By Nekeya O’Connor.
Photography by Scott Hankinson
What’s your AMMO?
What’s my AMMO? I call myself crack kills. I just feel like my music is a drug that’s killing people but it’s killing them in a good way. Like Fabolous, he said, “You be killing them”…Its like that, everybody says to me, many why don’t you stop killing people with all my songs on the charts right now…like 8 or 9 and people are like wow…. I’ve gotten out of 3 publishing deals already and some people don’t even get out of one so alot of people are like, ”Yo who is this dude? Who is he?” I mean you could look at all the companies in the business and every one of them I’ve made at least 4 or 5 million. It’s great. And now it’s time to take the same energy and put it into myself. You know I have a video out right now and I’m rapping, I’m featuring Young Buck and …you really want to know my AMMO- this is real…my AMMO is VH1 Hip Hop Honors: The Dirty South. Everybody was awarded from Luke and Rap- A-Lot …shout out to Houston, Lil Flip, and all the guys out in Houston, they shouted out Outkast, Grand Hustle, Big Boi and Andre 3000…but they skipped over my city. They didn’t say shit about Memphis. We will be honoring Memphis before I leave the earth. Period. So shout out to Vh1 for being my AMMO.
You seem like the busiest person in the world. How Is It that you find time to balance between music and family life; assuming there is a family?
I mean it’s easy man. You do what you have to do, I mean that’s what all of us do even If we have to make sacrifices. And anything that you love to do or dedicate yourself to you have to make some type of sacrifice. [Even if it’s] sleep. That’s the main thing I sacrifice the most. I never sleep as much as I want to. I find myself just taking naps as opposed to getting a full nights rest. I have to sacrifice those things In order to get alot of the things I need done. When it catches up with me you might catch me two days passed out and I won’t do anything for 48 hrs but just catching up on my rest. Other than that it’s just about utilizing the time that you have and getting positive results.
Your relocation from Memphis to Atlanta…why did you decide to move away as opposed to creating your dynamic In your hometown?
O yea yea yea, from Memphis, TN, born and bred. But see I already did that. I already created my dynamic and was world known In Memphis. You know I produced. In high school you know I had Yo Gotti; we did Das Wassup. You know alot of his big singles they got him to where he is. Gangsta Boo did a song called Sippin’ and Spinnin’. I mean I had already done pretty much any artist I could produce In Memphis. It was like at a point where, it’s no more money for me In Memphis. No more noise for me to make. I had pretty much touched every producer in the business so I wanted to expand my brand. You know just coming out of Memphis and feeling like you’ve done all that you can do. It’s just like if you want to be a professional basketball player…but there’s no professional basketball team in your city. So you got to go to where it’s at and In Atlanta there were so many artists looking for music. That was my reason I just wanted to expand myself and be in an environment where I could take myself to the next level. And I already had a lot of artists already calling for me like Jay-Z Is on the phone with me everyday like, “Yo man come to Atlanta and work with me.” Pastor Troy, uh Luda too, all of these guys calling me like come to Atlanta and work with me. So you know what I’m saying it was just like, why not? And all of these people they were calling me off of the work that I was doing and saying, “Yo, I loved what you did for Yo Gotti, I loved what you did for Gangsta Boo.” And you know I remember one time going to Atlanta and was just making 20k in like a week. So I was like, yo, this is where I need to be. I mean I still reside In Memphis…everybody thinks I moved from Memphis and my only house Is In Atlanta. I just got a [little] spot in la…so any spot that makes me money, any environment that makes me money, you know that’s where I’m going to have a career or just a spot to rest my head.
You’ve had some pretty awesome accomplishments while you were back home. Your Dad got 1st chair in the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. That’s ridiculously dope! Tell us a little about that? Is that part of what helped you decide that music was what you wanted to do full time?
Yea like you know that’s my dad, my dad is in the Orchestra. He was first chair clarinetist in the orchestra for four years. First black man to even hold first chair and tenure at the University of Memphis. That’s what I had to live up to. I could’ve been in the Orchestra too and all of that. I always see my dad playing other people’s music. Don’t get me wrong I love Beethoven, I love Sebastian. These are some of my favorite composers and this is how I learned. This was the first music that I was introduced to. I just got a little bored playing everybody else’s music. So I wanted to start writing my own music, start composing my own music; and that’s what really got me into the production side of things. Growing up In Memphis you know, we call it grimy, it’s a lot of blues you know real sad, like depression. A lot of low finance, [low] income families and unfortunate families. Of course you still have your rich areas, your middle class areas and what not, just a lot of different pros and cons growing up in an environment like that and going to an all black school and taking the Clarinet. And a lot of kids are laughing at you, joking about you because you play the Clarinet. It made me rebel to the streets, I started trying to be more cool, pants started sagging and in the streets and just hanging out with different crowds. But that crowd was the Yo Gotti’s, the Playa Fly’s, the Three 6 Mafia and those are people that I met [because] I was actually In the street. Another thing about me is that I’ve gotten all my placements through people I’ve actually known. It’s me working and grinding and making things happen for myself. Music is what I was going to do full time since birth. I mean, when my mom was pregnant with me she would put the music up to her belly. And I still have dreams about hearing music but I can’t see where it’s coming from. Kind of crazy though, I’ve always loved music and wanted to be in music…my grandmother was a piano teacher. I was playing the recorder at like 3, always messing around with some kind of instrument or singing or being sung to. It was pretty much destined.
