By The People’s Minister of Information JR
4 rAx, the legendary Oakland producer, known for being one half of the legendary Mobb Musik Hip Hop production squad, the Mekanix, has recently dropped his debut album “F.E.A.R.”, and in part 2 of this interview, we explore his thought process behind making this album and music in general, as well as 4 rAx gives his expert opinion on the definition of trendy, as well as Mobb Musik. Lastly he discusses, in depth, what him and his partner Tweed the Great have been working on, through this pandemic stricken year. Stay tuned.
JR Valrey: Back to the album “F.E.A.R.”, I heard so many different influences. I heard Chicago, in the album. I heard Digital Underground. I heard HipHop, the artistic artform aspect of it. I heard street rap in the album. I heard Tupac and Scarface’s influence on the album, Redman, the Wu, and Donny Hathaway. Let me know if I’m wrongly infusing my taste, and what I’m thinking.
4 rAx: You hitting it right bro, all of those are my influences and more. Sade, Prince, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Raekwon, Shock G. My list goes crazy bro.
JR Valrey: So what did you sit down and plot for this album to sound like or did this album create itself, when you were making it?
4 rAx: Nah, I wanted it to be hard. I wanted to be dark. I wanted it to be thought provoking.
JR Valrey: Why dark?
4 rAx: Because there is an emotion there that fear has. When I say dark, I mean fearful. Niggaz is afraid to go there. Everybody can’t go there. So I wanted it to be something that got up under people’s skin. I wasn’t trying to make no friends. I wasn’t persay, trying to make you smile. I wanted you to hear this record, and say, “this nigga is clever”. “He’s a thinker”. These muthaphuckin kicks and drums, is as crazy as Dj Premiere and Pete Rock, the basslines is as big as Dr. Dre’s, the fuckin hats is as crazy as Lex Luther down south, and his bars is everything from Grandmaster Flash to Ice Cube to Too Short to Andre 3000; all over the place. So I was trying to capture all of that, and at the same time, make my region proud, because I come from the independent capital of the world, East Oakland.
JR Valrey: No doubt. I agree 100 percent. Now, why do you have that type of mindstate, when a lot of rappers are riding the trend, you are saying that you put all of that into the album but that’s not necessarily what’s trending. What’s trending in Hip Hop is the Detroit sound, a certain Chicago sound, I should say, what made you take on an independent sound? And I guess you can answer that as a producer because the Mekanix have kept the Mobb Music sound alive, no matter what was happening.
4 rAx: I didn’t want to be part of a trend, because that means it is going to play out. So let’s just take for example Kwame, a dope ass artist. At one point and time, Kwame was wearing polka dots. During the time, he wore polka dots, it was the trend to wear polka dots. But guess what? As soon as Kwame passed, and the next artist was hot, polka dots played out. That’s because it was trending. I never try to make music that’s trendy, because as soon as you do that, you give it a ceiling, and a timestamp for when it’s going to be cool, and not gonna be cool no more. You follow me? So, I ain’t ever wanted to be nothing trendy. And my bad, but niggaz have a habit of doing everything, and making it trendy. And that is why we are constantly looking for the next, next, next, next, because it didn’t last, because it was trendy. You feel me?
JR Valrey: What makes it trendy versus long lasting? What’s the difference?
4 rAx: If I bust a rap right now, and I talk about what I’m wearing, and what club I went to Friday, and I do it in a way that’s not true storytelling, then I give this song a time stamp. And guess what? Next week that club might change its name, or next week no one wants to wear those clothes that I was wearing, that I was talking about. So now as things progress, that song doesn’t. It stays right where it was, and doesn’t progress. And it gets time lapsed. And now it is old and trendy. It’s some shit that was of the past. Know what I mean? Why, I say it in the story realm, is because you could have people like Ice Cube or Slick Rick that will tell a story about something in a certain time frame, and they’ll rap that whole time capsule up in a way where it stays there, and you understand that it stays there because of the story. You get it? Whereas I talk about “yeah man, I’m at a club such and such and such”, and they like “nigga that club closed down 5 years ago”. Now you know how old my song is. Hopefully I’m making sense.
JR Valrey: I definitely understand what you’re saying. Now going into the Mekanix aspect of who you are, what makes Mobb Musik? What is the formula where you say that that is Mobb Musik versus that’s that Trap shit? What is it? Is it the 808 (drums)?
4 rAx: It’s the way that a record is mixed for one. Mobb shit is mixed like a Hip Hop record, meaning the kick (drum) is loud, the snare (drum) is loud, the 808 (drum) is loud. Mobb Musik has a bass line for the most part, that complements everything, and it doesn’t fight against the 808. It has a bottom. It has character. It definitely is funk influenced. Yeah, that’s Mobb shit. Chords, and a helluva artist on top of it, painting a picture, that’s Mobb shit.
JR Valrey: How do you pick who you wanted to have on your album? And how do you pick as a producer, who you allow on a certain beat?
4 rAx: When it came to me to figure out who I was gonna put on “F.E.A.R., I just said that I’m gonna grab my favorites from what I’ve been doing.
JR Valrey: Like who?
4 rAx: I definitely had to get Stalin, that’s my little brother. And it was only right. I did so many records for him, that he come and do a record for me. I love what he does. His storytelling is impeccable. Stalin doesn’t get a lot of credit for his storytelling, but he tells stories like a muthaphucka.
JR Valrey: Definitely.
4 rAx: So I wanted to get him to tell some stories. I got Richie Rich on the album, because he is Rich Rich. The nigga is a muthaphuckin legend. Keak Da Sneak, legend. G-stack, legend. Yukmouth, legend. I wanted to make sure that I put legends on my shit. You know what I’m saying? And I also didn’t want to have it so feature-heavy, that muthaphuckaz felt like I was leaning on my features. I wanted you to really say, “damn, this nigga is carrying the whole album, by himself”. You know what I’m saying? Just to show.
JR Valrey: How did you pick, amongst making 6 albums this year, including your own, how did you choose which beats would go to your album, which concepts that you were going to help somebody else with, and which concepts you were going to keep for yourself?
4 rAx: I just shoot it off the hip. I don’t hold nothing from nobody, I just in the moment, create. And whatever comes out, comes out. I don’t sit back and premeditate “this is for me”, and “this is for them”. (I’m) just in the moment writing records, and this is what comes out. And picking the beats, it’s pretty much the same thing, I just let the music tell me what to talk about. Once I hear the beat, if the beat is dope, Imma fuck wit it. Then I start to war between what’s tighter, the concept I come up with or the music? And when I get a concept that is just as ill as the music, or a hook that is just as ill as the music, then that’s when I’m happy. Because now, the verses just got to paint around it, because you got this hook that is fighting the beat. And you got this beat that is fighting the hook, and now you got a monster on your hands. Know what I’m saying? So that’s normally my approach to making records.
JR Valrey: So what did the Mekanix do this year, what have y’all been doing since Covid began?
4 rAx: Watching the world like everybody else. We took a little small, small hiatus to reset. We shut our studio down, but we’ve been working via the internet. We still were able to put out a total of six records. We put out Beeda Weeda “Mob God”. We put out Richie Rich “The Grow Room”. We put out Mr F.A.B.’s “America Don’t Love Us”. We put out Gatlin’s “Pack Landed”. We put out Keak Da Sneak “Gorilla”. And we put out my album, 4 rAx’s “F.E.A.R.”. And most of those albums were damn-near done, if not done. We just needed release dates, so we just lined up release dates, and in between, we were shooting videos like crazy to help support the records.