Since you’re the rapper guy, who are your top 5 rappers?
I don’t think there would be any surprises there. It’s your typical favorite MCs, like Nas, Biggie and Rakim, etc. Let’s fill it out for five… ‘Pac and Em. If you get past that, who are the five that people wouldn’t expect to be in somebody’s top five but should be?
For me, I think its like, Redman, I would actually say Sean P, who I just think is a fucking genius. I might go Mos Def, I might go Black Thought. Who’s a West Coast dude… who’s like the shit? It’s tough, man. The West has always been a little less lyrical. Actually, I didn’t say Scarface, it would be Scarface. Face is retarded, he’s amazing.
That’s the thing for me, it’s always been about, like, that kind of lyricism. The stuff that really excites me a lot of times is the stuff that’s not going to be on the radio. It’ll be too much for them.
What about newer artists like Danny Brown and people like that?
I love Danny Brown! I just downloaded the Danny Brown 3:33 remix of “Blunt After Blunt.” The thing about him is he’s so wild. He’s really honest in a weird way. Like, he doesn’t have a filter, which can be a really bad thing for a lot of people.
Like, you kind of wish Jose Canseco had a filter because you feel bad for him. But you don’t feel that way about Danny. Like, Danny doesn’t have a fucking front tooth, you know what I mean?
I love Danny Brown! I’m probably the most excited about Azealia Banks. I’m really excited that Earl Sweatshirt is making tracks again.
Be you and the mainstream is probably not going get it—but fuck them. He’s amazing. I’m probably the most excited about Azealia Banks. I’m really excited that Earl Sweatshirt is making tracks again. I feel like he hasn’t hit his stride yet but once he does he’s going to be really, for people like me, really special.
Oh, I love the Death Grips record too. Have you heard that? I don’t know a lot about what he’s saying, it’s really hard to understand because he’s screaming his brains out. That’s the thing about it—it’s so punk rock for a rap record that I’m still just getting into it. But, the first record that they put out is literally one of my favorite records in like the last ten years. It’s so dope, just because it’s like, so different.
For me it’s all that kind of stuff. Like, A$AP Mob is cool. Oh! Tito Lopez. Dude, his song’s called “Mama Proud” or something. He literally sounds like a cross between Ras Kass and Tupac and he’s real lyrical. He is definitely on my top ten people to watch right now. I think he is so fucking dope.
How about on the production tip? Any cats you’d want a remix from?
There’s a lot of electronic stuff. I’m way into like, Glitch Mob, DatsiK. We’re thinking of getting some remixes with folks in that world. The idea of getting like, a Lex Luger remix is really dope to me but it would have to be the right song.
Our first single is called “Burn it Down” and it’s like a four on the floor, 120 bpm-ish jam and, so immediately I start thinking like well, what is Nero doing what is Rusko doing? That groove is their specialty almost, so that’s why I start thinking in terms of like what’s going to fit. If I give that song to Scoop [Deville], it’s not going to set him up for success.
Who else are you feeling in that electronic realm?
I was actually surprised, like recently, I wasn’t that familiar with Nero and there was another dude named Excision, and DatsiK. I just in the past year started hearing about those guys. My best friend in college in the late ’90s was way into hardcore techno and jungle.
That’s all he spun at clubs and stuff. He was also a tagger and a stoner. This was like, my best friend. He would make me these 90-minute mixtapes and I would never know who I was listening to. It’s like 90 minutes of amazing music and I have no idea who the artists are.
What do you look for in a beat to get your juices flowing?
There’s more rapping on this record than anything we’ve put out in the last few years. At this point there’s got to be a groove for me. Rick Rubin and I were talking about trying to put rapping where you wouldn’t expect it. If the track really didn’t sound like a hip-hop track, then I’d try rapping on it. Once in a while, that really works.
We were super excited when it did. And then a lot of times I was realizing like, rapping and beats, they’re kind of inseparable. My iPod was on shuffle earlier and I heard “Double Trouble” with Black Thought and Mos Def on it, and clearly they’re just riding the beat. The verses and the beat are made for each other. It’s like one thing—not two things.
My friend said to me one time, “I believe that every rock-band’s biggest song is really a rap song.” If you start thinking about, it’s actually really funny.
So for me, it’s about when I can get in that groove and I hear the track and it just inspires some words that just pop out. The newest stuff I’ve been doing has been a lot more intuitive and off-the-paper kind of a thing.
Basically what I’ll do is just spit over the track with nothing written down, and if some good stuff comes out, I’ll use some of those and write some stuff in between. I’ll take it chunk by chunk and write a couple things to remember where I’ve been. It’s a fluid, weird process. Some days it takes an hour and sometimes it takes days.
Who would be the forefathers of the Linkin Park genre?
If you want to go way back, really the whole idea of fusing the synergetic rock thing, and like soulful—what at the time would’ve been called “black music”—would’ve been like Led Zeppelin. They were really taking blues and things like that and fusing them with what ended up being heavy metal. They were the forefathers of that.
Then later you get into like your Run-DMC’s and Beastie Boys. You eventually get into Rage Against the Machine and stuff like that. My friend said to me one time, “I believe that every rock-band’s biggest song is really a rap song.” If you start thinking about, it’s actually really funny.
You start thinking about “When the Levee Breaks” you start thinking about “We Will Rock You,” you start thinking about Blondie, The Beatles and David Bowie even. These songs… they have a huge backbeat to them and there’s a rhythmic quality that’s very hip-hop.
He’s like “you guys made a living doing that. You didn’t accidentally stumble into it on one track.” To varying degrees and varying results... But that’s what we grew up on so that’s what we naturally do.