i15: In the Mix With Soulja Boy and More!

If you take the long drive down the I-15 in the West, you end up in one of two fairy tale cities – Los Angeles on one end and Las Vegas on the other. This part of the world also connected three members of a group, who adopted their name from this highway. As each of them adds a different ingredient to the mix, they have been highly regarded as the male version of TLC by many who have come across their music. Castro, singer and dancer, Das, singer and producer and Flash, rapper and dancer represent Vegas, Chicago and L.A. respectively in that order. The trio, have collaborated with artists from across the map including Fabolous and Soulja Boy to Polow Da Don who has helped secure their deal with Zone 4/Interscope Records. With their debut single “Lost in Love” making the Hot R&B and Hip-Hop Airplay charts and the matching video in rotation on BET, i15 discuss their interests within the entertainment business and reflect on their music and career goals. AllHipHop Alternatives: How has Polow Da Don contributed to your growth as a group?Das: By giving us this chance to show what we can do. Everybody else didn’t really believe in us and didn’t believe in our vision of what we were tryin’ to do. Castro: Aw man, just him being him, his talent has definitely urged us to step it up. He’s a hard working dude. His work ethic is stupid, and I admire that. Flash: He definitely planted the seed of i15. We’ve always been doin’ it, seven years and running, but Polow just came in and gave us the opportunity, the space and I think he gave us a lot of confidence to believe in ourselves more than we were being on an Indie label and not getting the love from the radio and nobody wanted to play the records. It was crazy once we got with Polow, folks started listening.AHHA: Revered as a male version of TLC, do you feel any added pressure living up to a group of their caliber?Das: Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot. It’s a whole lot of pressure to tell the truth. A lot of politics, a lot of bull but you gotta get through that. At the end of the day it’s all about family and the music. We out here on this tour doing what we have to do; me and Flash we got kids back at home. At the end of the day it’s about getting it done.Castro: It’s a challenge. I don’t think it’s pressure, it’s a compliment at the end of the day. I’m honored for people to label us like that. TLC is one of the greatest girl groups ever, and I definitely love the challenge. Can’t let nothing pressure you; you gotta be over-confident, ’cause if you go in with doubts you’re gonna get doubted.Flash: Yes. If that’s what they gonna call us, if that’s what they’re gonna market us as then we’re gonna have a lot of pressure. They did diamond twice. I guess I’d have to be Left Eye. [laughs]AHHA: Which one of the ladies is your favorite?Das: Oh, Left Eye Of Course.Castro: Ahh, Chili all the way. Oh my God, Chili was incredible.Flash: Oh man, Left Eye. I miss Left-Eye. I used to love T-Boz growing up and Chili was always the sexiest one. But Left Eye man. A lot of cats name their top ten MC’s, don’t ever name Left Eye. I put her as top ten, she starts my countdown off.AHHA: How have Quincy Jones’ Youth Asylum [Flash] and Jackie Jackson’s Jesco label [Das] affected your style and your music individually and do you still hold a rapport with them?Das: Nah, not really. I still have his number [Jackie Jackson] in my phone, but I never really use it. It was kinda messed up, I was really young, I was about thirteen, fourteen. I got this song that’s about to come out and then one day I wake up and they talk about the label went bankrupt and I don’t have a deal anymore. It really hurt me, but it helped me grow up at the same time. Let me know just as quick as I got it, it can go away just like that. It really changed my life. It really made me think about how serious things are, how serious I wanted it.Flash: To be completely honest, Quincy Jones, I met him like three times. One time we stayed the night at his house, it was great he had a party. Everyone was drunk so I got to stay, I never really had a personal relationship with Quincy. He actually gave me a book that changed my life though, it was called Way Of A Peaceful Warrior. So I feel that I relate to Quincy Jones through that book. It was deep for me.AHHA: Your debut single, “Lost in Love,” talks about a woman not knowing what she wants out of a relationship. Does this have to do with a specific experience that any of you had or just a general issue that men sometimes face?Das: It personally wasn’t an experience that I’ve been through, but I know a lot people that went through it and I know a lot of people who need to have that song put out there to catch their girls up so when they hear that song they can look at them and be like yeah, I know you’re doing that, trippin’ them out. I ain’t never been through that.Castro: It’s never happened to me ‘cause if I was to get played like that, I wouldn’t be doing it over again. But it’s never happened to me.Flash: Yeah, in my past. I’m from L.A., them girls play you low and they’ll have you thinking one thing. I was in high school and I had a girlfriend I loved, I found out she had a boyfriend [that she was with] longer than I was with her. I guess the song could relate to that, just dealing with different girls, seeing my homies dealing with different issues. I never let it get to me.AHHA: Do you feel that a man’s