World exclusive: the first ever published photograph of CP and Mali Boi of the Block Beattaz together.
They say hindsight is 20/20. Where the Block Beattaz are concerned, however, foresight is also crystal clear.
Few would argue that the music emanating from the Rocket City would not have received such critical acclaim or have travelled so far had it not been CP and Mali Boi manning the spaceship and giving Slow Motion Soundz marquee artists G-Side and other local rappers (not least the now-signed Jackie Chain with his breakout single Rollin) the delicately layered, otherworldly soundscapes that have characterised a city and soundtracked lives both near and far.
When you listen to a Block Beattaz production in 2010, you are doing so in the proverbial eye of the storm. In years to come you’ll talk about these moments alongside memories of the Dungeon Family, Premo, Dre, not only because of the potent signature sound, but because of the way those sounds make you feel.
Southern Hospitality spoke to CP and Mali Boi about the music, the city and the journey so far:
How and when did the Block Beattaz meet each other?
CP: I met Mali through Jhi Ali [of the PRGz] in 2001. I was real iffy about him because he was extremely quiet. I’m a laid back person, but Mali is really laid back. We definitely wanted Jhi and came close to giving Mali the boot. but he came and asked me about the MPC and said “let me try that”… And of course the rest is history.
Where were you born and raised?
Mali Boi: Born in Chicago, raised in Huntsvegas – a little here and there in between.
CP: Right in the heart of north-west Huntsville.
What was the environment like growing up there?
CP: There were definitely hard times, but I was blessed with strong parents. I watched my neighborhood go from a working middle class neighborhood, to a straight-up hood. Our house got broken into seven times in like three years. The PCP man stayed right across the street.
Mali Boi: Chicago was of course fast, whereas Huntsville, although smaller, moves at just the right pace in my opinion. very easy-going city.
What is your earliest memory of music?
Mali Boi: Moments In Love by Art Of Noise.
CP: My earliest memory of music was definitely church. In the choir. I was always moved by drums.
Did you play any instruments when you were young?
CP: Mama started me on piano, but it was a serious conflict with what I really wanted to do – football. I played drums in our middle school band in 6th and 7th grade, but football and basketball ended that pretty quick.
Mali Boi: I played the trumpet, trombone, French horn a little bit, the tuba, and my favourite, the baritone.
What music would you say characterised your early years and influenced you most?
CP: My older sister, rest in peace, would sneak in 2 Live Crew tapes and she had that Al B Sure album that she played non-stop. 2 Live Crew showed me how powerful words can be. It opened my eyes to a lot of things I probably shouldn’t have been exposed to at that point, but at least I learned it at home.
Mali Boi: There was two types of music that had a major influence. Relaxation or meditation music, like the Pure Moods collection, and that booty music, like ‘Shawty Swing My Way’.
When did making music first feel like a possibility for you?
CP: Well, I kind of dropped out of college to pursue it. So it changed from a hobby to a lifetime committment. It was a way of rebellion, a way to get my mind off of the difficult situations that I was facing. It kept my people out of the streets. And, most importantly, we were good.
Mali Boi: Since the first time I picked up that baritone.
When and how did you first meet Codie G?
CP: I met Codie through my partner Jeff Chapman. We had set up shop at his apartment and Codie stayed across the way. He always spoke different from everybody else, and he kept a Huntsville Starz fitted on his head. He was the only person that could come in and talk and I would have to listen. He was so Huntsville and had an old spirit… like he had lived before or something.
CP, you put Codie on to G-Side when he was serving in the armed forces. What was it about ST and Clova that inspired you to do so?
CP: Number one, ST was persistent as hell. Two, he had a voice that commanded attention. His flow was effortless and hard. He had a down south, Texas-esque drawl but he was clever with his wordplay, no doubt. I don’t think they were feeling him at first, but once I sat Codie and my partna Albee down and said “listen to this dude!”, it was a wrap.
To what extent is the music coming out of Huntsville different to that from other parts of Alabama?
CP: The tempo… it’s slow motion. It beats the block. Ethereal, sub human, hypnotic… we can rap.
Mali Boi: We are a different breed of Bama. Different environment, different experiences, different state of mind, different music.
Do you feel Huntsville music has a ‘sound’ – and if so how much of an influence do the Block Beattaz have on that sound?
Mali Boi: Absolutely, Block Beattaz been doin’ the damn thang for a while now, establishing the sound that the whole city knows and loves, and, which in my opinion is a big reason why the Block Beattaz music is out there in different cities, states and countries. Our city takes us with them.
CP: I think having so many people in our circle, we were able to take the vibe from each corner in our metro and mix it in with what was already established. O’Third is a group we recently picked up because their feel reminded me of us. They are a little younger than us, but it’s definitely humbling to hear how the younger generations are building on the foundation. Timeless music.
How much time do you spend in the studio?
Mali Boi: All day everyday. It’s what we do.
