“I’m like the Bo Jackson of Rap.” That statement could be true when it comes to Oakland, California producer/deejay The World’s Freshest—but only if Bo had picked up soccer and golf as well. In an era where rapping in your own self-produced YouTube video equates to being multi-talented, the man formerly known as DJ Fresh is a legitimate jack of all trades. From his days on tour being behind the turntables for Nas, to his more recent days being behind the switchboard, his creativity has never waned, and neither has his love for Hip Hop.
Why would it? Hip Hop has turned from a regional narrative to a global one. These days Hip Hop sells everything from clothes, shoes, and motor oil to making the sitting POTUS accessible to the community that ushered him into the White House while chanting, “My president is black, my lambo is blue.” It’s become a phenomenon, but The World’s Freshest is interwoven at its roots.
What, with a deejay as a father and a mother that kept that ‘80s Soul music shooting out of the speakers, Fresh has had a groove built in him from the jump. Their musical influences have been evident his whole career, and his newest project Freddie Gibbs & The World’s Freshest: The Tonite Show is no exception. Here, The World’s Freshest discussed working with Gangsta Gibbs, his early days with Mistah F.A.B., and his thoughts on the current state of West Coast Hip Hop.
The World’s Freshest Reveals Origins For “The Tonite Show” Series
HipHopDX: Now you’ve worn a lot of different hats throughout your career. How would you compare all of those worlds, and how do you think they all influenced you to where you’re at today?
The World’s Freshest: I would compare those worlds to just… In this game you cant just do one thing. And being from the Bay Area, one of the innovators of doing independent music, it was something that I just naturally adapted to. I had interest in all these different walks of Hip Hop, and I just got good at ‘em. I’m just trying to advance my career, just having the attitude of not putting all your eggs in one basket too, and here I am today. I‘m like the Bo Jackson of the Rap game, I can do more than one thing.
DX: You put in work in the hip-hop DVD game with Mistah F.A.B. and the major success of The Freestyle King DVD. How did your video editing days influence how you construct albums/mixtapes?
The World’s Freshest: The video editing came from back in the day when having the DVDs was like the big thing. Everybody was working on DVDs. You had the SMACK DVDs and all the little hood DVDs that were circulating and stuff, and I was on a lot of montage videos with my instrumentals and beats ‘cause I wasn’t working with any rappers. I was just taking and recording everything you would see...like people walking down the street, and I would just put it with my beats. It had this thing to it that I just liked. Video editing is still is so tedious, but it was even more tedious back then. It took so long, and a one minute clip could take a damn week as far as the rendering and all that. But when I hooked up with Mistah F.A.B., he had all these video tapes of footage, and he needed somebody to edit it. And I was well like, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll do it. I’ll edit it all together.” I wanted to do video editing, and I was into it.
So I was like, “I’ll do this for you, and we’ll do like The Tonite Show basically.” I didn’t know I was gonna call it The Tonite Show, it was just like, “You do this and I’ll do that.” So we kind of like scratched each others back, and that was the Freestyle King DVD that I did and that was also the birth of the first Tonite Show CD that we did together.
Why The World’s Freshest Doesn’t Shy Away From A Signature Sound
DX: Speaking of mixtapes, how do you feel about where the mixtape game is heading? They’re pretty much mini albums being given away for free these days with their own production, compared to back in the day with deejays working with an artist over previously released songs and production.
The World’s Freshest: You know I always knew that was gonna happen. I think it’s good and it’s bad in a sense. It’s one of the reasons there’s so much good music that comes out, but gets overlooked because it’s become the norm to the consumer. Like if I have a project and it has Jay Z, Nas, 2 Chainz, Nicki Minaj, J Stalin, Mistah F.A.B., E-40, and I got them all on my new project, back in the day it was like, “Oh man, that’s critically acclaimed. That’s crazy! How’d you do that?” But now it’ll get looked at, but then a couple days later it’s like, “What else you got?” So to the consumer it’s crazy. But to the producer and to the artists, I think it’s great because it kind of forces us all to get off our damn high horse, and we gotta work together.
The fans know when something’s real, authentic and genuine. And they know when something’s thrown together just to make a quick buck. The consumer knows. They might not know the business transaction that happened to make a project happen, but they just know when something is real. Are you really talking about it on your social media, are you really pushing it? It’s like they know, and you can’t fool the audience like a lot of artists were able to fool the audience back in the day. Not that I’m trying to fool anybody, I’m just saying for example back in the day, you could do a project with a major major artist and that major artist would never promote it. But it still would go ghetto gold just because of the artist’s name. Now if the campaign isn’t there for a project, it’s not going to work. It’s just not going to work. It’s only a waste of time.