point of view regarding relationships is under-represented in R&B music?Castro: Yeah, I definitely feel that it’s missing. I think more men should step up to the plate and really touch the subject, put it out there. Instead, everyone is trying to be all hard and [have] so much pride. We touch every aspect.Flash: I would say that, ’cause I’m not the biggest R&B head but what I do hear, that’s modern and current it’s always about the same [thing] or the passion. You hear Kelly Rowland or Beyonce and they giving us bars back to back [like] this is what you’re doing. I think dudes, we sound like horn dogs, we need to man up a little bit and really say we got brains. There are a lot of artists out here that are very intelligent, I come across meeting them in different meetings. Smart dudes, if they applied to the music I think we’d stand out a little more.AHHA: Based in the West Coast, how did you guys also manage to incorporate Chi-town and down South influences into your music?Castro: Down South got that fire. The south is hot right now. Our group is diverse, we catch on to whatever it is that’s hot. We also mix it with our flavor.Das: The production level of a lot of our tracks got a lot of down South flavor. We got some East Coast flavor too, it’s a lot of Hip-Hop, different vibes of Hip-Hop. It’s got some pop on there, it’s a lot of down South, there’s some Chi swag in there. There’s a lot of West Coast.Flash: It’s not that the West Coast ‘aint hot ’cause I love West Coast music that’s all I bump, but I want to add different elements. I want to be universal. One, ’cause it’s gonna help us sell records, ’cause the south is killing it right now. Two, a lot of dudes that we was meeting and they just had funky styles, the sounds, it was cool to work with some South cats, being that Polow Da Don, he put us on down there. I wanna be universal, I don’t want to just get stuck in the West Coast, the Bay area, the South. Let’s do it all day, let me get in London and spit mine.AHHA: Industry standards have put pressure on artists to stick with one image and/or style. How do you feel it’s benefiting you to be more diverse? Castro: There’s definitely going to be criticisms, you gonna have those people. That’s what makes I-15, us being able to do that and still maintain a great fan base. People understand it, that’s what the “I” in I-15 stands for “individuality.” We all bring that to the table.Das: Pretty much that we all come from different places, we all bring something different to the table. The fans gotta respect it, plus we all multi-cultured in here. Flash is half white and black. This guy [Castro] is… what are you?Castro: Pacific Islander, Guamanian, and Black.Das: I’m a mut. I’m mixed with all kinds of things. It’s just a lot of bases that can be touched. I can’t speak Spanish or nothing yet but even if we get to learn that it might be some alternative joints on the record. We take risks, we love music and you gotta take risks. You gotta do whatever you think is hot.Castro: Nowadays everybody is doing the same cliché kind of stuff. We’re not on that, i15 is not a cliché group. People will see exactly what that is once we do drop.AHHA: Are you interested in venturing into other aspects of the entertainment business? Das: I would like to do all kinds of things other than music probably actin’ but I been raised doing music and I do more than just sing. I also produce, so I would like just to work with all kinds of artists; produce hit albums for other artists as well in the not too far future.Castro: This is definitely a stepping stone, we write too. We wrote some records on B5, did some stuff with Bobby Valentino, some stuff with Jon B. We wrote on Bobby Valentino’s latest album, Special Occasions. I definitely want to venture off and write for different artists, even choreographing ‘cause I dance too. People don’t really know that but I’m about to bring it. Let them see what it really is. I definitely would love to work with Usher, do some writing with Ne-Yo. I would love to get in the lab with Stevie Wonder. That would be incredible. I love country music, I grew up on country music. My favorite country artist gotta be Tim McGraw, he’s dope.Flash: I would love to get a record from DJ Premier, DJ Premo. You know who’s hot right now to me, Lupe Fiasco. If Lupe Fiasco’s reading [this], he’s murdering them right now, I’m feeling the dude as an MC. Lil Wayne is burnin’ it up right now. AHHA: If we were to fast forward time, what would people say about your music in the future?Das: I feel like people will be listening to us like how my mom and pop listen to the oldies. We’ll have it crackin’ like, “that’s my song, bet you don’t know nothin’ about this.” [sings] But she’s lost in love…Castro: It’s just like timeless music, that’s what I feel like we’re trying to do. I think we definitely accomplishing that.Flash: Put that bottle down boy. [laughs] Thirty years from now, I’ll probably look back and be like, I was a damn rock star. Man, I think this age we really incorporated Hip-Hop with rock, smashing head to head right now. You got cats you’d never see on a skateboard doing it. The cultures are clashing so much right now. I think right now it’s better than what we’re used to ’cause it was so standard. I think now that’s what we’re bringing but at the same time we lose that essence

Check out i15 in Soulja Boy’s video for “Soulja Girl”

i15’s “Lost In Love”

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