Ab-Soul And Jay Rock On New Projects And What Makes TDE Tick From XXL’s Oct/Nov Cover Story

Photo: Jonathan Mannion

Photo: Jonathan Mannion

Ed. Note: The following interview with Ab-Soul and Jay Rock is pulled from the outtakes from XXL‘s TDE cover story in our upcoming Oct/Nov issue. 

There was no real rhyme or reason to how we grabbed the members of TDE for conversations during the photo shoot for our Oct/Nov cover story. We pulled who we could, when we could and let whatever order could come present itself. So it’s telling that we were able to get Jay Rock and Ab-Soul together. (At first, Rock was ready to leave to give Ab a solo shot, but Ab requested that he stay—a quick series of small considerations and genuine deferences that speaks to everything about everything.)

They’re an interesting pair—the gangbanger and the nerd; the first signee to TDE and the one Black Hippy member not ever signed to a major label; the one who’s put out the least music and the one who’s likely put out the most. Jay Rock’s 2011 debut, the years-in-the-making Follow Me Home is one of the few great West Coast gangsta rap albums of the past few years, full of slow rolling, hard-nosed, street level observations. Ab-Soul, on the other hand, is an avid rap geek and easily the TDE member most likely to believe a conspiracy theory that you’ve never even heard of. Having released two albums in the past two years, he’s practically ready to drop another one any day now. Jay Rock, on the other hand… —kris ex

Previously: Kendrick Lamar On TDE, His “Control” Verse And Fame From XXL’s Oct/Nov Cover Story
TDE’s Punch On Next Moves, Signing SZA And The Ruff Ryders From XXL’s Oct/Nov Cover Story

XXL: What’s your status with the next record?
Jay Rock: Basically, I’m just locked in the studio. I’m still just really taking it in, getting in there, coming up with new concepts. I’m just taking my time; ain’t no rush to it. I’m just trying to get my craft together on the whole. I’m trying to step it up to a whole ‘nother level—just with me, within myself, battling myself. I keep hearing everybody [asking], “When you dropping something?” It’s coming, just be patient. I’m just trying to get everything together and stay focused.

What would you say is the biggest reason it’s taking so long?
Jay Rock: It ain’t really no reason. You wanna go when it feels right. If it don’t feel right, don’t do it. If you rushing, it’s going to always go bad. But if it feels right to you and within your heart, then that’s when you go. Right now, I just feel I got a long way to go within myself. Until I’m ready and until I’m right, that’s when it’s gonna drop.

Are you talking about the project as a whole or the songs you’re coming up with or—
Jay Rock: Just everything. [From] the project to me, myself—like I said, I’m still trying to hone my craft a little bit better. I’m trying to battle myself and beat myself, you feel me? That’s basically what it is.

It must be hard to be an MC around [the rest of the group] because you’re not that battle, backpack, lyrical type of MC but you’re around three guys that that’s just what they do. I imagine it’s harder for you to find a pure sense of what you’re trying to say.
Jay Rock: If you ever listen to us or been following us, you understand we all feed off each other. If you listen to all our albums, you hear a little of everybody [in everybody else] because we’ve been around each other so long like family. It’s hard to explain. Soul, he can explain it better than I can. But when we hear each other’s stuff, we all get motivated by listening to each other.

Ab-Soul: Rock was signed to Warner Bros. and their urban department at the time was questionable. It’s just a lot of different politics to why you would probably think Rock is a little more quiet, because he really has to reintroduce himself to the public.