Artist Spotlight: Nomad Carlos

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RD: For those unfamiliar, how would you describe yourself as an artist?

NC: I’m a hip hop artist from Kingston, Jamaica now residing in the states, New York to be exact. How I got my name is pretty simple because my real name is Damon, so I switched it backwards and got “Nomad” then I added my middle name “Carlos” to it. The word Nomad also fits my personality because I’ve never felt any real attachment to the places I’ve lived outside of yard in my 20’s. My music has always been labelled as “90s hip hop” back home in yard, I never really liked that term although I fell in love with the music of that era. I feel it’s a natural progression of the sound. Some call it Boom Bap, underground or even the term “real hip hop”. I was never really big on these terms, but I guess my music does fall into those categories of hip hop. I consider myself an MC bringing you that type of raw sound with an unusual perspective in my lyrics because of my upbringing and the environment I’m from.

RD: Did you grow up in Jamaica? When did you gravitate towards hip hop, and who were some of your earliest influences?

NC: Yes I grew up in Jamaica. I was born in Florida and my parents moved back to Jamaica when I was 5. Jamaica is my home. My mom was a music fiend and once a month we would go to the record shop in Half Way Tree, Kingston and she would allow me to get one CD. The first hip hop album I ever bought was Busta Rhymes When Disaster Strikes in 97, and I was barely 10 years old. You know Busta had that type of animated vibes us yardies tend to gravitate to. My cousins who were older than me were into hip hop as well, and I used to always listen to music with them watching them rap and be in awe. They were back & forth from Jamaica, and America too so when I started getting deeper into hip hop it was through them. I was definitely into BIG and the Bad Boy era from early out but the older I got I started getting more into Nas, Bone Thugs, Mobb, Wu, and Pun just to name a few. I started checking these guys out mostly when they were on their 2nd and 3rd albums then I had to back track the catalogs. When you ask about influences those names come to mind. Naturally I listened to a lot of dance hall growing up, and even that helped develop my style in a unique way.

RD: Would you consider Me Against the Grain your official debut?

NC: Not at all. I’ve been doing this as far back as 2009. There weren’t too many opportunities for rappers in Jamaica. I had released an album locally in Kingston back then called Fuel to the Fire which was never released publicly. That project was where I gained my respect as an emcee in the community. I made CD’s for the streets and would distribute it that way. After that I had done a mix tape rapping mostly on industry beats called Live From Yard. I wanna say these times I was still honing my skills and trying to figure out the sound I wanted to settle on. Musically I don’t think I fit into what was popular in Jamaica at the time so I found myself trying to cater to that audience. Then I did Me Against The Grain afterwards which was in 2012. Around that time I played a part in propelling the hip hop community to its ceiling in the local music industry. We started putting on shows for the community and ultimately built our buzz as artists while giving others the platform to do they thing.

RD: Your Bandcamp contains a number of releases, if you were to pick one to introduce someone to your material which one would you go with?

NC:  I feel like I would start with Cipher. Mentally I feel I’ve been in a great space since then musically. I set my own expectations and it helped me gain a new audience.

RD: You teamed up with one of the scenes’ finest producers in Farma Beats on your Cipher project. Talk to us about working with him and how that project came to be.

NC: Well, I think Farma is one of the best in the game. I came across his work online and thought it was flames. Reached out on the DM and we went back and forth for a while. I’d share some of my music and he was feeling it. We worked on Leviathan Axe and it was dope. I was in a comfortable zone and so we ended up just making an EP out of it.

RD: Blxvk Desert is the latest offering, how does this differ from some of your other recent drops?

NC: Blxvk Desert has a more yard focus lyrically. I linked up with Inztinkz on that. Inztinkz is the producer for our crew The Council Of The Gods. We are all from Jamaica and he still lives out there. Anytime we link up this is the vibe we on. So there’s a lot of Jamaican references and lingo all over that. I was able to pull from how we used to live in yard and display that lifestyle. Get personal here and there with some experiences. It’s my favorite project thus far.

RD: Do you approach each project with a certain mindset (number of songs/concepts) or does that change during the creation process?

NC: My mindset is always to just make quality. Meaning just stick with what’s working for me in terms of my style and sound. As for concepts, I’m into a lot of shit so my mind is always thinking creative. I watch a lot of movies and play video games too whenever I have time. All that stuff is part of my process. I’ll have crazy ideas and be jotting them down. For now I’ve been just dropping EP’s short projects because I want people to get used to what I have to offer in small doses. I don’t think they ready for a full album yet. That’s been my mindset from 2019 going into this year but I’m working on a baby tho, a full length LP that one day I plan to present. Don’t really wanna talk about that one yet.

RD: What are some plans you can reveal about 2020?

NC: Dropping more work of course, and also finishing up some collaboration projects I’ve been working on for a while. I’m in the process of finishing up an EP with Artivist. I plan on doing more features too. Got a show booked for February, and I definitely want to work on doing more shows. So I’m looking forward to that.

RD: Any Shout outs?

NC: Big ups to y’all for this interview. Big ups to The Council of The Gods and the whole movement in yard. Bless up all blogs and radio jocks who support the music. And big up all the fans who buying and streaming the music. Y’all really the motivation to keep going and staying the path on this musical journey. Bless

 

Support Nomad Carlos’ music on Bandcamp here  https://nomadcarlos.bandcamp.com

Follow him on IG and Twitter @NomadCarlos

Producer Spotlight: Raticus

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RD: Going back a few years you released a project with Vast Aire. Was that the first project you produced with one MC?

R: Back in 2001 I released an album called Darkaside of Thingz featuring Blak Jak. It’s available on tenementmusic.com. The Vast Aire EP called The Heir Vast was my first project of the 2010’s decade and the beginning to my new way of thinking towards my role in Hip Hop.

RD: Two years later in 2018 you dropped King Of Crime Heights with Rustee Juxx. What was that experience like? What made you want to reach out to him for the next project?

R: Locked in with Ruste Juxx after hearing this joint called “Pimpin ya Wife” on DJ Premier’s Live From HeadQourterz show around 10 years ago, it sealed the deal regarding his greatness for me. The success I had with the Vast Aire project, I was hungry to drop another project and Ruste was active on Social media promoting himself so I decided to reach out to him. What started as an EP turned into 20 track 2XLP project. We just got into a rhythm.  Working with Ruste is pretty smooth, he is on my next album called Street Corner Diaries coming out in early 2020.

RD: You jumped back into the scene big time with two drops on the same day, Cryptex Murderous Material with al.divino and New York State: The Renaissance with Mooch. Why release both on the same day?

R: It’s kinda like letting off couple shots in the air at 125th Street on Friday night in the summer. The year before I released a 20 song album, I decided this year to maintain my music output but split it among two projects. I produced these albums and mixed/mastered them as if it was one.

RD: Al and Mooch are two of the best in a growing scene, what was it specifically about each one that moved you to make full projects with them?

