It’s understandable that an emcee or producer would want immediate gratification and recognition for their work. In fact, no artist wants their laborious efforts to go unnoticed. However, as the case with Parallel Thought, they found more solitude in biding their time for the limelight and instead built up a catalog that would back up their words when the time came.
The trio of artists within Parallel Thought consist of New Jersey producers Drum and Knowledge (who met in high school circa the early 2000s) and Alabama rapper/producer Caness (who they met on an internet forum, of all places). Since 2005, Parallel Thought have worked on nearly a dozen projects, including two full-length albums with Artifacts member and veteran Tame One, a collaborative album between Tame and underground favorite Del The Funky Homosapien, and most recently a collaborative project with Del entitled Attractive Sin. All in a day’s work, and they’re just getting started.
Speaking with DXnext, Parallel Thought go into their relationships with Tame One and Del, as well as their latest project Attractive Sin. Never ones to take a break, the group also reveal what projects they have in store for the very near future.
Finding Their Sound: Knowledge stated, “When we first started, we didn’t know how it was going to be. Sample-wise, I didn’t know what I was looking for. Basically it was, ‘Maybe this will sound good, maybe this will sound better.’ It was a learning process, up until very recently.”
“We always knew we wanted to make straight Hip Hop stuff though. That was never a question,” Drum added. “It was never about what kind of music we would make, it was more how are we going to make this music that we like.”
Completing The Crew: Drum explained, “Before Caness was in the group in 2005 and before we put out Drugs, Liquor, Sex & Cigarettes, we originally had another emcee in the group. We had tried that format out, but that emcee didn’t really work out. So finding Caness was out of necessity; we wanted to form a group that was consistent.”
Building A Relationship With Tame One: Knowledge stated, “I was kind of just peeping the iPod and I was like, I want to do a [New] Jersey Hip Hop record. We did a full length [album in Chorus Rhyme] with C-Rayz Walz, and it was great. And then I’m thinking, let’s do one with somebody from Jersey. We reached out to Tame, and he was very receptive to it. In the past there’s been rumors that [Tame One is] hard to work with or whatever, but he was super receptive to working with us. So we brought him out to the studio. And for the next three years, we were in there constantly. It went from one record to one record to another record.”
Drum interjected, “That Tame project is probably the biggest one we’ve put out where we were first recognized for our production. But we’ve also done an entire full length with C-Rayz Walz, with front to back production. And locally we’ve done stuff with a few rappers, same thing, front to back production. We also have an album with this dude from Harlem named Swave Sevah, so this theme of really trying to do front to back albums has been going on.”
“Our EP Drugs, Liquor, Sex & Cigarettes was a compilation thing to stretch and get to meet people and learn how to interact in that sense,” Drum continued. “We got comfortable with that, and then started reaching out to people, like who do we want to work with? Let’s try and work with this person. C-Rayz, we used to go up to the Bronx all the time to pick him up and do music. Same with Swave from Harlem, same thing with Tame.”
Linking With Del The Funky Homosapien: “That started with Da Ol’ Jersey Bastard,” explained Knowledge. “I remember the Eleventh Hour had just come out and I was playing it in the car. And Tame was like, ‘You know what? I go way back with Del [The Funky Homosapien], let’s get him on a track.’ So cool, we did ‘Catch Me,’ that worked out. Then on Acid Tab Vocab, he was like, ‘I’m gonna reach out to Del again.’ Boom, we did another track called ‘Oops.’ And then from there Del and Tame were just speaking and they were like, let’s do a whole album together. And the way that we were working with Tame, just pumping out material, he said, ‘Why don’t you produce the whole album for us?’ And that’s how Parallel Uni-Verses came together.”
“While that was going, we were giving Del beats on the side,” he continued. “We were thinking, why don’t we do a solo project together? The Del album [Attractive Sin] took a while to complete. A bulk of it was recorded in 2008-09, and then we literally revisited it in December-January of this year. We went back and cut some of the older songs and made some of the newer songs, but that’s how that record went. So it really went from working with Tame nonstop up until now, all the way from Da Ol’ Jersey Bastard to Attractive Sin.”
On Revising Attractive Sin: Drum said, “It’s one of those things where an album sits that long without working on it…Everything we do gets better. So we have a couple of records that stayed on there because they were amazing joints and they had to stay on. But you always want to give people the newest best stuff that you got. That was the case here. It’s not so much we cut songs that weren’t good enough, we just felt the need to represent our current stuff.”
