Polow Da Don: The Truth and Nothing But

polowdadon

Polow Da Don may not have reached the pinnacle of success that some of his peers have, but the colorful producer is well on his way. Unless you have been living in a hole for the past two years, you have at some point jammed to the hard-hitting bass, heavy synths, unconventional horns and other knick knacks that have made the 28-year old Atlanta native a rarity in today’s sub par music scene. If not, don’t think for a minute that he isn’t prepared to bring you up to speed. But above and beyond this thin layer of arrogance lies a list of hits that would silence the most boisterous naysayer. After all, with chat toppers like Ludacris’ “Runaway Love,” Fergie’s “London Bridge,” and Rich Boy’s “Throw Some Ds,” over the course of just one year, who could deny that Polow is on top of his game? 

Whether you like him or not is irrelevant, at least to him. The outspoken, colorful, intelligent super producer has bigger fish to fry-changing the music game. Polow took a break from the studio to speak candidly with AllHipHop.com about his formative years as a rapper with Jim Crow , his unparalleled production technique, and why he is the “King of the White Girls.” Take notes.  AllHipHop.com: You’ve been like a silent killer in the industry.  I still remember hearing Fergie’s “London Bridge” and wondering, “Who is that?”  How does it feel to finally be in the spotlight?    Polow Da Don: I agree. I want people to think, “Who the f*** did that?”  That [Fergie] track was that track for me.  So life for me is incredible because of the way I handle it. I’m just a super down-to-earth, humble dude. I make my s*** look big and sound big, but if I met you anywhere it’s like, you know… I’m still my parents’ child.  I still talk to them everyday, so you can’t help but stay humble. So I love it, but I like to keep my foundation solid.

AllHipHop.com: Did you have a big presence on the underground scene in Atlanta before going main stream? 

Polow Da Don: Yeah, I had a big presence because of high school. I was the attractive dude, the athletic dude. I ran with the bad boys in school. I was always popular.

AllHipHop.com: Listen at you. 

Polow: I mean that’s what I heard. [Laughs]  So I did a video, “Shawty Swing My Way” and got notoriety on some pretty boy s**t.  Then I started rappin’ with Jim Crow.  We were successful, locally, and we had our breakout markets. I’ve always been into the music scene real heavy. So I think all that helped me in my transition of becoming a producer, because the T-Pains and [Ludacris’] and Jazze Phas already knew me, you know?  And Lil’ Jon was my first manager as a rapper, when I was like 14, so that foundation was already there. Plus I was a cool dude.  Actually, Luda called me up for the track we did, so it was dope.  I think how you treat people, how I treated people, helped me get to where I am.   AllHipHop.com: Atlanta-based producers are very unique in their own right.  Jazze Pha doesn’t sound like Khao, Khao doesn’t sound like Lil’ Jon, and so on.  What element of your production is different?  Why would someone come to you for a track rather than one of these guys?  Polow Da Don: I think I’m the most experimental producer, who understands the essence of making a hit and being unique.  So I separate each artist and track apart from each other.  Like you said, Jazze don’t sound like Khao, but I don’t even sound like myself compared to whatever the last record is I did. I think I put the most work in. Although I have a natural talent, I really think about this s**t.  I think that’s what makes me unique.  I think music is sick right now and I try to serve music its medicine. AllHipHop.com: You’ve worked with everyone from Ludacris and Jamie Foxx to The Pussy Cat Dolls, Fergie and Gwen Stefani.  Do you think it’s the mark of a great producer to show that kind of versatility in today’s melting pot of music? 

Polow Da Don: Versatility makes you a great producer because it shows you respect music and have paid attention and learned something over the years.  It shows how much you’re dedicated to music itself.  If you treat music as a hustle, it’ll treat you like a hustle.  But if you love it, it’ll love you back; and people like Jimmy Iovine, L.A. Reid and R. Kelly, they can hear that because they love music too and have been around.  The state of urban music is just where all the dope boys and people who don’t want nine to fives get into it for the hustle, but the game is going to eat them up and spit them out because they didn’t put the time into it. Like Craig Mack said, “You won’t be around next year.”  So versatility is the mark of a good producer. Like, everyone’s on this pop s**t-

