Smiff: We’re feeling real good. Things are coming together. Everything’s good.
Cash: Everything’s been great. The music is really taking off for us. I can’t complain. I’m feeling real comfortable right now.
How did you guys come together to form Smiff and Cash?
Cash: We’ve been lifelong best friends. I put Smiff onto hip-hop a long time ago and we became the only hip-hop heads on our island. One day, we decided that we wanted to make our own music and we formed a rap group back in the mid 90’s on the Island of St. Kitts, where we grew up, with me, Smiff and two of our homeboys. At first we were rapping over instrumentals, but eventually we wanted to take it to the next level by making songs over original beats.
Smiff: I got into producing out of necessity because our group needed beats. There were no producers available to us because hip-hop was not popular in St. Kitts back then. I always had sick musical ideas in my head. I only had to bring them to life. So I studied great producers like RZA and Timbaland, got some software and developed my own style. I began making the beats for our group but I wanted to get Cash involved in the production because he had a very good ear for melodies. I taught him how to use the equipment and software and we began producing together as a team.
Your name has really gotten out there through working with Killer Mike. What’s it like working with him?
Smiff: Killer treated us like fam since the day we met him. We were in New York trying to get into the game and we decided to send out demo CDs to every label we could think of. Mike got a hold of our CD at Purple Ribbon and he was so impressed with our work that he invited us down to Atlanta to meet up with him and the rest is history. In my opinion Killer is one of the best rappers coming from the South. He’s one of the few remaining intelligent rappers. When he spits, you can hear he is an educated dude. Working with him is definitely a good look.
Cash: We definitely have a real good chemistry with Killer. It didn’t happen overnight, to be honest. But that’s the type of producers we are. We’re not stuck on one particular style. Every artist we work with, we try to understand and match their style the best. That’s what we did with Killer. On his I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind album, I think it’s some of his best music ever. It’s no coincidence because we really tailor-made a lot of tracks straight for Killer Mike. When we work with Killer, we have artistic freedom. He trusts our judgment in the studio because we bring the best out of him.
How do you bring the best out of Killer Mike?
Cash: I think we just have an understanding with Killer Mike. A lot of times we definitely try to give him tracks with energy because he’s an energetic rapper. That’s one part of the chemistry with Killer Mike. But because people are expecting that, sometimes we try to slow it down. He spits a lot of deep stuff and if you listen, he spits a lot of knowledge. We try to bring out the dope lyrics, deep topics and politics. We try to bring out different aspects of him.
Smiff: To add to what Cash was saying, I think what’s part of our good chemistry with Killer is the fact that we’re homies. We do spend a lot of time in the studio working, but we also spend a lot of time hanging out, in the clubs or wherever. So we’re able to get a feel for what he’s about and I think that’s a part of why everything that we do with Killer comes out so great.
From listening to your work with Killer Mike, it’s easy to see that there is no one style to Smiff and Cash. How important is that versatility to you guys?
Cash: We make a genuine effort to not have a specific style because I don’t think that any one specific style is going to bring out all of the aspects of any artist. I see many producers, and I’m not knocking them for it, but almost every beat has one basic formula to it and they’re just reusing that sound. We try to be good at doing everything. We could literally do all of the tracks on someone’s album and people would think that different producers did it. Our style is not having any particular style. We just make sure that each track shows the different sides of the artist each particular time. People get bored when they hear the same songs coming from the same artists.
Smiff: Yeah, we don’t ever want people to get it twisted and say we can only do a certain type of track. We do any genre and any style. If we don’t keep it fresh, we will get left behind.
You guys are based in Atlanta right now and you don’t have the typical Atlanta sound. Are artists surprised when they hear your music?
Smiff: Well, we’re from the Caribbean and we are based in Atlanta at the moment, but as soon as we step into the room with an artist they immediately know we are different and we are not from around here. (laughs) Killer and the crew call us “the aliens” because of how unique we are. Listening to what we did on Killer Mike’s I Pledge Allegiance, you cannot guess where we are from or what our influences are. We explain to the artists we work with that we can make any type of music they want. We grew up in the Caribbean, so we weren’t influenced by the same things that everyone else was. We were influenced by rap music in America. It didn’t have to be from a particular area.
Cash: Good music is good music to me. And if you’re talented and have an ear for music, then you’re going to be able to make something hot with whatever beat you get from us. We just come with hot beats. We don’t focus on anything else.
What does Killer Mike bring out of Smiff and Cash?
Cash: Killer brings out the raw energy in our sound. The music we are doing with him is our best work yet. You see, he brings such a high level of talent to the table, we are forced to be more creative than ever in order to compliment what he’s doing.
Do you know what kind of beats Killer Mike is going to take from you or does he sometimes surprise you?
