Invest your measly paycheck in Quelle's discography. He's that good.
This year you've released a lot of music as a solo artist, but you're originally from a group called Crown Nation, correct?
I did a few albums prior to meeting Denmark. I started the Awesome In Outer Space shit before Crown Nation. It's kind of hard to say where I'm from originally. As far as taking it serious, it was with Wasted Youth. Big Tone, 87, and all them. I was supposed to be the new member to the group, but they never finished their second album.
Did you start producing or rapping first? Or was that something that always coexisted?
Yeah, that was kind of at the same time man. My brother brought home some music equipment. The SP-202. But I started before then. We used to use the karaoke machine. Either loop it or just play the whole song and rap over it. I started rapping first, but not by a long shot. Maybe a year. But my brother brought home some janky-ass Dr Rhythm. I pretty much just got used to doing things on my own.
I think you had the strongest production on The Hybrid and XXX. As a rapper, is it difficult to let go of something like 'Monopoly'? You wasn't tempted to hoard the dopest beat of the year for your own album?
If it ends up getting to someone else, that means I didn't rap on it already. I can rock with a wide array of shit, but I know what's not going to fit with what I'm doing. Not to call it a throw-away by any means. But if it doesn't necessarily fit into the mold that I'm already crafting at the moment, those are the ones that I begin chucking out.
What was it like working with Danny Brown? Were you actually in the studio when he recorded 'The Re-up' or 'Greatest Rapper Ever'?
87, Nick Speed, and Danny were working on a project together called Profit Jones or something like that. Shit was ice cold. They did a remake of 'Shook Ones'. I don't know how many years, but that was a while ago. They were like: "You gotta' meet this guy Danny, he kind of reminds me of you. He be listening to all types of crazy shit, but makes hard ass music just like you."
So we went over somebodies crib and they played—well this wasn't the first time I heard his music. I actually used to kick it with Danny's little brother in northern Michigan probably three or four years before I met him. But the first song they played was Mike Luke's 'Keep Um Watchin'. That's the one that sold me. But actually it was produced by Danny, which is funny. So the first shit I heard from Danny that really killed me wasn't him rapping, it was a joint him and Luke did. After that I just started sending him joints. Outside of the shit that people heard on The Hybrid, there's probably a billion joints he's released that nobody knows I did.Do you have any plans to get those out there?
He just releases them. Those are songs you can probably find on youtube. I was in Chicago at the time getting fucked up man. For like a few years. I was acting a fool. Actually by the time I heard 'Re Up', Denmark had played me the video first. I had a rough copy of The Hybrid, but it had a whole bunch of songs that didn't end up on the album. I think the one he sent me had the original 'Black and Brown' joint on there. So when Denmark played the 'Re Up' video, I was like: "That shit is ice cold man! Who produced that!" He was like: "Man, that's a beat you made three years ago!"
Then it kind of came back to me, because I remembered talking to Magnetic from Detroit. One of my favorite engineers. Apparently Magnetic had a whole bunch of beats that I made a long time ago. Danny was recording at Magnetic's place and he was just picking through them, because I had gave him free reign. That's how I do. I hate when people send me beats and be like: "This is the one for you." Because they be wrong 99.999% of the time! Like, there's no way in fuckin' hell I'll rap over this shit.
The Hybrid and XXX garnered critical acclaim. Have you recieved a lot of requests for outside production over the last couple years?
I've gotten some, but the people you see me working with now are the people I've already worked with. I'm pretty fuckin' stubborn. I know there's tons of artists out there, and there's a few I'd wanna' fuck with. But generally I'd prefer to keep it in the family, rather than just spreading it all over the place and becoming watered down. I want it to be a concentrated sound. Action [Bronson], I've been going back and forth with him. But he's fam with some people I'm cool with, so it was bound to happen. But I don't want to whore out the sound. It has to be the right person.
Rappers come out with mixtape, mixtape, album, mixtape, album, mixtape. It's too much. Stop slutting it out and do it right. You hear these mixtapes and there's only maybe one good song. They might have a whole bunch of big songs throughout the year, but they're [spread across] billions of tapes and random collaborations and shit. I wanna be able to look back like: "Damn, my track record is flawless." I want people to look back and not be able to find some shit to hate on. That's what's valuable to me.
Speaking of collaborations, Roc Marciano contributed beats and rhymes to Shotgun and Sleek Rifle. how did that relationship come about?
House Shoes linked us, because he was really fucking with his music hard. We didn't just link up and start working on music. We kind of just kicked it for a good amount of time. As we realized that we saw eye-to-eye, our music relationship built from there.
DJ House Shoes has helped introduce a lot of artists from Detroit. Can you explain what he means to that scene? I know he helped put out one of your mixtapes, Blue Mondays.
I wouldn't even call that a mixtape. That album is about eight years old. Maybe more. I was sitting on it so long, he was like: "Dog, I just gotta' put this shit out!" I didn't really care, because to me it was just good music. It was really big among the artists everybody listens to. He was just like: "You can't just keep not putting this shit out every year."
