These days, one would be hard-pressed to find a Hip-Hop fan that
is satisfied with the cultures representation on mainstream radio. Take Los Angeles
Exile, the man responsible for the exceptional production work on 2007s
critically acclaimed collaboration with rapper Blu, Below the Heavens. Long exasperated by
the lack of originality on the radio, the sought-after producer brainstormed a
concept to reinvent radio through the use of Hip-Hops first technique, sampling.
On January 20th, Exile will unveil his innovative
instrumental album Radio, an LP
comprised solely of samples taken directly from LAs vast radio market. And
like any skilled artist, the talented boardsmith aims
to showcase the inner beauty masked under the payola-driven, banal surface of
most radio outlets. Take heed.
2007 around the time Below the Heavens
dropped, you stated that mainstream Hip-Hop was stagnant because it only had
one face or sound. Do you think mainstream Hip-Hop has made any strides to
become more diverse, or do you think its been more of the same?
Exile: Man, I
havent been listening to the radio at all. I turn the radio on now and there
used to be a few commercial Hip-Hop songs I could stand. [Now] all I hear is
that vocoder s**t. Im amazed by what theyre playing
on the radio over here. I listen to it for a couple minutes and then turn it
off. That vocoder s**t has taken over the game and I
cant believe it.
They just find one thing that works and everyone jumps on
the bandwagon trying to get a piece of the action.
Did you have any idea that vocal effect would have such a lasting impact on
Hip-Hop and popular music in general this year?
Exile: I didnt
think the music industry and fans were that retarded, but I guess they are.
Theyre just ready to eat whatevers given to them. Its a shame. Hopefully as
people well get educated enough to look through all the art thats out there
and select what we like as opposed to whats forced on us.
One good thing that has come out of radio is the instrumental Radio album thats coming out January
20th. How long did it take you to compile all the samples and
melodies needed for the project?
Exile: There was
one point I thought I was done with the album. It took me about half a year. As
I played it for someone that was interested, they preferred putting out an
instrumental album of beats I already had. I was like, Man, youre tripping.
I was like, F**k that, Im just going to make a bunch of more beats off the
radio and show this cat that this is the project to put out. I worked on it for
another six months.
I would just listen and listen [to the radio] and sample
when I thought it was time to. I would actually have ideas of certain types of
vocals I would want on the beat and I would listen until I captured the right
From the sounds you can tell that you didnt focus on one particular genre like
a rock or Hip-Hop station. But when you ended up with the finished product,
were there certain sounds you leaned towards or did it stay diverse from
beginning to end?
Exile: I pretty
much spanned the whole radio market. There are some songs where I take some
mainstream records and flip it to where it sounds like an alien song. You
wouldnt even know where its from. I sampled everything from Hip-Hop to jazz
to opera to static to even weird radio waves I would get from the AM stations.
I was really trying to capture the essence of the radio whether that be static, jazz, or talk shows on spirituality or political
you feel you were able to be more creative with the arrangements as opposed to
if you had an emcee rapping over them?
Exile: It left it
completely open to fill in [the space] where an MC would normally rap. It gave
me a lot more freedom to play with the music and have more things going on.
With an MC it would be too much. It allowed me to find a voice in the radio and
the vocal samples I spoke about to communicate something as opposed to just
playing beats. I knew I wanted to do an instrumental album, but different. I
wanted it to be more than just a beat record and to tell a story vocally and
Blu & Exile “Blu Collar Workers” Video
When Hip-Hop began the DJ held prominence, and then it went to the MC. Now, it
seems that the producers are at the forefront. Most consumers will make
decisions on purchasing an album based on the production lineup. Do you think
it will get to the point where Hip-Hop producers can make instrumental albums
like this and have it be appreciated the same way as their jazz counterparts?
Exile: Yeah, I
think its possible and has happened with cats like DJ Shadow and Flying Lotus.
You can even say Moby but I wouldnt consider that Hip-Hop but instrumental
music standing alone. The way I see underground Hip-Hop moving were gonna have to start making records that are more
personable, like one producer produces the whole record. I see that as much
more attractive than grabbing a bunch of producers just for the name.