Smiff: We spend a lot of time with Killer, in the studio, hanging out and just straight up listening to music with him, in the clubs and stuff like that. So we have a really good idea of what will match him and what will spark is interest. The good thing about Killer Mike is that even if he’s not feeling a track at first, we’ll give it to him and we can say, “I think this would be good for you.” He’ll say, “I can’t see it but I trust y’all.” He’ll do the song and it will come out jamming. And sometimes he’ll hear a beat that maybe we don’t like, but he says, “Trust me, the song will be dope.” Like with “That’s Life,” that beat was done some time ago, maybe a year and a half before the song came out. I let him hear the beat and he bobbed his head a couple of times. I let him hear that in his car. He liked the beat a little bit but the interest for it wasn’t there from the get-go. But he kept it and a year later, that song is a classic. But I was telling him, “Yo, trust me, this concept is going to blow people’s minds.” He caught the concept and the song came out a masterpiece. We know what to bring to him and he knows what to bring to us. We feed off of each other and that’s why our songs come out so good.
What do you think of Killer Mike’s street album I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind?
Smiff: Man, not many artists have succeeded at putting together a classic hip-hop double-LP. It’s tough to achieve and I feel we definitely did just that. That album has something for everyone, from the hardcore to the knowledge joints to the storytelling. We got it all. I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind did a great job of letting people know that Killer is still a monster on the mic and he has a whole crew of talented rappers with him in Grind Time. Smiff and Cash, along with the homie Chaotic Beats, provided flawless production on that LP!
Cash: You can just look at the great reviews it got from numerous magazines and websites. The streets love it. From the time we made it, we knew we had something special on our hands. Man, we were grinding out all day and all night with Jones, Killer and Chaos in the studio to make the best album possible. Everything was done by the crew, from the production to the recording and mixing to the pressing of the CDs to the artwork. So we are very proud of it and how the streets received it. I Pledge Allegiance is the best independent rap album of ‘06 by far.
How’s Killer Mike’s new album 16 in the Kitchen coming so far?
Smiff: We are working on it. We’re taking our time with this one because we want to make sure it’s the best shit you ever heard in your life! We got undeniable music for this album. I can’t even begin to explain the high level of quality rap music you are going to get from 16 in the Kitchen when it is released. I will tell you this though, Pledge was just a small preview of what’s to come on 16. If you heard Pledge, you’ll understand why the people can’t wait for this new album. We raised the bar with I Pledge Allegiance so we have to go above and beyond that.
Is 16 in the Kitchen Killer Mike’s best work?
Cash: Most definitely! The stuff he’s writing now is what hip-hop is missing today. He’s pushing himself to further limits on this album. You are going to be blown away when you hear what this album has in store for you. Trust me.
How’s your work with S.L. Jones of Grind Time coming?
Cash: S.L. is the first artist coming out of Killer Mike’s crew Grind Time Official. He’s from Little Rock, Arkansas. His project Colors is coming along real well. We see this album as something special because this dude is telling the story of a place that has not had a voice in the hip-hop industry before. On top of all that, Jones is one of the most down to earth and talented brothers I have ever met. He’s passionate about his music. He makes rider music with a purpose. You hear it in his words and delivery. When the album drops and you listen to songs like “Down 4 Mine,” “In My Blood” and “Getting Better,” you’ll agree that he’s going to be on top real soon. The album should probably be out by the end of the summer. All of these so-called hot rappers getting away with saying nothing of importance are going to have a hard time. Trust me!
What are you guys learning as producers executive-producing S.L. Jones’ project Colors?
Cash: Responsibility. We got most of the album’s production on our shoulders. So we have to come correct. We are basically playing the same role we played in the making of the last Killer Mike record.
Smiff: Playing such a huge role in the Jones project is definitely moving us and teaching us how to bring the best out of an artist. When you’re doing tracks on an album, that’s one thing. You’re only responsible for those couple of tracks and it usually doesn’t matter to you what happens on the rest of the project. When you’re damn-near in charge of the whole project, you have to consistently have that heat. It’s definitely teaching us how to bring the best out of an artist.
You’ve also worked with other artists like Joe Scudda and Sleepy Brown. How important is it, as producers, to work with a wide range of artists?
Smiff: It gives us a chance to expand our creativity. You know Joe Scudda is going to go a different direction than someone like Killer Mike, so we are forced to come with something different each time when working with different artists because all artists don’t share the same views, likes or style. With Killer Mike, we’re really familiar with him so we always have an idea of what he’s looking for. With other artists, we try to get a feel for them quickly because it makes it better as far as chemistry goes and as far as giving them the type of song that they’re looking for. It also helps knowing about the music they’ve done in the past and what they’re into.
For example, we did a song for Khujo Goodie featuring Big Gipp and Sean Paul of the Youngbloodz. We were trying to come with a slower type of track. You just have to get an idea of how different artists function and adapt to the situation, depending on the artist. Working with Khujo was great as we both were huge Goodie Mobb fans back in the day. The song “Goodie Bag” from the Soul Food album is one of my favorite songs.
How’s your work with Joe Scudda going?
Smiff: We did one track with Joe Scudda. We’re not sure if we’re going to do anymore. We have to talk further about that. The track that we did came out real good. It’s untitled right now. He’s talking about his life. He heard what we were doing on the I Pledge Allegiance project and he hit us up on the MySpace, telling us that he wanted to do some work together. We would like to get more songs on his album. We’re glad we worked with him because we actually like him. We’re big fans of Little Brother and the Justus League. We were definitely happy when he contacted us. He’s a talented guy. His verse on the Evidence album is dope as hell. We tried to give him the best possible work from us. The track came out real good. Joe, what’s good? Can we get some more joints on the LP?
