It doesn't feel like Audio Push belong in New York. Price, 25, and Oktane, 26, are a little too easygoing for the Rotten Apple.They come from Inland Empire, a city 40 minutes east of Los Angeles, and their origin reflects their unique position in a stacked West Coast rap scene; instead of going for a pure Cali sound, the duo pulls inspiration from all over the map to fit their own formula.

Since Audio Push entered the hip-hop scene, the road's been bumpy. They were signed to Interscope in 2009 via Geffen, but when that imprint folded the duo went out with it. Three years later, they made their way back to Jimmy Iovine's stable under the watchful eye of super-producer Hit-Boy via his HS87 imprint. Now, almost seven years after their debut mixtape, The Soundcheck, Audio Push are finally set to give fans their first commercial release in the form of The Stone Junctionan EP they're dropping tomorrow (April 8).

Price and Oktane stopped by the XXL headquarters recently to talk about their new EP, how they met Hit-Boy and much more.

XXL: Why’d you feel like now is the right time to put out a retail project?

Oktane: Because the album is just about ready. The album is at that level. The EP is the perfect step to get people ready for that.

Price: We just know what we wanna say. We know what our message is. We feel like we know who our fans are. We have a foundation of fans and we’ve just grown, so now we’re finally at a place where we can stand on something. We know a lot of artists that put their debut album out and they hate ‘em. Can’t stand ‘em.

O: We never wanted to be those guys. I need to put out my debut album and be like, “Nigga, that’s my debut album!”

How do you feel like the industry has changed since you first got into it?

P: Earlier in the game, we were kids and we were traveling, our moms were good, our families are straight and we have a label. I’ve been looking at that little Interscope “i” all my life, so seeing it attached to us and our names, we felt like they know so we listened to a lot of stupid shit they’d tell us. As far as dressing, talking, saying shit in interviews, all that corny shit.

So once we started growing and finding ourselves, we started realizing we do what we wanna do. You signed us, you guys love us because we are who we are so don’t tell us how to be. We’re not stupid so we don’t have to move how you guys want us to move. Now we put our foot on the gas and and it goes as fast as we say it goes. You can’t put a brick on our foot and make us do anything we don’t wanna do.

It’s interesting hearing you talk about Interscope when you see all the change happening there. Jimmy Iovine leaves and goes to Apple Music, brings Dre with him. How do you feel about technology changing the industry?

O: The fact that the landscape is changing means the rules are too, and right now there are none. Streaming has opened up such a bigger jungle, and now we’re aware that that gate is open and we can run through that gate if we want to.

P: One thing I will applaud the music industry for is being able to adapt with time. As far as Soundscan and switching the ways for people to go platinum, I super appreciate that because the game is different. For so long you got people dropping amazing albums and selling nothing because they’re looking at physical copies. So you’re looking at this artist and their album as failures.

Jimmy leaving Interscope hit our situation on the second run, and I’ll be honest saying that because he’s the one who gave Hit-Boy his deal. He’s the one who looked us in the eye like, “You guys are stars.” We sat in his crib. I just appreciate that it happened, so we just take that and move with it.

Some parts of the industry can keep up. Other parts are still in the ancient times.

O: But that’s the thing. Everyone knows who those [ancient] people are. It’s very obvious.

P: And most of them are labels and the old people sitting at the top of the labels. That’s why I am appreciative of Spotify and Apple Music hiring fresh energy to make it dope. Just keep it fun and creative for the artists and the listeners. Don’t make music all about the money and crap, just like everything else in the world. Like medicine. Keep music artistic and fun. As long as it stays that, we rockin’.

How’d you guys meet Hit-Boy?

O: I’ve known him since I was 14. I used to run real heavy with Ray Real, he produced “Servin,” the first single off The Stone Junction. He used to live across the street from me and I went to high school across town and he always wanted me to come to his high school. He was telling me about all the cool people there and it was this one dude that makes beats and produces. Let’s go meet ‘em.

