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Humble Hustle: Behind The Scenes pt. 2

 Friends,

The path of an artist is often difficult, lonely, and conflicted. But while on your journey, sometimes you come across beautiful moments in time.  Moments that wash away the pain. Moments poetically electrified through love and light. Moments… that motivate and encourage you to continue forward.

Earlier this year I embarked on an adventure with Carlos Haynes, Hittman, and Chris Lightfoot. We created a project called the #HumbleHustle. The Humble Hustle is a project created by artists who believe in each other. People who came together, from different walks of life, to create something special & unique. This wasn’t a low budget project… It was a no budget project.

Working with these gentlemen was truly an experience of a lifetime. Their work ethic and dedication has redefined the #HumbleHustle as I know it. Today, I’m honored to share with you a behind the scenes look at this project.

The Humble Hustle will be released exclusively right here, on ReliveHipHop.com, on 09.23.14!

Until next time…

Infinite love,
Asoker

The Road To Statlanta – My Conversation with Stat Quo

 

Stat Dre Em

Stat Quo was discovered by Dr. Dre & Eminem in 2002. He would go on to become the only artist, apart from 50 Cent, to sign a deal with both Shady and Aftermath. Through ups and downs, in 2008 Stat decided to leave the labels and start afresh. Stat Quo will release his debut album Statlanta on July 13th! Gearing up for the release of his debut album I had a chance to talk with Stat…

ASOKA: We’ve known you for a while, but technically this is your debut album. Who were your biggest influences that made you want to be a rapper?

STAT QUO: Well being from Atlanta, of course Outkast. Ghetto Boys, Scarface, NWA, Jay-Z, Big, 2pac, Nas, 8Ball & MJG, UGK, all of them.

ASOKA: That’s a nice list, a lot of diversity in the styles.

SQ: Yeah, I feel like I combine all of them. They’ve all influenced me. When I hear people say that somebody sounds like someone else… I don’t think you should sound exactly like somebody else. But you just can’t help but be influenced by greatness because those great people were influenced by somebody else.

ASOKA: Totally agree, there’s a big difference between biting a style and being influenced by someone.

SQ: Exactly.

ASOKA: Statlanta has been through a couple different phases, how different is this Statlanta from the one you completed originally on Shady/Aftermath? Can you take us through the evolution of this album?

SQ: Yeah, when I first initially signed with Shady and Aftermath and started making the record, I was making it a certain kind of way. It was more like a southern hip hop album. The beats were heavily influenced by the southern sound, which was crunk music. Then I worked with Eminem and it kinda went through a transformation because it involved what he had going on into it. And then after working with Dre it went through another transformation because it had a lot of the west coast influence in it.

And unfortunately I never got the opportunity to put it out over there. So when I left that situation, I started making another album in order for me to go sign with another major. So I made a whole other record based on trying to… maybe impress an executive so that I might sign with them and then I turned around and did the situation with Sha-Money XL and said you know what I’m going to make it what I want it to be.

That’s pretty much the transformation and what it went through. Initially rap period, started out being something that I loved to do and then it became a job like I wanted to make some money out of it to where it is now because I don’t give a fuck if anybody buys it, you know… I just want to do me, so I don’t even care. It’s not even about what it sells, it’s just more so about me expressing myself.

And putting it out, and getting that monkey off my back to actually releasing it you know.

ASOKA: For sure, people have been looking forward to it for a long time. Are some of these songs on Statlanta based on the songs that you did during your Shady/Aftermath run?

SQ: Nah, never. You know what it’s all new material. And the material that I did with Dr. Dre and Eminem, it’s special. I never went back and changed it and manipulated it. It’s like a painting man, you know once you paint it. And that’s just something that Dre taught me, you know once you paint something on that canvas and it’s a great picture… You shouldn’t change it. You should let it be what it is, you know what I’m saying and that’s it.

ASOKA: What’s your favorite record?

SQ: Um…you know I like them all. I mean there’s not really a favorite record. I like them all, they all have their own unique thing about em depending on what kind of situation you’re in.

ASOKA: Depending on what you’re in the mood for.

SQ: Yeah, like whatever you’re in the mood for. I got a track on there called “What I Like.” It’s totally different from all of the other records. So when you hear it, it’s like what the fuck is this doing on here? But if you listen to the skit in the beginning of it, it’s kind of like a satire, it’s a funny song. It’s like a strip club type funny record but totally different from everything else. It’s like some south funny strip club shit, I was just having fun. When I made that record it wasn’t anything but just making music that I like…and I don’t care if nobody else like it, you know.

ASOKA: I think that’s when you get the best records, when it’s just about the music.