I can't really speak on what he means to somebody else, because I like talking for myself. I'm a big fan of how I feel. I don't like speaking for whole groups of people. But I would say, personally, he does everything he can to stand by the music he believes in. People don't really like to say they like something, because if you go public it could discredit your taste. So nobody really likes to say they like something that no one else is listening to. I can't remember how exactly I met House Shoes, but I know from the first time we started kicking it he's had die-hard support. And I know he's done that for other artists in Detroit. That's the aspect I can say. Just a loyalty to the music.
'Mo Money, Less Problems' is probably my favorite song on Shotgun and Sleek Rifle. Who is that singing in the beginning of that record?
I forget her name, but it was this little girl that got to go on shows with Earth Wind and Fire. I just saw it on the internet.
So you just caught it on the internet and incorporated it into the song?
You saw the clip first and then decided to loop it up and rhyme on it?Yeah, I just thought it was adorable. I literally did that song because I thought it would be hilarious to rap over that portion of Earth Wind and Fire. It was right there, so I'm surprised nobody's rapped on it.
I just happened to stumble on the clip. I had already recorded the song way before I saw it. I was in the car and Earth Wind and Fire came on. That last part came on and I was like: "C'mon, shut up dog!" I couldn't believe I'd heard this song a billion times and never thought of using it! It was right there under my nose, a masterpiece. Then the little girl thing just came afterwards.
The way I put together my albums I just blindfold myself, walk into a pitch black room, and things just happen to work. I don't like over-thinking it. That's a problem that a lot of artists have. You can hear when it sounds too contrived. I did that whole album in like a month or so, besides 'The Loop' and 'Mo Money, Mo Problems' which I did earlier. A lot of the time I'll find stuff like that clip in the last three days before I turn in the album. Things just kind of happen.
It worked out real well man. That intro is one of my favorite moments on that album.
That's what's up! Because after I put it on there I was laughing, but then the next day I went back and listened to it and realized it was long as hell. Like, I didn't think people would even make it to the song. I felt people were going to think I'm a goofball, especially if they hadn't heard the last few projects.
Getting back to you as a rapper, the second verse on 'Symbolic (Basquiat)' is kind of crazy. Like some next level hashtag rap. It's a lot different than everything else on the album. Do you remember what you were going for when you wrote that?
I like to go with the rhythm. A lot of times I'll follow the bass or the kick. What I usually do is kind of just ramble over it until I hear something so off it sounds perfect. So I'll either go with what's perfect for the rhythm, or I'll go with the off-beat. I wrote that verse for something else with a similar drum pattern, and it just rides that beat so well: "Why I gotta' be.. Devoe.. Smooth.." It just falls in a split second after.
I just think nowadays the formulas for everything are out there. You got all these kids that are like little A&R's when you talk to them, because they know how the business works. They feel like they know how a song is supposed to be structured. I think the one thing that they're not learning is the art of spontaneity. We know what a hip-hop song is, at its most basic. I was just looking at this magazine. Pusha T was saying the one thing he didn't like about going solo is having to come up with three good verses. What Moses of hip-hop brought these stone tablets that said you must have these thing in a song?! That's the one thing that's missing. I never like to sit and overthink it. I just dive in. Kind of like The Son EP, I just did it all in one sitting.
The Son EP features a song titled 'G.O.D. = Power', which touches on police brutality. Was there any particular event that inspired you to write that record?
This is actually funny. I wrote it because I was [in California] when the Oscar Grant shit popped off. In Oakland the cops are pieces of shit. But of course when some shit goes down police are necessary. There was these niggas marching down the street, and this bum was on the sidewalk. I wasn't marching with them, but I was just kind of walking back to the crib. And the bum was like: "If I was to rob one of you muthafuckas, who would you call!" Because they were on some no justice no peace shit.
So I saw an Oscar Grant poster and I got back to the crib and made that beat. Then it all just came to me. The ODB line came to me. I made the song, and the next day the cops shot someone else in the Bay Area. Then a few days later somebody else got shot. So I was like: "Fuck! I gotta' put it out now."
What should we expect from you in the near future?
Just look for a lot of work with the regular goons. A lot of shows. In 2012 expect a lot of work from me and Roc Marciano. I've been working with Action Bronson a lot lately. Denmark has a new album coming out. Expect a lot more Crown Nation collaborations. We're sitting on like two albums [already], but we probably won't release em'. I'm working with a lot of people but they're all essentially the same family. I kicked it with Danny not too long ago, but I haven't really talked to him about what's coming up. I know he's been working real close with Skywlkr. But there will probably be more stuff with me and Danny.
But definately a lot of projects. I'm just wrapping one up with me, Dibiase, and KnXwledge. Real dirty beats stuff. My favorite right now is the new Awesome In Outer Space album. That's about to be ice cold. That's what I'm looking forward to dropping the most. Then second would be the joint with me and Roc.
You're doing an entire album with Roc Marciano?
Yeah, we've been tossing around the idea, but he's getting his new album wrapped up and I was doing the same. We've got the canvas. Now we just have to start throwing paint on it.
Thanks a lot for taking time out to do this interview. I really appreciate it.
Anytime man. You have my number. If you need some relationship advice or something just hit me up. Try not to call me after three o'clock, because I'll probably be drunk. I might give you the worst advice in the world. So be wise with your timing. I got financial advice and all that. I spend all my time either working or reading, so I could bless you with a lot of advice in a lot of subjects. But don't call me after five o'clock.