Dedicated To Integrity with House Shoes
Honesty and sincerity are rare traits, but easily recognizable when you find them. As this great genre of Hip Hop trudges on, we as listeners, taste makers, and fans continue to complain about the integrity of the music itself, making excuses for it in the process. We all clamor for more genuine content, while continuing to the propagate that very thing -copy cats, singles-driven albums, lack of understanding Hip Hop history- that irritated us in the first place. The time has come for all of us to take responsible and assume a role in contributing to the current state of the music. Enter: House Shoes. Many of you know him as an early musical apprentice under J-Dilla, versatile DJ, and someone not afraid to speak his mind and share his thoughts with the world -be it good, bad, or otherwise. His debut album, a full-length of unabashedly in-your-face Hip Hop replete with hard beats and rhymes, fills a void and allows the producer to share his musical voice with the world. Let It Go is an appropriate title as the man who put Detroit on his shoulders for years makes no excuses, holds no bars, and gives you everything he has to offer.
Tell me about the album. How does this album compare to other producers’ albums?
It’s not a singles-driven album; it’s a front to back listen. I have interludes in there and it flows from beginning to end. I modeled this after Pete Rock’s Soul Survivor album. That was such a great album with classic cats talking sh*t and introducing or re-introducing the world to him. I’m doing the same thing, in a way, on my album. There are 18 cuts in all and the album basically starts with an instrumental and ends with one, like bookends.
Catch the rest of the interview after the jump!
What are your favorite cuts on Let It Go?
Moe Dirdee is one of the best MCs out of Detroit right now and I hope this album brings him the proper exposure he deserves. The “Goodfellas To Bad Boys” record is one of my favorite. The song speaks for itself; it’s some real gangsta sh*t. The first verse comes from the vantage point of a classic gangster movie. Now, the second verse is ridiculous! I wanted him to reference the old Detroit Pistons-era and Moe Dirtee just kills it. It was a lot of fun putting my producer hat on and guiding the direction of that song. The Oh No, ALC, Roc Marc (“Dirt”) joint is one of my favorite. Roc’s verse is my favorite on the entire album. The “Castles” joint is my absolute favorite off Let It Go. It talks about the loss of my man J1, but others can relate to it in terms of losing loved ones. Jimetta Rose came in and cut her verse in 20 minutes. It was like a higher power was guiding this record. There’s a lot of emotion throughout the entire album and I’m really trying to strike a chord with the listener.
Describe the texture and feel of the album.
It’s very sample-driven, of course, throughout the album. I like all genres of music. I love Jazz, Soul, Hip Hop, and Psychedelic, just good music in general. I just pull out a stack of records and start listening to songs for inspiration. When it hits me, it hits me. Only two songs are not sample-driven, but even those are replays, live versions of my beats. Sam Beaubien of Will Sessions did “Empire Reprise”who and Fat Albert Einstein replayed “Roller Coaster.” I went back to making some beats and just go back to looping beats and it was fun. Four or five records on this album came from that batch. I really don’t worry much about sample-clearance; I just make the music that I’m feeling. If a record gets shut down, it will hopefully be at a place to cover the costs associated with this type of situation.
Where does Let It Go fit in the context of today according to House Shoes?
It fits right near the top. I think it fills a void as people are trying too hard nowadays. Let It Go fits right in and is necessary now in being an honest and sincere music in an age where cats are doing whatever they have to do to get in where they fit in, even if it requires being something they’re not. I call my style “humble arrogance.” I’m one of the nicest guys in the world, but I can be a fu*kin’ assh*le, too. The MCs featured on here come from personal relationships that we’ve built over the years. I was not cold-calling cats for this one trying to get guest verses and what not. I want people to see that I have a lot to offer. Hopefully, they’ll see this as inspiration for others to make the music they want to make and not the music artists think people want to hear. A lot of folks out here need to see genuine music and I want to help drive creativity among great artists.
Speak about hustling on an independent label like Tres Records.
When you get a contract with a major, you’re getting a loan and they’re paying for everything. I met up with Chikara (Kurahashi) from Tres at Starbuck’s and he loved the joints. Soon after, he came by and we talked about doing an entire album together. It went from making an EP to doing a full-length. I picked out joints from my catalog that needed to see the light of day. Next, I put a list of the MCs that I wanted on a piece of paper and I set out to make that happen. It’s stressful though as I have to wear a bunch of different hats right now to make this record work. Being on a major is a different scenario. I’ve done a lot of community service over the years and I hit up my homies for some favors. I hit up my boy Tenacity (@TenacityMusic) who mixed the album for me. I got at Magnetic (@M_A_G_S) to master it and he masters Black Milk’s joints and Danny Brown’s and these guys really looked out for me. It’s great working with people that share your vision to get a properly mixed and mastered album to the masses. Just like Quelle Chris, I want to see him succeed. It’s not just about the money; it’s about the music as well.
What’s specifically involved in your grind to get people to hear this album?
