The Green Room with Lil Dicky (2015)

Advertising, Comedy, Interviews, Music, Published Material, Videos

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This article was originally published on NahRight.com in 2015, just prior to the second leg of Lil Dicky’s Professional Rapper tour, and also as he was first starting to write his hit FX comedy series Dave.

Written by Daniel Isenberg

Lil Dicky ain’t your stereotypical Jewish rapper. Okay yes, he has a silly name. And yes, he’s a lanky guy from the suburbs with a beard. And yes, he makes funny songs. He checks all those boxes. But there’s one very important thing that separates him from the pack—he’s not wack. Watch his video for “Lemme Freak” once and you’ll instantly understand. Dude is legitimately nasty with the bars, an insane storyteller, a natural comedian, and a born performer. Stop fronting and give LD his props.

With the spring leg of his Professional Rapper tour starting this week, we got on the horn with Lil Dicky for our latest edition of The Green Room to get a detailed look at what life is like on the road for the blossoming rap star. Turns out things aren’t as glamorous as you might expect, though it sounds like that might change this go-around. Read below to find out all about Lil Dicky’s live show steez, in front of and behind the curtain.

First Live Performance

Lil Dicky: “In my case, it’s bizarre, because I wasn’t a rapper to the world until two years ago. I never really did anything until my first mixtape. So I put it out as a guy in his room making these songs on his computer by himself, and it blew up. And I was faced with the situation that I had to start doing concerts.

“Literally, my first concert was in my hometown of Philadelphia. I sold out the TLA which is like 1,000 people, and I honestly had never even rapped in front of more than like three friends. Ever. I would actually label that day as one of the worst days of my life. Obviously, it’s not a tragic day—it’s a good worst day to have. But in terms of my overall stress level leading up to the show, that day was pretty unbearable.

“After that first show, it felt like I was born to do it. It came very naturally to me. However, my biggest memory is for my first song, I walked out there, and I had so much energy that I went way too hard in the first minute and a half. And I got extremely tired. From that point on, the whole concert was an uphill battle to survive. I was rapping my verses like, ‘Just make it to the hook. Just survive this verse.’ And I did that for twelve straight songs. The stage was huge, and I didn’t know how to pace myself.

“But it was great. It was my hometown. Some 76ers came. Like, this is my first public foray into rap. I knew people were paying attention in my mind, but that fact that Nerlens Noel decided to come to my rap concert just felt like an alternate universe.”

Rehearsing

“In between songs is really stand-up comedy-based. There are planned jokes. So what we mainly rehearse is the transitions. The songs just don’t end and then another one starts. Everything is driven by language. The rehearsal is less about me rehearsing my raps. Although, I want to do some more choreographed dancing. I haven’t done that yet. But it’s basically just making sure we’re all on the same page from a cue perspective.

“We put in like two rehearsal days before the tour. And then, you’re doing it every night which is like a rehearsal too, and then soundcheck every day too, so it just gets better and tighter as it goes on.”

Packing

“I’ve been working on my album, and that’s kind of been my sole focus, so I don’t even know what what my go-to on-stage outfit or what my look is for this tour. Since the tour starts tomorrow and I don’t know it, I’m gonna have to go with what I own.

“I’m less into basketball jerseys than I was before. And I can’t be in any sort of jeans or skinny pant up there. It needs to have air. Like, sweatpants or sweat-shorts are ideal, and those take up a lot of space. So I pack a few pairs of sweats, a bunch of hoodies because the hoodie is a great look on and off the court as a rapper. I pack a few choice button-downs that I would never wear on stage but that I would go to a bar afterwards in. And usually one or two pairs of shoes—I’m not a big sneakerhead.

“My big thing is that I have all of my bathing products sorted out. I bring a loofa, towels. I’m pretty anal about showering so I bring all my facewash. I make sure I have all that stuff at all times. I shower twice a day, and honestly, a lot of stuff that happens on tour is predicated around my showering.”

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Travel Activities

“Last tour, we got an RV and went four weeks straight without going home. This tour, I have shows Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, then I fly back to L.A. and I’m here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. We’re doing that so I can finish my album.

“I like to rent movies on my iTunes, but then my battery dies. But honestly, there aren’t a lot of movies that I need to see that I haven’t seen. I’m at that place where it’s great when I find out there’s a great movie out that I haven’t seen.

“Usually I’m listening to rap music. At this point in my life, I only listen to rap. The new Drake, the new Big Sean, those are like what I flip and flop back and forth on currently. And Forest Hills Drive, the new J. Cole. I’m in need of a new one. I’m over those to some extent. I’m looking forward to Kendrick’s album, that’s coming out at the right time for me.

“In the RV, there was like a full bedroom, so I was able to have a bed. There’s a lot of weed being smoked. I actually try not to do it during the day, because it will just make me burned out and tired if I have a concert. But everyone else is smoking weed.

“I’m actually working on a TV show right now, which is based off of my life. It’s like Curb Your Enthusiasm, but instead of being in Larry David’s world, it’s in my world, and I’m a 26-year-old rapper. So I take heavy notes on what’s happening at all times on tour, and then try to put them together. I don’t really write the show on the road. I get all my notes done and organize my thoughts and think about things.

“I don’t think I could be in a moving vehicle and write rap music. I can barely even be in a studio. I need to be at my desk and locked in. I pretty much spent every day writing raps for the past year-and-a-half, and I started doing this whole thing to be a comedian, to be honest. I didn’t know I was going to become as good of a rapper as I became. So when I’m actually on tour, it’s my only time that I can’t focus on writing raps. So I take advantage of that time to focus on writing TV.

“That’s where my head’s at on tour, because when I’m on tour, that’s probably the most entertaining backdrop of my life. So I can imagine a lot of Episode 5 coming from that. Like, I have grown men coming up to me like, ‘Yo, can you sign my dick?’ Stuff like that is happening.

“I just say, ‘No. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I can’t be the guy signing everybody’s dicks. I can’t be that rapper yet.’”

Backstage

“I have friends who whenever I do a show are like, ‘Hey, can I come backstage?’ And I always warn them and say, ‘Sure, but it’s probably way more underwhelming than you’d expect.’ I haven’t been backstage at another rapper’s show, but I imagine it’s far more entertaining. Mine is really just four guys kind of sitting quietly. Half the time people are napping. I don’t really nap, I just kind of sit there.

“I used to never do anything in terms of drinking or smoking before went on stage. I used to just go on sober. Only recently have I started smoking weed before shows. I don’t do it every time, and I can’t go overboard. There’s been times where I’ve gone on stage high and it was too much stimulation to handle. I remember being on the first song, like, ‘Dude, please don’t collapse.’

“There’s usually dinner. A few menus being thrown at us, and then a conversation as to which type of food we should have that night. That’s what goes on, those type of discussions. It’s not like, ‘Oh man, Meek Mill just came through.’

“I’m open to change, though. I’m not absolutely sold on the current construct. And I think because it was it was my first tour last time, I took it seriously as a job. I was as responsible as responsible can be. But I think I’ll get more laidback in terms of letting myself have fun. My New Year’s resolution is genuinely to have more fun. There’s a lot more fun to be had. I don’t have any stories from my first tour to tell my grandkids that would blow them away. Even if it’s for my TV show, I just need to get out of my comfort zone a little more and see what happens.”

On Stage

“I’m still educating people. There’s still a PowerPoint presentation in the show, which I always think is really funny. There’s hundreds of drunk people who came to hear rap music, and all of a sudden I take them through a 12-minute slideshow. I show them a deck. I say, ‘Before I get into this, I just want to make sure everyone is on the same page. I don’t know if you know this about me, but I have a little bit of a business background.’ And I get everyone’s minds in the same place for the show.

“I’m not sure if I’m gonna stick with it, but I have added the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ to my set list. An acapella where I get real Whitney Houston. I make everyone take their hats off. [Laughs.] I tend to go into the crowd and rap. I go down there, I gotta get with the people. So new things keep presenting themselves, then I keep assessing.

“I don’t know if I’m there yet, but the more money I get—I don’t really care about money—the more I’m going to invest in my show. In three years it will be a Kanye times Book of Mormon experience, hopefully. Imagine me on top of a huge mountain called ‘The Rap Game,’ and there’s chocolate milk pouring down the mountain out of what appears to be my butt, with strippers drinking the milk. It can go a bunch of different directions.”

Dry-Humping Girls During “Lemme Freak”

My favorite person I’ve ever seen live was Usher. And this is a trick I saw Usher do back in the day, when these R&B guys bring girls on stage and do a lot of dry humping. So I always wanted to have an excuse to do that. ‘Lemme Freak’ was the first time I ever wrote a song where I’m asking girls to have sex with them. I’ve never done the song live without doing that.

It’s never really gone bad, but there was one time that the crowd was so male dominant and the girls there weren’t really volunteering, and it took too long to get a girl on stage. It was weird, like I was forcing the issue. But it was funny how it took like 25 seconds to make that happen. Normally, girls scream and they want to do it.

In theory, I don’t ask her permission to do this before, so it’s a longshot, but you could see someone—if they really hated me—suing for sexual harassment. So I make it a point to whisper in their ear as it’s happening, ‘Are you okay?’ That’s my favorite part of the show, when I ask the girl if she’s okay. She’s like, ‘Yeah, this is cool.’ And I’m like, ‘Cool.’ [Laughs.]

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Fan Interaction

“After a show, I’ll go by where I sell merch, and I’ll literally meet anyone who wants to meet me. So if the entire audience wanted to meet me, they would meet me. It takes like an hour and a half. People line up and it’s really fun.

“This is all so new, and I do so much of it by myself. Even now with my level of fame, I don’t really go out much or take advantage of it. My lifestyle isn’t any different than before I started. But when I’m here with all these people that are fans of my music, it’s like they see me as if I saw Denzel Washington, which is interesting to me. It’s so fun for me to meet people. I sign autographs, take pictures, and that whole thing.

“I want people to meet me and like me. A lot of me is reflected in the music, but I’m definitely Dave. 99% of the time, I’m not Lil Dicky. I want people to like Dave.”

Dream Female Tour Encounter

“After the show, I’m signing my autographs or whatever. Obviously, a beautiful girl walks up. And she’s not like the rest of them. [Laughs.] For whatever reason, I’m seeing a brunette. She says something like, ‘I had never heard about you until tonight when my friend…’ Basically, she’s not a huge Lil Dicky fan. She got brought there by a friend, and she just found out about it. So she’ll say, ‘I just found about about you. My friend brought me here. But I just want you to know I’m a believer, and I want you to know that I really appreciate what you’re doing and I think it’s awesome.’

“Then I’ll say, ‘Oh, thank you. What’s your name?’ And she’ll say like, ‘Kirsten,’ or something. I don’t know. And I’ll say, ‘Kirsten, do you live out here? Well, you’ve gotta tell me where I should be going next.’ And I’ll be able to know from that interaction if she’s interested in hanging out. Ideally, there’s a shower at the venue, and I say, ‘Kirsten, I think we should hang out after the show. Let me just shower real quick. Are you down to hang out for like fifteen minutes?’

“Then we end up going to some bar where me and Kirsten are really in our own world. It’s not that loud, and we’re just simply talking. She’s probably like 25, and she’s really confident. And I think it’s a situation where it’s the end of the night and everyone’s leaving, and I’m like, ‘Listen, I can’t leave now.’ I’m just kind of locked in.

“Ideally, we’d have sex. But that’s not what this is about. I think we could end up just talking. To me, when I watch movies and stuff, there are times when you meet a girl and you’re just blown away. I feel like that happens all the time in movies, but it never happens in real life. I’m waiting for that to happen. So I think this is an example of where it’s like, ‘Holy shit. This girl seems like she’s legitimately perfect for me.’

“I’d probably end up spending the night with her, and then try to get her to come with. She never will, because she’s got her own job and her own life. She’s got such an impressive life that she would never entertain the idea of doing that. But we’d stay in touch, and keep texting, and maybe it even turns into like Skyping every now and again. Then I’d see her when I’m back in town, and the connection is just as real. Maybe she moves to L.A., I don’t know.

“It’s not a drunk night where I’m grinding with a girl having the best sex I’ve ever had. It’s like a sober night, where it’s heavily conversation-based. And the first kiss is just as exciting as sex.”

Eating on the Road

“I’m pretty into fast food. I’ve got a bunch of fast food favorites. I’d say the Taco Bell/KFC combo is my favorite thing, because under one roof you’ve got great options. Chipotle is a great thing for me. I love Wendy’s—the Spicy Chicken sandwich has been a big factor in my life. Then, there are occasions where I’ll insist on going to Morton’s Steakhouse one night. It’s fast food, then every now and then there’s an unnecessarily nice dinner.”

