When most artists tell you that you need their music, you’re probably most likely to give the artist a half-hearted shrug and make your way to the nearest exit. However, when it’s a legendary producer who has crafted hits for artists like Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dogg, you’re probably going to stop whatever it is you’re doing and give said producer the time of day. At least that’s what legendary producer Nottz is hoping as he prepares his debut album, You Need This Music, due out October 12 on Raw Koncept.
Besides crafting an album that features names like Snoop Dogg, Joell Ortiz and Bilal, Nottz has been hard at work on Rah Digga’s sophomore album Classic, due out September 14, where he handled all of the production. The Virginia producer with the booming basslines and drums famous for upstaging even the dopest of verses sat down with HipHopGame to talk about his new projects, his production techniques and where we can expect to find him next. Don’t miss it.
Your new album You Need this Music is done. What was it like working your own album, which is something you’d never done?
My manager, man, he’s the sole reason for me even putting an album together, man. Before, we had the group and I was rapping off and on with the group, a verse here and there, but he was saying I needed to do an album myself. I can rap and it ain’t like I’m wack. I feel like I could have been doing this years ago.
What was it like making the transition to an MC back then?
It wasn’t too difficult. Over the years, we’ve been working with different groups and that kind of put the hold on me trying to put together my own project. But you know, I started out rapping anyway and no one would give me beats so that’s how I started doing my own beats. No one would give me beats so I started doing beats and here I am now.
Do you think producing for so many artists helped you improve as an MC?
For sure. Just like with anybody else, when you’re around dope people, you pick up habits. You don’t bite them, but you pick up habits for how songs are structured. It’s good, man. We’re around a lot of good people. A lot of good people rubbed off on me, man.
How would you describe your transition as an MC from when no one would give you beats to now?
Oh, man, before it wasn’t like I was doing hella sessions. We wouldn’t send music out and get it done like that. But when you’re around dope people, that influences you to work hard and get better at your craft, man. That’s what I’m trying to do right now, man. Before, I was all right but right now, I think I’m pretty cool, man. I ain’t wack. I damn-sure ain’t wack. I’ve heard worse! (laughs)
What MC that you’ve worked do you think you’ve learned the most from?
It’s not just one, man. You got Kardinal, Royce, Busta, Snoop, Scarface…Everybody that I’ve damn-near worked with, for real.
What can you learn from watching someone like Snoop in the studio?
Man, Snoop, sometimes he tries a lot of shit. He’s not afraid to just try shit. It’s like with me and these beats. I’m not afraid to just go in on some weird shit and make it work. It’s like he’s not afraid to try shit. I’ll fuck with that dude heavy.
You’ve got some big names on this album, like Snoop, Joell Ortiz and Bilal. How did you decide who you wanted for You Need This Music?
It was like, these dudes, they fuck with me. They fuck with me. There were a lot of cats I wanted to get on the album and there’s no hard feelings, but there was a lot of cats I wanted to get on the album but there’s no get back. They say they’ll do it but there’s no get back. Hey, you don’t want to do it, you’re not making or breaking me, but I want people who want to be a part of this shit. But these people that we got on the album, we’re cool with them and they’re good peoples and they really fuck with a dude and a majority of them asked me if they could be on it and I was like Hell yeah!
Who did you want that didn’t come through?
I got everybody I need. I got everybody I need, man.
Were you cool with sending out songs online as opposed to doing songs in person?
It was cool. Some of the tracks had to be sent so they could be recorded but I wasn’t scared at all. These are good people I worked with and I didn’t have to worry about none of it leaking or nothing like that. That’s how you burn bridges, man. People leak this shit and you know you can’t come back once you’ve leaked a song.
You’ve also been working with Rah Digga on her album Classic. How’s that sounding?
It is what it is – a classic!
Is the album done?
That album is done. It’s done! It’s sent out and everything. That album comes out September 14.
What makes you so confident it’s a classic?
Her lyrics. She’s spitting hard. She hasn’t lost it. You got all them robot figures, like she would say. I’m telling you, take notes. The tracks are dope. It’s a banging album, man. It’s a good outcome on the album. There’s no features on it. She’s one of the illest, man. She’s gotta be.
