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

Ghostface Killah_Twelve Reasons to Die_Adrian Younge

What kind of reception did you get to Twelve Reasons to Die?
It’s like one of those things—I always tell people I pretty much stopped listening to hip-hop in ’97. It’s not necessarily that there wasn’t any good hip-hop being made after ’97, but my era of hip-hop was, like, the golden era, the late ’80s, early ’90s. And when the spectrum of music started to change, I started getting more into records, just digging for records and listening to that old music. So what I wanted to do was create an album that took me back to how I first felt when I heard 36 Chambers, when I first heard Iron Man. And that was my goal, to make something that was different, something that impacted you. Something that wasn’t just, “Let me skip through this album and see what kind of song I like.” Something where the whole album fit like a puzzle. And this was that for me, and I’m glad that many people felt that way about it.

What I noticed is that when you pay attention to the details and you create a form of art that requires thinking, meaning that you’re communicating something to your listener, you’re giving them a riddle and they got to figure it out, that’s what the enjoyment of the music is supposed to be. It’s not only my goal, but something that is absolutely flattering for me because that’s my reason for communicating. [Did] you decipher that? And if you decipher that, it means you actually enjoyed it on the inside and it’s something that when you hear it, it’s not something just in passing, you can see it, you can hear the depth. So it’s deeper than just hitting your ears and instantly, “Do I like this or not?” It’s like, you’re falling into the chords, you’re thinking about, “Well damn, if that’s not a sample—how is that not a sample? Damn, Ghostface talking about this and this relates to a whole story…“ It’s all the levels, deciphering the whole riddle, that’s what I wanted the enjoyment of the album to be. And it was just very refreshing to see that people got that and appreciated [the] attention to detail. So it was very well received and the tour was very successful, and it was just good, man, very happy.

Especially linking up with such like a famous storyteller like Ghost.
Well my thing was Wu-Tang, the Wu-Tang Clan is cinematic MCs; Ghostface is arguably the most cinematic out of that crew. And I thought if I gave him a format to a tell a story from, if I gave him musical inspiration to tell a story from, he could just take it and run. And he took it and ran, man. I’m very, very impressed on what he did on that album.