To learn more about this nationally isolated, internationally renowned location and the music it has birthed, we’re going back to february this year, to the city of Malmö and G-Side’s only stop in Sweden on the European mini-tour that followed the release of their exquisitely executed Cohesive album.
G-Side named their first release Sumthin 2 Hate, but seeing them in the flesh, shining, proudly surfing a wave entirely of their own creation, there’s nothing to hate on. Even when the warm-up DJ insist on treating the crowd with the same ol’ tired ass boombap raps for a long ass time, and a fair share of squares trail off during the Alabama duo’s set to the more commercially oriented dance floor in the same building, there’s no denying that their majestic Prog Rap works surprisingly well in the club. ST 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova rap their asses off (stage routines might need some work, though), lining up one underground hit after the other. The bass is booming through the system, and fans arriving from far (shouts to Sonny AKA alabama187, Hugo, Sanna, Petter) all have a ball.
Backstage the crew is relaxing, ready to start, as ST 2 Lettas put it, “hanging out with the people”, and we get the oppurtunity to talk with him, rhyme partner Yung Clova, manager Codie G, and producer CP, who starts breaking down the structure of Slow Motion Sounds for us:
“In Huntsville – I don’t know if it’s been done anywhere else – we have a 6,000 square foot facility, and inside that we got eight studios. All the producers are under the Block Beattaz brand. We got R. Dot, ATX, Boss Man, P.T., Cees, 118, Fadel, myself, Mali Boi of course. They come to the studio, and just go studio to studio. There’s always something going on. We have young producers that we’re trying to bring up, but we’re really keen on quality. We’re just trying to give them time to mature and develop… we’re gonna get them in there and make them official.
Talking about other producers, Clams Casino helped you with Pictures.
Clams sent us the rough tracks and we went in there and stripped the beat down and built it back up, with his permission. I love Clams, Codie actually put me up to him. He’s super dope. He got crazy melodies, the illest samples. That’s what it’s all about.
You have a similar sound.
Oh yeah. I think sampling is the corner stone of hiphop. It’s what hiphop is to me. I grew up a big East coast fan: Nas is my favorite rapper; Boot Camp Click. I like the new stuff and all, but I’m a purist. That’s where my heart lies.
If we’re talking classic Southern albums, which would be your favorites?
When Outkast did Aquemeni, I wanted to quit. I loved the Witchdoctor CD, that’s one of my favorites. Young Bleed, I forgot what the name of that album was. Favorite groups… of course G-Side; I’m a little biased. I love Goodie Mob, Three 6 Mafia, of course UGK, all those guys. I’m a huge Project Pat fan… Skinny Pimp, Gangsta Black.
Any Screwed Up shit?
It really didn’t catch on with me, because I’m really not a syrup sipper. I did it one time and was stuck in one place for five hours, and said I’ll never do that again. I like Z-Ro, I like his style. Trae The Truth, he actually just grew on me…
Maybe Block Beattaz should produce for Z-RO?
We got some tracks with Trae. We got some tracks with Slim Thug. We got a couple with Pimp C before he passed.
You produced for Pimp C?
Yes. I think they got recorded but never released. We sent them off. 6 Tre G, he had that song Fresh, he was working with Trae a lot out there.
You got a lot of electronic sounds in your music, but I was listening to you the other day, and I thought, “this feels like a Barry White, Isaac Hayes thing”, the way you organize these sounds. Do you have an influence from this older generation?
Yeah, of course. But what we’re trying to do is get away from those typical samples, that people probably have used, and dig deeper. I’m really into the eurotrance music. I just bought the Katy B CD, that’s dubstep and trance.
So you’re into more electronic stuff, like dubstep?
Yeah, it’s growing on me. DJ Giraffo sent me a lot of stuff to listen to. It’s growing on me. I see how it moves people in the club, so…
Do you think America would accept someone rapping over dubstep?
Right now? No. But if we continue to get stale in the states, I think, yeah, they’d be more open to it.
The way you program your drums, do you have an influence for your complex drum patterns… or do you just take the 808 and freak it?
Pretty much, man. That’s our culture in Huntsville and Alabama and the South. The first thing you do when you get a new car, before you get an insurance and before you put gas in it, is to put speakers in it. You put the 12 or 15 inch speakers in there and let the trunk bang. The 808 is the cornerstone of the whole track. The influences from that are definitely Magic Mike, Three 6 Mafia… just aggressive drums, extreme low end. The East Coast influence comes with the sampling and the nice melodies on top of that, making everything beautiful.
In your music there’s a lot of things going on, while Magic Mike is pretty straight-forward. Is that something you came up with yourselves, or is there an influence?
I learned that from Mali Boi. This whole thing is the element of surprise, sometimes you might hear something for two bars that you won’t hear anytime else in the song. That’s his whole thing, he just wants to keep pulling you in. He got a strong jazz influence. He’s from Chicago, and pretty much well-rounded and well-versed in a lot of stuff.
I read in an interview about your very hectic work schedule. Are you still working a 9 to 5?
No. No no no. I’m actually working 9 to 9 in the studio now. I spend 20 hours a day in front of the computer, recording. We started something and now business is picking up. I just sit and record all day. That’s my job now.
