December 3, 2014

Ill Clinton

Ill Clinton

The internet has been a wonder of musical discovery since the flood gates of Napster, and file sharing sprang forth at the end the 90’s. It helped hip me to the vast library of acts like The Living Legends, Aesop Rock, Siah & Yesuah Da PoED, and the incredible body of work that has become a litmus test for producers, in the legendary Madlib. Philadelphia producer and now label chief Ill Clinton is another in that list of immense talent that I only stumbled on thanks to the interwebs, and I had An Accident Records, which released Ill’s Ragnarok last year. He’s launched Us Natives Records with his production partner John E Cab, and has dropped a slew of impressive tape/cd and digital based projects in 2014, like his stellar, newly released AMBAP (a hybrid of the words ambient & Boom bap). I had a chance to ask him a few questions about his history, style and Us Natives Records.

You are a mystery of samples, Presidential flaws and Philly chopping magic. For those who aren’t knowing the ledge on your skill and history, tell us where you’re from, when you starting making music.

I’m from Philadelphia. I started making beats in like 1999. I started ACTUALLY trying to sculpt the craft and become an artist in 2005.

You have made several cassette releases through other imprints over the last year, but you recently turned your production duo with John E Cab into a label (Us Natives). What made you want to do the cassette focused imprint at this time?

After going through the process of releasing cassettes with ELLT and IHAA, I became addicted to it. Being an artist is in my blood, no matter what the medium is. I found that cassettes gave me the opportunity to produce EVERYTHING. I can do the art, enjoy the music, and be totally hands on with them from start to finish. It’s a work of art in its own, and I also want to be better than everyone else […shhhh…] I’m a product of hip-hop, so competition will always be a part of me, I also wanted to be able to create another outlet for artists who might not be getting heard that should be. Cassettes are only the beginning!

How important to you is your sample source when making beats? Are you a strictly vinyl only guy, or is it by any means available for you?

Honestly? I’ll sample anything! The sample I used on the “Cherch” interlude on Mediums was recorded on my phone at my cousins wedding, but vinyl will always be my preferred method. It’s the hunt, and jumping the needle around a record is, it’s my comfort zone.

Honestly, do feel like people have really ran the Dilla legacy, and style into the ground at this point? Were you ever a fan, and do you hate Dilla questions?

I don’t hate DIlla questions, and I love the fact that he left such a strong imprint. As with any genre, there are always going to be dick-eaters. It’s definitely been overdone, though. I didn’t know who he was until like 5 years ago but I’m sure I heard his beats, never the name. I’m a fan now though, for sure.

What do you use to craft the records you make? Are you a DAW guy or analog/MPC kind of dude?

Me, I use Fruity Loops Studio, a record player and an MPK. I learned FL in ’99 and always used it, I’m mad stubborn. When John and I make beats we use all kinds of different stuff like FL, Abelton, MPC Renaissance, Keyboards, Congo’s, whatever… the list goes on, but we do a lot more experimenting when we are in the studio together.

 What’s the worst thing about trying to create, promote and get your music heard in the internet age?

Getting people who can help you to actually listen. I feel like I’m better than most of these bozos out here getting shine for making beats. I also have no clue who is for real or not because there are so many people out here pretending to be important. The other problem is the longevity of your release, cats stop paying attention after 8 days.

I really dig the fuck out of your recent AMBAP tape that dropped Nov. 11th. What brought about the mood, ambient boom bap, when putting those together?

Thank you. That shit makes me happy. I get into grooves sometimes, and will be able to create for like weeks on end in some kind of head space or something, and I think I subconsciously translate these themes in my brain. AMBAP was created over the last year or so, after I got engaged to my wife and was stressed out majorly. I wanted to move bad, but we were more broke than usual and my wife was working kind of far, so she wouldn’t get home until late some nights. I spent that free time trying to create this alternate universe through sound. I got real high and would delve into this world I was escaping to. That’s pretty much how all my Instrumental albums happen, translated stress…escapism.

If we were to experience a massive flood and your place was going under, what records/music shit would you grab on the way out and why?

Laptop, monitors, interface, tape players, tape supplies and my broken SP-808 that belonged to John E Cab’s late brother. John gave that to me and I cherish it, and i’m determined to get it in working condition again. Fuck the vinyl, I’ll buy more.

Are there any plans to work with a mc/vocalist for a full project at all?

We just released the Us Natives produced “Skrewtape” album No Filter like a month ago. That album was work, but Skrew is one of the dopest artist, PERIOD. Dude is crazy talented. I was very happy with what we all accomplished with that album.

Anything new in the mix? Not really. John is building a full featured production album with A TON of talented cats, but there’s no date for that yet. The price would have to be real nice to embark on anything like that right now.

Tell me, in your opinion, who’s the most overrated MC/Producer of the last 15 years, indie scene wise? Throw darts, don’t hold back! Loaded questions? HA.

I’m not pissing on anyone’s leg, but fuck anybody out there making repetitive ass trap beats! Explore YOUR sound, it’s in there. Locate it.

What’s on the horizon for Us Natives going into 2015?

John and I are working on tying up our next album “Crumb Bums.” We have a few releases lined up already, so I’m sure plenty of cassettes, some CDs, hopefully some vinyl. Anything to keep us progressing. I’m always searching for artists with some ill shit, so get at me. We love beats at Us Natives!