Producer's Corner: Quincey Tones
London based producer Quincey Tones has had a pretty eventful year. His remix of Jay-Zs "I Know," which was originally stamped with the Pharrell seal, has been dubbed better than the original. His creativity was approved with God's Gangster, a mixtape that featured the vocal of, again, Jay-Z and the lyrically ornate Nasir Jones. Each project a great introduction to both Hip-Hop fans and the industry, with a DIY approach that helped 9th Wonder transition from North Carolina producer to superstar five years ago.
With a unique and intricate approach to sampling as the back bone of his production technique, displayed on the underground cult album from EMC, Quincey Tones was a musician before a producer. Adamant that he is not here just for the interim, Quincey is deftly establishing himself as one of the UKs hottest exports.
With his recent battle with cancer pushing him harder than he has ever been pushed before Quincey assures us that his best is yet to come. And working on his own conceptual album, he is ready to show the world just what that best is. Humble, hardworking and highly-skilled, Quincey Tones might just be the UK's hottest Hip Hop commodity.
HipHopDX: How did you get your start in music?
Quincey Tones: I played bass guitar in a lot of bands as a kid and I played in Reggae bands and supported some legendary artists. But in Hip Hop, it wasnt until I started out playing in a band with a deejay and an emcee, that got me [involved] and it was from there I pushed on and decided to become a producer. I learned from those guys as they were already on the scene themselves. Being a musician has been helpful when it comes to the production aspect, as you know where to place stuff and you can tell when you hear certain things that a person might not have a good ear for music [can't], and it is a great start for any producer to be able to play live instruments.
DX: You were playing in bands from primary/grade school?
Quincey Tones: Yeah I wasnt taking music seriously until I was about 11 or 12 and then I was playing in all types of bands until about seven years ago, when I started seeing myself as a producer.
DX: Some so-called fans of music dont seem to understand the difference between a beat and a track that uses live instrumentation. Being that you are a musician, does it annoy you that people dont recognize what has gone into a track?
Quincey Tones: Not really, as unless you are really involved in the track, you are not really going to understand what has gone into the track. There is a great art to sampling and I do that a lot, whether people think it is sampling or live instrumentation doesnt bother me. I have been adding a lot of live instrumentation myself to stuff. I do think most people can tell when it is a sample and when it is chopped up and when it is live instrumentation and obviously, nowadays, it is a lot harder for big artists to use samples so they turn to live instrumentations.
DX: The track "Ma Money" [click to listen] you did with Dap C which featured Lil Wayne, Talib and Royce and also the one you did for UK artist Low-key were very soundtrack/movie score driven, was that the intention and is this something you see yourself doing in the future, movie scoring?
Quincey Tones: For the Low-key track, with the subject matter, I needed something that had to be real emotional.
DX: Oh so you knew what he wanted?
Quincey Tones: Yeah we had already talked about what the concept was, and what it was about so it was my job to make the beat for it. And with the music alone you had to be able to make people cry for that track. I am not sure if the Dap C [song] was specifically a soundtrack sample, but I know what you mean. With the Dap C track, it just had to be an epic joint. I mean down the line, I would like to get into all kinds of different things; but I think obviously I need to make my stamp first as a Hip Hop producer first and foremost. I certainly plan dabble in producing other forms of music with big instrumentation, but to do that I feel I would need to make a name for myself first.
DX: Funny you say that though as your version of Jay-Zs "I Know" is considered, by some, better than Pharrells, which is a pretty solid stamp.
Quincey Tones: Hopefully a few big people got to hear that, including Jay-Z [click to read] himself. With that track, I just did it and put it over the video and hoped for the best and hoped with the Internet how it is, it would get round and have people start talking and thankfully they did. I did get a lot of people hitting me up looking for beats after that and also the Nas project I did Gods Gangster. With that all I wanted to do was see how the dopest emcees would sound over my beats. It was a good idea.
DX: Do you feel that was a solid introduction to the US market?
Quincey Tones: Yes I mean I had already been fairly well known on the underground in New York mainly, having worked with Masta Ace and Wordsworth [as EMC] [click to read], my name had got around a little but that was more amongst the rappers. Hopefully the God's Gangster and the Jay-Z remixes got my names out to fans as well.
DX: Being that you are from the UK has it proved difficult for you excel being that you are based in London?
Quincey Tones: Yeah, well ideally, I would like to be out there [in America] working with the artists, but I do what I can with an ocean between us in a production sense, apart from just making a beat. When I do work with an artist, I will spend a lot of time talking about concepts and we are constantly in conversation about where to take the track and they will send me rough versions of the vocals and I will do my thing that way. But there is nothing like just being in the studio with the artist, working with them that way. But hopefully it wont be too long before I can get out there and start working with them.
DX: So that is the plan then?
Quincey Tones: Yeah, I mean I have never actually been to New York, but hopefully in the next six months or so I am hoping to go out there for at least a month or two and connect with all the people I have worked with in the past. Basically network and connect with new people, just get some work done.
DX: Listening to your music you definitely have that underground appeal that can easily cross over to the mainstream. You know even though you havent worked with Jay -Z we heard how good he sounded on one of your beats, is this the direction you are hoping to take where you can walk the line between both mainstream and underground?
