DJ Muggs gave Meyhem Lauren three beats after the two met at Alchemist's house, just because. Muggs was so impressed by what he heard next, he decided to make a whole tape with the Queens MC. Gems From the Equinox is the result. Why they named the project after a book by the famous (and virulently racist) magician Aleister Crowley remains to be seen, but I like to think it's because of all the jewels Meyhem dropped over Muggs' production throughout this impressive 11-track "journey," as he calls it.
I had the opportunity to talk to both Meyhem and Muggs about how they linked up, unbuttoned silk shirts, and never smoking week (on Meyhem's part) among other things. Check out the interview below, along with the album stream and their new video "Hashashin," featuring Conway.
Did you guys link up to do this over email, or in the studio?
Meyhem Lauren: The majority we did together in the studio, a couple of the songs got sent back and forth.
DJ Muggs: In L.A. we worked pretty much together. I met him at Alchemist's studio, he was out there working on Rare Chandeliers with Action Bronson. He asked me to give him some tracks and shit so I left him three. The next day I woke up with three songs in my inbox.
Meyhem: The rest is history.
Muggs: I’m not big on just selling beats. I like projects, being in a group, I like seeing projects from beginning to the end, the artwork, being on tour, the whole shit. On the human side, you got to be cool for me to sit in the fucking room and make music with you all day. I would rather be with my dogs or my kids, but I could kick it with this motherfucker.
He's a rap machine, this guy.
Muggs: I like working with dudes like that who want it more than me, that work hard.
Meyhem: Dog, this is Muggs. If he gives me beats you know I'm gonna rap on them shits.
Muggs: I was working on some shit, I finished about six months later, came back from tour and I was like what’s next? I started going through my shit and I was like, “Oh shit, you wanna do a project?”
You haven’t dropped a Vs. in like seven years, so you heard those tracks and were like, “I can work with this guy?” You have one with Roc Marciano that you guys had teased, is that coming?
Muggs: Yeah it’s done, it’s mixed, album cover is done, everything. We're looking at March because he wants to drop Rosebud 2 first.
Meyhem: Roc is a beast.
How has your process been? Do you make beats everyday?
Muggs: Yeah, I hit the lab everyday. I get up, take the kids to school, hit the gym, then hit the lab.
Who have you produced for recently that people might not know besides Meyhem?
Muggs: The last two years I have been working with Die Antwoord, the South African group. So I did nine songs on their album, managed them for two years, just took them up to Roc Nation because they were my homies. I've been working on the Cypress album.
I was going to ask that because B Real is on the last track and he sounded at home and shit.
Muggs: Yeah, when B Real is on a certain kind of music, he sounds ill. So the Cypress album is done, I got two more joints to do, it’s all mixed and everything. I’m going to go to Egypt on Saturday to finish the last two songs.
Muggs: I had dream like five times in a row, Cypress in Egypt, so I said I’m going to go to Egypt.
Gonna get dark and see what comes out?
Muggs: I got these old musicians from the 70’s, these psychedelic dudes my man hooked me up with. They are going to come to the lab and just play loops, play drum beats for like two days.
What are some of your favorite tracks on the project?
Meyhem: I mean I like everything on here, “Street Religion” is ill, “Murder Rap.” I like the whole project, it’s cohesive, it sounds like an adventure. The whole album is like a journey and everything feeds off of everything else, it’s just ill.
Muggs: Man, I fucking love the whole album but I like “Aquatic Violence,” “Shea Stadium,” “Camel Crush,” “Murder Rap.” “Murder Rap,” I like shit like "The Wrath of Kane". Hard, fast shit like "Lyrics of Fury" and that’s what “Murder Rap,” is on like festival hip-hop kind of shit. Mey liked that track and I was like “word?” I have been on some slow, dusty shit lately.
Meyhem: It’s like old vintage Lauren, like a lot of my older joints I rhymed at a faster tempo, a faster speed, then started slowing it up a little bit started feeling cool and shit. But now I’m ready to jump back on the “Murder Rap,” wave and do both.
I like “Murder Rap,” and I like “Hashashin,” with Conway.
Meyhem: Yeah that’s one of my favorite joints, but they are all my favorite joints.
What kind of silks were you wearing when you made “Szechuan Peppercorn?”
Meyhem: It’s not really about what kind of silks I was wearing, it's about how many buttons were buttoned and the answer is none. [Laughs.]
How much weed was consumed when you guys were recording this album?
Meyhem: Tell you a secret, I never smoked weed once in my life.
Muggs: I smoked a gang, though, I keep pounds on deck. Just digging into the pound bag and rolling them up.
You have been in the game for decades. How do you manage to keep your style but also not sound dated? Older producers sometimes try to keep up with the times.
Muggs: I don’t know, man, I still have a passion for this shit. I love this shit still, if you don’t hear me putting music out then I’m making music everyday. I just love this shit, I’m a fan of new shit, I do new music, like when I did the Die Antwoord stuff, a lot of it is electronic, trap, futuristic weirdo shit. Or maybe it’s just the way I mix the records now. I mix them more of a modern mix style but I know how to get the sound out of the computers that I could get out of the SP 1200s or the MPs and just keeping that sound raw. And it's instinct.
Meyhem: When something has a timeless sound it doesn’t have an expiration date on it. I was buggin' when we went on one of these radio shows the other day and they played one of your joints and they were like this is from '91 and it sounded like 2017. Muggs was always good for that, Cypress records don’t sound like they aged at all.
Muggs: I came from a time where you couldn’t look like anybody. If somebody rocked this, that was they shit, EPMD rocked they shit, you was wack if you looked like them. If you sounded like them, musically? You was wack. Lyrically, if you were using their slang? Then you were wack. So you had to come with your own shit all the way across the board. I still come from that cloth and I still have that ethic in my music.
He's on some other tracks but in the beginning of "Redrum" in particular, my mans is talking about biting somebody’s ear off, that sounded familiar. Where is that from? It sounds like it's from 80 Blocks from Tiffany's. He sounded like some crazy gang member.
Meyhem: That’s my mans and he’s serious.
Muggs: Tell him that story.
Meyhem: That’s one of my homies, he got into a situation a couple of years ago and relocated to South America and he leaves me these voice memos on WhatsApp. Those aren’t skits, those are real.
Muggs: That tone, you don’t really hear that tone anymore. I asked Mey, "Yo, does he rhyme?" when I first heard him.
Meyhem: I don’t know what made him leave that voice slip but I remember 15 years ago him calling and telling me that story when it happened on the A train, I knew who it was, it was over graffitti, it was like a whole thing.
Muggs: He played that for me and I was like yo this shit is ill.
Meyhem: Yeah, he’s out in Panama, he’s chilling. I asked him if I could use the voice memo and he was like “Nigga, I’m not coming back. I don’t care what you do.”
When you're making beats are you watching certain movies or listening to certain music?
Muggs: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll be making beats and leave the TV on. I watch different shit and just put shit on. I’ll dive into shit and watch Blaxploitation films for like a month straight, watch four a day and just keep them on loop. I’ll get into the Beatles and just leave the Beatles documentaries on for like two weeks while I create.
Who are some of the younger artist that inspire you?
Muggs: I like [Westside] Gunn and Conway, I’m digging what they are doing right now. Roc Marci, I’m digging it. I had Roc Marci’s Rosebudd and Conway’s More Steroids on loop the last three days. I like Yo Gotti’s album, I like the new Gucci album, I like Waka. I listen to Sade and Bjork, I listen to whatever.