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Favorite Tour Stops

“My favorite show I’ve ever done was Madison, Wisconsin. All my shows before Madison seemed to be in major cities. Those are cool, but they’re not like a college town. The first time I went to Madison was the first time I was faced with a college crowd. And they just want it more. College kids go out every night with the sole purpose of having the best night of their lives. It’s really great. Everyone just buys in. So I’m really looking forward to going back to Madison.

“It’s my birthday on Saturday, and I’ll be in Utah. I’ve never been to Utah, so I’ll be spending my birthday in Salt Lake City. Maybe that will be cool. Actually, I’m looking forward to going to Indiana. I feel like that will be a very similar vibe to Madison. Chicago I’m looking forward to. I had never been to Chicago before, and after being there once, I think it’s a top 3 city in America. Minneapolis sold out like a month ago, so I think I have a really strong fan base in Minneapolis. Plus I’ve never been there. Going to places I’ve never been is great. It’s like, everyone’s seeing a PowerPoint presentation at a rap show for the first time, and I love that.”

Upcoming Tour Goals

“My goal is to have fun. The more I have fun, the more fun the shows will be. Beyond that, it’s just growing the fan base and connecting with the people I’ve never met. I think once people meet me, it will be even easier to be a lifelong fan. Then once the album comes out, I have different goals. But this tour is pre-album, so it’s getting people to keep spreading the word.”

The Professional Rapper Album

“I’m making it thinking that I’m going to get a lot of first time listeners. I know my fans are going to be into it, but I’m thinking about it from the perspective of people who haven’t heard anything. I think it’s great. I think it’s one song away from being truly tremendous. I think it’s still tremendous even if I don’t get that last song. But I’m always fighting for that last song, that cherry on top.

“I’m not gonna give anything away, but there are definitely some really cool features. And it shows off my diversity. My style is in the way I say things and my lyrics, but I don’t have a go-to sound. I don’t want to be limited to one sound. Also, before my music sounded like a comedian who could rap. But now, half my songs aren’t even funny. It sounds more like a rapper who’s funny half the time.”

*Bonus*

After our NahRight interview, I became friendly with Lil Dicky’s manager Mike Hertz. And we ended up working together to bring LD to Trojan Condoms—a brand/client I was writing for during my early advertising days—for what would become a long-term relationship.

Here’s the first video we made with Lil Dicky and Trojan Condoms, titled “The Big Talk with Lil Dicky.” I love this so much, and I’m still so grateful I had the chance to work with LD and his team—they really are some of the most creative and talented people on the planet. 

Special thanks to Mike Hertz for all of the above! And big congrats to LD for all the success! You deserve every bit of it!

Slick Talkin’

Interviews, Published Material

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This article was originally published by Urban Legends in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Slick Rick’s The Great Adventures of Slick Rick.

By Daniel Isenberg

The Notorious B.I.G.’s “I Got a Story To Tell.” Nas’ “Blaze a 50.” Kendrick Lamar’s “The Art of Peer Pressure.” These captivating songs all use storytelling as a device to make their raps come to life inside our minds. And though these three MCs and many others have been praised for their storytelling abilities, there is only one who has been undisputedly crowned by rap fans, critics and his peers as the greatest hip-hop storyteller of all-time—and he goes by the name of Slick Rick. And if there’s one body of work that defines this greatness, it’s his debut album The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this month.

The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, originally released by Def Jam Records on November 1st, 1988, is a timeless collection of hip-hop hits, anchored by story-driven street raps like “Children’s Story,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Teenage Love.” Hip-hop records will often sound stale when aged three decades, but not in the case of this era-defining opus. Sure, there are moments on the album when the production is defined by ‘80s trends, but Rick’s futuristic rhyme schemes, melodic cadences, crisp delivery, and one-of-a-kind, English-infused accent make the songs still sound as fresh as the day the album dropped. 

Ricky Walters a.k.a. Slick Rick was born into a Jamaican household in South London in 1965. As an infant, he was blinded in his right eye after an incident involving broken glass, hence the distinguishing eyepatch he’s rocked throughout his career. But Rick was shy as a kid because of the injury and spent most of his time inside, where he developed a love for writing stories. And this passion for storytelling would prove to be invaluable when his family moved across the pond during his adolescent years, settling down in the burgeoning home of hip-hop—The Bronx.  

Rick’s coming-of-age in the Baychester section of the BX aligned perfectly with the popularization of rap music, and though he held tight to his British accent, his assimilation into hip-hop culture came naturally. At the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, he formed his own rap circle, The Kangol Crew with fellow MC and classmate Dana Dane. But it was his run-in with Doug E. Fresh at a talent show in 1984 that led to an official release on wax with The Get Fresh Crew, giving the world its first taste of his uncanny storytelling skills. 

On the B-side to Doug E. Fresh’s 1985 single “The Show” was the beatbox banger “La Di Da Di,” a highly-quotable party cut that details a wild encounter—described play-by-play—with an older woman. It was Rick’s breakthrough moment—and one that compelled Def Jam executive Lyor Cohen to sign Rick to a solo record deal in 1986. Lyor spoke to us about his first time seeing Slick Rick perform, and why he was determined to add him to the Def Jam roster. 

“Slick Rick was one of the most unique storytellers I’d ever heard,” Cohen says. “To me, he represented something in such a high quality—unreplicable. He’s a remarkable person, but he is a different type of person. He’s in his own imagination, in his own head. They performed ‘La Di Da Di’ and ‘The Show’ all over the place. That was back when him and Doug E. could do five shows a night in the tri-state area. I saw him, and I wanted to sign him desperately. He was gonna be my first signing, and it was really critical and important to me. All I wanted to do is sign him and protect him as best I could. I knew that by signing him, he would make Def Jam greater. And that’s the only thing that mattered to me—making Def Jam greater. In terms of the storytelling and conceptual architecture, I left that to him.”

From there, Rick worked with the powers that be to piece his debut album together, pairing songs he masterfully-crafted himself with tracks produced by The Bomb Squad and the late Jam Master Jay. Two years later, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick was finally released, at a time when Def Jam was thriving with acts like LL Cool J, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys. But quite easily, Slick Rick stood out from the pack—and not just because of his accent or the patch over his eye. It was his abilities both as a storyteller on the mic and a beat-maker behind the boards that led to the birth of hip-hop’s newest superstar, and the creation of one of the most revered rap LPs in hip-hop history.

And now, ladies and gentlemen—and Lo-Lifes—the story behind the making of The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, as told to us by the G.O.A.T. storyteller himself. Heeeere we go.

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“I was always into telling stories, and humor.”

Slick Rick: “I was just being myself. Everyone else was into battle raps, and—no disrespect or nothin’—there was a one-dimensional thing going on. I wasn’t really into the battle thing as much as telling stories and humor, with my leftover English accent. It stood out because of the accent and the stories, and it gave rap variety instead of just being one big battle for supremacy.

“I wrote them like an essay form, where you have your introduction to what it’s about, your body of the story, and your ending—with a moral message or something. In high school English class, that’s how you’d lay out the format. I’d start with four cute, hot lines. Then I’d just keep going and going until I’d have a whole record length. An intro, a body, and an outro.

“I was always into telling stories, and humor. It’s like watching the Eddie Murphy movie Raw, when he shows you in the very beginning how he used to do stand-up in front of his relatives? It was very similar to that—telling stories in front of your friends, and seeing what makes them laugh. So when I played with my friends in my age group, that’s how we would play. I would tell them stories, give a little humor and shit. Then when rap came about, I just transferred it into rap form. It just rhymes now.”

“Your imagination is just running wild.”

“‘Treat Her Like a Prostitute,’ and all that type of stuff—that’s really just young, adolescent, girl crazy shit. Getting your heart broken, you’re new at romance, your hormones are raging. Think back to when you’re like between 18 and 23, this is the mentality of most youth. So you tell stories that match your age and your environment. 

“It wouldn’t be like a Joan Collins book—it wouldn’t be that sophisticated, because she’s a mature, older woman. It would be more of how kids talk and what’s happening with them at your age. If you were a young adult in the ‘80s, this is how you interact with each other. This is how you talk. Like, ‘Imagine if I met a cute Indian girl, and I was running around with that raccoon hat Davy Crockett was wearing, and I had to meet her parents.’ Your imagination is just running wild.

“And you get it from old TV shows. Like the melody, ‘Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.’ Shit like that. It’s like when Will Smith made ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ over—it was something his age group was familiar with. It’s pretty much the same thing—they all grew up on it. You draw from your environment, and have fun like the kids your age.”

“I tried to take what I was banging on the desk, and transfer it to the drum machine.”

“We used to just bang on the desks, and repeat songs that were popular in the early ages of hip-hop—duplicate the break beats.

“Then, the first time I went to Teddy Riley’s house, I saw he had a drum machine and an organ and stuff, that he used to make songs. I found out what the name of the drum machine was, and the organ that he had, and I got it myself. Once I tried to take what I was banging on the desk, and transfer it to the drum machine, it worked instantly.

“I couldn’t really play instruments, I just knew they had the sounds on it. And if you take, one, two, three steps, you can basically come up with a bassline. Once I got the organ, I knew how to get the upright bass and the sax and the violin loaded up. Then I’d get the drum track together, and then decorate it with the instruments.

“Sometimes, you’d get inspired by other records that was hot, like breakbeats or ‘70s, ‘80s records, and you’d try to duplicate them in your own way. So it has that feel that minorities liked at the time. Anything that moved your feet, that gives you that soul, I tried to put it down like that with the drum machine and the organ. 

“I learned to play the organ—not fancy like Stevie Wonder, just one finger at a time. Because bass lines are not that complicated. The bass player has a simple job. It’s just repetition. Then the violin gives it that nice, angelic feel. And the sax gives it that fulfillment, that substance. So you’re basically just relying on the drum track, and the melody to go with it. 

“I went to the High School of Music & Art, but I was there for art. But hip-hop was like, grabbing from our youth. Hip-hop wasn’t really musically inclined, from Flash to Melle Mel to Cold Crush Brothers—you had a good ear for music, and you’d take other people’s music and make it even better. There was no real musical training like that. Once you learned the drums and put the little melody on top and it felt good to you and your people, you just kept it moving like that.”

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“When you’re making an album, that’s when the pressure comes in.”

At the time, I was only used to making a single here and there. ‘The Show’ with Doug E. Fresh, and “La Di Da Di. I wasn’t really looking at it like a job, like, ‘Oh, I gotta make this and bring it to the record label, hope I get a contract.’ We was just having fun and shit, getting noticed. And if it works that instantly, it should continue to work the same way when you make your own album.

“But it’s a lot more songs when you’re making an album, that’s where the pressure comes in. If I said to you, ‘All you have to do is make one hit record a year’—that’s nothing. But if I said you gotta make, ten, twelve—now you gotta narrow it down to your best ideas. But you still ain’t finished, because they want twelve! So let’s say you got eight, nine. Now you’re gonna have to toss a couple album fillers in there to make the whole cake.

“I had ideas that were just sitting there. It wasn’t really like demos, or anything like that. It was like playing with a toy. You play with drum machine and the organ, you come up with something, like ‘That sounds kinda hot.’ Then you get an idea of how to rap on it—a pattern—and a story that would fit it.”

“It was a laid-back, dark, creepy spot.”

“Back then, there was a studio called Chung King, somewhere near Canal Street. It was a laid-back, dark, creepy spot, but I guess it was the birthplace of Def Jam Records and stuff. So that’s where we went.

“I had an 8-track, a drum machine and an organ at home. Once I got to the studio, now it was 24 tracks, a drum machine and an organ. So now I had 24 tracks, for whatever. Ad-libs, sound effects. You see how ‘Mona Lisa’ has a sound effect of an audience clapping in the front, when I say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, and Lo-Lifes.’ That’s because I had 24 tracks I could play with. ‘Mona Lisa’ is like two voices talking to each other, but it’s really just me. I just rewinded the track and filled it in. 

“Most of the sessions, you’d have your engineer, and a couple execs to make sure everything is going according to plan. But when it came time for other producers, that’s when they’d give you their tracks, and then you gotta rap on their stuff. It wasn’t like someone was overseeing my stuff, but when it came to other people’s stuff, it was like that. We did song songs with Public Enemy’s people—Hank Shocklee and them—Jam Master Jay, and that’s pretty much all I can remember.

“Back then, nobody was really doing collabos. Eric B. and Rakim did their own album, LL Cool J did his own album, Public Enemy did their own album. It wasn’t really collabo time yet.” 

“I leaked it to Red Alert.”

