This year, the city of Louisville’s hip hop community has produced quite a few standout records. One of our favorites is undoubtedly the new excellent full-length album from emcee RMLLW2LLZ titled Concerto No.9 Movement II which was produced by the irreplaceable Yons. It’s a highly personal, soulful effort that has more layers than a jumbo onion which has me frequently revisiting the record on a daily basis (read our review here).
Never Nervous: First off, how did the two of you end up joining forces on this record? And was it always the plan to record a full length album?
Rmllw2llz: I caught this dude at a show one time and was completely blown away. It had to happen.
Yons D: Romell pretty much went around checking out other talent and came to a show I did at New Vintage last year. We decided to link up. I sent him a few beats and after that he let me know he was working on a new project. All I remember is him coming over and basically letting me know he was going for a late golden era sound. That Rocafella sound with a new twist. I remember listening to a lot of early Jay-Z and other stuff I never heard from that era that Romell and DJ DS introduced me to.
NN: From the heavy lyrics to the soulful beats, it feels like the two of you really put it all out there with this release. How personal was the making of this album to each of you?
RW: For me, it was very personal. From the very concept to trying to get it registered with all the proper organizations, writing, production and even post production I had to be a part of it. I wanted to grow and show growth with this project.
YD: For me it was personal in the sense that a lot of the beats were some I held onto for sentimental reasons, like They Say and Good Grain. I made They Say like 4 years ago. This was a sound I made and sort of abandoned as I felt hip hop abandoned that sound. I love soulful hip-hop and soul music in general but I feel in a lot of ways the soul isn’t as sought after as it once was. But Romell was like “naaah nigga, that shits amazing!” and it made me realize its ok to go against the grain and keep alive something you believe in and want to see in the world.
“‘Yougottawanna’ — all one word because there’s only one end goal. How bad do you want it?”
NN: If there is one, what would you say the overall message on the album is?
YD: I’m sure Rommell has more to say here than I do but for me it was about coming full circle and being content with what you’ve already accomplished and where you came from. It can be easy to look at someone else’s life and feel like you ain’t did shit but in reality that person may not have come from the bottom like you did. You may have made more personal progress than them but the world can’t see it because it was all underground so to speak. People may feel what you’ve done ain’t that big of a deal but fuck what people think, I DID that. I came from a really messed up mental state, poverty, poor education, etc to having smart people care about what I have to say. I’ve grown tremendously and continue to do so. That’s what I got from it.
RW: “Yougottawanna” — all one word because there’s only one end goal. How bad do you want it?
NN: Why did you decide to go sample-free on the production? Was that a concious decision going in?
YD: I’ve been personally trying to stay away from samples for myriad reasons for at least a year now. Of course there’s the obvious when it comes to sampling laws. But honestly, and this may not be a popular opinion in hip hop, but implementing stricter sampling laws was probably one of the best things to happen to me as a producer. Though I started out playing keys in church, when I got my first copy of fl studio I immediately became a sample producer and used sampling almost as a crutch. Not saying everyone or anyone really uses sampling as a crutch but I definitely wasn’t trying to learn music theory when I could chop up a fire ass Roberta Flack sample and then chop up a break, etc. Not saying that’s easy or lesser as art, I definitely still believe there’s an art to sampling and a fine line between sampling and simply ‘stealing’.
Many of my fave producers are sample producers like 9th wonder, etc. But I just remember trying to use obscure samples more and more to escape copyright issues and I became somewhat of a master at flipping samples to where they were unrecognizable — but then it almost defeats the purpose because most of what made that sample great, the melody or progression or lyric, not just the vinyl vibe, is lost when you mangle, rearrange, etc in an attempt to obscure, like that whole idea is kinda anti-art, like I’m not going for what sounds awesome by any means necessary but what sounds awesome while also keeping me out of lawsuit territory and so when you mangle it there’s not much musicality left except for whatever you bring to the table as a musical mind.
So to make great beats with obscured samples you still need to be able to make good melodies and put chord progressions together yourself, or your beats end up sounding pretty simple musically and not like the great stuff you grew up on — just stuff that winks at it. And around that time I came across a few producers that became my faves like Tone Jonez and Boonie Mayfield, who were making sample sounding beats but playing it all themselves. I became a fan of labels like Daptone Records that make music that sounds like its from the 60s and just made it my lifes goal to be able to make music like that, and I feel I’m just getting started, like I wanna do this when I’m 50. I feel sampling is great but I think it’s a greater honor to learn how they got those sounds and not even just remake them but build onto that legacy of soul music. There are a few unlicensed samples on the record however, a few short vocal samples, but if anyone can tell me where they’re from I’ll never use a sample ever again.
