CyHi the Prynce is everywhere—if you know where to look. While the rapper has only released one album, last year’s No Dope on Sundays, he has played a key role in the last handful of Kanye West albums (including Ye), Travis Scott’s acclaimed new project ASTROWORLD, and much more. And in June, the rapper shared that he is continuing the recent string of Kanye-produced seven-song albums.
So we called CyHi to hear exactly what was going on. We ended up getting details on all of his recent and upcoming projects, and some interesting tidbits about Black Panther, to boot.
I was reading an interview with you from four years ago. You said that when you were writing songs, you asked yourself questions like “What would MLK sound like if he rapped? What would Nelson Mandela sound like if he rapped?” Are those still the kinds of questions you're asking yourself when you write?
Absolutely. Also, I don’t write without Jesus in the room. Like, if I can't rap it next to Jesus, if it ain’t that real or that authentic or if I didn’t do it, I can’t say it. There’s a bunch of metaphors that I have that are, like, Lil Wayne-level that I can't say ’cause I never killed nobody. I shot at a couple dudes or whatever, but not that I know of have I killed somebody. So I can’t use a lot of the stuff that I can say.
A lot of times, I put mood boards and paintings of Tupac or Nelson Mandela or MLK in the room, to get me in the vibe. And it’s not just black leaders. If I’m doing a song about a girl, or a dance song, I’m going to put 69 Boyz up, Bass All Stars. I’m gonna put pictures in front of the strip club. Whatever mood that I’m in or whatever vibe that these records are taking, I like to see the visuals and spiritually feel those visuals as well when I’m in the room.
Do you relax those restrictions of “I can't say it if I didn't do it” if you're helping someone else write a song?
Oh yeah. If I’m writing for somebody else, it's whatever they want to say. But I still try to keep some integrity to the artist. That's why they usually bring me in. You know, people see me on the Trav[is Scott] situation—I'm really there just to make sure there's a focus. Trav has experienced a lot in his life and he hasn’t told a lot of people who he is and what he does. So that was my job—to encourage him to be more personal on this album. He may go to his personal life, versus just making great songs, because he made so many great songs, so he could do that in his sleep. We want to know who the guy is behind these great songs. Hopefully that’s what you guys got from ASTROWORLD.
What specifically did you contribute to ASTROWORLD?
Once you put out a rap album and you’re getting 50, 60, 100 grand a show and you’re this household name, the only next level to go is to compete with Adele and Sam Smith and whatever gospel choir or alternative rock group is up for Album of the Year. Those guys aren’t in there by theyself. It’s 30, 40 people—you got trumpet players, lyricists, writers.
So that's the same thing [for rappers]. Everybody's taking that formula, especially in L.A. or the guys that are really going for those Grammy spots, those really critically acclaimed albums. You don't just want to be in there with you, an engineer, and a bag of weed. It's hard to out-think 10 people that’s in an Adele session or any of the major artists.
We’re starting to treat rap like that, like it has to be that important. But [knowing] what minds to put into the room is what makes you a great producer. Instead of just having your homeboys from the crib that’s just in there smoking weed, chilling, playing video games, you’d rather put up a flight for a guy like me, that’s going to make sure the shit sounds dope.
When it comes to knowing what minds to put in a room, Kanye is obviously the master curator. Was there anything different in the process of creating Ye than the last two or three Kanye projects?
No. The only thing that's different about Ye is the location. Everything else is the same formula he’s had. He's a producer, so he loves to bring other people in the room.
You hear all those effects and stuff that be on a Ye album or a Travis album? That comes from them being engineers and producers prior to being rappers. They know different things to put on the beat—different effects, different reverbs, and different instruments. That’s just what they do.
Every time we go in, we're looking to do something that lives in the world forever, not just that time. We want to be looked at as the Marvin Gayes of our time, not just some artists that put music out during Marvin Gaye's time. That staple artist—that James Brown, that Tupac Shakur, that Kanye West—we want to be those artists that people, thousands and thousands of years [later], come back and read the lyrics and hear the audio. When the aliens come down, they can pop these CDs in and know what this was like prior to them landing. These things [are] what we’re talking about. When they write a new testament of the Bible, will your name be in it?
You said you are working on an album with Kanye. Is that the seven-song project you tweeted about?
Absolutely. I don't have a date as of right now. Most of the albums that you heard on the seven spree were worked on for a year or eight months. So I know everybody thinks I’m incredible enough to do it in two months, but we are actually working on it.
I want to display some of my musical things that I've learned. Prior to being in the music industry, I used to sing in the choir at church, I used to sing in the chorus, played in the band, singing groups. So I know a lot about music that I'm going to implement in these albums to show another level of what I do—and the benefits of being under the tutelage of a Kanye West.
Can you say for sure you're going to stick to the seven-song template, or is that still up in the air?
That's what we looking to do. I have a million records—it could be 15 if we want to do 15. But I wanted to do [a seven-song project] with him because that’s something that he’s doing.
I have two other albums that I'm working on that will be dropping in the next eight months. This is just that treat that Ye wants to offer to the world in collabing with some of the artists that he is really close with, versus just overseeing albums. He’s touching the boards, chopping the samples.
You've already started recording the seven-song project?
Oh, yeah, absolutely.
What are the other two albums?
Well, the second album will be my Black Hystori album [Ed. note: There are two previous entries in CyHi’s Black Hystori series]. I didn’t put one out last year because I was offered to work on the Black Panther soundtrack, but that was early on, until Kendrick came on. So this year I will be dropping another one. They used to be mixtapes, but now I'm out of my deal. Back in the day, I couldn't put out a lot of music. Now I can. So I’m just going to flood the world.
You said you were going to be involved in the Black Panther soundtrack?
Well, somebody from their team reached out to me because I had “Nu Africa.” So I guess I was somebody that they considered being a part of the soundtrack. But I don't know if they were going to let me do the whole thing or nothing like that. I know they wanted to put a couple of records on there. But then I think once they got Kendrick in there and he started curating, he kind of made his own album, so they didn't do it like that. It’s all good. I just got a bunch of dope records that I was going to give y’all last year, but I got some better ones that I put on there, and I’m going to spice it up, and when you hear it you’re going to be like, “Oh my God.”