AllHipHop.com: Well, you’re on this pop s**t too…

Polow: A pop record is only pop because a pop artist did it, but I have a version with David Banner, Tru life, and other rappers that were out before pop artists get on the record. That’s why Hip-Hop artists love my beats on these pop songs.  I put [Fergie] on to the urban world, and she put me on to the pop world. I can make it suitable for them, but I’m still doin’ me. That’s why Will.I.Am put me in there with her, because he knew my music was urban and hard, but was able to cross over.AllHipHop.com: Now, you call yourself the “King of All White Girls.”  Elaborate on that for me.   Polow Da Don:  Just the “King of the White Girls.” I ain’t self proclaimed but I run with it. [Laughs] There was a stage in my life where I went crazy with dating white women. I have nothing against black women, but they’re raised differently. White women are raised to respect and serve their men.  Black women are taught to question [their men]. Black women look at submission as being weak. White women look at submission as being a woman. And anyone who has a problem with this statement is ignorant.  Just look at the divine order: it goes God, man, woman, child.AllHipHop.com: Umm, okay.  I’m going to leave that one alone. So what’s your view on women in production, or the lack of?

Polow: I think they have to work twice as hard, but there is a market for them, and they should be working to break that ground.  Because the person who does will open a lot of doors and make a lot of money. I get beat CDs from women a lot, actually.  Really, my sister does beats. She was the first person to teach me to use a beat machine. 

AllHipHop.com:  That’s dope. Polow: Yeah, Rasheeda, out of Atlanta, she produced some records for her.  She actually wrote and produced her biggest record “Do It.”  So nah, I think women can do it.  Just gotta put in work ‘cause it’s a male dominated field. 

AllHipHop.com: I agree. Now, there was a little controversy over a beat you gave Fergie for “Glamorous” and a beat you had done for Gwen Stefani for her remix to “Luxurious.”  This isn’t the first time a producer has been in this predicament where his creativity is being questioned.  What can you say about that?  

Polow Da Don: Gwen said she didn’t like the remix, which was the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.  And the remix was one of the best things I had done at the time.  When I finished that I felt like, “I’m gonna be the s**t when this hits.”  I called her and let her know it was the biggest mistake she made in her career.  I was a fan of hers, and I wanted to help her out. And now you see Fergie blowing her out the water in sales, even though Gwen is the bigger star.  Will.I.Am has just really looked out. Maybe somebody will call and try to help me out like that when I’m wack.

AllHipHop.com: Oh you’re funny. Alright Mr. “King of the White Girls,” you went to the not so white Morehouse College. So many people in urban music think that attending college or something like that might challenge their street credibility.  What are your views on that? 

Polow Da Don: I think it’s dumb. I mean, I’m from where I’m from.  My parents strived for me to be better.  My brother was super duper street all his life and I had the ability to look at that situation and see what I want for myself and what I don’t want for myself.  Like, it’s cool to be hood now. That’s how you know you’ve been bamboozled.  N****s livin’ at home when they’re 30.  Our parents did not live with their parents when they were 30. That s**t is unheard of. Now you got 25 year-olds still at home, suckin’ on they momma’s titty. That’s why we got a bunch of b**** a** n****s who have no self-respect. I think it’s simple, either white people [are] geniuses or Black people [are] idiots. And don’t get mad at me, just prove me wrong. I’m just the bearer of bad news. I’m not the problem. We are the problem, as whole.

Like, you can take the most hood n***a you know and I’ll beat his ass. Then I’ll sit him down and school him.  But I think that’s an Atlanta thing, that environment. We are all street, but all intelligent. Look at Goodie Mob, Outkast.

AllHipHop.com: Your protégé, Rich Boy, is the same way.  He was studying engineering at Tuskegee.  What goes on in your head when a young, Black male at a prominent university drops out to be a rapper? 

