Tunji Ige Charts His Progress on ‘Missed Calls’ EP: “I Want to Make Stuff That’ll Stand the Test of Time” – Exclusive
Philly rapper Tunji Ige is having a glow up. For those unfamiliar with the term, it's when someone has a personal renaissance and comes back bigger and better than ever. The former West Chester University student first made noise back in 2014, with his debut tape, The Love Project, but for the last 16 months he's remained quiet. Now we know why.
Taking time to soul search and tailor his sound, the talented rapper/producer dropped his sophomore project, Missed Calls, last Friday (April 1) to the delight of critics and fans alike. The seven-track EP features the Nigerian-American artist's breakout single “On My Grind,” the cooing love song, "War," and the favorite track he's made to date "Bring Yo Friends."
The last time XXL spoke with the reserved rapper, he said he wanted to make as much of an impact on hip-hop as Kanye West, saying "as far as making the best product possible, the way Kanye presents it is the way I want to present it, even with the limited resources I have, but I’m trying to aim for that level." The sonic growth evident on Missed Calls definitely shows that it's Tunj's time to level up.
XXL got on the phone with Tunji while he was still in the studio mastering tracks to get some background on the EP, the new collabs he has in the works and his personal growth as an artist.
XXL: Explain the theme of Missed Calls.
Tunji: So basically, I wanted it to be a sonic journey of different colors, different sounds to put into perspective what the past year has felt like. So it's more so just a stream of consciousness album, more so just going into depth about certain things. Different song for different moods and emotions I felt throughout the course of the year. So the dial tones in every song, whether we put chirps, different frequencies we put, it was to bring people on that journey. It's the culmination of my whole year for people who haven't been able to reach me. It's something they can listen to all the way through and then understand.
It's been over a year since you dropped The Love Project. Did you do any soul searching to make this new project?
Throughout the course of the year, it was like my coming of age process. From doing this for fun to really doing this professionally. Essentially I wanted to capture that within the project. Like "Fired Up" could be a song to address a certain somebody, like my mom or that somebody to show, like "this is literally what's going on in my life, what you're not seeing behind closed doors, trying to get back after tour, little stuff like that. Like "22" is probably the whole culmination of the album.
What have you learned about yourself in between the two projects?
This one, I wanted people to really understand. For those who didn't understand The Love Project, I think I learned to put myself more in relation to others, even sonically. Love Project was sonically boom-bap and very hip-hop-oriented. There was more 808s and more progressions and we're doing crazy, strict boom-bap stuff, like on "Fired Up" so even with this production, it was more about seeing where I fit in in relation to that world and then seeing where I take influences.
Before I used to get offended when I was getting compared to others but now I feel like it's so much of my own sound, that people are going to compare me to other people, it's just because the production is on that level. And now I'm more inclined to make songs that aren't regular raps. I want to make stuff that'll stand the test of time. Like you can play it back and remember exactly where you were. And I think it's really tight that it came out in spring because that's what it sounds like. I was really trying to get the masters right but it came out at the perfect time.
How did you start working with Noah Breakfast for this EP? How did you guys meet?
So initially, I produced every track on the album except for "War." The album starts off with a track entirely produced by me called "Change That" and then the second song is entirely produced by Noah. So I start off with the confusion, which is the abstract production that I bring and then Noah is clarity on "War" so that's the juxtaposition of the project. The rest of the five songs after are just us going together and balancing each other on our production. So all these songs I started, but they weren't at the level I wanted them to be and then I add Noah's production to take it to another level of programming.
He's done a bunch of different things to take the production to another level. I met him just through mutual friends, just doing music. My friend Ben, who actually worked on the project as well, introduced us. And then last summer, we just all started working on it. We finished it in August, all the initial recording was done in a month, I got the masters back three weeks ago. So throughout the course of the last six months, just mixing it.
What's your favorite track off the project?
My favorite track is "22" but the one on SoundCloud, not the one that's up for retail. The one on SoundCloud has the Vybz Cartel sample. It's kinda a little hidden treat I have for the people on SoundCloud because like, Vybz Cartel is in prison right now. That's probably my favorite track that I've ever done. And "Bring Yo Friends." I just like that song. I always wanted to make a song like that. There's a bunch of Neptunes influence and Kanye influence in that one.
And then, touching on your other music, before Missed Calls, you dropped a song with iLoveMakonnen called "Don't Do Too Much." Can you explain how that collab came about?
We were in a recording compound in Koreatown in Los Angeles. We were basically just in the house, had the studio set up and we were vibing off of music and stuff. And then Makonnen came for a brief time because he had to do a tour, he just came in there and we just started playing beats and we just started going off and he was like, "Fuck, we gotta record this." He did the whole verse, we went back and forth and then cut it and edited it right there and then, by the end of the night, we had a song. And it's kinda going off right now. And I have plans for it, but right now, it's a freebie for the fans. Yeah, it took one day and he said put it out that night. I was like "Woah!"
That's cool. Do you guys have more material together?
Yeah, yeah. I've got material with other people. I just wanted to put out Missed Calls first.
Who else do you have music coming out with? Can you tell us someone our readers would know who you have stuff coming out with?
I don't think I'm allowed yet. But I'm good. It's on some unexpected collabos. I'm not trying to like... I'm trying to do some abstract stuff and they're not getting unveiled until the Missed Calls chapter is over. These are kinda with the Missed Calls theme, but you'll see. You'll literally see.
What about collabs not with the Missed Calls theme?
Not with the Missed Calls theme, I've been working with Jesse Rutherford from The Neighbourhood. A lot of people you wouldn't expect. I want it to really be a surprise though.
Okay, so whose someone you haven't worked with yet but you have a lot of respect for in the game? Someone whose career you look at and you want to see your career go the trajectory of their career?
I want to be the first me. A lot of the hip-hop people do corny shit like go to the club. I want to do some stuff out of pocket. First it's Missed Calls then it'll be an album and some crazy stuff. I have it all planned out. I just want to be able to do whatever I want like Kanye but still be as mysterious as Andre 3000. I want to be incognito lowkey but still out there at the same time, pop up whenever like Jay Electronica.
A bunch of rappers have been dropping joint projects recently. Would you drop a joint project with anyone?
Hell yeah! I wanna do some unexpected stuff. I want to do one within the hip-hop genre, I want to do one in the indie genre and some electronic stuff. I could probably give you people I have an EP worth of stuff already with. I got plenty of stuff with Makonnen, I got stuff with Rome Fortune. I got a lot of stuff with Jesse [Rutherford].
And since it's called Missed Calls, has there been a time when you missed a call and you thought the world was going to end or something?
Never! Never because the world revolves around me. Naw, I'm joking. I think just traveling and not be able to get on the phone with my mom or dad or brother. That shit gets to me. Or when I was in Rick Rubin's studio randomly. In Shangri-La Studios. That was a crazy time. We ended up in Shangri-La because D.R.A.M. was doing recording sessions up there and that place is the literally the craziest place ever. It's Bob Dylan's tour bus on the lawn and everything is white and there's six different people working on six different beats at the same time. It's literally music heaven.
See 20 Albums Turning 10 in 2016