Producers Corner: Cool & Dre
With every partnership, business or pleasure there is always some conflict. But for High School friends Andre Lyon and Marcello Valenzano life on South Beach couldnt be happier or more lucrative. Cool and Dre have put their work in in the studio, the board room and with a rated restaurant on South Beach the producers who brought us a track which was responsible for selling 16 million albums are just getting started.
HipHopDX.com caught up with Cool after a long session in the studio and talked keeping the stress levels down, the creative juices flowing and whose voice calling their name means the most.
HHDX: How easy was it for you and Dre to come together to form this partnership?
Cool: It was a natural thing when it happened as we started out as high school friends and from there we formed an R&B group. So we were friends and doing different things musically before we started to produce. When we finally got into the production thing it was a natural progression, I was a DJ at the time as well and we were in the group and we were real creative cats and basically it was just natural to go into production.
HHDX: What were the first steps you took when it came to production?
Cool: Well we went and got a keyboard and an ASR10 and sonic and the rest is history.
HHDX: Every relationship and partnership, business or pleasure has problems, how do you combat yours?
Cool: I think that has been key as you can get two cats who have met but have no history and start doing business and not last a year or tow. The reason (we) have been able to do what we have been doing for so long is because we are really good friends before we even got into the music thing and that is the foundation you need to keep you grounded throughout your career and especially as a group or a two man duo. That was a key factor and we know what ticks each other off and basically we respect each others space and creatively that has been a key element for us. We can respect each others ideas and I am not going to come in and interrupt because you might mess up someones creative process and vice versa. If I am messing with something Dre will wait. Knowing that has helped us keep out relationship down packed.
HHDX: How is your studio ethic? Producers spend days in the studio, are you the same?
Cool: We work man; it is not an easy game. We have been blessed to be in this game for a few years and when you get a couple of hit records you are working harder because now you have hit records, people are coming to you on the daily. You have to deliver now so it is crunch time, before we were just doing beats and beats and hoping we would land some placements on albums but now people are coming to Cool and Dre for hit records, they are not coming for album fillers. WE are in the studio all day, every day. I mean I dont know what a vacation is.
HHDX: Oh word?
Cool: [Laughs] We dont do that, we still dont take vacations, that is why we have so many records coming out because we are in the studio every day and we have to make some time for a vacation. But we are in the studio everyday but right now I dont see it anywhere in the schedule.
HHDX: Obviously you are based out of Miami, do you find it easier to work in your own environment or are you cool working pretty much anywhere?
Cool: I mean for me and Dre it has been a blessing; as long as there is a good vibe in the studio. There has been a few times when the place has been a little confined or the vibe isnt right or I creative juices arent flowing so we have to step out or listen to some old Phil Collins or whatever inspires us. But for the most part we have been good working in different places. From California working in The Record Plant or working in the Boom Boom Studios, we havent had any problems creating great records. As far as Miami, we have our own places. I just built a studio in my house, so I like working at the house. I am most creative there. Right now we are working with Ludcaris new artist and we are working with him at Circle House and we have been creating great records there and we are making great records. We are already five records in and we are co-exec producing his album, the magic is there. There are pluses in working in the house but we have been blessed to be able to work anywhere and create great records.
HHDX: When you are looking for inspiration what is it about Phil Collins then, kind of an abstract name to mention there?
Cool: Yeah well me and Dre are big music buffs and we are heavy into the 70s/80s/early nineties stuff. I was a DJ and Dre as a kid grew up listening to MTV and our music knowledge is pretty broad. We could listen to Stix to Tears for Fears to some Phil Collins to Curtis Mayfield, there is just a broad selection of music and most of the time we try to get in that zone where we listen to some Michael Jackson or some Phil Collins and it is that s**t that gets us going. It is the starter.
HHDX: What do you think has been the biggest advancement in technology for producers while you have been producing?
Cool: Well I think definitely the whole Protools coming into music has been a big thing. It has made everything so much easier as far as the recording process and now Protools is a big part of the production process as well and moving into the future it will be an even bigger part of the production process as well. Now you have producers doing most of their tracks on Protools; so I would say that has been a big change in the whole music production aspect. You also have all Soft Sets where you have all computer based instruments that are coming into play. Dre and I are heavily into those as well. But for me and Dre, the big change in our production was an MPC because when we had our ASR and keyboard we couldnt get it to sound a certain way and get our drums to punch a certain way and to this day we dont know how Timbaland makes that ASR10 sound how it does. I dont know what the hell he does. Dre and I one day we were mixing at a big studio and we thought we had to mix at a big studio to get our drums right, this was years ago when we were just starting out. The engineer told us, this starts from the drum, get an MPC and we invested some money and we heard the difference. Us getting an MPC early on was a big step as that got our production sounding quality wise to the level of how everyone else was sounding.
HHDX: The beat that seemed to set the stage for you had to be "Hate it of Love it".
Cool: Man that record right there we call it an American Classic. That record has a story like every big record. We produced that record in my Moms garage.
HHDX: How long ago was this?
