The Making of "The Call"
Current mood: pleased
Introduction prod by Random and DN3
I wanted an intro with a rap in it. I knew that from the beginning. I was thinking about Common's intro for "One Day It'll All Make Sense" (was that the intro or track 2?), so I wanted to sum up the album in one shot. First time I recorded it, I recorded it on a totally different track, much slower. Then one day, DN3 played me a joint called "Satisfaction," and I needed that. My only gripe was that it didn't have a bassline. a reviewer said it was worthy of being a full song, it was so hot (so for the remixtape, it'll have a bassline and an additional verse, pleasing him and myself at the same time...that's "Satisfaction"). The beginning 8 bars are from a beat I made in like 2003, the sample is from "Travelin' Man," and it says "Just Call," so I thought it would fit. I found a poem online called "Heed The Call," written by a guy (so sorry I forgot your name!!) and I contacted him about reciting it on the album and he was excited. I thought Oh!Mega had the perfect voice to get across the message of the poem, heeding the call.
The Opening Movement (Focused) prod. DN3
They always say (and I dont know who "they" are) that somewhere near the beginning of the album, you should have a track that hits the listener, makes them want to bob their head..a track stating who you are... all of the greats, from KRS to Rakim to Redman to Jay-Z do it. This was that track for me. Everytime I go to DN3's house I say "So wassup?" and he knows what that means: break out the beats. So he said, "I just finished this joint." and WOW! I was on it instantly. I had 1 1/2 verses written to a 'skill joint' as we call them (a rap not really about anything, just braggadocio), but didn't have a beat in mind. I spit them over that track and it was a match made in heaven. This was recorded about mid-'05, and I say in the song "'05, RAHM Nation brought the thirst back," and planned on updating it....Unfortunately, not long after recording this track, DN3 suffered what we refer to as "The Great Crash of '05." He lost a most of his files on his hard drive, including beats, and about 55% of "The Call." The Opening Movement's master files were gone. DN3 was considering quitting music altogether.
I wasn't having that!
All we had was an MP3 of it, and that's what went on the album. DN3 put it in some mastering software program, jazzed it up... and voila!
Raze The Bar prod Samik
This is my favorite story to tell. I met Samik when I was engineering at a studio outside of Philly, his studio was right across the way. this was about in 2002 or so. we heard eachother's beats, and a mutual respect was formed. I didn't know it then, but Samik's a pretty well connected cat. I didn't see him again till about 2004 at a club, and he passed me a demo cd of some of his artists. Nice stuff. So when 2005 hit and I began working on "The Call" I knew that I would call Samik for a banger. luckily his phone number was on the CD. I didn't know how to begin the conversation, I mean, "Hey, you probably don't remember me, but I'd like a beat" might not have worked well. I don't remember what was said to be honest, but I remember him asking me to come out to his crib to listen to some tracks. Let me set the scene.
It was a SUPER rainy day. his house is literally an hour from me, and I even had to get on the highway to get there. (come to think of it, it always rains when I go to his house....sign?) It's pouring, my old '89 Blazer (RIP) is struggling. I get lost. I get lost again. Finally we meet at a mutual location and I follow him for what seems like 30 more minutes. we get to the crib, and not long after, it stops raining. figures. I'm totally soaked. We get in and exchange ideas. he makes a drumbeat, I'm feeling it. I get hungry, so I make a run to Wendy's. I get some nuggets. I come back, and the track that we now know as "Raze The Bar" is done! amazed, I sit down and the lyrics just fly out of me. bam, 3 verses and a hook done in what seemed like 20 minutes. Still amazed, we lay the track down.
Then when I left Samik's crib, it started pouring again. I got lost, and my car runs out of gas right next to a gas station. What a day. What a song! The "Sick and Tireds" I do on the 3rd verse was an old idea from a song I had in about '99 called (surprise) "Sick and Tired." unfortunately, some of the things I said back then were still true today so I didnt have to change too much. and no, I wasn't dissing 50 Cent.