R: I agree with you big time! Heard Mooch and Farma Beats Heroin Farms project, and his voice stood out initially, but as I listened more the lyrics and personality were equally as dope. Mooch has some of the dopest adlib tracks I have heard in a long time coupled with dope street bars. I definitely felt confident he could be a center piece of one of my projects. al.divino has untamed energy, like a wild stallion living on the land. Stumbled on the ASESINO video and was blown away. Which led me to Monumentality, after I heard this album it sealed the deal regarding his greatness for me (not to mention Mr. Nack as well). His total disregard to the normal structure of hip hop songs was refreshing. His ability to rhyme on some of the most unorthodox beats impressed upon me the that this dude is on a different wavelength with this hip hop ish. GrandMaster status with MC skills, and does it with a flair and a great deal of confidence.  Made it my business to reach out to him for a project.

RD: Your style is unapologetic-ally hardcore boom bap, would you say your approach to beat making has stayed the same since your start? If not, what changed?

R: My production has gone through several stages, so it has certainly evolved over the years, things like technology and experience have had major part in these changes. I would say, sound and samples that make me screw face haven’t much changed over the years.

RD: Do you create the beat first, then find the right collaborator, or make the beats specifically for each rapper?

R: For the most part I make a lot of beats that I like, and present them to artist I think would sound dope on them. However with the Cryptex Murderous Material project I had to send al.divino a lot of beats, it is not until he told me a couple of words about how he likes his beats, that I was able to get the right vibe. So in that case most of the beats were tailored for him specifically.

RD: Getting into your setup, how much has your setup changed in the past few years, and if there was any piece you could add to your collection what would it be?

R: Last big purchase was my MPC X and MPC Live. I also picked up a tape machine couple years ago. For the most part my gear has been in place for a good set of years. This has allowed me to carve out my sound. One piece I could add? There are so many, but I love Manley Analog gear. At some point I want to get the Manley Slam!

RD: Who are some legendary producers that inspired you to start making beats?

R: DJ Premier is my largest influence, Step Into the Arena really imprinted in me the way an album should sound and flow during my days as a young fan. By the time we get to Hard to Earn, I am a student in class learning from the legend. I like a lot of producers but the ones I studied are DJ Premier, Pete Rock, RZA, 9th Wonder, Alchemist, Just Blaze, No I.D., and Tony D (Poor Righteous Teachers).

RD: What are some long term goals for Tenement Music as a label and yourself?

R: Catalog, catalog, catalog.  Just want to continue to put out good music for the fans.
Keep contributing to this Hip Hop culture, carrying the torch for a style of hip hop that will never die.

RD: If you could have any 5 mc’s on a Raticus producer album, who would you reach out to?

R: G Rap, MF DOOM, NAS, Elzhi, Droog. A separate project for each.

RD: What’s next?

R: Look out for few new projects on the way: Street Corner Diaries/RocVille, and Law 21 vinyl projects!

Follow the man on Twitter and IG @RaticusMusic @TenementMusic

Cop the wax here https://tenementmusic.bandcamp.com/merch

 

Producer Spotlight: Clypto

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We had the chance to catch up with Oceanside, CA native Clypto. He has worked with a wide array of the finest spitters the underground has to offer, combining many of them in his debut release The Loop. Bringing a combination of work ethic and talent, he always has something in the works. Catch up with him below.

RD: It doesn’t take many listens of your music to know you’re a soul man. Who are some of your go-to’s when you are just in listening mode?

C: When I’m just in listening mode it can be a wide range of artists. Anywhere from Blue Magic, The Moments and Even Some 80s Japanese city pop. I’ve been getting into a lot of 80’s city pop lately. Obscure 70’s rock is another one of my favorite genres.

RD: You have worked with a wide range of emcees, what qualities do you look for in a frequent collaborator?

C: A frequent collaborator has to have what I call The Total Package. They have to be diverse. If they can make street shit,  but can also make a song about their mother or their kids that’s a huge plus for me. I feel a lot of rap nowadays is just one dimensional.

RD: Let’s get into your album from last year, The Loop. It features a murderer’s row of guests, how long did it take to complete the project front to back?

C: I think it took just under a year to complete. There was a little hiccup, but nothing major. I just wanted to make sure my vision for the album came through as much as possible. Supreme helped a lot with that. I also wanted to make sure everybody I had in mind for each track came through as well (which didn’t happen) but I did manage to see my vision come through regardless. A few artists I didn’t even plan on getting on joints came through in the clutch which was a huge blessing.

RD: This got a physical release later in the year, that had to be a rewarding feeling.

C: Oh definitely. I stalled on getting the CD’s pressed for the project so the CD’s dropped about a month after the digital release. Having the vinyl pressing was very rewarding, because I actually put that idea out into the universe saying  ‘This album deserves to have a vinyl press”, and I’m thankful that the good people over at DeRapWinkel Records felt the same way.

RD: Is a project this scale something you’d have interest in doing again?

C: Most definitely. All in divine order. I don’t want to rush anything, but sonically it would have to measure up with The Loop.

RD: You have a strong chemistry with Supreme Cerebral, doing the Master Builders project together and him being on The Loop. Do you bring out the best in each other? Why do you think that is?

C:  I honestly do think we bring out the best in each other. Preme is very versatile on the mic. He can rap on straight loops and hard boom bap joints. Everything I sent him for Master Builders, he bodied. He was a huge driving force behind The Loop as well. He got a lot of those features together for my project. I have an enormous amount of respect for him.

RD: I want to ask about a specific favorite of ours, Itchy Palms for JuneLyfe off his Mood Swings EP.  Both of your placements on this were excellent, is there any extra insight you can give to that recording?

C: Yes. I was actually digging for records at Goodwill, and came up on a few good soul records. Usually it’s just rock and country on the shelves with a bunch of Christmas Records, but that day was something special. I took them home and found gold on almost every record, and the sample that eventually became Itchy Palms was just one out of the group. When I posted it on my Instagram page Junelyfe hit me in a direct message inquiring about it, so I sent it to him. He always amazes me when I hear what he does with my beats. It’s never anything I would expect, which is a good thing. He knows how to bring the best out of my beats as well.

RD: Would you consider yourself a goal-based person? If so, what do you aim to accomplish in 2020?

C: I do, to a certain extent. I just really want to make a stamp in the game. I really want to make albums with artists and less singles. I’m not against making singles and getting placements on albums, but my main goal is to produce as many albums for artists as I can. Creating the back drop, so to speak, for the whole project is what I love to do. For 2020, I’d really like to continue doing that. I got a few albums in the works already with Realio Sparkzwell and Ca$ablanca.

RD: If you could choose any 5 vocalists for your next project, who are you calling?

C: I wouldn’t be able to narrow down a Top 5, but I would like to get EVERYBODY that was a part of The Loop to be apart of my next compilation album. Everybody brought their A-Game with their contributions 100%.

RD: Any Shout outs?

C:  I have to shout out the blogs too. In particular 7th Boro, Insomniac Magazine, and Weekly Rap Gods for their continued support.

