What was the inspiration for ‘AIN’T SWEET’?
I made the beat during my first trip to Milan, Italy 30 days prior to the Covid outbreak. The string instrument heard throughout the duration of the record is an African instrument called a Kora, which is basically an African Harp. I’m always trying to discover new sounds that the average producer isn’t using, it builds character. Also, I just love a lot of West African music (Fela Kuti, The Funkees, The Lijadu Sisters etc) and their sound selection, irregular rhythms, and rawness of their recordings.
How did the collaboration with Buddy and Matt Ox come about?
I’ve been working with Buddy a lot this year, but we’ve been friends for almost six years now. He’s from Compton and I’m from Carson, which are literally shoulder to shoulder. But, when I met him, I wasn’t even making beats yet. Fast forward to 2020, it was my first day in the studio with him again after returning from Milan, and I played the beat. Buddy usually records on a reference mic as producers play beats, and he basically free-styled the majority of what the entire song is now, on the first take.
I had a session set up with Matt Ox for the following day, and I knew the juxtaposition of their voices and energies would be something people wouldn’t expect. The next day Matt showed up to the studio with his mom, I showed it to him in our session and he loved the song and instantly recorded a verse on it, recording line by line. His process is impressive. Also I think he’s like 15??? Hahaha. Anyways, the rest is history.
What was the process of creating that track and how does it feel to have your first single out?
Well, actually I made the beat while I was in the studio in Italy, with a local (Italian) rapper. He made a song on it, and I just wasn’t in love with his approach to the beat. I’m a visionary when it comes to producing, and I like to be hands on with every step of the process (structure, writing, artwork, video concept); but also I respect the divine order and timing of everything that must happen for a track like this to even come together. So, although I made the beat in ten minutes, it literally required me spending a few days in Italy to capture that energy, reimagine the sounds, and bring them back to the states to be blessed by the homies. Shoutout to the homies.
"Kehlani just mirrored my situation into the track and it came together so beautifully! Truly a time stamp in my life."
Do you have any projects coming up and if so, what can we expect?
I have enough material for a project, but I’m taking it one song at a time for a few months. I think a strong visual story and a song you really believe in can travel further one at a time. People just want singles these days, it’s difficult to get more than three minutes of somebody’s attention. So I’m taking it three minutes at a time. But expect a wide range of genre-less music. I’m a DJ and I play everything at a party from Afro-beat, to R&B, to Trap, Funk, to house music. So, it’s safe to expect the same colours on my production palette.
Kehlani is another person who I’ve known for about six years (since I was 17) and we didn’t make music until four years into our friendship. It’s that divine timing. Both of those tracks were so organic, the beats have stories, and so do the songs. I made the “Love Language” beat with a mentor/incredible producer friend of mine, M-Phazes. That man literally has been making beats longer than I’ve been breathing on earth. We always offer each other that young G/OG duality and amazing things always come from it.
Anyways, the day at the studio when we made 'Love Language' was when I was in the middle of falling in love with this girl I met on the internet who lived in Brazil and spoke zero English, so we spoke to each other through a translator. We ended up dating for a couple years, but that song was made before we even met and whilst it was still a hypothetical situation. Kehlani just mirrored my situation into the track and it came together so beautifully! Truly a time stamp in my life.
As for “Footsteps” which became the introducing track on the album, ironically I made that track after Kehlani introduced me to her “babydaddy”, Javaughn. Six month pregnant Kehlani was just like “You need to meet my babydaddy. Y’all should make music.” So I met her babydaddy... and we made music. Today (two years later) he’s probably one of my closest friends and that beat was actually one of the first that we made together after we met. We’ve probably made 100 since then. Oh and Musiq Soulchild is on that song, which is still crazy to me because he’s such a legend.
Specifically, ‘Love Language’ was inspired by your own story, how is it as a producer putting
yourself in a place of vulnerability for another artist’s track?
I love being vulnerable. I love when an artist can recognise a great story and transcribe it for others to feel, that’s really a gift and can’t be taught - especially with a voice like hers.
"At that time, the future was so limitless, we just worked everyday towards our own idea of success..."
