I’m good. I just wrapped up a session. We recorded two songs and I have to run a couple errands.
Your debut album, Dedication, has been out for two weeks. How’s it doing for you?
It’s a weird process. It’s the first time I ever put out an album. I’m detached from the whole process because I’m in the lab doing my thing, but I’m also doing interviews over the phone and checking in how it’s doing at retail. My album that I’ve been working on for five years is finally out there for the world and I’m checking on it from my apartment. It’s a strange feeling. I’ve been getting good reports that it’s doing well overseas. We’re working on getting it out more in the states. It’s a process and it’s definitely a weird feeling.
Why did Dedication take five years to complete?
I say that because some of the songs are real old and some of the beats are real old. I’ve been working continuously on them for five years, on and off, whether it’s remixing it or adding a verse. I originally made “Let’s Go” when I was in college at NYU in my dorm room, probably in 1999. Sometimes I would have more ideas for a track so I would change it. Then I would think Murs might sound good on it so he would do it and then C-Rayz would do the hook. “Goin’ Hard” is a brand-new track with Walz. It’s a long process. I was really working on the album steadily for two years straight, doing the edits, doing overdubs, getting musicians to play on it…I say I’ve been working on it for five years because some of those tracks are old and I updated them to where I felt they needed to be.
There was a lot of variety in your production. With only 12 tracks on the album, you don’t have a lot of time to really show everything you’re capable of. What were your production goals going into Dedication?
I really wanted every song to feel like an achievement, production-wise. If there was anything I heard that I knew I could make better, I would, or I would give myself more time to marinate on some songs to see what I could make better. I wanted to do all styles of music because I can do all styles of music. I never limit myself and I never get bored with what I’m coming up with. It’s always new stuff and I’m always surprising myself with the new things that I do. I wasn’t really trying to show all my styles. I was more trying to make a statement that these are all real feelings from me that I’m putting into these beats. It just so happens to touch a wide range of sounds.
What is your favorite type of track to make?
That’s hard to say. It kind of just depends on what mood I’m in. Some of my favorite songs that I’ve done have been more epic feeling. “3 Card Molly” for C-Rayz is like that or “Blade” on Vordul Mega’s album is like that. They’re thick, dark and also triumphant-sounding. I get the most satisfaction out of making songs like that. I also just love making songs that you could ride to or dance to as long as it’s an honest, real experience.
Wordsworth, Vordul Mega, C-Rayz and Murs are the main features on Dedication. What was your strategy using them on different tracks, sometimes together and sometimes solo?
The strategy was really to make a cohesive album. There are a lot of producer albums out there with a different dude on each song. I just found that from my experience, I don’t want to keep listening to them. It seems like a disjointed experience. I want people to be able to listen to this from the beginning to the end and feel like they’re having a cohesive experience. Rather than taking the model of Hi-Teknology, I was kind of looking more at The Chronic as a model for how to make the album. That album has a lot of features on it, but they’re the same features throughout. Snoop and Dre are the main ones on it and on Dedication, it’s more me taking the reigns.
Was it ever a challenge getting two MC’s on the same page or to agree on a song concept?
Never. We never had that. Everybody was excited to work with each other. When we came in, the concepts were already there. The one or two times that everybody was in the studio together, somebody would come up with the idea for a song and lay it down and then I would get somebody else. Other times it was me that came up with the concept, like on “Let’s Go” with Murs. I wanted to make a West Coast anthem with Murs and since we grew up together, he knew what to do and he said, “I got you.” Everybody was excited about making music together and touching each other’s fan-base. There were never any problems with that type of thing.
What was Murs like in high school?
Me and him kicked it a lot back then. We used to DJ together and we used to go to Unity and the Good Life and Project Blowed. He used to work for this magazine back in the day and when I was chatting with him one day, he said, “Murs is hip-hop.” He was the dude at the record store on Tuesday buying the new Souls of Mischief record. He was doing whatever hip-hop thing he could do. He always had the most heart of anybody and went harder than anybody else did. Scarub and Eligh of the Living Legends also went to school with us but they were more natural at it. They started at a natural level of talent and Murs was rougher around the edges, but he always tried harder than anybody else.
Looking back, did you ever see yourself, Scarub, Eligh and Murs becoming successful in music?