Purchase The Loop here https://clypto.bandcamp.com

Producer Spotlight: Animoss

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The opening paragraph of these pieces usually serves as an introductory piece, but none are really needed for Animoss. He produced one of 2018’s finest albums with Orpheus vs. The Sirens for KA (under the group name Hermit And the Recluse) and added to his highlight reel with more placements for Roc Marciano on each of his last 3 solo albums. He also had a placement on Chuck Strangers spectacular Strangers Park album, and is currently developing Metal Clergy, a effort involving himself, Ka and Roc. Catch up on his history, his relationship with Don C of Arch Druids and more below.

RD: Let’s start with Brothaz Bent, a four man group consisting that had yourself and Don Chalant in it. Don rhymed quite a bit on the album, while you and he produced the entire Up From The Desert album. Talk to us a bit about the groups beginnings, the making of that project and your relationship with Don.

A: Brothaz Bent was a project that I didn’t even like, that’s why I never used my name on it. Originally we were gonna do an album under the Druids name with a few of those people in the group as rappers but it just never really worked out. Our friend the Lost Occupant was one of the illest rappers at the time. They started doing stuff in high school and I linked up with them right after when I was 18 and first got back from a school in Mexico. Some songs got recorded but we ended up making the Brothaz Bent shit , which I was never thrilled about.

RD: Your production style tends to have an earthy, organic feel to it. It really sets the tone while letting the rhymes breathe. What are some works, or specific producers that inspired how you make music?

A: When I was growing up it was really Dre and Muggs. I was big into that when I was a kid. When I went to visit family I had in New Jersey, my cousin would put me on to all kinds of dope shit: Nas, Gang Starr, Pete Rock, Redman, EPMD, basically all the good east coast shit in the 90s that I didn’t really know about. That’s when I was a little kid. Then I started to be interested in beats because I knew DJ Premier was the guy who got a producer credit on the Gang Starr stuff, so I was like that must mean he does the beats. Then when I would look at the liner notes for everyone I liked albums I would always see his name as a producer. After awhile I was like , dam this guy always has the best songs from all my favorite artists. Of course Tribe, Mobb deep as well . All the production was so fire to me. I remember always seeing people with an MPC in pictures and wanting to fuck with it.

RD: A few years after Brothaz Bent, you started working with Roc Marciano quite a bit. Starting with the Do The Honors/Warm Hennessy singles and all the way to Behold A Dark Horse, you seem to have a great relationship. What is a session with him like?

A: I mean Roc is family, he’s like an older brother to me. I owe him a lot. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be involved with artists that I work with now. We had done sessions together early on like Warm Hennessy and some of this other ones. And doing some of Reloaded when he was finishing, but honestly he does a lot of stuff by himself. He just will vibe at his crib and write when he is chillin watching basketball or movies and recording himself. Sometimes I don’t hear the songs before they come out and sometimes I’ve don’t know the song arranging for his albums. When I do that for him I end up playing the songs so much that I have to take a break and won’t listen to it for a long time. Sometimes it’s nice to not be too familiar with the song so I get the excitement when new stuff drops.

RD: Roc has kept his production team tight over the past albums, using only a handful of people. Would it be fair to say a bond has developed over the years?

A:  I mean yes basically the last question ties into that. We have a good relationship. I’ve had a beat on a lot of his records since Reloaded so we seem to always find something to do together. I think he likes me to add on at least a little something to his records.

RD: Yourself and Don were the A&R’s for Reloaded, can you break down your tasks for that album?

A: I mean I was going to Alchemist spot with Roc all the time. He would record some stuff and I would be in the session. Some were my beats, some not. Actually the song History on Rosebudd’s Revenge was from a Reloaded session. Sometimes the A&R would be me coming up with an order for songs or just kinda giving Roc a little input. Rosebudd was one of was one were I felt like he gave me the credit because I was there, but I really didn’t do too much. On Rosebudd 1 I was doing the song order and all that which was fun but more hands on. Song order on albums is super important. Like when Ka and I did the Orpheus album, the song order really was everything.

RD: You don’t strike me as a man who shops his work, what elements have to be in place for you to work with someone new? Is there a level of trust and respect that have to come first?

A: I like to work with people I find interesting. I like to branch out now into other lanes other than the Roc/Ka world. I love producing for them, don’t get me wrong, that’s what I came from. I like working with my brother Chuck Strangers too. He’s not in their lane at all but very influenced by their music and so many other kinds of music. He really has his own things going on and doesn’t sound like he’s trying to sound like anyone else. I just did one for this kid named Medhane that is fire. He’s a younger kid from New York, super talented. I just heard songs I liked and followed him on Twitter. He followed me back and told me he fucked with the Orpheus album and I was like ‘bet, let’s do something’. I sent him a beat at 7 am and had the song back by 10 am and it was fire! I’m open to work with people , I just wanna do good work. I wanna bounce between worlds like Ka, Roc, Chuck , and Medhane all these dudes are dope but not necessarily in the same lane. I also linked with this dude Fly Anakin and you’ll be hearing good stuff from him, he came through my crib when he was in LA with Gray Matter, they’re good dudes. We got some good stuff done.

RD: Hermit and The Recluse-Orpheus vs. The Sirens was Album Of The Year for many listeners, it really takes you away to a different place when listening to it. Did Ka come to you with the concept in mind? How did that record develop into the final product?

A: We met when Ka did the Iron Age video out here in LA. He came through the crib just to hang out and listen to beats. I did one of the beats for Orpheus on the spot and he was like ‘wow’ and we linked up again and after a few times he was like we should just do an album. He came up with the concept but some beats were already in place. After he told me the concept I tried my best to make it like a movie score that would fit for a film on some Greek mythological vibe. I didn’t want the beats to sound the same or go from one to the other and have people like ‘this beats sounds like the last one’.

RD: What are some of your own favorite works?

A: Argo for the Orpheus album is one of my favorites of all time. In fact the album was “done” and he was catching a flight back to New York the next day and we were hanging out. We had made a deadline saying that this was the last trip of his to LA, so he had said the album done, and had called an Uber. I had just put some shit together and was on the headphones because we had a movie on and I played the beats for him. He canceled his Uber and wrote to the song for an hour and there you have it, Argo made the album, and it’s probably my favorite song on the record

RD: What does the future hold for Animoss? Is there anything left undone that you’d like to eventually get out?

A: Like I was saying before, the future involves bouncing around into different worlds. Of course new stuff with my friends like Roc, Chuck and Ka, but also new people. I want to contribute to artists albums, and do my own projects too. I’m all over the place with samples so who knows what I’m gonna be into. I just wanna do good joints with good artists and add on my piece.

RD: Favorite piece of gear, and if applicable, what piece would you love to get a hold of?

A: Overall my favorite piece of gear is probably the MPC 2500 for work flow purposes, especially with the JJOS but that’s some nerd shit. I started on the MPC 2000XL, so that will always be a special piece to me. I’ve been playing with some other machines lately. The first beat I made on the 303 is gonna be on Medhane debut album, out Nov. 2019 so check that out. Other than that I’m not really looking into gear. Maybe some outboard gear in the future.