“I pretty much made ‘The Ruler’s Back’ by myself, and I leaked it to Red Alert. Def Jam was taking too long to release stuff. I had been on the shelf since ‘86 to like, late ‘88. So I needed something to keep me alive. So I took one of the songs I made at home, and I leaked it to Red Alert. It was a cassette.

“I said, ‘Red Alert, I need you to to play this shit on the radio and keep my name alive, because, I don’t know, niggas is moving slow over here.’ So when Red Alert released it, it rejuvenated my name and career, instead of just sitting there like you ain’t doing nothing, or you’re lazy, letting rumors spread. Then after that, Def Jam started doing what they had to do. It was like, ‘Let’s get this moving, kid. Can’t just sit here for three years doing nothing.’” 

“I wanted to put out ‘Children’s Story’ first.”

“The first record they dropped was ‘Teenage Love.’ I wanted to strangle them niggas. [Laughs.] ‘Cause it’s slow. I got ‘Children’s Story’ in the stash, I got ‘Mona Lisa’ in the stash, so I’m like, ‘Come on, now. What is this, ‘Kill A Nigga’s Career Day?’’ I was a little upset about that.

“The record label went a different direction. They put out the slow one first. I’m like, ‘Nah nigga, you gotta strike while the iron’s hot.’ Then you trinkle down to slow stuff. I wanted to put out ‘Children’s Story’ first, then ‘Mona Lisa,’ then ‘Hey Young World,’ and then maybe ‘Teenage Love.’ But they went with ‘Teenage Love’ first. So what’cha gonna do? They the power. 

“At that time, Big Daddy Kane was out, Rob Base, and lots of fast-paced stuff was running around. So it’s best that you put your best foot forward, then go into slow love songs. See LL can do that, because he’s already famous. And he started off with ‘I Need a Beat,’ and built up a reputation. And he was a ladies man, so he could do that. But you can’t come out the gate like that when nobody’s heard from you since ‘85, ‘86.  

“Hip-hop is not really into love songs like that. It’s cute, sometimes, like LL Cool J shit. But hip-hop is really more upbeat and gritty.

“‘Children’s Story’ was the one I was most excited about, because I knew it was gonna be a hit, before it even hit the air. I knew it was gonna be a problem. When I saw what ‘La Di Da Di’ and ‘The Show/ did with the listening audience, I knew that ‘Children’s Story’ had to match or go beyond it.

“We had just pulled up to a gas station, and we was playing ‘Children’s Story’ in the car. Me, my friends, a couple girls was in the car. And I knew that right then it was a problem. It gave me a sense of confidence, and they wasn’t saying nothing negative, so I knew it was over. Once they started playing “Children’s Story” on the radio, I was good to go.”

“I had my little ring game going on, with the Ray Bans.”

“It was right before Christmas, ‘88. We had an album release party, and we had on Santa Claus hats. A couple other celebrities was in the house, like Eric B. and Run. We was just having a good time. You had girls with the hats on trying to promote it. I had my little ring game going on, with the Ray Bans—it was very exciting.

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The Great Adventures of Slick Rick was embraced instantly by both fans and critics. Def Jam publicist Bill Adler remembers the time around the album release fondly. “It was recognized as a masterpiece from the day it came out,” he told us. “The popular reaction to the album was huge, and the critical reaction was very, very positive—immediately.” And that favorable critic response has continued on to this day, with The Source granting it an honorary Five Mics rating in 2002, and Complex ranking “Children’s Story” No. 1 on their 50 Best Storytelling Rap Songs list in 2012. 

Artists have also used Great Adventures as a source of creative inspiration for their own music, with everyone from Montell Jordan to Mos Def to Action Bronson interpolating album favorites for their own hits, and heavyweight producers like Kanye West still using his vocals to create hooks for modern-day rap releases. The influence of Great Adventures on hip-hop over the past 30 years has been endless, as cited during Complex’s 25 Favorite Albums interview series by legendary Slick Rick collaborators Nas and Big Boi of Outkast, as well as one of rap’s most celebrated MCs of 2018—Roc Marciano.

Nas: “It’s a musical storybook. It’s from a New Yorker with an English accent with an imagination that’s never been heard of before in music. He’s just amazing.” (Complex)

Big Boi: “He was one of my favorite MCs coming up. I had that tape as well. I might’ve been in the 5th or 6th grade or something like that, and he was just the coolest rapper on the planet. Him and Big Daddy Kane were just the coolest guys ever. And not just for the roast. He spit game. He was one of the greatest storytellers of all time, when it comes to hip-hop music. And that was just a great record. You could visualize the words and things he was saying. He was so cool. I’m all about the cool shit.” (Complex)

Roc Marciano: “Storytelling at its finest. Nothing but hits. Records to this day that dudes still have not topped. Who’s made a record better than ‘Hey Young World’ since? Is there anything that’s been released between then and now that can really touch that? Storytelling like ‘Mona Lisa’? Has anyone done that? They’ve tried, but dammit, they failed. Slick Rick is top five for me, forever. Who’s fuckin’ with Slick Rick? There’s nobody that can out rap Slick Rick. Slick Rick’s The Ruler, and this body of work proves it.” (Complex)

It’s clear that The Great Adventures of Slick Rick has been cherished consistently since its release in ‘88. But there still are young rap artists who may have never heard the album. Lyor Cohen stressed to us the importance of these new artists—and fans—doing their hip-hop homework, and delving into Slick Rick’s debut.

Lyor Cohen: “I think all these new rappers—and fans—should spend a couple minutes in understanding the art form. And by doing so, they’ll have to bump into Ricky. I think there’s a lot of things they can take away. In my mind, part of art is about borrowing. It’s just the nature of art. I think they will be richer artists and richer fans for understanding the historical references. And by the way, the joints still feel fresh—to this day.”

As for Slick Rick himself, well, he still gets a kick out of listening to Great Adventures—and performing it—30 years later. And he’s proud of the impact the record has made on hip-hop through the years. 

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“Certain songs will always last the test of time.”

Slick Rick: “Listening to it again 30 years later, some things still crack me up. Some of the humor is still refreshing, and makes me earnestly chuckle. The sex scene part in ‘Indian Girl,’ I still like on ‘Mona Lisa’ when I say, ‘Shut up, eat your slice of pizza and be quiet.’ I like ‘Moment I Feared,’ because it had a gritty effect. But the humor, and the beats. 

“‘Children’s Story’ and ‘Mona Lisa’ will still move a modern hip-hop audience. Certain songs will always last the test of time because of something about them—a James Brown song will always rock a party. Some records are dated, and some can go beyond. And that’s what some of these songs still do—that’s why we’re able to still do shows and bring about intrigue, and have an audience nostalgic about their youth or the ‘80s.”

“I’m flattered that artists would remake the songs they like.”

“I’m flattered that artists would remake the songs they like. It’s a form of flattery. A lot of them are inspired by the stories, maybe it grasped some part of their youth.

“A lot of my records are easy to sample, because you got a lot of nice, crisp, clear sentences that can be used as another individual’s chorus. Hip-hop is a lot of samples, and it was easy to make choruses from my vocals, taking lines and making nice choruses and do what they need to do on their newer records. I’m part of their creativity.

“I liked the Lost Boyz version of ‘Hey Young World,’ and Nas ‘Cops Shot The Kid,’ that joint was hot. And I liked Color Me Badd ‘I Wanna Sex You Up,’ and Snoop’s remake of ‘La Di Da Di,’ that was appreciated.”

“I’m not trying to cater to one small, youthful audience.”

“When I make a new record, I’m not trying to cater to one small, youthful audience. It’s better to show that your audience from your generation still exists, and it draws other ages towards you. It’s like when you see younger kids like Stevie Wonder. 

“You don’t want to seem too preachy, because that’s what everyone expects—that’s not really the market I want to go for. I want to be more of a Redd Foxx. He was hilarious, and that’s what stands the test of time. Like, a Richard Pryor. You talk about where you’re at now in life, and then it resonates. They’re not catering to anyone, and that’s what makes them become classics, icons—legends forever.”

“You gotta keep your identity.”

“It’s still a pleasure to perform—it’s still a joy. If you truly enjoy it, then it resonates with the audience and they truly enjoy it. Then you’re good to go.

“I’m happy that younger audiences enjoy themselves. They enjoy the grit, the soul, the groove of the song. It makes you dance, it makes you happy. Being yourself, your audience comes to you, whatever age—young, old. You gotta keep your identity. There’s a lot of pressure for an older artist to act like a younger artist, but sometimes it won’t work. Because you don’t seem authentic to yourself.” 

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“I ain’t playing no bubble gum trap shit tonight,” exclaims Funkmaster Flex as he addresses the Sony Hall crowd on one of the last summer weeknights of the year in Manhattan. With Slick Rick and co-headliner Jay Electronica waiting in the wings, Flex warms up the “25 and older” rap fans with an onslaught of ‘90s gems, ranging from Brand Nubian’s “Step To The Rear” to Redman’s “Tonight’s Da Night” to the DMX, LOX and Mase posse cut “Niggaz Done Started Something.” It’s the type of red carpet rollout only Flex could provide for an artist of Slick Rick’s royal rap stature.

After almost an hour of Flex destroying the decks, Slick Rick emerges from backstage draped in a self-designed tank top, a diamond-studded eyepatch and in his signature, oversized truck jewels—the same ones he so gracefully sports during a cameo in the new French Montana and Drake “No Stylist” video (he even dips out mid-set to change chains, displaying the full breadth of his majestic collection). Backed by his dancers “The Slickettes,” Rick runs through his most notable classics and smiles as the spirited crowd shouts out every quotable, controlling the mic with the confidence of a king. It’s clear that 30 years later, nothing has curbed Slick Rick’s desire to tell his stories—all hail The Ruler. 

Photos via UpNorthTrips and Photo Rob. And a very special thank you to Lauren Nostro!

The Making of Marcberg

Interviews, Music, Published Material

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This article originally appeared on nahright.com on May 4th, 2014.

Words by Daniel Isenberg

The trajectory of Hempstead, Long Island-bred MC/producer Roc Marciano’s career is not that of the norm. He made his entrance into hip-hop as a solo artist a decade before he dropped his debut album, working on group efforts and collaborations (yes, that was him on “The Heist” with Busta Rhymes, Raekwon, and Ghostface Killah in 2000) before he ever got a chance to officially flex his skills for self on his own project. But sometimes things just happen that way, and like the saying goes, everything happens for a reason. And by the time Roc released his first solo LP Marcberg on May 4th, 2010, he was in the right position to properly display his godly talents on the mic and behind the boards, and he ended up giving the world a fully self-produced classic that helped put real Rotten Apple rap back on the map.

Just a few days shy of the fourth anniversary of Marcberg’s release on Fat Beats Records, we chopped it up with Roc about the making of the LP in-depth, discussing the time period leading to its recording, the intricacies of his brilliant lyrics and production track-by-track, and the album’s reception after it dropped. And along the way, we touched on his adventurous digging trips in New York City with Large Professor, the night he hung out with Guns N’ Roses rock legend Axl Rose during the “Pop” mixing session, how Sean Price ended up on the “Snow (Remix),” and how he was approached by Jay Z back in the late ’90s about taking his talents to Roc-A-Fella Records. Plus so much more, including where he ranks Marcberg in his growing discography, and what the status is on his upcoming collaborative project with The Black Keys. This is the story of a modern-day classic, told first-hand by one of our generation’s most underrated and prolific rap artists. Salute.

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The UN

Roc Marciano: “I was always a solo artist. I was doing records with my crew The UN at the time. I even gave some of the beats that I was gonna use for my solo album up for The UN project. A few beats that I did for that project were joints that I was holding for my solo shit. Basically, with The UN shit, we put it out, but it didn’t pop off. It’s not that it wasn’t received well. People liked it, but it just didn’t pop off. [So the members of the group] went back to their regular lives, working and doing shit that they normally do. And I decided to focus on my solo career, and start working on the Marcberg project.

“The UN was doing a deal with Loud Records before it shut down. That was actually the plan. So Steve [Rifkind] was already aware of us, and wanted to work with us, because we were working closely with Schott Free and Matty C. We put The UN shit out on the underground, it made some noise, but like I said it just didn’t pop. But I think in the process of making that project, dudes got to really see what I could really do, as far as my producing qualities. Everyone in the crew would have to agree that I pretty much executive produced that project and A&R’d it. I picked most of the beats, and made sure I was spearheading what the music would sound like.

“I think it didn’t work because we were doing too much collaborating at the time, with Pete Rock, and Large Professor. I felt like they should have been sprinkled in there with me and my man Raw, and have just us producing most of the sound of it. I don’t think people got a chance to really hear what we could do. But as far as me coming in and adding some of my tracks, I think that made people wake up inside the business structure we were working within, which was Jon Rifkind who is Steve’s brother, and Schott Free and Matty C. I think that they saw what I could actually do as a solo artist. If they weren’t firm believers before The UN project started, by the time it was done, they were. And I think that’s what helped catapult my deal over at [Steve Rifkind’s new label SRC Records].”

