‘Detroit may have put the world on wheels, but it also put the kids on their feet, dancing to Motown, the other assembly line triumph of the city’, wrote a recent Mass Appeal article on the once Michigan metropolis area where Guilty Simpson was born, mostly raised and most definitely wears with blue collar pride through his hip-hop music. His most recent album Detroit’s Son is a testament to where Simpson remains determined to uphold the standards once left by the great Motown sound.
GUILTY SIMPSON interviewed Saturday, January 16, 2015
For Ozhiphopshop.com [READ HERE]
In 2008, co-signed by the late producer and fellow Detroit native J Dilla after Simpson dropped a verse on the track Strapped from Jaylib’s Champion Sound (2003), Simpson joined Stones Throw Records releasing his debut album Ode To The Ghetto and had followed up two years later with OJ Simpson, produced by Madlib. Establishing his rep in the concrete trail of Detroit’s fabled music history he went on to join forces with the late Sean Price and Black Milk for the Random Axe project in 2011 and collaborate with Apollo Brown for Dice Game a year on. From there Simpson had become a part of the Quakers movement guesting a verse on the Geoff Barrow-produced Fitta Happier where upon he would first collide talents with Katalyst and his deepening production catalogue of handiwork – a collision that would result in Simpson’s third album entirely produced by Katalyst, Detroit’s Son for Stones Throw.
For the MC who has worked with the like of the indelible producer J Dilla (Man’s World, Stress, I Must Love You), Madlib, Mr Porter (Getting Bitches), Alchemist (Kalashnikov Guns) to highlight a few of the greats Simpson insists that what Katalyst brings to the album is no less pivotal in his career than those who stepped before him and the hard-hitting beats placed on Detroit’s Son are the universal landscape on which Simpson has made Motor City official.
So, in keeping with his Motown sound, speaking exclusively with OHHS, Simpson discusses working with the likes of Dilla and those producers who try to live up to the legend’s production, the new album and the integral part Katalyst plays. Guilty assures that despite the universal landscape the soul and assembly line of Detroit is firmly signed in the lyrical content of Guilty Simpson.
“Music is music and it’s my landscape to share my story and Detroit is my landscape,” said Simpson, furthering that, “the music done by an Australian producer is still Detroit official linked by the words. I would like to think my lyrics add that Detroit element to it” and that “I always want the lyrics to be my defining signature on a song to make it a Detroit kind of thing.”
Over several weeks down under, both Guilty Simpson and Katalyst unite yet again bringing forth a celebration of Detroit’s own rapping over the neck-snapping beat drops of one of Australia’s dopest producers on a tour across the country for a select few dates opening up at the Transit Bar, Canberra on Saturday 30 January then to the Laundry Bar, Melbourne the following night before taking a week in the sun and studio before Sydney’s show at the Plan B Small Club Friday 5 February and across to Perth’s Mojo on 6 February.
Q&A with GUILTY SIMPSON
Your guest verse on Fitta Happier by Quakers with co-founder Katalyst led to Detroit’s Son. How soon did you know you both had enough chemistry for a whole album?
At the time I didn’t really know. We did the Fitta Happier verse and at the time when me and Phat Kat officially met Katalyst we were in Australia on tour trying to hang out a little bit and have a smoke and he said we could smoke and listen to beats. Smoking was the only thing we had in mind, beats were kind of an afterthought. We didn’t realise he was gonna be as sick as he was. So what we did was, we definitely went over there with the intentions of smoking and thought maybe if we were lucky we’d hear a hot beat or two and when we got there he was super sick. It really happened by chance that we were in line to make a chance meeting like that and it really was just a snowball effect that started from there and went right into completing Detroit’s Son and we plan on keeping on working after this also so you know, it’s not really this great story of some person telling me how great he was or me telling him how great I was. It was a coincidence and it just so happened that it worked out and I am very thankful for it.
How did it happen did you guys get together? And where did it happen, did Katalyst go over to Motor City?
At first it was done over email, he was sending me music and I was going to the studio here in Detroit but as time passed as I went back on the road back over there me and hm thought it would be a good idea to complete the album in the studio and I thought that was a great because nowadays with the internet age being in the studio together almost feels old school so it was good to get back to the old school values and sharing creative space and at least for me that’s the most effective method for me because I like to feed off the next person and kinda get an idea on what works and what doesn’t work and sometimes you can’t really capture that over emails. It was good to do that and that was the second half of the album was done, you know, like my title track Detroit’s Son, Beautiful Death and quite a few other songs that were critical for me on the album to complete that I was able to do with him in the studio.
What about The D because that track was fire there had to be a chemistry that went on for that?
Actually, I think I recorded that one on my own but just hearing the way the driving force of the beat and just the way that it sounded Detroit-like, it sounded like he had Detroit in mind when he made that beat for some reason. So when he sent me that beat I was kinda charged up and had my hyped just with the sound of it. I really, really liked that track! I look forward to rocking that live! And I’ve had a couple shows I’ve been doing here and a couple over in Europe so far and people get real geared up for that joint, they really like it, it seems.
Like so many of your albums, Detroit’s Son holds such a belonging to the home of the Pistons. Did you think there would be any issue with compromising that by collabing with an Australian producer?