RD: Shouts?

A: Shout out all the listeners and supporters. All the love means a lot. Peace!

Follow the man on Twitter @ANIMOSS_ and IG @animoss

Producer Spotlight: Abomination Oner

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We had the chance to lock in with Hawaii’s own Abomination Oner, who after years of instrumental work dropped Day Of The Jackal, a gloomy and intriguing offering that featured a host of quality emcees. He touches on his local scene growing up, equipment, and his Day Of The Jackal project.

RD: You rep the beautiful state of Hawaii, bring us into your scene for a moment. Growing up who were some of the local favorites? Did you guys favor any style of production?

AO: Coming up, there weren’t a whole lot of local artists here in Hawaii creating Hip Hop. In the mid to late 90s, we started to see some activity from artists and crews like Hi State, Hoomanakaz, Vandalous Minds, Buzz1, Todd G, Akira8 (Tassho), and many more. For the most part, I looked up to my homies that I kicked it with, and drew inspiration from their creativity. I hung out with dudes that wrote graff, made beats, rapped, b-boy’d, and DJ’d. All that stuff influenced me in a huge way. I came up listening to heavy metal primarily, but I also listened to rap, and reggae. When I got in to high school I started listening to more rap and hip-hop. I started listening to Cypress Hill, Geto Boys, Wu-Tang, Group Home, Gang Starr, Jeru, DITC, Black Moon, Hieroglyphics, Hobo Junction, and the Pharcyde just to name a few. All these artists and groups inspired me to want to contribute to the culture. Out of all those artists though, I seemed to favor the sounds of the east coast, those hard drum patterns over soulful / jazzy samples.

RD: Beat tapes date back to 2008 on your Bandcamp, how long did it take to become the producer you are today?

AO: Well, I started making beats back in 98, a friend of mine had a Gemini sampler that had like 24 secs of sample time and 5 memory banks. We used to mess with that and just sample whatever. That sparked something within me, I felt like “man, I can create music too.” So I saved up and bought a Yamaha SU10. That was my first beat machine. I made beats on that thing and a Technics KN2000 I got from a friend for about a year or two. After that I felt like I outgrew the Yamaha. I pooled together some funds with a friend and bought an MPC2000XL in 2000. Back then it set us back like $1200, the shipping to Hawaii was a nightmare, but well worth it. We banged out beats and actually put out a beat CD back in 2000 entitled Doomzday Mechanics. We went around trying to sell them anywhere we could, consignment in record stores and just out the backpack really. Then I joined the military and went on a hiatus for about 8 years. That’s why I was inactive until 2008. I still made music when I could while I was deployed. When I got out of the military, I started linking up with other artists and releasing music here and there.

RD: Do your surroundings inspire the music in any way?

AO: I feel like my surroundings have influenced my music quite a bit. I live on the east side of the island of Oahu where 80% of the time it is raining and gloomy. I’ve been told my beats sound a little darker. I also lived up in the Pacific Northwest for a little while, where the weather is always dark and gloomy, I prefer that type of thing. The friends I grew up with all repped the culture hard, whether it was hip hop or metal, so they also influenced me a great deal.

RD: Who are some legacy producers that inspired your sound?

AO: DJ Premier, RZA, Muggs, Prince Paul, Greyboy, Rick Rubin, Spectre (The Ill Saint), Madlib, Large Pro, Pete Rock, Battlecat, Da Beatminerz, just to name a few.

RD: Let’s talk about your latest body of work, Day of the Jackal. While many of your previous works were instrumentals, this featured a batch of talented rappers like Maverick Montana, Magno Garcia, Nino Graye and Cousin Feo. How did you determine the guest list?

AO: Observe from Loretta Records recommended a bunch of emcees to hit up, so I reached out and asked them if they were interested in getting on some tracks. DropDead Grace is a homie of mine here in Hawaii. He is a dope graffiti and tattoo artist who also raps his ass off and takes ill ass photos. I am super grateful that I linked up with them. All of those emcees that participated are all killers, I am really happy with that project.

RD: Was there a different approach you took to putting this together? Did you have a pretty clear vision of how the project would turn out?

AO: I had a bunch of beats that nobody had got on, so I just compiled a list and emailed them out to all involved. They picked the beats they wanted to rock, and we went from there. Maverick and I talked about titles and tossed some ideas around. We were exploring the idea of hitmen/assassins. I ended up naming it Day of the Jackal after that 1973 movie about a professional assassin who was hired to kill the President of France.

RD: Post production can make or break a body of work, you went with Corey Gipson on the mix for this project. What made you turn to him for the mix?

AO: Corey Gipson is the talent behind all the mixing and mastering of the Death at the Derby series my dudes Cousin Feo and Lord Juco have been banging out. I really like the way those sound and Cousin Feo suggested I let him mix and master the project. I am really happy with the sound. He really went above and beyond, and made some video edits as well. Corey is the man.

RD: If you could hand pick 5 vocalists for your next project, who makes the list?

AO: Man, there are so many emcees Id like to work with. The top 5, if I could pick a line up would be Meyhem Lauren, Roc Marciano, Eto, Knowledge The Pirate, and Willie The Kid.

RD: Do you have any shout outs?

AO: Big shouts to DJ Muggs, Ern and all involved at Soul Assassins Radio show for always playing our music when we have a new release. I really appreciate that support from people I’ve looked up to for such a long time. That is truly validating, and keeps me motivated. Shouts out to Maverick Montana, Cousin Feo, Magno Garcia, Nino Graye, SamRi, & DropDead Grace for getting down with me. The Day of the Jackal project is what it is because of them. Shout out to Observe and Loretta Records for putting out physicals of the project, which you can cop on their Bandcamp. A huge shout out to all the fans that have supported any of my work, I cant thank you all enough. Thank you guys for being interested enough to interview me, much love and respect.

Buy Day of the Jackal here: https://abominationoner.abolanorecords.com

Soundcloud media link : https://soundcloud.com/abominationoner

Instagram: @abomination_1nr

Twitter: @AbominationDMK

 

Producer Spotlight: The Lasso

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Our introduction to Lasso came earlier this year when his spectacular album The Sound of Lasso dropped on Mello Music Group. Using a mesmerizing blend of foreign sounds and live instruments the album resonates differently with every listen. We would go as far to say it was the finest instrumental work of 2019. Lasso teamed up with Chris Orrick to release I Read That I Was Dead. The first part of our interview touches on Lasso’s career up to this point. Chris also joins us to answer questions about the new work.

RD: For the uninitiated, can you tell the listeners a bit about yourself?

L: I’m a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and home recording enthusiast based out of Detroit, MI. I’ve been playing instruments and recording music since I was a kid and the obsession has never stopped. The sounds go across all genres, dozens of collaborators. In simple terms, my music exists somewhere near the intersection of hip hop and psychedelic music.

