Friday, March 20, 2009

Who Is 88 Keys? Exclusive Interview Part 1


Moving from a behind the scenes producer to frontman breakthrough artist, 88-Keys presents his first solo album, The Death of Adam on Decon Records. A highly conceptual release, The Death of Adam examines humankind’s most common storyline; the relationships between men and women. The album, executive produced by longtime friend Kanye West will be an introduction to 88-Keys the artist, extending beyond his production credits to highlight his skills as MC, singer and collaborator.
Industry vetran, and one of hip-hop’s most saught after producers, 88-Keys’ distinctive brazen beats have appeared on a number of high profile projects for the likes of Blackstar, Mos Def, Macy Gray’s platinum plus How Life Is, Beanie Sigel, Musiq Soulchild, Foxy Brown, The Pharcyde among others. The Death Of Adam is 88’s first foray as a frontman, and what some say is a showcase of of 88’s broad musical talents. The Death of Adam gave 88 the opportunity to work with a myriad of artists, and features Kanye West, J*Davey, Phonte of Little Brother, Redman, Kid Cudi, and Bilal. (Decon)

The Ant & Mike Show had the opportunity to sit down for an exclusive interview with 88 Keys and talk to him about how he got in the game, who his influences are and how his best friend, Kanye West, helped him see “the light”

The Ant & Mike Show: Whattup Man. Where you at today?

88:Chillin Man. Hungry as Hell! I am chillin’ in my crib, but I am just hungry as hell. My wife ain’t made lunch yet (laughs).

A&M: (laughs) We feel u man. Let’s jump into this. How did you get your start as a producer? How did your career begin?

88 Keys: I actually got into producing haphazardly. I was interning at a studio called the Music College to be an engineer in West Hempstead, NY but the very first thing that the co-owner of the studio pointed to was the MPC 3000 and he told me “whatever you do let that MPC 3000 be the first thing that you learn.” And that was the best music advice that I received in my life! I took it upon myself to teach myself how to use it without an owner’s manual. From there I eventually started letting other people hear my stuff by mailing tapes to the offices of Jive/Zomba and Def Jam. I was fortunate enough to know people that I looked up to at an early age, like Q-Tip and Pete Rock. I used to sell them records so that was my in right there. One Thing led to another an I started hanging out in different studios and that’s how I met The Roots, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, etc. It was basically six degrees of separation how I weaved my way into the industry (laughs).


88 Keys & Kanye on the set of “Viagra (Stay Up)”

A&M: Tell us about your transition from producing and recording to staking your place as an artist?

88: It was a surprise to me actually. It was very unintentional on my part. I never planned on being an artist. I always just wanted to make beats. And with this first album, this upcoming debut album – I really just wanted it to be a display of my production skills and the fact that I could put an album together that has a concept and is going to sound good and hopefully will do pretty good as far as sales. At the very least be critically acclaimed.

As far as me being vocal on there (the album), I mainly planned on making the album an instrumental album, coupled with a few features here and there. But after I got the album to where I wanted it and it was mixed and mastered, Kanye – who was always a big fan of the album - asked me to play the album for one of his friends. So I went into playing the album and I pulled him to the side while I was playing it like “Yo, I got an idea about what to do for my stage show.”

I had gone out on the road before to promote my album before with Common & Q-Tip for the 2K Sports Bounce Tour in September and I was scaled back to DJing my set because I wasn’t vocal on the album at the time and I couldn’t get any of the features to come out on the road with me. So my hour long set, as the opening act, was basically me just playing records that I liked and music that I fucked with. Eventually, the last 15 minutes of my set, I would spin excerpts from my album like “You this record is from my album, yea yea yea check it out!!” But yo, that was the opportunity of a lifetime to even be on stage with Common and Q-Tip… I wasn’t really satisfied with having to do my set that way. I told myself that the next time out I would be performing to these songs one-way or the other. So I started coming up with rhymes for some of the instrumentals.

So anyway, I told Kanye that I had wrote rhymes to some of the songs on the album. So I told him one of them and he was like “Wooooooooo. Yo you got another one that shit was hot?” So I spit another rhyme for another song that wasn’t even fully completed and he was like “Aww man. Dawg You got like a thousand times better in rapping!” Then all of the sudden the genius switch turned to on in his head and I was it in his eyes when it happened. He and I been best friends for the past 6 or 7 years so I know when he gets those moments. So he got into Kanye West Genius mode and was like “ Yo, I think you should just put those rhymes on the album” and I was like “umm-umm, nooooooo, noooooo”. My album was done but Kanye offered to executive produce it if I went back in. It took me like a day to come around and decide to re-record for the album.

A&M: Who are some of your inspirations in the game?
88: Definitely, Q-Tip. He is the person who got me into wanting to do all this. J Dilla, Pete Rock. Its a lot of people I look up to and was influenced by and a lot of people that I really respect their music, like Hi-Tek, Needlz, Black Milk, Dj Premier, Havoc, The Alchemist, Nick Speed.

Come back to The Ant & Mike Show on Monday (3/20) for Part 2 of the interview where 88 Keys breaks down the concept behind his debut album, “Death of Adam”, how his religious family feels about his controversial album and what we can expect from him in the future.

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