East Coast Production With A West Coast Emcee: Knowledge stated, “Del is a massive Hip Hop historian. He’s an Oakland emcee and he’s very West Coast, and he knows the roots of Hip Hop. And for us, our production style and influence is strictly East Coast. So we did our best to combine them and I think it worked out. Doing Parallel Uni-Verses also helped because we had a Newark emcee and an Oakland emcee, and the question was how do we get them to sound good together on an album. We made it work, and that’s how we knew Attractive Sin would work.”
Drum added, “I also think Del on his own is so talented. Nowadays with everybody going for the Southern sound, or East Coast and West Coast, whatever it may be, bottom line is this dude is a ridiculously talented artist. So whether you put him on a Southern beat or a West Coast beat or an East Coast beat, his style translates because he’s saying real shit. He’s not rapping about stuff that’s expendable; he’s rapping about real life stuff.”
No Features? No Problem: Knowledge explained, “I would have liked to get some of the Hieroglyphics guys on Attractive Sin. But I think the way Del works in Oakland, he really is always recording solo, which is why if you look at his past five albums, it’s just Del. He just records anytime during the night, whenever he wants to, so I think that was really left up to him if he wanted a guest on it. I know he’s not opposed to it, but the way he works is super fast where he’s like, ‘Here’s a track, that’s sick, give me the next one. I’m gonna record it right now; I’m not going to wait on anyone.’ Of course we would have liked to get some guests on it, but the way Del works is very independent.”
Upcoming Projects To Check For: “Art Of Sound is coming in July,” said Knowledge. “Initially, it was just going to be a Caness beat tape because he had done a song with G-Side. So we were thinking, we want to showcase Caness and his production because people haven’t heard tons of stuff from him. And then Drum and I started adding some beats to it. From there we were like, let’s make this a full-fledged instrumental album. Let’s drop it right after the Del project.”
Speaking on his own project, Caness explained “We were doing Art Of Sound, and we wanted to throw the emcees that we were gonna be working with on there to introduce them. At the same time, I’ve been dying to put together an EP as emcee, so we started working on Articulation. We pretty much finished that within the last couple months. That’s a seven song EP.”
Knowledge continued, “With Gene The Southern Child, it’s the same thing. We threw Gene on the Art Of Sound, and he also has an EP that’s going to be coming out soon that’s basically done. So this was all within the last few months. We wanted to put out a lot of material we’ve been sitting on for a few years. So the Del album comes out, then you get the instrumental project, then the EP of Caness and Parallel Thought material, then you get a project of Gene’s material, so that we can introduce everybody and then next year we can go into full length album mode.”
Drum interjected, “I’d like to clarify too, we’ve been sitting on these projects as ideas. These projects haven’t been done until recently. So like with Caness, obviously he’s in our group and we’ve done projects with him. But it’s one of those things where we as producers want to build up our name and our brand and our label to the point where we can break an artist. So we’ve been busy doing albums here and there, but we’ve been working with Caness the whole time. So it’s really important that we’re finally coming out with this album and adding an EP with it. Like, listen, this is the third member of the group that you might not have heard about but the dude’s killing it. These ideas have been around for a while but the actual material is from the last six months.”
Sign To A Major Or Stay Indie?: “I think the only way is if somebody stepped up with a significant amount of money,” said Knowledge. “The way the industry is right now, if you have distribution and you know how to do publicity and you know how to do radio and you know how to do retail and marketing, then you don’t need these bigger companies, because they don’t know how to do it anymore either. That’s why they’re scrambling and now trying to sign anybody. I really don’t see a major label doing anything for us unless they want to throw us a significant amount of money. I think we’ve taken our time, we’ve been able to analyze this music industry and we’re comfortable with ourselves.”
Caness insisted, “One thing that separates our group from a lot of other groups is we have people who have worked at record labels, who went to school for music business or audio engineering. Knowing all those skills, we’re not just a guy who makes beats or a guy who rhymes. We’re a group of artists who make music, but we also are aware of all the elements that go into that. And that’s a goal of mine, is to not have to go to anyone for anything. And I’d think they would say the same thing.”
Drum agreed, stating, “We’ve learned a lot. We put out several projects on a bunch of smaller labels here and there. We’ve signed two-album deals, we’ve signed deals with advance money, we’ve signed deals with no money. We’ve been through it a couple times and learned our lesson and figured out how we want to do stuff. And that’s the thing too, we don’t have to worry about how we want to put something out. We don’t have to answer to a label about how much to spend on the artwork or the packaging. The Del album, we did the artwork in-house. We decided we want to press up 180-gram vinyl, make it red, and have the cover be flat with a gloss to it. All this stuff we normally have to get a budget approved for and have to answer to somebody else. We don’t have to answer to anybody. There’s no fingers to point when something goes wrong and there’s no permission to ask from anybody.”