The danger of doing that as an up and coming artist is that
they just may send you some whatever beats. With one producer theres more soul
to it. It allows both more chances to shine.
really skillful at conveying messages without the use of vocals, as seen on the
Radio track The Machine. Is that a
skill you credit to studying jazz musicians, or through some of your influences
like J Dilla?
Exile: I think
its all of that; music in general and the way it makes you feel. I definitely
feel Dilla and jazz plays a big part in that. [Also]
its what I feel when I listen to a song, and what type a message I can put
along with it.Emanon “More Than You Know” Video
With Hip-Hop a lot of business savvy artists can eliminate the middle man and
get their music directly out to the fans. But the
downside is that you as an artist have to be more hands on with the stuff a
label would normally handle. Has the business end affected any of your
creativity when you have to push all that out of your head when its time to go
in the studio?
Ive had to play the label [role] to make sure everything gets done. Ive been
able to find a balance and still be creative. It hasnt hindered my creativity but
maybe in some ways it has. But I still find the time to make things happen.
Yes and no Id have to say.
lot of artists in a lighthearted way list you as the most difficult person to
work with in the studio, meaning that you push until the work is absolutely
perfect. Explain why MCs would list your name in that category.
Ill deny songs, and want artists to do different verses and spit it in
different ways. Sometimes theyll be happy with it and I wont. That can cause
frustration. Its never too big of an issue, but its truly pushing to write
more. [But] it does end up working out. There are a lot of producers who work
like that, but I may be the first producer some of these artists have worked
with [thatll speak up].
From what youre saying its important to be a producer over just a beatmaker that sends in tracks.
Exile: Yeah! Ill
produce on the whole record for sure. Im pushing for classic records every
time. Thats what I want. I let that be known and my presence is in there with
the record trying to make that happen, but also to still make it natural.
work has started drawing the attention of big names like 50 Cent and Akon. Do you find the bigger stars are more resistant to
the criticism you offer in the studio?
Exile: Some of
the more established artists are yeah. If they like the record cool, but if
they want to really sit with me in the studio thats fine too but that hasnt
really been the case. I havent really been unhappy with the work mainstream
artists have been doing. Its normally just one track. If its a handful of
songs itll be a different story.
You came up in 1998 which is when there really started
to be a divide between underground, mainstream, and the definition of real
Hip-Hop. Its carried over to now although its not as prominent. When you
hear the term real Hip-Hop, do you feel it stifles the creativity of artists trying
to think outside the box? Or do you think no matter how creative you are, there are still laws and boundaries you have to abide
by when you do Hip-Hop music?
think theres rules and boundaries, which makes Hip-Hop a very conservative art
form. Its important at this time for Hip-Hop to come out of that. To break
what we think Hip-Hop should be and just to express ourselves in a spiritual or
political fashion. In that way the music will grow, or in a way that teaches
the youth correctly [and gives them] something to relate to and feel like a
normal human being.
You hear from a lot of fans that they want the music to be different, but when
that type of music is released its not supported. Some artists get resentful
and upset about that. Have you had to deal with those same feelings?
Exile: Most of
the responses Ive gotten have been positive. But I have noticed that with Blu and what he did with C.R.A.C. Knuckles. I wasnt
involved in [it], but some listeners werent too accepting of that. Those are
just cats that are used to having their Hip-Hop a certain way. But there are
those [who are] open to something new and totally embrace it. It takes that
disagreement for the music to grow and stretch [the boundaries].
This album is mostly a promotional tool to keep your name out there. What other
projects are on tap for 2009?
wrapping up an album with a 19 year old rapper named Fashawn
out of Fresno called Boy Meets World.
Besides that, I executive produced an album from my man Blame One called Days Chasing Days. I did the majority of
the beats but he has some joints from people like Black Milk. Blu and Aloe are on there as well along with Sean Price.
Im doing an album with my man Johaz from Deep
Rooted. A lot of it is a darker side to Hip-Hop, more rough. I see another
direction he can take with his rugged side.
Me and Aloe are about six songs
deep into the new Emanon project. It has been going amazingly. Aloes been
singing lately but man his raps are better than ever. We got the title already,
A Bird Eyes View. Im real excited
about that record.