RD: Your debut on Mello was our introduction to you. What developments led to you working with MMG?

L: Most of all, complete devotion and obsession with creating music. I’ve never been one to play video games or party most of my hours spent on earth are related to the studio in one way or another. Signing with Mello has been a life-altering opportunity for me, but it came about from living every day of my life in pursuit of sound. I moved down to Tucson in 2015 when my wife got a job, started meeting people in the scene, recording obsessively, and formed a collaboration with Lando Chill. Years of working on Lando’s MMG releases led them to bring me on as a producer and artist.

RD: The Sound Of Lasso features warm textures mixed with some very far-out arraignments. The sounds seem a million miles away yet they’re very welcoming sounds that draw you closer. How long did that project take you to complete? Where did you record most of it?

L: I dig your description of the album. I recorded the album over 3 months in late 2018. Most of it was recorded at my home studio, but I worked with about a dozen different Michigan musicians to widen the instrumental palette. For years I ran a studio and played in various bands based around Kalamazoo, MI. When I moved back here in 2018, I knew I would be bringing in a lot of old friends and collaborators to lend their talents to the sound.

RD: You are seen playing with some unusual equipment in your IG stories, do you have a go-to set of gear that you can speak on?

L: My day job is outfitting recording studios, so I get the opportunity to try a lot of stuff out. That being said, I definitely have a core set of gear that makes up the majority of my sound: Moog synth, Mellotron, guitar pedals, free/cheap iPad apps, drums, bass, and guitar.

RD: Do you collect vintage gear? If so, what is your most treasured acquisition?

L: I wish I had a budget to collect, but I definitely have some prized possessions from having the same hobby for so long. During college I got an internship with an amazing engineer named Jon Stites. He gifted me his Tascam ATR60 1″ 16-track tape machine when his studio moved entirely into digital. It’s an incredible sounding machine that is all the important to me because it came from an influential mentor in my life. 

RD: After years of releasing instrumentals, 2 of your last 3 projects will have vocals. Was that planned, if not what chain of events brought that about?

L: Despite being an instrumentalist and dropping a lot of beat tapes these last few years, I’ve actually done a lot more work in my career with vocal-based music. The Sound of Lasso was the first time I really sat down and gave the full effort over to an instrumental record in the way that I do for albums I produce for emcees/vocalists. While I’m probably most euphoric when creating instrumental music, a lot of my ambitions lie in collaboration and creating sounds/beats that allow vocalists to push themselves in new directions lyrically & thematically.

RD: If you could contact any 5 vocalists for the next Lasso project, who are you calling?

L: Smino, Nick Hakim, Laetitia Sadier, Ravyn Lenae, Ishmael Butler

RD: Going off the two singles, would it be safe to say this album could push some boundaries?

L: I always hope that when I put out collaborations that I’m pushing up against some expectations of what it could be. Chris and I are both perfectly capable of putting together a really solid batch of hard beats and great verses, but you’ve got to follow the true inspiration. I get my energy from pushing my craft forward or into new directions. I can’t get motivated to just execute, I need that element of exploration.

Chris Orrick: I tend to struggle when answering a question like this, because I’m not really sure what boundaries we’d be working within. I think there are certainly moments on the record that are more experimental, but mostly in terms of my own catalogue. If we’re speaking in terms of my personal discography as it’s own universe, then yeah, this record is really unlike everything else I’ve worked on. It certainly pushes the boundaries of my own work.

RD: This album expounds on the damage done by the 2016 election and in turn the vicious 24/7 news cycle. If you could take control of any faction of our government and give it an upgrade, what would it be?

CO: That’s a really interesting question. I think it would either be the Department of Defense or the Department of Education. I think we spend an outrageous amount of money on our military. On top of the budget being exorbitant, the expenses are hyper-bloated by ridiculous military contracts given out to the manufacturers who produce for the military. Its strange, nationalist propaganda masquerading as marketing among other things. Meanwhile, the Department of Education has a budget that pales in comparison while people are going bankrupt to get an education.

RD: Chris, would you say this was the most challenging set of beats you have written to?

CO: While it was different writing to this style of beats, versus writing to more traditional boom-bap influenced hip hop, it was surprisingly very natural. When we started working on this project the beats Lasso sent were totally different, much closer to the sounds people typically hear me over. Those were far more challenging, frankly because I was personally a little bored of making that sound. They were great beats, but I couldn’t find a lot of inspiration in them. When the album took this turn, it became exciting to work on and write to this style.

RD: Lasso, how different is your process when recording instrumentals for solo work and working with emcees. What part of your process changes?

L: I’d say how far you take the melodicism in the instrumentation is the biggest difference. If it’s an instrumental album, you truly need a thread of personality and storytelling to weave the soundscapes together. When you are working with a vocalist, it’s more about capturing the essence of something in as few pieces as possible and then letting the vocalist magnify/walk through. A great vocalist can turn an interesting drum pattern and a few little sounds into an entire universe. 

Follow Lasso on Twitter @TheSoundOfLasso

Follow Chris Orrick on Twitter @chrisorrickraps

I Read That I Was Dead is available on CD and LP https://www.mellomusicgroup.com

Digital copies https://chrisorrickraps.bandcamp.com/album/i-read-that-i-was-dead

 

 

Producer Spotlight: Royalz

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Royalz is the owner and founder of GRHYME Productions, a Melbourne based label that has added to the list of dope contributions coming from Australia the past few years. After a series of remix projects and mix tapes, he dropped Live 95, his debut production album featuring a host of dope spitters like Roc Marciano, Conway and SmooVth. He just teamed up with SmooVth to bring you China White, their brand new collab project. He touches on those projects, his history in the game and much more.

RD: You are the third Aussie to do a piece with us. What is in the water over there?

R: Great Chinese food! Australia is a melting pot of so many cultures, hip-hop included. Australia is indigenous land, taken by the Europeans as a place to put their convicts. After the ‘White Australia’ policy was abolished the Chinese and Malaysians started immigrating in the 70s, then the Vietnamese in the 80s. Along with the good came the bad, and the bad was street gangs and heroin. That’s what inspired my next album China White.

RD: Talk to us about GRHYME Productions, the inner workings of the company and the spirit behind the music and visuals.

R: GRHYME Productions was founded on a strong DIY work ethic. From making our own beats to the artwork, it was born out of a hunger to create music but with no budget. It’s been a big learning curve, and over the past 14 years we’ve seen a lot of artists and labels come and go, but our strongest assets are determination and longevity. Internally we’ve had some changes but I’ve had my day one Angus Younga step up. I only surround myself with people as hungry as I am.

RD: After some dope remix projects, you dropped Live 95 last August. It was a unique blend of American standards Roc Marciano/SmooVth and Conway mixed with Aussies Nelson Dialect, Tornts and many others. Was that the format you had planned all along, or did things change in the journey to complete this project?

