The Detroit music scene, mostly known for it’s Motown roots, has become a hotbed for underground hip-hop as of late. With the passing of Proof and J Dilla, the responsibility to progress that raw, Detroit sound falls on the newer artists like Black Milk, Royce Da 5’9″, Elzhi and others. After many years of grinding out quality music, their unique style has finally come to see some mainstream light. Of course, there are a few cats that have yet to make a big of a splash that they deserve. That’s where Finale steps in. After working on a slew of projects and collaborations, Finale preps his solo debut, A Pipe Dream & A Promise due out April 7 and shows that hard work and commitment pays off. Pipe Dream is a blast from the past, but with a new-jack spin. Featuring spoken word from hip-hop legends like Awesome Dre and Prince Whippa Whip, Finale stays true to his old school roots. The album also features a production lineup equivalent to a modern day Illmatic, with the likes of J Dilla, M-Phazes, Nottz, Black Milk, Oddisee and more. With that said, it is my great pleasure to welcome Finale to our Open Mic Presents… interview series on Potholes In My Blog. Sit down with us as we chat about the new album, working with J Dilla, some personal stories that influenced Finale’s lyrics and more!
Here is a preview, hit the skip for a load of goodies including the rest of the interview and tour dates…
Reyn: Love the album, congrats on everything man!
Finale: For sure, thank you!
Reyn: Describe what the album title means real quick.
Finale: It’s my definition of hip-hop, I think there is two sides of hip-hop. I think what we do is labeled as a pipe dream and the promise part is what we promise our self to get through that to get to, or to our loved ones and our family the whole time we are doing it. It’s just what we do, so it’s just another way to say hip-hop.
Reyn: You have some pretty personal topics on the album, do you ever have trouble reaching out and opening up to the people.
Finale: You know, I can relate to a random person up the street that is going through something that I can relate to and I would never know if we didn’t talk about it. Things like the song about my brother, “Brother’s Keeper” I put that on my Myspace page a while ago with a snippet and some one hit me with the deepest message about how they can relate to that situation and they heard every word and it was their situation. I just think we can all really relate to each other if we just communicate. The album is me, and I’m sure there are other people going through the same situation and if not worse situations so I don’t think it’s a problem.
Reyn: Talk about some of the major themes that you tried to portray with some of your rhymes on the album.
Finale: Every song has a theme or issue. The crazy thing is, I’m trying to tell the worst stories that could possibly happen. I’m making up these stores, but the part at the end when I say, “It’s not real cuz I rap it, it’s real cuz it really happened.” Stuff like that that really happens in real life. All these rappers that make up these messed up scenarios how they’re poppin people in the head this and that, that stuff really happens so watch what you say. But on “Brother’s Keeper” that’s a letter that I wrote to my brother while he was locked up for six years and wouldn’t talk the whole six years. He got out last year around my birthday and I gave him that. That song was done to give him when he got out and when he heard it we were cool again, that was my apology. You know what I’m saying, every song has a theme. A Pipe Dream and a Promise is like dedicated to people around me, from like an artist’s perspective to the people around him or her.
Reyn: I noticed that your voice and flow had changed a bit from prior release. Did you notice a change at all?
Finale: (Laughs) Umm, I don’t know I mean, I didn’t just say I was going to rap in a higher pitch that’s just the way it kind of came out. I think I slowed it down, I think I played the speed and the flow more. I was able to do me more. With Develop we had a certain sound that we wanted to get through, you also have to take into a count that a lot of those records were done a while ago like when I was doing Develop. But a lot of the newer records I don’t think sound too much different. Like the Waajeed and the One Man Show, joint that’s me. But like “Heat”, the Dilla joint, that was done a while ago and more of the music was done a while ago.
Reyn: Yeah talk about your relationship with Dilla along with the track “Heat”, which made the album. Was that recorded when he was still around or was it off a beat tape?
Finale: It was off a beat CD, but it was done before he passed away and I was able to build with him about it before. I mean we went through a few other beats before we built about. Like that “Fever” joint that Tip did, that was the original joint that I was suppose to record and I actually got a version I recorded over it. But then the label I was dealing with, they didn’t like the beat, they hated that beat so I gave it back. So the story is, I wanted the beat, I had like two beats I wanted. I called him and told him I wanted it. Dilla called back and was like, “Are you SURE you want that beat?” and I was like, “Yeah, what’s up?” Then Dilla said, “Alright I’m gonna have to go grab it from somebody and grab it to get to ya.” Then he calls back and tells me, “I hope you really wanted that beat because I had to go get it from Tip.” So I go, “Hold up, hold up, Q-Tip?” So yeah, Tip was sitting on it but Dilla gave it to me and I went and recorded to it and the label said they didn’t like the beat. So I called him back and said, “Well you might as well go and give it back to Tip, somebody better use it.” Then that’s when I heard the “Fever” joint with it so that was cool. But yeah, “Heat” ended up being one of the joints we did. I did three joints with him off the beat CDs he sent me. I didn’t work it out after he passed and all that. That’s why I put all that stuff on the beat after he passed. Like the footage of the shows and all that. I look at that joint more like a tribute, the same way I do with the “Paid Homage” joint I did over the Lotus joint.
