You’re working on a new album with Pacewon, The Only Number that Matters is Won. How’s it coming?
Oh, it’s coming along great. We got some songs on there that I’m really, really proud of. It’s some of my best shit yet. We keep thinking we’re done but then I’ll play Pace a new beat and he’ll say “No, we’re not done with the album yet. I need to rap on that beat.” It’s like a rolling ball, basically. As an artist, it’s hard to know when you’re really finished and when to close it up. But any day we’re going to close it up and set a release date.
What’s it like working with Pacewon?
Well, we got two different ways we do things and I can’t say we always do it like this, but most of our songs get done like this. I will email Pace a bunch of beats and then he’ll tell me which ones he wants and he’ll write to them and come over and record. Or I get a bottle of liquor and we get together and I’ll play him a bunch of beats and just make them on the spot. That’s how we did “My Song,” the one that just dropped. Rival and Pace came by and I played them some beats I had and I tweaked it and added some extra drums while they were writing their rhymes. We were all drinking and stuff and a couple hours later, it’s time to go. And you really can’t tell when you listen to the songs which way they were made, but it’s really fun for us to listen after it’s done and wonder how some songs could sound so good when we were drunk.
I would imagine that’s a more fun way to record.
It is. But since I don’t have to rap, I could have four glasses of rum and then be too tired to mix it. When it was time for Rival to rap on “My Song,” I was already passed out.
With Pacewon being an Outsida, I would imagine he has pretty high tolerance.
Yeah. Pace grew up with Shannon Briggs, the heavyweight boxing champion. They were just hanging out and Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs was saying that Pace could drink on Twitter! Pace is tall but he’s skinny. He’s not a hefty dude and if he’s drinking a heavyweight boxing champion under the table, careful when you drink with Pace because he will take you down.
I would expect nothing less.
I think they used to make Eminem drink until he vomited on more than one occasion.
It was the same when I partied with Young Zee once.
Yeah. Zee is the same way. It’s the Outsidaz way. Zee’s process is the second way I metntioned. He’ll say “I got a bottle. I want to make an album.” That’s basically how me and him got started working on One Crazy Weekend. This summer we both had a couple of free days and he had a bottle of liquor and some weed and he wanted to do an album with me. I was like “Fuck it. Young Zee wants to do an album with me and he’s going to provide all the studio essentials. Let’s do it!”
He’s been out for awhile. How’s the new music sounding?
Oh, man, Zee hasn’t lost a step. He came over right around the end of June and he brought a bag of weed and a bottle of liquor. I don’t mean to act like that’s the only way I get down. That’s not the only way I work. It just so happens that’s how some of the people I work with work. We recorded eight songs in two days and I don’t mean trinket songs. Those are eight songs that are definitely going to go on the album! It’s the old Young Zee that everyone loves. The funky, he’s got a lot of attitude, he’s talking shit about people but at the same time he’s got respect for hip-hop. He reminds me of a cartoon character that will fuck you up. That’s who Young Zee reminds me of. He will fuck you up. I’ve never worked with anybody who has been able to do four songs a day and have them all be fresh. Zee is still at the top of his game and I think we got a couple of songs that people are really going to take notice of.
I was depressed when Rah Digga told me Zee was focusing on real estate.
Well, Zee’s a hustler. He’s always out doing something. But the fact is, you can’t get that good at rapping and not still have it in your bones. He was running around doing all that stuff but he had the urge and he called the right dude up. He called me up and we hung out and we shot a music video. We got two songs left to do but aside from the stuff that I’ve done with Pace, this stuff with Zee is definitely my proudest work.
The first Pacewon and Mr. Green album, The Only Color that Matters is Green, came out great. How did you want to show growth on the follow-up?
I gotta thank Pace and Raw Poetics because on The Only Color that Matters is Green, they really let me do exactly what I wanted to do. My name is in the title. How many times do producers have their name in the title? That’s how I want my hip-hop to sound too. Rugged and not even really complex, just the type of thing that you can get into and once you start nodding your head, you can keep nodding it for however long the album is. The Only Number that Matters is Won is Pace’s album. It’s got his name in it. He wanted it to be a little more up-to-date. It still has that classic ‘90s hip-hop vibe but it’s a little more current with what’s going on now. I think it’s a mix from the last album but it’s got a little bit more influenced by the future in a good way. I don’t think people will be disappointed by it, but it’s not like we were just trying to do classic hip-hop the whole time. We went a little futuristic on them and I think people will be impressed.
