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Exile: The Soul Provider

By Phalary Longfeatures
Jul 12, 2009 - 10:56 PM

As a producer in hip-hop, it's important to work with a vocalist who can compliment your style. Born in San Diego, Exile is living proof that there are unlimited variations to the new west coast sound. Exile's first venture into the professional realm of hip-hop was with Aloe Blacc as part of the duo Emanon. It was the 2007 masterpiece, Below the Heavens with So Cal emcee Blu, that solidified his status as a groundbreaking producer. He invites listeners to his musical landscape with relaxing yet explosive composition. The honesty and integrity that is conveyed through Exile's drums and bass lines further explains why Ghostface Killah, Mobb Deep and others have enlisted him for his loops that are soulful, mesmerizing and charming all at once.

In person, Exile is quite the character. He's witty, funny, smart, real and humble. I introduced myself and explained how Below the Heavens reminded me of Illmatic. He asked me if I was high. I laughed. But Blu explained how I felt best on his and Exile’s “So(ul) Amazin'”: "Feeling fresh, yes. While Ex queue the keys, I'm a ease through your soul like you're blowing trees. Best believe the soul provider."

Oh Dang! sat down with the beatsmith and talked with him about his latest release Radio; how he met Blu, his upcoming projects for 2009 and his rap album. (Yes, you read that right, a rap album.)

Listen to "The Sound Is God"

Download: Exile - "The Sound Is God"

Listen to "Mega Mix"

Download: Exile - "Mega Mix"

Oh Dang: Take us through your creative process of making music, what do you think about?

Exile: I think about music that I like, and I try to find inspiration in that. It's kind of like, either I force myself or it comes naturally, but sometimes when you force yourself, it comes out just as natural. I usually start with drums first, and then just build it from there; [I] do what the drums tell me to do. Sometimes I'll do a sample. Or sometimes I'll even have a melody in my head, a bass line in my head and then just use the keyboard and come up with it and make it happen.

Tell us about your origins and evolutions as a producer. What are your earliest memories with music and when did you begin producing?

It all started with beat-boxing, just trying to emulate people I like. I remember I recorded myself rapping over a beat box. I took a hit of a helium balloon and rapped like Quasimoto, and I did a song about my friend’s mom because she would always go out to the clubs and bring home dudes and shit. [Laughs] So we wanted to clown her so we made a song called "Club Kathy." [Singing] "Club Kathy, Club Kathy, it’s the place to go." [Laughs] … And then from there, I got a Sanyo stereo system with the tape deck on the bottom, the radio in the middle and the phono up top (the turntable). I used to hold down the tape button and use that to transform Star Wars records: "I'm your father, Luke” or whatever and scratch. I learned how to scratch pretty good like that, and then I moved up to using speaker buttons to scratch … Once I got a mixer, I had two tape decks. I recorded on one tape deck and on one turntable I would have like, time, time clubs, silent plays, [mimicking sounds], silence, for like five minutes. And then I played that tape while recording on another one to fill in the gaps so it created a loop, and then from there I can keep on adding and adding to it and I had infinite tracks. Later I figured out I could simplify the whole process with the four track … [and] then moved on to a Roland MS1 where you have to manually do all your loops and change up the drums and everything … From there I got an MPC. I was releasing stuff, the four track stuff, when it was just a push button sampler. Some of that got pressed to wax actually, [through] a fan of our tapes because I used to sell tapes with a mixtape on one side and then me and Aloe rapping on the other side. A fan of that pressed up a vinyl of ours, and it got played on Friday Night Player and it kept on snowballing.

The legend goes that Biggie had to have fried chicken in the studio. What is unique about your studio experience?

It depends on what I’m doing. It definitely varies but usually I just like to make beats in my room and I like to do it either alone or do it along with somebody who enjoys watching me who will give me input and shit. That, and if I’m doing songs by myself, I like to just be by myself. Or, if I’m writing—actually, I have a rap album too—but I also love making group songs with other rappers and trading verses, writing stuff for each other and shit like that. Basically, if I’m going to work with an artist and do their whole album, we really got to be there, build it, build with each other, with music and just with ourselves as humans too.

