TuneCore’s Karina Alvarez had a chance to talk to hip hop recording artist ScHoolboy Q, back from SXSW and now in the studio working on his next album. Read on to find out about the writing and collaboration processes behind his latest album, Habits & Contradictions, his favorite part about being an artist, and why it’s important to hang around the people who doubt you.
Karina Alvarez: Let’s talk about Habits & Contradictions, had you been writing the songs for that for a long time? Or did you write that material specifically for that album?
ScHoolboy Q: The songs specifically for that album, but I actually redid the album like 3 or 4 times. I’d been working on it for about a whole year, but the last song I did-—it took like 2, 3 months. I had to redo it cause I just wasn’t feelin’ it.
K: There are 18 tracks on the album so you must have had a lot of un-used tracks!
S: There are so many unused tracks it’s just ridiculous, but I wouldn’t want them all out there because there’s a reason why they didn’t make it. I’m pretty sure the fans would like it them, but you know me as an artist, I critique my music more than anything. I really didn’t want people to hear ‘em!
K: You said you’ve been writing for a long time, about the record. Do you sit down and just flow? Or do you come up with your songs over a longer period of time? What’s the process behind your songs?
S: Sometimes I go in the studio and nail it right on the money—“1969”, and “Hands on the Wheel,” I wrote hella fast. “Oxy Music” was done within like 2 hours. Other times I sit with a song and it’ll take me forever! I’ve gotta find the right feeling. Sometimes it sounds natural.
K: It’s cool that Dom Kennedy uses TuneCore and others on the release—it’s sort of within the family….you’ve got a lot of guest appearances on your album. Was that a natural collaboration? Were you friends with these artists in advance or did you bring them on for the record?
S: I wasn’t gonna have nobody on there, not even Kendrick [Lamar], I was just gonna have Ab Soul on there for “Druggys Wit Hoes Again” because he was next to drop in line with the Black Hippy Camp. But my management heard the records and just said I needed some features on there. So I decided to go with the people I know.
K: Can you tell me about some of the things you did in advance of H&C to market and promote it? And some of the things you’re doing now?
S: We didn’t do s***! We just released music. Good music speaks for itself. I mean I wasn’t even played on satellite radio until after my project dropped, so for me to hit the billboards just says that our music is speaking for itself. People appreciate it so they go out and buy it.
K: As far as social media, what do you use Twitter for? Is it for announcements or is it more for connecting with fans?
S: Connecting with fans. Most of my Twitter followers support me. We have a different type of fan base. It’s not more radio based or hit record based. It’s more a body of work. So everybody that’s following us usually f*** with us. We don’t have a major outlet. If you found out about us that means you know what’s goin on. So we keep in contact with the fans through Twitter. I think most of my career came off Twitter! Givin’ out free music, leaking it straight through Twitter, not even sending it through my website.
K: If they want the music, they have to follow you!
K: And were you just down at SXSW?
S: Yea, I just did 12 shows over 6 days.
K: Wipe you out?
S: Yeah my voice is done. And my voice won’t get better cause I keep goin’ to the studio. I’ve been to the studio every day since I’ve been back. I haven’t given my voice a chance to rest yet.
K: Well let me first ask you about SXSW. Was it the first time you were there? Did you enjoy it?
S: Naw this was my 3rd time. But this was the most fun I’ve had. Every other time I’ve gone it was more as a hype man following the crew around. But now it was more about me and what I had going. And as I was walking down the street people were stopping me. You gotta talk to like 30 million people. It can get a little irritating sometimes but for the most part it helps you and your brand.
K: You said you were down there playing 12 live shows. What about live appearances? Do you have a bunch scheduled?
S: Yeah I have a tour that’s about to start, The Groovy Tour. It’s gonna start April 20th to the end of May (tour dates on Facebook), and then in May I’ve got another tour.
K: You’re comin’ to New York.—where else are you gonna be?
S: I’m gonna be in New York City. I’m gonna be all over the east coast—DC, Providence , Connecticut, even the Midwest, Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle…
K: Do you have certain cities where you find you’re connecting with the fans more?
S: I mean it’s been mad love everywhere, but New York and Minneapolis are kinda crazy. Especially Minneapolis, I was expecting nobody, it was like 10 people at the meet and greet. So I’m like “this s*** ‘bout to be a disaster.” I’m thinkin’ like 70 people are gonna show up this show maybe, and that s*** was packed out. They told me I brought more people than Wiz did, his first time out there. So that was a little motivation.
K: What is your favorite part of being an artist? Is it the writing, the recording? The performing? Or even say like shooting a video? Do you have something that you like the best?
S: Being able to wake up and have control of my own destiny. Waking up every morning and knowing I don’t have to go to work and knowing I’m in control of whether I’m gonna make some money. That’s the best part about being an artist.
C: That’s like TuneCore, we always say “Be an artist but also be your own industry. Be Your Own Startup.” That’s what the artist can be now.
S: Exactly. That’s my whole thing, cause the passion is there and the love for music. But I also have to support a family. So I have to do what I have to do, and I’m in control of that.
K: In your background, how much did mixtapes play a part in terms of people gaining awareness of your music?
S: Oh they played a big part, that’s the reason I’m here now. That’s the reason I’m in the studio working on my album cause the past projects I dropped were so strong. And with my next album, it’s time for fans to get the full, developed me. The last two projects, I don’t really call them mixtapes, they were more like albums cause we were selling them. But technically, I think the debut album is coming out now.
K: So you made quite a debut before the debut! Do you have some advice for up and comers? Something that helped you get to where you achieved your success?
K: People telling you that you’re not gonna be able to do it—you need to hang around the people that doubt you. They’re the people that you actually need. Cause the people that doubt you are the people who keep you going.
S:Keep going, don’t let nobody stop you from doing what you’re doing. And keep going hard cause you’re in control of your own destiny when you come into this music industry. And if you ain’t ready mentally, then you need to go out and get a job, cause this s*** is stressful. If you’re not ready for it mentally and you can’t take criticism than you don’t need to be in it.
K: I really appreciate that sentiment. You need people that are gonna be honest with you to take you further. To give you inspiration.
S: Yeah even if they laugh at you. My closest homie and I used to talk all the time about me rapping. He was just keepin’ it real, he didn’t even know I was a rapper. He was just crackin’ jokes. And now he’s asking to come to my shows, he’s asking me to put him on the list before I even know about my shows. Now when we go out I pay for everything!
K: Anything that you want to promote or let us know that we should be looking forward to?
S: H&C right now, Habits and Contradictions on iTunes, gotta get that. So everybody that supported it, like it, comment. Kendrick’s got a new CD out, Jay Rock’s record, Ab Soul is comin’ up next. He’s got some crazy, crazy records. He’s already played me some of it. He’s gonna kill it next.