Strength and Honor

“That was a joint I put out in support of The UN project, because I didn’t feel we gave them enough of our own sound. So I went to the lab real quick and put Strength and Honor together. If anyone still had any question of what it was, and you heard The UN album and Strength and Honor, you fully got it now.”

From SRC to Fat Beats Records

“I recorded Marcberg after I got the deal with SRC. He heard the album and had a first single in mind and everything. But the single he wanted me to come out with, it didn’t even make Marcberg. I forgot the name of it, to be honest. There was still some tension in the air between Free and Steve, because Loud just folded one day. People came to their job one day and found out the doors was fuckin’ locked. He didn’t let everyone know what was going on. So there was still bad blood. I don’t know if that was Steve’s problem or what it really was, I wasn’t really connected with it, but they were having issues over that. But being that Steve had faith in them, and he already saw what I could do, it was like, ‘Alright cool, to sign Roc as an artist isn’t a bad idea.’ He had success with Free and Matty’s opinions in the past, so what would be different this time? But to make a long story short, they had a falling out, and gave me my walking papers.

“My ego’s not big to say, ‘Yeah, it’s because of the fall-out.’ I’m sure they had trouble thinking about how to market me or whatever the case may be because of how rap was at that time. It was like big money business going on. Everything was some real shiny shit at the time. So me coming back with Marcberg, a sample-heavy album with a lot of gritty shit, that wasn’t poppin’ at the time. So I’m sure they was like, ‘How we gonna sell this to people?’ So giving me my walking papers probably wasn’t a bad idea.

“Being that there was still respect, he let me walk with my music. He didn’t have to do that. They paid me to do an album, and they didn’t have one record when I signed my deal. They gave me a budget, and I kept the budget, and I produced the album myself. I didn’t pay producers to do the album. I took the budget, and I ate off that album. And nobody had a problem with it because they saw that I could produce.

“After the SRC deal folded, there was nothing going on. No other bidders was coming to the table. I was an artist with no buzz. I just lost a deal. [Laughs.] Sign me for what? There was no other reason for a company to just jump up and sign me. I was basically chilling, like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna find a lane to put this record out.’

“I took it up to Bill Sharp who was at Fat Beats at the time, and he was signing projects up there. He heard Marcberg, and he was like, ‘Yeah, bet.’ When I brought it up there, it was about 80% done. So he took it off my hands, I added a few records to it, and there you have it.”

In The Lab

“I was renting an apartment out in Queens, right in Shadyville. Queens Village. I was making the beats on the 2500. The 2500 just came out, so I didn’t even have anybody to call to help me work the damn machine. I had to live off reading the manual and YouTube tutorials, because all my homies used other drum machines. I had a drum machine that nobody had.

“I got it actually before it came out. Large Professor put me on to his man Armon, he sells a lot of drum machines and shit, right in the Madison Square Garden vicinity. And he had some early, some test models. When I found out he had one, and I saw the tutorials on what it could do, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the machine I’m getting.’ So I went up there, and I snatched that shit up to make Marcberg, then I went out and bought a bunch of records.”

Digging

“I always was into records, but when I use to dig back in the days, we used to snatch shit from thrift shops and spots like that. People’s record collections would be in the back, and you get them for cheap like that. But the new record spots that producers were digging in, I wasn’t hip to. So dudes like Large Professor, and my man Jyere, they would take me to record spots, and I bought a bunch of records.

“I was with Large one time out in Brooklyn at Academy Records, and me and this white dude was about to scrap over the record player, because I was hogging up the record player. [Laughs.] Word up. My record knowledge at the time was limited to the basic stuff that was in regular collections. I knew a little bit, but I was still a newcomer as far as knowing what to listen to. So I would just grab everything. You know, when you go in the spot, you’re probably only supposed to listen to like five records. I’d go in there and listen to like, thirty, forty records. But this dude didn’t like that, and for real, we squared up. It was about pop off. People came and got between us and shit. [Laughs.] Large was like, ‘Yo, you crazy, nigga. You about to knock a nigga out in the record spot. What the fuck?’ But it’s like, I’m not listening to the records in their entirety, I’m just skipping through them real quick.

“We’d go to Academy in Manhattan, Sound Library before they closed. I used to see dudes up in there like Lord Finesse and Showbiz going down in the basement, like, ‘See, these niggas got seniority.’ I stopped going there because it was like, ‘They lettin’ niggas go downstairs and get all the good shit, and then they throw the rest up here for us.’ [Laughs.]”

Recording

“I had my own little mic, but I didn’t do a lot of recording at the crib. I would go over to my man DOA’s crib in Long Island, and he would do my recording and engineering. We laid a lot of the verses right at my man’s crib. He had a little studio up in his attic. It would be me, my man Dino Brave when he was around, my man Knowledge. You know, my same friends was around. We’re up in there smokin’, chillin’. I’d come over there with my rhymes, lay a joint or two, see how they come out, and keep it pushin’. And the newer stuff I did on the album I laid at my man Ray West’s crib [who mixed Marcberg too].

“We knew we was making good music. We wasn’t going in the studio recording duds. I’m a professional. I don’t waste my time. I don’t need to make a hundred records to have a good ratio of songs. If you know what you’re doing, your ratio of good records to bad records should be good.”

Evolving/Self-Production

“I’m not a rapper that raps all day. I grew into being a recording artist. I was growing up in the streets, battle rapping and doing all that stuff back in the days. But when I signed my first deal, I learned how to make records that sound good versus me just ripping a track. That was a hard adjustment to make. You have to put your ego aside. It’s not about trying to blow your mind with the rapping, it’s about fitting in the pocket and making music that people wanna listen to. That’s two totally different things.

“That’s a mistake I made earlier in my career, even by using beats by other people. I wasn’t getting my opinion across on music. I was doing more collaborating rather than putting my full views out there of how I feel my music should go. Too much collaborating didn’t help me with my MCing process. When I started doing my own beats, it made me a better artist. I don’t have to rip your beat because everybody already thinks it’s hot because such and such did it. Now I have to compete on your beat so people are not saying, ‘Yeah, the beat is dope, but he ain’t doing nothing.’ When I got my own beats on, there’s no ego. I can just get right to business. It don’t matter who did the beat. So now I just gotta get in there and do what I do.”

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Track-by-Track Breakdown

1. “Pimptro”

“My man Jyere put me on to that flick, [The Cool World]. It’s a black and white film. It’s earlier, but it got a lot of the same actors as The Education of Sonny Carson. So I was like, ‘Yeah, I gotta use some shit from this.’ It’s all about a gun. Nobody used to have guns back in them days. It was rare to have a gun. These young dudes, they had little gangs. And this dude was trying to get a gun from a pimp. So he was trying to get the bread to get this gun so he could run the toughest gang out in New York. And the dialogue in the movie was dope, so I had to use some of it, for sure.

“That was absolutely inspired by Cuban Linx, The Chronic, all that shit. You want to sit down, and you want the album to feel like a picture.”

2. “It’s a Crime”

“I did that at Ray West’s crib. That was a later cut, added to what I already had done before I initially brought the album to Fat Beats. I felt like it was a good start for the album, just the feel of it. I thought it would help you digest the rest of the project, so I put that in the front. It’s a nice groove, and me just spitting on it. It’s to let niggas know, ‘If you listen to this project and you hear that cut first, you gonna be hearing a nigga get loose on this album.’ I felt like it was a good bar song. Like, expect nothing below that.”

3. “Whateva Whateva”

“There’s about three tracks I added late, and ‘Whateva Whateva’ is another one. I just thought that beat was so crack. I thought that beat was just ridiculous. That’s one of my favorite beats I did. So I felt like that should come next. If you wasn’t feeling like the first beat was all that, I felt like the next one you’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s nasty.’ Just off beat choice alone, that was the next one to go.

“I wasn’t thinking I wanted the hooks to be super-fly. The hooks were afterthoughts. Sometimes I’ll do songs and I’ll put the hook first, but[this album, I never did that. I would let the hook flow from the rhyme, and let the rhyme give me the hook. I wasn’t going into the record like, ‘The hooks gotta be fly.’ The rhymes gotta be fly, and the hooks gotta be supportive of the rhymes.

“My mental was—real shit—not even financially, I just knew artistically it had to work. I had been making music for too long in my life for me to put together a solo album and niggas not get it. To me, the album had to work artistically and musically. It wasn’t about financial success, or would the radio support. I just knew it had to be an album that niggas respected. It was about my artistic contribution to hip-hop. The music had to work, or I would’ve came out as a solo artist, and no one would’ve understood Roc Marciano.”

4. “Raw Deal”

“My man Jyere brought me that sample, and I put it in the drum machine and flipped it that night. Put the little stutter on it, added one of the kicks from the sample, and put it all together. That’s another one of them no-brainer beats. You get that sample and it’s like, ‘Of course this got to be on it.’ Word. That’s just one of those type of joints. He was like, ‘Damn, you move fast! You cooked that up quick!’ I was like, ‘What you expect? This is easy work.’

“All my homies played a part in this album. My man Jyere, Dino Brave, my man Knowledge, Schott Free, they was all around when I was making the shit. So anybody that had anything, they’d be like, ‘You should hear this.’ Skits from movies and shit. People definitely other than the main artist always contribute in order to make a masterpiece.

“That’s Richard Pryor and Max Julian in The Mack [at the end of the song]. It’s some funny shit, give the album some humor.”

5. “We Do It” ft. Ka

“I linked with Ka from the joint that I produced on the GZA’s album. It’s called ‘Firehouse,’ on the Pro Tools album. I rhymed on the album too, but not on that song. Dreddy Krueger was bringing producers to the table to help Genius put his project together, that’s how I got the call.

“He told me that they used one of the beats for the project. He played me some shit, and I’m expecting to hear the Genius, and he’s playing Ka, and Genius is just on the hook. And I’m like, ‘That nigga ill.’ Word up. I understood Ka immediately.

“Sure enough, after they put the record out, Ka reached out because he had liked the production so much on ‘Firehouse’ and he wanted to do some more records. I was like, ‘I ain’t got many beats besides the ones I’m making for my album. So we started kicking it, and I had a couple of joints I wanted to record to finish up the album, and ‘We Do It’ wound up being one of those cuts. We was at Ray West’s crib, niggas heard the beat, went back to the crib, wrote their rhyme, came back to the studio, and we knocked it out like that.

“Some people you meet along on your musical journey and become family. You just understand each other, you’re on the same page musically. Ka just happened to be one of them people. That was just a no-brainer. I’m a big Ka fan.”

6. “Snow”

“I wrote ‘Snow’ at my mom’s crib when I went over there for Sunday dinner. I wrote it on her couch, and my mom was cooking in the kitchen. I had ‘Snow’ on an iPod—all the beats I would make I’d put them on my iPod to ride and listen to them, or to be able to listen to them whenever I wanted. I wrote at least the first verse and the hook, and I was like, ‘This gonna come out aiight.’

“Even if people didn’t feel a certain way about the rhymes, I knew for sure that I made a classic beat. When people started coming to me for production, they’d be like, ‘Can I get a beat like ‘Snow?’’ But it’s like, ‘’Snow’ don’t happen every day in the studio, my G.’ Every time you turn on the beat machine, it ain’t gonna pop off like that.

‘I remember I found that record at Academy. When you hear shit like that, it’s like, ‘I don’t care what it costs.’ Luckily, the price on the record wasn’t crazy. $25, $30 record. But when you hear a certain sample you like, you’re like, ‘I’ll buy it.’ When you hear some fly shit, you don’t care if it’s $150, $200. You immediately look at the price, and be like, ‘Okay, that’s feasible. I’m buying a classic.’”

7. “Ridin Around”

“I thought all the beats just had to be fire. I had something to prove as a producer. When I found the record and heard the switch and everything in it, and took the loop and put drums to it, I was like, ‘Aiight, this is definitely one of those feelings that the album needs in order for it to be well-rounded.’ It wasn’t necessarily gritty. It had a soulful sound, and an uplifting feel. It wasn’t that dirty, like, ‘We out here fucked up’ kind of beat. It was one of those beats that make you feel good. But it was still hard. A full album needs those moments.

“That’s my man Lisaan’dro rapping. He’s one of my homies who I grew up with, one of my good friends. A good guy. He was around, in there chillin’ and shit, and was like, ‘Yo fam, let me take the end away.’ I was like, ‘Go ahead, nigga. We all in here together. Take it away.’ So he hopped on the end. It was one of them organic moments in the studio, up in there high, smokin’, drinkin’. The record’s coming out good, niggas is feeling good, like, ‘Go up in there, nigga.’

