There’s been 11 altogether. Counting the mixtapes and tribute records along with my official releases, The Red Pill and The Awakening.
Do you have a favorite project? And why?
I would say it’s The Awakening, the new album. I think, musically, it’s the best I’ve done, as far as composition.
You have some collaborations on The Awakening. How’d they come about?
Yeah, one of the songs that I released before the album dropped called “Home (Africa)” was a collab with Cleveland Jones. He’s a super talented cat out of Atlanta. I heard his voice on another track that was playing on a radio show that one of my tracks was playing on. I connected up with him on Facebook and was like “Yo man, I’d love to do some work!!” I had an opportunity to have him added to the album which was great because the record that he and I did was the kind of record I felt I wanted to have on the album all along but I didn’t want to force it. It just kinda worked out that our song was about Africa.
The joint called “Trouble” with Amp Fiddler and Monet. Amp Fiddler is really a musical legend because he’s been in the game for a minute. He’s basically the guy who got Dilla started in production. For me, I feel like that’s almost like full circle, being connected with someone that had such an impact on one of the people that I hold in high regard; being one of my influences. Having him be a part of the album was dope. That record that he’s on is totally different from anything that I have out. The flute player on that song is named Monet. I connected with her after this cat George Littlejohn, one of the owners of the label she’s on, hit me up and was like “Yo man, we’d love for you to do some work with her. Just let me know how you’d want to do it.” I told him that I had a song on the album that had flute on it that I played on keys. It was flute that was sampled that was made playable. So I’d done that on the record . We basically pulled what I’d played and Monet did her thing.
Another joint on the album is with Vikter Duplaix. That’s another cat that’s been in the game; another legend as far as the music industry. There’s a lot of people that he’s written for, produced as well as releasing his own stuff. He’s another person I was pretty honored to have because his track record is pretty incredible. So it was the same thing. He’d heard The Red Pill. He was at this holiday party that Kawai Matthews and I collaborated on, shout out to the homie Kawai, at the W Hotel in Los Angeles. He heard me perform and was really impressed. We chatted it up and I gave him a copy of The Red Pill. He contacted Kawai to connect me with him. He told me the stuff that I was doing was the kind of stuff he was looking for so he and I collaborated on some joints for his album. So he jumped on the new album that I was working on (The Awakening) and we came up with "The One".
What markets is The Awakening performing in now?
I released it on my own on May 20th of this year through Bandcamp, my favorite artist site. I also released it through Tunecore which makes it available in other countries, everywhere. I ended up getting a licensing deal with this label in Japan called P-Vine Records and they released the record there. They’re actually the only place in the world that has hard copies of the album. The Awakening was released in Japan September 17th and it’s been doing pretty well. So far so good. And Japan was definitely one of the markets I was trying to get into. They have an elevated appreciation of the art. Japan and a few other parts of the world, have an appreciation that’s on another level. I had been trying to figure out how I was going to branch into the Japanese market and the deal came about. Shout out to Tinku Bhattacharyya for reaching out to the label and telling them about me. With that happening it was perfect for me. It’s a big difference between having an album released on your own and having a label actually pushing it, with in-store displays and things like that.
What about radio play?
Yeah, there’s been radio play in Japan, the UK, in Australia, Serbia and South Africa. It’s really everywhere you can think of radio-wise. I mean, the world is big but it seems the bigger the project gets the smaller the radio community seems to be. In some cases, one DJ has told another DJ somewhere else about the record and it’s been able to spread like that. Everything has been pretty much organic that way so it’s rewarding that the record is moving on its own merit. I reach out to all the DJs that I’ve learned have played the record to thank them. Without them there would be no buzz.
That sounds like a tour should be on the horizon.
Well, I know next year for sure we’re trying to set up some things. And we’re going to focus on the markets where I know there have been a concentration of support from DJs and requests for me to come out. I’ve gotten a lot of love in Japan and Atlanta. Some demand in Chicago as well. I will possibly be making my Japan debut in December or January at the Blue Note Hotel, which is a famous jazz club out there.
We talked a little about music influences.
Well, everything started with my dad being a musician and us having access to all of those amazing recordings he had growing up. We used to play all vinyl coming up. We didn’t grow up in the era when all that great music was made but we still grew up with it; and in a way that their fans grew up with it. Sitting down next to the record player and just playing vinyl. It also started with my dad as a musician. He plays piano, bass and guitar. My dad and a couple of uncles that are musicians as well.