CP: Man, it’s so crazy, me and Mali have to work in shifts now. Physically, every other day I’m actually recording. Mentally and spirtitually, it seems I’m always there. I’m working on the off days, internetin’, conference calling, Skyping, Twitting, bouncing ideas off the execs. It’s our life.
What’s the average time it takes to complete a production, from conception to fully mixed?
Mali Boi: There’s really no average time. I just work on it until I’m comfortable with it.
CP: Just depends on the situation. If the beat and concept have a perfect marriage, we are in an out and maybe take a day to tweak. Sometimes I have to step away and come back. Starshipz and Rocketz is a prime example of that. I started on the album maybe a year earlier, and then all of a sudden the concept began to make sense. Sometimes you just have to live a little bit in order to tell the story properly and honestly.
CP, is your perfectionist streak both a gift and a curse? And are you ever really totally happy with the finished work?
CP: It’s a little bit of both. Honestly, I think Mali is harder on himself than I am. He wants to be the best. I just wanna do dope music.
There’s always an element of delicateness to your productions. Do you have to force yourself to hold back to create that feeling?
Mali Boi: I like to think that delicateness is part of our sound.
CP: That’s our formula. We try to take the softest melody you can think of and put the hardest drums available underneath it. Usually in our productions we try to fill the ‘space’ so the brain has a hard time zeroing in on one particular aspect of the production. Maybe chop something real quick here, echo this piece here. Mali gon’ switch the beat up here, then I’m gone reverse that section. And by the time you recognise it, hopefully you’re reaching for the rewind button. It’s an audio show: BB HD.
When you’re creating a beat, are you consciously making a ‘hip-hop beat’, or do you simply play it as music?
Mali Boi: It depends on what I’m going for on that particular track, whether it be hip-hop, R&B, alternative etc.
CP: For some odd reason, my tracks usually end up R&Bish. Mali can pretty much take things wherever they need to go. I like to feel a certain way when I hear music, so unconsciously, it usually goes to that place.
At which point in your career, or individual track, did you feel as if you’d reached a ‘Block Beattaz sound’?
CP: Some would say Lacs and Caprices, but I would definitely have to go with Rollin and Strictly Business. ‘Rollin’ has a slight edge, but it’s definitely the sound that I hear when I think ‘Block Beattaz’. The melody is cold, the drums are hard, the scene is dark. It’s underworld music. It’s dangerous music. And did I mention the trunk goes gorilla monsoon when the kick drops?
Do you usually start a production with a sample or do you like to kick off with the drums first?
Mali Boi: It depends on what the focus is on. It could be all about the tune from where I build a beat around it, or I could have had a fie drum pattern I put down first that made me feel a certain tune I would work on afterwards.
CP: Once again, it really depends. Nine times out of 10, I’mma chop up a dope sample and build the beat around it. Drums can become generic, so it’s definitely a lot more fun to build around the tune.
The time and care that seems to go into your production almost feels like you’re giving birth to a child. As a father does that seem like an exaggeration?
CP: Not at all. You never know what song will be that decisive track. So it’s important to treat each with the proper respect. No different than drawing or restoring an old car. You see what it possibly can be in your mind and you just shape it until it moulds into form.
Mali Boi: We create it, give it character, hope it ends up with the right person, and hope it does something with itself when it’s all said and done.
Can you shed some light on the back story to the whole Slow Motion Soundz and Paper Route Recordz relationship: how it started, why both camps went their separate ways, and whether there’s a chance the two parties will work together in future?
CP: Honestly, it was way too many great artists competing for the same space. It was inevitable. I feel that the two are one in the same though. I know PRGz like I know G-Side. We done hustled together, been through family shit, beat up folks, borrowed money from each other. We brothers. We just kind of grew up and had different viewpoints on the path to take due to different life circumstances at certain moments. We all have much greater resources now and are able to spend with each other and establish an economy. They came up through Slow Motion University so they will always be alumni. An album is definitely coming. Natural time.
The originals of some the tracks Diplo included on his remix album Fear And Loathing In Huntsvegas, plus a number of other regional underground Block Beattaz produced hits, were intended for an album advertised back in 2008 as ‘Still Headlinin”. Will that album ever get released? Who owns the masters to that music? And is it one of music’s greatest lost pieces of work?
CP: I’m not sure. I think Dawg saw an opportunity to take the the ‘Still Headlinin” album to a bigger stage through Diplo, which absolutely paid off. As far as masters, we co-own that. We definitely took initiative to handle that. Neither party is at a point where we can afford to allow prideful issues to stop the progress thus far. It’s not really a money issue because it benefitted the Block Beattaz and the SLO as much as much as it did PRGz. The goal is the same, we just tryna get paid and take care of home and do it the easiest way possible. As far as an album, I think the stars are aligning and everybody is on board. G-Side, Flo-town (G-Mane and Bentley), PRGz, South P.A.W. (Neal and P.O.P.E.), Marcellus, Untamed, O’Third, Kristmas, Jackie Chain, 6 Tre… A cohesive album. It will happen.
