Photos by Helen Pearson.
The crowd at the G-Side show on March 27, 2011 in New York City looked like an NYU creative writing class. Pasty white hipsters and tiny Asian girls packed into a basement in the East Village to watch ST 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova perform country rap bangers from their newest album The ONE…COHESIVE. G-Side is at the forefront of Huntsville, Alabama’s bubbling hip-hop scene, one of the most exciting in the country. They called up Metal Lungies earlier that day to share insight on their creative process, their business model, and future projects.
ML: What is Slow Motion Soundz? Because I’ve heard it called a few different things.
ST: It’s just a small business. You can’t really say it’s a record company. I guess you could say it’s a production company. We produce for other artists, but we actually produce G-Side records and press up records and stuff like that, so I mean, multimedia company, how about that?
ML: What makes the Slow Motion approach unique?
Clova: Our sound. Our sound is what makes us unique. You can’t get no other sound from nowhere else but our facility.
ML: But a lot of what you talked about on The Cohesive was about your approach to music. Can you talk about that a little bit?
ST: We were pretty much forced into the position that we’re in now. We tried to do it the old fashioned way. We tried to blend in and fit in and make club records, but it just wasn’t us. And really like he said, it was the music. We made good music and the people who picked up on it and latched onto it. We would talk to them, network with them, and then we just built a huge network and that’s pretty much what we work off of now. We just keep trying to expand it. We’re pretty much pioneering a whole new business model as we see it, because we’re totally indie but we travel all over the States and all over to different countries and stuff with no outside help at all. It’s pretty much just us and the network of people we built through blogs like yours or Pitchfork or Southern Hospitality, Baller’s Eve. We just use our friends.
Clova: Steady Bloggin’ and Southern Hospitality.
ML: Has Alabama hip-hop ever had this much attention before?
ST: No, not Alabama hip-hop as a whole. You had a couple Alabama artists who got a lot of attention, but it doesn’t seem like when they got their attention they were necessarily repping for the whole Alabama movement. I’d like to think that when you see us or when you see Yelawolf, we’re representatives of Alabama hip-hop and that’s how you see us instead of us just being representatives for ourselves. Anytime you hear Slow Motion Soundz, we want it to be synonymous with Alabama hip-hop.
ML: How has this increased attention affected you guys?
ST: It’s given us work, pretty much. Since people are looking at Huntsville and looking at Alabama, they look and they see us. And it’s given us a chance to get out, network, and hit these different places and we pretty much learned the game from a whole different angle.
Clova: It pretty much turned our dream into a career.
ML: I feel like The Cohesive has gotten more attention from mainstream press – New York Times, NPR, Pitchfork – than straight up hip-hop blogs. Do you think that’s true?
ST: It is and I think since Starshipz & Rocketz, we didn’t really put out an album. Huntsville International wasn’t a themed album. We didn’t approach it as an album. It was more of a collection of songs. And I think all of the fans and people that supported us were waiting for us to drop one cohesive project and when we dropped it, I think they were all ready to support it and put it on blast and tell a friend to tell a friend.
ML: But why do you think you’ve gotten more attention from mainstream press than hip-hop blogs?
ST: I think just because the type of music we make — it’s not really traditional. Like I said, we don’t really make club records. It’s hard to classify. It’s not Odd Future rap, it’s not necessarily Big K.R.I.T., it’s just it’s own sound. And I guess the people that have picked up on that sound just happen to be those other media outlets instead of XXL or The Source.
Clova: I think a lot of people just want to see us be consistent. Is the quality going to be consistent?’ Can we do it again? They want to see, can we do it again, do it again.
ML: Do you guys feel like you have a cult following?
ST: Yeah, I think that’s pretty much the best way to explain it. It’s not huge, but the people who do follow us that support us hold it. We have good turnouts at the shows, so I think so, and I it can just build bigger and bigger. We just gotta keep working and keep grinding at it.
Clova: This is pretty much the first year we got a chance to really just build our fan base too, so we’re learning how to build fan base at every show we do. Last year we were just rookies in the game, just doing our songs. This year we’re actually trying to grab these crowds and make them fans.
ML: What does the crowd look like at your shows?
ST: Pretty much a bunch of hipsters and weirdos. You’d love it.
ML: The album has a really consistent sound, but you have a few different producers on there, so what was the beat selection process?
ST: In our facility — its a 5,500 square foot facility with about eight or nine different studios, so that’s about eight or nine different producers. You go room to room and hear what he’s got or hear what he’s got. Everybody knew that we were working on the G-Side album. It was a cohesive effort, so everybody was pretty much in the same mind state and that’s how some of the records came out together. It’s not that we just selected them, more like they would make them for us. They were tailor made with us in mind. They would make the records and then go back and tweak ‘em and make everything sound dope.
Clova: That’s even with the outside producers. They pretty much did the same thing when they sent them in. They were making them just for us.
ST: Or the Clams Casino record that he sent in. Him and Mali [Boi]. He sent in the sketch of it and Mali went in and made it grand.
ML: ST, I was really surprised to hear you channel Jay-Z’s verse on “Where I’m From” on “Bass!!” How available was East Coast rap in Huntsville in 1997?
ST: Not at all. I got put up on Jay-Z late as hell. I was in Texas, it was around 2001, 2002 when I really became a fan and I had to go back and research on all the Hard Knock Lifes and that’s when I became a huge fan.
ML: Today, who are your influences as far as MCs?
Clova: I don’t know, I just got put up on Kanye in the van a couple days ago. He killed it. We mess with Wiz, we mess with Yela, Curren$y.
ST: As far as inspiration goes, I don’t listen to a lot of hip-hop. My Pandora station is like a Jimi Hendrix station or Anita Baker station, Marvin Gaye or some shit like that and I just see what kind of jams I can find in there. But for the most part, I don’t listen to a whole lot of rap. I listen to a lot of Huntsville rap. I guess that’s because that’s where I’m at everyday and I hear everything that comes out of our facility. You gotta make sure nobody in the city is going harder than you, because it’s such a big scene down here right now.
ML: What are your favorite East Coast rap albums, if you have any?
ST: I want to say Jay-Z American Gangster is probably my favorite of all time. It killed Reasonable Doubt. It was Jay-Z’s best work to me, overall. Unless you go with Pac albums, but Pac is not East Coast, per se.
ML: What’s the best Huntsville cuisine?
ST: Oh man, pork chops fried, fried chicken-
Clova: Hot wings.
ST: Hot wings fried. Soul food, man. We actually don’t have a lot of soul food restaurants, so the best food is what you get at home, or what your girl cooks, or your family.
Clova: Unless you go somewhere like Applebees. I’m not tryna show out, fuck Applebees.
ML: Yeah, fuck Applebees.
ST & Clova: [laughter]
ML: So what are you guys working on right now?
ST: Me and him both got solo tapes we’re gonna try to drop this Summer and then there’ll be a new G-Side album at the end of the year.
ML: Do you have a concept for that yet?
ST: We do, but we’re gonna keep it under wraps. On July 4, we’re gonna drop a-
ST: Yeah, we’ll probably drop a single and announce the title and all that.
Clova: Since we’re an independent label, they thought they’d go Independence Day.
ST: We’re gonna act bad on Independence Day.
ML: What’s the last thing each of you bought?
Clova: For me, clothes. Some shoes. I actually got them on now.
ST: I’m high off the weed I bought a little bit earlier now.
Clova: He’s the weed head, I’m the sneaker head.