(AllHipHop Features) Jeffery Williams (aka Young Thug) is widely recognized as one of the leading voices of modern Hip Hop. The 27-year-old southern star is also helping to shine a light on a squad of capable newcomers through his Young Stoner Life label. The record company formally introduced its team of acts in August with the Slime Language compilation.
While established hitmakers like Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Baby added their talents to the project, it was the YSL crew that carried the lion-share of the musical load on Slime Language. Tauren “Strick” Strickland was among the Young Stoners whose name showed up on the tracklist. The North Carolina native linked with Young Thug for the Super-produced “STS" song.
This wasn’t the first time Strick worked with a platinum-certified artist. Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, and TM88’s “Stay the Same,” Juicy J’s “Ballin” featuring Kanye West, and Travis Scott’s “Coordinate” were all co-written by the High Point University graduate.
From serving as the informal deejay at family BBQs and parties back in Lumberton to releasing solo mixtapes like Risk=Reward and Pairadice, music has played a vital role in the evolution of Tauren Strickland. Up next is another project titled See You When I Land. Before that set arrives, I spoke to the Las Vegas/Los Angeles/Atlanta resident about his past and his future.
AllHipHop: How did you first connect with Thug?
Strick: I first connected with Thug about five or six years ago. I kept running into him around Atlanta. I was doing a lot of things for my Foundation 86 company. Through doing that, I was able to start working with different producers like TM88 from 808 Mafia. About two years ago, he got invited to go on tour with Young Thug as his tour DJ. That’s when Thug and I started building a closer relationship.
AllHipHop: You’ve also worked with other artists.
Strick: Yeah, I’ve written and worked with Travis Scott, Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, Kanye West, Jeremih, and K. Michelle.
AllHipHop: At what point did you go from being a behind-the-scenes guy to becoming a recording artist?
Strick: I always recorded on and off. It was one foot in, one foot out. I went to college first, and then after college, I joined the Air Force. The Air Force paid for my master’s, so I wasn’t able to give [recording] one hundred percent. I got my first writing placement with Travis Scott. I went platinum off of Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. After that platinum placement, I was riding with Southside from 808 Mafia, and I was like, “How come nobody listens to my sh*t?” He was just like, “You don’t put anything out, Strick. If you start releasing music, people would f*ck with it.” Thug had the same sentiment. So about a year ago, I started making that transition when I released my first project Risk=Reward.
AllHipHop: You have a track with Thug onSlime Language**. How did the song come together?**
Strick: That’s one of my favorite records. Thug and I have a bunch of records together. Originally, I had a project that I was going to put out before See You When I Land. I was going to call it Sophisticated Trap Sh*t. Initially, [“STS”] was an album track that I wanted Thug to be on for my project. Thug was in Studio Room A. I was in Studio Room B. I just started recording the record. After I finished it, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I got to get Slime on this. He’ll be perfect for it.” I took it over to his room. I had my parts done. Thug is such a genius. He added a chorus and his verse to it. I’m really happy about that record.
AllHipHop: Were you around for the entire recording process for the whole project?
Strick: Yeah, I was pretty much in the room for almost every record on Slime Language.
AllHipHop: How has being on the YSL roster influenced you as an artist?
Strick: I think it’s a very unique roster. Thug is an incredibly talented artist. I think the world has still yet to see how phenomenal of an artist he is - just with melodies, rhyme schemes, and lyrics. You know we have Gunna, myself, Duke, Dolly, Dorah, Lil Keed, Nechie. We got a bunch of artists, so with the uniqueness of the label - and obviously, with Thug being there to guide a lot of us and us learning from him - I think it’s still very encouraging and it pushes all of us. We’re all in a good space right now with releasing music. With Thug doing the Slime Language compilation, it gave all of us a boost to keep releasing music. I think it’s a very healthy environment for all of us. We’re all working really hard right now.
AllHipHop: You mentioned Gunna. He has a project with Lil Baby. Is there any interest for you to do a collaborative joint with any other artists?
