A-Plus Interview

A-Plus has done what few artists have been able to do – enjoy a career spanning over 20 years with albums forever in the hip-hop canon, from Souls’ 93 ‘Til Infinity to his Hiero crew’s 3rd Eye Vision while staying fresh and relevant through it all. Add to that, A-Pleezy is still dropping new projects, like the EDM-inspired project Molly’s Dirty Water, along with a new Souls of Mischief project with Adrian Younge, and we have one of the most eclectic, time-tested MCs still bringing that fire. Check out our exclusive interview with A-Plus as he speaks on his new album, his Hiero crew, the new Souls project, working with his son, and much more.

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You and your production partner Aagee just came together for Molly’s Dirty Water, a huge departure from your signature sound. How did this project come together?

It actually came together because of both of our interests in EDM and the EDM music scene. At first, it was a hip-hop project with hip-hop beats and we were in the middle of it when we decided to give it more of an electronic influence. We had recorded a lot of songs and kind of remixed them, liked where it was going, and built it from there. It came from a genuine interest and being fans of that scene already. One day, the actual concept of Molly’s Dirty Water came together when some girl wanted to drink a drink and he said, “Nah, you don’t want to drink that, that’s that dirty water. It’s got that Molly in it.” Aagee wanted to use that as an album and just kind of tweak it out. That’s kind of how it started.

Did you always see yourself moving between genres as an artist?

This was definitely more of a surprise. It had been growing over time. We’re already into a lot of different genres already, just as listeners and fans of music. We produce what we do, but we’re into a lot of stuff and actually admire a lot of the stuff that we can’t do. We’re fans of it. That being said, I never really saw this coming or had any grand plans to do any of that. I was around a lot of people and ended up liking a lot of it. That’s what kind of launched me into it. And then after a few years, I wanted to start producing stuff because my mind was going that way. I try to soak up knowledge from people. I’m still experimenting, but it’s fun as hell though.

A lot of the artists I’ve talked to have very diverse musical interests. Do you think that ever surprises fans that think you listen to nothing but boom-bap hip-hop all day?

Yeah. It was more so like that in the past when people were surprised we listened to anything but hip-hop. But as the years have gone on and we’ve gotten more diverse, they’re not as surprised. I’m freaking 39. I’ve listened to hip-hop since its inception. I’ve seen it go from being hated music to selective nerd group music and then it turned into this big corporate, multi-billion dollar industry. Its flavor has gotten into a lot of genres. Even country music has subtle hip-hop influences. The listeners have grown with the genre and younger listeners are way more open-minded than the people that were coming up in the independent hip-hop golden age. There’s still those purist, selective listeners, but people are more open to other things now. People gave me the lane to let me try some other shit. As far as Molly’s Dirty Water, I’m pleased that there hasn’t been a lot of hip-hop purist backlash. People see it for what it is. It’s me experimenting with something. It’s not making a grand declaration of things. It’s just me having fun and I’m just appreciative of that. I thought more people would have some backlash but I’m fortunate so far.

What was the creative process like for you and Aagee on this?

It was really organic. We stayed up during the later hours in The Greenhouse, where we recorded stuff, is usually later in the day because we do stuff during the day. We would just experiment and try stuff. Our connectivity and our vibe is real good. It’s really easy to work with each other. It’s really about pushing the envelope. A lot of it, in my mind, is how far am I willing to go from my hip-hop base. People can take it for what it is. We worked together good on it. It was pretty easy. It was a lot of free-thinking and a lot of trying stuff. It was real fluid. It was definitely a different curve as far as mixing it and getting the nuances of electronic dance music, especially from hip-hop, which is more of a lo-fi music. There’s a lot of different nuances and technical stuff that’s different in EDM. It was fun to learn and to realize that you’re at the very beginning stages of learning something. There was a lot of information coming in and that was particularly fun. Putting it together was just a lot of fun. We were just trying stuff.

Have you gotten the response from the EDM community that you hoped for?

Yeah. Even before putting this out, people know that I’m a fan. Being A-Plus. I get to meet a lot of people and tell people that I’m fans of them and I get to ask a lot of questions. Some guys are open with their secrets and some guys aren’t, but people know that I’m a genuine fan. It’s been cool from that aspect. It’s been encouraging. It’s only been a couple of weeks, though, and that’s really early to see how a project has been received. It’s sort of all coming together and I’m just keeping it positive and moving forward.