“He spits every now and then. He ain’t a dude that’s rappin’ professionally. None of my niggas are trying to be rappers actually. I make music, and some of them just happen to have talent, and if they feel like letting off a shot, they’ll let off a shot and say what they wanna say.”

8. “Panic”

“I was running around, and me and my man ended up in Guitar Center. He was looking to buy something. I went over to the microKORG, it’s an analog keyboard, and it has an old look. So I knew I would get some good sounds from it. I was in there just playing it, and I was like, ‘Yo, I’ma buy this shit.’

“I wasn’t using it much, but I made a few beats with it. ‘Panic’ was one of those beats. I had the sample, and one day I started playing with the microKORG with that little sample. I don’t play keyboard, but I caught some good keys. [Laughs.] Word up. I was playing along to the sample, looped what I was playing, and it was like, ‘This is ready to rhyme to.’”

9. “Thugs Prayer”

“I found that record when I found ‘Snow,’ same spot, same day. I knew I had found two definites. I was playing that record, and I knew immediately, ‘Oh, that’s gonna be on the album.’ When I heard that, I was like, ‘Damn, I was looking for that!’ That shit resonated with me. It was one of those moments where you feel like the universe is coming full circle. That record brought me to times in my life that needed to be expressed on the project.

“That was about a dark period. I had lost my best friend. Me and the homie was kicking it real tough at the time, and he just passed away. It was a dark period, and I figured I’d share a little bit of that on the record.”

10. “Pop”

“I remember when I found that loop, I was like, ‘I got some drums that could go with that.’ I thought the loop was real sinister. That’s another standout in my eyes. We was all at my man DOA’s crib, and my man Kenyatt was there. And when I was done, he was like, ‘Damn man, that’s some hard rapping.’ [Laughs.] I felt like it was more of that Ice Cube, storytelling shit. That’s where it brought me. It’s some of that old school, storytelling rapping over a real hard beat. It was a good fit for the project.

“Axl Rose came to my session at Electric Lady when we was mixing ‘Pop.’ My man Vegas who’s a club promoter used to run with him, and he brought him to the session, and he was vibing to ‘Pop.’ He gave me some love for it, said he liked it. He was real cool, just one of the dudes hanging out in the studio that night.”

11. “Jungle Fever”

“I wanted to make sure I had a concept record on the album. I wanted something slick and conceptual that people would have to really listen to, like, if you don’t listen close you might miss it. I really don’t remember how I came up with the idea of that being the concept actually, it kind of just happened. As I was writing the rhyme, it came to me.

“When you’re on that coke, you’re on that girl. When you’re on that dope, you’re on that boy. So it’s that white girl, so I started finding a niche on how to play it. Then the concept started growing as I was writing it, and I was like, ‘This can actually stretch the length of a song. I can get a song out of this.’ It ended up being my concept record on the album, but it happened organically. Once the concept was coming to me, and I had the full direction, I was like, ‘To call it ‘Jungle Fever’ is a no-brainer.’”

12. “Don Shit”

“Honestly, I don’t really remember much of when I laid ‘Don Shit.’ The homies was around I know that. But one of the moments that sticks out about making ‘Don Shit’ was the drive home, and I was playing it in the car, and that shit was knockin’!! That shit sounded crazy, like something I had never heard before. It was definitely a keeper. On the low, ‘Don Shit’ is one of my favorite cuts off that album.”

13. “Marcberg”

“That skit actually happened, but the recording wasn’t actually me in jail. It was art imitating life. [Laughs.] I did get locked up on the way to the studio. Smoking weed in the car, driving too fuckin’ fast. Got caught speeding, cops smelled the bud. Had to sit in jail and wait ‘til morning to get out, and I missed my session.

“But, I already had the verse. It was actually a verse that I did at the crib on my own mic, and it had a distortion to it that sounded like I was on the phone, so that’s what gave me the idea. I recorded it at the crib, and it wasn’t a good recording. But it still sounded ill—it was still a keeper. So I put the skit of me getting locked up on the way to the studio to record to that verse. Voila.”

14. “Hide My Tears”

“That got pulled because of sample clearance issues. Somebody found out we used it, so I said, ‘Give them their little cheese, I’m not trying to be in court on no suing shit. And to make sure we have no further issues, take that bitch off the album.’ We paid them for it, but we couldn’t continue to use it.

“People who already heard the album knew what the album was, and that it was on the album. That’s gonna be a special edition. People who got that got the real album. But, I don’t know. Other people that don’t have that, they got ‘Scarface Nigga.’ So you’re still getting a quality product either way.

“I take what the beat gives me. My job as an MC is to flow on there and not fuck the groove up. So I went in there, and I wrote the rhymes and laid them like that because it felt natural. It wasn’t about having a double-time song on the album, because a lot of people was doing double-time rapping. But that beat was so hard—that was the best way to flow on it.

“I’m definitely gonna put my own shit on it, but it was a double-time beat. You can’t use certain cadences on a double-time beat. You can, but I just wanted to make sure the record sounded good. And I thought it came out aiight for me rhyming in a double-time cadence. I had an ill Pete Rock double-time joint on Strength and Honor.”

15. “Shoutro”

“I did the hook in the studio with Ray. I had the melody in mind, and Ray was like, ‘Yeah, run with that.’ So we put it together, and then we killed ‘em with the shoutouts at the end. No one was doing shoutout records anymore. So I was like, ‘If we feel it’s a classic project, why not end it in a classic way. Do a little rhyming, and then at the end it’s just shoutouts over a dope beat.’

“What’s crazy is, I caught that loop when me and my man went upstate to see this lady who was selling her collection. It was on the way to some other shit we was doing. We went up there, and the lady had a bunch of bullshit fuckin’ records. But this bitch had like two crates of CD, but not new CDs, like ‘80s, early ‘90s. Just a bunch of shit that was foreign to me. And that sample was in that CD case. I went through a bunch of CDs, and I caught some good music listening to those CDs. Sometimes people miss what happened between like ‘89 and ‘91. You still had a lot of musicians making music. I wasn’t listening to all the alternative rock groups at the time. I don’t know what kind of music it was, but I know I got it out of that CD case.”

*Bonus* “Scarface Nigga”

Marcberg was done, but I was still making music. I felt like there was no need to stop. I still had leftover tracks, and ‘Scarface Nigga’ was one of them. ‘Scarface Nigga’ and ‘Pop’ have the same drums, so that’s why I didn’t want to them both for the album. I just used them differently. It was around the time that we were re-pressing it, and ‘Hide My Tears’ was coming off, so I wanted to replace it with something. And I replaced it with that. The track alone hit so hard. You can’t miss that one. It’s one of those powerful sounding songs, the same way ‘Pop’ is. Those drums pick everything up.

“I got better with the rhymes on this. As I was recording Marcberg, I was getting better and better, and more comfortable as an artist.”

*Bonus* “Snow (Remix)” ft. Sean Price

“P just reached out like, ‘Yo fam, send me that ‘Snow’ beat.’ I was like, ‘Aiight nigga, here you go.’ I didn’t know P like that. I was definitely a fan of his music, so I knew of him. I just respected his music as an artist. I was like, ‘If P wanna get on it, I ain’t mad at that.’ I wouldn’t have sent that record to anybody just because they was somebody that had a name. But I respect P. When he asked for it, I was like, ‘Damn, that makes sense.’ It’s kind of weird how that happened. He was the man for the job. He killed it. And I didn’t expect nothing less. I knew he was probably reaching out because he felt like I felt about the beat. That beat is crack. That’s murder.

“I wasn’t even there that night to do the record. I was just there. I came through chillin’. I was backstage, way behind the DJ. I wasn’t on stage where the people could see me. He turned around, and he peeped me. And I was like, ‘Yo, this nigga gonna pull me out.’ [Laughs.] Sure enough, he was like, ‘Yo put that ‘Snow’ shit on.’ That shit was funny. That’s peace.”

Cover Art

“I shot that in Queens. I took the picture in this alleyway with mad graffiti. And my man Charlie Edmiston visually imposed some the city behind it. I liked the picture that I had, but I didn’t feel it was for the cover of the album with the backdrop. I don’t know where the fuck the new shit he put in was at. But he put that shit together, and that shit looked dope. I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the album cover.’ I wanted it to be simple. Just, me. Then the fire and all that shit was added to the reissue.”

Marcberg Instrumentals

“I didn’t mind putting the instrumentals out, because I’m proud of them. I wanted those instrumentals to be out there so people could hear what I did. That was my production debut, and I wanted to not only make my mark as an MC but also a producer. And I felt like what I did with those songs was strong enough that even if someone raps on them, people know where that shit came from.”

Reception

“Damn man, that shit was so many blunts ago. I just know the reception was good, but it was slow. Eventually, it seemed like a lot of people reached about it. It wasn’t happening like back-to-back, with the phone going off every day. But every other month would pass, and you’d hear something, or this person would say this. I can’t really put my finger on one particular thing, I just know that it opened infinite doors for me. It really cleared up any confusion about who I was as an artist, as you can see with all the fuckin’ features that followed up. [Laughs.] I ended up making music after that with pretty much everybody.

“But still, a lot of people are not convinced with one album. But to follow up with Reloaded was like, ‘Okay, he ain’t no fluke.’”

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Questlove and Jay-Z Debating About Marcberg

“I had other run-ins with Jay. There was talk with us in the past about doing some business as an artist. But I had a deal, I couldn’t just come over there. This is the Hard Knock Life years. He’s an intelligent dude, so I’m sure he remembers. But a few times he had stepped to me about doing something with Roc-A-Fella, and it didn’t pan out. I had a deal already, so it was what it was.

“As far as debates with Jay over Marcberg, maybe he feels like it’s not as hot as Questlove feels it is. Who knows? If they’re talking about it, I appreciate it. In my opinion, it’s all about people wanting to share good music with each other. If he loves it, he’s probably putting Jay on to it, and they’re talking about it. Either way, if people are listening to it, I appreciate it. That’s what I put it out there for. I ain’t put it out there to keep it a secret. I’m glad people fuck with it on different levels. I think more than anything, I’m just surprised when people I don’t expect to like the projects like the projects, like singers like Mayer Hawthorne or a guy like John Mayer, or Axel Rose. That’s when you’re breaking down barriers.”

“For a remix? I’d put Jay on ‘Raw Deal’ or something like that.”

Marcberg vs. Reloaded

Marcberg is the foundation to the house. It’s that simple. That’s the framework. It’s the first brick. It’s the blueprint. The original stone that started it off. To me, it’s kind of been a tug of war between that and Reloaded. I’ve heard people say Reloaded made them appreciate Marcberg even more. It’s different. It depends on the person.

“I don’t have a favorite, but I have favorites for different reasons. I like Marcberg for its production. I think by Reloaded, I’m a better rapper than I was on Marcberg. And as a producer, I love how Reloaded is on the beats, too. That’s a tough one. If you wanna say for rapping, I’d say Reloaded. If you wanna say for production, I’d say Marcberg.”

*Congrats to Roc Marciano of the 10th anniversary of his classic debut. Special thank you to eskay and Jazz!!

The Making of No Need For Alarm with Del The Funky Homosapien

Interviews, Music, Published Material, The Good Old Days

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Twenty-five years ago this month, legendary Oakland MC Del the Funky Homosapien released his classic sophomore album No Need For Alarm. It was the follow-up to his debut I Wish My Brother George Was Here—which was produced mainly by his cousin Ice Cube and collaborator DJ Pooh—and it represented a shift in Del’s sound from P-Funk samples to a more jazzy, boom bap approach, putting his superior microphone (and production) techniques on center stage.

No Need For Alarm also helped showcase his Hieroglyphics crew, who were simultaneously putting themselves on the map in 1993 with stellar releases like Casual’s Fear Itself and Souls of Mischief’s 93 ‘til Infinity. It was a darker, harder, jazzier, and more lyric-based effort that represented the Hieroglyphics sound to the fullest, and it quickly became an album that true hip-hop heads in the ‘90s held near and dear to their hearts in the Bay Area and beyond.

To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of Del’s sophomore masterpiece, I dug up my 2013 NahRight interview with him, where we discussed No Need For Alarm in depth. Del took us back to the time of the album’s creation to talk about the shift in sound between the first and second LPs, his stint living in New York and hanging out with Q-Tip, the Beastie Boys, Kurious Jorge, and Dante Ross, collaborating with his Hiero homies, and much more, including a track-by-track breakdown of the entire album, his involvement in the cover art, and an apology to a now well-known music journalist who he dissed hard on one of the album’s final cuts. This is The Making of No Need For Alarm with Del the Funky Homosapien.

