What were the stakes if you guys didn’t finish it?
Koncept: It really just would have been our loss. We would have just finished it when we got back –
J57: – But we wouldn’t have had engineers. We had an ill chemistry with them.
Koncept: Honestly, we didn’t even think about that. We just got in there and worked.
J57: Plus, we just had things too planned. We even planned extra shit, like going to Exile’s crib. We didn’t have time to do all that, but we even planned the extra stuff. And then we ended up staying a week just to have all that meetings with Interscope and all that. So we really just mapped out those two week. It was actually kind of, kind of, crazy! I remember we had our notebooks out, sitting at the airport and our girls were like, “You guys are really doing this? I don’t think rappers do that shit.” I was like this is why we’re different.
What made this whole experience a game-changer? How exactly has your music-making process changed?
J57: That whole thing is our process now. Even like for Awaken, we did that whole thing at his crib. On the song “Awaken” I had my man play keys and guitar and bass, but that was it. Everything was just me and him at his crib, and that’s it. Now we have a process. The skeleton of the beat is starting at my crib and the recording of the vocals is at his crib, then we’re going to this studio to record a sax player and this studio to record a singer, and blah blah blah. Then we piece it all together. And that’s just how we’re doing it forever. Because it sounds so much bigger. It just sounds more polished.
Koncept: And really I just think that a lot of it comes out of us finding the sound that we’ve wanted to make and we’ve been working to make. And like I said, even though I’m proud of Awaken and all that, that was all learning. Now we’ve really just developed and we’re making better music. We’ve really just found our element.
J57: I remember when he was just taking off, seeing a video of Kid Cudi in all these big ass studios and being like, “Damn, I don’t really see why they have to do that. We do all this shit at our cribs and we’re doing just fine.” Now I get it.
The resources you have in a studio, you just can’t find in your apartment.
J57: Yeah, you just can’t. No matter how great your setup is at home, you just can’t.
Koncept: And we now work out of the studio Room 17 and the inspiration in that room is just crazy. We’ll be there working on one song for like 16 hours and we go in there with the song sounding one way, but by the end of the day, it’s not even the same song.
J57: That happens so much. If I played you the before and after you’d be like, “What the fuck were you guys doing!” We just can’t do it at my crib anymore. It may start at my crib and then he’ll write a song to it, but the studio is where the magic happens.
Koncept: The studio really brings the vision out. Even when he makes the beat and I sit at home and think about how I’m gonna write to it, I sort of envision it, just like he does when he makes the beat – the studio just brings a whole new light to it.
Do you think that one aspect of it is the fact that you have to pay for studio time?
J57: We’re actually hooked up [ laughs]. We got lucky, but you know what?
Koncept: Yeah, those 16 hour days probably wouldn’t be 16 hours! [laughs]
J57: Yeah, but the cats who bring us in to work at their studios, which is mainly Room 17 for our project and even Red Bull, they believe in what we’re doing. They think it’s really fucking dope. It’s not like we’re such good friends with us that they’re like, “I’ve got nothing better to do: come make music,” as if they don’t want to make money with other people. They believe in it. And they’re a part of it too. Engineering-wise, they get involved and sometimes end up co-producing. So we just try to make the best product possible and keep elevating.
Are there any Brown Bag AllStars projects in the works?
Koncept: Yeah, we’re working on the Brown Bag AllStars debut album right now actually.
J57: I think tomorrow night we’ve having a session?
J57: Pretty much every other or every Friday we all just get up to finish the album. Because everybody’s so busy with solo shit that it’s been like insane for past couple of years, so we’re like let’s just finish the album already.
Koncept: Yeah, we’re gonna have it done by the end of the year, hopefully.
Would you guys be considered a group or a collective?
