All photos included by Mel D. Cole of www.villiageslum.com
Yesterday we presented our interview with Ratatat, who produced "Pursuit of Happiness" and "Alive" on Kid Cudi's Man On The Moon: The End Of Day album. Today, we turn our focus to Emile, who is not only Cudi's co-manager but the person who racked up the most production credits on the LP.
The man sometimes referred to as "The Urban Gentleman" has previously worked with Raekwon ("Ice Water") and Obie Trice ("Wanna Know"), but it's with Cudi's project that Emile is truly making a name for himself. After producing the majority of the A Kid Named Cudi mixtape with Plain Pat, Emile shifted his focus to work on Cudi's studio album. (The trio have since started their own indie label, Dream On.) On Man On The Moon, Emile's touch is apparent from start to finish—he produced "In My Dreams (Cudder Anthem)," "Soundtrack 2 My Life," Solo Dolo (Nightmare)," and "CuDi Zone." In this exclusive interview, Emile breaks down how each track came to fruition, and also talks about the first night he met Cudi...
Interview By Joe La Puma
"In My Dreams (Cudder Anthem)"
Complex: So starting from the first track—"In My Dreams (Cudder Anthem)." How did that song come about?
Emile: It's like the way we did all of our records where we started with nothing, and we were just kind of listening to different sounds and different music. I hooked that beat up pretty fast and I'm pretty sure that Cudi freestyled that whole thing. For a lot of songs we did he would write out the verses on his Blackberry or whatever phone he was using at the time. With that one, he just went in the booth and freestyled it and nailed it. We were always planning on redoing it or having him "officially" do it. But yeah, it was just like that first take was the one that stayed on the album. That was off the top, kinda ill.
Complex: Did you guys plan on starting the album with a gloomy beat like that from jump?
Emile: Actually, that was more of Cudi's thing. He had in his head what he wanted to start the album with. Like way back it was a song called "Bigger Than You," which some people might of heard because it leaked. It was a really dope record. "Bigger Than You" was actually the first record me and Cudi ever did together. It was on the first day that we met, we cut that song. Once we cut it, he was like, "That's the intro to my album." It stayed that way for a while, but that record was cut a long time before the album was ever done, so eventually it kinda faded out. Then we did this "In My Dreams" record and he was always kinda stuck on that being the intro. He really liked this part that I played which is the little melody part where he actually sings, "You're in my dreams." He always liked that and was like, that's dope for the intro. So that's how that kind of happened.
Complex: You said you recorded "Bigger Than You" the first day you met Cudi. When exactly was that?
Emile: 2007. Some point in '07. Maybe summer of '07 or fall of '07, it was a while back.
"Soundtrack 2 My Life"
Complex: The second track on the album is a lot of people's favorite: "Soundtrack 2 My Life." I remember Cudi spitting it as a freestyle on 106 & Park, but the lyrics were a bit different. Talk to us about that track.
Emile: It was probably around the time that 106 happened, I'm not 100% sure, but I would guess it was probably around the 106 time. I think probably one of the reasons why the lyrics got fucked up is because it's kind of like a head-nod type of record and I remember the crowd started clapping all fast to speed it up and shit. That record started with me just kind of on the keyboard just playing shit. When he heard something he liked, he would be like, "That's dope." It would just be like some chords, then we'd kind of build it around that. It wasn't like, I'd have a beat done and be like, "What do you think?"
Emile: It would always just start with nothing and then build into a beat. That was one of those records we cut all in one night—which is rare, because usually we would spend a few days or a few different sessions per song, but that one we just did in one night because he was just determined to get it done.
Complex: To me, it's one of the records that really gives a glimpse into his life. Is that what he aimed to do?
Emile: I believe so, I mean I don't really ever ask him why he writes shit or what he wrote. I just kind of take it for what it is. I want to say he had the chorus first, he probably put the verses around what he was saying in the chorus and what he had in his head for the chorus.
Complex: And it all came out in one night?
Emile: Yeah, in one session. Pretty much the whole thing too, which is ill because usually I go back and play around with the beat a lot. But that was literally pretty much hammered out. The only thing that was different on that was I had my boy Morgan play guitars on the outro. Like right at the end when his voice starts echoing, I had these guitars I added to the outro. But other than that I was pretty much done in one session.
"Solo Dolo (Nightmare")
Complex: So "Solo Dolo" is a track that leaked before, but without any strings. How did that song come about?
Emile: That's my favorite song. I remember that session was just me and Cudi in the studio and I have a big record collection, we were just listening to the record that I got the sample from. I just had it playing in the background, I wasn't really listening to it for samples necessarily, we were just kind of listening to some things and we both heard that and were like, "Oh shit, that's dope—what if we took that sample and just slowed it way down?" So we just took it and slowed it way down, then I just kind of built the beat up around it and put some synths in it. There's like this one weird little dreamy synth thing on the chorus, that was Cudi's idea that he kind of had in his head. I just found the right sound eventually and added that in. Then I beefed it up with these 808s, I added some synths, and I added a couple things but I was really like, man this would be sick with a really big orchestra on it so let's not add too much of anything and just get the ill arrangement and the ill strings on it. That's probably my favorite song, I think what Cudi did to that is so fucking ill.
Complex: Yeah, he killed it.
Emile: When we did that, I was like, "Holy shit, he's going in." I think just the way his voice sounds, there's like this low tone that he hits. I've had engineers ask me if that's an effect I put on his vocals but it's not, he's got this low tone, it's almost like adding bass to something but it's in his voice. That's in the chorus, that chorus to me just sounds so big. It's sonically a big hook because he's got that super sub-harmonic low voice in there. There's no effect on there, there's no auto, there's no tuning, there's no nothing. I tend to add a gang of shit to my music and my tracks, I just kind of love that overproduced vibe sometimes. But that one, his voice was so strong on that, it was just like, let's just leave this wide open and then have the orchestra just come in and do some things on it. Larry Gold just went in on that, it sounded big and cinematic but sinister at the same time. It was perfect.