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The Shift in Sound from I Wish My Brother George Was Here to No Need For Alarm

Del The Funky Homosapien: “It definitely was a conscious decision. It’s a trip, because part of it was because my peer group at school. When I came out with my first album, they were kind of dissing me, because that’s not really what I was doing before then. So that affected me. I didn’t figure this out until years later down the line. I was all depressed and shit, and then it came to me, like, ‘Oh, that’s why I was trippin’? Why was I trippin’ off them motherfuckers?’

“The were clowning me because of the P-Funk, and from their point of view, only gangsters used that. It was stupid, but since it was my peer group, I wanted them fools to be proud of me—but they were dissing me. So that made me be like, ‘Okay, I’m about to get on this shit, and do it like this. I’ma show y’all.’ Even though the first album is probably the most fun I had doing anything. I had hella fun with Pooh, and learned hella stuff from Pooh. And a lot of the stuff on that album was stuff that I made. ‘Mistadobilina’ I made, ‘Pissin’ On Ya Steps’ I made, ‘Sunny Meadowz’ I made. It wasn’t like I didn’t get my say, but it was definitely directed by Cube.

“He wanted to make sure that the average motherfucker could take my shit in. Because my shit was super duper bugged out. Like, crazy. I had this song called ‘Concrete Trampoline’ before it came out. It was basically like, ‘You don’t bounce off it, you dead.’ He was like, ‘That shit ain’t gonna fly. You’re gonna have to talk a little bit different or something.’ [Laughs.] But I’m glad he did that. But for this album, I wanted to separate myself from that and just get on some MC shit.

“And I think Cube even felt bad about it, because in the press I said some shit. He was like, ‘Man, I thought you liked what we did.’ So I had it to explain to him over the years. But he’s proud though, that I stuck to what I do. He’s hella proud of that.

“I think I probably presented some songs to him at first and he was like, ‘Nah, man.’ So I was like, ‘Fuck it.’ I wasn’t trying to diss or nothing, but I was like, ‘I’m just gonna go to the head with this one.’

“You know who really supported me with that album? Sophia Chang. She actually signed Souls of Mischief and Casual to Jive Records. She liked the sound from them, but also, she did a lot of work in the industry, especially at that time. And she knew what was up with the real shit. I think she was trying to sign Das EFX, and when Redman’s album was out, she had that. She was hyper over Wu before they came out. She was up on her shit. So she heard what I had, and was like, ‘This is really good, Del. You should go forth with this.’ When other people were like, ‘I don’t know,’ she was like, ‘Nah, fuck that. This shit is hot.’

“A Tribe Called Quest was at Jive. I actually knew Q-Tip at the time, and Jungle Brothers, too. They were definitely an influence. And De La too. But lyrically, I was probably drawing more from Kool G Rap, you know what I’m saying? Some exterminators, on the lyrical tip. The first album was more of my personality, whereas the second album was more technical.”

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In The Lab

“It was fun making the album, but I think I was depressed most of the time. I don’t know, I guess I’m just a dark person in general. I’m still like that to this day. But the way it was produced is kind of like how we would do our demos. We had shit done on 4-tracks before we went to the studio. There’s a few joints where Casual came to the studio with a beat, like ‘Catch a Bad One,’ and I just wrote the shit right there. I think Domino might have came with a few like that, too. But it was mainly me and my engineer Matt Kelley in the studio most of the time. I learned a lot from him, too. We’d been head to head for so many years that I started picking up how to engineer from him.

“I don’t think I was sober very much. I used to get kind of fucked up, whatever it was. I fucked with a lot of shit, to a certain extent. I wasn’t all heroined out. But definitely mushrooms, tabs, whatever. I was on some shit. I was on my little rock and roll psychedelic shit. But I don’t feel like any of that had anything to do with what I was doing with my music, because my music always comes first.

“The way I do my shit is I’m usually by myself. I was probably at my mom’s house or whatever. What I normally do to this day is I’m always making shit. I think I ran stuff by Sophia, and she said she liked the songs, so I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna go with them,’ then just went to the studio and dropped them. When Hiero cats came in, whatever they wanted to do, I would let them do.

“My setup was real basic. The SP-1200 and a 4-track, and me writing my shit. Back then, I didn’t know music theory or nothing. It was pretty much all by ear, and sampling whatever records I happened to have. The jazz shit was less of a style, and more of a practicality thing. The jazz records were mostly instrumental, so it was just easier to sample shit from those records.

“My father was really into music, so he had a lot of stuff. But I really started getting into digging more when I started hanging out with Dante Ross and with Domino. That, and with the Beastie Boys. When I hung out with the Beastie Boys a couple times, and I saw the crazy funk records they were playing, I was like, ‘Man, these whiteboys got all this!’ It tripped me out, like, ‘Man, I gotta explore.’ This was like right before I started doing No Need For Alarm.

“I was with Q-Tip when I went to the Beastie Boys’ studio. Matter of fact, I did shrooms with Q-Tip, and it was the first time I did shrooms. I was high as hell in the studio, and I had to go to the bathroom, and I thought there was a monster in the bathroom. Then Mike D came down and was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ I was like, ‘Man, I went to the bathroom, and I was trippin’.’ He was like, ‘Man, you need to get you something to eat. Let’s go to the store.’ So he took me to 7-11 or some shit, and bought me some Fruit Loops and some milk, and was like, ‘Here, just eat this. You’ve just gotta get something in your stomach.’ That’s how I met them fools.”

Track-By-Track Breakdown

1. “You’re in Shambles” (Produced by Snupe)

“Snupe added ‘You’re in Shambles’ last. He came with the beat for ‘You’re in Shambles,’ and was like, ‘Man, I’ve got this perfect beat for you.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, that’s the shit.’ That was the last song I did.

“I put it first because it just set the mood off to me. And plus with the Ice Cube sample in there, it pretty much was reintroducing you, and bridging it between the first and the second album, too. So that was probably why we used it as the first song, too.”

2. “Catch a Bad One” (Produced by Casual)

“Casual is one of my better friends. When I used to do shit in high school, I used to buddy up with him quite a bit. And he was a solo artist like I was, so we had a like a friendly competition. We kept each other on our toes. I think we just got along real well, and understood each other. And I think that just translated with the beat. I think he was going for something kind of wild too, like, ‘I bet you Del’s gonna like this.’ We used to always listen to each other’s stuff. We listened to each other’s stuff more than we listened to other people’s stuff. We just thought that we were the tightest.

“I think the singles were kind of left up to the crew and to Dante to choose. I think ultimately I let Dante make the call on that, because I don’t think I was too sure. I think he just felt like that was one of the sicker ones.”

3. Wack MC’s (Produced by Del)

“That’s more of my typical, default type of song I would do, where I’m just screaming on people. I was living with A-Plus at the time, we were roommates. And we both had a little music station in different parts of the house. He’d be making heat over here, and I’d be somewhere else making some heat. And I remember I was over there in the corner or whatever making that shit, and that was one of the beats I hella liked and wanted to use.

“A-Plus is one of my best friends. I’ve known him since like second or third grade. So us living together was a real creative thing. We were always coming up with some hot shit.”

4. “No Need For Alarm” (Produced by Domino)

“Domino was our secret weapon. His knowledge of the funk was so extensive. He used to stay out here near Groove Merchant, one of the bigger digger spots, even before digging was digging. So, he knows his shit. He was making our hits. I think he just picked what he thought I would sound good over, and I’m not too picky. I roll with whatever as long as it sounds good. So I was like, ‘Okay, let’s go.’ To this day, I’m eager to do whatever.

“There probably was a deeper meaning for naming the album No Need For Alarm. To tell you the truth, I don’t know why I named it that. It might’ve been because that was the title of the song on the album, and I felt like the album title had to be named after a song on the album, so maybe that’s why I did it. Maybe it had a deeper meaning like, ‘It sounds hella different, but it’s still me.’ So maybe it meant that, too.”

5. “Boo Boo Heads” (Produced by SD50’s)

“A boo boo head is like a nicer word for bitch, basically. So that’s what that song is about. Most of the girls that I had been out with—to this day really, except very recently—have been hoodrats. And that’s just how it is. Hoodrats are some bitches. A lot of times, they want their way, and if they don’t get their way, they’re gonna throw a fucking fit. So that was just my way of letting off some steam about it.

“Kurious Jorge, that’s my dude. I used to hang with him a lot. I used to be Uptown with Jorge a lot of the time. And Doom and Subroc from KMD, they used to be around a lot, too. The whole Constipated Monkeys crew. Jorge was with us around that time, and I was like, ‘Man, you gotta do something on here.’ So that’s how he get on it.

“To this day, I get along with Dante Ross very well. He gave me the keys to his crib, and let me stay there. It just came together hella good. I was living in New York for a minute, for a few months. So I was really getting my MC vibe on, feeling like I’m really doing this shit. And he came with some heat, and that’s how it happened. We did it at Dante’s crib.”

6. “Treats For The Kiddies” (Produced by SD50’s)

“The beat just had that vibe to it. It didn’t strike me with a particular emotion, it just seemed like a battle tune, so that’s how I came with it on that. I think I was trying to impress Dante, too, because I looked up to Dante.”

7. “Worldwide” ft. Unicorn (Produced by Casual)

“Unicron was me. It was a joke, like, ‘I got this kid, he’s a badass. I’m just trying to help him out before he gets thrown in jail.’ So the story I came up with when people would ask me about him is, ‘Oh, he got jumped, he went to jail. He’s on lockdown. He ain’t gonna be out for a while.’ [Laughs.] Then after a while I started just telling people, ‘That’s me, dude.’ And they’d be like, ‘What?!’ They couldn’t believe it. I did it just to be able to say the shit I couldn’t really say as Del, and get away with it. You know, talking about hoes and shit. More crime-related shit. Shit I wanted to say, but I couldn’t say as Del.

“I did have one more appearance from Unicron, on a joint I did with Swollen Members, ‘Left Field.’ That was the last time he got his shine.”

8. “No More Worries” ft. A-Plus, Casual and Snupe (Produced by Domino)

“That was basically like one of them joints where everyone gets a chance to spit. A lot of times, we’d be making shit, and there’d be hella heads there, and everybody would want to get on it. So we’d make room for everyone to rap on there.

“Anything we were doing on the album was just a translation of what we were really doing, outside of making records. That was just a representation of what we did. We made hella posse cuts, but that was just one that got out to the public. The job of recording shit is to capture what’s really there. So that’s really what we would be doing. And that wasn’t something we had before. We made that in the studio, even though we made it like we weren’t in the studio. It just happened to be that we were making a record at that time.

I don’t think that much thought went into it. We were happy that we were making records, but we did it the same way as when we were making demos. We knew it was going to be for the album, but so what? We treated it the same way as if we were making a demo. But it was great that we were getting paid for it now. ‘For doing this shit? We do this all the time.’

9. “Wrong Place” (Produced by Del)

“I won’t say those stories are necessarily true, but those are the type of things that be happening. I took from all types of experiences from where I stay at, and what I’ve been through, and made up a couple of little things for each verse that represented ‘being in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ It’s kind of a cautionary tale, but I didn’t really put it out there like that.

It was only two verses at first. Then, we decided to put it out as a single, and Dante was like, ‘Damn, this is a dope song, I want to do it as a single, but you only got two verses. It needs to be longer.’ Which was a trip, because usually motherfuckers be like, ‘You need to make it shorter.’ But he was like, ‘Nah, this is dope. It needs to be longer. Add another verse.’

So the third verse was about when I got in trouble coming back from Amsterdam, and how I felt about it. Me and my boy Kwame, who used to manage me at the time, were coming back from Amsterdam. He had dreadlocks, right? So right off the bat, they strip search us in the airport. So they take my wallet and look at my I.D., and a little crumb of hash comes rolling out. I guess I forgot about it. So they’re like, ‘Aha!’

“So I’m like 21, laughing at them like, ‘Come on, dude. I can’t even smoke that if I wanted to smoke it. You know, dude. Just throw it away.’ So he’s like, ‘You think this is a joking matter? Trafficking drugs is a serious matter.’

“So they detained me in the airport, and I couldn’t leave until I paid a $500 fine. Then I had to fly back to go to court. And the judge was pissed off, like, ‘Why are you wasting my time for this fucking bullshit?’ So he gave me probation, and said, ‘If you finish probation and this little drug class, we’ll wipe it off your record.’ But it was a big ass deal in my mind, like, ‘I’m gonna go to jail for this little ass crumb.”