Reyn: Oh yeah and talk about that Flying Lotus collaboration, whose idea was that? Also just talk about working with FlyLo…
Finale: Yeah Lotus is definitely cool. Me and Lotus was suppose to work on a mixtape a while ago when I was dealing with another label and that didn’t really work out. We did end up doing a few joints together but, I heard the Dilla tribute, “Fall In Love”, on his Myspace page and then he sent me the beat and then he told me to go ahead and do something to it. So I was like, “Well, I can’t just do a song on it. I’m not just going to rewrite it and just do a random ass song on it, that would be wrong.” So the only way I’m gonna write to this joint is if I do a Dilla tribute to it. So if you listen to the tribute, I want people to understand that my relationship with Dilla isn’t as deep as you think it is. I’m not going to throw that Dilla cape on. Yes, I talked to Dilla. Yes, I met him a few times. Yes, we did work together and I did rap on his beats and it’s legit and all that. But, we weren’t best friends and I didn’t go to his house. He was already in LA when we started connecting and that’s the truth of that matter. I’m not going to get into that whole beef situation and people trying to claim ownership of Dilla and all that. He was a cool dude, he had a lot of advice to give me and I appreciate that, but when I did the joint with Lotus, it was a tribute. And if you listen to the lyrics, it’s chronicle and it’s laying out how and what happened when we met face-to-face and how he was more surprised to meet me then I was to meet him.
Reyn: Can we expect to see you working more with FlyLo in the future?
Finale: I hope to work more with FlyLo. A project I want to do in the future, which I already spoke to Dabrye about, is an electronic/hip-hop infused project and so I talked to Dabrye, and I mentioned it to Flying Lotus but he is real busy right now and a couple other cats like Devin, but it should be very interesting and hopefully dope.
Reyn: And the whole production on the album is absolutely ridiculous. You have so many big name producers on there, how did that all come into place?
Finale: I was just cool with everybody you know what I’m saying. I mean, the Nottz joints, I had a manager at the time, and it just worked out that I was able to go to Virginia and sit down and work with Nottz face-to-face on like the four joints we did together. Those were two of the four joints we did together. So me and Nottz were just cool about it. You know the Dilla joints, the Black Milk joints, I hit up people I knew and I told them what I wanted to do and a lot of them tailored the beats for me, around my style. Like the Oddisee joint, we had did the joint earlier and he knew what I wanted so the project just worked out and I just knew everybody. I didn’t go out with no bigass budget flying around the country on the independent labels dime and just paying people. These are just artists that I respect and they respect me. This is just good music being made.
Reyn: Did you work with most of these producers in the studios or was this more of an Internet thing? You said you did some stuff in Nottz’ studio, was that always the case?
Finale: No, that actually wasn’t the deal with most of the producers I wasn’t able to travel a lot. I basically stayed in my own studio and did most of the joints. I got the heat. I mean, I knew every one of them anyway, so it wasn’t nothing to just sit on the phone and tell Oddisee what I wanted or tell Kev what I wanted or stuff like that. But like Nottz and a few other producers on there were the rare cases, or Black you know who I see every time I’m out.
Reyn: One of my favorite tracks was “The Waiting Game” with Invincible. Talk about working with her.
Finale: That’s just natural. We’ve done a ton of tracks together anyway, and I did a couple joints for her record. We did the “Real Recognize Real” joint and we did “Locust” and that’s on her project. We also did the video on her project. Originally I just wanted the album to be me. Honestly, because I feel like I’m one of the only artists in Detroit who hasn’t set their own stage like nobody really knows or pays attention to in this city, but that’s cool I put my music out and I let it do what it do. I figured if one rapper was going to be on my record it would be my sister. So Invincible is like my sister, and I knew she would come through for me, she wouldn’t spit no half-ass verse. So she definitely came through.
Reyn: Yeah I noticed she is the only featured emcee, what went into the decision to exclude so many features?
