Congratulations on your first 12″ coming out off your new album and your tour with Heiro and Little Brother; I saw you guys when you came through here, it was a dope dope show.
For those of my guests that don’t know who you are do you want to go ahead and do a quick introduction of yourself?
Yah, my name is Encore The Essence. I’m part of the Executive Lounge. I had an album out in 2000 called “Self-Preservation”, it was on 75 Ark with Dan the Autmator, you may remember him. I had a single on “Handsome Boy Modeling School” record and now I got a new album coming out in February 2004 called “Layover” with the Heiroglphics Imperium. Big Up to Heiro.
Especially at this show, they did a good job on their set…following up Little Brother, [who's'] performance was also dope. I’m gonna hit with the questions, considering you’re a busy man and all. When and how did you first get started with hip-hop? The very beginning…
The very beginning of hip-hop was probably…I had “The Breaks” 45 with Kurtis Blow, “The Breaks”. That was my first introduction to hip-hop. That was like, wow! Actually my neighbor had one, I saw his record and I was like, “Ah man, I gotta get that, gotta get that!” I picked it up, from there it when on and on.
You started off as a fan and a listener like everbody else…
Just Like everybody else, man.
Did you start off b-boying before you picked up the MC’ing game or did you DJ first, or has it always been MC’ing?
Back when I started doing it, we tried to do everything. But I was pretty much the bboy at that point. I was like poppin’ and everything, much more of a popper than a breaker.
I gotcha. Do you think artists these days, or up-and-comers these days, like the roundedness that you have as an artist coming out a decade ago when you got your start?
I think you can’t help but do that [now]. There’s so much other shit, so many other things going on, it’s hard to focus…you pretty much have to focus on one thing to be good at it now. Back then it was in infant stages and you had to do everything. It was just more of just a natural thing to do everything. Now it’s like, “Okay, I wanna be a rapper.” Or, “I wanna be a DJ.” And the level of the game has stepped up so much in everything that you can’t…you have to just focus on one. Even, like, bboying…bboys, the stuff they’re doing now, it’s so far ahead of the game now, from what I was doing. Like, you have to be doing just that now, that’s life now.
It’s kinda similar to sports, how we used to have more multi-sport pro athletes, but now the level of competition is higher. It’s very analogous?
Do you think coming from the Bay Area — originally being born in Palo Alto, and being raised in Milpitas ( corrects pronunciation…”yah south bay”) — has had any impact on your style, be it MC’ing or hip-hop in general, and on your success?
Yah, I think so. Being from the Bay, we have your Too $horts, your Richie Rich’s…but at the same time, when we were listening to hip-hop, when I was growing up in high school and junior high, we were listening to Too $hort and KRS-One, Ice Cube and Rakim, 4N5 and Big Daddy Kane, you know we had this big mix, where I’m sure on the East they were just listening to East Coast music. So we had the wide range of East Coast / West Coast. I can tell my style…I can tell when I do certain things with my lyrics, I say, “okay, that’s a Too $hort” or “that’s a Cube”, maybe something real subtle, but maybe something I wouldn’t have done if I was just into one Coast. But being from the Bay, you were forced to listen to everything
They didn’t have the scene when you started that the East Coast had so you were a little more influenced than [the East Coast was]?
We had a scene, it was just a different scene. It was just more open to listening to different things because we weren’t living the New York life, we were living the Bay Area life. I’m influenced by a lot of East Coast lyricists as far as far as styles are concerned, but as far as what we talk about and what influences us on a day-to-day life, it was Bay Area stuff. It was Bay Area things.
I was noticing when I was looking up history on you that you had help in the beginning by being introduced to Stones Throw co-founder Peanut Butter Wolf through your guys’ mutual friend Charisma, who passed away back in ’94. Are you looking forward to their album finally coming out? I guess it’s coming out right about now.
Yah, it’s actually funny. I just found out about it right now, when I was on tour. I haven’t talked to Wolf yet about that. But I’m definitely juiced about that, man. Charisma was, Rest In Peace,…to me, when people come to me looking for who Charisma was, he was in that Big L, Mad Skillz vein, where he had the punch lines and that high voice. He was them before them, not saying he was doper than them or anything like that, I’m just saying he was them before they even came out, or before I ever heard of them.
He had a major impact on your career — do you figure?
He had an impact on me…cuz we went to high school together, and before I was even rapping seriously, he already had a deal. I learned a lot from him about how the record industry worked before I even got into the industry myself. It was real weird cuz he had gotten and dropped before anything was even going down with me.
Before you were even on the radar…So he was kind of a mentor and a friend?