10. “In and Out” (Produced by Del)

“That definitely was a song from the original demo that I had for No Need For Alarm. Actually, the album was called Problem Child at first, and I changed it to No Need For Alarm later. So when it was still Problem Child, ‘In and Out’ was one of the songs that was on there. And that one stayed. That’s one of the joints that was organically made at the house. Nothing was changed about it. Same shit that was on the demo, that’s what it was. It was just one of those songs I would make, just having fun.

“That was Matt Kelley who made the chorus pan from one ear to the other. I learned a lot of little stuff like that from him.”

11. “Don’t Forget” (Produced by Domino)

“That was pretty self-explanatory, really. But it was basically about cats getting large, and their heads getting swole, forgetting their origins. Which you know, with no foundation, your whole structure will collapse. People don’t seem to get this, so that was my two cents at the time.

“Dante actually introduced Domino to me, knowing he was in the Bay Area. So indirectly, Dante helped Hiero survive, because Dom is the main dude behind preserving this thing really, as far as actual work, business-wise. That’s aside from the music, but it’s important to state. He should get that proper. So the No Need LP was the beginning of the working relationship going on with Hiero in general and Dom.”

12. “Miles To Go” (Produced by Jay-Biz)

“Jay-Biz to me was like a musical genius. That was a track he had submitted for my shit that he did on the SP. But for some reason, I felt that he was getting hella more out the SP then I was getting. I was like, ‘Damn, this beat is so tight. I gotta do something with this.’ I don’t even think he appreciated it like I did. But I was like, ‘I’m using this shit.’ It was another one of those songs where I just went in. I could do those type of songs in my sleep. Those are the most fun for me to do, because I can just say anything, and not be stuck to one thing. And he did the cuts on there, too. He’s an incredible DJ, too.

13. “Check it Ouuut” (Produced by Del)

“The writer I was dissing was Danyel Smith. And I want to apologize for that now, because I was young and immature. And I really was hurt by what she did. Basically, she did a review of a Hieroglyphics show, and this was the early days of Hieroglyphics. And she was kind of downplaying everything we were doing, like, ‘I don’t see the big deal. They’re just using these big thesaurus words. They call people ‘fool’ a lot.’ And I’m like, ‘Why is she trying to make it like we’re calling people foolish? That’s just the slang.’ She was trying to make seem like we were thinking we were better than people. And I’m like, ‘It’s not even like that at all.’ And she was like, ‘What about the old days, when the Too $horts and…’ She was on that tip. It was like, ‘Oh, she’s trying to play us.’

“So ‘Check it Out’ was the last song I did for the album. And I did it specifically to diss her. That was my focus. So I went in on her. But I was saying some rude shit. I don’t even know what I was saying, but she didn’t deserve all that. So I apologize for that shit, for real. I was immature. But honestly, I was really hurt by what she wrote about us.

“I didn’t say her name or nothing. I wasn’t gonna be like that. I don’t know if she knew or not, but I was putting it out there to where if she heard it, and she felt any kind of way about it, she would know I was talking about her. Nobody else would know. And that second verse was about her, too. I was really trying to put her on, like, ‘This is the way you should be listening to it. Apparently, you’re not listening to us like this, or else you wouldn’t be saying this shit.’ I was trying to educate her. But again, not saying her name, so anybody could get what they were going to get out of it, too. But it was specifically for her. I think the whole shit was about her.

I think I needed like one song to finish the album, and I was hella pissed, so I was like, ‘Fuck this shit.’ I still do that to this day. I got different chicks or whatever that try to fuck my life up, and I’ll go in on them on a song.

14. “Thank Youse” (Produced by A-Plus)

“The concept behind it really helped me as far as growing as a musician. That was really important. I just wanted to thank the public for listening to me, and supporting me, and digging Hiero and our music as a whole. I wanted to put it out there, like, ‘This ain’t for us to be syphoning money from y’all. We need y’all to do this.’ And I guess it’s vice versa, because if they want to hear some dope shit, they need us too.

“But a lot of artists, I feel like they start getting gassed, and they think it’s all about them. But it’s not like that. If anything, it’s all about the public. Without them, we can’t exist. Period. So I feel like as a musician, you should be sympathic to the listener and what they can tolerate. I don’t think you should let them dictate what you do, because you’ll never get a rest. You can’t please everybody, and they’ll be telling you to bend over backwards. But you should be sympathetic to what they can tolerate. That was the early stages of me understanding.

“That was one of the joints from when we were living together. I wanted to make sure he got on there. And the vibe of that, that’s something that me and A-Plus share. We’re really are like people people. We feel people, and we appreciate that we can do this shit to the level we do it. We were there from the early days, in the early ‘80s, when it wasn’t even a possibility to be coming out with shit. We were just fans of the culture. So to be able to do it this far, we really appreciate it. So I think he was co-signing that idea, too.

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“Undisputed Champs” ft. Pep Love and Q-Tip (Produced by Del)

“We did ‘Undisputed Champs’ around the time they did Midnight Marauders. I think they had just finished it. They were taking photographs for the album cover, which I’m on. It might’ve been before that. Q-Tip had a big party, and something was going on. I just remember I was drunk as fuck. I drank like two 40s. We would drink half the 40, and pour gin in the 40 with some orange juice. So I had like two of them. So I was like, gone. And that’s when we did that shit. Busta Rhymes was at the studio, and Ricky Powell was at the studio, too. He took pictures of us. And Busta really got to see how hard I went with the production that night. He saw my disc box and was like, ‘Damn son, okay.’ He thought the ‘Undisputed Champs’ beat was nice, too.”

Album Artwork

“Pretty much, I did do the design. I just didn’t know how to use the equipment to make it. So I just had to relay it to the art department. And Elektra was always really good with helping me do whatever I needed to do to get my ideas out. I’d go to the art department, and they’d make it real, like the way I had it in my head.

“I think I might’ve even brought in some comic books to give them some examples of how I wanted it to look, with the panels and shit to make it look like a cover. And for the photos, I took the photographer out to some spot that I surveyed out in Oakland, in Chinatown around where I used to stay at.

“Whoever peeped that out and thought it was tight, that’s why I did it. That was that little pop culture, where I was trying to put it out there like, ‘If you can relate to comic books, I’m one of y’all.’”

Two Decades Later…

“I don’t listen to it very often, though at the time I did, but that’s because to me, there’s a lot of imperfections. Lyrically, I feel like I could have pushed a little bit harder. I think it’s sort of scatterbrained. But I was a kid.

“I think a lot of the animosity I had, I let it leak out in the wrong way. Like, I was saying some crazy shit on there. If it came out today, I’d probably be under way more scrutiny. So a lot of things I wasn’t proud of saying, but it is what it is.

“I’m mostly proud of that first album, because it really captured everything. But I do appreciate the second album for being that first raw energy, and letting motherfuckers now that, ‘We ill out here in the Bay Area. Iller than you might have thought. We got our own shit, too.’ And for that reason, a lot of people be like, ‘Man, that’s the fucking shit!’ And I think it’s more that aggressive energy that they were picking up on, more than any particular thing that I was saying, because that might have went under the radar.

“One thing that annoys me—and I try not to let it annoy me but I’ll be honest it does—is the fact that a lot of people can’t get past that album. And I’m a futuristic dude. Like, even new cats that come out today, I enjoy them. But a lot of fans of that album, they’re not leaving that album. I’m like, ‘Okay, that’s cool, but check out some of this other shit I got. I feel like it’s way iller than that.’ And they’ll be like, ‘Oh, okay, but man, that’s the shit, though!’ They can’t get off it. But I feel like if they really listened to some of my newer shit, they’d probably be like, ‘Oh my fucking God! Dude is off the hook! He kept going!’

“But it is what it is though. I really appreciate people having that love for it. And I never let on to people like, ‘Okay, that’s kind of annoying me that you’re saying that.’ Because that’s not what they’re trying to tell me. And to myself, I’ve had to say, ‘You know, that’s not what they mean.’ But I do try to tell people to listen to some of my newer shit. And I’m sure some of them listen eventually.”

Special thanks to the OG Dante Ross for making this interview happen! Photos courtesy of UpNorthTrips.com.

Interview: Slick Rick Remembers His Debut Album On Its 30th Anniversary

Articles, Interviews, Music, Published Material

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I had the honor of interviewing Slick Rick, Lyor Cohen and Bill Adler for Urban Legends’ 30th anniversary celebration of The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. Read HERE.

Also, pre-order the Urban Legends re-release of the album HERE, and stream his new unreleased track “Snakes of The World Today” below.

In The Lab with Mac Miller (NahRight, 2013)

Interviews, Music, Published Material

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Back in 2013, I had the honor of interviewing Mac Miller for NahRight’s In The Lab series. I remember sitting on the steps outside the Rostrum office in SoHo with him on a weekday morning, asking him questions about his creative process while he smoked cigarettes. He was engaged and interesting and fun, and it turned out to be one of the defining interviews of the series. 

I remember about halfway through the interview, two kids walking by on the opposite side of the street spotted Mac. They were instantly starstruck, and ran across the street to say what’s up. I can’t remember if they took a pic or not (probably did), but it was the same excitement level I would’ve had if I saw my favorite rapper on the street as a teenager. And Mac was cool, showing genuine love back to them with the sincerity and charm that only he had.

As we walked back inside the office to wrap up our session together, I handed Mac a Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester t-shirt, autographed by some of the kids I worked with at my full-time job who were huge Mac Miller fans. He loved it, and even filmed a “thank you” video I could share with them upon my return back to the club. He also signed a few pics to give to the kids.

Mac’s passing has been a huge blow to the hip-hop community. He was the glue that connected different crews and generations of artists—a guy that was respected for not only his MC skills, but for his talent as a songwriter, producer and musician. It’s so sad that his life had to end at a time when it felt like he was about to experience a new beginning.

In light of NahRight’s now defunct status, I’d like to share a re-published version of Mac’s In The Lab feature. There are some great insights into the making of Watching Movies With the Sound Off, and plenty of gems about his creative process and studio lifestyle.

RIP Mac, we’re all gonna miss you…

In The Lab with Mac Miller (NahRight, 2013)

Mac Miller is an artist in the truest sense of the word. He likes to create, from scratch. It’s abundantly clear after listening to his new album Watching Movies With the Sound Off that this rap shit isn’t just some breezy hobby that he turned into a career. No, Mac cares about his craft, and he’s not afraid to try new things and experiment. Don’t get it twisted. Just because dude has a reality show on MTV doesn’t mean he hasn’t been putting in heavy work. This young man is becoming one of the most fearless songwriters and innovative hip-hop producers right before our eyes. Real talk.

To find out more about how Mac created the music for his impressive new LP—which drops this Tuesday—we linked up with him yesterday afternoon at the Rostrum Records office in lower Manhattan to talk about the home studio ambience at his California crib, how he constructs his beats and rhymes, and his favorite movies to watch with the sound off for inspiration. Plus, we found out what it was like for him working with Pharrell on their upcoming collaborative EP Pink Slime, and how in the hell he got a verse on his album from the magician himself, Jay Electronica.

Step inside the lab with Mac Miller aka Larry Fisherman, the now generation of rap’s new spiritual leader.

Recording Watching Movies With the Sound Off at Home

Mac Miller: “I recorded the whole thing at the crib. One song was recorded at Alchemist’s, and one song was recorded at ID Labs [in Pittsburgh]. And then, two songs were recorded on tour. But all the work was done at the house.

“My home studio used to be the pool house. Now, it’s like a dungeon. No windows, very secluded, and very separated from the world. Real vibey. It looks like a sanctuary. We call it ‘The Sanctuary.’ Very religious. We got a dope set-up. Bean bags to sit on, candles everywhere. Dope carpets. Weird statues. Red lights. And all the equipment necessary.

“I make my beats on Logic. And sometimes Pro Tools. And I’m trying to get into Ableton. First beat I ever made was on an MP. I used to make beats on an MP all the time. Then I got the new MP, and I didn’t like it, because it felt like a computer program. It wasn’t like a stand-alone thing. I wanted to get an MP to like, play on. So I stopped using it.

“Recording for me is a real night-time thing. I do a lot during the delirious hours, where you can’t really formulate sentences properly. But I like how my mind works. But then, sometimes I switch it up and do the daytime. And the set-up during the day is crazy because you open the door, and the whole room is different. The sunlight hits, and it becomes a completely different vibe. But I barely swim in my pool. I thought I would use it so much. I just started to use it more.

“Sometimes, the homies are chilling. Sometimes, when it gets to the crazy hours, it’s just me. But most of the time, it’s just me and Josh, though. Josh is like my engineer. I met him when I went out to L.A., and he recorded all of Macadelic. And then, he recorded all of this project, and a whole bunch of other stuff I’ve been doing. He basically lives in my house, because we record so much.”