Outside of my family, Donny Hathaway was one of the first musicians that I really studied. Of course a lot people know Donny for his voice but it was his playing that caught me when I first heard it. He was the first person that I actually studied musically. Then Marvin Gaye also, as far as playing piano. Of course Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Joe Sample, Chick Corea…
Wow, that’s quite the list of heavyweights. But it all makes sense considering the work you’re putting in now. With those influences, at what point did you start producing and doing tracks?
Probably around 12. That was the start. I was tracking in junior high. I started with an MPC 2000, a LINN drum machine, a 4-track recorder and a Yamaha SY77 keyboard. That was my set up. Of course, I eventually moved from hardware to software. But it all started around age 12.
When I was in junior high, I did some tracks for this rap group Illegal’s rapper Malik Jamal. But just starting out, I was just putting stuff down because I was interested in music.
Tell me about your recent collab with DJ Jazzy Jeff.
That was crazy. The hook up with Jazzy Jeff came from one of the artists that I mentioned earlier, Vikter Duplaix. He’s boys with Jazzy Jeff from back in Philly when they were coming up. He sent him The Red Pill and told him to put it on when you’re sitting down with your wife and having dinner. He did that. Jazzy Jeff hit him to get connected with me. I had the opportunity and the privilege to spend four days with him at his home. It was an amazing opportunity to work with him and to learn from a legend like that. We worked on a couple of joints for this artist that he’s working with called Dane Jordan, a super dope emcee. He actually reminds me of hip hop in the 90s when it was really about lyricism and people telling stories. We worked on some joints for him and there are a couple of other things that we discussed that we’re still trying to figure out, you know, projects to collaborate on That’s still in the works but so far we did the Dane Jordan stuff. One of the joints is out on a video release called “I Want It All”. I played on three joints that Jeff he did and that was one of ‘em. The released the video a couple days after I’d played on it. They were already shooting the video and it happened that the version we worked on was included in the video a few days later.
Any production on other artists completed or on the calendar?
Well the joints I did with Vikter Duplaix will be released soon. I’m going to be working on Cleveland Jones’ album soon. Also, the new Wylde Bunch record is in the works. I'm doing some stuff on the album my brother, Demont Crawford, is working on. And there are a few others, Kyra Simone for instance, who worked with me on the Side Effects mix tape.
How do you feel about handling all the marketing, booking and all the other stuff on your own?
It’s a task but at the same time I wouldn’t have it any other way. As far as being in control and knowing what’s going on at all times. Of course, I’ve met some amazing people that have offered to help along the way and it’s so great. I mentioned Tinku earlier and then I have another friend, Monica Young, who’s been helping with stuff as well. Other than that, being able to have the freedom to release music whenever I want is cool. I can drop a single or a mixtape whenever I want. Just being able to have that creative freedom is the best. It’s the main thing that I care about.
As far as promoting and my social media presence, pretty much my whole day is spent behind a computer. That’s where all of my business takes place, per se. I’m privileged to have my daily ritual of doing market research to track performance of each record, sales-wise, plays, e-news, etc. It’s a lot but it’s also good being able to see the progress and measure the reults of my efforts. To see the progress from releasing the first mixtape five years ago to working with legends now is great and very important to me. To see all the plans and hard work come to fruition. Right now it seems like things are coming so fast it’s hard to take it all in. It’s hard work but it’s definitely worth it.
What do use in your production set up?
I do everything in Garage Band. Within Garage Band I use some 3rd party VSTs. I mainly use Kontakt 5 for sounds but all my composing, mixing, and recording vocals is all done in Garage Band. I have a Mac mini, my mic, a 49-key controller board and that’s my whole set up. It’s funny that when I posted pics of my set up on Facebook people didn’t believe that it was what I’ve done my releases on. But it’s not about what you’re working on but it’s about how YOU work with it. My set up is very modest but I’ve been able to pump out some real quality. As long as I’m able to do that it’s going to stay the same. I've got an old raggedy Compaq monitor. One of the old joints with the big tube inside. People tell me "You should get rid of that OLD thing and get something new." But I feel like it's a part of the mojo now. You know, part of the recipe. I'm not going to change a thing unless I have to.