Progressive classic; one of the many oxymorons that seem to flow through the speakers when listening to the sounds of Adrian Younge. His thick bass lines coupled with live instrumentation create sounds that seem to be borrowed from another era, and in a sense they are. But if those sounds continue to inspire Mr. Younge’s success like they have this past year, it’s safe to say it might be a while before he decides to give them back. Claiming his favorite artistic era as the years ‘68-‘73, the avid record collector has engulfed himself in the classic sounds from that time, so much so that it’s been roughly 14 years since Mr. Younge has really listened to Hip Hop or the radio.
But back in the early ‘90s? There were no bigger musical influences for Adrian than Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang Clan, and Souls of Mischief. All of which brings us out of Hip Hop’s Golden Era and back to 2014, where on the heels of finishing Twelve Reasons To Die with Ghostface Killah and RZA, Younge is set to release There Is Only Now, a concept album with none other than Souls of Mischief. To say he’s had a good past 12 months might be a bit of an understatement. And with a project with Snoop Dogg already in the works, Adrian just needs to get his hands on Detox for his Hip Hop Golden Era grand slam.
HipHopDX recently caught up with Adrian and discussed his recent success, the near death experience Souls of Mischief had that inspired There Is Only Now, and how widespread he feels his music can be.
Why Adrian Younge Melded Influences From Snoop & Souls Of Mischief
HipHopDX: How would you describe the things you’ve been able to accomplish musically this past year, seeing that these are not just artists, but people that in your words “shaped your musical perspective” coming up?
Adrian Younge: That’s a good question. When I speak on this topic, I usually try to illustrate the framework of this kind of transition, and basically it’s an underground artist crossing the line. You’re working hard, years and years just trying to get some kind of accolades in order to work with the people you’ve always wanted to work with. And then once you cross that line, and you’re working with these people, it’s magical because you proved to yourself that you’ve made it in a sense…that you’ve done something to impress the people you’ve idolized over the years. It’s something that’s very fulfilling. It’s like solidifying the reason you make music, the reason why you’re an artist, and that’s by gaining respect from people you’ve always respected. It’s humbling, and it’s flattering.
DX: Now when it comes to Souls of Mischief, I heard you say in an interview that you always “felt these guys were your friends” even before you met them. What did you mean by that, and how did your paths finally cross for this new album?
Adrian Younge: Well basically, I always tell people that I was a huge Wu-Tang fan in ‘93, and I was also a huge Snoop and Dre fan in ‘93 when Doggystyle dropped. But, I was a very big Souls of Mischief fan because they spoke to me. They were the kind of people I hung out with at that time. Unlike Wu-Tang, and unlike Snoop and Dre, I wasn’t necessarily a hustler or a criminal, see what I’m saying? That wasn’t me. I was just a Hip Hop dude that danced, wore fly clothes, and wanted to get the ladies. And I also spoke with a West Coast vernacular akin to how the Souls of Mischief spoke. That was me. So I felt like they were my brothers because they resembled people I hung out with every single day, and we had the same kind of lifestyle. So on the heels of me making the [Twelve Reasons To Die], before it was even released, A-Plus hit me up on Twitter and asked if I’d be interested in producing their album, and I was trippin’. I was like, “Hell yeah. You ain’t gotta ask me twice.” Then me and A-Plus spoke on the phone for a while, then I spoke to Souls of Mischief and we were all happy. We started working on the album two weeks later, and now it’s done.
DX: With the Ghostface album Twelve Reasons To Die, you took us on a musical journey through an Italian Crime/Horror world in the late ‘60s and really provided the perfect concept and backdrop for Ghost’s story telling to flourish. What was your mindset and concept for the Souls album?
Adrian Younge: Well first of all, they had liked the Ghostface album, so that was one of the reasons why I said “I’d like to do a concept album with you guys.” When artists have something to serve as a foundation or direction for the ultimate product of what you’re creating, when you have something to look at, something to guide you, it helps to create even more inspiration and a sharper focus. And I felt that that would be really good for us, because I wanted to make an album that made people feel the same way they felt when they heard ‘93 Til Infinity. That was my goal. So when we were talking about concepts, they told me a story of how they almost got killed one night in 1994. And the way they told the story was so intriguing to me that I thought that we should make the whole album based on that true life experience, and that’s what we did.
