Producer's Corner: Nottz
Equally as famous as the artists they create tracks for some producers still like to lay in the cut and live a normal life. Their whole existence is housed within the four walls of their recording studio and as hard as it may be for the attention seekers out there to comprehend for producers like Nottz, that is just how they like it.
Hailed as "your favorite producer's favorite producer" Nottz has earned his stripes by crafting tracks for a diverse list of clientele. Void of nepotism his ability and originality are factors that allow this Virginia native to continue to thrive. As much as he enjoys working with the mainstream acts, he is quite happy to push product to an unknown dude from the hood. His musical backdrops know no boundaries and as he explains in this interview, it is this attribute that allows him to be the go to guy for the majors as well as the lords and ladies of the underground.
With the procurement of something abnormal being the aim of any entertainer who makes the acquaintance of Nottz, the likelihood of him ever changing his style is as far fetched as swine taking to the skies. He is what he does and stands by every sound he makes, how many can say that and truly mean it in the industry today? Called out by Masta Ace, hitting a home run with "Barry Bonds" and taking Tina Turner to a whole other level, Nottz gives Producer's Corner a 40-minute interview which allows fans and those intrigued by this man's basslines and samples a look into what makes him tick.
HipHopDX: You are working on your own album right now, how close to completion is that? How important is time management when working on something of your own?
Nottz: Well I am just waiting on a couple of tracks, so maybe another week or two. Time management hasnt really been a problem really, as I am here in the studio everyday, all day. It helps me out working with people who have different styles when it comes to working on my project you know. Being that I am just getting my first album out, I get to venture off to work with lots of different sounds. Lets say I am working on a project with Snoop [Dogg] [click to read], maybe I would bring a lil west coast vibe to the project because of that and it might encourage me to put a song on there like that.
DX: When working in the studio with artists on their projects and then going in and doing your own stuff, is it the musician within you that allows you to adapt, as some people have commented that at times it can be quite hard?
Nottz: No. [Laughs] It is real easy. I do this every day.
DX: Do you experiment more when it is your own stuff?
Nottz: Oh yeah. Definitely. Especially with the basslines. Now I am doing my bass lines like I used to do them in the '90s. I branched out a little bit, but now I am trying to go back to that Busta [Rhymes] [click to read] era.
DX: Why has it taken you so long to bring your own project out?
Nottz: [I] never had the urge to do it. Nobody around me really pushed me to do it. Darryl, my manager, talked about it but I never took it seriously. I said I would do it but it never really happened but now I am getting older it seemed the right time and it is coming out kind of crazy.
DX: Who is on there?
Nottz: Well you have Kardinal [Offishall] [click to read], Little Brother [click to read], The Game [click to read], Scarface [click to read], Bilal, Colin Munroe [click to read], Joy Denalane, Dwele, Asher Roth [click to read].
DX: Quite a diverse cast you have there, was it easy to make them all jump on board?
Nottz: Yeah, all the way. I just told them I needed them on a record and that was it.
DX: On any project like this you always get someone who gives you the run around to a certain degree, did you have to deal with that?
Nottz: Oh yeah, a couple of cats gave me the "Ill have it to you Thursday," then when Thursday comes around, "I will have it for you next Thursday." [Laughs]
DX: Whats the name of the album?
Nottz: I was leaning towards [using the same title as] the joint I had with Dwele called "You Need To Know This Music," but I dont know yet; it is still up in the air.
DX: Who is putting it out?
Nottz: Its a secret. [Laughs] Theres a little bidding war going on for it.
DX: Looking at the people you have on the album and just your presence in the industry you have always been able to produce for the underground artists and yet still be on the major A&Rs hit list too. How do you do that?
Nottz: Stay consistent with it and instead of listening to the radio every day, and getting brainwashed by all that bullshit that is coming out, staying in my own lane. I think doing that, youll be okay. I mean thats what I do. I dont listen to the radio at all; I stay away from it. I have this track out with Dwele called "You Need To Know This Music," and it is talking about deejays who are getting to play the bullshit, you know the A-side records instead of the B-sides we never hear, the ones who wont give real Hip Hop a chance. And we need that, we need real Hip Hop back. It is crazy because everyone is up in arms about the new "wackness." You know we have a new dance step every week that we have to put up with. On the album I have a track with M.O.P. going hard on those dances, so get ready for that. It might start a little something, but we dont care.
DX: Do you feel that Slaughterhouse have brought some authenticity back to the charts?
