Classics: Jake One
So, I was fortunate enough to catch producer Jake One one fine evening, and I took full advantage of it and asked him like 54.9 million questions. …dude not only makes incredible beats, but honestly, he has a very realistic and down to earth view of hip hop, and is kinda of a fly interviewee. Check this shit out.
In case there is anyone in the world who doesn’t know (that would be looking at my site, I mean, c’mon, this is for my real niggas only) – can you introduce yourself, tell us who you are, and what you do?
My name is Jake One, I’m a producer from Seattle, Washington. …I really pretty much make beats – I DJ a little bit, but, that’s pretty much my thing, makin’ beats.
…where might we have heard you?
I’ve worked with a variety of people – some of the bigger names would be 50 Cent, De La Soul, Scarface, you know, pretty much everybody on G-Unit. I have my own album called White Van Music that I did in 2008, and then this year I came out with an album with Freeway called The Stimulus Package.
…you didn’t mention DOOM!
Yeah, I’ve worked with DOOM a lot.
…I’m a little DOOM obsessed.
So, White Van Music. I gotta be honest, that name is a little. …it sounds like a sexual assault in the making kinda. Like, what’s up with the name?
The first song I ever did in high school with a friend of mine – we did, he was talkin’ bout his white van or whatever. So, I dunno why, I just call all my beat tapes White Van Beats. …and then eventually I just ended up putting that for my publishing, when I first started putting stuff together professionally, and – for whatever reason I decided I wanted to call it that. But there’s really no meaning behind it at all. It’s funny though, people came up with a lot of interesting theories on the shit. I guess, to me that was cool. You know, people in the car that I’m riding with – they think it’s White Man Music. They came up with that one.
(intense laughter breaks out)
You know, I think it’s good that it created some kind of random made up stories. Imma come up with some new ones – even better.
You had sooooo many people on that shit. …like, you had 50 million features on it. How did you do that? Was it super dope working with all those people? (yes, I actually talk like that) …like, I can’t even imagine.
You know, some of the songs were done for some of those artists records, and they didn’t get used for whatever reason – album never came out, etc. Some of them I did specifically for the project, so, it was just a long process. Some of the people I reached out purely just to work with on this album. Freeway, I actually reached out to him. We did maybe like 3 or 4 songs – he ended up using one of them on his album and he ended up giving me a couple for mine, so, that was actually something that just happened from doing the album, which was cool. DOOM – I think I’d been working with him already. I think he was actually doing a song – I was trying to get him to do a song, and, he’s notoriously difficult. I sent DOOM some beats for this project, and he ended up rappin’ to all of them. So, we had these songs, I ended up getting the Trap Door one – I think Get ‘Er Done was the one he originally did for me, and then he ended up using all the other ones on his album.
It’s funny cause I haven’t listened to the album in a minute, so I don’t even remember – I know M.O.P.’s on it, Keak was somebody that when I was living in the Bay that I worked with. We did like a ton of songs together so that was uh – you know, a lot of the stuff I just had.
It’s random, I mean. …you’ve got like, everything from Royce (da 5’9) to Young Buck. It’s an odd mix.
It is. I thought, to me, the thing that was gonna tie it together is I did all the beats. So at least that was consistent in sound. Because, there’s definitely like, people – you know, for some people, they just didn’t wanna hear some of those rappers.
But I personally – it was all people that I like. I kinda wanted to show I could work with all those people and make it my shit, you know?
So you and Free. …just put out The Stimulus Package. I think it’s super hard. I think it’s super ill. Is it going the way you thought it was gonna go? Is it getting the reception you thought it was gonna get? How you feelin’ about it?
You know, it’s kinda hard to say cause, you know, the reception has been all positive.
Which is good. …we’re not selling as much as I wanted but, it’s still going, and I think it’s something that’s not gonna die. It’s not something that’s gonna die in like, the next 2 months or whatever – I think it has a long life in it. I think the one thing we didn’t do was make a hit song, per se. But, we weren’t really trying to do that. I think that might have held us back from getting some more shine out of it or whatever, but I’m really happy with the record. No matter what happens Free’s gon’ be family forever – we’re always gonna work on whatever it is. You know, the future. He’s already workin’ on a new album right now, and we’ve already done a bunch of tracks for that.
So you went from G-Unit to Rhymesayers. What’s up with that? …how’s that working for you?
