Mathematics: No Fraction

Mathematics has been in the shadows of greatness. Joining 4th Disciple as the producers to fill in for RZA, Mathematics has pounded out such hits as Ghostface’s “Mighty Healthy” and GZA’s “Labels.” Those credits, along with the Long Islander’s own album have made him a cult favorite amongst Wu fans, but relatively undiscovered to the novice listener. 2007 sees a change in this.

Between Mathematics’ DVD Beat Kings and Mathematics Presents: Wu-Tang and Friends – The Unreleased LP, the producer and Method Man DJ started big in 2007. The mastermind spoke to AllHipHop about his filmmaking and production, and what’s on deck for the Clan in the new year. Read up. As an accomplished producer, what made you want to go out and do a DVD that not only profiled people who’ve come before you, but some newer producers on the scene?

Mathematics: As far as producers go, you always heard of a select few. I thought there were a lot more producers out there that don’t get their credit. There’s a lot of individuals nowadays trying to get involved in production. I think there’s things they can learn, ‘cause personally, I learned a lot doing it. Also, as far as producers go, I knew certain questions to ask these producers that an average person wouldn’t know to ask. I also got at producers that most people couldn’t get. What was one thing that you learned?

Mathematics: I realized Hip-Hop has expanded to many different walks of Hip-Hop. For me, I love the underground Hip-Hop; I love the raw essence of it. But it expanded into rap music, Crunk music, your mainstream pop music. Certain individuals that I interviewed…if you look at somebody like Trackmasters. Trackmasters, a lot of people might look at them like they pop, but at the same, if you look at their resume and the joints they did before going in that direction, you gotta respect what they do. It is a business at the end of the day. It always shocked me that The Trackmasters produced “Ill Street Blues” for Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, because people typically associate them with LL Cool J, 50 Cent, and so on.

Mathematics: Oh yeah, they forget the G Rap, the Chubb Rock days, even early Nas. “Shootouts,” that’s one of the rawest beats ever in Hip-Hop. The footage with Kanye West looked a few years old. When did you start this project?

Mathematics: I started this project a couple years ago. With me, I do a lot of touring and production studio work too. I actually finished it a while ago, to be honest. Fitting it in my schedule, it took a while. You know how documentaries are; it took time. Also, getting the right deal for it – a lot of individuals were interested in the documentary, but I’d rather get it out myself than be taken advantage of. If you gonna buy me out, buy me out properly! I was really impressed with the fact that you included David Banner to represent the South. But it also seemed like the West was lacking. Did you try to reach out to anybody?

Mathematics: Oh yeah, most definitely. [Dr.] Dre, come on, that’s like my most favorite producer of all time, right there. From the N.W.A. days till now, an individual like him reinvents himself but always keeps his signature on things. [DJ] Quik is incredible. Battlecat. Actually, I tried to reach out to a few, but I didn’t make it out that way, to be honest. This is just the start. Next time, I’m gonna get over there. There’s a lot of regions I didn’t touch. Like Houston, overseas, or Canada. You’re an artist yourself. Was there ever a point in making this that you wanted somebody to interview you, and share your techniques?

Mathematics: Actually, I had originally did a piece for it. But I never really got a chance to finish what I was doing. At the same time, it’s not about me, it’s about producers, it’s about production. When I get to the next one, maybe I’ll include myself. Right now, I’m just goin’ after everyone else. Two years ago, RZA had done a book on the Wu-Tang. One of the chapters in the book focused on the elements and style needed to create the Wu-Tang sound. It always seemed like you were the first producer to really get up, when he couldn’t handle all the projects anymore. Back in the late ‘90s, what did you do to keep that sound alive, despite a change in who was doing it?