Adrian Younge Reveals Someone Tried To Kill Souls Of Mischief In 1994
DX: Oh, wow. So the entire album came from an actual real life experience they had before?
Adrian Younge: Yeah, in ‘94, some dude tried to kill all of them, and was shooting at all of them in a parking lot outside of a club. And they never found out who it was, but the way they told the story was just so captivating that I said, “We have to use this as a foundation for our story and embellish the story to make it a full album.”
DX: So the first single “There Is Only Now” features Snoop Dogg. With Snoop and Souls having fairly different audiences, as well with Snoop being from Long Beach and Souls from Oakland, what made you feel this would be a good fit before even hearing them together?
Adrian Younge: Well, it’s funny man. We were trying to figure out people that could play certain characters on the album, and we needed a gangsta character. And we were like, “Damn, it would be kinda dope if we got Ice Cube,” and that’s kind of who we were thinking of initially. Then it dawned on me that I was supposed to be working with Snoop in the next month after anyways, so I was like, “Oh shit, we could have Snoop be the person.” And they were like, “Hell yeah,” ‘cause they’re big Snoop fans. Also don’t forget that Snoop and Souls of Mischief dropped their debut albums the same year, so they’ve been icons for generally the same amount of time. They have a lot of respect for each other. So it serendipitously just happened, and we’re very happy it happened that way. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
DX: Nice. So are you and Snoop currently working on a new project right now?
Adrian Younge: We have a project that’s probably not going to be released until next year. But yeah, we’re definitely working on a project.
DX: On the track “Womack’s Lament,” Busta came through with a lyrical tornado as the antagonist, and definitely leaves his presence felt throughout the rest of the album. How did he become involved with the project? How did you describe to him his role in your overall vision for the album?
Adrian Younge: He reached out to me on Twitter and said that he really liked my music and wanted us to work together. So I said, “I’d love to work with you. I’d love you to be on this Souls album.” He said, “Hell yeah, I love those dudes.” So basically I told him the whole story, and he did his thing. It’s really as simple as that.
DX: I know this entire recording process was probably a very memorable one for you, but what would you say stuck with you the most from recording with Souls of Mischief?
Adrian Younge: I’d say what stuck out to me the most, and what stayed with me the most was just the bond that we all had. We all had the goal to try to make the best album that we could, and we all worked very hard to do it. They’re all very professional—very, very professional, and very highly skilled. So it was the experience of just being with them every day, working on a common goal, and trying to make a really great album. I’ll never forget that.
DX: Were there ever moments during those days in the studio where you would just sit back and be like, “Damn, I’m working with Souls right now?”
Adrian Younge: I would say, that happened before we started and after we finished. Because when you’re in the trenches, you’re in the trenches. You can’t really think about that, you know? It’s like, if you’re on the Dream Team and you’re playing with Michael Jordan, you don’t think about that shit until before you play and til after everything is done. When you’re on the court, you guys are on a mission to win. So that’s when you can kind of reflect on that.
How Adrian Younge Balances Artistry & Business With Artform Studio
DX: You own The Artform Studio in LA, which is not only a record shop, but also a barbershop and salon all in one. What was the inspiration behind Artform Studio, and what do you hope to accomplish with the record shop (experience/vibe)?
Adrian Younge: The Artform Studio is ran by my wife, myself, and my business partner Patrick Washington. It’s a full-on salon, barber shop, and also a full-on boutique record store. As you may know, records are my life. I love records. I’m a deejay, I’m a collector, and all my inspiration for music comes from records. So what I wanted to do with have having a record store was bring that old custom back of having a record store where people share music and bond, and talk about political issues whatever it may be. [It’s about] just having discussion, comradery and association through music at a venue that sells music. They don’t have much of that anymore, and I kind of wanted to maintain that. So that was the purpose.
DX: Now I also read about your history in the field of law. How did you make the transition from getting your law degree and teaching law for three years, to becoming a composer and producer?
