Exclusive Interview: Kidz in the Hall Talk Occasion, Grammy Nominations, Chris Brown, Jungle Juice & European Bitches

interview by @petermarrack

Kidz in the Hall and I don’t see eye to eye. I think it’s disrespectful for Chris Brown to have been nominated for Best Rap Performance at the Grammys, as it gives the impression that anyone can just pick up the mic, start rapping, and twelve months later rub elbows with Jay, Ye, and B in the front row of the Staples Center. Double-O (of Kidz in the Hall) on the other hand, he believes it’s true, that anyone can just pick up a mic these days and win a Grammy, considering the state of the market and where the biz is at. In hindsight, the dude’s probably right. Traditional hip-hop culture is all but dead, even in the eyes of those who created it, and anyone fronting like they just escaped from the gutter is only acting. C’mon, Harlem, the Bronx, Queens, or any of the boroughs really, they’re nothing compared to how they were in the 80’s. Take a gander at the RZA’s The Tao of Wu, and read about how his family slept in shit, then come back and tell me about real hip-hop. But all that is besides the point anyway. My point is, Double-O of Kidz in the Hall understands a smidgen too much about this industry not to have a record on your favorite radio station. He’s got one foot in the door, one foot out, stuck in that almost irrevocable limbo the prisoners at Marshalsea dubbed “The Hole”. Could Double-O really appreciate hip-hop too much…?

Read the complete interview after the jump.

What’s been the most rewarding moment so far, after dropping Occasion?

Hmm, it being bootlegged everywhere I guess. [laughs] At least for me it has. We haven’t sold a crazy amount of records but I know my homegirl hit me from Italy and was like, “Yo, you guys must be doing something right because they’re bootlegging you in Florence right now.”

Yeah, when people are bootlegging the stuff, you really know you’ve got some influence.

Yeah, yeah, at least it looks like there’s some sort of demand. Whether or not people buy the records, that to me is a very different game. But I know that the first week our album came out Duck Down was dealing with over a hundred download links, and over a hundred cease and desist letters they had to try and send out. To me, that demand being there is an important thing. It doesn’t necessarily benefit us because we don’t make money, because those don’t always convert to sales.

You’re judging your success by cease and desist letters. [laughs]

Well yeah, this game is a very different game now. It’s not a first week sales game, especially in the indie market.

I’d actually done this interview before, but I had a little crisis on my MacBook, which was bad. I wondered what your biggest brain-cramp has been since you got in the game, even something small that’s escalated.

Nothing really, because we just roll with the punches. In terms of little bullshit that I’m mad at myself about, or mad at everyone else for not checking me on, was on the artwork for this new album, I misspelled the homie’s name, Sulaiman. [laughs] He goes to buy the album and his name doesn’t even have just one letter missing, it’s a complete fuck-up of three or four letters. It doesn’t even look like the name is pronounced correctly. On the tracklisting it’s right, and when you hit play on the CD it comes up fine, it’s just the actual print that got fucked up. And of course with everyone who was supposed to look and check my artwork and shit, it still came out wrong. But you just got to roll with it. That was a little thing.

That’s what I meant. That type of thing. The rap duo isn’t as common anymore, or even the rap group. Why is that?

Because rap is a selfish fucking game and everybody is in it for themselves. [laughs] It’s harder to sell a group than it is to sell an individual artist. We don’t both rap, so sometimes it can be confusing, or even easier in our sense, but when you have duos it means communicating different perspectives, doing all this stuff that can become confusing. You can’t just be like, “They’re this artist from this area who has this voice and that’s what it is,” you know? It’s a very direct sell when you have one artist. It’s funny though, because we’re a duo from a marketing standpoint, but then there’s no Drake without 40. They are essentially as much of a duo as we are. The difference is that I take it to the stage and incorporate all those different elements, while other producers just sit in the studio and move on to the next thing. I think that’s the big difference. A lot of my performances are as crucial as everything else.

Do you think it would have helped you guys if one person stood out above the other, like an Eminem in D12?

I mean, for me Naledge is still the voice. He is the person they see the majority of the time anyway.

I heard Naledge is hotter with the bitches too.

Ah, never that. No, no, no. When it comes to that kind of stuff, we offer whatever they need. [laughs] Whatever they want, we have it all in two people, so that makes for a very easy thing. Most of the time the chicks that want to fuck with him don’t want to fuck with me anyway. It’s all good.

When you’re doing the reality show, or you’re in the studio with Naledge, does he ever get on your nerves? Are there moments when you just want to take an axe to his skull?

Naw, not really like that crazy. There’s just some frustration, the artist vs. artist frustration, I feel something should go a certain way and he’s like, “No, it’s gotta go the other way.” I mean, I’m always trying to overachieve and do these great big things, and he’s just like, “If I do something this way first, that’s the way it is.” Sometimes redoing verses, things like that can get frustrating. Or even trying to get what I think is the best out of a record. There’s even other times when I’m like, “No, that beat is too dope. You can’t have it.” [laughs] We figure out ways around it. Sometimes he’ll steal beats from me and sometimes I’ll write hooks. That way I can ensure the direction I wanted out of the hook or the song is already in it. It’s very easy for him to get in there and murder the verse.