So we walked up the street, He lived right around the corner from me and I walked in and it was Hit-Boy’s house. He was like 16 years old, making beats, and I just started freestyling for two hours. And that’s how it started. Me and Price were joined at the hip so it just connected and happened from there.

P: The Hit-Boy situation is real, it’s not like “Super-Producer Signs Audio Push.” That’s the homie. I heard “Niggas in Paris” with someone else on it. We celebrated when Watch the Throne dropped in Hit-Boy’s room at his mom’s house in I.E. That’s where we all celebrated. That’s family.

What’s your favorite thing about working with him? 

P: When we get in the studio, it’s all about creative minds. It ain’t about who got the most views on their song right now or who’s the most poppin’. We just keep it creative, artistic, fun, smoke good and kick it. That’s what’s fresh about it.

Talk about the origin of the Good Vibe Tribe. 

P: So we’re from I.E. but it’s still Southern California. Only thing different about I.E. and L.A. is how fast it is. L.A. is more known, but there’s still gang banging and killing and all that crazy mess that’s cracking in the I.E. People I’ve been looking at as a kid, one of my best friends was killed. I’ve lost people. It was a point where I was losing someone every year. I just lost my lil’ homie Tee too. We had his funeral on his 21st birthday last year.

So we deal with real shit on a daily, but on top of that we’re making music, we’re kids, we’re traveling to South Africa, we got to walk on the streets Nelson Mandela walked on where all those people were killed. We got to see our people. We’ve been through so many different things, it’s like you’re either gonna go here or here.

O: We had the heaviest contrast. We found out that one of [Price's] closest homies had got popped while we were in the studio with Jill Scott. So like the greatest moment and the worst moment of life was happening at the same time. And we realize you got a choice. This is what you can do and this is how you can get there.

P: When we were younger kids we had a crew called the M.I.S.F.I.T.S., which stood for My Infamous Savior Following Into Salvation. So early in the game we were trying to do right. Granted, I use to bang and was in all that stuff, but we always had a conscience and a heart, so once we started getting it going we were like, “How are we gonna influence and change people through this music?” Cool, we can rap our asses off, yeah we’re probably the top five performers in rap, but how are you gonna change people’s lives? How are you gonna get people to become better people through the music? That’s where the Good Vibe Tribe was created.

O: All these rappers think making all this bullshit about treating people wrong is cool and being mad all the time is cool. That’s the corniest shit ever to me.

P: Like for instance, Bankroll Fresh dying and 90 percent of rappers were like, “Stop the violence!” But they were trap rap niggas.

O: So many people with “Stop the violence” probably booked the studio session that night and went right on back to rapping about the K’s and the clubs and the shooting niggas.

P: Not saying there’s not a place for that. Not saying to turn Kirk Franklin with the raps or turn gospel with it, but how are you gonna help?

O: At the end of the day, your music obviously makes an impact. All the trap rappers, their music makes an impact on kids. People obviously sing this shit, so there’s obviously kids who believe in them. So if you’re saying, “shoot a nigga, shoot a nigga,” there are kids that will do that.

P: I remember being a kid, listening to 50 Cent and I used to think I wanted to get shot. Not even being funny, I used to listen to 50 like, “Shit, I wanna get shot!” Like nigga, because I could take it! That was so stupid and I’m obviously I’m a dumb kid for thinking it, but it’s the simple fact of the influence.

Feels like the Bay is really popping right now. Who are you guys messing with out there?

P: IamsU! One of my favorite rappers is E-40. Niggas hate E-40 in New York.

O: Kehlani is sick.

P: What people sleep on, especially with me being from Southern California… the Bay originated so much in hip-hop and music period. The Bay has always been on their own wave.

O: No matter how turnt you think you are, you’ll go to a Bay party and be like nigga… what is this!?

P: I’ma be real, it’s a whole different culture. You’ll forget you’re in California when you go to the Bay. We’re from Southern Cali, the home of gang banging where it’s cracking. But in the Bay it’s different. Like you go over to East Oakland and slide over, it’s real. I love the Bay.