You worked with Rah Digga on her only other album Dirty Harriet as well. Did this album just come out of the blue?
I wanted to do an album with Digga after Dirty Harriet.
What did you hear in her back then that made you want to do a full-length album with her?
Come on, man, she put out Dirty Harriet. That’s ridiculous. She’s one of the dopest female MCs out and she’s killing some dudes. That was unheard of, man. We were like Man, we gotta put an album out on her. It’s a must. We gotta get her in the mood to do it but she’s one of the dopest, man. She’s gotta be.
She used to do a journal on HipHopGame and rapping was one of the last things she wanted to do. How did you get her to record an album?
That’s my manager and Lucas Jade, man. They are the ones. They are the ones, man. They convinced her to do a full-length album. And me, I’m always for it. If it’s Digga, I’m gonna be there and I want to do it. I wanted to get her on board and figured that would be dope. She ran with it and we ran with it and we got a classic album on our hands. I can’t wait for the world to hear it.
Dirty Harriet came out 10 years ago. How would you describe how the working process has changed between you two from then to now?
Now we’re a lot more closer now. It’s more like we’re in the studio and we’re vibing and the connection is more on point now. Before, it’s like me and Darryl would come into town and work with Busta for a few days and work with Digga for a couple of hours and we’d bounce. But now she was out here for weeks and we’re working and working and working. The chemistry was just crazy.
Did she sound just as hungry as she did on Dirty Harriet?
Yes, sir! Yes, sir! Hell yeah, man. It’s like she ain’t never lost it. She got on that mic and you hear her on that mic and you’re like Damn, she ain’t lost shit. She still got it.
What was it like working in Dirty Harriet with Digga?
Oh, man, they were busier than ever. They were busier than ever, man. It was like back then, you had more people respecting hip-hop and respecting good music. Now it’s like you mention certain people’s names and they don’t know who the hell you are, especially the young folks. The young generation doesn’t know who you are and they’re afraid to do research. There’s a lot of bullshit coming out and we are very accepting of this crap that’s coming out and that’s not cool. That’s taking away from me and a lot of the underground cats coming up. It’s time for us to regain some of that back.
How are you going to take it back?
Putting out good music. Bringing the boom-bap back. September 14 and October 12, that’s step one along with other steps. You got Black Milk’s album coming out and Jake One is working on another White Van Music, I think. There’s so much dope music coming out. I just hope everybody embraces it like they should instead of just being one-sided with all the bullshit. It’s crazy, man. It’s crazy. But we gotta do it one day at a time though.
Listen to the radio. You had a lot of dope-ass records out back then. It was more hip-hop, like real fucking boom-bap back then. Now it’s bullshit. Everything that’s coming out, your IQ level drops 100% listening to that shit. I figure that there’s statements to be made and a lot of examples that need to be set for the young folks.
Was it fun recording “The Last Word” with some of the Outsiderz?
Man, I remember one time we went to Jersey and they had a studio in this building. I don’t know how many floors there were, like six or seven, but they had a studio in the building and people lived in there. It was some real ‘hood shit but we felt at home. But all those dudes were cool dudes, man. They were all cool and down to earth dudes. I don’t know, man. It just made us feel at home. When the vibe is nice and everything is cool, you get a lot of work done.
How has your state of mind as a producer changed from ’99 to 2010?
Oh, man. You know what? I’m playing a lot more of my music instead of sampling. Before I was just sampling and putting a bassline on it, but it was real hip-hop. A few years ago I strayed away from the basslines but now I’m bringing it all back, from my album to Digga’s album. I’m bringing those basslines back, what everybody knows me for. I’m bringing it back to that ’98 shit. That’s what I’m doing.
What do you think has been the biggest change you’ve made in your production techniques lately?
You know what? It really hasn’t changed, man. It really hasn’t changed. I’m still going to be me. No change. My change is the basslines. Now I’m bringing it back to where I used to be. There’s really no change. There’s no big change, man. Dilla told me that. Dilla told me, “Don’t change for nobody, man.”
When you hear some of your older beats, do you ever update them?