How did you link up with Blu for Below The Heavens?

Well, me and Aloe were talking to these cats called Science Project and we were going to start this label with Miguel Jontel, who sings on Below The Heavens, and Blu. I always heard about Blu, and I didn’t meet him yet. Aloe had already known him and then one day we went and saw him perform and I was just about to start with Sound In Color on my Dirty Science album, and Blu had heard our stuff before, and I just said, “Let’s work on something.” He was down. We did a song called “Party of Two” (off Blu’s Lifted EP), and then after that—I think the same day—we started talking about what we want our album to be like. We just kind of instantly talked about it.

You sampled the radio on your album, can you explain to us about how that process was?

I knew I wanted to make an instrumental album and I just thought of the idea to only sample off the radio. It came up because I was in a tour van driving to Miami with some cats and I was hooked up to the car stereo, making beats. I was like, “Oh that would be dope if I made an album called Road Trip or something.” I just sampled and made beats all off the radio in the car. Eventually I scraped that idea and just decided to make it LA-based radio and that’s what it is. I sampled everything—the drums, bass lines, everything. I just thought it would be a good way to challenge myself and a good way to do what hip-hop is supposed to be: sampling stuff, making music out of stuff that you’re not supposed to. I knew that I would be able to sample vocals from the radio, and there’s some pretty conscious radio in LA, and I knew that I would be able to capture the voice of what humans are going through in the world too, and that’s what I kind of did with the album and I showed what the world’s going through, but I also showed my biased opinion of love and shit like that, and spirituality.

So talk to us about 2009. What can we expect from you?

Well, the Radio album came out in 2009. [I also] did a record called Days Chasing Days by Blame One, which I executive produced; Blu’s on it, I’m on it, Black Milk, Oh No, all kinds of cats. I just now wrapped up an album with my boy Fashawn coming out of Fresno. I produced the whole thing; it’s called Boy Meets World, and I think it’s really a very great album. I’m real excited about it. It’s coming out in, I think, the summer. I also have my rap album done too, which I think I’ll probably wait until 2010 to put out.

Can you talk to us a little more about that album?

It was actually before I had Pro Tools and I wanted to record my raps, so I still had my four track and I was like, “Shit, I’ll just make the album all in four track,” because I wanted to get it out and get it done. It’s called The Four Track Mind. First it was going to be called Cassette, but I changed it to Four Track Mind, and it’s just me rapping. It’s a personal record, it’s a funny record, and a little bit dark, something like that. More personal than anything else—personal and funny.

You got some production with some big artists as well, like Akon. How did that happen?

My man Mike Chavez. Well, Kardinal Offishall was on my Dirty Science record, so he was a fan of my beats. I was always a fan of Kardinal Offishall and yeah, I was just always giving beats and they found this bass beat I made and him and Akon did a song to it and, boom, there it is.

You’ve been around for quite awhile. Now that you’ve gotten success, has it affected the output of your music at all?

Nah, not really. I mean, I just kind of had a plan of what I wanted to do, I wanted to really bring out what the new West Coast artist is, to help build up the West Coast, and that’s basically what I’m doing. I also got another album coming out called Dag Savage with my homie Johaz. I just wanted to work with West Coast cats and get some new talent made. I wasn’t just going to try to focus on trying to make beats for famous cats, I wanted to put some other cats that I think are dope out there; kind of follow in the footsteps of Marley Marl, Preemo, [and] Madlib.

That’s Johaz from Deep Rooted.

Yeah. It’s a darker record. It should be dope. We’re halfway through.

What’s up for the summer as far as shows and such?

Me and DJ Day are doing a tour of MPC live show where we’re kind of a live MPC band. We’ve been having a lot of fun doing those shows and we’re going to be going off to Europe. We just got through doing a lot of West Coast work, touring with Grouch and Eligh and with just us. Be on the look out for shows with just me and DJ Day. In July, we’re going to Europe.


Phalary Long is interning at Rap Radar for the summer and living in New York to pursue her dreams. You can check her out at her blog, Soul Amazin', and follow her on Twitter: @phalary42.

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