Havoc is a visionary; he always has been, since first expressing himself creatively through music and production. Upon finding a kindred spirit in the late Prodigy, Havoc quickly established himself as one of the game’s most effective double-threats. A pioneer of the dark banger, his production retained a cinematic quality, the perfect backdrop for his reflections on his environment. “Everything around me was dark,” he reflects. “Things was happening, people was getting shot, people was getting robbed, you know. I was broke. I didn’t have money. So I wasn’t naturally drawn to happy sounds.”
Nowadays, with a legendary discography to look back on, Havoc remains driven to create. A self-professed homebody who stays active behind the boards, it’s clear that his passion for the craft hasn’t faded. With artists still reaching out — Conway, Flee Lord, Lloyd Banks, and Method Man come to mind — there’s no shortage of emcees who still respect the blueprint Havoc drafted all those years ago. Upon speaking with the Mobb Deep lyricist, what really stood out was his insight into the game — that, and the friendly nature with which he delivered his gems.
Should you be interested in hip-hop history, as well as the storied discography of Havoc and Mobb Deep alike, be sure to check out a transcription of our conversation below. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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HNHH: Havoc, what’s up! How have you been keeping busy and adapting to the times?
Havoc: I’m always working on music. I’m a homebody, so it didn’t really bother me, cause I’m not a social butterfly anyway. But every now and then, knowing that you can’t go out is just weird.
Oh yeah, definitely. I know. When you’re working on music, do you have a regimen that you follow? Is it kind of like a nine to five type thing?
I usually work when I wake up and I just do it until whenever you know what I mean? I try not to go too late cause I want to get my sleep. I try not to go past, you know, one o’clock in the morning. I like to get my sleep because I wake up early anyway, you know what I mean?
If you don’t mind me asking – for all the gear fans, what’s the set up you’re working with right now?
I got my Komplete keyboard. I got my Maschine studio. Pretty much that’s my outboard gear that I work with. I got all my software and all of that stuff, but I keep it pretty simple, you know, my Maschine keyboard, and I’m good.
Cool. I’m kind of familiar with Maschine myself, and it’s such a crazy piece of technology. Can you walk me through some of the key changes in the beatmaking technology you’ve experienced and how those transitions have affected your process?
Right. One of the major change components of beat-making, producing, is that it’s now software-based. Even though we have the outboard gear — like I would have the MPC — but now it’s connected to my desktop or to my laptop, and I actually can see what I’m doing.
Definitely. Definitely. So when you first started making beats, what were you using back then?
When I first started, I was using the EPS plus Ensoniq keyboard. I was using that in conjunction with the MPC 60, and that’s all I was using at that time. So I pretty much almost got the same kind of setup, but just different equipment. I got my keyboard and I got my drum machine, which is the Maschine studio.
So for the sampling, are you still crate digging?
Now, I dig through samples that are provided to me, through people that do the digging. They hit me with mad samples, and I’ll dig through that. I dig on my own online and do stuff like that. But every once in a blue moon, you know, if I’m traveling, I can’t help but to visit a vinyl record shop. To grab some exclusive pieces. Like if I’m in Amsterdam or Germany, one of those places, I’ll grab some vinyl. I still have mad vinyl that I still collect. Back in March, I bought like $2,000 worth of vinyl. I just grabbed it and went. And I have my turntables. So sometimes, when things start feeling mundane, every once in a blue moon, I go to my turntables and I get my vinyl, I crack it out, and I’ll sift through the vinyl.
One thing I really wanted to applaud you for — I’m personally a really big fan of that darker production sound. And you’re one of the pioneers of that sound as far as I’m concerned, you know?
Can you break down how you kind of came to favor those darker, almost spookier sounds and samples when you were first starting out?
It’s all about, you know, that saying goes that “we’re a product of our environment.” So not to make it sound too cliche or anything like that, but I grew up in a dark place. You understand what I’m saying? You know, make no mistakes about it. Queensbridge wasn’t a happy place. Though there were happy times from childhood that I can remember, overall it’s one of those places where you want to grow up, get a career and leave. You know what I mean? That place was just a stepping stone and then you get up out of there.
