Dr. Dre's recent return to the album charts with Compton was a collaborative effort that included a host of artists and producers lending their talents to the project. One of the central minds behind the making of Compton: A Soundtrack By Dr. Dre was veteran production wiz Focus...
The Aftermath Entertainment in-house producer worked on 6 tracks off Compton including "Intro," "Loose Cannons," and "Issues." Prior to providing those sounds and helping to mix Dre's comeback LP, Focus... also racked up credits on songs by Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, 50 Cent, The Game, Busta Rhymes, Schoolboy Q, and many more.
AllHipHop.com spoke with Focus... about reconnecting with Dr. Dre for the star-studded Compton album. The New York native also discusses some of the tracks he produced for the project as well as what's next for the Aftermath team.
[ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Aftermath A&R Coordinator Andrew Corria Talks Working On Dr. Dre’s ‘Compton’ Album]
Why did you add the ellipsis to your name?
When I first got with Aftermath, there were a lot of people that were using the name Focus and actually getting business meetings. There was no way to differentiate me from them, because nobody really knew what I looked like until recently. So the way to differentiate the name was to do something different, so I just put three dots after it.
How did you and Dre first connect?
I was signed to a company called Boob Tube with Jason Weaver. He had an artist at the time named Daks. I was producing a lot of his stuff. His demo got to Dre’s hands through Dak’s people. Dre dug what we were doing. That’s how we got on The Wash soundtrack.
Dre liked my work ethic and said, “I’m trying to build a team. If you’re willing to work, there’s a place for you here.” I told him I was ready to work. The rest was history after that.
You left Aftermath for a while and then went back.
I left in 2008 and moved back to Atlanta just to get my mind right and my life straight. I got to the point where it was all work and my priorities were really messed up. I had to get my life back in order.
You’re originally from New York, you lived in Atlanta, and you work for a West Coast label. How does having these three different regional experiences affect your production style?
It made things a lot easier for me. The aggression of what New York has to offer, the bounce of Atlanta, and the musicality and precision of the West Coast - that’s what I try to put in my music. It definitely worked out for me.
Dre said Compton was inspired by the filming of Straight Outta Compton. At what point did you get involved?
I’ve been back in Los Angeles for about two years. We were just making music. The moment we found out it was a project was close to when it was about to come out. Dre was really loving the songs. Tyheim [Cannon], who’s the A&R at Aftermath, was bringing through great music and artists. Dre was loving the energy of everything.
So for us to say we were putting together an album for two years would be a lie. It really materialized at the last minute. Dre was inspired to make it while he was making the movie.
I noticed a lot of the songs had multiple producers. How did that impact the creation of the music?
Honestly, it gave it a different taste, a different vibe. Each record was attacked differently. The best thing about it is that Dre really wanted everybody to shine on this album. So there was an empty platform for anybody to take the lead for whatever the sound would be for that day.
A perfect example is “Just Another Day.” That was Trevor Lawrence, Jr and Theron Feemster. That record doesn’t even feature Dre, but it was strong enough to be in the movie and on the album.
Dre loved that record. They really took control of that day and put that sound out there for the world to hear. It didn’t necessarily have to be produced by Dre or be for Dre, but it was still something that moved Dre.
When people came into the studio to record, were they recording for a particular song? Or did Dre give them a beat and tell them to rap to it and then it all came together later?
When we started putting the guest appearances on there that’s when we knew it was going to be a project. Dre wasn’t going to do that and just put it away for safe keeping. When Kendrick, Ice Cube, Snoop, and everybody started getting on the project is when we knew that it was a project. That was fairly close to the end of the process.
So everybody came up with their verses in a short amount of time?
I know that when Kendrick was there he pretty much bodied his verse on a couple of the records that day. It wasn’t a few weeks. We know they’re professionals, but these are cats that are just as hungry as we are. So when they got in there, they went to work.
Can you talk about the conversation you guys had about starting the album off with that CBS News report? I felt like even though there wasn’t a performer on the track, it set the tone for the whole album.
I know for a fact that was something that Dre wanted to do, and he wanted it to resonate just like you’re saying. He wanted it to be a powerful, impactful, and important part of the album, because it sets the pace for the whole album.
That commentary was Dre’s vision. All we had to do was put the music under it. He heard a sample that I made a while back. I played it, and he liked it. So we just slowed it down to work under that commentary.
For “Loose Cannons,” whose idea was it to place the skit at the end?
That’s definitely Dre's idea. [laughs] Dre is Martin Scorsese. He’s a visionary. He’s a director. He wants everything to feel cinematic.
You produced “Issues” that has Dre and Cube on it. That puts you in rare company. There are not too many producers that can say they produced a song with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre on the same track.
That was a real team effort. It’s really one of those great looks for everybody.
I know you worked with a lot of R&B artists at the beginning of your career. Do you have a different approach when you’re producing R&B as opposed to a rap track?
I don’t think there is a difference. I think music is music. It just depends on what someone writes to it. If you listen to a Drake track, a lot of these newer rap artists are rapping over R&B tracks. They just know how to make it trendy and how to make it work for what they’re doing.
I think a lot of them like the melodies from the 90’s. They’re sampling 90’s records, and they’re doing it because of the melodies. There’s really no difference, except for what you write to it.
What are you currently working on?
Whatever Aftermath has on the table. We’re just riding the wave of what Compton has brought. We have quite a few artists that are brand new on there that we’re going to start working on. So stay tuned.
[ALSO READ: Stream: Dr. Dre’s ‘Compton’ Album]
For more information about Focus… visit his website focus3dots.com.
Download Dr. Dre’s Compton on iTunes.
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