Oh, it’s a kid named Ezale too. It’s gonna take time [for him to break]. And he’s wild, so once he locks into, “I’m actually an artist who can really do this shit forever,” he’s gonna kill. We brought him out to one of our shows and he was just trippin’.

So The Stone Junction. What can fans expect?

O: Musically, don’t ever expect that you’ll know the sound. Don’t even expect to be familiar with it. Expect to know that it’s good. No matter what type of genre it is, any of that. This one is really heavy. This is gonna break niggas necks off.

P: We’re taking our lane on where music is at right now. You got the style of production and style of music that everyone is making, all the rappers chasing each other’s tail, no diss. So it’s us showing fans hey, here’s new pockets you can find on these beats. You don’t have to spit the same flow every time. You don’t have to zan and jug every other line, every other line ain’t gotta be finessing.

Audio Push
Good Vibe Tribe
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It’s depressing how much new rap sounds the same.

P: But it’s more the fans. I blame the fans and listeners more than anything.

O: They’re so afraid to say something’s wack because someone else next to them just said it was cool. They’re so afraid to go, “No, that shit is actually trash. We shouldn’t listen to this.” That’s one thing about the internet that’s really pissed me off -- the fan’s taste level and discretion is so low now, the integrity. It’s just like yo, if it’s easy to find and it’s on the right website and it’s got a good enough bounce.

P: Or if this person with all these followers say it’s dope, we like it.

Right, and that’s not something a lot of people talk about. So many interviews talk about how the Internet opened it up and let bedroom producers flourish without talking about the bad side to it. 

O: I think that’s the problem. They’ve lost what stardom. They got popular and stardom confused. They’ve gotten the high school popular kid and the actual Michael Jackson stardom level kid, they think that’s one in the same, and it’s not.

P: Which is why an artist can have a platinum single in January and next January you don’t hear about ‘em ever again.

O: Exactly, because the popular kid dressed the wrong way on the wrong day and now nobody gives a shit. That’s what the difference is right now. But I think all of that is starting to overturn because just like we’re noticing it, fans are noticing it, like “Okay, I’m doing this same damn bounce for too long. How many times in the world can I finesse somebody, good God. How many plugs are there!? Somebody’s lying.

So I think they’re starting to catch on that everyone is not a drug lord. The wheels are starting to turn back and of course the real is still here. I’ve never complained about it because I’m not out here finessing or being a drug lord.

P: And there’s just fresh ways to do it too. They’re not even being creative, even if that is your reality, there’s different ways to flip it and be creative with it.

O: I’m very like, if you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing at all, so if people bring it up I don’t even mention it. That type of music, all those new rappers coming out, I’ve legit never listened to them. I know who they are because I’ve seen their names and their faces. Couldn’t tell you a song from a lot of ‘em and I don’t know ‘em, I’m not saying you’re wack, but you’re saying the same exact thing as other people. You’re not for me.

P: We’ve learned being in music so long that not everything’s for us, or anyone. There’s somebody for that person, obviously because it’s a million motherfuckers listening. So someone loves this shit over here. Someone loves, “Cold like Minnesota! Cold like Minnesota!”

O: Right, like Lil Yachty. I’m not a fan of him. I’d like to meet him and see what he’s like. We ran into him once but we didn’t get to really talk. Am I a fan of his music? Nah, but he obviously has something kids…

P: I like the movement and I like him because I’m a fan of people saying, “Hey, this what y’all doing? I’m going this way.” That’s what I like.

O: He turned in a way people haven’t turned, so that I do fuck with, even if it isn’t dope to me, I fuck with his turn on it. I fuck with different artists as artists, not because of their songs.

P: Respect the art. Prince had his butt out, he cut his ass out of his pants, and there are killers who will argue you down that Prince is the man. Over Michael Jackson! And his butt was out, he wore heels and all types of shit. So if you can respect his artistry, you can appreciate Young Thug’s, you can appreciate Audio Push.

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