“Everything around me was dark. Things was happening, people was getting shot, people was getting robbed, you know. I was broke. I didn’t have money. So I wasn’t naturally drawn to happy sounds. I would hear something dark and I’d be like, Ooh, that reminds me of the hallway that I’m walking up at night time when I’m trying to get into the house safely.”
And so that really kind of cultivated what I would become as a producer when it came to my sound. Because everything around me was dark. Things was happening, people was getting shot, people was getting robbed, you know. I was broke. I didn’t have money. So I wasn’t naturally drawn to happy sounds. I would hear something dark and I’d be like, Ooh, that reminds me of the hallway that I’m walking up at night time when I’m trying to get into the house safely. Or walking the block at night and not knowing what’s going to happen. That really cultivated the sound — my environment, period.
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Definitely. It’s like you were able to convey all these subtle feelings without having to spell it out. Obviously, you can rap as well. But you were able to bring those elements of your storytelling into the music, which I think is really cool. It gives a lot of Mobb Deep’s earlier stuff but this very cinematic quality to it. Were you always so in touch with your creative side when you were coming up?
Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, I started drawing when I was about four years old. Growing up, I always knew that I was creative. I paid attention more to things. I wanted to know. I loved science, I loved history. I paid attention to things, and I used to draw, so basically I was creative, and producing gave me another outlet to create. It wasn’t like I was a natural-born producer or anything like that. But, you know, once I got equipment in front of me, I was like, “Wow, what’s this?” And then I was able to express myself.
When you were first starting out writing and producing, was there one that you felt more comfortable with in general? One that you gravitated towards more?
You know what? I love to write, you know what I’m saying? I don’t consider myself the best writer in the world, but I conveyed my message. As far as Mobb Deep was concerned, I was able to do that. But I find that producing is easier because I don’t have to say no words. I could just sit there and you can feel the mood. I don’t have to even spell it out for you. It’s just like, you just feel. It’s a vibe. Overall I love them both, but thinking back on it now, I think producing is like my greatest love.
“I find that producing is easier because I don’t have to say no words. I could just sit there and you can feel the mood. I don’t have to even spell it out for you. It’s just like, you just feel. It’s a vibe. Overall I love them both, but thinking back on it now, I think producing is like my greatest love.”
Fair enough. Was there one particular piece of writing that really stands out to you — maybe the realest shit you ever wrote?
[Laughs] I would have to say “Temperature’s Rising” off The Infamous album, because we was rapping about true events — things that happened. And when I listened back to the verse, I really surprised myself on how close and real I got to the situation in rap form. I surprised myself. So I think that that’s one of the realest verses that I wrote for sure.
It’s cool too, because you know, you’re making the beats as well. So I imagine when you’re bringing those beats into a session, you already have a pretty distinctive idea of where you want to go with the song. I don’t know if you used to work solo when you were making beats or if you would collaborate with Prodigy.
It was like half and half, maybe.
What was it like in those early days when you were first finding that collaborative footing?
It was beautiful. Because it was new grounds for us. We were just testing the waters, and we didn’t know what to expect. So it was just like we were on this adventure together. We didn’t know if we were going to succeed or fail. So it was just this journey that we took. And just looking back on it, that was my most favorite part. We became successful, but to think back at the times of the unknowing — we were just trying it and going so hard and we didn’t know what was going to be the outcome. And I’m looking at that person now and I’m like, wow. We didn’t know what we were about to do.
That camaraderie! It’s really a great thing too, especially because you could see that in the music. I think that’s why your guys’ music has withstood the test of time so much. And I think that’s why a lot of people still view Mobb Deep as one of the greatest groups of all time. I was also very curious, just as a fan in general of the New York rap scene. I hear so many stories about when rappers were first coming up. The battling that took place. I’ve heard about the legendary DMX/Jay-Z battle. I saw on the Wu-Tang show, they reenacted Meth versus Chef. Did you have any experiences in the battling circuit when you were first coming up?
Nah, we never really even took part in that because it was never presented to us. Now had we been in those circles, I’m sure we wouldn’t have had no problems joining the cypher, but it never was presented to us. But I’m a fan of the battle. I mean, in the lunchroom when we was in high school, we used to all be at the tables and everybody used to be spitting their best lyrics. So I guess that was my little taste of battling, but I never got to do it on the come-up level being within the industry.
