Rick Wallkk & Jeron Ward of Royal Flush
It's been a long time coming, but I’ve finally been able to catch up with the production duo who brought you the biggest “internet goin’ nuts” song so far this year, Big Boi’s “Royal Flush,” Royal Flush.
No that was not a misprint, the production duo that did “Royal Flush” is actually called Royal Flush. In addition to being a production duo, they also throw some of the flyest parties in the A. Branding at its finest!
I happened to know one half of the duo, Jeron Ward, for years and he really looked out for me in sending only me and Greg Street the song to leak. He also looked out in helping making this Q&A with him, his partner Rick Wallkk and Big Boi himself happen.
So, if you will, peep this interview I did with the guys live from Stankonia (for those of you that don’t know, Stankonia is really a place).
Tell us how Royal Flush started. I was under the impression that you guys only threw parties.
Rick: I took Jeron to LA with me once. Back then me and Big Boi were running a talent agency together. I’d known him for a year, I always called him Jadon actually. But he helped me with stuff here and there. I saw dude’s work ethic, I saw that he was young, but he wasnt no little dude. He was a young man walking grown man’s shoes. One time we was both in the studio messing around and he just hopped on the keys. I was like “you know how to play?” He said he learned in church. After we left LA, we just meshed, and formed Royal Flush. In poker that’s the best hand, nothing can beat it. If you fuck with Royal Flush you fucking with the best hand.
Jeron: I saw that he worked more than I worked. We did our first party together, it was on the fly but we made it happen. We did the Idlewild release party at Vegas Nights, that was the first official one we did. We saw where we could make progress, then we did a college party in ‘06. That really popped off. The response from that was like “what the fuck!” From that point we picked up on the promotional end. That’s still a major part of our brand, its all marketing, but our heart is still in music.
Cool. When did you decide to get into production together?
Rick: The day after we left LA, I got off the plane, they was tired but I went straight to the studio, had some ‘gnac and some Blacks. I saw that Jeron’s car was parked outside and he just walked in. He laid out a melody I had. He played it better than I could hum it. From there he was my little brother. People always walk by the studio and ask who did that track, and we just say, we did. It was always my dream to produce. I was trying to keep him in school. I preach that to him all that time.
Since you guys had the luxury of working out of Stankonia, did ya’ll try to position yourselves? As in finding out who was coming by the studio that night so that you can give them tracks?
Rick: We never got caught up in who was coming to the studio, back then we was just trying to crank out enough beats to get people’s attention. But then we lost our hard drive which like 100 beats on it. We had to go into over drive. Then right after we made “Royal Flush” we lost our back up drive.
But people have heard our beats. Jazze, L.A. Reid, Polow. We was working with a group at one time and the music was so classic coming from them, people just started asking about us. Raphael Saadiq too. People are asking about us now because “Royal Flush” is the first mainstream song we’ve done. People ask us how we feel seeing the song get out there. Um same way as yesterday? We ain’t do shit. When I get to Quincy Jones’ level, ask me then.
So walk us through the making of “Royal Flush.” Was it a matter of hours, days, months?
Rick: It was one night between 2:30 am and 4:50 am. Jeron had to work the next morning. We had just cut up a sample. I was playing it in my iPod one night and Big heard it, he said it was dope and it went from there. That was the first song he completed for the solo album. It was on MLK weekend matter of fact.
Rick: After that everything started coming together with everybody adding their own flavor to the track. Even with Dre, how can you say “I don’t want this on my song.” He blessed us with the “ch-ch-ch” sounds. It's like watching your Grandma cook Thanksgiving dinner, you don’t know what goes in it, but the final product tastes great.
The beat itself has a lot of elements in it.
Rick: Yeah, listening to the verses explains how things were added. The Isley Bros. sample came in because of Big’s verse. When he says “Billy Ocean mighty potent, take a voyage to Atlanits.” He’s saying just like in the song “I’ll always come back to you.” That means Hip Hop, it's embedded in everything we do now. You always come back to the elements.
Jeron: Hip Hop is the blues of today, you hear it in everything now.
How did you feel when people said the song sounded like some old Outkast? Even inferring that the song was actually old.
Jeron: That’s a blessing. It's an honor to hear people say it has a classic sound to it. A lot of the stuff they did in ‘93 still jams to this day.
Rick: By people saying that, it's like having a kid, the birth of something new. People that hit us now say they want a track like that, you can’t duplicate that. You can’t do it, once you try to redo something it's like a retro. Like the Jordan’s that’s been coming out. People say they got the retros, but I got the real Jordans. My attention span too short to duplicate stuff anyway.
How are you handling the new interests with no hard drive?
Rick: Oh, the hard drive is full now. We gotta get a new one. We taking it as it comes, it's good. It's like being a C student, but you study and become an A student and you see the response from your teacher and family. It's not cockiness, it's like a pat on the back from your father after you get back up off the bike.
Jeron: It's like graduating from Harvard, going through the hard times, but when it's said and done. It's like we got that confidence to know we can do it at this level. We celebrated for like a day when the song came out. We haven’t celebrated or anything really. We was gonna throw a party behind it. As much as people say it's cool, we still moving. We'll celebrate when we hit number one on the charts.
Was the track meant to be called “Royal Flush?”
Rick: Nah, Big just called it that. We was heavy into poker at the time. So we taught Big how to play. We told him a royal flush is the winning hand. That’s how the song came about.
Jeron: We ain’t mad at that. We’re always pushing our brand. When you look at the people we respect, music is the heart and soul but they can transcend that. Our work ethic and talent is beyond that too.
As a bonus, I also caught up with Big Boi and talked to him for a few minutes.