Tonight we kick off part two of most enjoyable interview I’ve had the pleasure of doing, and possibly the most hilarious. Therapy is that dude when it comes to hip hop knowledge and just repin’ the culture period. In part two, we discuss the two Smile Ray albums, how the Smile Rays got their name, the role of the internet in the future of hip hop and how it’s sold to the masses. His stance on that last issue just might surprise you. It’s a great read.
Tomorrow morning, we have his band mates, Daisey and Batsauce kickin’ the knowledge in an equally entertaining interview.
The Therapy Sessions Part 2
W: You guys were included in the whole Rawkus 50 promotional thing. How did that all come about? How do you feel about it? I’ve heard some grumblings about some of the things going down with that, any problems with that?
T: You know, no, we haven’t. If you are looking at your Rawkus album to be your “be-all-end-all”, then I guess you could have gripes, I don’t know. We knew exactly what we were getting into. For us it was a great promotional tool, it was with a great brand. We already had our debut album out in Japan. In Germany we already had shit out. We were looking for that opportunity to get out state side and domestically. We looked at it as a good opportunity to do something here. Something to download in the states, let’s take 10 songs and do that. We didn’t look at it like “oh ten songs, what are we going to do?” It’s no big deal, I mean 10 songs, shit, who cares, I don’t even care, it’s 10 songs, we are going to make thousands more. They are good songs, but we got more.
W: Like you said, you got the two albums out currently, Smilin’ On You and Party…Place. Let’s talk about Smilin’ On You, how do you feel about that album?
T: That album is supposed more collabo heavy, more…..I don’t even know how to put it….more like a mixtape. We chose songs for that album. The song “Chicken” we did specifically for that record. The thing about that one of my favorite things about that record is the cover. 6 Hole Records, who put out 9th Wonders shit and put out the AB’s is going to be putting out the physical version of “Smilin‘ On You”…
W: Ahhh, cool, I was going to ask you about that…
T: Yeah! And the best thing to me is the cover. I just love the cover. We had this artist, Megan Murphy do it and I just love it. I think the record just bangs. I mean, I’m no means not a fan of our shit, I like our shit. I think Party Place is a more cohesive record though. More of what we want we want to put down for a debut, so I encourage people who really want to hear what we are about that the Party Place record is more “us”….maybe not the way it is now, because Japan has its own track list, but those group songs are more us. “Smilin’ On You” is more to show people what we can do with Rawkus. When you got a name like the “Smile Rays” you really gotta think about that….(laughs)
W: (laughing as well….) Do you have a favorite cut from the album?
T: Probably “Chicken”….yeah, “Chicken”
W: Yeah, that’s probably mine as well, or “Smilin’ On You”. You mentioned Smilin’ On You coming out in the physical form, but how did you feel about it originally being a digital only release and how do you feel about digital only things in the future now?
T: I’m the purist that’s not going to play himself. I’ll embrace it. I’m playing the game, I want to make great music, but I also want to feed my family. It doesn’t matter how the people get it. I love vinyl personally, I love tapes and I love long box CD’s. I collect those stupid things. No matter how matter records I have, I collect mp3′s too. It’s all music to me. Personally though, as a consumer, I’m into packaging. If I like a record, I’m going to buy a physical copy. Digital is what it is.
W: Yeah, I know what you mean. Actually Smilin’ On You is the only digital release I’ve bought. I’m the same way as you, I’d rather have the physical copy. Digital to me is just….wrong. (edit note: since then, I’ve also bought Bat and Daisey’s Heavenly Noise albums digitally along with J-Zone’s Remix EP he put out recently as well).
T: Man, thanks. Even now, I’d still like to have a physical copy of something, I’d still rather buy the 12 inch or whatever. Ultimately, in the end though, I’m a fan of the music than anything else. I’m one of those hip hop artist that is still a fan. I’m aware of everything going on in the game, from the underground to the most mainstream. I love my music. I was one of those dudes that bought new releases every Tuesday. I still want to do that. I still want to buy all the new shit and hear all the new shit. I’ll do that anyway I can. I don’t care if it’s a MP3 or whatever the fuck. As long as it’s not one of those M4P’s or whatever the fuck those things are…..M4Z, or some shit, fuck that….(laughing) or some shit.
It’s funny, I DJ all the time, but even that is changing. When I DJ for Ak and Lif, I don’t use vinyl obviously, because most of their beats or not on vinyl. A lot of them are, but a lot are not, so I spent a lot of time DJing for them and not going straight off the vinyl. I mean it’s time changes, I can’t do nothing about it. I don’t want to be that dude who is like (in a funny voice): “Yeah, yeah I remember the times when blah blah mmmph”. Ya know? I don’t want to be that guy, that dude is going to be mad, old and grumpy.