Strick: At the moment? Not really. Me and my boy T-Shyne - he’s also another one of Thug’s artists who’s on Thug’s new project On the Rvn - him and I have a bunch of records together that we might possibly put together for a collab. It’s the same with a lot of the other artists. Me and Gunna have several records together. Me and Duke have several records together. I haven’t really pinpointed if I’m gonna do a collab tape, but we all work together a lot. It’s like an assembly line. Once someone finishes a verse or chorus, whoever’s in the room usually jumps in and participates.
AllHipHop: Thug has been dealing with some legal issues over the last couple of months. Does that have any impact on the roll-out process or any of the work behind the scenes?
Strick: We don’t really focus on anything that is legal or negative that can possibly come around us. We just stay positive and optimistic and continue to move forward. We have processes in place to make sure that we stay on track.
AllHipHop: Can you talk about the inspiration behind your new record?
Strick: I just put a new record out a couple of days ago called “Audi.” It’s produced by Kappa and Trap Go Krazy. Those are two producers that are signed to my Foundation 86 Entertainment. We built a cool sound together. I just recorded it about a month ago. I was riding with my boy Mafia B of West Coast Cure. He has an Audi truck. We were pulling up to the studio, and I was in a really good mood. When I got in the studio, I pulled that beat up and I just thought about how I just jumped out the Audi. So I was like, “Let me make this song real quick.”
AllHipHop: It sounds like you work pretty quickly. Do you write your lyrics or do you freestyle in the booth?
Strick: I do work fairly quickly, and I don’t write my lyrics. I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a freestyle either, because sometimes people consider a freestyle to be one long strand of bars and words. I use the punch-in [method]. To me, it’s like writing, but writing on the record. Usually, when you write something, you scratch it out anyway like, “No, I want to say it better.” Essentially, that’s what I do when I’m recording. I just go off the top of my head with whatever I’m feeling at that moment. If I don’t like it, I say, “Let me get another take.” Then I just keep doing different takes until I get exactly what I want. My recording process is fairly quick. I can usually knock out a song within 15 to 20 minutes.
AllHipHop: You talked about Foundation 86 and the producers signed to the company. Are you looking to expand it out further to have artists on your label?
Strick: I have one artist that’s signed to my Foundation 86. His name is Denham. He’s an incredibly talented artist. He’s from California. I’m looking forward to releasing some of his music. He’s on my Risk=Reward 2 project. We have a song called “The Source.” I’m definitely looking forward to releasing some of his music at the end of this year, top of next year.
AllHipHop: Do you have any other expectations or goals for 2019? Where do you see your career a year from now?
Strick: A year from now, I definitely see a lot of growth fan-wise, a lot of growth personally. I hope to get more music out, get some more recognition, get on tour, and possibly have my own tour by the end of 2019. Those are some of the goals. And expanding the YSL brand.
AllHipHop: There was a lot of positive reactions to “STS” and your verse. How did you feel when the song finally came out and got reactions from listeners?
Strick: It was overwhelming actually. I have to admit it was one of the most humbling experiences that I’ve had. I’m already a Platinum songwriter, so I have that experience of an album going No. 1, an album selling a million copies, and everyone falling in love with a record that I was a part of. But this was my first time on a major project by a major artist. Thug is one of the Top 5 artists alive. So when people started listening to “STS” and they were telling me how they loved it, they loved the sample, they loved the record, and they loved my verse, it was really great to get a lot of positive feedback and good responses. A lot of really cool things have been happening. I’ve been walking around and people are like, “Are you Strick? Can I take a picture with you?” I’m still very shocked about it. Everything is happening thanks to the “STS” record. Super did a great job producing it. Thug and I did a great job with the record. I’m very excited that people are embracing it the way they are. I’m looking forward to giving them some more sounds.
AllHipHop:By the way, who pulled that Donell Jones sample?
Strick: That was Super. He put it together. Thank you, Donell Jones, for clearing that for us.
Follow Young Stoners Life Records on Instagram @ysl_records.