Yah, the thing is, we weren’t cool for a little while in high school. We played YBA basketball when we were real young and then we didn’t keep in contact. Then in high school there was a period of time where we weren’t even cool because he was kind of arrogant at some point in time cuz he got the deal and he was like, “I’m dope. Nobody else can fade me.” And I wasn’t really like into rapping as much then as I was when I started getting into it seriously. There was a period of time where he got a little arrogant, a little cocky with everybody. So me and him weren’t cool, but we ended up squashing stuff maybe a year before he passed. We were actually gonna start working on music together, but it didn’t happen.
So it’s kinda fortunate you got to squash things before he ended up passing away.
Yah, but it wasn’t anything like a Nas/Jay-Z type of thing, we just weren’t cool on some friend levels. We weren’t cool for a minute, then we squashed it and it was all good.
Good deal, we’ll move on. Is there any particular reason why you chose to go with Heiro on their new label, Heiro Imperium, as opposed to sticking with 75 Ark for another EP or album with them?
Part of it was timing, 75 Ark was actually folded. I actually got out of the contract because of that. Automator was gonna start another label, I still think he’s gonna start another label. He signed to MCA and MCA, and he was having issues with MCA. And the timing was good. Me and Domino (of Heiro) had been cool for a while. I used to go over to his house, we’d watch football games and everything. And he was like, “You should just do something with me.” And I was still working on my album independently, and the timing was like, “Okay, let’s do it.” I feel like I’m a direct descendant of Heiro. Even though we’re all the same age; you know, Heiroglyphics, they’re like the direct lineage from De La and Tribe and the whole Native Tongues thing and brought it to the west. Anybody on the underground, on the West coast, that came out after or during the time of Heiro is linked to them. You know I’ve always been a fan, I’ve had Pep on my last album. It was pretty much like we were family anyway. ( It fit well.) You know I was worried about the business aspect of it, you know, I don’t want to mess any business up or friendships up over business stuff. But it all worked out and it’s going well for me right now, for all of us right now.
Did they have any sort of creative control with you or did Domino just stand over it as a business perspective and say “maybe do this, maybe do that” because they have the experience of however many 12″s and numerous albums they’ve put out over the years, or was it mostly just a business…
He pretty much knew where I was coming from with my album; my album was pretty much done before I even handed it to him. I mean it wasn’t mastered or anything, or mixed, all the songs were pretty much done though. He pretty much knew that I’m coming from — I’m part of Heiro — but I’m coming from a different angle than Heiro, I’m just bringing a different element to the label. So he was pretty much like, “okay”, and pretty much put it in my hands as long as I was breaking the bank on the budget.
You worked exclusively with three producers on this album: Vitamin D, JakeOne, and Architect?
Vitamin D, JakeOne, Architect. Architect was on my last album; he did about 99% of the beats on the last album. This one he does three. Jake does a majority of the album. Big up to JakeOne, Vitamin, Architect…but [Jake] does a majority of the album. And Vitamin does three songs on there was well.
What was the decision making when you decided to bring in JakeOne and Vitamin D? Obviously we’re happy, considering I’m from Seattle (interview originally broadcast at University of Washington’s RainyDawg Radio www.rainydawg.com), to see Seattle producers doing big things. We’re gonna try to have Jake next week to follow-up this interview.
Word, word. Basically Jake did a remix to a song that I did on Certified Records. Big up to DJ Fingers in San Diego. Yah, he did a remix for…( For the “Filthy” track?)…yah, it was either “Filthy” or “Ice Age”. He might have…he did two remixes. Anyway, yah, people were like, “you need to get with Jake.” But the crazy thing is, that remix, and you can tell him this, too, he’ll probably get mad but, I wasn’t even that juiced on that remix. I was like, “Okay, this is cool.” But you know what I mean, the way people were talking about it was like it was more. ( Like it’s an end-all, be-all. And you’re like, “nah, it’s alright.”) No, it was cool, I liked it, I just wasn’t as impressed as I was when I heard his beat tapes. What ended up happening is, his manager Walt, I know Walt. Walt hit me off with a CD, a beat tape and I was feeling it. And I said, “Man, Walt, let me get his number so I can chop it up with him.” Walt was kind of hesistant. He thought I was gonna get it over him on some pricing, but I just wanted to build with him. I’m the type of person where I just wanna build. So I was just talking to Jake and we just started building. We really started building, he was giving me other beats and stuff for listening to.
Was he the one that suggested Vitamin D, to suggest his stuff, or were you just familiar with him from coming through Seattle?