Naledge said on Occasion he tried to play more with cadences and find nuances with the English language. Can you give us a testimony about that, on his progression?

This is an issue I have with a lot of rappers. It’s not even an issue I have with Naledge, but it’s the idea that- There’s way too many rappers that are trying to prove they’re good. They’re trying to prove they’re the dopest emcee now, and unfortunately the bar for this shit doesn’t even matter. Because the Layman will never be able to tell the difference between somebody who is an awesome, awesome rapper and someone who is a decent rapper. I mean, frat kids are decent rappers now. They may not be the next Eminem, but they can fuck around and fluke a record that is a hit. It’s happening. That’s what’s happening now.

Not Tom Hanks’ son, man.

Not even the singing stuff?

[laughs] I don’t know, man. I fuck with Rich Hil.

It is what it is. [laughs] That’s the reality in rap. You have to have more fun with what’s going on. And this is album number four for us.

Are you proud of any specific elements of your production this time around, on Occasion?

Mixing, not even in production. I mixed half the record. That was always the thing I considered to be a big weakness of mine. I always relied on the engineer we use to put things together. But “Pour It Up” I mixed, that was big for me.

You can be your own team soon.

[laughs] Yeah.

Naledge talks about it a lot, but are women an inspiration for you as well?

Of course, we love women, yada, yada, yada. For an artist you always need a muse, and sometimes for some people that muse usually straddles an unhealthy addiction, versus something that’s just inspirational. For some people it’s drugs, for some people it’s drinking.

You like your Hennessy.

Yeah, well- they’re going to kill me for this. Naledge is the dark liquor fan. I very much prefer whisky and vodka and shit like that. But because I’ve drank so much Hennessy lately, I fuck with Hennessy a lot more now.

What were you guys drinking back in college? Have your tastes matured?

[laughs] We’ve drank Everclear since college. We drank all kinds of shit. Naledge was in a frat and lived in a frat house. I didn’t live in a frat house, but my house was very much a frat house. There were six of us in a single crib. We used to make this weird jungle juice variation-

I know, I know. I went to school in Madison, man, Madison, Wisconsin.

So you already know. But in Pennsylvania it’s illegal to sell Everclear so we used to have to jump over to Jersey, pick up our Everclear, come back over, and then you know…

I didn’t know Everclear was illegal there.

Yeah, because Everclear is like, I don’t know, 190 Proof or whatever it is. [laughs] It’s basically moonshine. So it’s like moonshine with some sugary-ass drinks in it.

[in Wisconsin we had ‘Jungle Juice Remix’, which was slightly less forgiving, mind you…]

It’s funny, drinking has always been a relief for me. Only recently have I learned to train the dragon though. Like if I have writer’s block I’m able to use it a little bit to loosen things up and get stuff out.

You’re still able to be productive with it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, and it’s knowing its limits. Like I said, it’s about controlling the muse, as opposed to the muse controlling you.

Somebody said Freddie Gibbs was wasted when you recorded “Player of the Century”. How many drinks are we talking about?

Yeah, Naledge was with him out in Chicago.

Were you there too?

No, not at all.

Naledge throws a lot of interesting stuff out in interviews. He talked about Drake getting all the bitches, and I’m from Toronto as well, so I can testify to that. But Drake also has lyrics which advise rappers not to blow money on bottles, but to invest your money back into your career. Do you guys ever feel guilty or uneasy when you’re in the club-

No, because we’re rappers and we don’t pay for bottles. [laughs] The athletes pay for the bottles. The rappers don’t pay for the bottles. If you’re a rapper and you decide that you want to literally pay for these bottles because that’s what you want to do, that’s fine. But honestly that’s what the Wall Street dudes do to waste their money. And the athletes aren’t cool enough to get their shit for free. We went to Penn. Everything we do is still based on relationships, and figuring out systems. It’s like, know the club owner, that way you can get two bottles. The reality is we actually drink our alcohol. It’s not putting it on for the lifestyle. A lot of cats get the stuff either because a) that’s how they get girls to their table, or b) because they’re like, “Oh, I’m a rapper so I should be doing this.” Naw, we actually do drink. Our big thing we figured out in Europe is bottles at the bar. Fuck a table now. Give me the bottle at the bar and I’m mingling with the people and drinking and that’s what I’m doing. That’s our new shit now.

Do you really want that to come out in print? Everyone will be doing it soon.

Yeah right. Everybody’s still afraid enough of people that they want their table, and to be away from everyone. We’re bringing a little bit of the frat boy bar lifestyle to these V.I.P. clubs.

Going back to the album, I heard you were a little frustrated by the cohesion of the tracks, but then Naledge felt that the sporadic feel complimented the recording process.