R: As a producer, a production album has always been something I was working towards. Live 95 was part of my 5 year plan (which took 6 years) that started with my remix project Man Vs Maschine Vol 1. I had the vision for Live 95 back in 2012 and got started on making the beats for it in 2016. Conway was the first artist I hit up and as it turns out at the right time, before him and Westside Gunn got signed to Shady. Roc Marci has been my #1 emcee for a while. That was a dream collab that I had to make happen when the situation presented itself. Then it was a matter of getting the best of the best from Australia and a couple of up and comers, sorta like the 1992 Dream Team. Every move I make is calculated and Live 95 was an almost perfect execution of that plan.

RD: The first two singles, Facts featuring Roc Marciano and Bundles featuring Conway each sold out very quickly. As did the Nintendo Gray edition of the Live 95 wax, did the demand for these physicals match your expectations?

R: They blew my expectations out of the park! Being so isolated on this big island called Australia, even with the internet, as a “new” artist it can be hard to gauge how you’ll be received. Streaming and follower figures does not always lead to sales and I’m in the lucky position where my sales are great even with a low stream/follower count. I pack all my product so I see each and every name that cops my shit and I’m forever grateful to the fans.

RD: If you could go back in time to 2017 and change anything about the process of making Live 95, what would you do?

R: It was actually a great learning process and while the 2 year process had its issues, I wouldn’t change much. The only thing I would change would be to pull the trigger on the Westside Gunn feature, and worry about the budget later.

RD: Do you handle your own post-production? If not, do you have a trusted engineer?

R: For Live 95 I had my man Phil Gektor handle the mix as I was so busy organizing the album and its release (He’s mixed Discourse and Flu’s albums). For China White, I went back to my DIY roots and handled the mixing duties myself as my beats have evolved by devolving. A while ago I made a mental change to stop listening to the critics and just started making shit I would want to hear. Everything has been stripped down and simplified which has made learning the mixing process easier for me. Soon enough I’ll be mastering my own shit. Given enough time and effort you can learn anything.

RD: China White is the latest venture, a joint project with SmooVth. You remixed him first, then had him on Live 95, now here we are with a whole project at hand. Did something develop during the making Deuce Tray that led to this? Or was this something you had planned years ago?

R: Having a release with one U.S artist was always the plan after Live 95, it was just a matter of who. Man, I just like SmooVth’s shit! I discovered him through a Hus Kingpin’s release Splash Brothers and was hooked. I did that remix then hit him up for the feature which turned out super gully. After that it was a no brainer for the next LP. Since we already had a good relationship and communicated well, it was a perfect match to create something together.

RD: How did your approach differ from working with multiple emcees? Did you have a more set sound you wanted to use for this, getting down to BPM and melody style?

R: After working with 12 emcees/groups on the same project I don’t think I’ll be doing another multi-artist production album for a long time. I already had a sound in mind for China White and actually shopped the sound locally 3 years ago, but no one here was ready for that type of production the slow soulful 70s era beats with hard raps. I had to reach out to NY for the right person with the right voice and life experience to craft the story I wanted to showcase for this album.

RD: What can collectors expect as far as physicals go?

R: I’ve linked up with Copenhagen Crates for the vinyl treatment which I’ve had good experiences with, from the quality of the vinyl to actually having stock in hand for release date. That’s important to me – I hate long pre-orders. I’ve also got cassettes and CDs (with lyric booklet) available via GRHYME Productions. Each physical release has a different bonus track which was fun to do.

RD: What tracks are getting the visual treatment, and when can we expect that?

R: The lead single is called Divide Cake. I’ve done a simple animated clip for this, similar to the one I did for Facts with Roc Marciano in 2017. Animation is new to me but I used to draw a lot in high school. Doing the drawing for my animated clips has renewed my love for drawing which I hope to incorporate into my cover art in the future.

RD: If there’s one thing you’d like listeners to take away from the project, what would it be?

R: Don’t do drugs kids, sell it.

GRHYME Productions Bandcamp https://grhymeproductions.bandcamp.com

China White Vinyl https://cphcrates.com/collections/frontpage/products/china-white-lp?variant=29974092480576

Follow Royalz on Twitter @gryhmeproduct and IG @royalzog

 

 

Producer Spotlight: JR Swiftz

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If this piece ran a year ago, it would need a longer introduction, but with placements on no less than five recent Griselda titles, JR Swiftz has made his name known in a major way. Make no mistake, this was no overnight come up. JR has been honing his craft for a long time, and he intends to make the most of his raised profile.

RD: At this point many fans know the name from various GxFR credits, but let’s go back to your roots. You have a beat tape Soul & Party that dates back to 2012. Was that what you would call your first official body of work? If not, what is?

JR: Yeah that was my first beat tape, I was super nervous about it. I remember reaching out to my bro Bvlvm about the art. I gave him this idea I had and the vibe I was going with, he executed the art perfectly to what the tape was sounding. Blessings to bro.

RD: What would 2019 JR Swiftz tell the 2012 version? What wisdom have you gained over your time in the game?

JR: I would tell 2012 Swiftz the same thing I tell 2019 Swiftz,  be patient! Please be patient and also learn the business. The music part is fun (sometimes lol) but the business side is everything you need and more.

RD: With a number of upcoming placements on various projects, you are well on your way to becoming even higher in demand. That is success in itself to many, how do you define it?

JR: Success to me is just enjoying what you do and still getting paid for it. The money will come but just have fun creating. For me, I just want to be comfortable, I don’t need millions. Just comfy and want to be known as a great one day. That’s success to me.

RD: When you set out to make music, did you have an end goal? Was this a hobby that turned serious, or was this always the plan?

JR: Music was always something I wanted to do full time. My pops did it, I seen him create heat and I knew that’s  what I wanted to do. I was an emcee at first but didn’t like my voice. I fell in love with producing because of it and I was heavily focused on beats.

RD: How much has your setup changed? Was there a piece of gear that helped take your production to the next level? Or would you chalk that up to just improving overall?

JR: I used software first, started on FL Studio then Reason then Ableton and the MPC software. In the midst of that, i think Ableton, the MPC and just overall willingness to learn helped me progress over the years.

RD: 2020 is going to be a continuation of the growth of your name, is there anything you can disclose at this time?

JR: Not as of now, but just know you’re going to see my name a whole lot more on various projects.

RD: Looking back, what placement are you most proud of?

JR: I really can’t single one out they all played a major part, to be honest.

RD: There is a ‘JR Swiftz Type Beat’ on YouTube, that has to be flattering.

JR: There is? I need links! Whatever a ‘JR Swiftz Type Beat’ is… isn’t that. I have so many styles, people just know me for Griselda but I’ve showcased that. Peep B Dot’s Coming Forth By Day EP for proof.

RD: Do you have any shout outs?

JR: Shoutout to everyone whose been rocking with me since day one! Blessings! Peace!

