Tuxedo wasn’t really supposed to work. Two guys rooted in Hip Hop with an obsession for (what they call) “Jheri curl funk” records weren’t supposed to don tuxedos every night to perform their collection of funkafied jams for an adoring audience, but here were are.
Mayer Hawthorne and prolific producer Jake One are a sight to see. Their impeccable fashion sense can be loosely traced back to Hawthorne’s grandmother who owned her own clothing store. But Jake had to fully trust Mayer’s intuition that the fancy dinner wear would work on stage.
Now, they’ve graduated to capes.
In 2015, the duo released their self-titled debut, followed up with 2017’s Tuxedo II and just recently dropped Tuxedo III. Unlike the first two albums, Tuxedo III finds a few notable guests, including DOOM, Dâm-Funk and Battlecat.
In a recent interview with HipHopDX, Tuxedo explains why Jake had been saving the DOOM track for a decade, 2 Chainz’s own bold fashion choices and how Tuxedo evolved in the first place.
HipHopDX: Man, sorry it was so hard to connect this call. Neal [Duffy, Omaha native/Tuxedo tour manager] called me and it was a 402 number, but they hung up after one ring. So I’m like, “Oh, probably someone from my hometown has the wrong number.” I had no idea it was him.
Jake One: That’s amazing.
HipHopDX: He told me to ask you, what do you think about Omaha taking over and kind of running shit?
Mayer Hawthorne: Yeah, right. He wishes [laughs].
Jake One: I’m still waiting for that to happen.
Mayer Hawthorne: Yeah. We’re anxiously waiting.
HipHopDX: It’s happening. Born and raised. I’m working for Chuck D, Thrasher, HipHopDX and High Times. I got it covered. I got all the cultures [laughs].
Mayer Hawthorne: All right, there we go. You’re the one doing it. The rest of these guys are behind. Everybody else needs to catch up with you.
HipHopDX: My first question is for Mayer. I gotta ask, how much credit goes to Grandma Ricky for Tuxedo?
Mayer Hawthorne: I mean, I don’t know about Tuxedo specifically, but all credit goes to Grandma Ricky for like my whole sense of style for sure.
HipHopDX: But you wouldn’t be in tuxedos though without her, right? Or would you?
Mayer Hawthorne: Definitely a lot of the tuxedo wardrobe, she influenced for sure.
Jake One: Did she have capes like we have right now?
Mayer Hawthorne: She had a store that probably sold capes.
HipHopDX: You guys are wearing capes tonight, is that true?
Mayer Hawthorne: We are.
Jake One: Capes have been a big hit.
Mayer Hawthorne: I would say it’s more like a smoking jacket than a cape. It’s not really a cape. It’s close. It’s crushed velvet, you know. There are rhinestones involved. I saw 2 Chainz at the  IGrammys the first time I went. He was wearing like a crushed velvet cape, and I was like, “Damn, he’s crazy for that one.” Three years later I’m wearing that now.
Jake One: He’s a fashion icon.
HipHopDX: He was the future. You just didn’t know.
Mayer Hawthorne: I didn’t even know that was something I’d be into one day.
Jake One: I’m going to go ahead and say Chainz is one of the best dress dudes.
HipHopDX: That’s a bold claim. You guys must be a close second though. I’ve never seen fancier people.
Jake One: If we were doing Hip Hop, we’d be all fucked up. This is just because we’re not doing Hip Hop. We had to do something else.
HipHopDX: All fashion sensibility would go out the window.
Jake One: I mean, have you seen what Mayer was wearing in his Hip Hop days? It was not this.
Mayer Hawthorne: It wasn’t good.
Jake One: It sure wasn’t pretty.
Mayer Hawthorne: Please don’t. Please do not investigate.
Jake One: Put a photo of that in the article.
HipHopDX: If you can no longer wear suits that aren’t tailored, how do you go about a t-shirt? Do you need to have a tailored tee shirt?
Jake One: He hasn’t worn a t-shirt in like five years!