Well, I’m the producer in the truest sense, so I start with these three records that really make sense and we need an intro, we need an outro, we need a bridge, we need a crescendo, all of these things. And rather than really seeking that out this time I was kind of like, “Fuck it.” I agreed with Naledge after a while, like, “Yo, let’s just put 14 great records together.” We had them, but the issue was “Pour It Up” wouldn’t have even come out if they would have listened to me. There were some records like “Pour It Up” and “Crash Dummy”, and there are others that aren’t out yet. I thought that could be a dope thing by itself. Then “Occasion”, “Walk On Air” and “That Good” and “Break It Down” could be something good by itself, but it felt it didn’t mesh together. So eventually I was like, “Fuck it, this is what I have. Let me just make the track listing make sense and all the other stuff will follow in place.”

Have you heard how The Black Keys do it?

No, no, no.

They send in all their completed records to the label and then the label picks whichever ones they like and arrange them how they want.

Yeah, that’s what Wayne does. Lil Wayne does that.

Would you ever agree to something like that?

You know what, if you love the music it doesn’t matter. That’s really what it comes down to. I am a little bit OCD when it comes to tracklistings because I’m a DJ. I am still from an era where I listen to an album as a whole. The feelings which happen over the course of an album are the things I still want to direct, so that’s the only reason I’m like, “It needs to feel this way.” But there’s a lot of people who do that. Wayne, his manager and Baby and them put together Wayne’s albums. He just gives them all the records.

Have you checked out the Grammy nominations?

Skrillex, Skrillex, Skrillex, Skrillex! That’s what it’s all about.

That surprised me. Any thoughts about the rap categories?

I don’t even care about the rap categories. [laughs] I’m Skrillex, honestly.

But Chris Brown, Best Rap Performance? That drove a stake through my heart.

Yo, I knew it was going to happen. Like I said, what did I tell you, what were we talking about earlier, it doesn’t matter anymore, the idea that you’re rapping so that people will know you’re good at rapping is over. People who are stuck doing that are going to have failed careers, or stunted careers, because this shit does not matter. Chris Brown is one of the better rappers in the game right now, one of the hottest rappers in the game.

I think it just sends the message to people that you can pick up a mic and start rapping and win a Grammy.

But you can! Let’s be for real about it. There was always going to be a point when rap was going to get to a level where the general public could rap proficiently, or good enough to be able to make a record. And that’s where we are now. Look at how many people bought Mac Miller’s album. Nothing to take away from Mac, but Mac is not Eminem. Mac is not Em.

I bought the album. He’s a good emcee.

It’s not about proficiency though. It’s not about lyrical dexterity. It’s not about any of this stuff. It’s really about vibe and emotion and feeling and whether you fuck with this person or not. So honestly, Chris Brown, because of what happened, he gained popularity, and almost more as an urban artist than a pop artist. His personal life makes it so he can rap, and you’re going to buy into it. I have no issues. The record was a monster. “Look At Me Now” was a monster. It may have singlehandedly resurrected Busta Rhymes’ career.

Switching topics, can you tell us about the new season of the reality show?

[laughs] It’s either going to be awesome or fucking terrible. The theme essentially is us coming to grips with the fact that we don’t have a major label deal and being fine with that. And honestly that’s a lot of what Occasion was, in terms of the energy of it, like, “We’re still going to have fun. We have to enjoy life and get the most out of it while we can.” Because we could easily be in a scenario where it doesn’t happen anymore. But the season is really just leading up to the album coming out, going out to Europe, taking a little bit of a break and kicking it, and then getting back to work while we’re out there. It’s almost like background on how to put an album out internationally on a very tight indie budget. We did a bunch of shows in Germany and the UK. We were out in Barcelona just kicking it. You get to see a lot of that. There’s a lot of drinking. It’s us being forever frat kids, which always leads to dumb ass shit. There’s a weird decathlon we make up and has nothing to do with what a real decathlon is. There’s definitely blood involved at some point on camera. There’s definitely vomiting at some point on camera.

What about Z tables breaking?

Oh, that fucking Z table. No, luckily, surprisingly, because we’re out of the country, there’s very few big girls. [laughs] That’s just the way shit goes. There are not that many fat people in Europe. There are, but not as many as here, because they have a better diet.

Especially Eastern Europe, like I’ve been in Serbia.

Yeah, I spent time in Bratislava and it’s just like, “Yo, this is crazy.” The thing is, they’re still eating a lot of starches and carbs and all of those things, but you realize it’s more the byproducts of what is in our food than it is the actual food. Like in Germany all they eat are variations of sausage, but- well, I’m sure they have their own issues in terms of health care, but it’s not at the level that we’re dealing with in terms of diabetes and hypertension and all the bullshit. But anyway, no breaking of tables, there’s falling, it’s just fun. We had a ton of fun and that was the scariest thing. When we came out we’re like, “Holy shit, did we even film anything?” The directors even got drunk and they’re out there trying to film. We used Rex Arrow on the production of this. He does all the Mac Miller stuff, so it should be dope.

 

– By @petermarrack