But you were also part of the era where there were some crazy posse cuts. You look at the emcees that were on these tracks and it’s really incredible stuff. Do you have any particular experience working on posse cuts where it really felt was like some big shit was going down?
You know, early on I did a song with Black Moon, and I don’t even think Mobb Deep was even out yet at the time. You had me, Buckshot Shorty, I believe Smith and Wesson was on the track. And this had to be like in ’93 or something like that. That was one of the early experiences I had with posse cuts. I’m sure I’ve been on a few since then, but none that really stood out more than that. But Prodigy was on one that was crazy and that was the “I Shot Ya (Remix)” — the LL Cool J joint. That’s one of my favorite Prodigy verses of all time. And you know, if he was here today, man, that would be a perfect question for him because I know he would say that that was one of his most memorable posse cuts that he was on.
“Early on I did a song with Black Moon, and I don’t even think Mobb Deep was even out yet at the time. You had me, Buckshot Shorty, I believe Smith and Wesson was on the track. And this had to be like in ’93 or something like that. That was one of the early experiences I had with posse cuts. I’m sure I’ve been on a few since then, but none that really stood out more than that. But Prodigy was on one that was crazy and that was the “I Shot Ya (Remix)” — the LL Cool J joint. That’s one of my favorite Prodigy verses of all time. And you know, if he was here today, man, that would be a perfect question for him because I know he would say that that was one of his most memorable posse cuts that he was on.”
Rest in peace Prodigy.
LL Cool J ft Keith Murray, Prodigy, Fat Joe, Foxy Brown: “I Shot Ya (Remix)”
I can’t even imagine being in the studio for some of these sessions. That’s something I always love to hear about — the studio sessions. Because I know that for the artists, releasing the music is one thing, but actually being there, the creative side — whether it’s recording, whether it’s listening back…I don’t know how involved you are in the mixing process, but if you have a passion for that, I imagine that that’s even more exciting, right?
Yeah. I mean, it’s crazy because you know, I’ve been in plenty of sessions with quite a few artists all together, and the camaraderie is unparalleled. You know what I mean? You can’t simulate it. You got the record and everything like that, but the true experience in the studio with the artists and the vibes that’s going on and how the artists are vibing, it’s mind-blowing. Because you know, now that we’re in COVID-19, it’s sad that some artists might not be able to experience that and they just have to send records off through the internet. But, you know, back in the days, all the rappers used to get together in the studio and just be writing. Everybody trying to write the best verse, and all the smoke is in the air. [Laughs] It’s like, you didn’t want the session to end. You know what I mean?
Definitely! Definitely. And then the crazy thing too is like, you have the song when you’re first creating it, right? It’s in a skeletal state, you have your ideas, you’re writing the bare minimum. Then you bring it to the studio where it really starts to come to life. Then when you release it, it takes on a life of its own. So you have people listening to it with all sorts of different interpretations of the song. It almost stops being your song in a way, because everyone starts to build up their own memories. And it’s just like, how do you capture the vibe that you want to go for in that sense? It feels like it’s impossible in that sense.
Yeah. It is kind of impossible because once you let it out to your hands, it’s not your baby no more, you know what I mean? It’s everybody else’s baby. But you know, you go into the studio with one goal, one mission, and you try to accomplish that. You don’t know if you truly accomplished it until you let it go. So you let it go. And then it becomes — everybody has their own theories and thoughts on it. And you know, it becomes theirs, and it’s a little bit of yours and, you know…but overall you feel good that you created something that can cause a conversation.
Are you somebody who really considers the album as an art form when you were working on your projects? Like sequencing the tracklist — was that something that you were particularly interested in?
Absolutely. The album is an art form because it’s a body of work, and it all has to intertwine together, right? The sequence has to be just right. If you fuck up the sequence, you could kind of fuck up the album in a way. Even though they’re the same songs, people might not get to the next song because you fucked up the sequence. They might be like, “Nah, I don’t like this album. Bye. See you later.” But if you set it up just right and you pulling them in, pulling them in, pulling them in, pulling them in, and then later you saying, “All right, see you later.” So sequencing is really important.