Well, Walt, he was at that time managing Vitamin D, too. He sent me Vitamin’s beats, too. I wanted to bring more facets to the game. It wasn’t any disrespect to Arc, that’s like my brother right there. But at the same time, what I like from Arc is a specific sound I like from Arc. And I didn’t want my whole album sounding like that. Because whenever I think of a beat from Architect, it has a particular vibe to it and I felt people were kind of pigeon-holing me as far as what they thought I was gonna be rapping over and what I like. And I was like I have more facets to my whole personality and if I want to use this music as a vehicle to get things off my chest and explain where I’m at at any given time in my career and my life, I need to have a little more well-rounded music as far as giving an over-all soundscape of what I’m about at that particular time. And having Vitamin and Jake helped me achieve that. Vitamin brings that vibrant, colorful shit…both of them, they both bring that colorful shit to my music. ( Both very happy-natured guys.) Yah, no, I shouldn’t say “happy rap”, but they both definitely have more color to their music. Where Arc brings me a more conceptual, a little more darker tone, at least that’s the type of music that I like from him.
This way you can show the more multi-faceted side of yourself, the artist known as Encore The Essence. What’s been the most interesting or fulfulling stop on the Full Circle tour so far?
Well, the tour has ended and the whole tour’s just been crazy; I’ve been places I’ve never been before. And the interesting thing is doing shows where you’re not sure the people even know who you are. Those are the crazy shows. It’s like — Ottowa, never been to Ottowa, and nobody knew who I was, but that place just rocked, that place was cracking. Toronto was big, Detroit was a suprise for me, Orlando was a suprise for me, Seattle was big, Baltimore was big, just a lot of random spots that I wouldn’t have expected…Cleveland was big for me, Austin was big. ( Sounds like it was all a success.) Yah, the tour as a whole was just real successful. It just worked real good. We had good people on the tour. I think it was just good for everybody, interacting. I was on the same RV as Little Brother and my man Z-Man. And it was like, we didn’t know each other at first, but we became a family. It’s crazy how you end up meeting people you don’t know if you’re gonna click with.
You gonna try to get a 9th Wonder beat for the next, next album?
I mean I met 9th before the tour. We’ll probably do something…I want him on there, and I know he wants to get on there, too. So I mean…he’s busy, he’s got a lot of stuff going on.
Sounds like it with all the stuff he’s got coming out. How did you end up choosing the name for your new album, “The Layover”?
Layover to me is kind of symbolic, cuz the direction of my music is a little more broad than on “Self-Preservation”. Like I said, I’m showing a little more facets to my musical tastes. Layover’s kind of like where you’re waiting for your flight, you’re siting there on hold, that’s what I feel like. This record is the limbo of where’s he gonna go with his music. It’s the middle between “Self-Preservation” and where I’m trying to take my music. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed, that’s the main thing I don’t ever want to do, I don’t want people to ever think when they hear an Encore record they’ve heard him all. So this like…I stepped out of my maybe my listener’s comfort zone, my “Self-Preservation” listener’s comfort zone with some songs, but I didn’t go completely out of that element. It’s not out of my element, it may be out of my listener’s element. It’s just a gradual step, and this is Layover, okay, I’m on hold, I’m just waiting here, I’m gonna get me this beat, til I really feel the fan-base is ready. But I’m still gonna take you a couple baby steps forward and then when I actually take that flight, that’s when you’re gonna see me doing stuff, doing some different things. Basically people have to accept you, accept change from you and the change has to be done gradually, you know. I don’t want to hit people over the head with just some brand new thing, you know, and they’re not ready for it.
Other than showing your new side by bringing in new producer’s, Vitamin D and JakeOne, and showing a different style, be it a concept or your flow itself, are you bringing in any other MCs you want to introduce them to, is there any radical change between “Self-Preservation” and “The Layover” that listeners who have followed you would notice or that new listeners might want to look out for especially?
Well, the one thing is that I didn’t get anyone off Executive Lounge on my album, I wanted to get Turbin, big up to Turbin. I wanted to get Grand on there, but I couldn’t get them on there, just a time thing. But I got my man Arcee from Toronto, he’s on there. I have Pep Love on there, and I got Opio and A-Plus from Souls of Mischief on there, and I got Ladybug Mecca from Digable Planets on there.
A lot of folks from within the family and just the area, too?
Yah, what I wanted to do, and what I always want to do with any collaboration is, first of all, if I’m doing an Encore album, I don’t want to be loaded with cameos and stuff cuz then it’s not my album, it’s just an album full of people on there. And, two, when I do collaborations I want them to stick right, I don’t want to do a collaboration just for the sake of doing a collaboration, like the song I did with Pep. It’s about being homeless. If you heard [Pep Love's] “Ascension”, and you gotta go get “Ascension”, you know he’s good with concepts and I feel like I’m good with concepts. And I felt like, we did something before and we meshed well. Plus Pep, he’s a dope MC.
So you want them to kind of fit roles rather than being a compilation album?
