Southern hospitality is alive and well at Stankonia studios in Atlanta, GA. Yes, the old adage was certified when The Crew was invited to the legendary home of Outkast as guests of in-house producers The Flush, to document their partnership with local production platoon SMKA for the second annual of Stankonia Sessions compilation project.
In between visits from Emilio Rojas, Los, Tech N9ne and a slew of other artists who were in town for the A3C festivities, we were lucky enough to sit down with members of both groups – The Flush (Rick Walkk, Jeron Ward, Go Dreamer & Bravery) and SMKA (808 Blake, Kato On The Track & Artist Sensey). Between speaking on recording complete compilations in four days and working with everyone from Big Boi to Jarren Benton and Spree Wilson to Freddie Gibbs, these gentleman showed they were not only capable of making hits, but carrying a great conversation as well.
If you’re interested in the interworkings of maybe the most well-oiled production house you’ll ever see, soak up some game below.
TSS: Obviously, everyone’s come together here because of Stankonia Sessions Volume 2. The project is very unique, as it’s bringing together different artists from all walks of life. How do you pick and choose the artists?
Jeron: Well, it’s a process that involves Mike of SMKA, where we basically just go through the entire roster of A3C. It’s really cool this year, with Mike being really connected to the festival, because we have a really direct – pretty much – partnership with all the events here.
So, we just hit up the roster, go down the list and just hit people up. Our whole intent is to see the greatest, but most unexpected collaboration we can create – being the fact that everyone’s here in the city at one time, which only happens in Atlanta at this one time. So, we wanted to take full advantage of that and pair together some people that wouldn’t typically be together on a track. And, do it at the home of historic music in Atlanta, Stankonia recording studios.
TSS: The list is pretty versatile. Are there any artists you were new to, that you really didn’t know what to expect from? And, how does that parlay into the situation in general?
808 Blake: Well, there’s a lot of ‘em. [Laughs] You can only listen to so many people. If one person is like ‘this dude is dope, I think you should bring him in.’ You just say, ‘cool,’ even though may never heard of him. Then, you hear him spit and you see why they said he was dope.
Leaving this weekend, I got a new understanding. Shit, we’ve already worked with 15-20 people that I hadn’t heard, just because they’re in a different region than I am. But, I think they’re dope and now I want to follow what they’ve got going on. So, it’s pretty cool, because you get opened to some things you don’t see every day.
Jeron: I definitely got hit with a good amount of surprises this year. You know, we’re all producers here, so there’s a mutual respect, where if he vouches for somebody…I take his word for it. Like, Los…he came through and went ham on a track (“The Sparks”). Soul Khan.
Rick: Soul Khan. Man that was my biggest surprise. I’d never heard him, but I’ve heard a lot of people say he’s a good battle rapper and makes good music, as well. When he went in the booth?
Jeron: Everybody was like ‘whoa!’
Rick: I’m talking about it got quiet. [Drops jaw] Yeah. That guy. So far, that was my biggest surprise and this is only day two and a half [Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted on the second night of A3C].
TSS: How long does the entire project take, including mixing and mastering?
Jeron: The recording process? Well, we literally started at the stroke of midnight, on Thursday morning. We’ll end up recording pretty much until Sunday morning. We really just take each song and see what the collaborations were like, because everything moves so quick. So, we go back and listen to it, make some edits. From there, we take it to mixing and mastering and look for some singles from the project, really within about two weeks. We try to get the turnaround pretty quick. We also have video and images coming, as well.
TSS: Was there anybody that weren’t you weren’t able to get on the project this go round?
808 Blake: Jay-Z.
Rick: Michael Jackson.
Jeron: Andre 3000. You know, those kind of guys.
Rick: But, you know what? The project isn’t over. So, never say never.
808 Blake: Yeah. Hopefully, Mike can come back from the grave.
Rick: Well, we know Mike’s not coming back. But, I do got a lost verse from Mike, so…
808 Blake: We got a hologram of him.
Rick: Nobody had Michael Jackson hologram sighting yet. That’s hard. You heard of 2Pac, of course…
808 Blake: Queen did it, I think.
Kato: They tried to with Queen. And Elvis.
Rick: But, nobody’s seen Mike. I guess he dead.
TSS: Let’s move from the Stankonia Sessions to Big Boi’s new single, “Mama Told Me” – which was produced by The Flush, for any readers that don’t know. Singles are super important these days and lot of times there are failed singles from projects How did you guys settle on that record decide it was the one you were going to move forward with?
Rick: Actually, the people did it. The listeners. Once they performed that song in Texas with Little Dragon, like people went bananas, like ‘This is new dope shit, let’s go with it.’ So, the label called Big and they were talking about it and he was like, ‘You know what? This is the single. This is it.’
You know, it took us by surprise. You know, when we create music, we create it to be effortless and timeless. That’s all we go for. We don’t want to play something that’s for three months. Or, it just plays for that year and you never hear it again. So, the people picked what they wanted to hear and I hope they want to hear that for the next 20 to 40 years.
TSS: To me personally, it reminded of like an ’80s record like Cameo record or something like that, which is dope. That’s the shit I like. I’m sick of trap music, you know?
Rick: That’s the vibe we were goin’ for.
TSS: Yeah, I mean…I want something new and I guess with Big, that’s expected. Outkast and Big are maybe the most eclectic rappers ever, on the mainstream market. Everybody knows that. Having worked with them so much, is it hard to materialize that kind of output with that kind baggage?
Jeron: Well, with us it’s become a family situation, so…you gotta’ understand, we’re here every single day. So, as far as pressure, there’s never really any pressure, or baggage. We really take it as an honor and something we definitely consider a privilege. Growing up here in Atlanta, I never imagined I’d be making music for heroes. And, I know we can pretty much say all that, as far the The Flush goes.
So, you know…there’s not as much baggage as people think there is. It’s a very organic process. Every record we’ve gotten to do with them, it’s just been one where Big was walking by the room….and he hears it, then next you thing you know the world hears it. Then, it just grows from there. It’s definitely not something that’s forced, where we’re like ‘Hey Big, you gotta’ go with this one.’ If he likes it…it is what it is. We go from there.
Rick: To interject on something he said, we never gave Big a CD and said, “Here, we’ve got some beats for you. Listen to these.” I mean, we did that back in the day, but everything you’ve heard with him, Dre, Jannelle – whoever has gotten on it – that has come from us grinding hard and he may just pop up. And, it always happens between 2AM and 4AM in the morning. Always! Always!
Jeron: The golden hours.
TSS: So, at that point…are you guys just thinking, ‘OK. It’s 2:30AM, let’s break out the bangers!’
808 Blake: Banger time.
Rick: I mean, it just happens. The stars align. For the Flush, it just happens around those times.
TSS: Stepping away from Big’s project and Outkast, and just speaking in general terms – has the dynamic work when there’s a collective of producers like this coming together?
808 Blake: Man, I think we just work well together. I mean, everybody has a mutual respect. Like, ‘Who’s making beats now? You wanna’ do it?’ Nobody’s fighting each other. Nobody’s chest bumping, trying to outdo or outshine. We all in there and just wanna’ make the best project we can make. So, whoever wants to step up at the time and play some beats, let’s do it. And, if they don’t got it, somebody else will play up.
We’ve always been very good about keeping a very good vibe in that room. It’s a creative and collaborative atmosphere, rather than combative and competition. Who needs that? We’re all just trying to have a good time, network with people and make a good project. So, I just enjoy every time we come together, man. This is year two? This is like our summer camp.
Rick: Yup. Our summer camp. [Laughs]