Nottz: Somewhat, as all of them can rap, every last one of [the members of Slaughterhouse] [click to read] is a great lyricist. We all know they won't get their shine like they deserve as theres so many people that hate on them, which shouldnt come into it as when you have good music you should let it play. But there are a lot of enemies. I love their work man, thought the joint I did for them would have made the album, the "Woodstock" [click to listen] joint I did.
DX: You dont really do many interviews, so Im not sure if this next topic has ever been addressed
Nottz: I hate interviews. [Laughs] People re-word a lot of shit.
DX: When Masta Ace called you out on "Acknowledge" for producing Boogieman, how did you feel about that as its seldom you see a rapper go after the producer of a track that another rapper has recorded a diss over?
Nottz: That was a sucker move, man. He couldnt take down the rapper, so he went for the producer. I did a record and we never even put it out, because after that, they supposedly squashed the beef. So many dudes came through because they knew what I was doing and were like "Yo I wanna get on that." So we did the record and just different rappers would be stopping by to get on that. Everyone was tearing him to pieces.
HipHopDX: Well it was a low blow and I maybe shouldnt be speaking so subjectively.
Nottz: Yeah its cool though, but its over and done with. It was fun at the time. You dont have to get violent with it; I mean they squashed their beef, so there was no point in putting the record out. I dont even have a copy of it. Someone around here has a copy but I dont have it.
DX: Do you have any certain tricks to make it sound like you have two artists in the studio considering all the big name collaborations you have produced?
Nottz: Not really, it just comes natural. Everything just comes natural; there is no trick to it.
DX: How does it come so naturally to you then?
Nottz: Well I started out rapping and nobody would give me any beats, so I started doing my own stuff and it went from there. My brothers and my manager were also doing beats back in the day. They stopped but I kept going and this is where I am now. I often think about if my brothers hadnt stopped doing that shit, we would all be side by side now tearing shit to pieces. Now, everyone is doing it. There are so many people sounding like Dilla out here, so many people out here sounding like [Dr.] Dre, so many people sounding like Nottz.
DX: Well imitation is said to be a form of flattery.
Nottz: I dont like it at all. When you listen to a Dr. Dre album and then you listen to a west coast dude you never know. "Did Dre do that?" Then you come to find out some no-name dude that sounds like Dr. Dre did it, its bonkers. Thats not cool. You gotta take what this man do to get where you are at now? I dont like that recycled work too much.
Everything sounds like it is recycled and we have to come up with some newness. Thats what the fans want, they want that newness but none of that is coming out right now. We just missed the Hip Hop boat and hopefully it will come back around when we drop this album and some other cats will bring out some Hip Hop. But these dances, man
DX: They really bother you dont they?
Nottz: [Laughs] Yes and this is what we have to do; we need to put them all onto a spaceship with just enough fuel to get there and boom, no communication and no idea how to get back. Send them away.
DX: But there is a market for that. How can you change it?
Nottz: I have no idea when I think back to Joeski Love and "The Pee Wee Dance" and Kid n Play ["Do The Kid n' Play Kick-Step"], you can take it back to that and we loved that shit. Now its our kids that are loving these dances. I might not like it, I dont fuck with it and I wont change my style to do music for it, but yes it is the way of the world. I guess it is supposed to move this way, but I think its just been too damn long. I mean yes, it is a fad but it isnt going away yet.
This is totally a different subject, but remember when Lil Jon came out and he was knocking everybody on the head with it? Where is the dude at now? When he came out, I didnt fuck with him screaming on his shit, but I fucked with his tracks. Then he started doing a lot of records that sounded the same to me, and I dont think it was down to him, it was the people who wanted this sort of shit. This goes back to when people would ask me for a track that sounded like something else and I would be like, "No dude, I dont do things like that." You will never hear a track from me that sounds like something else I did. Im not trying to go that way. That is probably one of the main reasons I am still floating because I stay doing it different every day.
DX: Well you have to keep it fresh for yourself right? But its funny hearing you say this as another producer I interviewed for this column said why wouldnt someone want to go the same way if what they had created was a hit.
Nottz: We need from somewhere, something new. Every time you turn on the radio its an R&B song where they are talking about fucking every day or theres a new dance out, or you have a rapper on there who from the way he sounds makes your IQ level drop instantly.
DX: Talk about "Barry Bonds" and how collaborating with Kanye West works?
Nottz: Well I mean I had never talked to this dude, had never met him. But one of my dudes played some of my music for him and when he heard that track he said, "I need that track, I have been fucking with Nottz for a minute." It was the last track for [Graduation] [click to read] and the only street record he had. For that album, everyone he had on there was people he thought was hot and I appreciate that. He knocked that track out in a couple of days and it came out the way it came out.
DX: It got you a Grammy.
