Wed, 12 Nov 2008 14:45:28
While 88-Keys may soon be a household name, he’s far from a new face on the scene. While he’s been putting in work as a producer for years, having produced tracks on Mos Def’s classic Black on Both Sides and Black Star’s self-titled debut, he’s just now starting to get some shine as a solo artist. With his debut single, "Stay Up (Viagra)," burning up the radio, and Kanye West’s executive producer credit on his album keeping The Death of Adam at the top of many hip hop head’s most anticipated lists, ARTISTdirect sat down with the man of the moment to talk about his album, his influences, the state of hip hop and his upcoming projects. Of which there are plenty, thankfully.
So you've got The Death of Adam coming out. How are you feeling about it?
Man, I feel great about it. The album is awesome, I feel that it’s easily going to make the top ten list of critically acclaimed albums for ’08. Do I smell like a Grammy? Perhaps, perhaps (laughs).
So it’s good then? It came together like you expected it to?
It actually came together better than I expected it to, especially after Kanye’s involvement and him helping me tweak the album to perfection. It’s a real dope album.
Yeah, I listened to a preview of a few of the tracks and they sounded really good. With Kanye West and others, it seems that there has been a resurgence of producers who are flexing their skills on the mic. How do you feel about that?
Yeah, I feel good about it. I feel that it’s going to allow more producers to come out from behind the boards and want to get their creative ideas out, as opposed to just having that one means of displaying their creativity. Know what I mean? I just want to open up the floodgates and be a part of it.
“if I had to label my sound anything besides ‘dope’—I would call it the Tribe vibe”
Have you always rapped and produced? Or did producing come first, or vice versa?
I’ve definitely been on the production tip since my mid-teens. I was about fifteen when I started. The rapping thing? That definitely came later. I kind of always wanted to do it, but I didn’t feel as if I had the talent or the patience for that. For me in the past, the most difficult thing in rapping was for me to write the first linejust having to write the first line and then having to write the whole thing out, and then having to memorize it and stuff like that, you know? But now, the raps that I have and the raps on the album are straight freestylesrecorded straight into the microphone. It will still take me a while to get it down, but I don’t have any problems trying to get the opening line or anything like that anymore, or the hang-ups that I had about being a rapper before.
Did working with Kanye help you with that at all? Did he have any advice, and what was it like working with him?
He definitely had a hand in it. I actually had my raps made for certain songs on the album that were strictly supposed to be for show and performance purposes only. I wasn’t going to put any of my raps on the album. It was definitely his suggestion for me to do that, and so I actually had the raps before stepping to him, and it was those raps that made him want to be involved with my album. Initially the album was supposed to be mainly instrumental with a few pieces on therewhich is what I had been working on for the last two years plus. And he loved the album back then, but it wasn’t until he heard my raps that he was like, "Man I gotta be a part of this."
Production-wise, you definitely have a more organic sound. Who are some of your influences? Obviously you produced some of Black on Both Sides and Black Star as well. Is it that Native Tongues production that you’re influenced by?
Hell yeah. Hell yeah. I would like to call my soundif I had to label my sound anything besides ‘dope’I would call it the Tribe vibe. I was definitely inspired by the whole Native Tongues movement. I’ve drawn a lot of my inspiration from A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, the Jungle Brothersthat whole era. And I also like Nice and Smooth and Redman and stuff like that. For me, that’s the golden era of hip hop. I just try to keep myself within that realm and not stray too far from it. If anything, I just try to improve what I do instead of trying to do something completely out of my element or what I personally like to listen to myself.
It definitely seems that there has been a comeback of that Native Tongues type music in the past few years, with Mos, Talib, Common and Kanye; there has definitely been a resurgence. Do you see yourself fitting into that? And why do you think that music has come back?
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