Before Niles first invited partner Campa to make music at his mom’s house while the two were in a Berkeley high school around 2003, there was a diss track, “East Berkeley Diss.” That was Niles’ way of raising his hat to Campa. Not long after that, the two would be chatting on AOL Instant Messanger while bumping Snoop Dogg’s “Snoop Dogg (What’s My Name, Pt. 2),” which goes “Who’s that dippin’ in the Cadillac? (Snoop Dogg)/Smoke till your eyes get cataracts. (Snoop Dogg).” After dropping the second T, the hip-hop duo The Cataracs came to be. Now, years later, the pair have a collection of projects under their belts and have collaborated with everyone from Far East Movement to 50 Cent. XXLMag.com caught up with The Cataracs to discuss their come up, their new EP, Gordo Taqueria, out now, working with Waka Flocka and Lil B and more. —Christopher Minaya (@CM_3)
XXLMag.com: Talk to me about your new EP, Gordo Taqueria.
Niles: It has eight new tracks, and they’re entirely Cataracs tracks with the exception of Waka Flocka and Kaskade. We produced the whole thing; we carried out vocals on the whole thing, and it’s great because I feel like it brings people back to where our journey started, which was just being artists before the whole producer thing took us on a ride the last couple of years ‘cause we are artists first and foremost.
Campa: I’m excited because as much ground as we made being producers, our heart is being artists. We love being up there playing our own songs. No disrespect to everyone we’ve worked with, but you know. Every human is selfish, a little, and it’s time for us to do us. The Cataracs.
How did the tracks for this EP originate? Which ones were inspired by the beat? Which ones were inspired verses written prior to the beat being made?
Niles: A lot of the time, I would have a beat that I’ve been tinkering with. David would come in, and if they connect with him and he gets them and a spark is there, we’ll just sit down and just start writing the record. In some cases, David will have entire vision for the song, and as a producer, I just try to make that vision a reality. And in some cases, he walks in, and I’ll have a track that’s almost ready to go and he just has to hop on it. This is the reason that we keep making music; there’s that feeling when you hear it and gets you excited and for the rest of the day you can’t think of anything else except that track and you can’t wait to finish it. And every time we start a new record, we get that same feeling again. Till that stops, I won’t stop making music.
Talk to me about your collabs with Lil B, because I know you worked with him in ’07 when he was part of the Pack.
Campa: You’re asking me about my collab with Lil B? Finally! You’re the best interviewer of all-time officially for us. Man! It’s crazy because we’re so proud of Brandon. I don’t think people think the Cataracs are that cool. “They’re not cool enough to be one of the first artists to ever work with Lil B even before he was the Based God.”
Niles: After school everyday, I would go to this place called the Teen Center, and Brandon would go there also. He would drop in. He was kinda delinquent, but he would come. You’re supposed to come everyday; [he] probably came like half that. He was really advanced in terms of doing grown up stuff. Like, he’s the first person I ever smoked pot with back in the day.
Campa: The scene was crazy when the Pack was poppin’ off with the “Vans” song, and we we’re doing out thing. I remember the day we made “Blueberry Afghani.” Me and B were watching Requiem for a Dream in the other room, and then, Niles made that kinda hypnotic, weird “Blueberry Aghani” beat, which honestly if you look back at our catalog that was kinda the birth of “Like a G6” in a funny way. You could totally draw similarities between the two songs. We were all just homies. That’s the best part of all this.
And you worked with Mistah F.A.B. for a joint called “Marshawn Lynch.”
Campa: Marshawn Lynch is like an icon in East Oakland ‘cause he came out of one of the hardest schools. At the time, Mistah F.A.B. was pretty much like a God when we got the chance to work with him. Later on after we did G6, we ended up working again in L.A. He’s one of the best rappers; it’s always cool working with people from your hometown ‘cause it’s an unspoken connection.
Niles: Absolutely. I mean Mistah F.A.B is our big bro. Before we ever got popular, he always checked on us and was looking for us and did a free verse for us when we were getting started. As we got a little bit, we were able to work with E-40. Those guys are legends.
What about the Waka Flocka record “All You,” off of the new EP?
Campa: We had sampled a Kaskade song and had created this pretty fucking crazy beat. It stood in our library for like a year because we didn’t know what to do with it. Then, we brought it up again; we were just bored in the studio. We’ve always loved it. One of our homies, DJ Carnage, and Niles made drippy with that 808. We wanted to get Waka on a song for like the last two years; it was just hard to get to him ‘cause who didn’t want Waka on the song for the last two years? We sent it to his cam, think his mom heard it first and she was like, “Yo, this shit is hard.” She showed Waka. He sent us the verse a couple days later. And, we all met at the video shoot and that’s the homie, for life.
Niles: It was crazy how quickly it all came together. It’s interesting because people always ask us to describe The Cataracs sound, and it’s hard to do with genres. But, if I had to pick two artists that accurately describe us, it would probably be Kaskade and Waka Flocka because they’re on such opposite ends of the spectrum. Having them both on a record, it just feels right; that sort of personifies The Cataracs.
Where there any memorable moments at the video shoot?
Campa: I could not believe the director pulled off the woman squirting the juice out of her tits, but they really pulled that shit off. I got to admit I think everybody on set was freaking out when she started doing it, especially ‘cause we got to do it like five or six times.
Niles: I mean Waka, once he got on that segway, was like a madman. He was like racing up and down. As soon as he got on it, he really had the time of his life. It was pretty fun. He was just riding around, just yelling shit at people. Just being Waka.
Any of you took think of being stunt double for the punch?
Campa: I took too many punches in my life. I think I retired from getting punched.
Niles: For being the stunt oubel to get socked in the face?
Campa: Nah, not Niles. I know what happens when he gets punched in the face. His nose cracks easily, too much blood.
Niles: Yeah, I got a big nose. And on top of that, if Waka punched me in the face, I don’t know if I’d get up.