Now, both of your parents are accomplished musicians. From what I heard, your mother is an opera singer and your father is a Clarinetist. So you pretty much grew up eating, breathing, and sleeping music. What was it like growing up in your household?
I mean my mom and dad divorced so I didn’t live with both parents. I’d be with my mom and go see my dad on the weekends. And at my dads, waking up over there in the morning is like; you’re going to wake up to a clarinet. It’s kind of hard to sleep when somebody’s practicing and he wakes up at like 6:30am playing the clarinet. When he’s up playing you’re pretty much up or have the pillow over your head trying to get back to sleep. And my mom’s house on the weekends she would wake up playing oldies but goodies like Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, Ann Peebles, just some of her favorites. She would just jam out you know to Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey…some of the soulful music, from 70s and the 80s. She’s a real soulful woman, she was in the opera but also in the church choir, and we attended church on Sundays and Wednesdays to attend choir practice. And you know It was just more soulful with my mom, and my dad’s house was more strict, more discipline, speed reading programs and always staying on top of me about my education and you know my grandfather was a principal on my dad’s side and has a high school named after him In dc. And he wrote the desegregation plan for Maryland so he’s kind of a big deal that way and very strong in the educational department. Everybody on that side got a lot of discipline. It’s definitely a blessing to come from that background. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Congratulations on receiving best Indie Producer from the Southern Music Awards. How was that experience for you?
Yea man, you know I won that award back to back and just to finally get that recognition is the best feeling in the world. Hard work does pay off. It was great. And I actually got to perform and you know the city really appreciated what we had to offer and gave us full support. Even got the key to the city award from the Mayor recently last year.
So moving on to your present, you have a pretty impressive and extensive list of artists that you’ve worked with. Who would you say are your favorites and why?
Umm favorite people that I worked with so far…Id have to say Gucci, man, Gucci’s like one of my favorite guys to work with cause he’s so fun. We just go In the studio and just have fun, you know It’s never been about the money or about studio time, or how long or how many days…only thing we want to do Is have fun…Waka Flocka’s another great artist. We did No Hands and we didn’t even know we were working. It felt like we were in the club. You know it’s girls in the studio with us, drinks, everybody’s dancing, and it was just a great time. Wale’s in the studio, all these people are in there and we’re just collectively putting our thoughts together and Ideas and just having fun. Definitely the whole Brick Squad, my brother Rocko…good guy, easy to work with. We ended up doing a whole album called Self-Made. So check that joint out.
What do you think about the producers that are out now? I mean, there are so many. Is It hard to keep yourself “above the pack” when making music?
I don’t really pay attention to other producers; I pay attention to music. If its music that I’ve heard and I go, “Like, wow that was dope!” or “Wow, that’s impressive!” I might look up the credits and see who they are but I do want to say that some of the producers that [are] really doing their thing right now that I would want to shout out Is Justice League. Good friends of mine. I love their work; I love their sound. I can relate to them. Any time I hear their music; I’m like damn thank you. When somebody contributes something positive to the environment. I look at music like the environment and each piece of music that you place Is a contribution…It’s like an environmentalist, they will always like it when you do something positive like if you saved a bird…It just feels good.
What is the standard that you use to differentiate between good music and a “classic” tune?
It comes from my background and having the understanding of layers. Music is made of layers, it might be a percussion layer, or it might be a live musician layer, or piano layer, understanding how to mix your layers and create your foundation. It’s all about your layers. Picture making lasagna from scratch and you can choose your pasta to be on the bottom, if you want your sauce to be thick or make it a little more juicy, if you want to add whatever ingredients like your corn, your bell peppers, onions, favorite cheeses or just one and just mix them up. It’s like cooking. You make what you want. So I might start with the guitar, I add my base and strings. That’s what a composer is; understanding how to build music. It’s like building a house.
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