Like last year's compilation, this year's Stankonia Sessions is a reflection of what A3C has become: a wide range of voices and talent. "You might be standing next to someone who's stupid dope - who might not be a headlining artist, but could be super talented. That is the beauty of A3C," said Jeron Ward of the Flush, the production trio housed in Stankonia Studios.
This time however, both SMKA and the Flush (also featuring Go Dreamer and Rick Walkk) essentially opened its doors to any billed emcee up for the challenge - rappers who they might not have heard otherwise - and shed them under a decisively spacey and ambient light.
When Ward sat down with CL in Stankonia Studios, Phantogram was recording new material after having contributed to Big Boi's second solo album Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (out December 11). Those new songs will appear in a greater Flush compilation scheduled for next year, in addition to projects by Go Dreamer and Spree Wilson.
Before moving on completely though, Ward chatted about the biggest surprises and personal favorite tracks off this year's Stankonia Sessions 2012, plus what's new about #NewAtlanta. An edited and condensed transcript follows after the jump.
How would you compare this year's recording process to last year's?
Last year, we did a very particular job about picking out select people; this time, we really made an effort to expand and bring in a lot of different voices, a lot of different artists that we may not have necessarily and initially been familiar with. We used Stankonia Sessions to become familiar with these different artists, different people and different styles and different vibes. There was a lot of people that I had just met when they walked in the door, because it might have been someone that Blake recommended or SMKA brought up. We all just came together, put the egos way out there in the parking lot and just came in to make some dope music.
The A3C roster is huge. How did you guys reach out to artists?
Our primary contact was Mike [Walbert] with SMKA. He's the artist coordinator for a lot of the stuff that goes on through A3C, so we literally had the whole entire A3C roster to go through. We would make a wishlist and mark 1's, 2's, 3's - 1's being the people we most wanted to get, 2's being people that we definitely wanted to get and 3's would be people who we've worked with before. Then we attacked it and said, "Okay, who can we get in here? Let's get in contact with them, and let's get them in the studio." At the end of the day though, we were offering Stankonia to people. It's not that hard to get in here.
How many of your 1's and 2's made it into the studio?
Pretty much all of them. We kind of missed out on more of the heavyweight artists. They had pretty busy schedules, like Tech N9ne. Who else? Raekwon. We were trying to get them in here, but it was tough to pin them down for a certain amount of the time to come in and record something.
Of all the people you reached out to, who surprised you the most?
The person who surprised me the most was an artist by the name of Los. I was familiar with him, but I hadn't really heard his music. He came in the middle of us making a track, and he caught the vibe and then did a freestyle. Matter of fact, the first track on the project ["The Sparks"] with Thurz, Skyzoo, and Ro Spit, he was like, "That one right there. That's what I'm on right now. It's just got that '90s feel to it, and he was doing his whole b-boy thing to it. So he caught the vibe and when he went into the booth and started rapping. I said, "Okay, that was tight, " so he was like, "Yeah - record that. Just stop the plan, record and get that done." There were others too. Ro Spit, he surprised me as well. In general it was a huge opportunity to discover new artists, and it was cool that we discovered them while working with them too.
Was there a conversation amongst the producers, about the vibe you wanted to strike?
Our biggest thing was that we wanted to be different. We wanted it to feel like a breath of fresh air. We didn't want to put it out and have someone say, "Oh, this sounds like that, and that sounds like this." The whole goal was to make this whole body of work, where you can't say that this sounds like something else. ... Even with the artists, we were telling them, "Just be yourself." We're in Stankonia - there's no rules here. Do whatever the fuck you want to do and make it work.
One of my favorite tracks is "The B.A.S.S. Act 1." Just when I felt like I was in a video game, out comes a Mario Bros. sample.
