Production Credit: Da Internz Talk Nas’ Life Is Good, Their Rise And Working With Nelly
Since scoring a double-platinum hit on Big Sean's 2011 favorite "Dance (A$$)," production duo Da Internz are quickly becoming this year’s most promising beatsmiths. Comprised of Chicago natives Marcos "Kosine" Palacios and Ernest "Tuo" Clark the two are the sound architects responsible for Rihanna's titillating smash in "Birthday Cake" and also played a key role in co-producing Nas' Life Is Good banger "The Don" —alongside Salaam Remi and the late Heavy D.
Currently in the studio with the QB lyricist working on his forthcoming tenth studio album, as well as with Nelly, Ludacris and a gang of others, it almost seems as if Kosine and Tuo are vying for that ‘Best Producer of 2012’ year-end title. Taking a break from their hectic schedule, Da Internz speak to XXLMag.com about a few things including working with Nas on Life Is Good, their journey to the top and why this is the year of the club...—Ralph Bristout (@XXLRalph)
XXLMag.com: “A$$” was the record that sort of propelled everything for you guys. Would you both agree?
Tuo: A$$ was definitely the set up for us.
What’s interesting is that the record almost didn’t happen. Tell me about that.
T: Yeah. Sean was just worried about it because at the end of the day he is a real rapper. He got real bars, he got some dope songs and he didn’t want to be a commercial, gimmicky artist. So I was like ‘Yo Sean, this [is] a rocket. This song is a monster,’ and just kept hitting him up for a while [until] he kind of stop returning my texts. [Laughs] I’m like ‘Damn this dude is really not going to finish this song,’ ‘cause all he did was come in the studio and freestyle over the track when we were working on it. It was just a verse and that was it and he was off of it [but eventually] he came around and yeah, its two-times platinum.
You guys seem to be really versatile judging by records like Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake” and Nas’ “The Don.” How do you go about crafting these backdrops for specific artists?
K: My thing is it’s always about putting the artist first. As a producer you gotta understand it’s your job to give that artist the tool they need to really shine. You gotta give them the ammo so that when they go out on stage they can really rock. So when you have producers that are doing the same thing over and over again [with the] same sound, I feel like your not going to where the artist is. Nas is arguably the dopest rapper of all time and he has that gritty New York sound so you gotta give him his tools to really shine. Rihanna had been doing the Pop world for a while and we had to come and give her some of that upper echelon ratchet. So she could shine in the club the right way. So for and so on it’s about giving these artists’ what they need.
T: For me the diversity comes from being real connoisseur of music as far as with the love first. We love what we do and actually study this shit, this is not a situation where cats feel like Da Internz got this one sound and they gonna figure us out. Your not going to be able to figure us out because we are real connoisseurs of music and do the whole spectrum from A to Z. We really live this music shit; this is what we really do. This ain’t no fly by night at all.
How long have you two been producing alongside each other?
T: Me and Kos have been partners for around 8 years. Kos started off earlier than I have.
K: I got my first keyboard right after I graduated high school and that was 2001. So 11 years of tapping on those keys and trying to figure it out.
T: We been partners for eight years so that means he been weak for four years prior to meeting me. [Laughs]
K: That’s so true [Laughs]
When did you two link up?
K: That was like around 2004. There’s a guy by the name of Kevin Shine who was like Mr. Music Industry of Chicago. He had brought me to this record label called Concord Records and Tuo was [like the] fake Puff Daddy at the time at the label. I played him my tracks and he was the first person to look at me and be like, “Yo man these beats [are] actually wack as hell but you cool. We trying to build over here and you can be part of the team and we’ll just figure it out.” Nobody had ever been that honest with me and it was like ‘This is a real ass dude right here.’ We just been rocking out ever since.
So Tuo, this all started with you telling him that his beat was, “Wack as hell.”
T: Yeah [Laughs] the talent and everything was there [but] I just didn’t feel like he was around the right surroundings. So we got together and became brothers.
K: And that’s still the system till today. We was in studio just yesterday working and Tuo was still saying “That’s not it.” [Laughs] It’s always good to surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart and want to move forward and it’s about the record first and there are no egos. You leave that ego shit out the door, this is about getting the best result and if that ain’t it, cool lets keep working until we find what is.
How is it working in the studio together?
T: Kos is the musician, programmer. Both of us write and come up with concepts but I would have to say our strongest work comes from us taking feels and ideas from past music and putting our spin on it to make it current. Kos is definitely more of the all-purpose guy and I’m concept/business type dude.