Quincey Tones: Yes, but really I want to work with anyone who is good. I have done a lot of work with underground artists, people probably know me more for that but I think with the stuff I am doing I think I have stepped my game up massively in the last six months and no one has yet heard that as nothing has come out yet, but it will be coming out soon. There are going to be some bigger things coming out with bigger artists and I think you will hear a lot more versatility from me and get that I can work with an underground artist to a major label artist.
DX: When you talk about big things coming up for you I am assuming you are talking about your own album. Can you give us a bit of insight into this project?
Quincey Tones: My own album is a concept album and I did want to do something to make it more cohesive rather than making collaboration. I wont go too much into the concept as I want it to be fresh when it does drop; but in terms of artists and features on there, there are people from all around the world. From the UK, there are guys like Young Gun, Low-key, then there is Naledge from Kidz In The Hall [click to read], Royce Da 59", Masta Ace, Trife, Ras Kass [click to read] and lots of other people you wouldnt expect me to work with as well, that arent even involved in Hip Hop. But like I said, I have been stepping up my game massively and hopefully people will hear that when they hear the album. It is Hip Hop, but there are live strings and big horn sections, lots of live instrumentation mixed up with what people know me for, which is the sample sound. That sound is always going to be a part of me as I am a massive record collector and a massive and of how Hip Hop was originally made which was with the samples. I have recently been adding more to my music but I will always sample.
DX: When it comes to your work ethic are you a night owl? Up all night?
Quincey Tones: I probably do most of my stuff between midnight and four in the morning, but I will sleep during the day if need be.
DX: What projects do you have coming up?
Quincey Tones: I have stuff coming up with O.C. and I am going to be working with UK artists a bit more too, artists which people might not have heard a lot from yet, Low-key, Ten Shot, Young Gun again and I am going to be working with a Cypriot artist called Sniper, who has done a [DJ] Green Lantern [click to read] mixtape and is down with Memphis Bleek. Hopefully people will be hearing some big big hits from me in the future as well.
DX: Is it just as important for you to work with UK artists as it is the American?
Quincey Tones: Well like I said its not even about where they are from, it is about if they are good at what they are doing, then that is what makes me want to work with them. If people are from the UK, the US, Sweden, wherever I would like to be working with them.
DX: What do you believe it is going to take to win the major labels over in the UK to accept Hip Hop as the multi billion industry it is?
Quincey Tones: Well, obviously US Hip Hop is already accepted as it's so lucrativesome stuff over here can be successful as well -- the more alternative stuff like the Gorillaz. A guy I work with a lot, Low-key is in a new band which is basically made up of members from three of the biggest bands over here: Babyshambles, Reverend and the Makers and Arctic Monkeys, so it'll be interesting to see how that goes. At the end of the day, this is the music business so shareholders are always going to come first and selling an American product makes more sense financially. The product is already made so there's no extra production costs. So regardless, selling American product is the easy option. A lot of Hip Hop/Grime over here is doing well, but the problem seems to be who a lot of it's aimed at. It's aimed at young people, the iPod generation. So you see singles charting high, but they're not selling albums. That's 'cause it's aimed at people who are copping a couple of tracks on iTunes at best.
What I think is needed to make it happen is just the right execs at labels. But I think a lot of it just boils down to people taking the easy option. Looking at it from another angle... it's the easy option for selling in the UK. On the other hand, a lot of countries look to the UK. So looking at the bigger picture, it'd be worth putting in the extra work in the UK, 'cause then that can be exported to Europe and the far east etc the same way America exports to us. I think a lot can be learned from France, well, a lot of countries. They sell their own product and make good money. Some of that boils down to the language, Americans speak English so that makes it easier to import to the UK. But still, these countries actually make an effort to sell unlike the UK. On 50 [Cent's] new album, they're gonna take a [Tony] Yayo verse off the French version and put Booba on. Why isn't Dizzee [Rascal] [click to read] or Sway doing the same for the UK version? That's instantly tapping into 50's fan base.
So basically, the labels are the ones that prevent it being a force to be taken seriously. If they got behind it, it'd be a force to be reckoned with. UK stuff is what's hot right now out here.. that's what's hot with the kids... but it doesn't translate to sales. I think ultimately it needs young and visionary execs not some old suit. People who understand the music and the consumers but who are masterminds as well.
DX: Does the street violence we see in the UK prevent Hip Hop from being accepted by certain demographics because they associate violence with Hip Hop?
Quincey Tones: I guess it's pretty much the same as people in America blaming Hip Hop for gangs/violence/guns/drugs. In short, yeah a middle-aged housewife with little kids isn't going to want to listen to some thugged-out Hip Hop, so yeah, it isn't accepted by certain demographics. But of course a lot of it's ignorance and people generalize all Hip Hop as being negative. Sometimes it's maybe even xenophobic but you know, Hip Hop was all about block parties until some rich white guy noticed he could make a lot of money selling negative shit. Some people are more informed though the mayor of London and some top politicians want to get behind an anti-violence track I've done with a UK dude called 10Shott. As for the people who complain and the media "is Hip Hop to blame?" It's a pretty never-ending argument and you could argue both sides pretty well. But if it does have a negative effect, it's a small one compared to the real problems. And the media would rather talk about anything than talk about the real news. Anyway, I listen to all kinds of Hip Hop from soft shit to street shit, I'll listen to what I want, I'm a grown man. But on my album, will people be rapping about negative stuff for the sake of it? No! If it serves a purpose, if it has a point, then cool.