W: You basically answered the next question. What do you think about the internet? It’s obviously changed how music is promoted, how things are released. It’s a lot different that the times we grew up in. You can find anything you want online in a couple clicks of a button, how do you feel about that overall?
T: You know…..(sighs)…..As many conversations I’ve had and the many different ways I can go with it, I’m personally fine with it. Once again, it is what it is. The internet has now taken over, there is obviously positives and negatives about it. The one thing I really don’t have a problem with is the downloading music and all that shit. I just feel like it’s music and that’s what you should be doing it for anyway, to create music. If you are really trying to make a million dollars off of it and get super paid, or just getting paid at all, then the way things are right now will weed all those people out and the good music, hopefully, will remain. That will be because of the internet, because of the easy availability of to find music. Hopefully people will just drop out the game that are bullshittin’. The money is not going to be there like that.
Me personally, I haven’t a “real” job in ten years, I’ve been able to eat off of this. I’ve really done hip hop as my life, I’ve never prioritized it to where I wanted to get paid and be rich, but it’s kept me eating. That’s why I do a bunch of different things. I’m not trying to get rich, I’m just trying to exist. I do alright, I think I do alright because I don’t look at it like I need the sales, this, that and the third. BITCH I OWN PROPERTY!!! (crazy laughing ensues on both ends of the phone). When chumps ain’t doing it for the almighty dollar, thats when music will come back and people don’t have the pressure of fuckin’ of gettin’ rich, they just have the pressure like me, the “put food on the table” pressure. The internet is turning it around. The internet is like “whoop, it’s not in your plan to be rich, because we downloaded your album for free”!
W: I feel you on that, you are not going to make a million dollars off of just album sales anymore. Let’s get back on track and jump into the other album you have out currently, Party….Place. That’s an import only album, correct?
T: Yup, at this point.
W: What is the buzz like in Japan like? How is it being received over there?
T: Apparently, the vinyl sold out. The record is doing as expected, it’s doing fairly well. Not even really a full release, we did it as a boutique release with these people in Japan. We got fans there now and that was the idea. And I hope to accumulate enough funds to do a trip over there. It was just one of those things. We had a wealth of material and this guy from Japan was interested and offered to cut a check so we figured why not see where it goes. Right now as far as overseas goes, the biggest response is coming from Germany and other parts of Europe. We have a 12 inch single out over there with us and Jakarta records in Germany and we seem to be getting a good response over there.
W: On the subject of overseas, it seems like a lot of artists can make a lot of money overseas touring and the such, what do you think about that?
T: Interestingly enough, the Smile Rays are going to be over in Germany for about a month. In that month, I’m personally going to be there for about three weeks. We are actually going to hole up there for awhile. We have connections over there, so we figured we would just do it. Should be heading over there the end of May or so. We’ll be doing some shows and make some connections. It’s about the experience to as well. The three of us, the Smile Rays, know that this is our life we are dealing with. We know that we are not in this for the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”. It’s about the experience. It’s life and it’s about having fun. I mean, it’s better than waking up and going to some crappy ass job.
W: Yeah, I know all about that….
T: Haha, my bad….(laughing)
W: Yeah, no problem. On Party…Place, you have a lot of different kinds of tracks on that. You have “The Toast”, which is for the “babies”, you have “Rap Battle” which is straight up, in your face hip hop. Daisey flexes her vocal prowness on “Pickin’ Flowers”. Basically, there is a lot of variety on this album, is that what you set out to do?
T: Absolutely. The joke is, that I originally said to myself, “You know, I want to do a record with some white people”….(Trav laughs his ass off)…..and you know, when you do that, you have to think how to maximize what we have to offer. I’m still trying to figure that out, we’re still trying to figure that out in terms of we haven’t maximized our potential yet. Daisey is an incredible singer, but we’ve yet to maximize that. Bat I don’t mention as much, but that is only because I take Bat for granted because he is such an incredible producer, he is so capable. I can tell Bat to do anything and he comes up with it. The challenge is how do you make an album with me as a vocalist and Daisey as a vocalist and we haven’t exactly molded yet, but variety is definitely where it’s at. There are songs like “Pick Flowers” which is light and soft and as an MC, I’m a fan of that, and I’m a fan of Daisey doing that but then it has to be tempered with something like “Rap Battle” or “Suntanama”. I mean, (in his ruff neck voice) it ain’t all sweet, I’m not soft….We want to balance it out. We want to give the people a good rap album. If we are going to go way over the top with the name, the music has to be so authentic that people will lose sight at how so far over the top the name is.