Studio Essentials

“I don’t like to eat in the studio. If I do eat while I’m working, I go upstairs and eat in the kitchen. But drugs, alcohol, weed in there, for sure. It’s gotta be a blunt. I like that more than anything else.”

Girls in the Studio

“Every now and then. But girls always think they want to go to the studio, and then, the music making process is way more boring than they thought. So they just end up dippin’. They think it’s gonna be fun and exciting, but it’s really just a beat being made, which is like, not fun. Unless you’re really interested in that type of stuff. But they’re usually just trying to party, so Jimmy takes them upstairs. [Laughs.] But I did have sex in the studio before. That’s tight. [Laughs.]”

Recording On Tour

“If you want to spend the money, you can get the full studio bus, which we did before. It’s pretty sick. You have a real studio in the back of your bus. At other times, it’s more a set-up like, bring out a keyboard and some little speakers. And sometimes I like to just record straight to the laptop, and use the laptop microphone. It has it’s own little vibe to it.”

Favorite Movies to Watch with the Sound Off

Beetlejuice, because the claymation is really sick. Zombies Vs. Strippers, when I don’t want to think too deeply. It’s a movie about a bunch of strippers who take guns and kill a bunch of zombies. But it’s dope. It’s something light.

Birds From The Gods is a good one, because it’s just like, majestic flight. And The Secret Life of Plants, that’s another good one. And underwater documentaries. At times, I’ll throw some action movie on if I want to get crazy. Or a horror movie. But usually it’s more vibey. I’m more into the spiritual stuff.”

Inspiration

“For real, I listen to a bunch of different music all the time. But I try not to listen and then work. I try to create something right out of my mind. I try not to listen to a song first, because then you end up making a song that sounds like what you were just listening to. And then you feel less proud or accomplished because you feel like you just did somebody else’s shit.

“A lot of it comes from life. Like, from having really crazy conversations with people, and taking that as inspiration. Things that you talk about. And a lot of times it’s from trying to conjure things up in my mind, and come up with something. I like to create things from nothing, rather than take things from something.

“Inspiration is always gonna come, but I just like it to come naturally and organically. Inspiration might come from walking down the street and hearing a song playing at a bar, and you just like it. You didn’t plan on hearing it. Then it’s like the universe sent me [that inspiration] rather than me trying to find it.”

Writing Rhymes

“Pretty much every time, I hear the beat first. But the writing process differs though. Sometimes, I go in the studio and I don’t write. Sometimes I write on my phone, my laptop, sometimes with a pad and pen when I want to go vintage with it. [Laughs.] But usually, I like to zone out. That’s the thing with the room. You remove yourself from reality, and then just try to live and exist in that song. Then I usually let the music be the guidance.

“I used to just go, go, go, and then I would be done. And now it’s like, I take my time. But sometimes the shit just comes. If something’s flowing, I don’t try to fight it and be like, ‘This is too easy.’ I feel like there’s a reason for everything. Sometimes it’s a lot of work overthinking things, and driving yourself crazy thinking about every word. And just being really meticulous about what words you’re using, and what you’re saying. And other times, it’s like free-thought talking. Then I just go, and I’m not putting too much stress on each word.

“Sometimes I’ll think of a song at a random time, and then I’ll just kind of store it in my head, and then let it out when I hear the right beat. But most of the time, it’s all right there, and on the spot. The song about my homie was because I had just got back from his funeral, so I had no choice but to do that. It was the first thing I did when I got home. Same thing on K.I.D.S., when I wrote ‘Poppy,’ it was the night my grandpa died. If you’re gonna do it, you gotta do it right there. If it’s that type of song, I’d rather do it right there in the moment, than have it be a retrospective thing.”

Writing Hooks

“Sometimes, I want to say a lot in the hook. But a lot of times, I’d rather say less and have each word mean more. For instance, a hook like, ‘Suck my dick before I slap you with it.’ That’s all it needs. [Laughs.] You don’t need to overdo it. Simplicity. Sometimes, the genius of everything is figuring out how to say exactly what you want to say and not cover it with all this other stuff that is just masking what is being said.”

Recording Vocals

“I try not to do too many takes, because the more times we do it, the less we like it. It’s like, you record and record it, and after a while, the words kind of lose their meaning to you. So I like to try and get as much in as possible, if not one take the whole thing. But I’m not against punching in. If I gotta punch, I gotta punch.

“I try not to have a routine. Sometimes I like memorizing, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it sounds like I’m reading on purpose. I want it sound like that. I look at it like, it just comes from above, goes through me, goes onto the page, and I’m just presenting it to the world.

“I try and keep myself guessing and challenging myself. I don’t want to ever get comfortable in one zone. Sometimes I record one song all day. Sometimes I record for two hours in the morning or at night, and that’s all the music I do in one day. Sometimes I do hella songs in one day and I’m just on a roll. Whatever’s laid out, I just go to the flow.”

Favorite Verses on Watching Movies With the Sound Off

“‘Aquarium.’ I’m not the one to say I’m the tightest or anything, but those verses are genius. Those, and the ‘I Am Who Am (Killin’ Time)’ verses. And ‘Avian.’ But what I’m really proud of is you’d be hard-pressed to find a weak verse on the album. I made sure every verse is purposeful and something special. Nothing is wasted like, ‘Yo this hook is tight, who cares?’ Everything is supposed to be there.”

Using Different Flows

“I just recently started thinking about flows. Maybe even after the album. Not even for the whole album. I never even used to think about the flow, which is kind of crazy. I’ve always just kind of done what’s come to mind. It’s just what feels natural. Like, if I were to freestyle on a beat, this is what I would do.

“But that’s kind of my new shit, is to really pick your flow. That’s my next evolution. That’s one thing about Drake. People say what they want about Drake, but as far as picking his flow, and dissecting a beat properly, that man is in the pocket. So, trying to find that pocket is a new adventure for me.”

Jay Electronica’s Guest Verse on “Suplexes Inside of Complexes and Duplexes”

“Jay Electronica may or may not be a real person. He might be just an energy. He might be invisible. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s just a spirit. We all have a little Jay Electronica.

“He sent me the verse two hours before I went in to master it. The album was done, and I was like, ‘Bro, the album is done. Tell me now if you’re gonna do this. No hard feelings if you can’t, I completely understand.’ He was like, ‘I promise you.’ And he would be sending me texts just randomly throughout the whole album process, like, ‘Don’t turn your album in without me.’ The whole time, we’d been talking about doing this record.

“It was dope because, I sent him a couple options. Three tracks. And the one that I produced, he picked that one, which is just a simple canvas. But it’s crazy. He was like, ‘I got you, I promise.’ Then, he sent me an email, with the lyrics he was about to spit. I was like, ‘This verse is about to be insane!’ It was very interesting, and artistically punctuated. The punctuation in the email was crazy. Next level. Then, he sent the verse [as I was] basically on my way to mastering. I got it just in time.

“I knew he would, though. I’ve waited on verses from people that didn’t send them, and I always had that feeling like, ‘He’s not gonna send it.’ But I always had that feeling with him like, ‘He’s gonna send it.’ And he did. It was the same thing with Wayne on Macadelic, because Wayne fit the vibe of that project perfectly. And that’s kind of like Jay Electronica with this project.”

Collaborating with Rapper Friends Action Bronson, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and More

“The idea is that we’re all friends, so it’s not like, ‘This is for my album.’ We just make songs to make songs, and they end up on the album or not. But the most important thing is that we all have our different worlds that we live in as artists. The key is to not bring someone to your world, and not go to their world, but to combine both worlds and make something that doesn’t exist yet. That’s what a true collaboration is. Every record that we did for this album was done with that formula. We all sat down and made the records together.

“Soul writes all in his head. He doesn’t use paper. He’s just sitting there. Everyone zones out, and you take off, and go inside the song. It’s dope when it’s your album, and you have your homies in there, and everyone’s trying to go in on their verses. Like, ‘I wanna do something dope. I’m not just gonna find a verse I had laying around.’ We’re gonna create songs. It’s fun like that.”

Making Beats

“I try not to have a process. That’s one thing I was talking to Lotus about. He was like, ‘Man, these are gonna be your favorite times making instrumentals and shit, because no one expects anything from you. You don’t have a sound. This is when you can do whatever you want.’ I’m trying to stick with that. Maybe there will be some little things in there that you will always do. Like, ‘Mac made that shit. I can tell because he always does his strings like that. Or his melodies kind of have that vibe.’

“I try to just go. The main thing that I’ve noticed about myself, is that a lot of my homies that produce very well, extraordinarily, they’re very meticulous about their shit. But I like to just jump in and go. I think I’ll get meticulous down the line. It’s the same way I am with lyrics. At first I would just go, and now I’m more meticulous. But for now, I just play some chords, and I’m like, ‘Okay, cool.’ Then I build off them, rather than analyze them. Sometimes I do, but I’m at the point where I don’t have any type of routine. I do it differently every single time, depending on who I make a beat for, or what type of song I’m working on. But making beats is my favorite thing. I miss making beats right now. I’m itchin’.

“I watched Big Jerm and E.Dan make beats for years and years, and I quietly would pick up on things. You just see people map out beats, and you’re influenced by it. And every now and then, you come in like, ‘What’s that sound?’ And they’ll be like, ‘Oh, that’s that.’ And sometimes they’re like, ‘Uhhh, I don’t wanna tell you.’ [Laughs.]”

Favorite Self-Produced Track on Watching Movies With the Sound Off

‘Avian’ is my favorite beat I made on the album, for sure. ‘Avian,’ and ‘REMember.’ ‘Avian’ to me is what made the project. It’s the heart of the project. And ‘REMember,’ I got the guitar solo on there. Both of those.”

Doing Production For Other Artists

“It’s tight now, people are coming to me for beats. But I like to make beats with people in the studio, I’m not an emailer guy. I did some shit with Soul for his album that’s crazy. The Vince Staples project is crazy. I did some shit for Dash. I made some shit with Alchemist that was awesome. Lotta production shit is rolling out. I’m excited to be a real producer.”

Recording with Pharrell for Pink Slime

“We did Pink Slime in Miami. We’re not done yet. I kind of want to redo the whole thing. We’re both probably looking at the project differently now. He probably looks at me differently after this album.

“I have songs like ‘Objects in the Mirror,’ which is the one from my album that I’m singing on, and ‘Onaroll,’ which was the real crazy turnt up one that got released from Pink Slime. That’s the scope. One’s a very emotional record with me singing, and the other is like a disgusting song. It’s nasty. The imagery is things that you don’t want your mom to hear. I think he told me he played ‘Onaroll’ for Jay, which is crazy. And Jay was like, ‘That’s Mac Miller?!’ But there’s the crazy anarchy shit, and then there’s beautiful music.

“We did a lot of records, but I think we’re gonna start from scratch. We did a lot of records on the spot. But I’d also be like, ‘Hey, what you got in the Jay folder? What did Jay pass on?’ Like, ‘What’s in Pusha’s folder?’ And he told me everyone does that. He was like, ‘Jay be saying that too.’ So it depends. Sometimes you want to make that shit from scratch, which is my personal favorite. But we did a couple that Jay passed on, which was tight, because Jay’s gonna hear it, and be like, ‘Fuck, I should’ve used that.’”

Recording For the Larry Fisherman Soundcloud Page

“Those are my favorite. To me, that’s just liberating. The music business is so serious sometimes. Like, ‘Oh shit, this song leaked. You don’t want to fuck up sales.’ But Soundcloud is like, ‘Who cares?’ I literally make shit and just put it up. Sometimes to a fault. Like, I’ll put it up quick, and then be like, ‘Fuck, that could’ve been on the album. If only I didn’t put it out.’

“But I love it. Soundcloud’s my favorite shit in the world. They were at my listening party, the Soundcloud dudes. I was like, ‘I love y’all. Y’all are awesome.’ It’s my favorite thing. I tell people, ‘If you really want to know about me, go to my Soundcloud. That’s when you’ll find out who I am.’

“I always liked the name Fisherman. It sounds like a grimey dude who is always in the studio. ‘He Who Ate All The Caviar,’ I played that guitar lick myself. And that Richard Pryor sample, we had a turntable in there, and that’s me actually scratching. That’s the shit. Even if you’re not even good at something, just do it. I don’t know how to scratch and shit, but I just put it on there like, ‘Fuck yeah.’ Mitch Hedberg once said that if you spend your whole life preparing, then you’re never going to do anything. Just jump in and do it. That’s the best way to get better at something. Do it while you suck at it.”

Thank you to Q and Arthur Pitt for helping to make this interview happen. More on Mac’s passing HERE, including a playlist of Westcheddar’s favorite Mac Miller songs.