One of the quiet, but well-received albums from California this year has been Self-Scientific's Change. In many circles, the group is far from new, having released a compilation several years ago, as well as plenty guest work. DJ Khalil has since become one of Dr. Dre's Aftermath producers, putting in work with Xzibit, Raekwon, and on the Get Rich Or Die Trying soundtrack. Regardless of his high-profile day duties, Khalil and partner, Chace Infinite, are fighting to make a dent in the game, and your brain.
As DJ Khalil speaks to AllHipHop.com on the music, Chace reflects on the issues at play in the lyrics. With another project billed for early '06, get used to these guys. Their politics are real, and the beats have everybody from Dre to Bun B to Chef Rae talking. Science has been dropped!
AllHipHop.com: Khalil, regardless of Self-Scientific, people now know you from Aftermath. How did you hook up with Dr. Dre?
DJ Khalil: It really happened through an artist that he signed, named Brooklyn. She's not on the label anymore, but she did a demo [that] Dre loved. She used probably about four or five of my beats, and he wanted to keep all her songs pretty much from the demo for her record. From that point, we just developed a relationship. I just kept giving him beats. I literally would just start making beats around the clock. After awhile, he was like, "Yo, I want to bring you in and have you work on a lot of the stuff we're working on."
AllHipHop.com: Change has a lot of politics woven in. I appreciate the fact that you speak to and talk about Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, and Asians. That's not something we often see?
Chace Infinite: My family has been involved with the Nation of Islam and Black issues forever. I'm still concerned with my people first, but when you look at impoverished cities in America, you gotta really analyze it because my own city Los Angeles has changed so drastically. South Central and the Eastside has become more and more Latino and Korean. Impoverished areas aren't just n***as anymore, but I think because more and more that there's been issues between the Blacks and the Latinos it needs to be talked about more inclusively, instead of separating ourselves. That's what the whole first verse of "Tears" is talking about.
AllHipHop.com: I like that song, I think it's my favorite on the album.
Chace Infinite: Thank you, it's about the relationship between the two: you got Blacks, Latinos, and Asians in the worse conditions, yet you have the media and the government, pitting the largest groups against each other to try to eliminate each other. But Black and Brown, we come from the same seed. You go to the East and you see it all, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Panamanian they all identify with the African Diaspora. It's real sad because there's a real void for those who don't know, who have no knowledge of self.
AllHipHop.com: People often praise you as being a great lyricist, but do you feel limited by being called a conscious rapper?
Chace Infinite: I think it does in this day and age to a certain extent. I think with us, with a song like "2 Step" or a song like "Jellyroll", those aren't contrived songs. They're either in me personally, or in Khalil personally. But they do have some type of commercial sensibility about them in some way.
AllHipHop.com: One of the more mainstream-minded tracks that still packs a message is "Live and Breath" with Bun B. Why is that the first single?
Chace Infinite: It just moves better than everything else. I didn't want it to be something like "2 Step" because it's so different from what Self-Scientific is, and we didn't want to throw people off . The Bun B joint, I didn't want to use that as a single, even though it's really jumpin', and really a strong song, but Bun is on so much stuff right now I didn't even know if we could get it cleared as a single.
AllHipHop.com: In that song, you said "Would her mother understand if she left" and that said so much to me about the state of mind of a lot of these young girls out in Los Angeles right now. Explain what that song is about...
Chace Infinite: The song is really about sacrifice. It's two separate stories: like this young lady, she's 18 years old and got into this relationship with an older man that kinda used her and sucked all the beauty out of her and she's trapped in a position where he's taking care of her brother and her mother so she can't take the water out of the well.
AllHipHop.com: The sad reality is you have a lot of young girls thinking they're playing these older dudes, when in fact most of them are really playing themselves.
Chace Infinite: Yeah, especially when you involve your family members, and everybody else is relying on this situation to survive and coming from the environments that we come from. Some girls really feel like they don't have a choice.
AllHipHop.com: It also doesn't help when the mother is 30, and the daughter is 15.
Chace Infinite: Right, or say you have a mom that may be 45. and the brother that has the girl messed up. He might be 36, and the girl is 19, and the mom on the low might be trying to get at dude too. So it's an unfortunate reality, and the second verse is basically about how cats get caught up trying to assure something that they're not. Once you get the consequences, then they wanna holler, "Oh, I ain't no gangsta," and all that.
AllHipHop.com: Who are some of your influences in terms of production?
DJ Khalil: I'd like to think I was already tight, but I think Dre enhanced what I'm doing in terms of the sound and how we mixed it, ya know. My initial influences though, I'm a huge Pet Rock fan, I'm a huge DJ Premier fan, Bomb Squad, Public Enemy, Marley Marl.
AllHipHop.com: Besides Dre, those are all New Yorkers. That's odd from a West Coast revival producer?
DJ Khalil: I get that a lot. I just grew up listening to pretty much East coast Hip-Hop, well pretty much everybody did, since that?s where it all started. And of course Dre is a pioneer, as well and Muggs, and we have a lot of great producers here [in Los Angeles].
AllHipHop.com: As we talk on these issues, I can't ignore that in one of your songs, you say, "I hope God is a gangsta." Is that something you truly feel?
Chace Infinite: That wasn't a personal statement, it was more of a blanket statement because we got a whole generation of kids fascinated with the mantra of 'thug life' but a lot of them don't understand what Pac and Matulu Shakur meant by 'thug life'. so now they're living out sorta like brothers who say their Christians, but don't to anything Christian-like. They don't know anything about Christianity but they're Christians and there's a lot of n***as that are out there like, "Yeah, n***a, I'm a thug," and they really don't know.
Chase Infinite: That was the foundation of the mixtape we did called "Gods and Gangstas". Basically, you got all these kids with predetermined ideas about what a gang really is just robbin', stealing and jackin' n***as, because that's what they think thug life really is. And I'm saying, eventually when you die you gotta answer to someone whoever that may be. Whether you answer to the concept of God or Allah or whatever, eventually you gotta answer to somebody because of what you live on earth, you better hope God is a gangsta so he can understand what you been going through or it's gonna be real f***ed up for you, so it was kinda like a blanket statement.