DX: How did you get so comfortable being able to produce music with such different sounds?
The World’s Freshest: It’s mainly just because of my background. I’m originally from the East Coast, so that’s more of my sample influence side. My laid-back Jazz sample-ish stuff comes from being on the East Coast—from being in Baltimore, New York all that kind of stuff. But my more hard hitting 808 baselines and synthesizers, that comes from me having the West Coast in me. So I’m influenced by both worlds, and they just kind of crash in the middle. I’m not really the hit producer to give you that one hit you need to put you over the top. I’m more of a whole body of work, project, EP producer where I want to take the listener on a journey. If you wanna drive Highway 5 from the Bay to L.A. and take a long drive or just let it play, that’s more of the producer I am. I’m more of a feel producer.
DX: Now from the Yukmouth album you had samples from Al B. Sure! and T La Rock, which are on pretty opposite sides of the spectrum. When you’re producing, what draws you towards a specific sample or sound?
The World’s Freshest: Man, I naturally just go sample stuff that my mom and dad used to play in the car. I was born in ‘81, so I’m an ‘80s baby. So during the ‘80s and ‘90s when I was a kid, teenager or whatever, my mom would be playing Anita Baker and that kind of stuff. It was that ‘80s Soul, Contemporary Jazz and all that. My father was a DJ and my mom—well she didn’t do music—but she had a bunch of records, so music was always in my family. I really didn’t have a choice. I was born into it. So that’s my influence when I sit down and make those types of beats. People have grown to know that as my signature sound, like, “Oh, he makes that ‘80s stuff,” and I’m OK with that. You know a lot of producers want to shy away from having a signature sound and be like, “I can make anything,” and I could, but I love having a signature sound. I’m cool with that.
World’s Freshest On Freddie Gibbs Work & DJ Mustard vs. Mistah F.A.B
DX: With your latest The Tonite Show album featuring Freddie Gibbs, my personal favorite track was “Keep It Gangsta.” I loved the sax sample and just the overall groove of that record. What was the inspiration for that record and how did it come about?
The World’s Freshest: That’s actually my favorite track on there too. That beat initially, I put out this instrumental series called Make The Song Cry, and that beat was originally on Make The Song Cry Part 4 I believe. I was with [Freddie] Gibbs in the studio one day, and again, I get artists on the beats I want them to get on, and I want them to like it too. He liked the beat, and he learned the beat or whatever. Once he did his verse, I had it just on my hard drive for a while. It took us like a good year to finish the whole thing, ‘cause I was still living in the Bay. I don’t like emailing beats to people, and I’d rather be in the studio with them. If I have to email them ‘cause I’m on tour or something, then yeah I will. But I’d rather be in the studio with them because it’ll make the music more meaningful, and it’ll make it better. Emailing just takes the soul out of it, but that’s just for me.
So he did his part, then I went back to the Bay and almost a year later I was doing an EP with this saxaphone player, Saxxy Soul, and I just had him play sax on the hook. And it was just this sexy yet street vibe to the whole song. He was saying, “Keep it gangsta,” but it had this saxaphone on there. Like if we did a video for that we’d prolly have to wear some zoot suits or something [laughs]. But it worked. I think it sounds hella fresh, because you don’t really hear saxaphone a lot these days in no raps.
DX: What are the differences, if any, working with Freddie who lives in L.A., compared to working with artists from the Bay?
The World’s Freshest: Honestly with Freddie, it’s the way he raps. I mean, he has a tattoo of Huey Newton on his back. He’s influenced by black movements and all that, and Oakland is a very black place; it’s a very multicultural place as well, but it’s the start of a lot of revolutionary stuff. So honestly, I wouldn’t say it was that much different working with him and working with someone like say, J Stalin. When [Freddie Gibbs] comes to the Bay, he comes and messes with all the Bay Area people, and the Bay shows him love. The Bay is kind of like Detroit; it’s kind of a no fly zone. Can’t everybody just come to the Bay, do their thing and mess with the people. It’s a respect thing, so working with Freddie was cool, man. He’s on point with his raps, he’s sharp, and that’s why he’s so successful. He’s a real gasser...he gasses for real. His breath control is crazy. He’s not doing no punch-ins—not that there’s anything wrong with punch-ins—but to do a whole 12 or 16 bars of rapid words and not have to do a punch-in and still have it sound cool is pretty impressive. But yeah, working with Freddie was a good look.
DX: Speaking of those two different areas of Cali, how do you feel about all of the music coming out of the West Coast right now?