How valuable is the internet becoming to up-and-coming producers?
Cash: I think MySpace is incredible! Even before I Pledge Allegiance came out, our tracks like “That’s Life,” “Juggernaut” and “I Promise I Will Not Lose” were blowing up after being posted of MySpace. The majority of the Smiff and Cash and Grind Time fanbase originated from just us promoting on MySpace. It’s really innovative. You can use this site to showcase your work, make connections, interact with your supporters and listen to what’s new and fresh in the industry. You never know what important connections you can make through Myspace. Joe Scudda contacted us through there and we’ve reached other major players in the game using that community. MySpace is definitely a great tool for artists and producers to get their music out there. MySpace is definitely what’s up.
Smiff: Yeah. In addition to Joe Scudda, DJ Smallz reached out to us on MySpace. He heard some of our music and now we’re working with him on his official Southern Smoke album. I have to give a lot of props to MySpace. We run our MySpace page ourselves and we keep it updated, so any supporters or artists can get in touch with us directly on our MySpace.
Getting into your production techniques, how do you guys work on tracks?
Smiff: We don’t actually have a specific formula or process. It’s like the music makes itself. Sometimes I might come with a drum track, Cash might come with a melody and then we build on that. Sometimes it works the opposite way too. Sometimes one of us is traveling. I might be out of the country and I’ll email him some drum tracks and he’ll send back something crazy. We both constantly have music running through our minds, so ideas are always being thrown around between us. We have a great chemistry. We know each other.
Cash: That’s pretty much it. We get inspired by everything we hear daily. I could have a sample chopped up and laid out and Smiff will come through and put down some drums that will bring life to what I did. One of us always knows what direction the other is going, so building a dope track together comes naturally, whether we are in the same room or in different places. As long as the track comes out dope, that’s all that matters.
What equipment do you guys use?
Cash: We use a beatmaking program on the computer called Makin’ Waves. Not a lot of people are familiar with it because it’s not from the US. It’s from the UK. We also use the Yamaha Motif. That’s really pretty much it.
Smiff: It doesn’t matter what equipment you’re using. The greatest equipment you can use is your brain.
Does coming from the Caribbean influence the type of samples you look for and the music you make?
Cash: Definitely. Overall, we don’t particularly think about having a Caribbean sound, but because it’s a major part of our background and culture, I think it naturally creeps out into the music we make. You might hear tracks from us that you wouldn't hear from other producers because we grew up around reggae, soca and calypso. In terms of sampling, we’re going to naturally sample music that we know. It’s great because a lot of what we sample is unknown to the US, so a lot of producers probably won’t think of touching that stuff. It gives us an advantage. “I Promise I Will Not Lose” has a sample from a reggae song and so does “Top Shotta.” We try to bring that sound to our music because that’s where we’re from.
Do you guys have any plans for a Smiff and Cash rap album?
Cash: We don’t have any plans to do that now. We pretty much gave that up, at least for the time being. We’re crazy with the production, so right now we’re definitely just focusing on the production. I guess we could end up rapping again. Who knows? That’s a possibility in the future, but we’re just trying to win with this production career. Once we’re content with where we’re at as far as production, then we can consider doing other things.
What’s next for Smiff and Cash?
Smiff: You can expect more high quality music. Hip-hop is what we set out to do and we’re going to stay doing hip-hop, but we want to venture out into other genres eventually. We’d like to sign our own artists and get into artist development in the future. We’re just looking to continue making good music with talented artists. We’d love to work with everybody from T.I. to Jay-Z to the Clipse to Alicia Keys to Amy Winehouse to the next hot rapper on the block. We plan to smash the game from all angles.
Cash: We are all over Killer Mike’s next album, 16 in the Kitchen. That’s coming next from us. We’re going to be on DJ Smallz’ official Southern Smoke album. We just did a song on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie soundtrack. We will be working with Mac Boney of T.I’s PSC crew soon. S.L. Jones’ album should come out at the end of summer. So look out for all of that next. Other than that, we’re just looking forward to working with as many different artists as possible. I would love to work with Rihanna because she’s from a small West Indian island like us and she’s really talented. It feels good to see someone from our area doing so well in the industry. I think we’d connect naturally and make some great music together. I would love to work with Murs. I love Murs’ music. There are a lot of artists that we plan to work with in the future.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Smiff: Remember the name Smiff and Cash because we’re going to be a household name soon. With so many producers to choose from in the industry these days, let us prove to you what innovation, originality, and tailor-made production is all about. I also want to shout out Killer Mike, Jones, Grind Time, our supporters and everyone who helped us in this journey.
Cash: Look out for us on Killer Mike’s 16 In The Kitchen and S.L. Jones’ Colors, both coming real soon. We want to be mentioned in the future amongst the greats like Timbaland, Dr. Dre and RZA. We’ve come a long way and we want to share our talents, so if you need that fire, feel free to hit us up by email or on MySpace. Keep hip-hop alive!