I wasn’t even thinking about the future, really. It was definitely just more fun. I always knew I wanted to be involved in the music through beat-making and DJ’ing and there was nothing else I could really think of wanting to do with my life. Those guys were so involved and we were making records in high school. It was interesting to see how it unfolded with everybody’s career. I wasn’t really thinking about the future too much. I was more excited to see everybody else doing well and it motivated me. I was the only one to go all the way through college. I think Scarub went for a few years but they were working on getting the Living Legends popping.
How did things change for you when you left Cali and started classes at NYU?
It was really a humbling experience being here. People always say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. That was one of the reasons and I also wanted to get a better understanding of where hip-hop came from and absorb that into my sound. Being here and checking out the whole scene, it was real humbling because the West Coast takes hip-hop in its own direction, but I had to really get the foundation here and get educated as to where it all came from. I paid my dues and went to all the spots and went to see everybody perform and really took my time to get the New York thing figured out. I’m still getting it figuring it out. It’s a humbling place, for sure.
Do you think you could have gotten some good things going with Living Legends if you had stayed in Cali?
Definitely, but I’m also definitely glad I came here. Being away from California gave me a broader scope. I feel like there are a lot of people who are successful on the West Coast who aren’t successful on the East Coast. I go back to the West all the time. I felt that being in New York, I could really hit both coasts and have both their sounds. I was in college when they were out touring the world, supporting themselves with their music. But I did get a chance to work with them. I’m on the Melancholy Gypsies album and on Murs’ The End of the Beginning on Def Jux. I didn’t miss out on too much.
Was it difficult linking up with New York artists once you got there?
No, it wasn’t that tough. Everything stemmed from either working with Murs and working on Def Jux stuff or working at Electric Lady Studio for awhile. People wanted to get studio time on the low and I could work with them, and working with Murs really opened a lot of doors because he knew Jean Grae. Just being here, I met everybody, was going to shows, was DJ’ing, was working at Triple 5 Soul…I was always introducing myself to people and telling them I had beats, whether or not they paid attention. Everybody started paying more attention after they knew that I had done records that were doing well and were good. Plus at the studio, before they would record, I would tell them to listen to one of my beats. Eventually it all worked out.
What equipment do you use?
I have three pieces that I’m using regularly at this point: my MPC2000 XL, my laptop with Reason and my Korg TR-76 keyboard. I have those three things linked up at all times. I may start out with one over the other or just use one alone. Then I put it into Pro Tools for editing. I have other instruments, keyboards, percussion, turntables and tambourines. I just mess around and do whatever.
Can you take us through the making of a Belief beat?
It’s been different lately. It used to just be like listening to a record, sampling it, chopping it up and adding drums, but I’ve been getting better as a musician and I like starting from scratch. I’ll put a drum pattern together and come up with a melody on the keyboard. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never felt like I could do it. Sometimes I even add the samples in last. At this point, I’m just enjoying working in a lot of different ways rather than just how I’ve been doing it my whole life, since high school, which was chopping up samples and adding drums over it.
What are your goals for Dedication?
My whole goal with this album was to get on base. I wasn’t really swinging for the fences with this one. I really just wanted to get a good, solid album out there, do some beats and numbers and put myself in a good position for the next album. I wanted to get some recognition for myself as an artist rather than someone who puts out stuff once in awhile. I’m confident in it but we’ll see how it sells. I really just want to start getting recognized as my own entity.
What’s next for you?
I’m thinking about new albums to make. I have an album with my boy Sumkid Majere. I’m putting the final touches on that and then I’m going to start shopping it to labels. I’m working on an instrumental album and I’m working on a Part 2 to Dedication. Maybe it will be the same artists and maybe it will be different ones. I’m not sure. I’m also shopping beats and working with Jean Grae on her new album and working with Wordsworth. It’s that same ol’ hustle. I’m also shopping beats with Grand Hustle and I’m going to have a couple of placements there next year and maybe a couple R&B beats for Atlantic. I work hard. I also do some things for TV. I just finished a song for a Japanese American Idol-type show that’s coming up. I just did a remix of “O.P.P.” for that show Monk. I just work hard and whatever comes up, I do it. I also have these ideas on how to make great art in my albums and how to put it out there. My motto is that I want to do everything. I want to do all kinds of work and get it done. It’s all over the place but it’s working out.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Thanks for taking the time to check me out. Definitely check the album out. I’ve been making records for a long time and seeing the process of making an album go down for years now. I feel like there’s a lot of years of learning about music that I utilized for making this album and I feel like the album shows that. People should check it out. If you’re making music out there, just keep doing it. Put your all into it. Holler at me on MySpace or on my website. I definitely like hearing from people.