Still Ain't Good Enough prod Fingaz
Fingaz has been a good friend to me for quite some time. We kept each other focused with the music thing, through thick and thin. We'd encourage each other. I'd play him my newest beat CD, and he'd say "I gotta step my game up!" I'd do the same. He showed me how to use the MPC, so when I got my own, a few things came back to me from those lessons. Fingaz had been giving me CD's for weeks, and I had almost had the entire album mapped out, and there was no Fingaz beat on the itinerary. Then he gave me a CD with not one, but 2 heat rocks that I HAD to have. They were both supposed to make the album, one being "Still Ain't Good Enough" and the other being an early version of "Luminesence" that was to feature Baron of Red Clay (Baron, we gonna release that one day!) Anyway, the concept came to me immediately. The beat hit so hard, and had a bit of a bounce to it, so cats would be bobbin their head, and not even realize I was telling them something serious. I started the verse off super-fast, to grab the listener as well. I was pretty much speaking my mind on political affairs, and this wasn't long after Katrina, so they weren't gonna be positive. I mentioned Kanye's remark (the line goes "I ain't mad about Kanye's comments, I'm more mad they call Kanye conscious"). The reviewer at hiphoplinguistics.com made that verse a Quote of the Month, so I'm proud of that. I've heard it's ruffled some feathers, but it's cool. It's all true to me. The last verse is especially personal to me, as an educator. I spoke from the mind of the child that I'm trying to reach, who could care less about school, because he knew at a young age that the system is screwed up. ironically, this is my students' favorite song. When we play Uno, they'll say "You Still Ain't Good Enough" as their way of talking trash. and a remix is coming....
Tainted Love Part 1
I decided on the concept for this song while at Jury Duty. I was sitting in the waiting room, just waiting. I remember clearly, because I never write in pencil, and the super-tight security took everything from me before I came in to serve. so I had a pad with no pen, but they gave us these tiny, nubby pencils with no eraser. so it's the only song in my notebook that isn't written in pen. Every relationship has its ups and downs, so I look at them in stages. This is stage one, the honeymoon stage, aka the "First Month Front." I think we all know it well. This song is pretty lovey dovey, and most of my 'hard' homies skip this one on the album, even though it's only 1:30 long. The original was lost in "The Great Crash," but it was a cinch to rerecord, and we switched the beat at the last moment.
Motivate prod by me, add'l vocals Hope McDowell
This was the first and last song we recorded for the album. I took it for granted because I had recorded it earlier that year as soon as I finished "Fundamentals." However, the sound quality wasn't great, but Hope's vocals blew me away. Hope and I had recorded stuff together on the low level, but this was her first time in a major studio and she didn't dissapoint. 3 days before our deadline, I brought Hope into the new studio and we rerecorded the joint. Hope was sick with the flu, and drank tea inbetween recordings (Thanks Shorty!), but got it done like a soldier. I still think the original (bad quality) version is better, but the world will never know. Hope is extremely talented, with an amazing vocal range. I hope (no pun intended) to work with her again, but it may be tough on the long distance tip. To me, this song isn't a love song, but most think it is. It's more of a letter to those who keep me going in life, who stick by me. one of the few RandomBeats you'll hear on The Call.
The Art of War feat Ohene, prod Def Entertainment
I say it so much, that I get tired of hearing it. Ohene is the tightest lyricist and greatest mind in Hip-Hop. Its because of him that I even attempted this song. The beat is done in a different time signature than the normal song, it's a 3:4 time instead of a 4:4 time (think waltz). If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't feel bad...most producers or emcees have no clue what this is, and look puzzled when they hear of this being done in Hip Hop. Ohene was the first emcee I'd ever heard do this, so I had to have him on the track. The track is just so mean, and O commands your attention from the first 2 words. "What's Good?" it's crazy. His flow on the track is IN-SANE. I think I did OK, but honestly I rewind the track after his verse a lot. Part of the reason I made it so short was to hit em and be out. Its become a bit of an unofficial RAHM Nation trademark to rhyme in 3:4 time, started by Rapademics. I had plans to make an Art Of War series, with each part discussing another chapter of the book, but the Tainted Love series was already underway, I thought it might be confusing to have 2-3-part series' on 1 album. maybe the next one will...sidebar: We've tried to remix this one, and no producer knows how to do it!! Def Entertainment, where are thou??
