (laughs) Damn. I just alienated all my smoking female fans.
Torae: yeah. It’s beautiful. Keep going.
There’s probably only three of them anyway.
Marco Polo: Yeah. Every time I see a girl follow me on Twitter, I think she looks good. Then I look, oh, it’s spam.
Every real hip-hop show I’ve been to has been mostly dudes. Are females still into good hip-hop?
Marco Polo: There’s a lot of females that like all types of stuff. This album, I have a lot of female fans like I did for Port Authority. I had a lot of diverse songs on Port Authority. There are girls who like to thug it out and hear that hardcore shit too. So they’re definitely there.
Torae: I’m always scared when a chick tells me she likes this album. I’ll be like, ‘Why?’ I want to have a conversation with her and an intervention and get to the root of the problem.
Her father would be so ashamed.
Torae: Wow. Were you abused as a child? Why do you like this album? But shout out to all the females. I think they can hear the authenticity in it. It’s not a bullshit record. It’s not a dance record. It’s not something that you would put on at a party but it’s a record that you can get into if you just want a break from the monotony of what’s going on and you just want to hear some real shit, even if you didn’t necessarily want to hear the content but if you wanted to get that feeling that you got when you first started listing to hip-hop and some of those types of records. Obviously M.O.P doesn’t have a lot of female fans but everybody knows “Ante Up.” This shit is real. It’s not some soft sucker shit. And sometimes the women get tired of the dudes being sexy to them on record. They want to feel a little rugged and threatened and they get Double Barrel.
Marco Polo: He’s absolutely right. There’s a lot of females that don’t want to light candles and burn incense. They want to fucking get hyped.
Jay-Z said that his music should make jackers wanna go and commit felonies. Do you think Double Barrel can inspire any crimes?
Torae: I hope so. I actually want to get the print out of the crime rate for the week prior to the album release and the two weeks following the album release just to see if there was a spike. I got my fingers crossed. I’m hoping for the best.
You know I’m an online guy so I didn’t rob any stores but I sure hacked a few motherfuckers.
Torae: It all counts! It all counts. I want computers to get hacked. I want pocketbooks stolen. I want cars broken into. These are things that will help the Double Barrel brand. So please, feel free to commit crimes, felonies, misdemeanors, assaults and anything else that’s gonna help the situation.
Will you send me a kite if I get caught?
Torae: (laughs) Word is bond! We’ll send you a kite, make sure your commissary is straight. Shout out to Dru Ha. He’ll make sure your commissary is up.
Marco, you can send me some cigarettes so I have some currency in there.
Marco Polo: I got you, man. I’ll smuggle you a fucking whole carton.
Thanks. I just watched Escape From Alcatraz for the 50th time so I’m pretty much ready.
Marco Polo: You can be the guy that sells loosies.
Torae: So did you like the album?
Yeah. I knew it was going to be good, I just didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. A lot of collaborations these days are half-assed but this collaboration sounded like there was actually effort behind it.
Marco Polo: Me and Torae are professionals and we take everything that we do very seriously. I felt with Port Authority I showed that I was capable of making a whole album. That was more challenging because it was like 45 different artists. This was easier to piece all together. Thanks. I’m glad you like it.
Your production also sounds a lot better on Double Barrel than Port Authority.
Marco Polo: Thank you. I feel the same way. It’s good for people to recognize that.
Do you think you’ll start getting more placements now that you’ve proven you can do compilations, singles and produce albums?
Marco Polo: You know, I’m slowly starting to branch out. I’m a stuttering bastard when it comes to the music side of things. I see catalogues of the classic producers and I’m not really a fan of sending random tracks out to people. I really want to turn into the producer that does full albums like me and Tor did with certain artists and make albums that are going to get more rotation than a month or two and then you forget about it. I’m trying to work with bigger artists who are down to work with me because of my sound and not because I’m some random producer with a couple of hot beats. I want to work with people where it makes sense, like the LOX, Ghostface and Pharoahe. That, to me, is branching out in a positive way.
Tor, when are you and Skyzoo going to do the group album that some fans think has to happen?
Torae: (laughs) Yeah, we’re going to knock that out as soon as Nas and AZ knock out theirs! That’s my homie and shout out to Sky. You know, you never know. We got a relationship and we definitely got chemistry when we make records. Anything is possible. He’s part of the Duck Down family as well. That’s my dude and I’m a fan of his music. A lot of people don’t know that before we met face to face, we liked each other’s music and that’s why we decided to work together. Obviously it was over Primo production and that’s going to help as well, but people like when we get on jams together and rock out. When we get in the studio we both know that we gotta bring our super-duper A-game and the benefactor to that is the fans.
Why do you think there’s so much of an emphasis on doing a whole project together when two artists sound good together?
Torae: That’s just the nature of people. They always want more and then the moment they get it they want to find a way to tear it down. That’s just the nature of man. If Sky and I did a project tomorrow and it was the dopest shit on earth, there would still be a thousand people who said it sucks. That’s kind of the way things are. You put yourself out there and you have to have thick skin and be prepared for it. We’re always going to do music. You’ll always get a banger from Skyzoo and Torae.
Marco, are you still working with the artist formerly known as Pumpkinhead?
Marco Polo: He actually just reached out to me to give him some beats for something that he’s working on. He’s actually the first artist who took a chance on a new producer. I’m always going to have love for Pumpkinhead and we’re always going to collab. I’m not sure if we’ll ever do a full album together again but that’s the homie. We’re definitely going to be working together.