Mr. Collipark Talks Soulja Boy's Decline, Pop Rappers Ruining Urban Music
Exclusive: In advance of his free mixtape, the veteran hit-maker explains his protégé's recent missteps, and breaks down how Urban music is under assault.
The musical mind behind mid-‘00s smashes for Bubba Sparxxx (“Ms. New Booty”), David Banner (“Play”), and longtime collaborators the Ying Yang Twins (“The Whisper Song”) has formally resumed crafting club-ready confections following a few years removed from the limelight. Mr. Collipark (f/k/a DJ Smurf, a/k/a Beat-In-Azz) will be making his humble request to return to dominating dance floors on Wednesday (March 2nd) with the release of his digital mixtape, the aptly titled Can I Have The Club Back, Please?
This past Tuesday (February 22nd) one of the forefathers of both Crunk and Snap music spoke with HipHopDX about the aforementioned mixtape release (which will be available for free download at ColliparkMusic.com featuring his reunion with the Ying Yang Twins after a nearly five year creative separation, and which boasts appearances from Bubba Sparxxx, Young Money Records’ Lil Chuckee and several other southern stars-in-the-making. The CEO of Collipark Music (distributed by Interscope Records) additionally discussed with DX his previous discoveries Soulja Boy and Hurricane Chris, and how their careers have been affected after splitting from their musical mentor.
Smurf also spoke about how all artists in Urban music are being adversely affected by the Pop-Rock stylings currently reshaping the sound of a culture rooted in drum-driven, dance floor friendly breakbeats.
And lastly, the nearly 20-year veteran of the Atlanta music scene revealed if it was he who in fact inspired the early sound of Outkast and the Dungeon Family.
HipHopDX: Before we get to why you want the club returned to your possession, I need you to tell me why four years later I still bump [Young] Jeezy’s “What You Talkin’ Bout” like the shit dropped yesterday?
Mr. Collipark: [Laughs] That’s ‘cause we put that soul into it, man. That’s a labor of love. When we do records, it ain’t just like a manufacturing – we get ‘em in and get ‘em out. I never did records like that. We put a lot of work and feeling into the records that we do.
DX: Is that pimpilicious production your best work you think?
Mr. Collipark: [Short pause] No. I mean, you know what I think? I’ve done so much different styles of stuff … Like I always say [that] the stuff that I did for Jeezy, [“Trap Star” and “What You Talkin’ Bout”], is some of my most proud work, because that was like me and B.G. helping him at a time when people thought that he was over. That was when he broke off from Cash Money Records. That was when he left [Bad Boy Records and Boyz N Da Hood]. And we were able to get some real good quality music outta that, and that’s because I really went at that like, Man, somebody’s [career] is depending on these records. So, I take the most pride in those records…when it comes to stuff outside of my club stuff.
DX: Speaking of, will the sound of Can I Have The Club Back, Please? be more fly-sounding pimp shit like that Jeezy track ….
Mr. Collipark: No, not at all. I mean, the Jeezy stuff was kinda like – If you know any of my old work back when I was making albums, my first album as an artist [in 1995], when I was being called DJ Smurf, was called Versastyles. And I had all kinds of beats on there, like stuff that even back then was ahead of its time. So, I’ve always done all different types of music. But my love has always been [for] the club, uptempo stuff, ‘cause that’s what I grew up on.
When I think of the club I think of girls shakin’ and sweatin’, and guys’ backs up against the wall and the girl’s behind up on they crotch. I wanna go back to those days.
DX: So is there anything like the Ying Yang Twins’ “Whisper Song” sound?
Mr. Collipark: Yeah, we got one on there. I tried to address the different styles of music that people came to know me for on this mixtape. It’s really like to re-familiarize the people who already know about what we did and get them back involved, and then to get this new generation. So, Ying Yang is involved in like four or five records on there – one, “Boomerang,” which has that classic “Whistle While You Twurk,” Ying Yang type sound, and then another one that addresses the “Whisper” type sound, but they not whispering on it. It’s called “You Know You Like That” – very nasty, but it’s so clever the way they can make stuff so nasty sound so … In they way it’s pimperish. Like, “The Whisper Song” was a pimp record to me. So they have a way of making those kind of records to where people – especially guys, I think guys get into those kind of records just as much as the girls do.
