Between hosting his own show on Eminem’s Shade 45 XM/Sirus station and crafting hits for some of today’s top MCs, New England deejay and hit-maker Statik Selektah might be the hardest working man in hip hop.
On his latest album, What Goes Around, the 1982 producer once again linked up with some of today’s most respected MCs from all across the country including Joey Bada$$, Logic, Crooked I, Freddie Gibbs, Ab-Soul and many others to create an album that is as versatile as it is lyrical.
In an exclusive conversation with BET.com, Statik talks about how Guru influenced the new album, French Montana's recent comments about lyrical rappers being broke, and taking a $300 cab ride to secure Black Thought's verse.
With this all-star lineup you’ve got on What Goes Around what was the most memorable moment in the studio?
Statik Selektah: That would have to be getting the verse from Black Thought. It was very last minute and I was waiting for his verse for a long time. So I landed at La Guardia airport and got in a cab and went to his house — it was like a $300 cab ride to New Jersey — and we got there, recorded his verse real quick on the laptop. He was wondering if the quality was gonna come out OK 'cause I had, like, a little USB mic, but I had used it before with Ab-Soul so [I knew it would be cool]. We knocked it out and it came out real dope. Last time we did a song called "Bird's Eye View" and he spit 32 bars when I was only expecting 16. He just kept going. This time he spit 54 bars. I was just looking at him the whole time like, "You know there's other people on the song right?"
As someone that works with both commercial and underground artists would you tell us if you had any thoughts on French Montana’s recent comments about all lyrical rappers he knows being broke.
Unfortunately it’s kinda true. A lot of times the more lyrical you are the more of an outcast you are. Back in the day you had to be lyrical to be accepted, nowadays if you’re lyrical people are intimidated. It’s weird, we got to a little corny place in hip hop where mainstream doesn’t accept [lyricism] at all. I mean you got a lot of lyrical cats, like Ab-Soul is really lyrical but even with his album, I thought his album was gonna be bigger than it was. Joey Bada$$ he’s doing it.... I’ll go ahead and say, French is one of the worst rappers of all time, if he wants to say that.
Speaking of lyrical MCs, Total Slaughter had a pretty successful debut. What do you think about the progression of that whole scene?
I think it’s dope. I think the whole scene they got going on is separate from making records. It always has been like that, but what they got going on, I think it’s dope that so many people are into that aren’t necessarily into that kind of rap. I think it’s great for hip hop, it brings a whole new element to what we got going on. But certain things shouldn’t be crossed, like battle rappers trying to make certain kinds of records it makes them look crazy when they make $10,000-$20,000 on stage and then they drop a wack album. That’s what happens a lot. I’m not saying they shouldn’t make songs, but I’ve yet to hear a battle rapper besides Loaded Lux who's got some great songs.
You worked with some big-time rising stars, who are you most excited to see break out?
I don't wanna sound biased, but I've been very involved with the Joey [Bada$$] album and I've seen his growth since the beginning and now his album is finally coming out and I get to see a lot of the people that were saying he couldn't make a hit album be very impressed, so that’ll be fun to watch.
In talking about that growth, what would you say changed or progressed the most since his emergence?
When he first came out his first mixtape was more just rhyming, now he has really dope conceptual songs on the album and it really shows who he is now. That was one of the things people were trying to hate on at first. I want to word this the right way. He lets you in more on this. He's making better records and taking his time more and reaching out to the right producers.
The new album has a lot of live instrumentation and jazz elements. What inspired that direction this time around?
I don't want to do the same thing on every album so on this one I wanted to give it a sort of jazzy sound. I was really influenced by Guru when he did Jazzmatazz volumes one and two. I've always been into jazz period, and the way he did those was dope so this album to me is like Jazzmatazz meets A Tribe Called Quest meets N.W.A 'cause there’s a lot of gangsta s**t on it but it's still soulful and jazzy.
Lastly, you went to the Artist’s Institute, but you also seem to learn a lot on your own. How much would you say you learned in the classroom versus on the job?
With me 95 percent was learning through experience. I don't even know how I got through school honestly. I had to teach myself Pro Tools all over again years later. It's funny, every week someone hits me up and says they went to Artists Institute in Boston because I went there, and at the end of the day I'm still paying Sallie Mae. I used to have kids interning for my company while they were in my class. It's funny how it all works out.
(Photo: John Ricard / BET)