Where do you see your production evolving in the future?

It’s so early for me. I’ve only been trying for about three years, like really trying hard. I’m still trying to develop my own style. What I have learned is that I’m not going to abandon my hip-hop roots and production style because it makes my music sound different. I’m trying to translate that part of my production that I have down into something new. I know what I like and what I don’t like and I’m learning a lot on a different level. I’m having fun with it. I also have an instrumental album that’s coming out for anybody that bought Molly’s Dirty Water. I’m a free artist. I like to do a lot of different kind of stuff and I’m not going to abandon what I’m doing. People are going to hear my boom-bap and know that it’s the same ol’ me but I still got my electronic music too.

The video for “Blue Tear Drops” came out pretty trippy. Is that what you envisioned for the song?

Early on, when we decided that we were going to make it part instrumental, I didn’t want to be rapping in the videos. I wanted it to be more conceptual and just a little bit different from a normal video that I was going to do. We wanted it to be different. We let the director pick that song himself and he came up with the entire treatment on his own. We’re good friends and he’s done a video for me before but he knows my tastes. I didn’t have nothing to do with that. He’s so amazing and that’s what he came up with. It was a surprise to me. It came out really good and I’m extremely happy with it. And I had a mind for it to not be so hip-hop. It had more b-roll and cinematography and animation.

Heiro recently came together for The Kitchen. Were you guys overdue for a project?

It was cool to have it out as a representation that Hieroglyphics is out there. It’s different from the other albums. For us, we only really consider Third Eye Vision and Full Circle as full Hiero releases. Hiero Oldies and The Corner are releases but they’re not made with the same paradigm as the other releases. The Kitchen is like that too. Some of the stuff went from years back and some of it was made right before it was released. It’s a culmination of songs from a lot of different times over the years. Some of it was lost files and the archives went bad and we only had certain copies. We kind of pulled it together in an artsy kind of way. It’s just another album out there while we’re finishing the third one, just to let people know that we’re out there and that we do have a lot of remixes.

And with The Sleeprockers, we threw that in there to throw it off from being a traditional release by us. It has an old school mixtape feel where the DJ’s scratching and juggling between songs. But yeah, it came together over the course of a couple of years. This was just a bunch of songs over the years and there’s a story about how they came together. We’re still gonna have that full Hiero release coming, but it was good to have something out and it was good to have something to tour with.

How is the third Hiero album coming?

It’s coming good. It’s really wild around the Hiero camp. Everybody’s working on stuff. I just put out Molly’s Dirty Water. Phes has Infra-Red Room. Tajai has an album coming. Opio and Pep just put First Light. Del just put out Deltron. And Souls of Mischief just finished an album with Adrian Younge that’s going to come out soon. We have it in our minds to work on the Hiero album but we haven’t dug into the studio ni a couple of months. We’re bouncing around tracks and ideas so that when we get together, we have some ideas together.

How involved do you guys get in each other’s projects?

You know, there’s never really anyone way. Sometimes you hear about someone’s project and sometimes you don’t. For instance, we knew about the Deltron album forever but when he dropped the free album last week, I didn’t even know he was making that. There’s really no one way to do it. I knew Phes was working on something but he kept it on the low. I’m looking forward to hearing it like everyone else. And Del and I have been working on our album for a year, Hypnotize, and we’re just building that along. We just play it as we play. There’s no one way in this underground culture. It’s kind of spontaneous and it’s kind of planned out sometimes.

You’re also working on an album with your son. That’s gotta be pretty cool.

It’s a definite highlight because I didn’t push him into anything. He’s naturally on the piano and guitar and he’s better than me. He asked me to teach him Reason and Ableton. I didn’t have to ask him to be like Dad or anything. I told him I’m happy he don’t rap. He’s a rock kid. He’s 12. It’s like the Twilight Zone. I love it.

How’s the Hypnotize project with Del coming?

