Just a year ago, no one knew who Mr. Hudson was. Then Kanye West took an interest in the London artist and gave him his big break with a feature and production credit on 808s & Heartbreak.
After lending a helping hand to other projects like Jay-Z's Blueprint 3, Hudson is gearing up for the release of his solo debut, Straight No Chaser, out later this year on G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam. When he stopped by the Complex office, we talked about everything from Auto-Tune backlash to how 'Ye named his LV shoes. Read on for the full interview and to watch the brand new video for "Supernova" featuring Kanye West...
Interview by Ernest Baker
Complex: You've said that Straight No Chaser will have lots of Auto-Tune and it's all over the two singles. Does "Death Of Auto-Tune" make you want to tone it down at all?
Mr. Hudson: It's funny, isn't it? I wish Jay had told me a couple months ago that he was going to kill Auto-Tune. Maybe we would have mixed the album differently. I think it's good that Jay is getting people to think. I really look up to him. He's the boss, isn't he? But he's the gaffer. I have huge respect for him as an artist and I can't even process how much of an honor it is to be on Blueprint 3. But yeah, when I saw that "Death Of Auto-Tune" I was like, "oh dear." [Laughs] My album is going to come out around August or September here, so hopefully it won't be too late for me to sneak a few more Auto-Tune tracks in. Ultimately, it's just starting a debate and it's good to have that debate.
Complex: Did you use Auto-Tune on "Forever Young," the song you did on Blueprint 3?
Mr. Hudson: No. That would be a problem, wouldn't it? And I think that shows that I don't need it. And if you come to a live show you'll see I don't use it, I'll sing all of these songs without Auto-Tune. It's just a tool in the studio to make, in the words of 'Ye, "shit sound dope."
Complex: Speaking of 'Ye, you've worked with him, Jay, and I've heard about you working with Estelle. These are pretty major collabs this early in your career. Are you working with anyone else that we don't know about?
Mr. Hudson: There's someone pretty big in the pipeline for later in the year, but I don't want to jinx it. I'll tell you as soon as I can.
Complex: Can you give us a hint?
Mr. Hudson: No. [Laughs] Put it this way: I love working with women. I think it's because I spent so much time in my brother's heavy metal band. Sweaty boys in the rehearsal room. It's nice to just be in the studio with a fragrant lady. I'd like to work with Dolly Parton one day.
Complex: Who's contributing to your album?
Mr. Hudson: Kanye is on two tracks. Kid Cudi is on a track. I worked with a duo called The Bullitts. One thing I learned from working with Kanye was, you shouldn't be proud. If you want help with a track get someone in. No man is an island. You can ask people for help and they can ask for your help in return. The way he'd ring up Lil' Wayne to help finish a verse or he'd ask me to help finish a verse, I tried to do the same thing with my album and not be proud and just say, "Look, I'm stuck with this track." I even rang up one of my school friends, and he just came in, had a cup of tea, and we finished the verse. So there's collaborations on the album from just a school buddy all the way up to Kanye.
Complex: Do you still work with your band The Library?
Mr. Hudson: Two members of The Library, who obviously helped shape the sound of the first album, went off and did different things, which is cool. That's with my blessing and I'm excited about what they're doing. The other two members are still part of the live outfit. But this record, I realized, particularly when I saw Kanye working on 808s, that it's okay to make an album dealing with my stuff. My issues. My emotions. It ended up being a breakup album. I never thought I was going to make a breakup album, but it is a Mr. Hudson record. It's a not a Mr. Hudson and The Library record.
Complex: Yeah, it sounds like the album is about a specific relationship.
Mr. Hudson: Yes, it is. And I would say to musicians, don't break up in order to make an album. But if you do break up, make sure you write a record because it's probably going to be quite an interesting, raw thing. I was working on all these songs last year, talking about all sorts of different topics, and when I broke up with my girl in December that put me in a very different headspace. So a lot of the stuff on Straight No Chaser is actually really new. I didn't even realize how raw it was and then some of my friends at home heard it and were surprised. I was working in East London and then all of sudden I'm on a plane to Hawaii. I was so removed from my comfort zone that I think it put me in a headspace where I could just be more open and put my heart on my sleeve. And 808s & Heartbreak gave me a benchmark.
Complex: Your sound now is a lot bigger than the first album, but you've said that you prefer tiny venues to large arenas. With the new material coming out, do you think that preference will last much longer?