SQ: Yeah.

ASOKA: So Which producers did you work with on the album?

SQ: Boi 1da did a couple joints, Sha-Money did a couple, S1 the dude that did the “Power” joint for Kanye he’s on there. And then a lot of unknown cats. But you know like for me, like everybody wanna go get the big name producers. If a beat is hot, as an artist you should know what a hot beat sound like. And every time it’s not the “big name people” you can take a producer that’s not a big name, and you can listen to the beat and if you know that it’s missing a better snare or a better kick…as an artist you’re suppose to be able to hear that and change it into something.

You know back in the days man they use to make hip hop on 3 tracks. Now, you need 200 tracks just to make hip hop. They use to make hip hop records for a hundred dollars, now these cats spending millions of dollars to do hip hop albums.

ASOKA: Oh, wow.

SQ: It’s ridiculous man, that’s why they’re not making any money.

Stat, Dr. Dre, Game, and Common in the studio.

Stat, Dr. Dre, Game, and Common in the studio.

ASOKA: I think it’s cool that you’re giving new people chances too, because they might be unknown but then… people are going to know them now because they’re on a Stat Quo album.

SQ: When S1 did my joint, he hadn’t really done anything. But now that he did the Kanye “Power” joint, “Now it’s oh S1 is….you know.” Dude’s been hot, you know what I’m saying. But it takes an artist to be like…I don’t care what he’s done or hasn’t done…this is a dope ass beat. You feel me?

ASOKA: Definitely, it should be all about the music, not just names and credentials.

SQ: Exactly! Because how do we find the next Dr. Dre, how do we find the next Timbaland?
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ASOKA: Eminem and Dr. Dre are arguably two of the biggest names in hiphop today. You’ve had the chance to learn from them first hand. What’s the most important thing you learned under Em and Dre as an artist?
SQ: I learn from Dr. Dre everyday. That dude is ridiculous. Em… taught me some really technical shit about rapping. If you listen to Em’s rhymes… He knows how to take words that normally wouldn’t rhyme together and make them rhyme. Now I can take words that normally don’t go together and pronounce them differently to make them rhyme. Eminem does a lot of that.

And another thing I took from him…Eminem will make a sentence…and he’ll make every word rhyme in the next bar from the previous sentence. That’s some technical shit that the listener probably won’t even hear…but he does shit like that. And that’s the kind of stuff I picked up from being around him.

ASOKA: That’s amazing.

SQ: Yeah, it’s just that little simple shit, like multis, when people hear him rap they don’t get that, they just hear the little corkyness in the rhyme or it’s funny or whatever.

ASOKA: Yeah and as a fellow artist…I can notice that too. The rhythm in his voice and it’s just off the hook.

SQ: Yeah, it’s incredible. But with Dre…dude has taught me so many things that we would be here all night if I were to explain to you the greatness of that dude. He’s a great person, all around. As a person, as a producer…he just taught me how to be a better person, a better human being. Shit about my life, shit about my health, you know man…It’s just bigger than music, my relationship with him. He is truly like a mentor, like a father that I never had, not to say that he’s old but really… like a big brother that I never had.
—–
ASOKA: You’ve been working with Dr Dre on Detox, and were in the new HP commercial with him too. Do you have any cool or funny stories that happened in the studio that you want to share?

SQ: When I was on the set of the HP commercial, the guy from Flight of the Conchords, he was also in Yes Man or whatever. In the commercial, his hair dogg, looked so weird like…it just looked like a hairpiece. It looked like a toupee. And you know, Game was at the set too, we were all over there whispering about it. And I was like I’m just going to ask him about it like, “Yo dude, is that a toupee?” I couldn’t believe that I did that. I asked him and he just looked at me and said “No! It’s my hair.” (laughs) But whatever, that right there just ruined the relationship. From that point on it was fuck Stat. You know what I mean (laughs)

But his shit looked like a toupee though, I couldn’t hold it in! That shit was just sitting up on his head like…it was crazy! I still can’t believe I asked him that, then I tried to come back like, “Hey man, I loved you in Yes Man, you were the shit!” And he gave me this evil ass look.

ASOKA: So Statlanta is finally coming out, what’s next for Stat Quo?

SQ: Me and Boi 1da and doing an album together. Kind of like a Reflection Eternal. Boi 1da is a producer who does a lot of Drake’s beats. He did “Best I Ever Had” he did “Forever” a couple joints on my album. He did the Drake song “Over.”

ASOKA: That should be fresh, I think your styles compliment each others.

SQ: Yeah, we’re doing the whole album together. Just trying to figure out what we’re going to call our name, a Reflection Eternal kind of thing.

