The perfect tale of inherent musical talent, self-belief, creative passion and perseverance. Mix it with the right place, right time, some weed, liquor and music technology spanning the accordion to an MPC 2000 and you get Exile’s account of life as a hip hop producer. If this interview is anything to go by, his live show is bound to be a rapper’s delight for every straight shooter in town. Hipsters beware!
Your achievements within the studio continue to grow. What can Australian audiences expect from your live show?
Live MPC, live raps, live liquor consumption. It depends on who I rock with. In this case Fashawn, so in addition to the above, add raw ‘heartful’ raps and weed smoke.
How do you begin to construct a set when heading out on tour?
Sometimes I will create new MPC sets or just practice the ones I have. I like to spend a day or two getting my chops up on the MPC. Me and Fash like to get together and perform the whole show and work out any kinks that we come across until we get through the whole show without flaws. And then I go bone down with chicks.
You collaborated with Fashawn to produce his Boy Meets World debut album. What first excited you about him as artist?
We will witness you on stage together, but how is the dynamic created within the studio?
Sometimes the creative process will take place outside the studio like smokin’ in the car. Fash will just freestyle masterful shit and I will be like, “Remember that!” Ha and he will.
Your list of collaborations has extended to include commercial success stories Lupe Fiasco, Snoop Dogg, Jurassic 5 and Akon. How would you describe these experiences as a producer?
Is it harder to make a name for oneself as an emcee or a producer in such a competitive industry like hip hop, especially in L.A?
They’re both difficult, stay grounded and do your art for the right reasons and you come out on top regardless.
Your musical and cultural heritage is a unique one. How has it helped influence you?
My grandfather taught me the accordion when I was five or so, it’s one of my earliest memories of playing music. I knew I wanted to make beats and I would stop at nothing to figure out how it was done. I started with two tape decks and one turntable and would create tape loops. Then I moved to a push button sampler and a 4-track, then the Roland MS 1 to now, the MPC 2000. My musical side of the family was not in my life at the time but still, it was in me. Music was always in my blood.
We’ve recently celebrated Record Store Day, with vinyl finding a resurgence amongst music lovers. Does vinyl still play a role for you in creating music?
Most def’, for sure, fo sho, yes, word up!
Traditional technology or state of the art?
Beginning in 1995, you and Aloe Blacc created Emanon. What was unique about the partnership?
It all started back in 1994 when I was chewing on a piece of hay, when I first decided to press my tapes and sell them. It was a mixtape called Dream Sequence. Just me cutting and scratching over four tracks beats and what not. I first brought these tapes to Beat Non Stop (L.A. record shop) and I played the tape to the homie DJ Coco and he went nuts and had my back to help push them.
I would also sell them my self outside after shows and what-not. I remember asking my boy Jelly Bean (LOL funny ass name) to get serious and rap over some of my beats because we used to freestyle and what-not. He was like, “Nah, that’s not for me man, but I know this kid who’s pretty nice with it”. It was Aloe Blacc. So me and Aloe met at some food spot and we ended up having a little cypher outside and right after that we made our first song called Isolated Format, on a 4-track. So we built up a nice collection of songs and I was like, “Yo, I’m gonna make a mixtape and have one side be me DJ-ing and have the other side be all these songs we’ve been making”.
I figured people would cop our tape regardless because of my mixtape but then they could also get to hear all these songs we were making. This tape was called Stretch Marx. Aloe was 16, I was 17 or 18. So we kept dirt hustlin’ these tapes at mom and pop shops and outside of hip-hop functions ’til we did our first show in Long Beach.
DJ Josh One and J Rocc were spinning and I showed up with my 4-track hahaha and made sure Aloe’s raps were turned down, pressed play and would scratch along with the tape. Anyhow we just kept it moving the same way with our next tape Imaginary Friends and this one really kinda took off. A fan had called the number on the tape and was like, “Yo, I wanna press a record”. So we did it. Got play on Friday Night Flavors out here in LA and we just kept it moving ever since.
New collaborations developed with Blu, and one resulting release, Below The Heavens, was dubbed as a modern classic. Why was the response so overwhelming?
Honesty and honestly dope beats.
How would you best describe your sound to readers just starting to discover Exile?
Hip-hop meets your mom, bangs her and their child becomes really good friends with you.
Your production credits are long and distinguished. Which mountains are left to conquer?
If you had to ‘break the ice’ at a party, what story would you tell?
Both of my parents are dead, where’s the whisky?