You know, it’s funny, I did a bunch of songs for G-Unit, but I was never actually signed to them. I never got like a monthly check from G-Unit, so to me, I never really felt like I was that much apart of it. I was doing beats for it – I did a lot of beats, and it was great to be a part of it on that level, but, it wasn’t like I was really in the studio with those guys. I didn’t feel personally attached to it. Rhymesayers, you know, I actually know all those guys personally, have relationships with them, so it’s just a different kind of thing. I feel way more invested in it, you know? And I get to do what I want. …like, there’s definitely things I did on there (Rhymesayers), it’s not like I could have sent that beat to 50 and he would have been on it. …though you never know – he surprises me sometimes with the stuff he raps on. I just, I wasn’t really thinking from that mentality.
Favorite producers? …current and all time.
Current, I’d say DJ Khalil. It’s crazy cause we’ve done – we’re about the same age, we’ve worked with a lot of the same people comin’ up so, he’s always been a good friend of mine. Just seeing him grow – it’s just crazy. He’s just making some amazing shit. I think what’s dope about him is he’s really got his own sound. …these days that’s kinda rare, so, he’s got his own sound AND it’s actually dope.
Let’s see, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League I like a lot – they’re from Florida. Do a lot of the Rick Ross stuff. Just super powerful – I dunno, it just sounds like some shit you just wanna run up some stairs too or something. I dunno, it’s just very inspirational kinda music.
Nottz, he’s an incredible producer to me. …he’s been good for a long time, so he’s even somebody, when I first started tryin’ to do the G-Unit stuff, and stuff in that realm, he was kinda one of my role models as far as that. Because, you know, I’d buy like whoever’s album – that I didn’t necessarily think was that great, but he would have like one dope song on there, you know, like whoever it is, some commercial – he was doin’ it on that platform, but then he was doin’ stuff on Fat Beats. …you know, everything. And that’s kinda how I try to approach my career.
Okay gimme one all timer.
Yeah, ALL TIME.
There’s so many were dope to me, I mean, Dilla. Jay Dee was like – he definitely changed my whole viewpoint on how even to make beats, and the rules and stuff. To me he’s the first guy to have the hard East coast drums but like, musicality – he’s kinda West coast in a way to me, the way he plays bass lines and stuff, so he kinda just combined a lot of shit that I like.
Dr. Dre – before I even knew what producing was I was loving the stuff he was doing. There are so many people like that, like, it’s weird to listen to it now, I know what they’re actually doing. …but back then I just listened to it for the music.
It just sounded good?
Yeah! It just sounded good to me for whatever reason, and, it’s weird now – I feel like I know too much sometimes. I appreciate things in a whole different way I guess.
So who’s one MC that you feel like just MURDERED one of your beats?
Hmmmm. …probably Elzhi. Elzhi, he’s, he just got his own shit. He just – like, I’m not into like, rappers that have super lyrics and all that shit. For the most part, Idon’t even really look for that, but he’s just so fuckin’ good. …and shit. Like, everything has a meaning, and the flows are really impeccable. He’s definitely one.
Yeah, people love El. …people REALLY love El. It’s kinda, I dunno, it’s kinda surprising, but people just love’em.
Yeah, I mean. …he’s just gotta put out more music, that’s what I always tell him.
(laughter breaks out)
He’s not like, you know – the rappers now, they’re putting out like, you know, something all the time to keep them hot, and he just doesn’t really do that. It kinda – you know, he’s gotta catch up and get more things out. BUT, in the same way, the stuff he’s doin’ is not something you’re just gonna write in a day. You’re not gonna go in and do four songs (in a day) rappin’ like he does.
Right. Quality over quantity. …absolutely.
Which I – I’d rather somebody give me five good songs than one hundred mediocre ones.
I really like how Free raps on my beats – I just think we have a good chemistry. Somethin’ a little different. He always, on the flow side of things, does something really unorthodox, which I just appreciate.
So, what are you doing now? …what’s on tap for you?
I’m working on White Van Music 2 actually. …other than that, gotta record I’m working on with Brother Ali, which is getting close to being done. Working on Freeways next album – don’t know what that’s gon be, but, workin’ on it. I mean, there’s a bunch of people I’ve given beats too, and they might have a couple songs on their album by me. To me that’s just kind of like side hustle stuff – I’m really more interested in doing these things where I can have – something a little more – bigger involvement.
One producer one MC?
Yeah, producing the whole thing, or at least being part of the whole process. Actually have an album that I’m working on with Mayer Hawthorne right now – it’s probably like my favorite shit I’m doing right now.