ASOKA: That’ll be sick man, looking forward it! Anything you want to say to your fans?

SQ: Go get the album!

ASOKA: July 13th! In stores everywhere!

SQ: Indeed!

ASOKA: Thanks man, I really appreciate you taking the time for this.

SQ: No problem, thank you brother.

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“Best Hip Hop Artist’ VH1 Nomination!

vh1-sn-awards

yo,

If you want something bad enough you have to believe in it. Just as a wall is made out of individual bricks, realistically all dreams are made out of individual efforts. At times it can seem like a daunting task… but you just have to focus on placing one brick down at a time.

Today I’m ecstatic to announce that I’ve officially been nominated by VH1, for the “Best Hip-Hop Artist” category, at the VH1 Sound Nation Awards later this month.

It’s so crazy to reminisce on how everything’s turned out. I started rapping in Detroit on a three-dollar microphone, got placed on 2Pac album, which led to the feature in Rolling Stone magazine, which in turn enabled me to collaborate with Eminem & Dr. Dre’s artists, to eventually self releasing music videos that would get picked up by MTV & VH1.

Which brings me to today… Believe in yourself even when no one else does. Hard work does pay and good things do come. Win, lose, or draw… It’s been one hell of a ride.

Hit me up on twitter @TheAsoka or Instagram @TheAsoka and let’s chop it up. Let me know which songs you like the most and what videos you think should come next.

Hope you’re enjoying the music as much as I am!

Get Heart Of A Lion on iTunes
Get The Man Of Steel EP on ReliveHipHop.com

Talk soon,

Asoker

Through The Eyes Of A Veteran – My Conversation with Hittman!

HIttman and The Asoka

If the West Coast Hip Hop movement were an army, Hittman would be a glorified soldier; a hero amongst his peers. Hittman was the most featured artist on Dr. Dre’s 2001 album! He showcased his skills to the world on 10 songs on the iconic hip-hop album!

His name will forever live on in Hip Hop history. I recently spoke with Hitt on life, music, and the overall ride that the music industry has taken him on….

The Asoka: What’s up Hittman, what’s been going on in your world?

Hittman: Wuddup man?! Whats been goin` on in my world you ask? Well let`s see, bills, an occasional cheap thrill & the never ending quest to stay real to myself & my craft. That`s about it, pretty much (lol)!

The Asoka: You recently dropped RNADW (Real Niggas Against Dirt Weed). How’s the reaction been to that and is that going to be on an album or is that just a single for the streets?

The reaction has been good man, especially from those that blaze & have had bad experiences with weed that wasn`t up to par, you know what I`m sayin`? And yes to the 2nd part of your question, R.N.A.D.W. is a street single that will appear on my up & coming cd called “BiG HITT: The Last Days of Brian Bailey”! I chose to drop that joint 1st for a couple of reasons. One becuz it was one of the 1st songs that we worked on & it was ready to go. And secondly becuz it does not forecast what the album is about, it`s simply one puzzle piece to a much larger picture.

The Asoka: I remember you saying that you like to do concept albums, what’s the direction you’re taking this album in?

Hittman: Yes concept albums & mixtapes are my thing as you`ll begin to notice once I start droppin` more material. For BiG HITT: The Last Days of Brian Bailey I`m using what I like to call the “90`s era of Hip-Hop” aesthetic. Which means I approach the music like producers did in the early to mid 90`s. Sample heavy tracks with filtered bass lines, cuts, scratches & sound bytes for skits. You know things like that? Also 50% of the rhymes are from my 95,96, & 97 rhyme books. Now of course songs have been tweaked & updated here & there but I doubt the listener will be able to tell where the adjustments have been made. The album is about the trials & tribulations of an underground artist tryin` to get signed in the mid-90`s through all the madness that was goin` on at the time (gang wars,coast wars & style wars [underground vs. mainstream]. My songs are like journals written in rhyme driven by skits in between that have been constructed from countless incomin` messages that I saved on micro cassettes. Kinda like Mary J did on “What`s The 411″ times 50, lol! So what you hear on the skits are 100% authentic & of those times.

The Asoka: Wow, that sounds crazy! I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to check out the skits on an album before! How close are you to completing the album? Who have you worked with on there so far?