DX: Now the obvious question: Why a mixtape? I thought you were beyond doing this stuff and were in CEO mode with Collipark Music?
Mr. Collipark: I brought my group, Treal Lee & Prince Rick, over here from Dallas to do a promo run. I don’t get out to the clubs like I used to. So, we did a big club run where we hit most of the clubs in Atlanta. And the club scene was just so sad to me, because nobody looked like they were really enjoying themselves. It was just all these people packed in these buildings and not partying. They was in there just socializing, and on their phones and talking and emailing and tweeting and stuff like that. It was really disappointing to me just to think, when people used to say “Atlanta nightlife,” it was like the place to be. You knew what it was. When Lil Jon and Ying Yang and all that stuff was out, you knew when you went out in Atlanta you went out to party. Well, that’s not what I saw. So that’s when I said, “This is partly my fault, because we stopped making the type of music that was the soundtrack for that scene.” And so I said, “Well, I’m not gon’ complain about it, I’ma get back in the studio and attempt to bring that vibe back to the club.”
DX: So were you like officially retired as a beatmaker?
Mr. Collipark: Nah, I just stopped. Really, when Ying Yang and I split it was the chemistry – we used to do that music with such ease that when we split it’s almost like, Man, why try to create that sound with somebody else? I didn’t want it to sound like a cheap knockoff or somebody trying to rekindle the vibe of what he had with somebody else. I didn’t want that on me; I didn’t want that on them. So I just kinda stopped doing it. And so with this mixtape that’s why I called them back in when I decided to do it. Like, they had to be a part of the sound.
DX: So you’re back in the music making mode, but I mentioned you had been in the CEO mode. So is the Interscope situation still in effect?
Mr. Collipark: Yeah, I still have my situation over there at Interscope [Records]. With any relationship you go through the good times and the bad times. And it’s not just Interscope, it’s all the majors now. I don’t like the way that they’re presenting the type of music that I like to do. Because, the way that the business is now it’s five times harder to introduce a Soulja Boy to the game than it was three years ago. People think Urban music is dead. Everything is Pop. Even the Urban music that they putting out now, it’s Pop. You got very few Urban acts that are making true Urban music. And so, I don’t wanna change what I do just because they’re saying that it doesn’t sell anymore. So I’ve just had a problem – Like with Treal Lee & Prince Rick, we’ve got a record called “Throwed Off (Fuck Everybody)” that I took back totally independent just because I didn’t wanna say that that type of music is dead. And I think that’s a big reason why Urban music isn’t selling, because we’re emulating somebody else’s music now. Nobody’s looking at us to be the trendsetters right now, so that’s why it’s not selling. The people who are meant to set what’s supposed to be cool are not setting what’s supposed to be cool right now. We walking around with skinny jeans and funny haircuts now. And that’s not where we come from. We’re doing what somebody else is already doing. So, I’m not bowing down to that.
DX: Preach. Preach. I been waiting for somebody to speak on this. You don’t wanna hate on what B.o.B.’s doing, or Eminem’s doing or Kid Cudi’s doing, but man, this could like literally be the slow death of Urban music like you said.
Mr. Collipark: Well, I think it’s actually fixing itself now. Because, you’re looking at the artists, [they] are coming back - the artists that are building their own fan base, outside of the system. You take like a Lil B, artists like that, even a Wiz Khalifa, artists that had to step [back independent] - both of those artists I mentioned had major label record deals. They had to get kicked out of the system, and go back and do it the way that they wanted to do it, then get a true fan base, and then get back in the system. Lil B is still independent, but Wiz, he got back re-signed over to Atlantic [Records]. Those are prime examples of people not taking the time to present this music and shape it and mold it and put it out there the way that it’s meant to be put out there, instead of just being a cookie cutter, get him in the studio with this producer ‘cause he’s hot. And if this don’t work, that’s your ass. Well we put you in the studio with a will.i.am, it didn’t work; that’s your ass. Well, will.i.am ain’t the type of producer I needed to be in the studio with in the first place.