W: I got to ask then, how did you come up with the name The Smile Rays?
T: Yeeaaaaaah, you know what, that was ME! People be like, “ahhh man, I know that ain’t you”. Nah, that was me. When I thought of it, I knew what I was doing. I wanted to see people react to it, to feel some kind of way. I have no problem with that ’cause I rip shit. My solo record sounds like fuckin’ Death Metal, so it’s just a freedom of expression. Surrounding myself with Bat and Daisey is just a great thing. They are in love and they are great people and they are just very kind people and I wanted to surround myself with that. So the album has to have balance and cover different things that each of us has to offer. Like any album, we just want to touch on the right things. I think we are still working out how to really, really, really mesh Daisey and my vocals together. We don’t want it to be where I’m always rapping and she’s just singing the hook, or she’s singing and I’m just standing in the back or something. We want something more progressive. We’ve been messing with a lot of song arrangement where it’s not even about me rapping or her singing. We’ve been messing with sonics and how to do things vocally and the such.
W: How do you guys come up with concepts for songs? Is it a collective process?
T: I’d have to say so far that Bat makes beats, then I listen to them and come up with a concept and start writing. Or I tell Bat I need a beat for a concept. The concepts for the Party….Place record was like, “What kind of concepts do we need? Okay we need a beat like this, or like this”. That’s just been me sitting with a Batsauce beat and thinking what I can do with them. Daisey will sit and do the same thing basically. I’m trying to make it where it’s not always Daisey trying to write her own solo songs. I want her to be able to come up with my vocal arrangements and stuff. We’re trying to make the process more like that, but the thing is everything we do comes out in our own personal conversations we have everyday as a group. When we do a song like “Cest’ la vie” or “Prove My Love” or “Dead Rockers”, these are songs that come out of our conversations. The concept becomes strong just by us talking to each other about it. Then we write it down and friggin’ record it!
W: Haha, cool. I’ve been playing the shit out of “Fresh Tradition” lately. That is the best use of George Clinton I’ve heard yet. Wu-Tang kind of screwed that up. How did you guys hook up with George?
T: (Laughing)…I’m going to leave this one for Bat and Daisey. I’ll just say I wasn’t there for it. It’s a GREAT story, I’d love to tell, but I have to let Bat tell it. He was the one that was up for 12 hours one night, with just him and George in the studio. George was just being George Clinton. Basically I just came home and he played me a rough draft of it. It was basically just the hook and I didn’t want to rhyme to just rhyme over it. What happened was Bat recorded a bunch of him just buggin’ out in the studio. Basically I just used that and took little pieces of that and just wrote around it and arranged it. To hear the story, it’s like “ahhhh man”. And I hope he tells you the unabridged version because, man! It’s incredible, I mean it’s a collabo I can tell my parents about and they get excited about. He’s doing some hip hop stuff with other groups, some of it is hit or miss. We were just blessed to get what we got and we were REALLY blessed that he actually REMEMBERED doing it. Later on he gave us full permission to use it. It’s just incredible really.
W: (laughing some more)…Alright, let’s get wrap this up. What is in store for the future? What’s up with the Rawkus thing, are you guys binded to them for awhile?
T: Who knows what is going to happen with that. Our dude, Slopfunkdust that works there, we are always going to mess with him. The whole thing with Rawkus is we have the one record out and if our paths cross again we’ll be more than open to see what happens. We are just riding this out to place Party….Place somewhere and recording and getting our third record out there.
W: Alright man, any last words?
T: Just ummmm……uhhhh….fuckin’……uh…..buy Smile Rays shit when you see it. I have a my name coming out on a lot of things. I’m on Ak’s record, Cool Calm Pete, Baje One, bunch of beats for Lif’s new shit. A lot of things coming out with my name on it, so if you see Therapy on a record, buy it. I have a solo album I’m working on as well. I’m going to be all over the place. Also when it’s just Batsauce and Daisey together, they are Lady Daisey. Bat does all the beats for Daisey with Daisey doing her solo thing. That shit is amazing. That is going to do very well for her. So check her out and go to smilerays.com and check out all that shit.
W: Right on man, oh and nice beat on that Baje One.
T: Ahh, yeah thanks man. Now see, you gotta tell me what sample I used on that?
W: Man, I’ve been banging my head trying to figure that out.
T: If you listen to the “Black Hell Breaks Loose” on Ak’s record, that sample is from the same record I used for the Baje One beat.
W: Damn, I’m going to have to listen to it again, but I’m shitty at figuring out samples….haha. Well thanks man for sitting down to talk with us, best of luck!
T: Thank You!