Cop JR’s Macstrumentals here https://jrswiftzva.bandcamp.com

Follow him on IG @thereal_jrswiftz and Twitter @therealjrswiftz

 

 

Producer Spotlight: Vago

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Vago first caught our attention by producing the bulk of Estee Nack’s amazing Joan Manuel Serrap project, producing 5 of the 7 tracks and putting his mark on the game. He soon followed that with more work with Estee, as well as placements for al.divino and Recognize Ali. This summer produced all of Nueva Ola, a joint project with Che Uno. Here he talks his roots, how he developed some key relationships and future plans.

RD: You’re one of the rising names in the production world, can you give the newer listeners some background info on yourself?

V: I’ve been listening to Hip Hop since the early 80’s. UTFO, Run DMC, Whodini, Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel etc. were all in rotation as a young kid, b-boying, following in the steps of my older brother. We used to get these mixtapes from our Filipino neighbors that had cousins in L.A, that always had the latest shit. That lasted about 2-3 years.  Soon after, my bigger bro started listening to rock and heavy metal, I followed suit, as most younger bros do.  In those years of being heavy into rock and metal, I learned how to play guitar, bass and drums, listening to my favorite bands and learning how to play songs by ear. Interestingly, hip hop still played a role in the background for about 3 years in the form of NWA, Ice T,  Beastie Boys, Too $hort, Kid Sensation, Sir Mix-alot and of course Run DMC.  Hip Hop came back around to the forefront of my life at around the age of 18 and has been number one since. I began as an emcee in the early 90’s, but was always semi-obsessed with digging through vinyl, looking for samples for our producer at the time. I first dabbled in beat making when I was 18 but never really started heavy til around 21.  We’re here now!

RD: Let’s talk gear, what kind of toys did you start out with, and how has your setup evolved?

V: The journey into making beats really started the day I discovered I could sample music on to a computer. I remember that day, it blew my mind!!  Before that, I was cross dubbing shit on cassette tapes. Also, I knew that most samplers at the time, had a maximum of approximately 8 – 13 seconds of sampling time and computer sampling time was pretty much unlimited.  I downloaded a free computer program called Multiquence and started messing with loops and making my first beats. Later, I moved on to a program called Acid Pro, which was a massive upgrade and then soon after, Propellerheads Reason came into the picture and I’ve remained on Reason until now. Reason has progressed in a major way and myself alongside with it. Big up, Propllerheads! As for external gear,  I don’t have racks of gear to brag about like many producers. I have a computer, a mic, an audio interface, some monitors and a few guitars, that’s about it.  Straight up, there’s no need for anything else.

RD: Looking over your credits, it’s clear you’ve made some strong connections with Rec Ali and Estee Nack. How did those relationships develop?

V: That started with a good homie of mine putting me on to the Triple Black Diamonds record by Estee and Al.  That album is fucking fire! I heard dude throwing some Spanish in the rhymes and thought, ‘yo, I’m gonna hit dude up and send some beats’. I linked with the homie Estee via Soundcloud and he got back with an email.  I sent him a couple of folders and I ended up landing 5 joints on JOANMANUELSERRAP.  That was the foot in the door which led to placements with Rec Ali and the gawd al.divino.  Big shout out to Estee!  Also, shout out to my bro Recognize Ali.

RD: Earlier this year you produced Nueva Ola EP with Che Uno, did you go into a different mindset producing a full project?

V: Not really, no. My dude Che Uno (@che_uno) and myself used to be in a group together called Los Poetas. I was doing all the production for the group. We released a full LP and an EP.  The Nueva Ola EP is a different vibe from Los Poetas , so the mindset may have been different in that sense but not in terms of full projects. I’ve been doing full projects with artists for a minute.

RD: Che mixes Spanish and English in his rhymes, we have seen this from Sick Jacken and more recently Crimeapple. Give us your thoughts on the emerging amounts of Latin talent in underground hip hop.

V: Shit is amazing!  It’s only right that Latinos have a heavy presence in the scene, now and always not just in the underground but in the mainstream as well!  Back in the day, Latino emcees were sparse and although Latinos have an equal hand in the creation and birth of Hip Hop, it wasn’t that easy to find too many Latino rappers.  I think I can speak for a lot of Latinos that have been into Hip Hop from early times, that anything Latino was a success for us.  Mellow Man Ace, Kid Frost, LSOB, Cypress Hill, Fat Joe, Messengarz of Funk, Hurricane G, Son Doobie, Kurious and the Beatnuts, were some of the artists at the forefront in the late 80’s and early 90s.  Shit, even Gerardo was big for some of us haha, we took what we could get in those days.

RD: Many of your works involved dramatic sounds, namely strings. Is that intentional, what are you listening for when digging for or developing sounds?

V: I dabble into all music when it comes to sampling shit, so nothing and nobody’s safe. I’m into pretty much any genre of music you could think of, so depending on the artist, one of these vibes will come through in the sample. Anything that catches my ear will get sampled, I’m not biased when it comes to sampling. Certain artists like different types of vibes, so it’s more like matching the beats with the artist.

RD: Is there any upcoming placements or projects you can announce to the good people?

V: I recently finished an album with my dude, Checkmate (@checkmatetherapper).  Instead of dropping the album as a whole, we decided to drop it as singles.  Also, my guy Asun Eastwood (@asuneastwood_toma) and myself are about to drop a full LP entitled Sewer Science, that should be out sooner than later. I’m also working on an EP with the homie Primo Profit (@primoprofit) and another EP is in the works with my guy SyckSyllables (@syllables_plaga) from La Plaga. More Rec Ali joints coming soon as well.

RD: Where would you like to be as an artist in 5 years?

V: For real, I just take the days as they come. In 5 years I’d like to be doing the same shit I’m doing now, but on a larger scale. Life usually pushes or pulls you into the direction you need to be in. For now, I’m blessed being able to make a living off of my passion, music!  If that can escalate and I can constantly keep creativity at a peak, all else will fall into place.

RD: Give us 5 vocal talents you’d call to begin work on a Vago production album.

VI’d definitely hit up all the artists I’ve already done previous work with, but I’d also reach out to a gang of emcees that I respect.  This idea for a compilation has been coming up frequently as of late. It’s gonna happen!

RD: Anyone you want to Shout out?

V: Shout out to Respect Due Podcast for the interview!  Shout out to my Higher Self and all my guides for this life and love of creativity.  Massive shout out to my parents for being my  #1 supporters!  Shout out everyone that’s been supportive of the music and the movement!  The list would be too long and I wouldn’t want to miss anyone, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Follow Vago on IG www.instagram.com/vago604

Producer Spotlight: Str8 Bangaz

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Production teams have made some of the finest hip hop over the years. The Bomb Squad, The Hitmen and many others combined talents for the greater good. One of those Hitmen, Richard ‘Younglord’ Frierson helped two young men from The Bronx get their start. 25 years later, they are producing full projects for some of the best talent the scene has to offer. Left Lane Didon, All Hail Y.T. and Snotty are among those who have blessed the mic while they’ve manned the boards. Here they detail their journey, their production album The Reagan Era, and what lies ahead.

RD: Is this a team or an individual? Can you give us some background on your past work?