You know, long live the album. Cause now everything is just single-based and nobody’s worried about an album and people are just streaming one song or two songs. I don’t even think people have the patience to listen to albums anymore. That’s just this generation, but they don’t know what they are missing. You know, a full body of work is a real pure art form.
I agree with that, that’s for sure. I used to buy a lot of CDs and not to be that guy and be like, “Oh, CDs were the best way to listen to music.” Streaming is great, it has a lot of conveniences. But when you were buying an album, you were stuck with that album. You were listening to every song. I used to have CDs in my van, man, and a six-disc player. So I just learned every album I had front and back. It’s just a great way to be able to listen to music.
Yeah. That day is gone. I never thought the day would come. Because when we came in the game, the internet wasn’t even here yet, then the internet came and I never thought that you know, the music will just be there, and it wouldn’t be something tangible for me to hold. That was something that I couldn’t really conceive, but then I saw it happening — and now it’s here. It’s just, you know, different times.
D Dipasupil/Getty Images
Circling back to the music itself that you tend to favor. One thing I really noticed in a lot of your production is that you really understand the importance of the bassline as the heartbeat of a song. I was wondering — when did you start to develop this appreciation and almost mastery of using bass in your music?
I think I kind of learned that from Q-Tip cause I worked with him hands-on and just listening to other producers, like Large Professor and Premier and Pete Rock. But mainly Q-Tip because I will be in the studio with him and I would see him doing what he was doing. I just knew that the bass was the meat of the song. It’s the lifeblood of the song and you definitely couldn’t have it without it because I don’t remember hearing any songs without some skin on it. You know what I mean?
Yeah, definitely. Given the horror-like soundscapes you use in general, are you someone who’s into horror at all?
Am I into horror films? I’m more into drama. You know what I mean? But I, you know, I don’t really mind horror films. I watch them. I like listening to the music from horror films more than I probably like watching horror films. But I’m more of a drama, a feeling kind of person. But even in drama, you know, the music is still cinematic but the music from horror is unmatched.
I agree with that. Sometimes when I write for work, I’ll throw on some horror scores. There’s some crazy ones. Honestly. I like the old school ones, I guess, but there’s some new gems too.
Absolutely! Absolutely. I got a few new ones. I don’t know the names of them, and they’re right here on my desktop, but I go through them like water. I’ll be like, you know, just really listening.
It Follows soundtrack. Very good. I recommend that one. I liked that one for sure.
Okay! [Laughs] I’ma write that down!
On a production level, do you have a favorite body of work that you’ve done?
I would have to say it would be Hell on Earth. I was just really listening to that today. And I said, “Man, you know what?” I was still fresh, in the production game and to listen back at it and be like, “Damn, what the fuck was I thinking?” I like it. I’m a fan of it. So I have it in my car. As soon as I get in my car, it’s on shuffle, but every other song that comes on is Hell on Earth. And that is one of my favorite bodies of work.
That’s a good one. So any particular beat to break it down even further?
Beats wise on Hell on Earth? What’s the song? It’s the one with Prodigy and Raekwon and I’m just on the hook. I think it’s called “Nighttime Vultures,” I believe.
Mobb Deep ft Raekwon: “Nighttime Vultures”
Raekwon is another one of my favorite emcees. Was it like getting him on that track? I mean, you guys have been pretty tight with the Wu-Tang Clan — what was your relationship like at the beginning, when you were both coming up?
I mean, getting Rae on the track was a huge honor, a blessing. To have somebody like Raekwon in the studio with you and just sitting there, kicking it with you like a brother. It felt good, man. You know, it really felt good looking back on it now it’s like, wow. They respected us and we respected them.
I wanted to also mention that I was pretty happy when I saw your name on Conway The Machine’s album! How’d that one come together?