Oh WORD? Doin’ a little r&b type thing?
Yeah, it’s more – yeah, it’s like some. …it’s like the music I grew up on; Cameo, SOS band, it sounds like some of that kinda shit. Or at least that’s what I want it to sound like.
So he’s not doin’ his DJ Haricut thing or his Athletic Mic League thing?
Nah, he’s just singin’. …it’s turned out really good so far. Hopefully we can finish it up and get it out – he’s just SO busy. It’s crazy. It really is crazy seeing all this happen for him.
That’s dope though, it should be an interesting combo.
It definitely is. …when people hear it they won’t think I did it – for sure.
Oh really? Is it like super soulful or?
Yeah, and it’s not really hip hop. …I mean, it’s hip hop in a way – it has the drums and stuff, but, there are no samples in it and stuff like that.
Okay, so, who is the MC that you would like, literally, smother a kitten to have them rap over one of your beats?
At this point – man that’s hard. …it’s crazy like, all the people I’ve said before I end up working with. So, I think Jay-z is the only one that I really want to work with and never got the chance to do anything with. But I don’t even know if that would mean as much to me know – per se. Right now, it’d probably be Rick Ross. I really think Rick Ross is – I dunno, I get a lot of shit from everybody but, I just like the way he sounds on the beats.
Rick Ross is really hit or miss. …like, I think that’s what people – you know what I mean?
You can’t take everything he does and like – like anybody, you know? I just try to take the stuff I like from somebody, and he is consistently making stuff I like. He is, he really is. …and actually, I think he’s on some real rapper shit too. I think he’s very underrated on that side. He’s trying, you know? It’s not ‘My chick bad’, ‘dog, cat, hat’.
Takin’ shots at people huh?
In the trap – you know what I mean?
No, you know what I mean? That’s a whole different style. …they’re not trying. That’s a whole different style of music down there. And that has it’s place – when I got out and I hear it, I like it, so. …but, it’s not something I’m necessarily gonna zone out to and like, analyze.
You know – Ross does his thing on some tracks, people just get caught up in his personal shit. …I think that’s half the battle with him.
And I think, at this point, I really try not to let that shit factor into whether I like anything.
OKAY?! …it’s so stupid, what does that have to do with it?
What does it really matter?
You know, making music is genuinely like your creating some sort of fantasy – whatever it is. No bodies ever done all of what they talk about. …and if they are, for the most part, their life isn’t interesting enough to talk about.
You know? …truthful about everything.
So, you’re like. …a white guy from Seattle. Has that ever been a problem for you?
I would say being from Seattle more than being white makes it more difficult. But, you know, there’s definitely people I’ve met, artists, that are definitely surprised that I’m white. That definitely happens. But – I don’t think that necessarily held me back or anything. I’m not the kinda person that’s just gonna try and be what you want me to be, you know? Like, just to impress a rapper or whoever it is. …that’s just not my thing. But uh, Seattle, we haven’t really had much history with hip hop. It’s crazy, cause now we got multiple people that are doin’ good stuff. So, its definitely changed. But you know, we do have people like Ish (Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler) from Digable Planets – he’s from Seattle, and like, you know, to me he’s had a great career. …and still doin’ good shit.
And then you have like, the producers Tha Bizness, who are from Seattle. …people probably don’t know that. But, they’re making hit songs so – it’s startin’ to change a little bit.
The name of the site, Your Taste In Music Sucks – tell me honestly, who’s music do you think is garbage?
Like, in rap?
It’s weird because – it’s hard for me to say it’s garbage, to me, if I don’t like the beats, I just don’t listen to it. So there’s a whole group of people that I think people think – that I hear and like a lot of my friends like or whatever it is – I just have no interest in it. The music just doesn’t do it for me. You know? So, I will definitely listen to Rick Ross before I listen to Lupe Fiasco or something – ALL DAY.
You’re the only other person that I think I’ve ever heard say something like that! …I’m not a Lupe fan either.
I acknowledge him as a good rapper.
So do I…
He just doesn’t do it for me for whatever reason. I can’t say he’s garbage though – no. I think he’s good, and he has songs I’ve heard that I think are good, but as a whole it just doesn’t capture me. I think I’m into people that just have more of a character. I grew up listening to a lot of Bay rap, and – In the Bay everybody’s just such a character. You know what I mean? Just in general.
Who are you tellin’? …that’s my home.
Like, that part of it to me makes it interesting or not. I don’t want to hear something that’s just average. You know? That doesn’t really do it for me.
