I posted about Jake One on Monday, and hinted that an interview with the Seattle-bred producer would be following later in the week. Well, here it is. We talk about how White Van Music was put together, why he went with Rhymesayers Entertainment to release the project, and how he managed to get a zillion and one rappers on his album without ever being in the studio with any of them. White Van Music drops next Tuesday, October 7th, but check out what Jake One has to say about it first.
Scratch: Looking at the tracklisting for White Van Music you’ve got Alchemist, Black Milk and Nottz on there. They jumped out at me cause they’re producers. Was that a conscious decision?
Jake One: The first song was gonna be all my favorite producer rappers. But it just started to become too much for the song, I didn’t want it to be too long. I know Alchemist for a while, he’s always showing me love. Black Milk’s another guy I been knowing for a while. And Nottz, he’s my homie. It’s not like I’m gonna get them to do a beat. But I wanted them to be involved. So that was my way of putting them down on the record.
Scratch: You’re known for having this real hard, but organic underground sound. What did you do stylistically different on this record?
Jake One: There is definitely more joints with live instrumentation. Some of the records people will think are samples. The joint with MF Doom, called “Trap Door,” that’s all live. Also, this is probably the first time I’ve got to go back and put everything I wanted in to songs, like scratches, extra stuff. Usually when I do a record for a big artist, they want the beat like it sounds on a beat tape and that’s it. It’s more elaborate than some of the stuff I’ve done in the past.
Scratch: More polished?
Jake One: I don’t even know if it’s polished. I really wanted it to sound dirty. I looked at like I’ma do an underground record, why even try to half step with it and have anything even blatantly commercial on it? I just wanted it to be super underground raw. But definitely more calculated and put together.
Scratch: So the progression on the Doom track, that’s you playing?
Jake One: That’s one of my musicians, this producer named G Koop. He played on a bunch of records. That was one we did off the head. I think I had the idea for the bass line and he kind of built around it. What I’ll do is have him play to a click track and then I’ll go in and sample it just like I’d sample a record.
Scratch: Are you still using the Ensoniq ASR10?
Jake One: Yup. There’s a lot of vintage keyboards I have. I use a couple plug-ins on certain songs. But everything was pretty much done on the ASR10. That’s just the way I know how to work. I been getting into a Logic a little bit. But when I make beats on there, it’s kind like I’ll sketch something out on there if I’m on the road. Then I’ll go back and do it on the ASR so I get the sound I want out of it. The first record I did on Logic was actually on G-Unit’s album, “Ready Or Not,” and that was just me kinda fucking around with it.
Scratch: Do you think you will explore more software moving forward?
Jake One: I think I’m always going to use the ASR10 in some form or fashion. Most of the guys I know… DJ Khalil is the only guy I know who went software and got better. He told me it took him 6 months to get a feel for that shit. It’s something I’m doing on the side. The more I travel the more I’m forced to get better at it.
Scratch: How did you record White Van Music?
Jake One: It was done in so many different studios. I mixed it at this studio in Seattle, which has a big Neve board. We mixed everything analog, and it definitely sounds a certain way because of it.
Scratch: Who mixed it?
Scratch: My boy Vitamin D, a producer from Seattle and also a really good engineer. He’s definitely a big part of the album. He did all the scratches on it. He’s talking on the interludes. He’s majorly involved in the record.
Scratch: Were you able to get in the studio with a lot of these artists or were you emailing tracks?
Jake One: No. I was barely in the studio for any of these songs. Even the ones that were done in Seattle I wasn’t even there for. I personally like to be able to NOT be there and be frustrated by…. If I gotta be in the studio, it’s like I gotta listen to someone keep fucking up. It’s almost better for me to come in fresh. I have more of a clear mind listening to it.
Scratch: With rappers doing like 8 thousand songs for albums and then the songs not making their albums, were any of these songs done for other people’s albums? Like the Busta Rhymes/Bishop Lamont joint, “Kissin The Curb.” Busta’s screaming Aftermath, and now he’s not even on Aftermath.
Jake One: That record was done, that’s an old beat. I did that maybe in 2005. I didn’t even know Bishop was still on the beat. He might have played me that a year ago. He kept saying he was going to use it on the album. So eventually I convinced him to give it to me. Some of them were ones where I was like, “I need you to do this record for me.” I would send some beats and they would take one for their album and then take one for my shit. The Buck record was for Buck The World, [he] just didn’t use it at the last second. MOP’s joint was for the MOP album, but that didn’t look like it was coming out so that was another one where I went back and got it. And “The Truth,” Freeway initially recorded it for his album, and he was trying to get Jay-Z and Kanye on it but he couldn’t pull it together. That was just sitting there. I thought it’d be cool to put Ali on it.
Scratch: Sha Money’s Money Management represents you and you have your hand in a little bit of a more mainstream pocket with that, but this record is coming out on Rhymesayers. What was your reason with opting to put it out through them instead of a more quote unquote industry relevant label?
Jake One: Seeing all sides of it and seeing how these labels operate, I think they’re more efficient and will do a better job with what I’m gonna give them than even doing it with Koch or something like that. And they believe in what I was trying to do. This record, I literally did exactly what I wanted. This was something I wanted to do to let people hear me do a whole project. I’ve done a bunch of platinum records, but this album, even so far as the feedback I’m getting, people are realizing who I am off this record. And they don’t know that I’ve produced a lot of these records on other people’s records. So it’s a big advertisement for my services and what I can do.
Scratch: What other promotional things can people expect from the album, videos?
Jake One: We’re doing a video for “Trap Door” joint with Doom. We’re doing release parties in Minnesota on the 7th, there’s one in Seattle on the 6th. Gonna do something in the Bay in October. Gonna be DJing for CMJ in October. I’m judging a beat battle at Skribble Jam. We have a contest we’re doing where people are gonna submit a 5 song demo off beats from the album and we’re gonna pick one and do a single on Rhymesayers. So there’s a lot of interesting stuff we’re doing with the record.
Scratch: What else is in the pipeline for you?
Jake One: Right now I’m working a lot on Freeway’s next record. Also doing beats for 50’s new record. He just leaked “50 For President.” I did a song on Scarface’s new album that is really good. I did a song on Prodigy’s new album called “Shed Thy Blood.” There’s a couple other records I’ve done with people, I just don’t know if I made the cut yet. These days, until they master the album and turn it, you just don’t know. They will pull your shit and change the record. It’s happened to me. Until you see your name in the credit, then you know it’s real.