Adrian Younge: There was never really a transition because I graduated from law school in 2003, but I’ve been doing music since ‘96. So music was something I’ve always done, always. It was just people seeing different sides of myself. There’s people that are professional basketball players, but they’ve always loved baseball. If they play both, they play both. That’s kind of how it is for me, I love both.
DX: Was is difficult to balance the two?
Adrian Younge: Yeah, because both require a lot of time. But if you don’t sleep as much [laughs], you have more time throughout the day. And your body starts becoming more accustomed to just getting shit done and being okay with it, so that’s how I’ve adjusted.
DX: You’ve said that your favorite artistic era and where you draw most of your inspiration is from the years ‘68 to ‘73. What are your thoughts on the current musical landscape, specifically in Hip Hop, and are there any specific artists that have inspired you from today’s era?
Adrian Younge: I always tell people I stopped listening to Hip Hop in ‘97, because that’s just when it started changing for me. Hip Hop made after ‘97, generally speaking, was more so made for a popular mainstream audience a lot more than it was prior to that date. It just didn’t speak to me much anymore. Also at the time, I really started getting into records, and I found that my true inspiration musically came from that era, ‘68 through ’73. So I just stopped listening to the radio, and I’m still the same to this day. New music to me are just records I’ve never heard, so when I’m asked who are new artists that I’m really into that inspire me, there’s a lot of great new artists. But based on my lack of research it’s hard for me to say who I like and who I don’t like. I would say I like cats like Black Milk, Kendrick Lamar, Trek Life, Oddisee, I mean there’s a bunch of dudes, but these are my friends too. If they weren’t my friends I’m not sure I would’ve checked for ‘em, but I love what they’re doing. There’s mad people doing underground stuff that is really dope, but I just don’t check for them, I just always look for records, old records.
Adrian Younge Responds To Being Sampled By Timbaland & AOTP
DX: As you know, there’s a historical precedent for sampling breakbeats in Hip Hop. What does it mean to you when people like Timbaland and Army of the Pharaohs are sampling your projects like breakbeats?
Adrian Younge: It’s very rewarding, because I’m a Hip Hop dude, you know? Even if I’m making an R&B album, I’m a Hip Hop dude. I’m Hip Hop to death. And as a Hip Hop dude, when you’re sampled, it makes you the original, it makes you the break, and to me there’s nothing more compelling than being the break. So when they’re sampling me, they’re cementing me as the break, and that means a lot to me, especially artists of that stature. It’s crazy.
DX: How do you view the relationship between the science of sound (as far as the equipment you use, your recording style), versus the emotion the music evokes? How do they work together in your eyes?
Adrian Younge: Well everything I do is all analog tape—all hardware, all old microphones, all old vintage preamps. There’s no Pro Tools in my studio, so everything I do is based on creating music that holds on to the concept of preserving human error. So if I’m playing the drums and something is a little off, then the bass is going to be a little off, then my vocalist is going to be a little off on top of that. It’s those little things, those quirks, those organic things that create an artisan hand crafted product. And that speaks to people, because it’s that human element, it’s not a robot making the music. It’s human element and those intangible things that speak to a lot of people. I call those people the silent majority. And my record label Linear Labs, that’s my new label for this album, is founded on the notion of being a production house of artisan, hand crafted, organic music. So yea, that’s my mission.
DX: Some fans will think of you and mainstream artists in an either/or context. But you’ve talked with Jay Brown at Roc Nation and now Snoop has also appeared on your music. How widespread do you feel your sound can be? How widespread do you want it to be?
Adrian Younge: I think my sound is the next thing you know? And the reason why I say that is because nobody could really do it. And I’m not saying that because I think I’m the shit, I’m just saying that ‘cause it’s kinda true. People record analog, but people don’t do it in the way I do it. There’s something that I do that’s different that speaks to people that love old music. And it’s not a rehash, it’s something progressive and different, with a Hip Hop perspective on it. So I feel like that’s what’s next, but we’ll see what happens. And when I say this is what I think is next, I’m not saying this is the end all be all, but a lot of people are trying to get this kind of sound you know? I’m not the only person creating nostalgic music, but I will say I am the only person creating this kind of nostalgic music with a fatter, warmer, organic sound, akin to Golden Era meets the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. That’s specifically the sound that I think is next, but we will see.