Hittman: I`d say that I`m about 1/2 way done with the album. It`ll be like 22 songs altogether, 11 uni-verses (like R.N.A.D.W.) & 11 full songs. It`s mostly been in house, me & my man Pomo a.k.a. Pastor Po. But I wanna have at least one beat from all the head`s that I was doin` music with in that era like my man Yusef who I call Sef Hef. This dude grew up with Large Professor & in my opinion was J Dilla before I knew who Dilla was, seriously. Also my man Ralph M (original KDAY mix-master & Funkdoobiest group member), who gave me my 1st feature appearance on a song called “Life`s A Gamble” from Funkdoobiest`s 3rd album called The Troubleshooters. And my man Pockets(Bonnie & Clyde Theme) whose from around my way, Grandmixer Emz etc. That`s the plan at least but we`ll see.

The Asoka: And what exactly is the album making process for you like? How do you know when you’re finished?

Hittman: The album makin` process has been an easy one thus far becuz I did so much prep work before goin` into the studio. I have rhyme books & then I have composition books which contains the full structure of each song, where the sound bytes go, what scratches will be used, bpm of the sample etc.
It`s hard to explain how you know when you`re finished, you just know you can feel it. I was searchin` for a more profound way to say but I fell short, forgive me. LOL!

The Asoka: And when is the album going to be out and what’s the best place for fans to buy it? iTunes, best buy etc?

Hittman: Yep, itunes, Best Buy, Amazon etc. And since it`s still a work in progress I don`t wanna do like my mentor & give all types of release dates & the shit don`t come out on any of those dates (LOL), so I`ll just say when it`s ready. But I will be releasing singles with b-sides that don`t appear album up until the actual release of the LP.

The Asoka: Talking about the creative process, you’ve worked and learned from some of the best from our generation, what do you feel is most essential to an artist for writing a good song?

Hittman: Wow, that`s a really good question…..An infectious chorus or hook, clever lyricism (stay away from cliche`) and sharp exciting delivery just to name a few essentials. There are more…

The Asoka: What’s the song writing process for you like?

Hittman: My process to writing has changed over time, but in modern day I just write whenever the inspiration comes. Sometimes it`s with a beat and other times without. I`ll even just listen to a beat & write a story out & then freestyle lyrics while tryin` to stick to the story line that I wrote out. I do that mainly to determine the style & cadence that I`ll use for that particular song, thank GOD for Pro-Tools! Sometimes when I write to a beat that I`ve been listenin` to on repeat for hours the rhymes seem to get stale. But whenever I go in the booth & freestyle it comes out hotter becuz that`s what I`m feelin` at that exact moment. So I guess in essence my modern day formula is to blend 2 processes together to come with my songs.

Hittman Dr Dre

The recording process before Pro Tools was a long one. If you were fortunate to get into an official studio you`d better be on point or you were gonna just go there & waste money. If you wanted to stack the vocals on your hooks you had to lock them in through your performance. There was no way to copy your hook several times until it sounded big. You had to do them one by one. And if you planned on using more than 24 tracks you had to have a slave reel right next to the master reel which kind of sucked becuz it always took the slave reel a minute to catch up with the master and that would prolong the process of trackin` vocals, man just thinkin` about that is givin` me flashbacks of all the grueling sessions I`ve been through. So once again “thank GOD for Pro Tools”! The positive thing about having to deal with the limitations of analog recording is that it made you unafraid of the hard work that it takes to be a complete artist becuz you didn`t have a choice.

The Asoka: You’ve got a huge history with Dr Dre. What are some of the things you learned from Dr. Dre, and you know just the whole experience of being with Aftermath and the music industry. Is there something in particular that sticks out in your mind over the rest?

Hittman: Well, one thing I learned from Dre was to be flexible. Don`t be so set on something to where you`re not willin` to consider optional possibilities. You know like buildings in California that are not so-called earthquake proof snap & crumble when a high magnitude quake occurs. But newer buildings are built to sway with the movement of quakes & therefore has a better chance to be standing once the quake is over….I hope that analogy convey`s what I was tryin` to say, but if not fuck it, I think you get the point (lol). Another thing that I picked up from Dre was to be patient with the music & the recording process. He told me that “A G Thang” was the last song that he recorded for The Chronic yet it ended up being the 1st single and an instant classic from that monumental album. The same thing with 2001, Still D-R-E was the absolute last song recorded and it set it off for what would be another unrivaled offering from the good Dr. So his point was well taken. But what the industry taught me as a whole is that loyalty is not welcomed & will always be a second class citizen to opportunity. And I learned that the very hard way.

The Asoka: And out of all the artists that you worked with during your time there, who did you vibe with the most and who was the most fun to work with in the studio?

