I’ve Got Rent and Bills to Pay: An Interview with Willie Green

So one fine Thursday afternoon I’m sitting at work when I get an abrupt Twitter message and subsequent e-mail from producer Willie Green. You might know the name from his solo instrumental projects …Of Heroes and Villains and Dirty Jordans, or from his work with Super Chron Flight Brothers and Vordul Mega. Anyway, Willie decided to show up in Boston and asked for an impromptu interview to which I gladly obliged. After making him pay for my coffee so that I could stay awake long enough to get in some quality questions, Willie dropped some knowledge on just about everything music related. Literally. Hit the skip to find out what he thinks about major labels and what’s missing in hip-hop these days.

PIMB: You’ve been known to sample well beyond the scope of what many producers will. What were some of your early influences?

Willie Green: I really loved Earth Wind & Fire and The Jackson 5 growing up. Then in the late ’90s I was on a big jazz tip; I actually ended up missing out on a lot of the classic late 90s hip-hop. Once I was at Berklee [College of Music] I really fell in love with ’60s and ’70s funk and r&b. I really looked at the melodic concepts and song structures being used in those genres. In a sense, I was working from a very traditional songwriting structure, but I had to fall back from that a bit and learn to work more with chops and loops. I also think there are some artists that just shouldn’t be sampled. You know, I’ll never sample Marvin Gaye. His songs are too iconic that the samples can’t be flipped enough to really make it your own.

PIMB: Coming from Berklee College, was it easier to break into the music industry? What was that process like?

WG: When I graduated, I kind of had an idea that I needed to find a job in a studio. At the time, I had a huge ego about my production skills. I was spending time in studios, but I was just there to do administrative jobs; I wasn’t engineering. I decided to start my own company, Secret Weapon Productions, with a few friends of mine. One of our first projects was this horrible movie, then we moved on to working with local rappers, recording demos here and there. Eventually I started to really hone my skills and I got talked into creating a mixtape of my own work. One thing lead to another and this mixtape ended up in the hands of the right people and they really helped me climb the ladder.

PIMB: You’ve kept most of your work on a fairly underground level. How would you feel about working with major label artists?

WG: If I had a chance to get on a major label I would love to, as long as it fit within my musical outlook. I’m not one of these idealistic indie rap dudes that lives with his parents and will only rep the underground in all circumstances. I’m not going to cater to a major label’s needs, but if someone like Gucci Mane were to contact me to take my beat as it is, I would love it. I’ve got rent and bills to pay just like everyone. And that’s real. So if there was an opportunity to work with a major that didn’t compromise my own beliefs, then I’m working!

PIMB: Let’s dig into your latest solo project, Dirty Jordans. What can you tell us about this album?

WG: That’s a project that I’ve been sitting on for a while. Most of the beats on there are from ’06-’08. It’s just now getting released because it was a lot of the first tracks that I played for Backwoodz when I met them. At the time, Super Chron wanted to use a bunch of the tracks for their upcoming album Cape Verde, which is dropping this summer. Therefore I had to wait until Cape Verde was ready before I could release these beats, otherwise it would have seemed too recycled once Cape Verde came out.

PIMB: So then give us a little preview of Cape Verde. What can we expect with that album?

WG: Well, it’s the new Super Chron Flight Brothers album. To this point, I think it’s my best work. I don’t want to give too much away, but “42nd Street” has a bunch of features with some crazy flows. It’s gotten to the point now where I’m making beats that are holding up as great music years down the line – and that’s something I’ve always aimed for. I make music because I want people to keep replaying my music years down the line.

PIMB: So you want to make classic and/or timeless records?

WG: I don’t want to make records just for the nostalgia factor. I want to make music that is memorable and dope at all times. I want to make an album that people remember where they were when they first heard it. I still remember where I was when I first heard Liquid Swords. I remember where I was when I heard Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, and that one will never leave my iPod.

PIMB: What do you think about music these days?

WG: People don’t need to make an album that sounds like 1994. People don’t need to make an album that’s just going to be hot today. People should want to make timeless music. I’m not sure everyone today respects music enough to do that. When people get stuck on the past the music can get stale. When people are too stuck in the present they get caught up in fads. Music needs progression.

PIMB: So is there anything missing from hip-hop today in your opinion?

WG: Everyone wants to make “real” hip-hop. I think people need to make honest hip-hop instead. Honest music. But there aren’t enough people who realize that, and that’s what’s missing. Everything doesn’t need to be some kind of grandiose political statement. Music can just be music.

PIMB: Do you have a wishlist of artists that you would like to work with?

WG: The first to come to mind are Ghostface and Blu. Blu can really, really rap. But more than anything, I want to work with rappers who like to be rappers. Janelle Monáe is also on some real other shit. She blows me away at times. The Flaming Lips are dope. Also Pharoahe [Monch] and M.O.P.

PIMB: You’ve told us about Dirty Jordans and Cape Verde, but I know you’ve got more going on than just that. What are your future plans for this year?

WG: I’m doing a one-emcee, one-producer project with Hicoup, a Backwoodz rapper who also appears on Cape Verde. That project will be called Guerilla Jones. I’ve also got a record in the works with emcee Pastense slated for late 2010 or early 2011. Besides that I’ve just been cooking up ideas for my next solo full-length. I’ve got a great theme in mind for that one, but I want to keep it under wraps for now. Let’s just say it’s going to sound really different.

[audio:http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/19-On-My-Scene.mp3|titles=Willie Green – On My Scene] [audio:http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Super-Chron-Flight-Brothers-Cape-Verde-13-42nd-St.-feat.-Lord-Superb-Pastense-HiCoup.mp3|titles=Super Chron Flight Brothers – 42nd St. f. Lord Superb, Pastense & HiCoup]

6 thoughts on “I’ve Got Rent and Bills to Pay: An Interview with Willie Green

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  1. Damn, I mean “potentially better MONEY”. Although I guess what I wrote is true, too. Word to Freud.

  2. Cool interview…

    Don’t most level-headed individuals look at major labels like that, though?

    And as for, “I’m not one of these idealistic indie rap dudes that lives with his parents and will only rep the underground in all circumstances.” IMO, it’s outdated to think that this is the only reason why dudes turn down major label deals. Isn’t it established by this point that you can make potentially make better music without the majors? So after that, what’s left? The exposure a major label can give you? Sure, but look at how they’re promoting the Big Bois and the other “second-rate” super stars of the world.

  3. Willie Green is one of favorite producers. He is smart cat, when he speaks you should listen. Not many people around like him these days. Peace to Backwoodz!

  4. Willie Green is a good dude!

  5. Thanks Josh. And yeah, we had a longgggg talk about that one. Good ideas thrown around.

  6. I liked his view points on the idea of selling out. Good interview

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