I was going to work with Kanye in Mexico one day and I got there and [Griselda] happened to be there. And that was my first time ever even meeting anybody from Griselda. So I met them there, and we exchanged numbers. And usually people exchange numbers and they never hit you back. But he hollered at me. He was like, “Yo, I need you to get on this track or whatever.” But as a matter of fact, I sent him some tracks. We exchanged numbers and he was like, “Yo, send me some tracks. I sent him some tracks. I didn’t hear back for a couple of months. I was like, “He probably not taking the track.” And then he hit me one day and he sent me a track that I made, and he rapped on it. I was like, “Oh shit, so you did use the track!” And he was like, “Yo, I need you to do the hook for me.” And I was like, “No problem.” [Laughs] So I sat in my house. I recorded it. I sent it back to him, no lie, in 15 minutes. That’s how quick it took me to just do the hook, and he was pretty happy about it. He was like, “Yo, this shit is crazy.” I was like, “Yo, thank you.” You know, he put it out.
And he got Lloyd Banks on there too.
Right, that’s crazy. And I love Lloyd Banks! Oh, and Flee Lord. That’s my people. He real solid.
It’s cool too. It’s almost funny actually how things kind of come full circle now. You almost reunited with G-Unit there.
[Laughs] Absolutely! And you know what? Right after we did that record, Lloyd Banks hit me up. He was like, “Yo, Hav I need the track.” I said, “Don’t worry. I got you.” And I sent him some tracks. So we have yet to see what is to come of that. But I’m sure it’s going to be dope — especially from Lloyd banks.
I guess that’s a good time to look back on your time with G-Unit — what was the mentality going in? When did you guys decide to sign with them back at that point?
Mobb Deep had been free agents. 50 Cent had given me a call. I did a song with him two years prior because he was one of my favorite artists before he even really took off — I did a song with him and then he took off two years later. Mobb Deep were free agents, 50 called me, and it was an opportunity. And you know, he’s from Queens so we all could relate, and he’s performing on the highest level that a rapper could perform. It was like deal that you couldn’t refuse. You know what I mean? It’s like, “Yo come to G-Unit.” He gave us some Porsches real fast, and we was like, “Okay, we outta here!” The mindset going in was the like, “Yo let’s throw a fresh new coat of paint on Mobb Deep.” And still trying to remain Mobb Deep. It kinda upset a lot of our hardcore fans. It upset them, but to me, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I enjoyed my time over there, and it felt good.
“[50 Cent]’s from Queens so we all could relate, and he’s performing on the highest level that a rapper could perform. It was like deal that you couldn’t refuse. You know what I mean? It’s like, ‘Yo come to G-Unit.’ He gave us some Porsches real fast, and we was like, ‘Okay, we outta here!'”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but that was the first time that you guys worked with Dre.
Oh yeah. That was the first time!
You and Dre are both pioneers of that darker sound. Did you guys work on the song “Out of Control (Remix)” together?
Dre already had it laid down, so we didn’t work on it together. But you know, just the fact that we was able to be on the Dre track!
So looking back on the G-Unit era, do you look back on it fondly overall?
Absolutely. I look back on it truly fondly. It was a real fun time. As soon as we finished the music, 50 took us on tour for like three months straight. You know what I mean? It was just a bunch of photoshoots and a bunch of videos and whole tour buses! It was fun. Looking back on it, like I had a good time.
You mentioned that earlier you were a homebody. How did you kind of reconcile these extravagant tours with artists like 50 Cent? Was that something that you had to get used to at the time?
I was used to going on tour. Even within Mobb Deep, we would tour for like a month and a half or something like that. But the way that I deal with it is I try not to think about home. I’m like, “Okay, this is my job. This is what I do. This is what I signed up for.” So there’s no time to complain. You’re not home now. Go out. You gotta do what you gotta do and just make it back home.
Dave M. Benett/Getty Images
Yeah. It kind of goes back to the camaraderie aspect too. I’m sure you guys build up a lot of strong relationships when you’re on tour. People make a lot of promises about songs they’re going to make and then never make. I’m sure there’s a lot, you know, maybe some songs come of it.
[Laughs] A lot of that does happen, you know what I mean? And then you form new relationships, new bonds, bonds made stronger. So a lot of things come with touring, you know — good and bad.
Have you been finding that a lot of artists have been reaching out to you, looking for production nowadays?
