Right. Your songs tend to psychoanalyze daily problems. I try to find restful resolve but it’s oft-times difficult to uncover.
This particular record, I tried to instill resolution all over the place. I did look at my past material and realized the story could be over if there was no resolution. Not to sound corny, but I love Common. One of the best things he does is offer resolution. A lot of rappers just offer the story and say ‘this is what happens,’ especially in this ‘keep it real’ mind state we live in with hip-hop. Even though we know it may not be a true story – we know they didn’t shoot anyone, they’d be in jail – but we accept the story for what it is. But we never get resolution. What happened to the gangster next week when he got arrested? It’s just these quick glimpses and I realized that was all I was doing. Grant it, you could only get a fats glance in three-and-a-half minutes. But I wanted to leave more room to let it seem like something worked out on When Life Gives You Lemons.
The solemn reflection, “Yesterday,” in remembrance to your father, offers some resolve.
He passed away shortly before we started making this album. There’s a lot of stuff I wrote that’s purely autobiographical but doesn’t make the cut for the record. “Yesterday” surprisingly made the cut. Normally, songs that ‘real’ don’t make it. I wasn’t doing anything too clever inside its word scheme. It was straightforward.
It’s reflective in a similarly didactic manner as Eminem’s fan-stoked “Stan.”
And it doesn’t need a big huge beat to push the message across.
What’s the skinny on “The Skinny”? I thought the rhythm drew comparisons to George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog.”
I’ll accept that. It’s funny. I just lit a cigarette and that’s what that song’s about. When we first wrote the song it was over a beat that was like a Too Short track. Because of the genre of hip-hop I’m boxed into, I can’t really write songs about pimps. I’m not in your traditional rap pimp manner. But the beat was begging for a pimp song. So I wrote “The Skinny” for it and used the pimp as a metaphor for cigarettes. That’s probably one of my favorite songs musically and lyrically.
“You” is one of the most uplifting pop songs I’ve heard this summer. How’d that come into being?
We were looking to write a Prince song. A lot of that song we were trying to model around Minneapolis. For years, people would accuse us of representing the Minneapolis sound. But I never really got it. I always thought the Minneapolis sound was not knowing what you’re doing. I look at what the Replacements and Husker Du did for their rock movement. I just think they got together and made these songs that production-wise were super lo-fi. Some of the writing is simple – it works. It’s catchy. It’s luck. Then I look at Prince and see he was making it up as he went along. Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis – look at some of the drum noises they were creating in the ‘80s. It was ridiculous, but it worked. People gravitated towards it and danced to it. But in the real world, I bet they were just doing their imitation of George Clinton when he started fucking around with synthetic drums.
So when people give us credit for making up a sound, I’m like, ‘not really.’ We’re getting credit for not knowing what we’re doing. There’s no mentor-ship in Minneapolis and the world of making music. It’s all self-taught. So this is our version of making a Gang Starr record just as Prince made his version of Jimi Hendrix shit just as The Time were making their version of Parliament. The Replacements were making their version of the fucking Rolling Stones.
Minneapolis artists seem to relate well to contemporary pop culture.
There’s a lot of folks here just making art for art’s sake. But for the most part, prior to the internet, Minneapolis only got what it got through pop culture sources – magazines and standard media. There weren’t people moving here from Berlin to expose us to German disco.
This and John Fortunato’s many articles on music can be found at beermelodies.com.