Where do you get motivation to sit 20 hours a day in front of a computer?
Number one: Money. And number two: I filled out an application and now i gotta deal with it. It’s rough sometimes, but I get through it.
Do you and Mali Boi ever make beats together?
That’s how we started. But he records also. What happens is that I lay down the skeleton of the track, give it to him, he’ll do some things and send it back, and we’ll go back and forth. He’s pretty much the beatsmith. I do tracks, but my main focus is the recording, engineering and overall production of the song.
What have you learned touring?
That the world is bigger than my immediate surroundings. As far as music, I was watching the videos on TV in the hotel… Man, there’s some nice music over here. We actually did a track where we sampled Scatman John. Jackie Chain recorded to it, so that should be out soon.
Is that Pimp C stuff coming out?
I seriously doubt it.
How can that shit stay locked down?
Just politics and bullshit.
Can’t you get Obama on the line, maybe The Navy Seals, and just get it out?
Maybe! When we get a little bigger we might be able to pull some strings, but right now I seriously doubt it. One of my partners, I don’t know if you remember a group called Royal Flush, they were on Rap-A-Lot Records maybe 86-87… Royal Flush was the one that actually brought Pimp C and Bun B together to form UGK, they’re from Port Arthur also. And my partner, his partner was actually in that group, his name is Albert Bush, they call him Al-B, and he was really cool with Pimp, man. Pimp made a show in Birmingham, Alabama, and he took me to see him. Pimp used to write Al-B from jail, when he was locked up, so it was really crazy. They called each other by first name, he called him Chad. That’s how we had that connection.
What is your first memory of rap music?
My sister getting into trouble for having 2 Live Crew and I didn’t understand why. She would sneak down and dance to it when my parents were gone. She had 2 Live Crew, she had DJ Magic Mike. Those are my memories from way back.
What came after that?
I think Nas came out in 96, was that 94? Illmatic. I think that was the first time I could actually understand and breathe and… understand the impact of the music. It sent chills down my body just listening to it. How could this young cat know so much and speak so eloquently?
How old were you then?
I was fourteen. I’ve been doing this since I was nineteen years old.
Did you mostly have access to New York rap when you were at that age?
That was pretty much it. I went to store when the music dropped, that what it was all about. First thing you do, get the cd, get the plastic off of it, put the cd in, take the book out, sit in the car and listen to it. That’s one thing I miss: books.
I remember when I bought Doggystyle and it had the comic in it.
Yeah, that was a good record. That was when I was a fan. I didn’t start doing music until I was nineteen or twenty. I was at school playing football and everything. I played drums for a year, but I played football and wasn’t thinking about nothing else. But my brother, Chico, they were actually rapping, and it seemed like they were having fun. I went and bought Virtual DJ, you remember that program? I got that program, started doing beats, stopped going to class. And that’s pretty much how I started doing it first. My parents didn’t like it. My mom bought me a keyboard and she says she regretted it – but she doesn’t regret it anymore. She bought me a $600 Yamaha QS 300.
That was when you started, at nineteen – twenty hours a day?
Pretty much. It was all day everyday, then when I was younger. That’s all we did. Get high, bring some girls to the studio, get a bunch of Hennessey, get a bunch of 40′s, and just kick it and make music. Believe it or not, me and Codie G were the rappers.
How did the scene look in Alabama, when you were coming up?
There was nothing, people were like, “What the hell are you doing? Take your ass to school, get rid of this shit.” There were a couple of local groups. At Ease, J to the third. At Ease actually made it to Harlem to The Apollo, but they got booed of stage. There were three black dudes and a white guy in the group, Mike; actually the guy that got me started on doing production. That was big for us. For a long
time, man, we weren’t nobody really doing anything. We were doing all the industry stuff, we were taking our music to radio stations, they would tell us, “you gotta sound like this”, we would go back and do it, and waste time, and take it back to them, and they’d say it had to sound like something else. We were like, “fuck it, we’re just gonna make the music we wanna make”.
So when you realized that, did you have the same vision that you have today, soft, nice, beautiful melodies, hard ass drums?
Yeah. We’re actually gonna leak some of the old stuff to show you that it’s a derivative of what we were doing. Just don’t laugh at it, we were crazy. We were on some real gangsta shit back then. Calling out snitches by their government names. That was how we were living. But just growing up, being mature; we got kids now. We’re conscious of what they might hear. We’re smack dead in the middle of the street so we can’t avoid it. I deal with jackers, robbers, dopeboys, all types of people everyday, so I’m right there in it. I see everything. But I think we actually had an impact on the crime wave in Huntsville, because everybody is in the studio recording and rapping about it instead of crawling through your window. So, you know, I think we’ve had an impact.”
The One… Cohesive verkar vara det produktionsmässigt mest spännande och välavrundade albumet på åratal.
Rapparna ST 2 Lettaz och Young Clova är inte några sensationer, men de växer efter några genomlyssningar, och att de är ödmjuka och up-to-date med världsutvecklingen hjälper såklart.
Efter att ha pumpat albumet några gånger i rad vill du antagligen gräva vidare i produktionteamet Block Beattaz katalog, och då rekommenderas samlingsvolymen Block Beattaz Volume One från Southern Hospitality & DJ Giraffo varmt.