J57: I’d say a group. I can totally see people, especially people who have just gotten into us within the past year or two, thinking of us as a collective because we haven’t been putting out so much group material. But we formed as a group in very late ‘07 and went hard with the group aspect until like 2010. So there was a group two and a half years or just two years where we like going hard and just putting out Brown Bag, Brown Bag while still working on our solo stuff. But I guess 2010 was where everybody started putting out solo stuff that we had been working on that whole time at the same time. So that kind of derailed the group stuff for awhile, but then within the past year, we just went back to trying to finish that album.
Speaking of derailing, what are you guys’ least favorite trains to ride?
Koncept: I’ve probably taken the JMZ like only 3 times, but I’m gonna go with the G train. The G train is the worst to ride.
J57: I fucking hate the R. I know it’s your train, but I fucking hate it cause it’s slow! It’s really local.
Koncept: [laughs]. It is really local. That fucking local train.
J57: What about you?
My least favorite train is probably the L Train. I never get to sit down and there’s always someone that just annoys me by being there.
J57: That actually happened this morning. We took the L Train because we had to stop in Williamsburg to go the Room 17 and on the way back we were just like [disgusted facial expression]. People were just stinking up the place in there. And they weren’t homeless or anything. They’re just hipsters.
Koncept: Lots of moustaches and cowboy boots.
Yet Halloween was two weeks ago.
This is my last question. I always ask it. What albums or even songs and mixtapes this year really stood out to you? Feel free to endorse your homies’ stuff if that’s what you really feel stands out.
Koncept: You may start. I need to think about this.
J57: I haven’t been thinking about this at all, so I’ll just try to give a few of them. One of them that I love a lot was my album with Blame One. Blame One and J57, Walk in the Sun LP. I feel like we put together one of the best albums of the year. Freaking great. Another album, Denitia and Sene, I don’t know if you’re up on them. It’s not hip-hop but it’s really fucking dope. His and Hers is the name of the EP. I did two of the beats. I’m being very biased [laughs], but it really is one of the best bodies of work of the year. You can’t skip a track on there. I know I’m gonna forget some and piss off a lot of people in Brown Bag, because we’ve put out so much shit. I love [Koncept’s] project with Numonics. That’s up there. And Malt Disney: Koncept and Deejay Element. I wouldn’t put the remix that I did up in there completely because I did it in 2 days [laughs] but I love it and think people should still get it. I need one that I’m not involved with, don’t I?
You don’t have to.
J57: I think I’m done. That’s it. Fuck everybody. [laughs].
Koncept: I say we just go with that one answer for the both of us. [laughs]
J57: I love everything that everybody put out in my crew, but I’m not gonna give you a list of twenty things. But these are the things I’m still listening to.
What about outside of hip-hop?
J57: The new Passion Pit album is bugged out. I love the new Muse album.
Koncept: Vampire Weekend.
J57: Ah shit, good call!
I liked Rubber Souls by Tanya Morgan.
Koncept: Yeah! Great album. You can actually throw that on our list. [laughs]
J57: We were there for the making of that album. We were there at Studio Red. They invited us up to chill and they were making the song, “The Only One.” That’s my favorite song on the album. We saw Six (Sixth Sense) orchestrating all the singers in the booth.
Koncept: And Six is one of the funniest people –
J57: – In the history of life! Without trying. Sixth Sense – I will say this on record – is one of the funniest people in the fucking world. And Von and Don are great dudes too.
They’re pretty funny too.
Koncept: Yeah they are!
J57: Don is out of his mind. And then Von comes in there with Deejay Element style snarky humor out of the blue.
Koncept: He’s quiet until we start drinking whiskey. Then it’s a wrap.
J57: He had the luxury of going on tour with those gentlemen.
Koncept: Yeah, I spent almost 3 weeks in a van with them, so we got to know each other really well. They’re really good dudes. I knew them before I went on tour with them. We knew them from the scene – going to shows and events – but being on the road with someone for three weeks –
J57: – It can be bad or it can be good
Koncept: But yeah they’re like family, they’re brothers.
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