Complex: For "Cudi Zone," I remember Cudi saying he had the first verse done, and then eventually finished the second verse at a later time.
Emile: He had the verse forever and me and [Plain] Pat were like "'Cudi Zone,' what's up with it?" and Cudi would just blow it off. So me and Pat were just like, fuck man, this record is so dope but it went on so long that I started to wonder if this monster of a record was going to be on the shelf, just like if it was ever going to get finished. A long time went by, and he just wasn't going to force it. Cudi doesn't force his stuff when he works, it's either going to happen or it's not going to happen. Eventually one day, it was real nonchalant, months and months after we had this record and he was just like, "Oh yeah, I got the 'Cudi Zone' verse." I almost didn't believe him, I was like, word? Not only did he come in forever after we did the first verse but he did the second verse and it sounded like he did it the exact same day he did the first verse. The tone was cool, everything was cool about it. It was like OK, shit we're done. Sweet.
Complex: Now how much of a time span went on between the first verse and the second?
Emile: Man...we did "Cudi Zone" and "Solo Dolo" I think back-to-back in like two days. It had to have been six months, I don't know exactly. It was a while, I'm going to guess between four and six months.
Complex: Going back to the origin of your relationship with Cudi's relationship, how did you hook up with him? Did Pat bring you in later or did you and Pat find Cudi together?
Emile: You know what, I heard "Day 'N' Nite" on Cudi's MySpace and was blown away by the record. It didn't even have that many plays on MySpace yet. I don't know how I stumbled across it, but I stumbled across it and heard it. The second I heard it I was like, "Holy shit!" I looked around on his page and saw [Plain] Pat on his top friends list. Me and Pat have had a long relationship, we've always kind of worked together with him being an A&R and me as a producer. So, I hit Pat up and was just like, yo there's this cat with this song that has you as one of his top friends and this song is just like the illest song ever. Obviously he had started to work with Cudi, and was like, "Yeah, yeah that's my guy we should get up." I said bring him by the studio, because I think some of the new beats I got are pretty well-suited for him, we should do some shit.
Complex: Did he bring him by right away?
Emile: We didn't get up until a few months after that. I think Pat was doing the Graduation album with Kanye at the time and I was doing this album out in England. Then I think Pat might have hit me up and brought Cudi to the studio. On that first day we cut "Bigger Than You." I remember I was playing them mad beats, and he liked the beats but it was the sort of thing where you're playing an artist mad beats and they're like, yeah that's good, that's good, but you know when somebody really wants something, things get done. The artist hears something and they're like, I'm getting in the booth or I'm writing right now. When you're in the studio that either happens or it doesn't. That wasn't happening and I was just like, fuck it, lets just make something from scratch. And that kinda just sent the tone for how we did everything. The way we did "Bigger Than You," that very first record, it was a sample and we were just listening to records and he was just like, "Yo that's crazy" and we built it up. That's kinda how we did everything from then on.
Complex: You're one of his managers. How did that music relationship turn into a managerial relationship?
Emile: Yeah, well it's co-managing with Pat. Pat was always the original manager and when Cudi started coming to the studio we started working a lot, it was just an organic thing that happened. His buzz started getting bigger, we put the mixtape A Kid Named Cudi out and the next thing you know I had a million people hitting me like different labels and people I had different relationships with trying to get meetings and set up meetings and that kind of stuff. It happened naturally over time, the music kind of blended with the business. We just kept it moving.
Complex: Now the "Browski Room," the place where the tracks you did for the album were recorded, is that your personal studio?
Emile: [Laughs.] Yeah. I mean I never had a name for my studio and we got a lot of inside jokes and that's one of them.
Complex: You've worked with a lot of other artists, but is there something about Cudi that stands out to you?
Emile: The creativity, the harmonies, the melodies and just the fact that he manages to be completely original and be like an underground artist, but has melodies that appeal to everybody. I think that's the trick. A lot of people are very underground and stay that way because they don't appeal to the masses. Or, they appeal to the masses and real music heads can't appreciate it. A lot of the time it's one extreme or the other and Cudi kind of manages to fit in both categories and that's the ticket.
Complex: Did you or Pat or Cudi ever feel like this album was too bold for a debut album? It's not the most Hot 97-friendly record...
Emile: Yeah I mean, that wasn't even needed to be thought about. We're not the type to even really give a fuck about all that. It is what it is. Like when you hear "Day 'N' Nite," you know it's incredible but it's not like a generic radio record. It just so happened that the people heard it, and loved it, and it managed to find a place in our world. I never even thought about it, I think we knew what we were doing was good and wherever it fit in, it fit in.
Complex: So now with the album done, what are you working on now personally? Are you working with any other artists?
Emile: Not really. I started to get back in the studio and cook up quite a bit and I've got in with a few artists to record a few things which is all good, but we're really pushing this Cudi album hard so I'm spending a lot of time doing that. I've been getting back in the studio myself, personally just kind of alone, making tracks and things like that.
Complex: You've had big records with Obie and others before, but do you view this as a breakthrough for you?
Emile: Yeah, definitely because I feel like this is a new sound for me, it's really producing. It's not making a beat, sending it to an artist and having them record a song to it—which I do a lot of, that's fine and that's cool. That's how a lot of stuff gets done in rap. But it's not nearly as fun as truly starting from scratch with an artist and developing a sound. That's what I've always wanted to do and this was an opportunity I had to actually do that.