SB: There are actually two of us, Rice and Rachi.  We’ve been doing this hip-hop shit for more than 20 years. Born and raised in the Bronx, we started producing in 1994. We got our first break ghost producing for top notch producers such as Younglord (Former Bad Boy Hitman) and Ty Fyffe back in the late 90’s. Shortly after that we branched off on our own and began producing records for artist such as N.O.R.E, Ali Vegas, Hell Rell, 40 Cal., Royal Flush, AG, Math Hoffa, Bathgate, Sha Stimuli, Littles, A- Mafia, Chubb Rock, and many more. Some of the records ended up on their individual projects and the ones that didn’t make the cut were used on our debut compilation album titled Str8 Bangaz Presents…Vintage which was released in 2010. So after the release of the Vintage project, we became very frustrated with the hip hop industry and the constant grind of trying to get production placements was taking its toll on us along with other outside issues, which forced us to fall back for about 5 years. However, we never stopped making beats but we did stop trying to shop and sell them. In late 2014 we slowly started to get that itch back and decided to work on an album with an artist by the name of Bunky S.A. (Former member of Lil Kim’s Tha Bee Hive Group and featured on her Labella Mafia album). We released his debut album entitled A Shot of My Life in 2015 which jump started our passion to re-enter the game. We followed that project up with another debut album later that year with Harlem’s own, Bathgate entitled Grand Opening.  These two albums which we fully produced led the way for our resurgence back onto the hip-hop scene.

RD: Delaware has one of the best movements going at the moment, and you’ve worked with many of the standouts including Jay NiCE / Left Lane Didon / All Hail Y.T. and Miskeen Haleen. Was it a domino effect after linking with one of them? How exactly did that go down?

SB: We’re always searching for new hip hop to inspire us, and in 2018 stumbled upon a dope EP by Left Lane Didon & Jay NiCE entitled Immobilaire.  After listening to the project we immediately knew we wanted to work with them so we reached out to Left Lane and sent him some records.  He instantly informed us he would be using multiple beats and wanted to release a project fully produced by Str8 Bangaz. That album was Autumn Leaves II and to this day is a classic. A timeless masterpiece. An EP with Jay Nice was in the works but never materialized although he recorded a few records. As for All Hail Y.T., a few months after reaching out to him he hit us up expressing that he also liked many of the tracks we sent him and the rest was history.  We vibed out with All Hail Y.T. and released a classic follow up to the Autumn Leaves II EP released prior with Left Lane entitled Live Well and Prosper. Miskeen Haleem was actually in the studio during a Left Lane Didon session while he was recording a track for the Autumn Leaves II EP (Mo’ Pete and Mateen).  We were already fans of his work, but that day he became a fan of ours and the friendship developed from there.  It was a domino effect, but not simply “Yo let’s do an album.” Nah, we still had to show and prove putting our A-game on display time after time.

RD: Your production album The Reagan Era features instrumentals as well as vocal tracks. How long did it take to create the project, and what went into deciding on the vocal guests?

SB: That album took about a month to finish, and while deciding on the list of MCs we wanted to feature we knew we were looking for some of the dopest up and coming underground rappers. Specifically those dope MCs who may not be common household names to people who don’t follow true hip hop. And thanks to all of the lyricist that showed us love on the album, it was a total success. A production album is something we’ve always wanted to do but just never got around to it. Our thought process has always been that instrumental albums are a way for the producer to showcase his/her talent by presenting a full catalog of tracks. We wanted to accomplish this and stay true to that Str8 Bangaz sound, which we successfully did. Instead of the artist choosing the track, it was now our choice on which beats we would put on the album. So if you’re a dope MC looking for some creative and artistic inspiration and you still haven’t copped that Reagan Era, I suggest you go out and get it. In addition to the crack instrumentals on there, we got amazing songs by some truly amazing MCs.

RD: Full projects have become standard, with you producing EP’s for All Hail Y.T. / Left Lane / Snotty and others. There has to be a level of trust there from the rapper, how much do personal relationships factor into determining who you work with on a project?

SB: Definitely a factor when we decide on who to work with but we’re also fans of these artists. We study their past material and try to get a feel for their musical habits through listening to their music catalogs. That’s how we are able to adapt and fit their style of music while also staying true to our sound and who we are (dirty loops, hard drums, booming bass). No matter which project we have fully produced for any artist, you can never say they sound the same. Most of the time many won’t believe we entirely produced many of the projects we have been fortunate enough to work on.

RD: The grind doesn’t seem to stop, are there some upcoming projects you can announce at this time?

SB: Right now, we are working on a project with a young talented female from Detroit by the name of Junii. She sings, rhymes, makes beats, engineers, etc.  She is the full package.  We produced the whole album. Also, we have another project we fully produced from a Delaware native by the name of Chris Skillz coming this year.  We’re also playing with the notion of doing another instrumental album, but this time it will only be instrumentals.

RD: What’s the end goal for Str8 Bangaz? Where would you like to be in a few years?

SB: Like any producer on the grind, the end goal for us would be to get consistent joints placed on projects for mainstream artists that we consider to be dope. This is in addition to obtaining placements on more of the well-known underground MCs. In a few years we’d like Str8 Bangaz to be a household staple when it comes to production on any level.  Hip hop and the beats you hear on the radio have changed a lot and we can’t say we are huge fans of all of it, however based on the responses we have been getting from our work we know there will always be a demand for MCs looking for that true hip hop sound and we are here to feed that hunger.

RD: Do you handle your own post-production?

SB: For the most part, yes.  If we do a project that will be released under the Bangtadis label, then all mixing and mastering is done by the legendary engineer Dan The Man.  Dan understands our production style and can bring exactly what we want out of every track without us even asking.  He knows how we want the mix to sound and expresses his creativity through the mixing process as well. Whether we want more bass on a particular kick or reverb to make a snare sharper, Dan knows how to replicate what we have already created in the crib and also enhances it once we are in the studio.

RD: What are some skills you’ve acquired that you may not have had when first starting out?

SB: I’d say live instrumentation. We play a little piano, bass, and guitar and this understanding of music is readily expressed in our tracks. Although we may not utilize live instruments in all our tracks, that foundation gives us the ability to push the ceiling on much of our sample-based tracks. A big thing with technology has been the introduction of plugins as well. You have to remember, we started in the 90s before all this plugin shit. All we had was an MPC 2000 and a sound module. But with today’s software and the ability to introduce different synthesizers into our production, it has definitely taken our sound to the next level.

RD: If you could pick any 5 rappers on Earth for Reagan Era 2, who would you call?

SB: Notorious BIG, Big Pun, Jay-Z, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Prodigy, Fabolous, Rick Ross, The Lox and Rapsody.

Thanks to Str8 Bangaz for their story, to purchase the instrumentals of the aforementioned projects as well as Reagan Era hit their Bandcamp up

https://str8bangaz.bandcamp.com

The vocal versions can be found on the respective artists BC

Follow on on Twitter and IG @Str8BangazLLC