I am looking at some of the OGs that I know to help out. I reached out to the homie Rich Medina to speak on how he feels about Let It Go. He sent me a seven-minute drop! It was crazy. Moss and Black Milk gave me some drops and looks, too. It’s humbling to hear these people speak about me in such a genuine way. On the business end, I’m excited to have Traffic and Fat Beats down with the team and helping to get this record out to the listeners. I am from the school where you bought physical music and there’s a strong lineage of fans that want that. All these cats with 4 hard drives worth of music does not impress me. In terms of sales, these younger dudes are not even buying music. If this was ten years ago, I could look at 150,000 – 200,000 copies. Now, you have to make a high end, boutique version of your music to appeal to listeners. We’re doing gatefold, double vinyl, double vinyl instrumentals and giving fans some extra music that is not on the album, like what Pete Rock and others did. I want a fan to want to own this. Jazzy Jeff and I were talking the other day and I told him that I would send him the record when it drops. He responded back by saying he’s going to frame it on the wall. I mean, that’s huge and a good sign of the direction of the album and what I set out to accomplish.
Tell me about Will Sessions.
It’s actually a live band of 7-10 musicians, a collective and not just one person. When I got the album done, I wanted to get a live version of “Empire Reprise,” the instrumental joint. He sent me an email of it and he kind of doubted it and worried about the change-ups and transitions. Man, I didn’t play the record for three hours. I finally put it on and it was crazy! It was so close to the original. had to get these guys on the album because they are really holding down Detroit from a live music standpoint. The Elmatic record these guys did for Elzhi was a classic take on a classic album. They did a mixtape that came out on Fat Beats and it’s so incredible as they’re doing it one take live in the studio. The vinyl came and went, but I think it’s still floating around out there.
Do you think social media has an impact on sales?
I have about 16,000 followers on Twitter and I feel it comes down to the 10% rule. Meaning, about 1600 of those cats are fans and willing to buy the album. Personally, I don’t really like Facebook as much. Twitter is more of a direct connection to the fans. Facebook is more of a day-to-day interaction and that’s not my thing. I don’t need to know who’s throwing a party or who wants to play Blackjack. I’m on the computer enough and I don’t need to spend any more time on it. (Laughs) Twitter is a 140 characters and I just like it more. Questlove hit me up and told me to get on it about four years ago. It took a minute to click. When it did, I really got into it. He said that my personality was well suited for this. These outlets do help now since the promo and marketing budgets aren’t what they used to be. Now, MySpace was crazy and I was on it 16 hours a day. I really liked it from a musical aspect. There was a cat in France that did a remix of Dilla’s “Stakes Is High” joint he did for De La. If you can’t do it better than the original, don’t do it. I’m not saying it was better than the original, but it was incredible! It was a record that probably 99% of the Hip Hop world has not even heard.
Most of the readers are probably aware of you being a DJ. So, what you doing to promote your music at the DJ sets?
It’s different. A lot of cats are now doing this beat scene movement and these guys aren’t into vocals. I don’t get that much satisfaction from playing my own music. I like my music, but I want to party when I’m DJing. Also, I’ve always felt like I had a larger responsibility to the city of Detroit than myself. Now, I need to get my stuff out there, too. I just need to know where I’m going to place my music in the set. I will play music from the artists on my album and their projects, too. I may play a record from Roc Marciano, Oh No, or Quelle Chris. My DJ sets are kinda crazy. I’ll play some name that sample type stuff and then end the night of movie and TV theme songs. The theme songs go over better than anything else I play and I really enjoy playing them. At the end of the night when people are feeling the vibe, you have 300 cats singing the song from “Golden Girls” (sings “Thank you for being a friend.”) People seem to really dig the “Duck Tales” joint, too. It’s like I’m playing the soundtrack to people’s childhood, which involved music from cartoons and sitcoms. I do this for my peers and the elders and everyone else can just fall in line. I do a set where I play J Dilla OGs. One night I played the original for Busta Rhymes’ “Genesis” joint that Dilla produced and J-Rocc and Madlib ran over to me to see what record it was. It means something when highly respected cats in the record collecting culture like that are running up and asking what record that is. I don’t want just a room full of dudes nodding their head to my sh*t at the end of the night, but an audience that is really into it.
What equipment are you using these days?
I’m still using the MPC 2000 100%. I got a MPC 3000 in ’96 and I sold that to Karriem Riggins in ’98 or ’99. That’s the drum machine -my old baby- that he’s created a lot of joints with. I’m not a fan right now of software. I’m an old head, man. I’m of the old guard and technology doesn’t really do much, if you look at history, but make you lazy. On top of that, I’m still using vinyl, too. When I made a batch of beats about a year ago, I accidentally left my needles at the club. So, I started sampling from Serato and wasn’t feeling it as much; I feel the need to own the record. I have some that are a top of the list that go for nearly a thousand dollars. I try to get cats diggin’ for the stuff that I sample.
Listen to and support House Shoes’ music below: