Last month, fans got a taste of what to expect with the boom-bap title track, and XXL wanted to learn more about it. Adrian Younge stopped by the XXL offices to break down “There Is Only Now,” the vibe of the studio sessions and how he’s stepped outside his comfort zone to do something different. —Eric Diep
Adrian Younge: To me, there’s a lot of stuff on the album that is real experimental. My personal brand of music leans more towards experimental music in order to keep things progressive. When you have a song that seems a little straightforward, to bring the listener in, I like to use that song. To me, that song had that. And plus, I just wanted people to hear Snoop in that element as well. We don’t get to hear him that often.
What was the vibe like in the studio with Snoop?
I mean, he’s just a pro. It was really dope for me growing up as a Snoop fan and a Souls fan. Don’t forget—both their debut albums came out in the same year. When we were recording, it was 20 years after they were in the studio recording. These are two iconic entities that have always been really in love with each other, but they’ve never had a chance to spend time with each other. So in my studio, it was the first time they actually sat and spent time together and [told] each other how much they like what each other has done during those 20 years.
You know, they're all West Coast so they're talking about West Coast stuff. It was a real sight for me because I'm the one who brought them together. As far as stuff I’ve done within my catalogue, it’s a big deal for me to pay homage to people. So to me, having them on the track together is paying homage to two entities: One being Snoop and one being Souls. They’ve done so much for hip-hop music as pioneers, but personally they've done so much for me. It was a special moment.
How did it feel to see that moment?
It was crazy because they were really enamored with each other. When Snoop was in the booth, I was with Souls Of Mischief and [they] were giggling like we were girls. You know what I'm saying? It was crazy. It was really real though because Souls Of Mischief are four of the most quintessential MCs ever rhyming together during the course of hip-hop. And Snoop knows that and respects it. And then they respect Snoop for everything he's done. It was dope to see living legends in a room together making new art for the people. And having me being a part of that or the liaison to make that happen? It was just a special day.
To me, they’ve made so much iconic, timeless music that it's hard to answer [that] question. To me, it compares with stuff that they have done, [because] as MCs they still really have it. That’s the thing—most MCs just fall off. But you hear [Souls] and you’re like, “Aw, damn, they never stopped training. They still got it.” Lyrically, they still got it, so it feels like hearing them when they're young again.
Then musically, humbly speaking, I really like the approach that I gave the music, because I wanted [it] to sound more like Native Tongues. Ali Shaheed, Tip, A-Plus to De La, all in the room producing beats. But they [were] going back to Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Bob James, Herbie Hancock. And they do it live and we bring it all the way to 2014. That’s the approach that I wanted to do with that kind of song. I feel like it worked out. It’s the kind of song that sounds like it has samples, but it has no samples. That’s where I think a lot of music will be going in the future, and because of that I think it stands up.
You’ve said this is a concept album with a narrative. At what point in the story is “There Is Only Now?”
“Time Stop” talks about the incident where they almost got killed. It’s based on a true story with fictional elements added on. But everything that happened here at “Time Stop” is a true story. Basically, they were at a club and they were chilling at the parking lot with Dante Ross, Zephyr and a bunch of other cats, and some dude jumps out of a black truck. The song talks about this dude jumping out of a black truck rolling up to Domino from Hieroglyphics and saying, “Get the fuck on the floor.” And Domino was like, “What's going on?” And the dude shot him point blank.
But Domino barely turns and the bullet missed him. The gunpowder burned his eyes so he’s on the ground thinking he’s dead. And this dude starts shooting everybody and he’s trying to kill Souls Of Mischief and they were all running and talking about the story. What was happening and all this shit. In real life, they never really figured who it was and why. But it was just being in Oakland. Oakland was crazy at that time. Busta Rhymes plays the shooter [on the album]. Snoop plays one of his confidants. The whole story is based on this.
How do you come up with your concepts?
With this album, that was just a true incident that happened. When they told me about it, I was like, “Yo, we gotta do it based on that.” Because when we have a concept to develop music from, we have a sharper approach. It provides inspiration. It’s the impetus for us to do something in a certain direction. When you clearly know what that direction is, it gives you a more creative atmosphere within parameters. It’s crazy how it fuels you to be better.
They trust me because in both situations, they reached out to me. I’m working on an album with Snoop, he reached out to me. Me doing this album with Souls Of Mischief, they reached out to me. They reached out to me because with my brand, I’m not trying to be like other people. I'm just doing what I do, [and] they both found something in there that’s interesting. But the part that they found in there that was interesting is I feel what I deliver in hip-hop.
I always say that I speak for a solid majority for people that like soul music, and that solid majority wants to have that feeling they had when we were all younger. Not that we want to go back and just have that kind of music. It’s just have that feeling, that passion, that impact that music had upon first listen. I feel that these people get that to some degree when they hear my music. So I feel that’s a common dominator amongst the Snoop's, the Souls Of Mischief's, the Ghostface's, that hit me up to do stuff.
How did you push yourself on this project?
Well, a lot of stuff that I've done before was focused on late 1960s psych. Late 1960s soul. This is something more 1970s, 1971, 1972, jazz turning into funk. To me, that’s what the basis of a lot of Native Tongues music was. So I wanted this to give you that feeling like it’s one of those old Native Tongues albums. I had to get into that old Bobby Humphrey, Donald Byrd, Art Blakey, jazz type shit to make this album 'cause I wanted that feel with it. It put me in a different stratosphere as a composer because I never had a chance to do it, so I never accomplished that.
I’ve always done dark, Wu-Tang-type cinema. Ennio Morricone type shit, all the way to Delfonics sweet-type shit. But stuff like this that was jazzy, dark psych? I’ve never done. Now, I’ve been able to do that. I have a wider palette to use when I am painting new sonic landscapes. It expanded me a lot. What people liked in Ghostface's [12 Reasons To Die] as far as being dark, Italian cinema type shit, what they’ll like in this is that it's dark, jazzy, cinematic shit. But vintage Black American shit, which is different. That’s that.
Previously: Souls Of Mischief Have A New Video With Snoop Dogg
Souls Of Mischief Announce August Release For New Album
Adrian Younge Talks New Concept Album With Souls Of Mischief, Narrated By Ali Shaheed Muhammad
Souls Of Mischief Break Down The Making Of “93 ‘Til Infinity”