Adrian Younge On ‘Magna Carta’ Samples, Working With RZA And Roc Nation And Soundtracking ‘Black Dynamite’

adrian younge

Adrian Younge has had a busy year. This April, the producer and musician released a collaborative concept album with Ghostface Killah titled Twelve Reasons To Die via Soul Temple Records, a project that was executive produced by one of Younge’s longtime idols the RZA. Since the highly acclaimed album dropped, the duo went out on a tour of the country in support of the record, after which Younge hopped right back into the studio with Souls of Mischief for a second helping of the concept album idea, this one centered on the hip-hop group nearly dying and the aftermath of the incident. But before that project was even announced, his name popped up again—as the source of two samples used by production duo Timbaland and J-Roc for Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail. His song “Sirens” forms the basis of Jay’s “Picasso Baby,” while his track “Reverie” was flipped into Hova’s “Heaven.” XXL caught up with Younge earlier this week to talk about his samples on Magna Carta, working with Roc Nation and the RZA, his respect for Joey Bada$$, and his film work on the classic 2009 Blaxploitation film Black Dynamite.—Dan Rys (@danrys)

XXL: Tell me how you came to be on Magna Carta.
Adrian Younge: My man Andre Torres is the editor-in-chief of Wax Poetics. Hip-Hop Since 1987 [aka Kyambo Joshua] is his boy, and a couple years ago [Andre] introduced me to him [and] Alchemist. Hop wanted to make sure that people out in the mainstream heard my product. He was always championing my sound to different people, and one of the people he showed the beat to was Jay-Z and Timbaland. Basically Timbaland sampled two joints from my Something About April album because Andre introduced me to Hop, showed me to Hop, Hop took interest and then took it to Jay-Z and them. The rest is—I can’t say it’s history because the album is not officially out yet—so the rest is almost history. [Ed. Note: This interview was conducted Monday, July 8, the day before the album hit retail markets.]

Did they reach out to you afterward?
Well, after they sampled it, they reached out to me for clearance obviously. Now I’m in discussions with different publishers, including Roc Nation, regarding the future, so we’re all kind of talking. I still haven’t spoken to Timbo or Jay-Z at all, but I’ve spoken to Jay Brown, CEO of Roc Nation, and some of the other representatives about the future. They’re all in London right now actually.

In terms of publishing or working on future Roc Nation albums and stuff?
Nothing specifically. Well, yeah, in terms of publishing stuff, but it’s bigger than that because I have some other projects I’m doing and issues as to, where are the homes for these projects. And they have expressed interest in being a part of my brand, you know. So we’ll see where that leads to; I mean, that’s one of the reasons I’m in New York right now. Just to try to—who’s doing what and how this infrastructure is actually going to be run. So that’s what we’re trying to figure out now, so nothing specific.

So tell me about the beat for “Sirens.”
That beat is from my album where entitled Something About April and that song was one of the last songs that I did for that album. The reason why I wanted to do that song for the album [was] ’cause I wanted to have one song that had more of a traditional hip-hop type feel to it. Because I basically always had a dark, psychedelic, pop-rock, deep soul [influence] but this—I wanted to do a track that was a like a hip-hop instrumental that could have been made in the late ’60s. Like if Dilla was in the ’60’s, what would Dilla do? That’s how I kind of wanted it to be. I wanted to have that last track on the album because I feel as if everything I do is sold through a hip-hop perspective and I really wanted that song to be a staple to just serve that purpose and to convey that perspective. And it’s crazy because me and the Wax Poetics cats always said, “Man, I hope somebody like a Kanye or a Jay-Z would sample this.” And now it’s like two years later…Yeah, it happened.