The World’s Freshest: It’s fresh, man. It’s dope to have fire like that on the West Coast. It hasn’t really been like that since the Dr. Dre era. I’m not talking about the Death Row days, I’m talking about post-Death Row, because Dre’s sound was dominating for a while when he had 50 Cent, Eminem, and Game. They were all pretty active. But I would say it was more so Dre’s sound, cause 50 was from New York, and Young Buck was from Nashville, Tennessee. So it was like the West Coast sound, but it wasn’t all West Coast-based artists.
But now, there’s hella new West Coast artists that’s killing it. Iamsu! killing it, and of course DJ Mustard killing it. He’s one of the number one producers if not number one right now. I think he’s got like nine or 10 songs on the Billboard charts. Even though I know they say Mustard stole the Bay sound, and I kind of at first was feeling that way, but now I don’t feel like he deliberately woke up and said, “I’m about to steal these Bay Area beats.” I just think that being on the West Coast, we all kind of like the same sound, because in the ‘90s, the Bay and the rest of the world was taking the L.A. sound. It was that Ohio Players, Funk type sound... that Zapp & Roger, we were all stealing that sound.
In Rap, we all just steal from each other. New York kind of sounds like the South right now. And there was a point where everybody was sampling like New York. We all just steal from each other. But to answer your question, it feels good to have so much light on the West Coast right now. I love it.
DX: You mentioned DJ Mustard, you probably heard about that incident with Mistah F.A.B, what was your take on that?
The World’s Freshest: Man, I think F.A.B is one of the Bay Area posterboys. I feel what he was saying. I just think that like, if he was really trying to resolve something, it’s just probably going to be hard to resolve anything in a club where there’s niggas, bitches, alcohol and drugs. The atmosphere just ain’t right to try to really have a conversation and come to a means. But I’m glad nobody really got hurt or killed, ‘cause in Rap, niggas get killed. So I’m glad it was just a little scuffle...a few hands being thrown. I just hope it don’t turn into nothing else. I hope that it stops right there and it don’t go no further. I got much love for F.A.B. I don’t know Mustard, so I won’t say anything on his behalf. But we all gotta run into each other someday. There used to be six degrees of separation, but now with the Internet, it’s like two degrees of separation, really.
The World’s Freshest Criticizes Raps’ Slave Owner Mentality
DX: What would you say was the most memorable experience you’ve had from your career in Hip Hop?
The World’s Freshest: You know what? I actually had one recently. It’s not that much, but shit it was the biggest I ever had. I picked up a check in the beginning of 2013 for $60,000 [laughs], and that was probably one of the most memorable points for me in Rap. That’s business wise, but opportunity wise? Deejaying for Nas of course. That’s one of the greats. It was before the Internet, as crazy as that sounds to say, “Before the Internet,” got me sounding old [laughs]. That was before the Internet was really the Internet, and the fans were more excited to see Hip Hop. I mean, before you had to go to Hip Hop. But now, it just forces its way into everybody’s lives, because it’s a multibillion dollar industry. It’s being forced on everybody. Love And Hip Hop: Atlanta and all that...it’s being forced. Because back then you didn’t see Hip Hop all the time, so when you come to a show with somebody like Nas, the people were so excited and so energetic and just so crazy.
DX: Yeah, it seems moments like these now so easily accessible that people who don’t even care about the music are there.
The World’s Freshest: Yeah, it’s not a big deal anymore. Another thing too that I want to add about Rap—is that with any other genre like Rock and Roll or even Jazz—the fans of those types of music appreciate and respect the elders of those genres a lot more. Like if you enjoy Jazz or you’re a Jazz player right now, you’re going to praise somebody like Miles Davis or you’re gonna praise somebody like Duke Ellington. You’re probably gonna know his songs, you’re gonna be influenced by those types of people because they were before you and they were great. In Rock ‘N Roll, people are gonna praise The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and all those types of people. But in Rap music, it’s not like that. The youngsters today, they don’t give a damn about no Run DMC. They don’t care about their elders. With Rap it’s like in with the new, out with the old. So you have this constant cycle of new artists, and as soon it gets old they get pushed to the wayside. It’s a very messed up mentality.
And not to get too deep, but it’s kind of like a slave master’s mentality. Burn them out, use them for everything they got, get rid of them, and then bring the next rapper in. It’s just a trip when you look at it, not to get all political and all that. At the end of the day, I still love the Rap game. I’m able to do what I want everyday. I woke up right now. I’m eating a peach and doing an interview with you. I could have to be working at Walgreens or somewhere, and I’m not saying anything about the people working at Walgreens, but I’m just blessed to be able to do what I want to do at the end of the day.