You know what, it’s funny that you asked that because I was just telling my girlfriend that yesterday, I said to her, “I don’t know why I’m surprised, but lately a lot of artists have been hitting me up.” You know asking for tracks, this, that, and a third. I got you. I got you. I got you. I’m only one man, but I can handle the workload. I’ve done whole albums, so just to give somebody a few tracks, it’s nothing. But it’s a blessing that you still are sought after all these years. It feels good — but yeah, to answer your question, a lot of artists have been hitting me up lately, asking for tracks.
I like the sound of that. When you’re working for another artist specifically, I guess it helps to have a familiarity with the artists — do you find it fun to kind of tailor the beat you’re making towards the artists you’re working with?
You know, it’s a real thin line that you have to walk. Because on one hand, the reason why they coming to you is because they want your sound. But at the same time you want to kinda cater to who the artist is. You have to toe the line. So you got to kind of combine it in a weird way, and not kind of make it into what you think that they might like. They came to you for you, so you have to stay in your lane and then give it to them. That’s what I found is most successful.
I think you’ve really pulled that off successfully. Two songs come to mind: “Why” with Jada, that was a big one. Even when I first heard it, I didn’t even make the connection at first. Did you have that beat made before, or did you make that specifically for Jadakiss?
Nah, he hit me up for some tracks. And I worked on the tracks, and it wasn’t even anything that I had made. I went record shopping for a few records and that was like one of the second records I put on. I said, “Okay, here we go. There we go.” And then I did it, sent it to them. They loved it.
It must be interesting to hear back what they do with it. Like he took it in a direction I would never have expected, honestly — like he had that same rhyme scheme throughout, and the whole “Why” concept.
Right. And it made it kind of special, you know what I mean? It made it like a Jadakiss record that you wouldn’t forget because he did it in that manner. And when I heard that I was excited. I was like, thank you! Because sometimes you give records to artists and they don’t really step up to the plate, so to speak. You’re like, “Ahhh,” but you have to like it anyways. But he was one of those people that stepped up to the plate big time.
Definitely. Also, the other song I was thinking of too was “Untitled” with Eminem. That was, I’d say, a very interesting beat from you too. It was almost like a swing tempo. I feel like that beat must have been made specifically for Em, the way you arranged that.
I can’t lie to you on that one. I definitely had him in mind when I was making it. Cause I was like, Eminem is so eccentric with his flow that you want to give him an eccentric swing that you know he could flow around. I knew that he would be able to navigate through that track.
“Eminem is so eccentric with his flow that you want to give him an eccentric swing that you know he could flow around. I knew that he would be able to navigate through that [on “Untitled”].
For sure. And I think you captured it too. I’ve always found his own production captured this almost like carnivalesque quality to it at times, you know? And I find that your beat for “Untitled” brought that Havoc feel with that Eminem carnival vibe.
The two just married to each other — that dark sound and the carnival vibe and boom, you mesh it together and you got a record.
Then you brought the full dark sound to “Welcome to Hell” also which was another banger.
“Welcome to Hell.” Royce da 5’9 is one of my favorite artists. He’s definitely one of my favorite artists. Like woo, his lyricism is crazy!
Yeah. He’s producing now too.
I’m not surprised. [Laughs] You know, when I hear about any emcee producing, I’m not surprised because you know, artists are creative. Why aren’t they producing more?
“When I hear about any emcee producing, I’m not surprised because you know, artists are creative. Why aren’t they producing more?”
Seshanka Samarajiwa/WireImage/Getty Images
That’s a good question. I’d be curious if every artist were to produce their own beats for one album, what would it sound like?
It probably would sound dope.
Yeah. They’d just have to climb that hurdle of learning the technology. I mean, if you throw an artist who’s never seen Maschine in front of them, some interesting antics will ensue, I’m sure. But yeah that piece of technology is crazy, what you can do with that.
Yeah. Yeah. Maschine is my baby right there. You know what I mean? I got this too, the Ableton Push. I played with it a little bit. But I didn’t really… you know, it’s hard changing workflows, so I kind of just left it alone, you know?
When did you first start using the Maschine?
I can’t even remember, like whenever it came out. Whatever year that was. Did they come on? Like maybe eight years ago, maybe something like that.
