I grew up listening to the music my mother played in the car on rides to and from school and around the house. Sounds from legendary R&B/Soul artists such as Anita Baker, Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly, Sade, Whitney Houston, Patti LaBelle and many more filled my childhood.
When I was around 6 years old, my mother’s car was stolen and she had to barrow a family friend’s car for a while. She just got the Anita Baker album, Rapture, and she played it in the car ride to school all the time. One day, the cassette tape got stuck in the cassette player and wouldn’t eject. So we had no other choice but to listen to Anita everywhere we went. To this day, there’s not another album I would rather be forced to listen to over and over again than Anita Baker’s Rapture.
My introduction to hip hop came from my uncle Pierre who was a DJ as a teenager and was heavy into hip hop and funk. He educated me on the funk masters of the 70’s and 80’s. He played me music from artists like Parliament, Cameo, Earth Wind and Fire, Rick James, Con Funk Shun, which of course paved the way to my experience with the sounds of West Coast hip hop from the 90’s, at the beginning of my teenage years. From EPMD, to Ice Cube, A Tribe Called Quest, to Too Short, what really set the stage for me and permanently engraved my interest in sound and music in my head was when he gave me my first tape: DJ Quik’s Quik is the Name. That 1991 classic not only told the story of the current climate of Los Angeles city streets at the time through raw rhymes, but also had the sounds of funk grooves that had become more than familiar to my ears.
DJ Quik personifies to me everything that I aspired to be as an artist: someone who has grown musically through his music over the years and incorporates his musical influences into his own music. From the raw street sounds of his first album, Quik is the Name, with its heavy funk samples and break beats, to the clean, crispy sonic clarity of albums like Rhythm-Al-Ism, to the soulful, silky smooth grooves of Balances & Options. I myself had the same humble beginnings. I had no formal training or education in music, just a strong interest, passion and commitment to learning and growing.
I began making music when I got my first computer in the 9th grade. Though really I was more into computer gaming and technology than music at the time. Creating music happened accidentally. I found an audio program in Windows that had a loop button and realized that I could take a break beat from a CD and loop it continuously so my boys and I could spit freestyles to it. I went through every CD I could get my hands on looking for a break beat to loop and it just kept going from there. I bought Maxi CD singles when I could hustle up a couple of dollars just for the acapella track, then took my loops, mashed them together and created remixes. We recorded vocals using the cheap computer microphones that used to come standard with computers back in the day and created songs.
I started to slowly build a CD collection and became the guy with the music within my crew. That led me to follow the footsteps of my uncle Pierre as a DJ. I was DJ for all the backyard parties and kickbacks. Playing music was a lot of fun. Feeling out the crowd and keeping everyone entertained and in high spirits was a thrill, but the more music I heard, the more control I wanted. That quickly led me to pursue my ambitions as a producer and to create my own sound with my own ideas from my perspective, my way.
Long Beach, California.
With hip hop being the core of my musical foundation, it was only appropriate to begin there. I took it back to the high school days, but this time rhyming over my own beats. I produced several records with my brothers (we referred to ourselves as “The Big Three” at the time), songs that no one else may have cared much for but were like our anthems when just riding around the city exploring our new-found freedom called adulthood. We didn’t think of much more than just having some fun with the music at the time, but as a consumer of music, I always had that interest to learn how they did it. How did Dr. Dre go about creating sounds for the 2001 album, how did Kayne West create what is now considered a hip hop classic in The Blueprint, how did Outkast sound so new and fresh and so clean with albums like Stankonia, how did The Roots create an album that embodies raw hip hop yet has so much soul and jazz in albums like Things Fall Apart. “I wanna do that one day” was my feeling, but I needed to learn how.
I continued my pursuit for some time, but in the mid 2000’s the music industry and sound clearly began to change. Music that had much more of a purpose than just monetary gain was beginning to disappear from the pop charts, replaced by music that was more for the moment and for casual listeners. Because of that, I decided to take a break from creating music all together and evaluate what I wanted to do. My conclusion was that I wanted to make music that had purpose, music that was timeless, and music that wasn’t restricted to age, gender, or cultural background.
I spent a great deal of time educating myself on some of the musical people who helped to build my music foundation in the first place. I read many books by people like George Clinton, Rick James, Clive Davis, Charlie Wilson, Herbie Hancock, LA Reid, Timbaland, Common, Russell Simmons, Questlove, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, and others. I studied music theory, digging deeper into the recording process used to create songs that where created 30, 40 plus years ago but that are still loved and cherished today. I spent countless hours studying and learning from engineers like Dave Pensado and Mick Guzauski, watching countless YouTube videos and reading over every document Google could find. From rock to hip hop, from country to jazz, the one thing that all these people, all these records, all these songs that are considered timeless had in common to me was soul.
So there it was. I set out to create my first complete album - an album with passion like Anita Baker’s Rapture from my childhood, an album with groove like a Rick James record; an album with rhythm like a Miles Davis or Earth Wind and Fire record; an album with a powerful voice like a Charlie Wilson record. Above all, an album with soul.
Naming the album Rapture/Caught Up was only fitting. For me it is also a tribute to the strongest person I know: my mother. She is everything I wanted to be as a parent. Without her, there would be no me in so many ways. Her commitment in raising my little brother and me was a tremendous sacrifice. I hope the dedication we have shown through our commitment to family, business and career is a reflection of our gratitude for her unconditional love and steadfastness.