Interview: How Consequence Is Reinventing Himself as a Producer

Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and Kendrick Lamar are digging Cons's sound behind the boards.

Listen closely to “Party” from Beyoncé’s 2011 album 4 and there’s a subtle but crucial detail that brings the chorus to life. It’s an interpolation of Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di” carefully intertwined into the hook. The idea originated from Consequence, then a core member of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music team. It earned the Queens rapper a co-production credit on a Yeezy and Jeff Bhasker-laced record that reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
The Bey placement was only a baby step in Cons’s evolution from witty wordsmith to beat maker, albeit leaving a footprint the size of Shaq’s bronzed booties. He’s been getting more hands-on with his songs, most recently dropping a head-nodding loosie titled “Tuck Your Release” that’s produced by himself and Mike Cash of Company of Greatness. “I've been getting crazy feedback, like, ‘Yo, this beat is crazy,’” says the 37-year-old lyricist, adding that he’s served tracks to Kanye. “When you do a Beyoncé record and then Kanye jumps on another joint that you do, you begin to build confidence.”
Next up from Cons-to-the-Quence is his first collaboration with Lupe Fiasco, titled “Countdown.” The two MCs, who both appeared on Kanye’s sophomore album Late Registration, go bar for bar over a Cons beat and soulful hook, courtesy of up-and-coming crooner Chris Turner. Consequence hopped on the phone with to speak about his flourishing behind the boards, working with Lupe and how Kendrick Lamar repaid him a years-old favor. How did your new “Countdown” song with Lupe Fiasco first come about?
Consequence: Some beats immediately I'm like, “Maybe this could go to this person or that person.” Some beats are just like, Yo, this is a Consequence beat. And that was one of them. I was in LA working with Ye and Good Music. Lupe lives in LA now. We met up and I laid the idea, like, “This would be dope if you was on this with me.” The process of making this record was like two months. I put a verse down and I wanted a great chorus, because obviously when you hear Consequence and Lupe Fiasco, automatically you think lyrics: It's going to be a lyric bonanza. But for a record of that nature to make sense, it’s gotta have a dope chorus, otherwise it could turn into a freestyle. This moment is bigger than a freestyle. I made some calls because I wanted it to be melodic. I did a reference and I met a guy named Chris Turner at BJ the Chicago Kid's show in New York. Me and Chris got into the studio and Chris's voice is amazing.
Is he from Chicago, too?
He lives here in New York. I'm not quite clear on where he's originally from. He really reminded me of that time period when you had Musiq and John Legend first coming in. It just reminded me of that sound. We started with a chorus I did and I put him on the bridge. He killed it. I sent it to Lu and he knocked it out in 20 minutes, verse crazy. Now we got a record.
Lyrically, the expectations are pretty high. But what’s the subject matter of this record?
It's a variation of subject, but it feels good. It's classic Cons and Food & Liquor Lupe. Thought-provoking bars. What's so crazy about Lupe is the discovery factor in the way that he puts his punchlines together. The more I listen, the more I took away the double and triple entendres. It's just really good. I can't wait for people to hear it.
Nice. So will that be on the mixtape Movies on Demand 5 or the full-length album?
It definitely feels like a classic MOD collaboration, so we may do it for Movies on Demand 5. But if it makes sense to do the LP now, I got records. That's the great thing. I just really want to give Consequence fans top-tier product right now. When you hear this “Countdown” beat, you'll be like, Yooo! Cons is ill with this s**t now!
How has adding production to your repertoire impacted your music?
Production for me is an extension of the tree that has flourished, an extension of my creativity. It's probably the same way Eminem looks at how he does beats. But I'm grounded in rap. I obviously still have a lot of ground to prove as a producer but I had a great start because my first production was Beyoncé. So I gotta f**k s**t up. I have no choice. I played my beats for Q-Tip and 9th Wonder at Irving Plaza at a Common and Jay Electronica show, and they were like, “Yo, I don't believe this s**t. This s**t is crazy!” I feel like I represent a particular boutique sound when it comes to lyricism, and now when it comes to me doing production, I'm able to marry the two.
Who have you been giving beats to?
I gave Big Sean a beat for his next project. I played him that joint and he was like, “Yo, this is me all night. Let me get this.” Obviously he's on tour but he's like, “When I settle in, I'm f**king with this.” I gave Kendrick a beat too. Me and Kendrick go back. I was like the first dude from the East Coast to rap with Kendrick. I put him on Movies on Demand 2, when he was still rapping on Worldstar. So we had always been building on the phone, but never met in person. When we both flew out to work with Kanye, this was the first time we met in person. We chopped it up, I sent him two joints and he's like, "I'm f**king with both of them." One actually got a title, it's called “I Imagine.” I actually did a beat for Kanye, too. I'm not sure where it's gonna land. When I went out to work with him I started looping something for myself with an engineer, and he heard a joint and he was like, "Yo, what's that?" When he heard what I was doing to the joint, he jumped on the mic and made damn near a whole record in one take. The beat thing has always been his thing when it came to our relationship. So for him to rap to one of my beats, I was like, “No doubt!”
How influential has Kanye been in your growth as a producer?
I didn't do the Beyoncé record by myself! But from a kid, I grew up around some of the best beatmakers of all time. I had the distinct pleasure of watching Q-Tip make beats. With him came being around Large Professor, Pete Rock, Rashad Smith, Buckwild. I've been around, and I always paid attention. You think I don't remember any tricks I watched these people do? Hell yeah! I've actually watched Kanye make “All Falls Down.” I watched him cut up the Lauryn Hill sample and everything. I watched him make “Get By.” I rapped on “Get By” before Talib Kweli jumped on it. But I just had a freestyle to it. Originally “Get By” was supposed to be for Mariah Carey. Kweli came to the crib and he had “Get By” as a song. He just put it on there and that was lightning in a bottle. That's not a beat that I'm mad that I didn't get, because that record meant something to the culture. I think my rap ended up on a Roc-a-Fella compilation or some s**t. I didn't have a chorus or anything. And that's why I had to give “Countdown” a big chorus, because choruses define what the record becomes. I sounded great on the "Get By" beat but it was just a rap. Kweli had a concept. So later on I write “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” [Laughs] I'm not about to miss another good beat! So I would definitely say when you're around these circles and you have these wells to draw from, it's really easy to make great s**t because of your points of reference.
What's your process? How do you go from blank canvas to full instrumental?
I look at it the same as making a rap. I start by thinking. Even with sound, thinking what I want it to be like. Is this a trap joint? Boom-bap? A soulful joint? What's the mood? What's the temperature? What we doing? Because all art comes from color. So instead of saying something is gold, it's a brass instrument, it's a horn. Or maybe it's something like money green, that's a deep bass line. So I equate it in that sense and then kind of figure out what I want to see. What I want to see through sound or what I want to see through words.
Can you speak on any of the music you heard in Kanye’s So Help Me God sessions?
He's not finished yet, so I can't really say. And I think that's really more for him to do. Ye's album, until he turns it in, is always subject to change anyway. So that's a better Kanye question.
What’s next for you?
We got “Countdown,” so I'm super excited about it. Hopefully this will be the first of many Consequence and Lupe collaborations. We got a video coming for “Tuck Your Release” and a video coming for "Countdown" as well. And you know, more hot s**t. That's what it's about in 2015. All that bulls**t out the window, man. Let's get to these raps. [Laughs] When people hear this "Countdown" joint, trust me, it's an X-factor in this producer s**t now. You better cop now, straight up!

(Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

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