Well, I didn’t create that track from scratch, I just reimagined the 808s from the original track onto it and the rest is history. That track went six times platinum and took us around the world. It changed everybody’s lives in our crew at the time. But, “PlayinWitMe” is a track that was a clear vision that I had, from the moment that my friend Jake Troth played that bouncy chord progression. I immediately knew the girl I wanted to address when writing the song, and exactly what I wanted to say to her. It makes the process so buttery when there’s a real story to reference. I called Kyle up to the studio and he did what he does best. That one went platinum too! That felt amazing. Those validations that you had a good idea is so re-assuring, especially cause you may not know how grand it is while you’re making it.
How did your creative relationship with KYLE first begin and what do you guys have planned for the future?
I found KYLE on the internet while I was living in North Carolina with my Mom back in 2011. I was in 9th grade. At that time, I only did photography and edited videos, that was my passion. I tweeted KYLE like a hundred times, links to my videos, asking to collab on a photoshoot, etc, and eventually...I moved back to California with my Dad in an effort to align myself to work with KYLE. I was only fourteen years old. When I got to California, KYLE and I would still communicate via twitter. I told him that I wanted to help him with his visuals and shoot some “Day-In-The-Life” content for him, which we ended up doing.
At that time, the future was so limitless, we just worked everyday towards our own idea of success and strived to create visual experiences and honestly convey who we are to other young, quirky, black kids like us. We always maximised the limited tools that we had. I always had an interest in uncovering new things and ways to express myself, which led me learning to DJ, which led me to DJing for KYLE, which led to producing, which all led to now.
How important do you find creative collaboration for growth?
Collaboration is a catalyst for creativity. Never be afraid to ask for help, or to peer over the shoulder of somebody who does work that you admire. You have to be a student first. And you gotta trade tools with the people who do the same work as you!
"If I ever say “What if” about ANYTHING, I instantly make a commitment to myself to take at least one step in the direction of making that a thing real..."
If you had to choose two tracks to best show your range as a producer, which two would they be and why?
They haven’t released yet. I have so much production on ice. But the next thing that I put out solo will definitely be first on that list. I think it’s going to confuse people, but they’re going to be forced to dance, too haha. 'Love Language' is also one of my favourite beats ever, though.
What would be your top three tips for producers starting out?
Be patient, your beats are probably gonna suck for like the first 2-3 years.
Try and finish ALL of your beats, this is an excellent habit and you’ll thank me later.
Make music with the people you have access to/limit the amount of time spent trying to
build from scratch with your real friends.
How did you first get into photography and do you find that the medium intersects with your
Photography and music are similar in the sense that, if you have a clear vision of something that you’re striving to convey prior to starting your creation you’re more likely to have a finished product that feels authentic to you. You can’t really take too many shots in the dark with either. Does that make sense?
You’ve recently started making furniture, what was the initial idea behind this and how important
do you find it to get creative within different artistic mediums?
I do anything that I imagine. If I ever say “What if” about ANYTHING, I instantly make a commitment to myself to take at least one step in the direction of making that a thing real, whether it’s the real deal or a prototype. I like to believe that every time that I say “what if”, it is a gift from God. He’s given me the idea to create something, and has now left the ball in my court to gather my tools and resources on earth to create a reality. It’s the same thing I did with producing, and with photography when I first started. I said “what if” and I took a stab at it...and the blessings followed.
What was the inspiration for your ‘Stairs to Nowhere’ series and what was the process of
'Stairs to Nowhere' is a metaphor I created that is representative of my personal creative journey. It’s about never arriving at my destination. If I ever arrive, my journey is over. That’s why I’m constantly climbing the 'Stairs to Nowhere'. As I grow and evolve there will always be new iterations of the series, that are an honest reflection of where I’m at in my headspace. It’s my way of talking to people since I’m a producer and not a rapper. If you watch the first one, you can tell how depressed and confused I was at the time, in comparison to my most recent one which portrays my newfound optimism and curiosity about all things. It’s really like my diary to be honest.
If you had to recommend five artists to your listeners, who would they be?
What’s coming up for the rest of 2020?
Continuing to carve out my own lane. Some songs with other artists, maybe a beat-tape and maybe an EP. I don’t want anything I do to sound the same. I’m taking it step by step. Everything is ready, it’s just a matter of when I’m ready to strike.