Polow Da Don: Yeah, I gave Rich Boy hell.  He fell for that whole “How can you be street and be in college?” So he catered to the streets.  He’s significant though, because everybody don’t get as lucky as he got. But at the same time, I dropped out of college, you know?  So you have to take from it what you can. It’s important to learn as much as you can because you can’t be a rapper when you’re 45. And everyone thinks they’ll just do like Jay-Z and start a clothing line, or do something like that. Every time more and more n****s saturate an industry, it loses its value.  Like, n***a, you don’t love clothes, so how could your company be great? You can’t look and say “Jay Z and 50 [Cent] did it, so can I.”  Like, they are smart.  Like, you will never be a Tupac, because you don’t put the time, effort or love into your craft the way these dudes do. That’s why college is important and having a plan.

AllHipHop.com: With the success of Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s,” along with consistent chart toppers over the course of the past two years-Goodness, I just realized it’s only been two years since you emerged on the scene.  That’s crazy.    Polow Da Don: I’ve been paying attention for a while, that’s all.   AllHipHop.com: You’ve also played an integral role in upcoming singer/songwriter Keri Hilson’s career.  You introduced her to Timbaland and now she’s making big moves.  Is that a decision you regret-letting her go? 

Polow: Me and [Timbaland] signed her together. When I signed her to Timbaland, he was in the valley of his career.  He was saying he wanted to do a female [artist], so I thought it made perfect sense.  And even though the industry wasn’t f****n’ with him at the time, it was an honor for me because I just knew that he was amazing. Like, all the stuff you’re hearing now, I heard back then, so I knew it was coming.  Like, I would play songs like that pop s**t off Nelly Furtado’s album and Jazze would be like, “Stay off that pop s**t and get with the street stuff.”  But now Jazze is mimicking Timbaland’s beats. Plus, we all at Interscope, so it’s cool.  With me and Tim together, we have given her a great platform.  AllHipHop.com: Can’t wait for that album to drop. We talked about your early rap career as a member of Jim Crow, and you had a show-stealing verse on Rich Boy’s “Throw Some Ds,” any aspirations to get back into rapping? 

Polow Da Don: Uhh, I think rap might need me right now.  I might.  I have some great ideas.  It’s refreshing.  I know it’ll be dope, because I don’t do anything but dopeness.  Like how rap needed Kanye back then, that’s how I feel about me right now. But the way I’ma twist it is what’s going to make the whole world respect it and embrace it. I’m not currently workin’ on my album or anything, but I get ideas here and there.   AllHipHop.com: Another producer and I spoke about how producers nowadays have essentially become bigger than artists.  When you hear a track today, no matter who is rapping or singing on it, people turn their attention to who produced it.  Is that a major stepping stone in the art of production, in your opinion?    Polow Da Don: I think yes and no.  I say no because some people view the super-producer as a hindrance, you know?  Like, it takes away from the art of what music is supposed to be-a marriage between singer/songwriter and producer, you know? That’s why publishing is split 50/50.  Now you got these n****s coming to me expecting me to do all the work, coming to me for hooks and s**t.  And it’s like, f****n’, you supposed to be the penman, n***a.  But at the same time, I think that producers steppin’ up is a great thing too.  Still, we need the marriage back, so both can shine and we can get back to making great music, not just a great beat, or a great song, lyrically. 

Like, Quincy and Michael- we need that.  We can get back to it.  I mean, look at Lil’ Wayne.  That n***a been rappin’ over no name n****s’ beats forever, but his lyricism is so great that you still want to hear him.  Same with T.I.; when you hear a T.I. record, Toomp doesn’t outshine him, he carries his weight lyrically.  That’s what we need.

AllHipHop.com: True. You recently launched your record label, Zone 4, as a joint venture with Interscope and Def Jam.  What can we expect from the label?Polow Da Don: I-15, they are this singing, guy group from the West Coast.  They’re like a little [BelBivDevo].  They’re gonna steal a lot of little girls’ hearts.  They have great production, a great style, great voices, dancing, and [are] just overall entertainers.  Then of course there’s Keri Hilson, but we talked about that.  We workin’ on Rich Boy.  But I told him, when we talked the other day, that he has to come harder this time.  I told him he has three videos out and people still don’t know who he is.  It isn’t but so much I can do, you know? So he’s gotta bring it this time. AllHipHop.com: Cocky or confident? Polow Da Don: Me? I’m not arrogant. I know exactly who I am and exactly who I’m not, so I say stuff to mind f**k people sometimes, because they’re insecure. I’m a good dude though.

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