Statik Selektah Talks Lecrae, Nas, Action Bronson And "Population Control"
Exclusive: The boom bap beat-maker reveals additional "Life is Good" placements, compares waistlines with his newest collaborator, and explains why a top Christian emcee "can rap his ass off."
Like many unfamiliar with Lecrae prior to his Rehab: The Overdose debuting at #1 on iTunes’ Hip Hop albums chart back in January, deejay/producer Statik Selektah too was taken back by the seemingly sudden success the Christian emcee was enjoying.
“I saw him on the chart, [and] I was like, ‘Who the hell is this dude?,’” Statik recalled to HipHopDX on Wednesday (September 28th) of his initial response to Lecrae’s chart domination. “You know, he was selling more than Kanye [West]. I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ So I hit him up. I found his Twitter, and I hit him. And I was like, ‘Yo, come up to [the] Shade 45 [radio show].’ So he was like, ‘Alright,’ and he came up. It was crazy how easy it was. Like, I hit him up, he came through the studio in New York, played him the beat, we did an interview for Shade 45, and the song was done like a week later.”
That song, the bouncy “Live & Let Live,” is just one of the standout selections from Statik Selektah’s fourth album, Population Control (due October 25th via Showoff/Duck Down Records). And as Statik explained to DX, he had absolutely no reservations about having Lecrae “holla’n out Jesus” on the same album that Freddie Gibbs can be heard instructing the man upstairs to “relinquish me to Lucifer,” as Gangsta Gibbs does on the LP’s first official single, “Play The Game” , alongside Big K.R.I.T.
“I mean, you know, I try to cover the whole spectrum,” said Statik with a slight chuckle when that theological contrast was pointed out to him. “You know what it is about Lecrae is he – I feel, at least on that song, he’s not really preaching, preaching. He tells a real life story. And, you know, he can rap his ass off. I hold him in the same regard I hold a lot of emcees. He’s a good dude, [and] he can rap his ass off, so I don’t really put him in that box. A lot of people are putting him in that box, and if anything I’m trying to get him respected [within] the regular Hip Hop community. ‘Cause he already got it in the Christian community, but I’m trying to get him recognized as the emcee he is.”
Appearances from an assortment of hotshot newcomers in addition to Lecrae dominate the tracklist to Statik’s new compilation. Maybe most notably are the performances by XV and Jon Connor getting on their Jules Winnfield shit for the horn-driven two-stepper “Sam Jack” and STS putting in his bid to become the Andre 3000 of his generation on the triumphant “Gold in 3D.” Additional appearances from Mac Miller, Pill, LEP Bogus Boys, Action Bronson and other stars-in-the-making help to reinforce the theme behind the title, Population Control.
“Everybody thinks they’re a rapper,” explained Statik, “everybody thinks they’re a deejay, producer or whatever, and [Population Control is] just me saying like, ‘Listen, in our world this is who gets the co-sign.’ My opinion speaks for a lot of other people as well, like deejays and cats that been doing this for a long time. And it’s like, there’s got to be a filter.”
While Statik does help overwhelmed fans filter through the deluge of new artists being thrown at them daily by showcasing his selections for 2011’s freshmen class, the boom bap beatmaker also helps to control the emcee population by only having tried-and-true veterans, like Talib Kweli, Bun B and Sean Price, grace the space not occupied by newcomers on his album.
Joell Ortiz and Brother Ali rep for the pre-blog generation on the arguable apex of Population Control, “Damn Right.” The string-laden song reaches its soulful pinnacle when bluesy guitar strumming appears during Ali’s verse, revealing a new, more developed direction for Statik’s productions that now evolve and unfold as they progress.
“I was real inspired by Kanye’s last album, the [My Beautiful] Dark Twisted Fantasy, and the way things changed,” said Statik of his impressively improved production approach. “There’s a lot of live instrumentation [on Population Control]. There’s actually a lot of songs that don’t even have samples at all. That song, [“Damn Right”], in particular, that’s live guitar. That’s not played on a keyboard or anything, it’s actual guitar.”
“It’s funny,” Statik continued, “‘cause I made that beat - like the raw part of the beat that plays in the beginning – about five years ago, when I was on tour with A Tribe Called Quest. And the first person I played it for was Ali Shaheed Muhammad, on the last day of the tour, and he was buggin’ out. So it’s dope that it’s finally coming out. Me and Joell [Ortiz] have had that song in the stash for a long time, and he recently put Brother Ali on that about a year ago. And then it didn’t make his album, and [so] I was like, ‘Let me get it.’”
One song listeners won’t be getting on Population Control is the original version of “New York, New York.” While Hip Hop heads are still treated to Styles P and Saigon waxing poetic about the big apple over Statik’s saxophone-sprinkled track on the album, they will unfortunately not be hearing the version that featured one of New York’s most legendary lyricists.
“That was Nas’ record to begin with,” revealed Statik. “And he recorded it too. He just, he told me that, ‘I’m not doing anything with this one,’ so I moved on. But that was Nas’ record.”
The Brooklynite (by way of Lawrence, Massachusetts), who occasionally deejays for Esco when DJ Green Lantern is unavailable, first revealed to HipHopDX a year ago that he had “just did a couple of records with Nas,” and subsequently provided an update to HipHopSite.com just last mont that at least one of his productions for Nas appears to be a lock for Life is Good.
“I was with Nas last week, and he told me he did a couple more songs to my beats,” Statik revealed to DX, updating his update. “So hopefully I get a couple on [Life is Good]. But I know one’s on there [for sure].”
For the highly in-demand beatmaker, placement on Nas’ new album will not keep one of the most consistent suppliers of sonic heat to the who’s who of the indie Rap arena that appear on Population Control from continuing to crank out headnodders for whomever he feels deserve to be part of the population. As right after the release of his new album, Statik will reappear at retail on November 11th with the LP he produced for Action Bronson, Well Done.
“Action [Bronson’s] a good dude,” said Statik of his newest full-length collaborator, following Saigon, Termanology, Freeway and Bumpy Knuckles. “Everybody that’s met him has said how much his presence is positive. He’s a good dude.”
One supporter of the new Statik Selektah/Action Bronson union is superproducer Just Blaze, who in a recent tweet suggested that Statik and Bronson may just be Hip Hop’s new “Twinz.”
Statik however doesn’t agree with Blaze’s assessment: “I don’t even get that, man. Action got about a hundred pounds on me. [Laughs]”