Mayer Hawthorne: Yeah, I don’t wear that many t-shirts. Do you know what? It actually kind of sucks ’cause I have a lot of really cool vintage music band shirts that I always collect because I think they’re cool and I buy them all the time, but I never wear them.
HipHopDX: Couldn’t you like incorporate them with a suit? That could be a thing.
Jake One: I don’t think he wants to go Don Johnson Miami Vice.
Mayer Hawthorne: I’ve never been like a big fan of that look. I don’t know. Maybe I just haven’t figured out the right way to do it yet.
HipHopDX: Well hey, we’ll see how it evolves, right?
Mayer Hawthorne: I’m just gonna wait until I’m like 65 and then nobody can say shit to you anymore. Nobody’s judging you anymore on that. Then I’ll break them all out and I’ll just blow everybody away with them.
Jake One: That’s what you do when you get old. And you’ve earned that at that point.
HipHopDX: One of my favorite songs on the new album has to be the DOOM collab “Dreaming In The Daytime.” That’s probably one of my favorites. What’s it like actually working with DOOM?
Jake One: Yeah, yeah. The funny thing about that song is I actually did that when I was working on a follow-up to White Van Music. So this was 10 years ago. We started that song and we recorded it the same day as me and Mayer’s “So Good.” It wasn’t on the first album because I thought I was going to use it for something else.
Mayer Hawthorne: Jake kept holding onto that song and I sang the hook on it back way back then. I kept asking him every time we’d do an album. I’d be like, “Yo, what’s up with that song? Can we use that song?” And he’s like, “No, I’m just saving for …”
Jake One: My album’s going to come out one day.
Mayer Hawthorne: Finally, he was like, “The time has come.”
HipHopDX: When you go into making an album, is the end goal to just kind of have fun with it?
Jake One: I think for whatever reason, this one we really managed to make our most complete project. I mean, you’re always trying to do that, but I guess being that the first one was really just a shot in the dark, we were just making stuff and it wasn’t really a plan. We’re just making joints like, “Oh shit!” For the second one, we were kind of like going off of like go on the road and you see if you can pull off this stuff, to try to keep that viable, what’s working in the shows. And this one, we kind of just put all of those experiences together and you know, somehow came up with something that we both felt really strong about.
HipHopDX: Even with the 10-year-old DOOM record, it still feels very cohesive, you know what I mean? It’s very seamless.
Jake One: We definitely had to remake the production on that. With every album, we try to do something slightly different with the production, and it’s hard because songwriting for Tuxedo is kind of supposed to be about having fun and dancing and partying. Couldn’t quite give you something too deep. It’s hard to reinvent the wheel with it, but I feel like production-wise, we try to adapt and say we’re in. Just having the features is a big first on this one. That was the big change on this album.
HipHopDX: I think it worked really well. I wanted to talk a little bit too about your initial meeting. I’ve read you guys met over our mutual love of “Jheri curl funk,” which I think is a wonderful descriptor for that kind of music. So when you guys figured out that each other existed, was it a kind of like, “Oh my God, there’s no doubt that we have to do something together?”
Jake One: It was really strange because we met through Hip Hop and I had made a mixtape called Hearing Me. I would sometimes do these just as break from Hip Hop because I’d just be burnt out on producing for G-Unit or whatever. You know, it’s like a job with ties and I do that for fun. I met Mayer, and he gave me his mixtape and he didn’t have any rap on his either. And that was just so strange.
Mayer Hawthorne: I always cared about this stuff. A lot of people are obviously fans of the Michael Jackson and Prince, which we are too, but I feel like we’re probably more rooted in the obscurities of that time. Even now, there’s a lot of people who are interested in that kind of music, but 10 years ago when we started doing this, nobody was looking for those records. Those records are all in the dollar bin and nobody cared about them at all.
Jake One: It wasn’t a thing in America. It was really just competing with guys in France on eBay. That was it.