Mr. Hudson: I wouldn't say prefer, I just think there's a charm to small rooms where you can high five the people at the front and the back without going too far from the stage. I love doing club shows. I love that tight sound. But Kanye told me, "You can do this if you want. You can fill these big rooms. Do you wanna have a go?" And I was like, "Uh, yeah." Because it's not very often in life that you get offered these things. It'd be stupid not to give this a shot. So we made an album that would work in those spaces and those big rooms with, as he exaggerated, 500,000 people a night. It's ambitious, but yeah, this time next year I'd love to be over here playing for arenas. That'd be amazing.
Complex: You recently told the Twitter world that you were at the Drake shoot for the "Best I Ever Had" video, can you tell us any details about how it turned out?
Mr. Hudson: I would probably get told off if I did, but I can tell you that Drake is a really cool guy. I was just, A. touched that he knew who I was, and B. he was like, "we should do something together." What's his phrase? "Go in?" Is that what he said? We should go in, as in, go into the studio. I was like, "cool." I had just gotten off the plane. But yeah, it'll be a fun video.
Complex: Are you in it or were you just on set?
Mr. Hudson: Nah, I just popped my head in to say hi.
Complex: You also said you wanted to start Good Boy Entertainment as a sort of tongue-in-cheek response to Bad Boy Entertainment. What would your media empire include?
Mr. Hudson: For starters, my office would be on the ground floor by the receptionist so I could see everyone going in. I wouldn't be up in the penthouse. I'd probably end up doing really kooky stuff that didn't sell too well.
Complex: A clothing line?
Mr. Hudson: See, I think I'd do accessories more than clothing. I'd do shoes and bags and things like that.
Complex: Well, you've already gotten a start in some ways with Kanye's Louis Vuitton shoe. Did that take you by surprise or did you already know he had a shoe coming out named after you?
Mr. Hudson: No, I didn't. We were in Paris for fashion week. And I know nothing about fashion, but I'm starting to learn from hanging around the G.O.O.D. Music family because they're all really into it. Don C, Ibn Jasper, and everyone. The Pastelle guys. So we were in the Louis Vuitton HQ and one of the guys jokingly looked at the bunch of shoes and said, "Oh, this is the Mr. Hudson," and I tried it on. Then at dinner Kanye said, "You know what? I am going to call that the Mr. Hudson." We all thought he was joking, but...
Complex: He wasn't.
Mr. Hudson: He wasn't!
Complex: Do you have a few pairs yet?
Mr. Hudson: No, I can't afford that. I'm not going to spend Â£1000 on a shoe. Do you even get two for Â£1000?
Complex: So Kanye's not going to slide you a pair?
Mr. Hudson: I think I get one pair, which is excellent, and more than enough. You can only wear one pair at a time. I haven't even gotten my Yeezy's out of the box yet. I'm terrified of spilling something on them. They're bigger than me as well.
Complex: You didn't start off as a hip-hop artist, but having the Kanye affiliation has kind of thrusted you into that world...
Mr. Hudson: I'm not a hip-hop artist and I wouldn't claim to be. It's something I only started getting into five or six years ago. I was into it as a kid but then I got into the whole Brit Pop, guitar music thing. Following bands like Blur, Oasis, Radiohead, and that whole scene. But I make beats and my whole approach was more informed by the values of hip-hop. I wanted to have some fun and I saw the guitar scene as a bit stiff and stale with everyone wearing the same stuff and not really being ambitious. But I see the values of hip-hop and I could just relate to it more. I looked at Andre 3000 and Kanye and they were having so much fun and I wanted to be involved in that. So I was hanging out at the record shops in London and the clubs I would go to were all hip-hop clubs. How I came out in London the first time around was from the hip-hop world, as much socially and culturally as musically and they were giving me props.
Complex: So as coverage increases, do you follow yourself in the press much? Are you the type to Google yourself everyday?
Mr. Hudson: It depends, man. If I'm in the studio twiddling my thumbs or doing a mix, I'll do it. But when I'm busy living, no. And the more that's happening the harder it is to keep track of it. With press, at the moment I'm thinking, you've either got to be thick-skinned and read everything or nothing at all. Not that I've had any haters really, apart from a couple keyboard warriors online, but in the future I might just live my life and not watch that too much.
WATCH THE VIDEO FOR MR. HUDSON'S "SUPERNOVA" FT. KANYE WEST