What’s the advantage to do an album with one MC and one producer?
They keep popping up! Pace and I weren’t the first ones to do it, but since we did ours in 2008, I feel like there have been dozens that have come out since then. I don’t want to list them. But I think the album doesn’t come out sounding like a mixtape. I think too many cooks fuck up the recipe and I think when you have one producer and one rapper, it’s very clear what everyone is trying to do and there aren’t too many things to get disorganized. That type of shit I don’t like. I don’t like albums that have too many people on them. I think it shows what you can do best when it’s just one MC and one producer.
Do you try to make beats to have a variety of different sounds or do you aim for a consistent, cohesive sound?
That’s the hard part. With the first album, I think we only recorded 14 songs so it wasn’t hard to choose them. This one we’ve recorded over 30. There are some songs that are going to get pushed off because we think we made something better or we think it doesn’t represent us the way that we want to be represented. Sitting around making music and having these awesome rappers coming over to my house is actually easy, but sifting through it to find the parts that you think people will like and that represent you is the most difficult part, at least for me in 2010. It’s hard deciding what stays and what goes. I don’t want to put anything wack out. I don’t think about money so much or being the next big producer. I just don’t want to put any wack hip-hop out on the planet, ever. I’m picky with what I let go.
Does that ever lead to any disagreements with Pacewon?
Yeah. I mean, I love our record label Raw Poetics. I try not to listen to them too much because their job is to take the album and sell it and put it in stores. But yeah, sometimes Pace and I disagree with what should go on the album and what shouldn’t. But sometimes we’re lucky because some of the songs are so dope. All in all, Pacewon knows what he’s doing about putting an album together. This is his fourth time doing it. On the first album, I would have been more picky, but this album has his name in it. I wouldn’t say it’s a big issue, but we do argue about it sometimes.
You were working on beats before you linked up with Pacewon, but after the album dropped, did you find demand for your production increased?
It was actually really weird because I didn’t think that my skills had changed. They hadn’t changed at all. I had been making beats like that for years. They just weren’t put under the right light. Once I proved that I could make an album with 45-60 minutes of dope music straight through, I stopped being looked at as an internet beatmaker and a real producer. And it was instant once the hip-hop community heard what I could do on the album. It’s not like I’m in high demand now, but there are definitely people who heard that sound that I created on that album and they try to get it on their album. It’s a great feeling when people hire you to make music because it’s the most fun thing in the world and when you can make money off it, that’s even better. I haven’t made big money yet and I can’t say if that’s going to change me, but the money I have made has been inspiring.
You can’t work with Pacewon and Young Zee and not be an Outsidaz fan. What are your favorite Outsidaz songs?
It’s funny. “The Rah Rah” was always my No. 1 favorite but I never realized it was only Pace rapping on it because in the video they all rapped. “The Rah Rah” was always my No. 1 favorite but I love Zee. I used to have a 12” of “Makosa” with Eminem back in ’98 or ’99. Pace produced the beat and they all come with this “Fuck you” rap style and that they’re better than you and they believe it. Not only are they dudes from the ‘hood that will kick your ass. I’m not saying that that’s what they’re about, but that’s what rappers put out there to intimidate you. But they’re also about fucking you up at rapping and if you battle any of them you will go down in flames. I thought of them as the real crew of hip-hop dudes that you don’t to mess with but they also have real skills on the mic and they will fuck you up at rapping. There’s so many rap crews that have been formed over the years. I don’t think any of them as a whole had so many good battle rappers. Anyone in The Outsidaz could kick someone’s ass in battling. They were all dudes who could fuck you up at battling, which is a really cool way to sound when it comes to the rules of hip-hop and the roots.
Have any other Outsidaz come out of the woodwork like Axe or Az Iz?
Axe changed his name to Celebrity. He still comes around and he lives in Atlanta. I don’t know if he’s got an album but I know he has some things in the works. Az Iz did a song with Ray J not too long ago. And I saw him on the news in Philly, which is where I live now. I saw him on MSNBC.
What was he doing on there?
It was about hip-hop and its effect on the community and they wanted to get his perspective on that. Anytime I know someone on the mainstream television, I’m proud of them and it’s inspiring because it makes me feel that even with what I do, I have a chance to be on TV.
What’s it going to take to get an Outsidaz reunion?