That was a track that Go Dreamer spearheaded. Dreamer's production is very animated. It's like, "The B.A.S.S. Act 1." So he had the idea for the track, and we actually had Bizarre in here. We had Bizarre come in and listen to the track, and he was bobbing his head to it, like, "Yeah, this is cool." We were slightly intimated, because we do respect Bizarre as an artist, and we're definitely fans of him too, so having him in here was kind of like, "Okay, cool. I hope he's feeling it." He caught the vibe and put his verse on it. Dreamer came in; he put his verse on it. And later on, he sent the track to Jarren Benton. It was pieced together very organically; nothing was forced, and everyone was putting their own vibe on it, just make sure that it was dope and different.
What is your favorite track off Stankonia Sessions?
One of my personal favorites is "The Sparks." I like what happened with the production there, especially with the Röyksopp sample. I just like the energy and the vibe off that one. Another one would be "Ex-Games" with Emilio Rojas and Aleon Craft. I could go on, but if I had to keep it to one, I would say "The Sparks" is my favorite.
"Ex-Games" reminded me a little of The Weeknd and Illangelo. I was just thinking of how vengeful The Weeknd tends to sound, when I realized, "Oh, they're talking about ex-girlfriends."
I made that track after breaking up with a girlfriend, so that was where "Ex-Games" came from. I was in a weird place - I was mad, but I was also not mad. That's why I think the track sounds very static and feels very uncomfortable, almost very spacey type. ... Am I supposed to be pissed off, or am I supposed to be cool about it? My biggest thing about music is that it's just an expression of how you're feeling. Music is feeling in audio format.
What do you think this year's compilation says about this year in rap?
Rap music in general? I would say in general, it represents diversity. I think rap and music in general is just in a place where people really just want to hear something that's dope. I think we've become tired of the over-processed, the bullshit, and the force-fed music. People are becoming smart enough that they don't want to hear that anymore, and we have the opportunity to voice our opinions through comments. I think it represents quality, and I think it represents diversity when it comes to music. There's so many different artists across the country that are so talented, and I think we did a good job capturing that diversity on a single product. It's more of a united, creative, collective effort. That's a lot of what we're pushing with the New Atlanta stuff, just collective unity when it comes to being an artist. You don't have to be, "Fuck you, and fuck you too." It's like, "Hey you're dope. I'm dope. Why don't we work together and be doper?"
Why the name New Atlanta? What's the difference between New Atlanta and "old" Atlanta?
It's about representing a new energy. Atlanta is a city that operates in different phases, and I really believe that New Atlanta is representative of a culture that's been brewing here. It's actually a byproduct of OutKast, Dungeon Family, Stankonia, of that music that we all grew up listening to. I was in high school listening to "SpottieOttieDopaliscious" and Stankonia. Those are my heroes, and so now people are at a place where, it's our turn to tell that story about Atlanta. It's our turn to tell people on the West Coast what it feels like to go to a party on Friday night in Atlanta, or where we go to eat. ... It's inspired by, if you want to call it that, "old" Atlanta. We're inspired by OutKast, Goodie Mob, Jermaine Dupri, Dallas Austin, people who helped create the city to where it is now, and we're taking that influence and just reinterpreting it and going higher from it. It's our turn to step up and be the leaders of our generation and our culture.
At last year's Stankonia Sessions mixtape listening party, you were most looking forward to putting out what's now [Big Boi's] "Mama Told Me." What is the Flush most looking forward to putting out in 2013?
Oh man. We got so much stuff in the works, and we're definitely developing a really dope team. What I'm really looking forward to is the Little Dragon version of "Mama Told Me" coming out, then "CPU."
We got some dope stuff going on with Spree Wilson right now; I'm really, really looking forward to that reaching its full potential next year. I'm looking forward to Dreamer and what he's doing, and we're going to be working with all the new artists involved in New Atlanta, just the whole culture. I'm really ready to see New Atlanta take over.
We got Forte Bowie. Oh! Marian Mereba is so dope. She doesn't know that I really, really like her yet, because I was trying to be low-key about it, but I'm planning on getting her in the studio real soon and turn her onto some dope shit. Her voice is so cool; it's a mix of Erykah Badu and Little Dragon's Yukimi [Nagano]. She's got a really unique vibe that I don't even think she understands all the way.
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