Finale: I didn’t exclude them on purpose, honestly because everybody knows Black. I could have asks Black to give me 16 bars and make my record blow up. But, it’s really I just wanted to do it. I wanted to do an album in the same vein like the used to do it back in the day. Like with a Nas or with a Rakim where it was just them. That emcee, one mic and I get your respect. Like that Houseshoes album that I’m working on. That’s got a million features on it. Every rapper from Detroit is going to be on it. But for my first record I want to set my stage and I don’t want nobody thinking I need fifty rappers on my record to make it. If I fail, then it’s all on me and not because I had like thirty rappers on my record and like ten DJ Khaled songs (laughs).
Reyn: I also wanted to touch on the narratives on the album that have a very nostalgic feel; what is the significance of those narratives?
Finale: I got Awesome Dre from the Hardcore Committee and I got Prince Whippa Whip from the Cold Crush. Basically, those are just cool people on the scene here in Detroit that are historic figures and they have a lot to say about where hip-hop was and where it’s going and their viewpoint on it. I’ll say this in every interview, I know this shit won’t sit right with some people that I put Awesome Dre and some people in the middle, but they got something to say and people need to hear. If all your doing is paying attention to who is hot right now on the latest blog or who is hot right now on the radio or on MTV. I think we kind of need to have an idea of what hip-hop used to be before it’s forgotten. All we have is now, so in order to move ahead you gotta know from the past. To have those two legends come down to my studio and just set up, and I put the mic on in between us. I didn’t write anything down, I just talked to um. I asked them whatever I wanted to ask them. It’s amazing but, Prince Whippa Whip is like the big brother. He just called me before I went to SXSW and was like, “What’s up man, I just wanted to check and see if I’m still hosting your release party and before that I got a gig with Ta’Raach.” And to hang out with people like that is amazing. And for him to bring his friends, to bring Ta’Raach and people to my release party just to hang out and for him to put his friends up on me is an honor and I think as emcees we have to pay attention to who came before us.
Reyn: At this point, my recording system bailed out on me with about 3 minutes of conversation left. We talked a little more about upcoming projects like the Houseshoes joint and the electronic/hip-hop infused joint. I also asked him a bit of an inside joke about “Hamsh Browns”, one of the homie Vandalyzm’s food orders out in STL. We laughed a bit and ended it there. Many thanks goes out to Finale for being a humble, honest man and opening up to us about his life and music. Another set of props goes out to WVOF for letting me use their recording studio. Hope you enjoy, be sure to cop A Pipe Dream & A Promise April 7th!
Finale Tour Dates:
Finale & Hassaan Mackey
What: Hip Hop Discussion Panel
When: March 27, 2009
Where: Western Michigan University
Finale, Invincible, 5 Ela, Niacal Youngstarz
Special guests: Spier1200, Apollo Brown, The Gorilla Funk Mob with Allan Barnes, and many more; DJs: House Shoes, K Fresh, Sicari & Sean Doe
What: A Pipe Dream and a Promise Album Release Party
When: April 4, 2009 @ 9pm
Where: Elements Gallery, 2125 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216 Age: 18+
The Palestinian hip-hop crew Dam, Rebel Diaz, Invincible, Finale, DJ Oja
What: Homeland Hip Hop: A Benefit Show for the Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine
When: April 7, 2009, Doors open @ 8pm, Show begins @9pm
Where: Southpaw, 125 5th Ave, Park Slope, Brooklyn NY
How much: $12 in advance, $15 at the door
Finale & Invincible
What: A Pipe Dream and a Promise Listening Party
When: April 8, 2009 @ 9pm
Where: Homebase NYC Wednesdays
Finale, Marv Won, Sincere
Where: Mac’s Bar, Lansing, MI
When: April 9, 2009 @ 9pm
Finale, Vandaylyzm, Black Spade, Gotta Be Karim & Rockwell Knuckles
When: April 10, 2009 @ 9pm
Where: The Gramaphone 4243 Manchester Avenue, Saint Louis, MO
Finale & Invincible
When: April 11, 2009 @ 3:30 pm
Where: Ohio University, Athens, OH
Finale, DJ Sean Doe, Prime, Thaione Davis and more
When: April 12th, 2009
Where: Dark Room, 2210 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL
Finale, Moe Dirdee and more
When: April 16, 2009 @ 9pm
Where: The Bullfrog – Redford, MI
Finale & Invincible
When: April 18, 2009
Where: TBA, Baltimore, MD
Finale & Invincible
When: April 21, 2009
Where: TBA, Washington, D.C
Zion I, Thaione Davis, Finale
What: Thaione Davis Album Release Party
When: May 7, 2009 @ 9pm
Where: Morseland, 1218 W. Morse Ave., Rogers Park Chicago, IL
Finale, Invincible, Hassaan Mackey, DJ Quarter Pound
When: April 22, 2009 @ 9pm
Where: Dubland Underground, 315 Alexander St, Rochester, NY 14607