Yah, you know, cuz that’s kind of the same thing with Mecca, the song I did with Mecca; it’s kind of like, I don’t don’t know if you remember Positive K song “I Got A Man”. Like you’re going back and forth with a girl, that’s how it is with Mecca. Like the first verse where we go back and forth, I wrote that whole verse, but I wrote it with her in mind, with her whole image in mind, and with her voice and style in mind and that just worked out perfectly. That’s gonna be the new single, it’s called “Real Talk”. I just want any collaboration I do, like his voice and his style will fit this beat perfectly, and I think will mesh real well with it. I don’t wanna be like, “Let me get Busta, cuz Busta’s dope, or because Busta’s known for the cameos.” I don’t want that.
You don’t want just name recognition. What would you say is your final aspiration, like your ultimate goal in music is?
My ultimate goal is to have a catalogue where people can say, “Okay, this is what Encore was on on this album.” Like you pick up Marvin Gaye’s “Here, My Dear” (?), he was going through some shit right there. He was tripping, he was about to go through a divorce and his drama. You pick up “What’s Going On?” and it’s like he was really into the war. I want people to say, “Encore, this is the vibe he was on on this record. He’s going through some things here. He had some issues he wanted to get off his chest.” Basically every album is “Self-Preservation” even if it doesn’t sound anything alike. Self-preservation to me is making sure that music is a vehicle to get things off my chest. Make me look back and be like this is a photo of where I was at in this particular period of time, I want to be able to capture that for me. So when I look back, I can be like, “2004, Layover, he was on this type of vibe. This is what he’s really about.” I want to be able to piece in memory what I was doing at that time listening to my music cuz ultimately it’s for me.
Sounds like a very good goal.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to sell millions and millions of records. I don’t want to give the wrong impression. But I want to try to be as honest as I possibly can, to my audience and to myself. That’s hard, as much people say “be honest” and this and that, it’s hard to be as open and honest to the public as you may want to be, but I’d like to try to do that cuz to me that’s when your best work is done.
Do you have any dream producers or fellow MCs that you’d like to work with in the future, like possibly the album after “The Layover” or any in the future, is there any super god MC that you want to work with or a DJ Premier-esque DJ or producer you want to work with?
I get asked that a lot, but it’s really hard for me to say that cuz it really just depends on the music…like I’ve always liked Digable Planets, but before Vitamin gave me that beat, I wouldn’t have really gone out of my way thinking I wanted to make a song with Mecca. You know what I’m saying…My idols are like Rakim, Ice Cube, Large Professor, and things of that nature but it really just depends on the music or the idea that I’ve come up with or idea that we’ve both come up with; it’s really just timing, how I’m feeling at the time. You know I’d like to say that I’d like to work with everybody, ideally I would. But I don’t want to work with them just to say I’ve worked with them. And I feel like sometimes that happens a lot.
We were just talking about your idols…what would you say your all-time favorite album is, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in hip-hop, it could be in any musical genre?
Um, wow, you ask me any other day I’ll probably tell you something different. Probably “Innervisions”.
Last question, non-musical related…you a basketball fan at all?
Big basketball fan.
Who do you thinks gonna take the championship this year, I know it’s early and there’s lots of injuries, but I’m a basketball fan so I’m always curious.
Purple and gold, baby, come on! ( Ah, man!) Haha. I grew up a…people always want to say, “You’re a fair-weather Lakers fan.” But I grew up with the Lakers man. I’m actually kind of pissed off they picked up Karl Malone and Gary Payton. I mean I love GP, I’d have loved to just had GP, but I can’t stand Karl Malone, I can’t lie.
It’s really funny, I had an interview at the beginning of the summer when both those guys had just been traded and that was with Aceyalone and he’s also a Lakers fan and me being in Seattle, being a Sonics fan, I was kind of pissed off losing Gary Payton, especially to the Lakers, cuz you know how everybody who’s not a Lakers fan feels about the Lakers.
Yah, exactly. But, no, I’m a die-hard Lakers fan. I know the ins and outs about the squad. I know my game. Ask Jake, that’s part of the reason that he and I get along so well.
Yah, he’s a fan as well, right?
Yah, me and him go at it. He’s a Seattle Seahawks fan and a Sonics fan, I’m a Lakers fan and a Steelers fan and we go at it.
You don’t love your Bay area sports teams?
I like the Warriors, but I grew up a Lakers fan. And I probably don’t like the ’9ers the way people don’t like the Lakers. But all my family’s from Pennsylvania so that’s how I’m a Steelers fan.
At this point you got any shout outs you want to do?
Just want to shout out “Layover”, February 2004, got my man A-Plus, Opio, Pep Love from Heiro, got my girl Ladybug Mecca and Arcee from Toronto. Want to shout out the Executive Lounge, Grand da Visitor, Architect. Big up to the Full Circle tour people, Z-Man, Little Brother. Vitamin D, JakeOne always. And it’s like that.
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