If I Wait featuring Hasan Salaam and Majesty prod DN3
This is another one that I knew what I was gonna do and how, before I laid it down. I met Hasan and Majesty during a New York trip with the Grassroots Artist MovEment (GAME). I also met Immortal Technique, Red Clay, Ravage, and a bunch of other super creative, positive minds. We all met up and rode a bus to Albany for a show, freestyling and listening to eachothers beats the whole way. This trip changed my outlook on music FOREVER. Seeing this many revolutionary minds on one bus let me know that Hip-Hop wasn't dead. I was totally inspired and came back to Philly and got working on "Archetype", and all the while laying the foundation for "The Call." Prior to this I was recording music that wasn't me: it was watered down, it was commercial, it was forced. It was on this trip that I found my identity as an MC. No one around me at that time was doing revolutionary music, so I found myself doing "What They Do" as the Roots put it. But to be surrounded by 30-40 people who were all about the music, that affected me.
Anyway, the song is saying that I can't wait another minute to fight for change, to speak up, because it might be too late. Ohene told me he reverts to the last bar of my verse "You can't say nobody ever told you the truth" all the time when referring to his music. When it's all said and done, everybody will be able to look back to some point in their lives, when they heard the truth...did they choose to accept it or reject it? The beat is another banger by DN3, and many folks say this is the best song on the album.
On The Grind prod Ohene, add'l vocals Nasheda Shockley
This is my soul right here, probably my favorite track. 2 years back, I was working on a song for a mixtape I never released, and one of the bars of that, "Momma told me I was wastin' my time, all that did was make me stay on the grind," became the hook of this song. It's the truest thing I ever said. My mom doesn't support me doing music AT ALL, I don't even think she's listened to my album. She's always encouraged education, because its one thing that can't be taken away from you. It's hard to convince her that I don't make music to be rich and famous, that I'm not chasing some unrealistic dream, I'm just doing it because I love it, and people have told me I'm pretty good at it. I have a message in the music that I think needs to be heard. I go off on a few tangents, but bring it right back home by the end. Its about the constant hustle of an indie artist: the love, the hate, the phonyness, the struggle. I'm still on the grind.
Tainted Love part 2
2Faced Beats is a producer from the UK. He's from the 9th Wonder school of beatmaking, which is cool. He makes real soulful pieces with big drums. This was totally perfect for TL2, in fact, I think I wrote part 2 before any other part..this is my favorite stage of the relationship, where things are in full swing, but something's not right.. she's got some bad habits that are starting to annoy you, this is getting out of control, we better fall back and evaluate this before it gets worse. Another beat that a lot of folks tell me is the highlight of the album.
Don't Let Me Die feat Hezekiah, prod Problem Child
This was PC's first production that I had ever rapped on. The original beat that I (and Hez) wrote to was also Problem Child's, but he lost the files for that beat, plus he thought the sample could get us in some trouble, so he didn't feel comfortable with using it on the project. I met Hez in kind of a weird way, Lefty and I were recording with Mike Lowe (did most of OC's "Smoke and Mirrors" and some work with CL Smooth) and Hez was there before we got there, listening to my beat that was blasting out of the stereo, bobbing his head. "That's you?" he asked. He had introduced himself, but honestly, I hadn't put 2 and 2 together that he was THAT Hezekiah, that had worked with The Roots, Jaguar, Musiq...pretty much any Neo Soul that came out of Philly. Anyway, I gave him a beat cd with all of my final beats on them, and he heard PC's track and called me with a hook the same day. It was hot, so we got to work. Honestly, I like the original track better on it, but PC worked really hard and made a lot of things happen to make that track fit the song well. He put a weird effect on it, which made the song sound like it was live in a smoky jazz club...different, but I liked it. He even got a real bass and harmonica player to lay down riffs on the track. I think Problem Child has the skills to be the future of Hip-Hop. His beats are really on another level.