People ask me that almost every day. I really want to but I don’t want to bother these dudes because The Outsidaz have been really helpful to me. They helped me become known to the world. No one knew who I was and now everyone does. I don’t want to do anything uncomfortable but I’m going to need some money to fund it and that’s what’s not happening. Pace, Zee and Digga all say they’re down. It just comes down to finding a label that can handle it. I’m going to keep making some songs with them individually and hope that the magnetic energy brings it together.
You’ve also done soundtracks for DVDS for skateboarding companies like Zoo York. What has that done for you?
I did it because I grew up as a skateboarder and that’s actually where I first DJ Premier beat. I said “Who did that? That sounds awesome!” My DJ friend told me it was DJ Premier and when I went through the liner notes of my albums, I saw that all my favorite songs were done by DJ Premier. That’s when I started paying attention to the producer because before that I only paid attention to the rapper. But when you do a soundtrack to a skateboarding DVD, it goes out to a whole different group. It basically opens up a whole new market of people. I saw what Jedi Mind Tricks did doing beats for snowboarding videos. I grew up skating and I grew up watching skateboarding videos. It was great. I actually got something I’m working on something right now. I don’t want to announce it yet but it might be a Zoo York and Mr. Green album.
You were skateboarding in the “Drugs and Liquor” video. What was that shoot like?
It was July 4th weekend. It was hot. The record label was cool with it. They told us to buy as much liquor and as much weed as we can. We had a good party but the director didn’t want to use everything and I think he was right. We wanted it to look crazy but he was right. The video shoot was a blast. Video shoots are always a blast. We were hanging around listening to a song that we made and loved and dancing to it. That’s all a music video is. We shot it out in Philly and there’s a lot of really good free scenery. You can shoot a video out in Philly with a low budget and it will look like it belongs on MTV.
What’s your production process like when you work on beats?
Up until now it’s always been sampling. I would just start digging through records or samples that I would think could be turned into hip-hop. But I’ve gotten some requests to do some mainstream things like a beat for a television commercial and they’re asking me to not use samples. I’m working on making my classic Mr. Green hip-hop sound without using a sample as a backbone. It’s a new challenge and sometimes I nail it. I’m so happy when I make a beat that know I own 100% of. I’m so happy. My process has changed. And it usually doesn’t take long to know.
But it all usually starts out with the sample. I chop it up and get something that I can nod my head to. Somewhere along the way there’s a little tweak I do and I’ll turn the bass up or take the drums out and add new drums and then it clicks and I know I have it. I knew I had “Children Sing” when I put the snare in. It was a little bit of a mess and that snare was exactly what the beat needed. It’s usually a pretty simple one-two step and then I know I have something. I don’t like to use the word “classic” too much because it’s already been so used, but when I first taught myself how to make beats, I would tell myself “Try to make something classic. Try to make something classic.” It’s usually that one tweak that makes it something for people to remember. Now I tell myself I want to make something that people will remember for a long time. If it’s good, people will still listen to it a long time from now.
What equipment do you use?
I’m still just using a laptop computer. I got Fruity Loops for my beats and I know that might sound crazy because no one really expects me to say that anymore but I just got used to it. I like that program and it works for me. I use beats there and I use Pro Tools and record the vocals. I do edit the beat more in Pro Tools. That’s how I get some of my sound but it all starts in FL Studio. I’m like 9th Wonder in that regard. I haven’t been able to move on yet. I heard he moved on to the MPC but I haven’t been able to move on yet. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, bitches.
What other projects would you like to take on in 2011?
I want to finish up The Only Number that Matters is Won and get that out in a timely release. The fans have been so cool waiting on it and I was worried that they would give up on us but they haven’t. And I have an album with DJ Critical Hype, who’s DJ Green Lantern’s right-hand man. It’s called Mr. Green Versus Wu-Tang. We took some of the best beats from my Classic Beats series, the instrumental series that I put out, and we put the best Wu-Tang lyrics on top of it and it sounds awesome! It started out as an experimentation project but the sounds we made are awesome! Animal Bikes, a BMX company, and Skavenger are going to promote the project for us, which is going to be big. And then One Crazy Weekend with Young Zee. Hopefully we’ll get that out sometimes next fall. And I got Classic Beats Volume 3 on the way. That’s for the enthusiasts. That’s a little beat compilation I put out every year to keep my beats sharp and it gives people who want to hear something from me something to listen to. I think some people are only into beats with raps but I think some people are into instrumentals when they’ve heard mixtape after mixtape. I got something for everyone.