Sure. I’ll put them into Pro Tools and beat them up a little bit. Some of the music I’m doing now, there’s a lot of stuff going on. You got a lot more strings and it sounds more fuller than before. Before, I was just sampling and it was just that. Now I’m playing a lot more shit on it and bringing guitars in and keyboards in and making it bigger than what it is. Back then it was just real simple and people enjoyed it like that. They loved it like that. But now I’m trying to bring that simpleness and bring a little bit more to it and beef it up a little bit.
You’ve done a lot with Busta Rhymes throughout your career. Are you going to get back with him soon?
Oh, come on, man, you know that! That’s my dawg. On his new album, man, I got the first song on the album. The first song on the album. He played it for me over the phone. It’s crazy, as usual. Shit, you know, that boy’s a monster.
What does it mean to you to have such longevity with one artist?
It means a lot, man. We have been on a couple of albums but we always had a lot more stuff going on that we’ve taken care of over the years. He’s going to always be my dawg, man. Always.
Would you ever get back with Lord Have Mercy?
Man, me and Lord talked a couple of days ago. We’re about to work on some stuff now.
I heard he’s coming back.
Yeah. I’m going to be a part of that. We talked a couple of days ago. We’re going to get something jumping, man.
What was it like working with Cormega on “What Did I Do” on Born and Raised?
Oh, man, it was dope. He’s a cool, cool, down to earth dude. We were vibing and we did a song and that was it. After that, we didn’t really chop it up like that, but he’s a cool dude, man. A down to earth dude.
Would you guys do more work?
Time will tell, you know?
How were you able to tie You Need to Hear This together, especially with so many diverse artists making appearances?
The majority of people on the album are doing hooks for me. It’s like with any other artist. Really, tying it together was just based on the content and the tracks themselves and the feel of the songs, from the start of the songs to the end of the songs, like that, man. And then we go back and we listen to classic records like a Nas record and listen to how they formatted those records. That’s basically how we work, man.
How hard are you working to get beats on other artists’ albums today?
You gotta do that, as long as you got kids. That’s a must. That’s a must, man. We kind of pushed it back a little bit because I was working on an album, but we still have to keep it moving. If I’m working, my manager’s working on something else.
Is it hard keeping your name relevant even though you have a strong track record?
Yeah, it is now. Before it wasn’t. But it is now because so many new cats are coming in and everybody wants to produce now and everybody wants to rap. You got new rappers who are just coming in and don’t know shit from shampoo. They don’t know what good music is and just because their homeboy do beats, they could be the worst dude ever but his boy will put him on and they’re making millions and that’s taking away from the dudes who are doing it. Like, these cats don’t really know what the grind about. I can respect a dude who knows what the grind is about and has been doing it for years as opposed to a dude who is just coming in a year ago and making millions. I can respect a dude who’s been doing it and is broke but he knows what it is to make a dollar and he knows that you have to put stuff in to get stuff out. I respect that dude more and I’ll help that dude out.
Do you have to remind people in the industry who you are and what you’ve produced?
Every day. Every day, man. There’s always some dudes who don’t know me, especially kids. You gotta keep reminding folks and reminding folks. That goes back to me not being on the screens and in the videos. But now everything is about to change. I should have done that years ago.
Do you regret not being like Swizz Beatz and not being in videos in the past?
For sure. For sure. It hurts. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it don’t. You keep a lot of people away when you’re not in the videos because they don’t know what you look like. If they do know who you are, then you can’t go anywhere without a person knowing you. You also get more CDs. There’s some dope cats who give you some music and some of the worst cats who give you music. You gotta keep it real with people and let them know if they need to grow. You can’t just give everyone the same response.
What advice would you offer to young producers?
I would tell them to read books and shit like that, but you know, man, when you tell people stuff like that, they’re scared to read books and they’re scared to do research and they’re scared to know what’s really going on in the business anyway. They just see dudes driving on a Benz on a screen and they think it’s easy. They think you can just make a song and put it out and you’ll make millions. No. It ain’t like that. It’s more business than anything. Turn that radio off. You can get brainwashed by the radio.
What other projects are you working on?
Rah Digga is September 14 and mine is October 12. We have the label Raw Koncept and we have Truck North coming out and Stacy Epps and a couple other cats coming out. Bilal’s album is dropping and I have two joints on that. Detox and Busta’s joint. There’s so many records, man. There’s so many records, man.