Now you guys hooked up with Nas earlier this year help co-produce his second single, “The Don.” How did that take place?
T: We’re under the same management. Anthony Saleh, who also manages Nas, is a partner under the Atom Factory, which is also the management firm that we’re under. Basically he was like, “I got something for you [to work on]” and threw us the bounce pass.
Were you aware that Heavy D worked on the record as well?
T: Before we even put our hands on it, they told us, Heavy D and Salaam Remi did this together. That’s when they threw the bounce pass our way, to see what we could come with.
What was that feeling like?
K: That was an honor that you wouldn’t believe. When somebody that great passes away it’s like, “I never got a chance to work for him, work with him.” But it’s an opportunity that came out of nowhere [and] we had a chance to have a tiny piece in his legacy. It’s humbling. The same with Salaam Remi, he’s a legendary producer as well. For us to be a part of that, and for us to have our sound in that, and do our thing, the chords in the end, the 808s it was an honor.
Now it’s been reported that you guys have been in the studio with Nas working on his upcoming Life Is Good release. What can you tell us about that album?
T: The way [that] he’s releasing and hitting people with these singles is to let them know that, that ‘It Was Written Nas, Illmatic Nas, this is what I’ma give yall on this album.’ He ain’t fucking around. I told him in the studio, “You’re rapping like you tryna get on, like your starving” and he was like, “I just have to take it back. I’ve been through so many travels in life since I put out an album four years ago, now I got more than enough stories to tell people about shit I’ve been through since the last album I put out.” So that’s what this album is about.
What’s it like being in the studio with him?
T: You hear the rumors, the albums but when [you actually see him] go in the booth and start spitting that shit, [you realize] it really is Nas. You work with so many different artists and when you come across someone like him, you know it’s deeper than just some artist, it’s more like “Yo this dude is special.” This is not something that flies by nightly this is someone that comes around once in a blue moon. His bars, his approach, dude is just special man.
With all the anticipation surrounding this album, I could imagine what kind of pressure it brings.
T: Nah man, no pressure at all, cause we knew this was bound to happen! The thing about us is, we have so much fun doing what we do that’s there is no pressure whatsover. We didn’t know what was gonna happen, we got presented with the opportunity, so we look at it like, “Aight bro, lets see what we could do with shit like this, cause we normally don’t do this, this isn’t our background, so lets see what we can come up with.” So we stepped up to the challenge.
K: I feel the complete opposite. That’s just how our personality is, Tuo always on some cool shit, “We gonna be aight, we gonna make it.” But that’s fuckin Nas man! What the fuck! That’s really how our personalities is. In my mind, I feel like these types of opportunities is what gets you in them history books and at the end of the day, we are living somebody’s dream man. You feel the pressure, but at the end of the day, we’re here for a reason.
With all the recognition and calls you two are receiving right now, I’m sure reaching this point in your careers was no easy task.
T: You gotta understand something, you in the room right and you start off asking people can you please listen. Everybody got their favorites and at the end of the day in the industry, ‘If you can’t make me money, I don’t want to have this conversation with you.’ They don’t want to talk to you and we’ve been in so many rooms and played so many times, ‘Yeah I’m gonna call you back’ and ‘I’m gonna put you on this project’ and to be at a point when people are breaking their neck to come see you and your too busy to see them, greatest feeling in the world.
K: They key is to not get caught up in the hype, people start believing their own hype and it just really messes with the focus. People be like ‘Yo what does it sound like to hear that record in the club every night and what does that fee like?’ We not in the club every night so you can probably tell me a lot better, I don’t know.
That key has worked tremendously considering all the stats already under your belts. Seems like you two are poised on capturing that that year-end ‘Best Producer’ award.
T: I’m just gonna say this, me and Kos really pride ourselves on things that’s to come. So its cool we gaining stats right now, we have “A$$”, “Birthday Cake.” So now we are worthy of the conversation. We are worthy of being on the phone with you to have this get out to the public. But the shit that we got about to have come bruh?! They are about to get mad [at us] like ‘These dudes ain’t playing around.’ We got some shit about to come and it’s the year of the club for us man.
T: All I gotta say is look out for Ludacris’ Ludaversal album, and Nelly’s album. We got Nelly back on his Nellyville. His first single [is going to be] with Chris Brown. He on a different level on this one, we going back to the clubs.