Smoke DZA’s Rugby Thompson hits stores today and you should probably go buy it. Produced entirely by blossoming Brooklynite, Harry Fraud, the album’s a dark, plush offering, with features from the likes of Curren$y, Action Bronson, Sean Price, and ScHoolboy Q. Unlike the majority of projects today, which come to be via producer/rapper email exchanges, DZA took to Harry Fraud’s Brooklyn studio for the recording of Rugby Thompson, cranking out the album in a series of studio sessions. Last week, Smoke DZA stopped by the XXL office to play us his latest release, breaking down Rugby Thompson track by track, sharing exactly how each cut of the project came to life. —Neil Martinez-Belkin (@Neil_MB)
"This was one of the last joints that we did actually. I wanted a proper introduction to the album and every direction I gave Fraud about how I was feeling and what I wanted to accomplish, he was able to go there production wise. So when I said I wanted to do an Intro for it, this was what he cooked up. And I was like, 'I might as well name the title track Rugby Thompson so it could introduce people to the character and the name of the album. That was my theory on it."
"This here is one of my favorites because it was way outside my element in terms of what people know me for. I was just trying to show people that yeah, I go there too. This project is kind of like a darker one than my others. I feel like I’m underrated in a lot of aspects so on this it's like I’m fed up. Fuck that, you gonna listen now. Oh you don’t wanna hear the weed rap? So I’ll give you the aggressive side, the nigga from 119th street. This song is the definition of that."
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"I think Spitta had something to do in the city. He was doing a lot of press for The Stoned Immaculate and that’s my brother. He came through one of the days I was in the studio and I told him, 'Yo, I got a joint for you.' He came through the lab, we smoked pot, ate pizza, laughed, and eventually got to the record. As soon as I played it, he knew what it was. This is how Spitta’s upcoming Cigarette Boats EP with Fraud came about. Randomly. He was just like ‘Yo this is crazy Fraud, we gotta do one.'”
"Another one of my favorite joints. I don’t know yo. I feel like I'm underrated as a storyteller. Someone’s just a got a personal vendetta against me somewhere, where they wanna say I’m just a weed guy. I don’t be understanding at all how a lot of shit like this get overlooked."
"I cut this record and I had two open slots. I wanted to take it to the face but then I thought that this may be one of those dope posse records. Domo, that’s like my little brother. I love the way he raps and as a person that’s just my guy. He missed my last project cause he was supposed to be on Rolling Stoned but he was touring, whatever. So I got him on this when he had a Odd Future show here sometime in March. I took him from the hotel to Fraudy's. He knocked it out. I was probably gonna leave it at that. But then ScHoolboy came to town and you know, we linked over the common denominator, the pot. Plus he’s my homie, so he came to the studio and we ended up smoking like a 1000 pieces. In the midst of that, he did the verse. We’re working on the remix to this record too."
"Sean price got on this one randomly. I was in the studio working on this record and he hit Fraud like, ’What you doing?’ 'I'm in here with DZA cutting it out,' Fraud told him. Price goes, ‘Tell that nigga I'm on my way!’ So he showed up, polyed for a few, and he goes, 'I got one for you,' and that's what it was."
"Twelvy's my guy. I had him on the '4 Loko' remix. We cut a bunch of records and we always keep in contact. When I started working on this I wanted to have him on it, so same agreement as the other dudes. Brought him down to BK, smoked some pot, wrote some raps. Organic shit."
"I’m a fan of Kenny Powers. I get down with that show. He’s hilarious. Watching the second season when he moved to Mexico and was getting down with all the cockfighting, pause. He was chasing the chicken, and in Harlem, chicken means money. So chasing the chicken is chasing the money. A double entendre I tried to flip and make it fun for everyone who’s a Kenny Powers fan. I’m working on the video for this too. It should be real special."
"Me and Bronson hang out. So for us it was just like a regular session. We had Peter Lugers…leftover Peter Lugers. I remember we were talking about the Elk’s Lodge in Queens, ECW and shit. I’m like, 'Yo we’re like the Dudley Boys, B. Fuck that let’s work on a record and name it Turnbuckle Music.' And that’s why we ping pong back and forth on the record."
"Another one of my favorite joints here. I was in Atlanta and I was going through Lennox and I stopped at the Polo store. I happened to see these Rivermont boots. And I've never seen a pair of fucking Polo boots like that. Or better yet a pair for $1100. I'm like, 'Damn, these are the most expensive Polo boots I've ever seen in my life AND the dopest pair.' I’m a guy who doesn’t like to wear what everybody else wears. So I bought 'em, and when I started the process of recording with Fraudy, I was like I need to do a dedication track to the boots and the Lo. I was a big fan of Mase growing up and 'The Player Way' was one of my favorite records. Then to sample 8 Ball and MJG, 'Pickin' up dust in my Polo boots.’ I needed that."
"Me and Meyhem already had a relationship from the 'Ralph Lifshitz' record where I gave him a shoutout so it was already mutual love there. This is the 4 Horsemen theme song, so I was like, 'Yo, we bout to make the Lo horsemen, with Thirsten narrating the joint like a fucking movie.' This is one of those special records 'cause I been a Polo collector forever."
"This Outro is like the end of the Rugby Thompson and the lead into my next endeavor. We took the Christopher Walken skit from Poolhall Junkies. So it marks the end of this and the beginning of George Kush Da Button: The 2nd term, which is the next album."