Cool: We did that beat two or three years before. We were working on the beat and I brought up the sample as I had been digging in the crates. I started to chop it up and boom, we had the drums going, but I didnt like the bounce, as something wasnt right. Sometimes if we are not 100% on the drums or not feeling the beat we just let it sit a while or we might start a whole new different type of beat and come back to that one. I let it sit for a while and Dre got back and we got to work on it. We took a whole different approach as when we got back and heard it, we heard it a whole different way when we came back and we chopped it up different and literally did the whole beat all over again. Some how, we still dont know who hand delivered it to Game, but I heard it on the radio. I had hit up Sha Money one day as we had beats for 50 Cent and he was like oh yeah we used your beat for Game's album and then two weeks later I heard that shit on the radio in Miami. It had got leaked and the spins on it were ridiculous before it even came out and they were forced to put it out second. One thing about me and Dre is we have been blessed in putting out records that bring the industry to a halt. That record is responsible for sixteen million records sold.
HHDX: Not surprising and then you have Mary J Blige using it for her album.
Cool: We were in the studio with Mary and she said it was her favorite beat in history. We had a session with her in California at Marvins Room which is Marvin Gayes personal studio. You cant book that studio, there are only certain clients allowed to book that studio out. So we are in there with her and we did the session and then two weeks later someone emailed me the damn freestyle she did over the record and she gave us a shout out at the end of the record. There are only certain shout outs that really mean a whole lot and a Mary shout out is a great look. When Mary does it, man she has never done that, and that was a huge look. That record was on Marys album, it was on Games album, it was on The Massacre and that shit is a classic. It was a timeless record and we have been blessed to be able to just do those types of records.
HHDX: After "Hate it or Love" and "New York", did you find that was the turning point for you, you know it just solidified you both as reputable producers?
Cool: Yeah definitely, as you are only as hot as your last record and you have to be consistent. Even if they are not hit records, if you have three or four records out there bubbling, people look at you as no fly by night guys. It was just the fact that we had New York with Fat Joe, Ja Rule and Jadakiss and then Game and 50. I think that was so big for us because at the time Ja Rule was forgotten about and then we when he came back with that joint we took him off the respirator for a little bit. Then here comes Cool and Dre for the opposite side.
HHDX: But production knows no sides though does it?
Cool: [Laughing] No, you are right, production knows no sides. Like me and Dre were saying, we are not into the whole beef shit, at the end of the day if we were caught up in the beef shit, the world would have missed out on two great records. We dont get involved in it. So effectively we had those two records and then we had the Fat Joe, "So Much More" come out, so this combination of these records all on the Billboard at the same time kind of solidified Cool and Dre.
HHDX: Do producers understand the importance of taking care of themselves when it comes to endless hours in the studio?
Cool: It is so important, I had major complications almost two years ago and you have to take care of yourself. My mom always said "you work so hard; you are not going to have heath to enjoy all the benefits." So I think you have to put your health first before anything. You are no good if you are in a hospital bed, you cant take care of your business, you cant take care of your family. Stress is the worst. In the music industry the main concerns with producers in the studio for so many hours is nutrition. You are in there late night ordering all kinds of burgers and chicken wings, pizzas and all kinds of shit and that all takes some kind of toll on your health. Also rest, like in the industry if you go to sleep at 11.30/12 that is unheard of. Cats are going to sleep, you know we go to sleep at 6 or 7 every morning and we may wake up at 12-1. That is one thing I have been trying to do, switch up my work schedule as that takes its toll on you on your health as well, not getting enough rest. So eating, rest and stress, as there is a lot of stress involved in this as well, we are blessed to be doing what we are doing and we love what we are doing; but you have to deal with all those things. Watch you stress level, rest and you have to eat right as those three components will f**k you up.
HHDX: What would you say are your three favorite tracks that you have produced?
Cool: I would have to say one of my favorites is Fat Joe "So much More", you would hear the instrumentals and you would go to other cities and DJs were playing it. Of course "Hate it or Love it" and then I would to say "New York". That record was just some shit you had never heard in your life.
HHDX: You do have your own label and you opened your restaurant down there on Ocean, how easy is it for you to handle everything?
Cool: As far as the restaurant, we are co-owners so we just come in and make sure the numbers are right as we have management staff, that is really about it. We have an event there on Saturday called Social Snacks where there is an intimate vibe and people come and drink. We have a DJ and the restaurant is doing great. It was picked as one of the top ten restaurants on the beach and it was picked top 5 for some cooking show which they are doing about the beach. That is a great thing as well. When it comes to the label, I had the name Epidemic for a while, say since 99. I always said that was what it was going to be called. So boom, the deal came through with Dirt Bag at Jive and we had to come up with a name and this was in 2003. Epidemic was formed and Dirt Bag, we just got a deal over there at Slip n Slide with which is Epidemic/Slip n Slide. Then we have our artist Joe Hound and we just did a deal with him and then we did a deal with our other artist C-Ride which is Epidemic/PoloGround/J Records. So we are excited about that which is through Bryan Leach. We are excited man as all of our artists have got signed and they all have release dates and working on their albums and that is a great accomplishment.