Exile: MPC Technician

These days, one would be hard-pressed to find a Hip-Hop fan that is satisfied with the culture’s representation on mainstream radio. Take Los Angeles’ Exile, the man responsible for the exceptional production work on 2007’s critically acclaimed collaboration with rapper Blu, Below the Heavens. Long exasperated by the lack of originality on the radio, the […]

These days, one would be hard-pressed to find a Hip-Hop fan that

is satisfied with the culture’s representation on mainstream radio. Take Los Angeles’

Exile, the man responsible for the exceptional production work on 2007’s

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-Hop’s first technique, sampling.


On January 20th, Exile will unveil his innovative

instrumental album Radio, an LP

comprised solely of samples taken directly from LA’s 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.



AllHipHop.com: In

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 it’s been more of the same?


Exile: Man, I

haven’t 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. I’m amazed by what they’re 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

can’t believe it.


They just find one thing that works and everyone jumps on

the bandwagon trying to get a piece of the action.

Unfortunately even Kanye did.Exile Flips Q-Tip “Let’s Ride” – P###. by J Dilla from Jonathan Kim on Vimeo.AllHipHop.com:

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 didn’t

think the music industry and fans were that retarded, but I guess they are.

They’re just ready to eat whatever’s given to them. It’s a shame. Hopefully as

people we’ll get educated enough to look through all the art that’s out there

and select what we like as opposed to what’s forced on us.



One good thing that has come out of radio is the instrumental Radio album that’s 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, you’re tripping.”

I was like, F**k that, I’m 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

thing or that spoken something I could manipulate.Exile “Milli” Video from Jonathan Kim on Vimeo.AllHipHop.com:

From the sounds you can tell that you didn’t 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

wouldn’t even know where it’s 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



AllHipHop.com: Do

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 it’s possible and has happened with cats like DJ Shadow and Flying Lotus.

You can even say Moby but I wouldn’t consider that Hip-Hop but instrumental

music standing alone. The way I see underground Hip-Hop moving we’re 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 there’s more soul

to it. It allows both more chances to shine.


AllHipHop.com: You’re

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

it’s 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]

it’s 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 it’s time to go

in the studio?


Exile: Lately

I’ve had to play the label [role] to make sure everything gets done. I’ve been

able to find a balance and still be creative. It hasn’t hindered my creativity…but

maybe in some ways it has. But I still find the time to make things happen.

“Yes” and “no” I’d have to say.


AllHipHop.com: A

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.


Exile: Because

I’ll deny songs, and want artists to do different verses and spit it in

different ways. Sometimes they’ll be happy with it and I won’t. That can cause

frustration. It’s never too big of an issue, but it’s 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 [that’ll speak up].



From what you’re saying it’s important to be a producer over just a beatmaker that sends in tracks.


Exile: Yeah! I’ll

produce on the whole record for sure. I’m pushing for classic records every

time. That’s 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.


AllHipHop.com: Your

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 that’s fine too but that hasn’t

really been the case. I haven’t really been unhappy with the work mainstream

artists have been doing. It’s normally just one track. If it’s a handful of

songs it’ll 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.” It’s carried over to now although it’s 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?


Exile: People

think there’s rules and boundaries, which makes Hip-Hop a very conservative art

form. It’s 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 it’s not supported. Some artists get resentful

and upset about that. Have you had to deal with those same feelings?


Exile: Most of

the responses I’ve gotten have been positive. But I have noticed that with Blu and what he did with C.R.A.C. Knuckles. I wasn’t

involved in [it], but some listeners weren’t 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?


Exile: I’m

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.

I’m 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. Aloe’s been

singing lately but man his raps are better than ever. We got the title already,

A Bird Eye’s View. I’m real excited

about that record.