Hittman: I got along with everyone but me & Mel-Man clicked right away, same thing with Kurupt, Knoc-turn-al & Proof (r.i.p.). In the studio I vibed with whoever I was on the song with. But the most fun I had in the studio is whenever Chronic class of 92 (Snoop, Kurupt, Nate (r.i.p.), Warren G, D.O.C., RBX, lil 1/2 Dead, Soopa Fly etc.) was in the house, they are fuckin` hilarious, cool & down to earth people but at the same time very professional. I learned a lot from all of them. And no matter what type of industry politics or whatever I was goin` through, they NEVER acted or treated me different then they did when we all in the studio vibin` together. So I got nothin` but respect & appreciation for all of them.

The Asoka: Do you have any funny stories you could share, like something crazy that happened during a studio session?

Hittman: Aw man, there is a story behind each song on 2001 (lol), let me see! I got one about “Housewife” that is fuckin` HILARIOUS & it coincides with the song too but I think that I`m gonna save that one for my book of memoir`s that I just started writing called The Great Hip-Hop Adventures of BiG HITT. So here`s another that I can share about the makin` of “Murder Ink”. Okay, we (me, Dre, Mel, D.O.C., Kurupt, Six-Two, Sean Cruz, Mike Elizondo, Scott Storch & our in house engineer at the time Richard who we named Segal) were at a recording studio in Reno, NV that I can`t recall the name of at the moment. Anyway Dre, Mel-Man & the musicians are layin` down the foundation to the song that will become Murder Ink which is based from the Halloween theme from the movie with the same name. Come to find out that the resident engineer of the studio who I think Mel-Man gave the nick name Stern (becuz he was really tall & kind of looked like Howard Stern) was a HUGE fan of the movie & had all type of extra insight about Michael Myers. I think he even said that he tried out for the part in one of the later Halloween films, keep that in mind. So now the track is laid & soundin` phat, I laid my verse already while Kurupt was in another room writin` his verse to the beat. His verse was never heard by the masses becuz it was later replaced by Ms. Roq`s verse. So the lights are kinda dim we bouncin` to the beat the ones that smoke are stoned. All of a sudden Dre says what the fuck, as he looks towards the vocal booth we all follow his eyes to see Michael Myers(Stern) in that mask & jumpsuit standing there lookin` at us. First we laugh like “Stern is crazy”, 3 minutes later he`s still standin` there & now were startin` to get spooked out a bit as he slowly twist his head from left to right & back the other way. Then in a quick sudden motion he exits the booth. We anticipate him opening the door to the control panel but nothing happens for about two minutes then the door opens slowly but no one enters. Everyone in the studio is startin` to bug out, then the door shuts again so we`re expecting Stern to return to the booth. Out of nowhere the door flings open & Micheal Myers enters & taps Mike Elizondo on the shoulder, Sean Cruz whose standin` right next Mike jumps & crashes into the keyboards that`s stacked up against the wall. Mike jumps off the stool that he was sittin` on so high that he could`ve cleared the pole vault & placed in the long jump competition in the olympic games. All type of shit got knocked over & locked down but Mike as spooked as he was did not drop that bass guitar, & that`s what made the whole ordeal extremely funny. We laughed for about 45 minutes after that, woooooooooo…..good times I tell ya good times!!!

The Asoka: Is there a chance we might get to hear you and Dre together again on Detox? Have you had a chance to work together on the project with him?

Hittman: Well you know what they say, anything is possible! I have not been around the recording process of Detox in about 4 or 5 years but I do have slugs in the chamber if or whenever he does call on me to contribute.

The Asoka: What are some things that fans can expect from Hittman in the near future?

Hittman: The Hitt Maniacs out there as I like to call`em can expect to hear a joint called “Sugar” which is the B-side to R.N.A.D.W. very soon. Also I`m gonna start leakin` songs from my upcoming mixtape MWII (Murder Weapon II) so be on the look out for that as well. And I`m planning on droppin` a song called “Niggerish Ways” produced by Mel-Man along with either a song called “BedLAm” or one called “I Like 2″ as the B-side but I haven`t made my mind on which one just yet. Those two joints will end up on another album in the works called HITT`s Big Score. So stay tuned!

hittman

The fans can follow me on twitter @HITTMANsince87

The Asoka: Anything else, you want to cover?

Hittman: Yeah, I just wanna summarize what I just stated. R.N.A.D.W. (Real Niggas Against Dirt Weed) available now @ Itunes.com & amazon.com. The B-side “Sugar” on the way. BiG HITT: The Last Days of Brian Bailey a work in progress, song from MWII (Murder Weapon II) on the way, “Niggerish Ways/BedLAm or I Like 2″ coming soon & will appear on HITT`s Big Score. Thanks to all of those that support me & my music endeavors you are GREATLY APPRECIATED. And remember never, chose quantity over quality! Peace

Make sure you keep up with Hittman on Twitter!