Mathematics: What it was, it was a battle. Hip-Hop is definitely in me, it’s in there. I’ll be sitting around in the studio with cats, and I’ll listen to what RZA’s bringing, or Tru Master, or 4th Disciple, and you know what? I got somethin’ killin’ that. So listenin’ to them actually made me go and just work harder, and bring out what was in me. When I came to the table with somethin’, I wouldn’t bring it to the table unless it was somethin’. One of the first tracks I originally made, I played on the bus of one of these tours we were on. I played the track, and the whole bus got silent. Then all of a sudden I heard Meth [say], “Yo, put that RZA track back on.” [Laughs] That right there, that just killed me like, n***as gonna wanna listen to my s**t in a minute. It was just drive and determination. My favorite Ghostface song ever is “Mighty Healthy.” A large part of that is the chaotic production. It feels very Ced Gee-inspired. Tell me what you can about that record.

Mathematics: That was one we actually kinda came through on together. He was sayin’ he wanted the old school type feel. We had just a sound or whateva. So when I put it together and I brought it to him, he was like, “Yeah, like that!” I gave him that one and “Cobra Clutch” at the same time. This was out in L.A. as a matter of fact. He just went right in on ‘em. I left ‘em, and I broke out. When I came back, them joints is done. I think we actually mixed them in New York though. Were any changes made? Because from a mixing perspective, the way that he enters that track seems so unique.

Mathematics: Let me be honest with you: that one right there is actually the first joint I mixed by myself. That’s why it did sound as dirty as it does. At the same time, it’s kinda clean, ‘cause I had an engineer. I mixed it in The Hit Factory [Studios] in The Beatles Room. That’s how I always remember it. We were on the boards that they did their joints on. I had in engineer, he wasn’t helpin’ nothin’. I had to excuse him from the room, and go in on it and do what I do. A bass player came through too, to make it chunkier. That right there, that was a turning point for me. Like you said, that was a dirty mix. Then you have a record like GZA’s “Publicity,” which was around the same time. In contrast, that mix was so crisp and clean. Tell me about that.

Mathematics: Every time I try to make a track, a beat, a song, I try a different approach ‘cause I think each one is its own life in itself. “Publicity,” I made that beat and I kept feeling like something was missing, nahmean? I had it for a while when I first made it, and I couldn’t figure it out. GZA came to my lab one day and he heard it. He was like, “Yo, play that back.” I played it back and he started vibin’ off it, and I realized that the only thing that was missing was him. That one was kinda clean too with the violins and stuff. We’ve seen you do a lot of work within the Clan, the extended family, and so on. Do you think that there will come a time when you’ll step out and work with an artist that will shock your fans?

Mathematics: Actually, yeah. Matter of fact, I haven’t done it as of yet. I’ve been out [DJing for] Meth so much lately. I been workin’ on my projects too. I still gotta get family time in [too]. I haven’t had a chance to branch out yet, but I think [2007], I’m getting right. I just came off the road, and I been on the road since June. I’m about to really dig in. Let me close on a question regarding Method Man. Critically, 4:21 got very positive reviews. But commercially, it also was treated like a failure from the moment it dropped. Through the interviews, we’ve watched Meth struggle. Why do you think it is that people aren’t running towards a Method Man album anymore?

Mathematics: Meth, to me, is a timeless type of MC. He can touch a track and make it sound brand new. For Meth, it was more or less… marketing wasn’t right. Me personally, I’d say it was [Def Jam]. I’ve seen it. He didn’t get a video. He didn’t get support. A lot of things he had to do on his own. As far as performance, he’s one of the greatest Hip-Hop performers ever. I was watching the BET Awards, and Busta made a great point. Busta, he’s a performer and a lyricist too. He was sayin’, “Yo, you got people that’s comin’ out and just rhymin’ and not puttin’ nothin’ into it.” I feel it’s the same thing with [production]. I feel [those people] get a lot more push from their label and marketing than somebody like Meth or somebody like Busta. But Busta got a lot of push [with Big Bang]. Due to times is changing, labels might be like, “We gotta get somethin’ new, somethin’ fresh,” but you can’t forget about individuals that still got that talent. Meth’s album was a banger. If people don’t see the visual of a video, they not gonna run out to buy it like that. If they ain’t hearin’ it on the radio ‘cause Meth made a song disrespecting certain people, they took [offense to it]. He attacked a lot of people, and some people took it to heart. But if you don’t see it, don’t hear it, you not gonna run to it like that.

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