Alright well, since you brought up the Bay, who are some of your favorite Bay artists?
I mean, 40 – obviously. 40’s the king. I really probably grew up – like, my prime Bay favorite shit was like the early 90’s shit. That’s the stuff I was listening to back then so, that stuff for whatever reason just has a special place in my heart.
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww! We love you too!
The Click, all that stuff, I still listen to it – B Legit, you know, I know the words to all that shit. I think it’s just that music that you listened to when you were younger and you just associate it with that time or whatever. I mean, everybody does it for whatever they were into at that time. But, you know, even now, I feel like Turf Talk is one of the more underrated dudes out there, period. I really want to see him make it – cause I just think he’s dope.
What’s your favorite track of yours?
Favorite track I’ve done – hmmm. I don’t know, everybody would probably say Rock Co.Cane Flow. …that’s the one people most come up to me about or ask me about. Ummmm, I would probably say the song Home on my album just because of what it meant to me. Just to be able to do a song like that – when I started those were the guys I looked up to and, you know, was around, so doing the song with them, it kinda was dope. …and, you know, after all these years I thought that was dope.
Imma Trap Door fan just to throw that out there…
Trap Door was made with a guy from the Bay actually. …my boy G Coop did the instruments on that one. Actually, I think we did that beat down there.
I LOVE THAT TRACK. …instrumental or with the DOOM verse – that shit drives me crazy.
Yeah, DOOM – you know DOOM is pretty much gonna be good on whatever because he’s such a – he’s just so left field. He’s always gonna say something – I remember when he sent me some of the songs from his album, I’m looking at the e-mail and I’m like, Ballskin? Like, yo, that’s what you’re callin’ the song?
(unabashed laughter breaks out. …for several minutes)
Like, who’s gonna call a song Ballskin? You know what I’m sayin’? Like who does that?! But him, you know?
Nah – for sure, people either totally love him or just do not get it at all. …and, I don’t know, I’m just one of the one’s that loves him.
He’s an individual. …you know?
That’s for sure.
…okay last one – what do you love about hip hop?
What do I love about hip hop? You know, I – it’s weird because I was talkin’ to some kids the other day in high school, you know, and we’re talkin’ bout like hip hop or whatever. …I just think I associate hip hop as part of my energy, so I don’t even look at it like that. It’s like the music that I’ve loves – you know, basically my whole life. You know? Since I can remember liking music. So like, everything in my life I can associate with a time in hip hop. You know? Even now. To this day. But, when I hear something that I really like I still get the same feeling I got when I heard fuckin’ Sucker MCs, Jam Master Jay – back then. …and I still get excited. As long as I still get that Imma still keep doin’ it. You know?
What do you hate about hip hop?
I just think that there came to a certain point where everything is just looked at as a hustle. …and people are just doing things purely on a financial basis. Albums are getting made in a way – just for what people think is supposed to be a hit. Or, you know, following whatever the trend is. …and they’ve always done that, but there just became this elusion that you could get rich if you made beats or rapped – and I think it’s changing because people are not getting’ rich like they were. …so, I think in the next couple eyars you’ll see more people doin’ it from a truer place. And, you know, to me it’s like, Gucci Mane, the songs he makes – that’s probably really from his heart. You know? That’s probably really what he fucks with.
…but it’s a problem when guys that have no relation to what Gucci Mane raps about, or even, you know, his music or whatever, decide thst instead of doin’ song like Jay-z they switch to Gucci Mane. “We need a South song cause Gucci Mane’s hot.” …and that’s when shit got kinda fucked up. When everybody just blatantly was like, ‘Oh, well, the South is hot so I need a South record’ or ‘I need a weed record’, or ‘I need a song with Neptunes on the hook because everything they got is noticed’.
You know, it just gets generic. …like anything. To me hip hop is not about that. It’s supposed to be some shit that’s fresh, you know? Like, just in that word – and, it’kinda, you know. …it’s definitely changed on end, but I still feel like there’s people doing innovative shit. So. …it just might not be the shit that’s selling tons of records or whatever.
What do you want people to know about you?
I don’t know, I don’t usually think about that shit. I make music more form the prospective of a fan then as like somebody that – you know, like I’m this figure and people need to fuck with what I think or, you know, needs to be able to convince people to like what I like.
I think I’ve done my whole career just trying to do stuff that I like and, you know, my ear is hope in tune with all these people. …which, if it isn’t then fuck it.
I’ll go get a job or whatever – you know? That’s life.