DX: Speaking of artist’s fates in this new music market, I just have to ask, do you think Soulja Boy woulda seen this decline in popularity he’s experiencing with his third album if he hadn’t stepped away from working with you?
Mr. Collipark: Well, I always think two heads are better than one. So, in that respect - I think the chemistry was always what [we both] brought to the table …. And I think once you break anybody’s chemistry up – if anything is different in anybody’s circle you’re gonna see a difference in the results, for better or for worse. More times for worse than for better, but … He’s still signed to Collipark [Music]. [But] it’s just that, I’m not that much of a CEO to the point to where I’m gonna try to force somebody to do something in a fashion that they don’t believe in. He wanted to do it his way; he did it his way. And those were the results. I had nothing to do with how that project was done, so…that’s the results.
DX: Another younger artist you had a heavy hand in was Hurricane Chris. I personally thought he shoulda kept rockin’ wit’chu, ‘cause that joint you did for him, that “Playas Rock,” was really the best commercial look he had. Was it sort of the same situation with him where he wanted to branch off and do his own thing?
Mr. Collipark: That was a more complicated situation, where it was other people involved in it. But, at the end of the day, yeah. I don’t force [situations], because I know my value; I know my worth to a situation. So I’m not gonna force somebody to have success. So, people thought that they wanted to go a certain route, and I just stepped away from it. Had he gone on to become the artist that I know he could have become, I still would have been [there] for him. But again, I have the way that I see I think it ought to go. And, when we all on the same page it works well. When we all start looking in different directions then it’s bad for everybody.
DX: So are you still looking for that next Soulja Boy or Hurricane Chris …. ?
Mr. Collipark: I got that next thing: Translee. I haven’t signed him; I’m just working with him, ‘cause I don’t wanna taint what he has. I believe in full expression, so I’m just kinda overseeing what he’s doing right now. … I think he’s what’s going on now meets what I do. And what separates him from everybody out there is that he makes me feel like when I first started listening to east coast Rap, but [he’s] not an east coast rapper. It’s like, what he brings to the game now is how I felt when I first started listening to other types of Hip Hop other than Luke and [DJ] Magic Mike. We always felt out of place when stuff like Leaders Of The New School or A Tribe Called Quest - all that east coast stuff was kinda foreign to us. So when we heard it, it was always like, it was good, but it was kinda weirdo, to the left for us. Well, Translee represents the first – to me – artist from the south that does that. But it don’t make me feel like I’m listening to a weirdo. [Laughs]
DX: This final question I have for you…I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never been asked this question before. Most folks know Smurf started out back in the day producing mostly Bass music [driven] selections for ATL pioneer MC Shy-D. What most people don’t know is that Shy-D’s “Back To Decatur” was very Organized Noize-ish before Outkast debuted. Do you think you at all influenced the signature sound of the Dungeon Family?
Mr. Collipark: Um…I would have to say no. I would have to say no simply because that stuff at that time – I wanna say we were all cookin’ around the same time. Unless they were really just looking at what we were doing, and with like a fine-tooth comb, I just think we kinda were in the – Let me tell you something about where Atlanta was then, as opposed to where it is now: we didn’t know we were getting record deals. Even when I got with [MC] Shy-D, he was in between record deals. It wasn’t like it was a given to have a record deal with somebody. We didn’t know we were getting record deals so it was our job to be creative and bring something to the table that was creative, and that’s when you get music from the soul. Nobody’s got that in their music no more, especially on the Hip Hop side, that I’m hearing from Atlanta. Everybody’s hittin’ the club, swagged up. And even that music, it’s like it’s coming through a cookie cutter right now. So, back then we didn’t have to be in the same crew; we were all just trying to be creative with what we were trying to present to the music scene.
You know what? If you ask [Organized Noize] that question, and they said yes, I would be – that would be an honor. I would be very, very shocked to hear that that record influenced what they were doing. Because honestly, when I heard that first Outkast album [Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik], I couldn’t tell what inspired them. And that’s difficult for me. Like, to hear a record to where you hear it and you be like, "Damn! What was he thinking about when he did that?" You don’t get that. That first Outkast album, being from Atlanta, that sound was not introduced to nobody. So it was like, I spent that whole album wondering what the hell they was on. [Laughs]