No, not really. Because music is music and it’s my landscape to share my story and Detroit is my landscape so i don’t think it lacks authenticity of Detroit because the music is not necessarily Detroit music i just think of it as me using a universal landscape or sound to share my story which is definitely Detroit through and through so even though I could have collabed with Detroit producer and technically someone may have considered that more Detroit. I think the music done by an Australian producer is still Detroit official linked by the words. I would like to think my lyrics add that Detroit element to it because I think if you were to play a Detroit’s Son instrumental album you wouldn’t necessarily equate that to a Detroit artist. I think my vocals are what made it official but I want my music to be universal. I don’t want it to be put into a corner I always want the lyrics to be my defining signature on a song to make it a Detroit kind of thing. But I always want my music to be universal.
You’ve gone from projects with Random Axe, Apollo Brown, Dilla, are you still in search of good chemistry or do you favour joining collaborative projects to keep the Guilty sound from going stale?
I don’t really put ‘stale’ into my mindset because I don’t really, like, I don’t mean to sound selfish but my music is my art, you know, as long as it motivates me, as long as it drives me then I think the rest will take care of itself. If I am too worried about my sound or how it will be accepted then I think I am worrying about the wrong things. I need to worry about my art, you know. I need to worry about motivating myself. I’ve been around hip-hop long enough in my life to feel like the rest will take care of itself. I think when an artist starts worrying about being critical of ‘I have to make sure my sound is current, I have to make sure my sound isn’t dated’. I would like to think my talent got me to this point right now. I would like to think that as long as I am motivated to create and be original with what I do then I would like to think that I’m someone who loses the motivation to continue that I will stop. Being self-conscious and worrying about how I am to be perceived by others, that’s not my motivation.
From someone who used to fuck with Dilla, Madlib, Alchemist even Geoff Barrow… how does Katalyst size up in making this album?
I think he sizes up well, I’m not really big on comparisons. I don’t really hang my hat on that but I think individually he shines his own light and I don’t think anyone can take that away from him. I wouldn’t trust him with being producer of my album if I didn’t feel that way so I would like to think, well I know, that he represented himself in his own light and created with his own sound in mind and you could tell by listening to this album that he wasn’t thinking about Dilla when he made this album, he wasn’t thinking about Madlib. He wasn’t trying to copy or duplicate any sound that they created previously and that’s something that I could appreciate from him as a producer. A lot of artists like to align themselves with certain producers and they almost feel a pressure to recreate a sound. Especially with Dilla being gone I tend to get a lot of producers who feel that they have to recreate a Dilla sound.
That would be very intimidating?
Right, right. That’s definitely intimidating but it’s amazing to see people make those attempts and actually those are the things that really sour me from working with certain producers because I’m well versed enough in hip-hop to know, as talented as Dilla was in the game, he is not the only talented producer in the game, there are a lot talented producers in the game. So I think as long as somebody is unique and original and takes the time to work at their craft, because if they don’t then I don’t like it so I think that’s very important, you know? Originality is always the key, people biting others’ sounds is doing a disservice to hip-hop.
Pitchfork had said in a review of this album that you are as good as your beats, which given the producers you’ve worked with, says a lot. Do you feel that Katalyst has stretched you with his production on this album?
Most definitely. His style of beats always challenged me and I think that’s what was dope. I used to say that Dilla’s beats used to tell a story, he was one of those producers that used to make an instrumental and even though you could say this producer sounds great over it, you would still be able to appreciate it in the instrumental form. He was very selective as to who he would use to put his music together. It always motivated me to write and I always and that’s why I have songs like Man’s World and Stress and Take Notice and a lot of songs that touched on a lot of different subject matter that didn’t necessarily rap on subjects about myself or keep to a bragadocious style about how dope I am on the mic I rap about real life subject matter that would push me a little deeper to create something that the listener can really relate to.
You have got some shows coming up starting at the end of January and going into February, playing Sydney, Melbourne with a few more stops along the way. Tell me what you both have planned.
Since we have a pretty extensive library now I guess with my contribution to Quakers we plan running down that catalogue and sharing a lot of music that I was able to do with Dilla, Madlib, Apollo Brown. So we’re going to splash it up and give people a mix of old school and new to cover those who are familiar with some of my older work we will definitely run down those alley ways and for the new fans, I’m not really a trendy kinda rapper so basically I’m gonna bring some honest lyrics over dope beats and not too much call and response, hands-in-the-air, I’m not going to really run down that shit.
Forget that, man we want that solid hip-hop, that Motown shit, that out-the-D vibe!
Right, right! We are gonna vibe out with the crowd and keep hip-hop alive, man. No gimmicky, trendy stuff. I’m not into all that so if you’re looking for that then this isn’t the show for you.
Those people can wait on the next Ja Rule tour to come instead.
No doubt, no doubt! For sure. No knock to what he does but we just have two different jobs.
You’ve been a Stones Throw Records flagship artist for a while now, Katalyst has been down for a minute. You mentioned earlier your interest in continuing to work the Aussie producer. Do you have anything planned?
We’ve been talking about doing another album but we haven’t really figured it out. I’ll be (in Australia) for two weeks and it’s only six shows that we will be performing so the remainder of that time we will be vibing out, listening to some music and trying to figure out what we wanna do. Now I might get there and we might record five songs, that might be it for an EP or we might do 12 songs and it might end up being an album. But I do want to make sure we take care of the most important thing which is to make music. We want to sit down and listen to some beats and start creating songs. I can get a better idea of where it’s going once I get down there and put it all together. But we are definitely going to create but I am just not gonna get into any depths of how much we are going to create but I am definitely looking forward to it and I go on record and say it’s going to be next level and better. We get better every time we’re together.
Guilty Simpson, thank you for your time man, I appreciate it and Ozhiphopshop definitely appreciates the time you’ve taken to sit with us before you head down.
Words and interview by Rip Nicholson for OHHS.