Prayer prod by me, keys by Ohene
They (and again, I don't know who they are) say that the producer is the person who lays the idea down, so that's why I get production credit for this one. I just asked O to give me something to speak my piece on. This prayer was adapted from one that I read and recited, so I thought that it would fit well. Plus I needed something slow to lead into the next cut....
Blackout prod by Peru
I met Peru through my lil' homie Chizz, and he had some heat. He apparently is in some litigation war trying to prove that some cat who produced a track for Marques Houston stole his beat, so I wish him luck with that. He let me hear some tracks and he had a good 2 or 3 that I really liked. He was cool enough to pass them off, and he was particularly excited about the beat for "Blackout." I think he named it "Luda." Probably like me he names the track based on who he could hear on it. It was straight club, uptempo. I usually think of either the hook or the first few bars to a beat as soon as I hear it if I like it. I thought of both. I had the hook and the first 4 bars in my head from that moment. I laid that track down for "Archetype" in about '03. I was almost done "The Call" and Ohene asked me, "What's up with that 'BlackOut jawn?? You gotta put it on there!" Now looking back, he probably only said that cause I shouted him out on it ("I ain't heard nothin hot since Rapademics dropped"). everyone that hears it says "I could hear that on the radio today," and that was the point. I wanted something that would catch the ear of the ClearChannel generation, and still allow me to keep my identity. I still end off every set with it, and it still gets the club hype.
Push prod by Problem Child
Again, PC came through with a smash. This is probably my second favorite cut, and probably should've been the 2nd single. I heard it and wrote instantly. PC is such a perfectionist, he sent me 10000 remixes for the track when I told him I wanted to use it. But I'm stuck in my ways when it comes to music, and I wanted it as is. He even sent me a version with a verse in it, trying to weasel his way onto the album :) nah, I'm just kidding, but I had to stick with the original. I had a funky idea for the 3rd verse, something that hadn't been done before: to use a saxophone AS the 3rd verse. I met Frank Machos on myspace, and he was down for the cause. Strangely enough, I had met him before at my Fundamentals release party, but didn't know it. There were a lot of strange coincidences that made this album come together, that's what makes it so special. Samik (prod of "Raze The Bar") says this is the best beat on the album, it just might be.
Salvation feat Wordsworth, prod DN3
This was the absolute hardest song I've ever recorded. The song took about 2 months to complete. DN3 flipped the Commodores "Zoom" track, one of my favorite songs of all time. once I heard it, I was sure I wanted to use it. I also was sure that I wanted Wordsworth on the song. I had just gotten finished listening to his Mirror Music album and I was so impressed, it was so honest, so vivid, pretty much something like what I wanted to create. i decided to call up his management and get it in motion, and this was way before the song was created. all I had was a 1:30 snippet of the beat. I sent it to Words and he wrote his verse, recorded and sent it back the very next day. Dude's about his business. I didn't have verse, or hook the 1st at that time. I knew I needed a male singer for the track, so I auditioned about 5 singers for the hook, and none worked out, till I came across 2 guys, Nadir from Detroit, and Ron Damian from Havertown, PA. I liked what they both did so I used parts of both of their vocals to create the hook, then I wrote the verses. I rewrote my verses about 3 times, real rap. I was kinda shook sharing track space with Words, he's a super-tight lyricist. Neither Words, myself, Nadir or Ron were in the same room when anything was recorded, so it was up to DN3 to mix everything and make it sound good, not an easy task.He must've told me 50 times, "This ain't gonna work, man." It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Then we finished it, and it sounds darn good, I think. This is another of my favorites, mainly because of the effort it took to make it happen. My man JonBap told me that the verses on "Salvation" were my best on the album, and I respect his opinion a lot.