I don’t really know.
Yeah. Yeah. I’m not sure, but whenever they came out, that’s when I started messing with it. Probably even longer than that, because I haven’t been working with the MPC in such a long time. So, I had to be working with this for a long time.
Are you planning on dropping any new solo albums or instrumental albums? What do you got cooking?
You know, I’m still trying to figure it out. I would like to drop a solo album. An instrumental album would be dope too. You just gave me a thought, cause I never even thought about doing that again. That would be nice. But producing for other artists is what I’m doing right now. It’s where my heart is. And I want to kind of put out a couple of artists. So it’s just a matter of time, of me putting out a few artists and then I might make another solo album or whatever, but, you know — time will tell.
Cool. Well, I’m looking forward to that. I also wanted to ask one quick thing — What was your reaction to hearing Black Thought just obliterate 10 minutes straight of the “Burn” instrumental?
Yo. When I heard that, I said, “Yo, this is the fucking lyrical Superman.” This is the lyrical Superman. I mean, who goes 10 minutes straight? People can’t even talk ten minutes straight sometimes, much less rap. So, I mean, that just goes to show you that he takes his lyricism seriously. He’s a true rapper, poet. And he’s a master of his craft.
Definitely. And he picked a good beat for the occasion.
I would say so.
I remember seeing that video. You could see him sweating as it goes and just in the zone. It’s crazy. It’s crazy.
[Laughs] Like what do those pages look like that he wrote it on!
I have no idea. I’m sure he made reference to what he wrote it on in the bars, but I don’t remember. [Laughs] Like a tree trunk! He carved them into a tree trunk or some shit! You mentioned the lyrical Superman. I’m wondering what’s a beat that led you to think, “Okay, this was a production Superman,” you know? Was there ever a moment where you were like, “Who thought of this crazy-ass beat?”
Like anyone’s beat?
“Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang.” That beat is fucking crazy to me. Every time I hear it, I’m like, “Yo, I love this beat,” you know what I mean?
There’s plenty, a whole slew of others, but that’s one of my all-time favorites. But there’s so many ill, dope beats out there, man!
I feel like a lot of people would probably put “Shook Ones Pt. II” in that equation.
Yeah. I probably throw that in too.
Did you guys know that that was the one when you came out of the studio? Were you guys like “This shit is gonna be the hit?”
I think we had a good idea. Like, “This shit is banging!” We had a pretty good idea, but like I said, you make it, studio, and then the true test is when you let it out of your hands.
Yeah, for sure. I feel like a whole new generation of people too probably heard that in 8 Mile as well. How did “Shook Ones Pt. 2” come to be the climactic song in that film generally?
You know, when things like that happen it’s a licensing thing and clearance thing. So, you know, they go for clearance, and of course, you give them permission. To see it in a major motion picture like that, it just gave the song a pair of new wings for another generation. You can’t top it.
You’ve really worked with so many different artists. I’m just wondering, is there anyone that you still want to collaborate with? A bucket list collaboration that you’re looking to get out there?
There are so many artists out there that I would like to collaborate with that it wouldn’t be fair for me to just name one or a few. But I’m a fan of a lot of artists, you know what I mean? In general. So, you know, I just like working with different artists.
Did you have an album of the year pick for 2020?
I would have to give it to Busta. He put out a decent, solid body of work. That’s my brother right there.
That’s a great pick. Yeah, he killed it.
I have to say Busta.
You could tell that that was an album that he put a lot of thought into. Especially like the arranging, the track listing, the fact that he’s able to bring back his older sound very consciously. You know what I mean? He gets the cadences down. He gets the sound effects down. He brought out a Dilla production for the occasion.
Right, right. I mean, come on. That’s Busta. I mean, he is an album-orientated artist all the way. From beginning to end, he’s mastered that.
Absolutely. Well, that’s a great pick and look — I’m sure we could talk hip hop for quite some time, but I don’t want to take up your whole day.
It’s all good. And thank you. I appreciate it.
I appreciate your time and everything you’ve given the game in general. I hope we can talk soon again. Have a great day, and be safe!
Definitely you too, man. And thank you for the interview.