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11. All Is Well With Love (feat. Chantae Cann)
Before I even begin this story, just understand that there is always one... No matter what album you work on, there is always one joint that is just a pain in the ass to complete. Welp, ladies and gentlemen... Allow me to introduce you all to one of my most beloved tracks, "All Is Well With Love!"
Continue reading Studio Campfire Stories: All Is Well With Love and Make Luv 2 Me (SunStorm Week Day 7)
9. This Could Be the Night (feat. Eric Roberson, Darien Brockington & Rapper Big Pooh)
The funny thing about making music, or art for that matter is that you never know what you're sitting on. I had been sitting on this drum pattern for about 2 or 3 years not knowing what to do with it... just the bare drums exactly how you hear them in the final song. It was something that I would listen to every quarter or so, mess around with it, get mad with what I recorded and scrap it altogether. I had even done a song where that drum pattern's tempo was cut in HALF... It just still wasn't there yet. FINALLY, one day during the recording of SunStorm, I finally came up with a chord progression that I was happy with and actually kept it! But the joint had been sitting for so long that even when I found the progression that worked, I was still skeptical. Even when I would include it on a CD with the rest of the album formulated around it as just an instrumental, I would think, "It will get life once vocals are recorded on it." I ended up tracking it out and sending it through to Phonte so we could have the usual "who do you think would fit on this joint" talk. We talked about Erro (Eric Roberson) being a part of the album pretty much from the beginning... in fact, when I first met him back in December 2007 in Chicago, we spoke about working together, but it just never came together....
Continue reading Studio Campfire Stories: This Could Be The Night and Flight Of The Blackbyrd (SunStorm Week Day 6)
7. SunStorm (feat. YahZarah)
I started teaching back in the summer of 2006 and the first summer that I took off wasn't until 2008. I was so damn excited about having an entire summer to myself that as soon as I got home from the school on the last day, I went to work in the studio. The FIRST joint that I put together wound up being the music for the title track of this album... "SunStorm." Once again, the drums were done first and they resulted from me being in such a happy ass mood, I can't really describe it any other way. The drum pattern made this music what it wound up becoming. The feeling that I got from it was one of 'freedom' and 'fun'. With that being said, I distinctively remember figuring out a synth bassline that was very busy while keeping the fun and free elements in that music. And just like 95% of the music that I make, I played that synth bassline part all the way through the entire song. I think that when you actually play all the way through your piece, you are able to capture MUCH more of a feeling than that of a looped track. I don't think that the bassline should hit the same way in the first 8 bars of the song as it does coming out of the first hook, for example. The second half is what put it over the top... I made sure to send it to Phonte as soon as I was finished. He hit me with a text back, "I'ma MURK this joint!!" He was originally going to keep this one for himself... but ended up sitting on it after writing about 50 different things to it and not feeling satisfied with anything - I understand that pain FULLY (wait 'til you read the "This Could Be the Night" story).
5. Be Your Man (feat Darien Brockington)
Musically, the instrumental for "Be Your Man" was one of those joints that just kinda came to me. I vividly remember arranging the drum track first because at the time my intention was to lay something slower and also very simple... So I laid a simple 'one-two' or 'march' pattern for the drums at first. But in playing around with the pattern a little more, I ended up bringing the rimshot in simply for the additional nod factor and purposely left the hi-hat out (I actually experimented with an eighth note hi-hat pattern but hated how it sounded, it didn't work at all). The chord progression was something that I worked out through playing around on the keys, it wasn't planned... It was definitely a feeling, and I liked how it moved - pretty, but contrastingly dark. Once the progression was found and practiced, I played the chord stabs and allowed them to act as the eighth-note hi-hat rhythm instead of using an actual hi-hat. The live bass served as the glue for the music and the spacey sounding pad was the additional 'candy' and it was to my liking... still simple and now more mysterious. Once I sent this piece to Phonte and we got on the phone about it, he already had in his head that D. Brock was the man for the job, which completely worked since at that point Brock didn't have a feature on the album yet.
3. Say How You Feel (feat. Phonte & Carlitta Durand)
In April of 2009, Phonte and Carlitta were both in town for a video shoot with my brovah and good friend, DJ Roddy Rod. If I remember correctly, the shoot was on a Saturday and I was mad that I couldn't make it to the group video shoot at night because I had a two shows with The ELs scheduled on the same day. But when Sunday came around, the two of them made sure to stop by the house to hang out for a little while. The day was interesting because being that I lived in a 17-story building, the apartments didn't have thermostats that controlled 'heat' and 'air conditioning'. So therefore, the entire building would have to be 'switched over' to heat when the weather typically got cold (around Oct/Nov) and would switch to a/c when the weather typically warmed up, which was normally around April. Well... the air conditioning had not yet switched over to a/c and the day that Phonte and Carlitta decided to come over, the temperature was in the upper-90's... and I lived on the 15th floor. So the heat in the apartment that day was damn near unbearable, the humidity was up, and it was just plain uncomfortable. Realizing this, I stopped up at Target in order to get a fan big enough to accommodate kats... The problem was, OTHER folks in the area had the same idea that I did, which equated to a "late arrival" (about 1pm). When I got to Target, the big floor fans were GONE and the only fans they had left were a couple of small joints that were gonna do NO good in the heat we were gonna be smothered in. But, I bought one of them anyway and took it back home. By the time I got there, Phonte and Carlitta were already in the spot and sitting in the living room. We plugged in the fan, sat very still and checked out a couple of movies... aaaaand as expected, that little ass fan was moving NO air around in the apartment.
Zo! breaks down the makings of all of the tracks on his new album, SunStorm.1. Greater Than the Sun (feat. Phonte)
For those of you who have listened to Little Brother's Getback album, the closing track "When Everything Is New" was initially supposed to be the intro joint for THIS album. After hearing the recorded hook sung by Phonte, Big Pooh requested that he call me and ask that I let the song go to them for their album... I remember answering that "no-brainer-question-of-the-year" before Phonte had even finished what he was gonna say.