Scratch Magazine Issue 4
A lot of things have changed for Cool and Dre since they suspended their R&B dreams to start a fledgling production company. After a few years of grinding it out on the local scene they linked up with Fat Joe, contributed some tracks to “J.O.S.E” and have been bubbling ever since. Now with the surprise success of Ja Rule’s “New York” they are set to take the industry by storm piling up credits on projects from Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes, Trina, Twista, Trick Daddy and Joe Budden. The two Miami natives have also parlayed themselves a label deal, scored a couple video games and managed to add their signatures next to Big Boi’s and Usher’s on the deed to La Dea restaurant on South Beach’s famed Ocean Drive. Scratch caught up with the enterprising duo at Dre’s new rest to talk about the newfound responsibilities that come along with being shot callers and maybe even get a free meal on the strip out of the deal.
Scratch: How often do you guys work together on a beat?
Dre: We do everything together, the beats and the hooks. There are times when Cool will come into the studio with a beat that’s completely done and vice versa, but everything is usually done together. If it’s done separately we keep what each other would do in mind. People know I write a lot of hooks because they hear me singing them but Cool comes up to the table too like “100 guns, 100 clips” from “New York” was something Cool was singing in the studio.
Take me through your collaboration process.
Cool: The MPC is our foundation so if Dre has an idea for a drum track he’ll start vibing on that. Then I might hear a crazy melody in my head and get on the keyboard and throw the melody down and then we go like that but we give each other space and I think that helps a lot. We’ve been able to work together so long because we are the best of friends and we respect each other’s space. If I’m in here and Dre is vibing on a beat I don’t really fuck with him while he’s being creative. If the idea is crazy I might be like try this but that’s seldom. I’ll usually wait till he finishes and then I might throw some shit on it and be like what do you think of this but we hardly go stop what you’re doing and let me do this because that’s being a beat hog.
Dre: When we did the “New York” record we gave Ja Rule the hook before he heard the beat. They were like the beat better be crazy do you have one yet? We was like yea we got a beat not even knowing what beat we were going to put it to. Then we was like fuck this shit the hook is so stupid let’s just give him our shit and not even make a beat we think Ja Rule will like. We gave them that and they lost it. And now the beats are coming easy because we’re comfortable creating our own music.
So “New York” is the record that really typifies your style?
Dre: That’s the Cool and Dre sound. We’re not searching to see if they will like the beat anymore. They are open on the Cool and Dre sound and fucking with us because of what we are giving them.
Cool: Everybody wants what’s on fire. If it were up to the industry they would all have the same beat. What’s dope is that since it’s our sound we can flip it and vary it in different ways just by changing the keys or fucking with the drums and still be able to give people the same feel.
The “New York” record is all synths but you’ve also received a lot of praise for past tracks like “Hum Drum” which rely heavily on samples. Does this mean you’re moving away from sampling?
Dre: Not at all we are just some dudes who can do everything. Lately we’ve been on some new shit sampling from our favorite records. We were in an R&B group so we used to sing every fucking R&B record that came out back in the early 90s. So we’re like fuck it we’re gonna start sampling our favorite songs from that era and no one’s gonna know how to flip it like us. We know the ins and outs of these records because we used to stay up all night practicing them. We’ve flipped a couple Jodeci records already. DeVante is going to love us. He’s about to have a nice fucking payday off of what we have been sampling. Troop, Shai, Boyz II Men, and Guy are all going to be like thank god for Cool and Dre. That’s really the new old school because these kids coming up don’t know Jodeci. And we know when one record comes out everybody will want to do them so me and Cool already made sure we took all the hot ones!
Cool: We did them already so don’t worry. By the time cats think about doing it they’ll be like damn them niggas already put it out.
Dre: Me and Cool did a song deal with Atlantic and we have two more song deals with some other labels so they won’t even have a chance.
Cool: We’re gonna flood the market with that shit.
How are you guys credited for songs like “Streets of New York” when someone else produced the beat?
Cool: We’re credited as writers but we only did the hook. It’s cool for us because we might have a beat we didn’t do and cats will be like I need you to put some shit on here. It happened on Fabolous’ album. We didn’t do the beat we just wrote the hook. It happened on Trick Daddy’s album too. We produced a song and did the hook but then they came back with another beat that had verses and no hook. We put a hook on it and Ron Isley sang it.
You played me a track you did for Slick Rick earlier that is a real departure from his normal sound. When you are making something for a specific artist what things do you consider before laying down the beat?
Dre: Once we find out who we are working with we think about what would make people go crazy. We want to get a reaction from people but still have the record make sense. Like with Slick Rick, he is a legend but the kids might not know who he is and the climate of the game right now is that you need some gangsta shit to be hot. So how do you make Slick Rick relevant with some gangsta shit when you know that ain’t his style? You take “don’t, don’t, don’t hurt me again” from “Teenage Love” and you flip that into homey you better watch what you say cuz I’ll have your crew saying “don’t, don’t, don’t, hurt me again.” It’s Slick Rick but it ain’t Slick Rick. That’s what we do we flip shit. We add whatever we feel an artist is missing. That’s why I feel an artist comes to you anyway. They feel you have something to offer them that they can’t get anywhere else.
Last year you inked a label deal with Jive Records for your imprint Epidemic Music. Tell me a little about that.
Dre: There was a big bidding war between Shady Records, Def Jam, Jive and Atlantic for our artist Dirtbag. We went to Jive under the impression that they believe in original music. We got everybody in the game excited and now we’re trying to get these guys at Jive Records excited. This year we’ll have a Joe Budden record out, a Fat Joe record out, a Remy Martin record out, a Busta Rhymes record out and then boom we want to come with Dirtbag, Tony Sunshine, and C-Ride who are our artists. If we could do that, it will be perfect. We’re really trying to have that run this year and also put on that executive producer hat and win.
Speaking of executive production you guys have made some serious strides going from simply selling beats to executive producing full-length projects like Fat Joe’s new one. What additional responsibilities have come with the title?
Dre: Cool and me started out producing our own artists before we sold beats so in our minds we always felt we were executive producers. We understand the whole game of picking beats and the process of putting an album together because we come from that. Fat Joe is just the first artist to allow us to take that role on a major project. We helped him pick beats for the album, come up with concepts, set the album scheme, and everything. Executive producing is someone trusting you and your opinion on more than just a beat. Joe has done that and we’re trying to get these guys at Jive to trust us. One thing we’ve learned is that the music industry is full of non-creative people scared to take risks. Me and Cool are risk takers and the problem being in the executive role is that you have to deal with all the people that don’t want to take risks creatively because they are so concerned about making a dollar. So right now me and Cool are trying to be the hottest producers in the game just so the motherfuckers we have a label situation with will respect what we have to say.
Does being a good producer translate into being a good executive?
Dre: Yea, but only because you know what records to pick. Being a producer who produces vocals helps because it teaches you patience and how to resolve issues in the studio with the artist. As a producer you have to be on the same page with your engineer and the artist. That’s just a lot of people skills and those carry over when you are an executive. The downside is that as a producer you are making music from the heart but this business is really heartless
You go in there with a feeling in your heart that this is the record but these people in suits don’t listen with their hearts. They listen to what feedback from downstairs says and what surveys say. But there are some people who balance it and know when to take the suit off and take a risk.
Akai Mpc2000 Xl
Korg Triton Classic
Yamaha Motif Es8