Mayer Hawthorne: I met Jake and I was like, “Oh my God, there’s somebody else like in the universe that cares about this kind of music.” We ended up doing a DJ gig together and that’s how we got together. We did a gig with Dâm-Funk and YZ, and nobody came.
HipHopDX: What! YG, what year was this?
Mayer Hawthorne: No, no, YZ, YZ. Not YG.
HipHopDX: Oh, okay. I was like YG? That’s random as fuck.
Jake One: YG was definitely not there.
Mayer Hawthorne: He might’ve been!
Jake One: He might’ve been. He might’ve been one of the 32 people [laughs]. Then I started kind of messing around making tracks like that and Mayer shocked me by making the song singing. That was tight!
HipHopDX: Mayer, when you got with Stones Throw Records and Peanut Butter Wolf, you had no previous vocal training. Were you there to write songs or do hooks? What was that relationship initially like?
Mayer Hawthorne: I moved to Los Angeles to be a Hip Hop DJ and I wanted to make rap beats. When I met Peanut Butter Wolf, I gave him like some of my rap demo stuff and he was like, “Yeah, this sucks.”
HipHopDX: He didn’t actually say that to you, did he?
Mayer Hawthorne: I mean, no, but he just didn’t use …
Jake One: So many words.
Mayer Hawthorne: But then he was like, “I heard this demo that you did of a soul song.” I was just making it so that I could use it because I’m the like a thrifty Jew and I didn’t want to pay for sample clearance making rap beats. So, I was just making my own samples basically so that I could sample myself royalty free and he really was into that. And those were the first Mayer Hawthorne songs.
HipHopDX: Did you ever imagine you’d be Grammy Award-nominated and have all this success? You too, Jake. Both your résumés are stacked. Did you ever envision this for yourselves?
Mayer Hawthorne: Never ever in a billion years.
Jake One: I didn’t think I’d be playing keyboards on stage dancing around and shit. In a tuxedo. Even five years ago, I didn’t see that. I didn’t see that coming. And it’s funny, we actually just did a show in Minneapolis and a bunch of Rhymesayers guys came out and they were just …
Mayer Hawthorne: They were very confused.
Jake One: Yeah, they loved it, but they were just so puzzled. Saddiq [Rhymesayers CEO] was there, but Brother Ali was actually on the road so he wasn’t there. But yeah, just a bunch of the crew man. There’s always some old rap people there. I have bring some surprises out. Neal [tour manager] loves looking at my guest lists. He is thoroughly entertained.
HipHopDX: He would be!
Jake One: Right?
HipHopDX: In our defense, being from Omaha, we had to do a lot of extra work to really figure out all the dope music because you know, we’re right in the middle of the United States and it would take awhile to get this stuff from the East Coast and the West Coast. Jake, you just contributed to Rick Ross’s Port of Miami 2. What’s that like working with Ross?
Jake One: He’s probably my favorite rapper of the last 10 years, so that was tight. The first one I did with him was maybe three albums ago? We’ve just stayed in contact and I just send him beats. He’s always recording stuff so it’s kind of — I’m not really going to say I’m in control of what’s happening because they’ll decide to use what they’re going to use — but it’s always cool to make the record. A couple albums ago, he wanted me to come to Atlanta, but it was really unsexy. I was traveling too much. I think he thought I was exaggerating. I was like, “Nah, I can’t do it. I’ve got to go to Japan.” Then they saw me on the Instagram in front of like 7,000 people. They were like, “OK, you weren’t bullshitting.”
Mayer Hawthorne: They really thought he was lying to try to avoid going to the studio, which I’m not above that.
HipHopDX: Right. You’re like, I’ve done that, actually.
Mayer Hawthorne: I’ve definitely done that, you know.
HipHopDX: No names though. We won’t put any names out there.
Mayer Hawthorne: Bringing up the kid is the best excuse. Like, “Oh, my daughter’s sick.” [Laughs]
Check back next week for Part II of the Tuxedo interview.