Man, I’ve known Del since first grade. It’s very easy, very natural. We just chill. It’s gonna be conscious and funny…anybody that can imagine the two of us will know that it’s going to be fun. We’re going to be talking about the elephant in the room with the title Hypnotize to see how easy it is for us to get programmed, but we’re going to do it in a non-preachy, non-teaching, no-I’m-above-your-ass kind of way. But if you watch TV this much and play video games this much, this is the level of programming that comes along. We should be mindful of the decisions we make and what’s relevant to us and what’s not and that’s the angle that we’re taking with this.

I’m excited to hear the Souls and Adrian Younge project.

Yeah. We sat down and worked on everything together. We wrote a story out of this and it’s even more of an involved process in the studio. Every now and then Souls has story songs where we write together, but for this we have a whole story album. We got some really i’ll features on here. People are going to be tripped out when they hear what we have.
What was it like working with Adrian Younge?

He’s just a beast. He’s a monster. Being in the studio with him was definitely a learning process.

Do you think he got a different sound out of you guys?

Well, the chemistry was actually ultra-real. When I initially talked to him about the project, he’s like a dude who’s a little bit younger than us but grew up listening to our shit and was a big fan. That’s how I met him on Twitter. At the very onset of the possibility of doing an album, he was very clear about how he wanted to do an album and how he was as a producer and if it would work. We were good to go and everybody was with it. That made the recording very smooth. All everyone required of each other was to be there, be on time, and make yourself available. I’d get a call to get out to L.A. because so-and-so would be in the studio and I’d have to go. We recorded everything at his place in Linear Labs. It was great. It was that good work, that work that you know it’s work but you’re not complaining about it. It’s hard, but it’s great work.

Where do you think this new album stands in the pantheon of Souls albums?

People are going to be comparing it to ‘93 ‘Til in their own way. There’s no real way to actually say that and I would never try to compare the two, but those are our best two words, to me. This is going to be one of my favorites out of us. I like all of our shit. I like Montezuma’s Revenge and all of our albums. We put a lot of heart and soul into it. Nobody’s heard nothing like this. We have the opportunity to do something new. The stars lined up for this one and we’re fortunate for that.

Does it ever trip you out that some of your fans today weren’t even born when you’re ‘93 ‘Til Infinity dropped?

That constantly trips us out. That’s something that we’re acutely aware of. Over the years we constantly get new fans where some people weren’t even born. But the retro age for these kids is when we were out and they have a genuine interest in it because they have a full view of what’s going on now and then they found out that it already happened before. We have 10 year-old fans and 50 year-old fans and I’m certainly not complaining about that at all! My son will tell me that kids at school know my music. Keep it coming!

Our first album was in ‘93 and I remember who was out and I’m thankful to still be around and relevant. And I don’t mean that in any negative way because I’m a super hip-hop fan. That’s definitely something that you can’t foresee when you’re young and when you see it now, it’s humbling.

I think that says a lot about the relevance and quality of the music you guys make.

Right on, man. That’s something that we always try to do. There’s a fine line between sticking to your guns and growing with the culture. It takes thought. It takes awareness. It takes knowledge of what’s going on in the industry and knowledge of the fanbase, which we are a part of ourselves. We don’t try to stay to ourselves because as artists, we always want to grow, but at the same time, we don’t want to abandon anything that’s gotten us light. A part of it is being fans and making music. That’s how we create. If I’m a fan of me, what would I do? We try not to get too caught up in anything that’s too trendy. That’s just a bad choice for any artist seeking longevity. Sometimes it’s a crapshoot but, you know, we try and stay on the right side.

When you look at the numerous contributions you’ve made to hip-hop, solo-wise and as part of two incredibly dope groups, what do you want your legacy to be?

Just being in the books with all the people that I’m fans of. Just being in the conversation of hip-hop history is something that we all dreamed about as kids. “I wonder if my favorite rappers will like my shit,” and then getting to meet them and being in that fraternity or club. Most rappers are fans and I think you kind of lose something when you stop being a fan. You see people start to fall off and I’m not making any judgements, but shit happens. I personally believe that you can’t get that far out of touch with what got you going in the first place. Call it faith or what makes sense, but I don’t want to be that dude that fell off that people don’t listen to anymore. I guess that’s always in our head.

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