There’s a lot more I can say as far as my process in making soul sounding intstrumentals completely in the box (which means with software and software instruments) but that would probably be for another interview.
RW: Yeah, it was a very conscious decision. I didn’t want any samples because I hope eventually this album will be sampled. I mean, musically it’s just about being unmatched in the region. We tried to create something timeless.
“Implementing stricter sampling laws was probably one of the best things to happen to me as a producer.”
NN: So what now? Are there plans for a tour or perhaps a follow up record in the mix?
RW: Definitely trying to hit the rd this spring. We’re gonna let it bubble and do some hellafied promo on it the winter and try to get a good buzz going to help us with ticket sales this spring. Fa show tho we’re coming mics a blazin’. As for a follow-up? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. We got something and we’re gonna ride this wave till it cashes. Picture a booty call turned wifey…shit, sometimes you just gotta go with what feels good to you!
YD: Romell and I are pretty much lovers now. This album was our affair and we will def be seen around town or beyond together and be caught in the studio at some point making another baby.
NN: As artists, what inspired you individually to make this album?
RW: There were many inspirations for this album — As usual one was my beautiful family! I breathe for them. I lost my favorite aunt and one of my favorite cousins over the past couple years and I just wanted to make them proud. They both believed in me more than I believed in myself in the beginning.
Another big inspiration this time was all the incredible music coming out of the Louisville music scene in the past year or two! Absolutely phenomenal! It made me want to take my sound to the next level. So I called Yons!
YD: This was important to me because I eventually want to produce artists exclusively once I’m done rapping, and I wanted to put all I had said to myself i can do to the test.
“I lost my favorite aunt and one of my favorite cousins over the past couple years and I just wanted to make them proud.”
NN: Whether it be related to music or not, was there a driving force behind the music?
RW: Yeah… normally I would say love but this time it was totally about respect. I wanted to show some and hopefully gain some. Did it work?
YD: Romell was the driving force all the way. He was on my ass like “Yons what its looking like G?”. I’ll be fucking around on twitter or something and Rommell would hit me up after getting off a double shift or something asking if I sent the latest version of an instrumental. He has a tremendous work ethic and stays motivated.
NN: What would you consider to be your personal favorite track on the record, and why?
RW: My absolute favorite is “Thinkin About You feat. Shadwick Wilde”. The track wasn’t even originally made for me but when I heard it it spoke to me so I kinda bullied it away from Yons and who he was gonna give it to. Shadwick made it magical tho! I really appreciate him helping me pay homage to my deceased family members. I’ve haven’t really spoken on or about either since they crossed over so this was a great release for me!
YD: I like “Evolution” and “Good Grain” because Romell just spazzed lyrically and those hit home with me the most because of how personal and vulnerable the lyrics are. “Woosah” because I love what I did with the beat — I feel it would translate to a live band really well. And lastly “Break A Dollar” because I just LOVE Dom B’s verse on it. I think they killed that track and the release show performance and I can’t wait to see it performed again.
NN: There are two bonus tracks on the album, the second being an unconventional joint effort with Joann + the Dakota. How’d this happen, and are you open to more genre mashing in the future?
RW: Ah yes..”Breathe”… I like that one too. It’s very passionate! It’s kinda cool how that happened. She (Joann) came to Never Nervous house party and heard me perform. We spoke shortly afterwards but that was it. Then they (the band) heard me free styling at the Quiet Hollers private listening. It was after that she said she had a song she wanted to try me out on, so they sent me that track to do a live performance at the Seven Sense Festival with them but we never officially recorded it. As I was completing the album I wanted a bonus track that would make this a well rounded project. So I asked and they were all about it! And boom — the last bonus track.
NN: Do the two of you have any upcoming projects seperate from one another?
RW: I know my man Yons is working on his own projects right now and I’m trying to concentrate on promoting the hell out of this project, but rest assured this is only the beginning!
YD: I am working on a project, I don’t want to give the title until its done because I’ve cancelled so many albums or change titles, release plans, etc. But yes I will definitely be putting out lots of music in 2018.
“I’m trying to concentrate on promoting the hell out of this project, but rest assured this is only the beginning!”
NN: In the future, how do you see Concerto No.9 Movement II fitting in to the Louisville hip hop zeitgeist?
YD: Its tough to say for real because life is unpredictable. But what I hope for is that it inspires others to invest in the soul sound. That we can build on it and create new sounds that point back to this album and others were working on.
RW: To be honest I just want it to inspire!