ST once described Big P.O.P.E. as the King Of Huntsville if ever Huntsville had a king. To fans of P.O.P.E.’s work before he went away, the title will be no surprise, but what is it about him that would warrant that reputation?
CP: He is. Huntsville loves P.O.P.E like Houston loved Pimp C. He is good in any hood. He has a charismatic quality to light up any room. He has lived what a lot of people can only fake about. See, we incorporate music into life, not the other way around. Slow Motion Soundz is the soundtrack. God took him through some shit for whatever reason, so music is secondary. I think that’s what makes his music so compelling because you know he’s telling the truth.
What’s P.O.P.E. been up to since he got out? And when are you going to unleash him on the world?
CP: Hopefully by third quarter 2010 we will have his project completed. We just secured the financing to make it happen. He has been working with Mali, getting back in the swing of things, so we will voltron up and get it enroute. I honestly hope its more of a South P.A.W. situation ’cause it flows better in my opinion. A biscuit is good, but butter, syrup and jelly will set it off. Damn I’m hungry now.
The critical response to Huntsville International has been as expected, considering the output of Slow Motion Soundz so far, but it was nonetheless heartwarming to see such an international consensus that this is as good as if not better than it was hyped to be (Codie made the call that Huntsville International would be better than Blueprint 3 and it was). How does that make you feel?
CP: I think Codie got Slow Motion tatted on his heart. Jay Z is more conversational, we are more theatrical. We like the presentation aspect of the music game. Sort of like that girl you know was cool and smart as fuck, but when you finally saw her dressed up and her hair done, it was a whole different animal.
The next G-Side album is scheduled for release next year, and is rumoured to involve a lot of live instrumentation. What can you tell us about the album as you see it in your mind?
CP: Well, we had the opportunity to work with the homie Mike Posner (shout out to Dan at Elitaste). And he covered the ‘Speed of Sound’ beautifully and took it and us to higher levels. I think he took the concept where we would have taken it and we’ve lived that era. Our next album is ‘One…Cohesive’. My guy John Turner in NY brought it to life visually with the album design and that has made it easier for us to create music in that vein. It’s the music version of the new world order. Powerful independent entities forming a singular establishment. It’s all about utilising resources. Being able to depend on your men when you are on the frontline, knowing he is not gonna hesitate to pull the trigger. We went from recording in a smoked-out basement of my partner Big Meek and June Buggz crib to touring overseas in a year. I would say we’ve accomplished moving at the speed of sound.
Has anything been recorded yet for it?
CP: We probably won’t start production until we touch back down from Europe in April. I’m pretty sure our subject matter will be a little different after eating lutefish.
Will the excellent Sound Of Silence, who featured on ‘Huntsville International’ the song, be heavily involved in the project?
CP: I pray. They are just going through the typical band growth and development and hopefully we will appear on their album too. I plan on working with Darrien and his band also. He’s touring the country right now playing bass for Kenny Chesney. Ain’t no telling man, we might get connect with a folk band in Kentucky knowing us.
If you had to choose one artist that you’ve already worked with to record with for the rest of your life, who would that be?
CP: Wow. Of course the Slow Motion camp, but I would have to go with Crystal Carr. She creates with little to no effort. I have to keep up with her. Amazing talent. ‘Change The World [So Wonderful]‘ was her baby. The harmonies, the key changes. She did that in a matter of minutes. Great writer, great spirit and work ethic. Ya’ll will be seeing her. Guaranteed.
Outside of the SMS/HSV camp, who is the artist you’d most like to hear over a Block Beattaz production, and why?
Mali Boi: Lupe Fiasco. I’m a big fan. I love his selection of production and what he does with it on his previous albums. I was on his music heavy during important times in my life, so to me his music is considered ‘feel good music’. I’m sure we’ll be working with him in the future.
CP: It’s a toss up between Yo Gotti, Rick Ross, and Project Pat. Gotti ’cause he just goes hard all the time, Rick Ross because he knows how to paint the picture and set the scene, and Project Pat ’cause he can ride any beat. He gon’ whoop somebody, shoot somebody, rob somebody, and get a chick in every song. And keep the pattern that he flowing to. How trill is that?
Top three producers doing it right now other than the Block Beattaz?
Mali Boi: Timbaland, Will-I-Am and Shawty Redd are my favourites, not necessarily doing it right now.
CP: Whoever is producing Kings of Leon, Pac Div’s producer, and Sade’s people. That’s currently.
Your greatest rapper, song and album of all time?
CP: Nas, ‘The World Is Yours’, Illmatic.
Mali Boi: Lupe, ‘American Terrorist’, Food And Liquor.
Favourite song you’ve ever made?
CP: ‘Follow Your Instinct’ by a neo soul artist Aretta we used to work with. She sang on ‘Cole Blooded’ on the Hood Headlinaz record.
Any last words/shout outs?
CP: To the team…Cohesive. Nationally and internationally. Mission almost accomplished. To all the fam’s kids that we are doing this for. My wifey, my kids Kay Boo and Tali Boo, my everything. Respect.
Mali Boi: Love ya Jordan, my son.