While Adrian Younge may not be a household name, diehard Hip Hop fans are surely aware of the composer/producer’s music. Timbaland sampled his tunes for two songs off Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail album. DJ Premier created the soundscape for his collaboration with Royce Da 5’9” by incorporating Younge’s work into the production for the PRhyme LP.
The Los Angeles based musician also joined with Ghostface Killah (Twelve Reasons To Die, Twelve Reasons To Die II) and Souls of Mischief (There Is Only Now) to craft several critically acclaimed bodies of work over the last several years. In addition, A.Y. scored the Michael Jai White led action comedy Black Dynamite.
Younge has also released his own blaxploitation era inspired albums. In 2012, he made his formal introduction with Venice Dawn: Something About April. Four years later, the multi-instrumentalist is back with a cinematic sequel to his breakout collection, and it appears listeners are quickly drawing to Something About April II. According to Younge, his latest effort has amassed more pre-sales than any of his previous projects including the Twelve Reasons To Die series and There Is Only Now.
The 13-track Something About April II is a further excursion into the brilliantly designed psychedelic-soul setting first presented on the original. Performances from vocalists Raphael Saadiq, Bilal, Laetitia Sadier, Karolina, and Loren Oden further enrich the audible screenplay scripted by Younge.
In part one of an exclusive interview, AllHipHop.com spoke with Adrian Younge about April II as well as his reaction to being labeled a musical genius.
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Why did you decide to revisit the Something About April theme?
The Something About April theme is basically Adrian Younge. Meaning this is me not having to make concessions for anybody. When you’re listening to this album, you are listening to Adrian Younge. If I’m doing a Ghostface album, I have to make something for Ghostface. If I’m doing a Bilal album, I have to make something for Bilal.
Something About April is my solo album, so that’s my heart of hearts. This type of psychedelic music is where my mind truly resonates. It pushes me to explore new boundaries. The whole Something About April brand is about a musical journey intertwining nostalgic elements with futuristic elements – looking at the past to redefine the future. So when people buy a Something About April album, they should expect something different.
You approach your projects as if they’re soundtracks to a movie. When you’re coming up with the concept, do you have real people or actual characters in your mind as you’re creating the music?
Something About April is an album that essentially touches on the trials and tribulations of relationships. April represents spring where things spring again. Winter is when life is cold and there’s death.
So the whole album is using the seasons as a metaphor to describe the journeys through great and bad relationships. So I just look at that. We’ve all been in love. We’ve all been sad. I move through those feelings in order to create new and special things.
Do you approach scoring films the same way you approach creating music for your albums?
Yes, because when I’m scoring for films, I like to make music that you can listen to outside of the film. I don’t want to make music where listening to it on its own is boring. I always approach the scoring platform from the perspective of trying to make something that just sounds good and also enhances the visual of the movie or the TV show.
The album has been described as being recorded with rare instruments. Can you talk about your choice of instrumentation?
Everything I produce is all analog, only using instruments that are between 1940 to 1975. It’s a bunch of rare instruments, rare pro audio gear. They’re the kind of instruments that would have been regularly used at the time when I feel music was at its Golden Era. To me, that’s predominately between the years of ‘68 to ‘73. I love to focus on these arguably archaic instruments to create what I deem as being futuristic sounds.
There are a few songs that include religious references. What inspired records like “Psalms”?
On Something About April I, I have a song called “Sirens” that was sampled for Jay Z’s “Picasso Baby.” In making “Psalms,” I wanted to kind of create a sequel to “Sirens.”
Something about it felt spiritual. So Loren Oden – the lead singer on that song – said, “What if we just did ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ as if there’s some impending death?” When we were finished we thought, “This is crazy. It’s kind of like a Gospel song.” It was very interesting to us, because it’s a very dark song. But then you throw religious text onto it and it’s like, “This is kind of interesting.”
What was the message you were trying to convey with the cover art?
There are a lot of points. One is these are the kind of covers that has people going, “I feel like this could have came out in the 60’s or the 70’s.” I want the cover to hit them like that.
And then I want people to understand you never really saw black people and white people on the cover at that time. A lot of black albums released during that era had white people on the covers in order to crossover. Record labels weren’t allowing their black artists to be on the cover.
So when you have a naked black chick and a naked white chick that looks like a cover from the 60’s and 70’s, it’s making a political statement. It’s saying that we’re at the time now where this should be acceptable. That’s the main reason I wanted that.
How do you feel about being labeled a musical genius?
It kind of bothers me. I’m serious. It’s one of those things that people just say. “Oh sh*t, you’re a genius.” What bothers me about that is – if I’m a genius, what’s genius is that my genius comes from believing I can do anything in the world.
It’s a life concept that I have. It’s a concept where I feel if I wanted to be the best violinist in the world, I could be that. I would just have to be disciplined to do that. My life and career are about literally being more disciplined than the average person. By repeating that every day, by having that notion as a systematic part of my life, it propels me into another stratosphere.
People look at me as having this God given talent and genius. To me, I look at it as I have something that anybody can have if they work at it. So it’s a conflicting thing, because I always want people to believe in themselves that they can do whatever. By the same token, I appreciate it because it shows me that people like what I’m doing.
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Purchase Adrian Younge’s Something About April II and other projects on iTunes.
Follow Adrian Younge on Twitter @AdrianYounge and Instagram @adrianyounge.
Stream Adrian Younge’s Something About April II below.