Nottz: [Laughs] Yes.
DX: There are some huge names on that album, what do you think made that albums collaborative work stand out?
Nottz: He did that from his heart and you can tell around that time he wasnt the normal Ye. He dumbed it down a little bit and kind of calmed down a bit. He was a cooled down Ye and you can tell from it that everything came from the heart. I love that album, it is so crazy, you just feel it. Its just one of those albums you can play all the way through.
DX: You killed that Tina Turner sample on "You Cant Hide The Truth," were you holding onto that like you did the Lenny Wilson sample on "Girl You Know"?
Nottz: Nah, my manager was talking about everyone sounding like Jay-Z [click to read], Big Pun and Scarface so I asked him what he wanted to do and he said, "Ima bring these records down and I want you to fuck with them." When he brought the Tina Turner joint I was like, "Nah, I dont want to mess with that." He was like, "Just do it," so he left and came back and that shit was together. He was like, "Now write a record to it," so I did. Kardinal and Cory Gunz [click to read] wrote their verses for it and that was it
If it had been bigger than what it was, and I mean have some more promo and a mean ass video it would have been huge and folks would have really been hurt by that record. It goes directly at those new dudes who sound like the next man. Like what we already been talking about, we need something new.
I think we need people to buy CDs again, but they come with digital books where when you get the CD you have to listen to people tell you how to make music and in order to listen to the music you have to listen to all this first.
DX: Not a bad idea really. It might make these folks who wake up one morning and think they are now rappers or producers.
Nottz: It be the craziest shit, man, as people come up here or they hit me on all these websites with, "You dont know what I can do for you," "I will be the one to blow you up and put you on the map," and it is like they just dont know who they are dealing with. They ask me how long I have been doing this, and explain that they have been doing it two months and how hot they are. Man it be the funniest shit.
DX: With the decline of album sales, obviously budgets take a drop too. Does that affect you?
Nottz: Yeah, because the majority of us sample and we started in this business sampling, started out listening to a lot of sampled records and when we started the people who we were listening too also sampled. So now the samples that we use, the people be getting greedy and saying they want 100%. It doesnt really matter if you got money like that, you let them take their 100% but some dudes dont want to go through all that. But thats how we do that. The big producers, the medium producers and the small time dudes, they all do that, and I know I am not going to take my style and do something else and start playing shit. My name isnt Pharrell [click to read], my name aint [Timbaland] and that is why we are different, because we do different types of music. If you cant fuck with it, you cant fuck with it, there will be somebody else who will. I dont have the dude Pharrell fucks with, like he dont fuck with everyone I fuck with. You wouldnt see him working with no underground cat, just like you wouldnt see him doing no hood shit for a dude straight off the streets, you know doing some beats for him. You just wont see him doing that and that is why people fuck with me because I just dont give a fuck. I will do music for anyone. Some people say you gotta make it so you cant be touched and make it so it is hard to get in contact with you, but nah man, Im me everyday, I dont walk around with no bodyguards.
DX: Well your life is not your own when you are under the spotlight like that is it?
Nottz: No its not. You are running around having to look over your shoulder, fuck all that. I am in the street everyday by myself, in the mall, in the grocery store and that is how I am trying to keep it. That is not a good life, especially when some of these big names dont want to converse and interact with their fans, its not cool. These are the ones that got you there. Everyone around me, I make them feel like me. If I got money in my pocket, youre gonna feel like you have got money in yours.
DX: Your manager is definitely on point with his business, how big a role has he played in the emergence of Nottz?
Nottz: Man, its real good to have someone around you like that. Someone who can get to the people you cant get to and to have someone around you who is really dedicated to your shit, who wants to see you grow and who you want to see grown with you. You got your good guy and you got your bad guy. Someone has to be the bull and be that go-getter when you cant do it. Darryl, my manager, is the greatest manager on the planet, man.
DX: You appeared on the super producer panel this year at One Stop Shop, how important is it for you to personally educate the next generation of producers?
Nottz: Its really important, but on that stage a lot of dudes sugarcoated a lot of shit, but you have to keep it real with people and people noticed that about me; you have to tell people the truth. Dont tell people it is easy and sell them a dream when its not easy. Its more business than anything and half the people in that audience didnt know anything about the business. Put the music down for a minute and pick up a book and read it. For some they think it is all about selling a record, getting their money, getting their chain, getting their car and getting their crib. Most of us grew up with that shit in our videos and for the younger dudes they think that is how it goes. We have to blame it on ourselves too. They look at how we act, including our kids growing up. You know you cant determine who is going to be good and who is going to be bad but at least try to help out with it.