TSS: Word. What happens if you’re in the studio and Kendrick drops a line you don’t really like or Q drops a line you think is weak. Do you tell them, or do you let it go?
Mixed By Ali: Yeah, I definitely would say something. I’d say, ‘Yo, let’s try to get that back,’ or, ‘Let’s try that one again.’ I learned that from watching Dre work. That dude would make you get an ad-lib back. Just watching him work, he’s the ultimate perfectionist. And now, Kendrick’s a perfectionist. I don’t want to sit back and be a yes-man. I’m not a hired engineer. I’m from the camp, so I don’t want nothing to be released that’s gonna be trash. I’m gonna speak my words and if they don’t agree at least I gave my input.
I think every engineer should be like that. I’ve been in plenty of sessions where I’ve seen engineers just on their phones texting and pressing record and not caring if the vocals are coming out clean or not. I can’t respect that, man. I feel like engineers have the same responsibility as producers on their own records. At the end of the day, their name is gonna be on the record as well. So why not make it the best it can be?
TSS: How much time did you spend with Dre?
Mixed By Ali: I’ve had a few sessions with him, mostly shadowing him while he works.
TSS: Is Detox ever coming out?
Mixed By Ali: [Laughs] I don’t know. That’s something you’d have to ask Dre.
TSS: [Laughs] Man, if I were in a position to ask Dre myself, then you’d know I made it too. Speaking of Dr. Dre, he cosigned TDE about a year-and-half ago and you guys took full advantage. I think that was one of the things that took the TDE camp to another level. How did him putting his stamp on you guys change things?
Mixed By Ali: I don’t think it changed anything. It’s dope he recognized what’s going on, but we were still gonna do what we been doing if he didn’t. We never let nobody come in and change what we had going on. All the fans that we got, all the people who listen to our music and come to our shows, it’s all off the strength of what TDE did. We don’t want nobody to come in and change what we got going on. It’s been working so far, so we just gonna keep doing what we doing. It don’t matter if Kanye comes in and cosigns what we doing. We just gonna keep doing what we do.
TSS: Tell me about the HiiiPower movement. How did it start and what does it mean?
Mixed By Ali: Heart. Honor. Respect. In this day and age you need to have heart, honor and respect to survive. Whatever negativity you have around you or in your life can all be overcome by still having self-respect.
TSS: Heart, honor and respect. Is that what the three “I”s stand for in HiiiPower?
Mixed By Ali: Exactly. We were tired of everybody telling us, ‘Nah, that’s not gonna work,’ and, ‘Do this, not that.’ Nah man, fuck that. We gon’ do us.
TSS: Looking back, how important was 2011 for you and the label as a whole?
Mixed By Ali: It was very important because we got the opportunity to show the world what we could really do. I feel that 2011 was the year that the eyes were on us, and we had to really show and deliver, which we did. And for me, dropping the records and projects that TDE dropped, I think it put me in a specific light or whatever you want to call it, for people to hear my progress and hard work I put into these records. And now this year, as an engineer and mixer, I’m where the artists were last year, with people watching me, waiting to hear what new records from TDE I mixed.
TSS: And now that you guys got the deal with Interscope how do you guys take your underground success and translate that to the mainstream without alienating your underground fan base?
Mixed By Ali: To us it’s all the same. Underground, mainstream, whatever you want to call it. We gonna make the same music. We gonna show the same love we been showing to the fans. We still gonna do the same intimate shows that we do.
I never understood why people think that when you get a deal or a situation, your music automatically becomes “fake” all of a sudden. That’s never going to happen. We’re still going to keep making the same music that the fans love, and just keep pushing. Nothing is gonna change because of this situation.
TSS: The Club Paradise Tour was a great opportunity for you. You got to mingle with “40” (Noah Shebib) a lot, and I want to know what you got out of those conversations and what you learned from him.
Mixed By Ali: “40” is a smart dude. He knows his gear and his music. We mostly talked about previous records he produced and mixed. We listened to a few joints and we actually sat down and touched up a mix on a record we had. He’s a great guy and I’m looking forward to working with him a lot more in the near future.
TSS: I saw an interview with “40” back when Take Care came out and I vividly remember him saying something to the effect of no matter who contributed to the album, no song got approved without going past him. Is that how it works between you and Kendrick?
Mixed By Ali: I’m the same way. Kendrick doesn’t like too many people touching his vocals. If you look at the features that Kendrick has done, my name is on them. From Jay Rock to Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul, and everything that TDE does, our management makes sure that I okay the vocals. I listen to it and make sure everything is good to go, the artists trust my ear, that’s the coolest thing about it.
Follow Ali on Twitter at @MixedByAli.