AP: I had old parents, so that’s what it was. My mom is close to 70 years old, so she was not fucking with anything past Freddie Jackson. But I had older sisters who were into Pharcyde, Tribe Called Quest and East Coast stuff. We live in Oxnard –
TK: I didn’t know you were from Oxnard until you just said it, and now it makes sense why you were in the Jay Rock mix. He’s so connected with that Oxnard sound.
AP: Yeah, Madlib and everybody else. It was a big deal for me to be able to do something with Stones Throw [Records]. I wanted that more than anything. I never thought about working with Dre or Aftermath or anything—that was too far-fetched. But when I found out Knxwledge was on Stones Throw, I was bugging him to play “Suede” for somebody over there. That was big, to be part of that lineage.
But Ginuwine, Aaliyah and Timbaland were what I loved growing up. So when I really became a fan of music, even when I was getting into production, that’s who I was looking up to. It’s interesting to me the position I’m in now, where I have a lot of old influences. All these influences that kids are pulling from now, I remember when that stuff was actually coming out. I was in high school, but I remember Aaliyah from the jump. Even Tupac and Biggie—to be around for that—these kids weren’t around. And it’s moved to the 2000s now.
TK: Ja Rule music is the nostalgic throwback now. These younger artists—younger than you—they’re gonna be like, “Remember when Ashanti and Ja Rule were crackin?” I remember when Ja Rule was on the radio and New York was mad because he made a big pop record. I remember saying to people—because I remember the same thing happening with Puff and Big—“Wait 20 years. Ya’ll are going to be happy to hear these records.” The same way real hip-hop heads right now are listening to Big and Wu-Tang—they were dissing them back then because they were too big. You go to an underground hip-hop party and hear “Mo Money Mo Problems.” No underground people were fucking with Mase, but on some throwback it’s like “Oh, yeah!”
“It’s a theory of mine that
you grow up to do the music that
your parents were fucking to.”
— Talib Kweli
It’s interesting you mention Tupac because your style is also definitely rap-influenced and Pac was one of the first rappers who was really hard but had a sing-songy style. I hear his influence on you.
AP: That’s so important to me, man. That’s what I come from—Pac’s use of tone and the way he stretched out shit. Even Biggie was really good at tone and cadence too. Those were the rappers that grabbed my ear. I come from drumming too, so cadence and all that stuff were what I grabbed ahold of even before lyrical content, which is something I really, avidly had to work on.
TK: I hear a lot of young Mos Def in what you do because he has those natural tones. Your work inspires me because I’m the opposite of that. I’ve got lyrical content in my head all day. I have a naturally melodic flow, but I’ve gotten better through the years. I was listening to some of my earlier stuff today, and it was making me cringe. To be able to have it naturally… I know it’s organic, but you probably had to work on it.
AP: I’ve done so many different records. It’s been over 10 years now, and it feels like every fucking album has been a debut album. That melodic thing, that was trial and error. I was just rapping and not paying attention to melody. Working with different producers and doing more and more records, I was like, “I’m more interested in seeing where I fit on these tracks. I want to be another instrument in this beat.” I didn’t want to stop people in their tracks, trying to digest all these lyrics. I want them to still be grooving, but I don’t want to sacrifice the lyrical content for that. If it’s a dance track or even a song like “Suede,” I want the fucking tone to be so dope that they’re bouncing, then halfway in they’re like, “What this nigga say?”
TK: I wanted to thank you for having Reflection Eternal—me and Hi Tek—on your record. We’re not on the same song, but it’s big to me.
AP: It was huge when you agreed to do that, man. It was just the cherry on top.