Following bullet-time verses from Tech N9ne and his Unusual Music label cohorts Joey Cool and King Iso, Johnson matches their pace and depth on the observe, packing his personally written “Face Off” verse with inner rhymes like “Black and Samoan in my veins, my tradition bangin’ with Unusual/ I modified the sport, so what’s my motherf–kin’ title?” Johnson seems like he’s having a blast alongside the technically gifted MCs on “Face Off,” and followers have responded in type throughout its first week of launch, giving its music video 3.7 million YouTube views and protecting the tune close to the highest of the iTunes songs chart all week.
Throughout an prolonged telephone dialog with Billboard earlier this week, Johnson mentioned how the collaboration got here collectively, why now was the precise time for his guest-rap debut, and the kind of music he would possibly discover subsequent. (Ed. Be aware: this interview has been condensed for readability.)
What have the previous few days been like for you, when it comes to and listening to out of your followers and folks experiencing this kind of music from you for the primary time?
The previous few days have been, in a phrase, phenomenal. And , you mentioned a fantastic phrase about it, “expertise” — the objective was to create and ship a tune that received your blood pumping, but additionally, we talked about issues that have been essential to us, when it comes to our drive, our cultures, our lives. So these previous couple of days have been nice, and the fan response has been f–king loopy.
I believe the pairing of myself and Tech N9ne, Joey Cool and King Iso from Unusual Music, your entire convergence was one thing that caught individuals off-guard. There was a singular intrigue and curiosity as to what we have been going to ship. And never lots of people know this, however I have been pals with Tech for a lot of, a few years now. So I believe, when the tune hit the streets, it blew lots of people away. Watching reactions to the tune, getting a way of all of the feedback throughout the boards, has been nice.
I’ve watched quite a lot of YouTube response movies, so that you’re watching these individuals watch the video and hearken to the tune — they usually know that I am coming in because the anchor! [Laughs.] So there was quite a lot of [people] like, “Ohhh, s–t. That is both going to be f–king horrible, or hopefully, fairly good.”
Inform me concerning the course of of making your verse — batting cleanup on this tune with such gifted technical rappers. What was it like excited about these lyrics after which delivering them in a means that made you are feeling proud?
So Tech and Joey and Iso laid down their verses, Tech despatched [the song] to me, and that then knowledgeable the route of the place I used to be going to go. My principal objective was to put in writing and ship from my coronary heart. And the B-side to that was to ensure that I used to be supporting these guys, who left all of it out on the sector. You hear the fervour and depth which they ship to spit their spit and assault their bars. In order that set me up for a problem.
After I talked to Tech, he mentioned, “Hear, that is you, and I need you to put in writing this entire factor.” I mentioned, “Okay. I need to warn you — I am not that nice of a author, however I do write how I communicate, which could be very direct. So let me put pen to paper. Let me write from the intestine.” I wrote all the things out as finest I may, after which I received along with Tech. And that is the place his mastery actually shined, as a result of he then was capable of assist me with phrase construction, cadence and general thought.
For instance, we knew that we have been going to finish on [the phrase] “excessive mana.” I’m half-Black and Samoan, and in my Polynesian tradition, “mana” means spirit, an influence and a pressure that all of us have inside. So we knew we have been going to finish there, and we labored backwards. It was a fantastic studying expertise for me, from the grasp. While you take a look at the construction of the tune — [raps] “After I’m rumbling, you are gonna scream ‘Mama’ / So convey drama to the king Brahma / Coming at ya with excessive mana!” — that [was the] movement and cadence and phrase construction he helped me with, and that was the magic.
Then there was a time the place I mentioned, “Can we add extra gasoline to this?” And he mentioned, “F–k sure, we will!” [Laughs.] We might add extra phrases to assist with that cadence, that iconic Tech N9ne supply that he and his entire roster accomplish that very effectively. That began with like [raps] “Desecration, defamation, if you wish to convey it to the lots, head to head, now we escalatin’,” proper? In order that’s how we put all of it collectively, after which as soon as we have been accomplished, I went to the studio. I legit took three massive swigs of tequila, I swear to God. I took the bottle with me within the sales space, and I knocked it out.
And so what’s cool about that is, on the finish — I did not anticipate them to do that — however Tech and his engineers stored all [my ad-libs] on the finish. I say, “Thanks, brother Tech N9ne!” I take one other swig of [my tequila brand] Teremana. I say, “Thanks Teremana!” Then, “One take, that’s a wrap! Face off!” And I walked out of the f–king sales space. It was really one take. I prefer to problem myself in motion pictures that once I step on set, I’m able to go and we’ll get it in a single take. So that is what we did, after which we received it in a single take.
I’m certain that you simply’ve had numerous requests to do music through the years. Why do that one? You mentioned that you simply and Tech are shut, however why now, on this tune?
As a result of this music speaks to me, and I believe his music speaks to a mass, but particular, viewers in hip-hop — who love and embrace the push, who need that fireplace, who need that aggression. This was Tech’s thought. He got here to me final yr and mentioned, “I have been engaged on this. [hums “Face Off” melody] I do not know, I believe it could possibly be one thing massive and I believe we may align on this.” When he pitched me that concept, I mentioned, “I am in. Let’s determine it out.”
The alternatives prior to now which have come my means, to rap, to sing, have been nice, and quite a lot of them are [from] my pals, they usually’re monster stars on this planet of music. I like and respect their music, however these, it simply by no means felt like — it is received to really feel proper, and it is received to really feel actual. And this did, with Tech.
Did recording this verse scratch an itch, the place you are excited about doing extra music or collaborations?
Yeah, I might like to. Now I have been hit up by all these pals, like, “Okay, so when are we doing our s–t?” [Laughs.] However I would like to proceed to collaborate down the road with Tech, with Unusual [Music], with different artists. Once more, it simply has to really feel proper, to really feel actual, the place we will actually dig in on one thing that’s genuine and from the intestine. However simply as essential is delivering one thing for the those that they’d simply love and go hopefully loopy over.
My love for hip-hop goes again from day one, and I like conventional and outlaw nation music. I believe there’s one thing down the highway the place I could collaborate with some artists in that style as effectively. A few of these guys are my pals — like, for instance, Jamey Johnson, Mickey Lamantia, Gethen Jenkins. There’s an actual authenticity there, and, , possibly I may decide up my guitar.
Music, particularly old-school hip-hop, is a sneakily essential a part of your present, Younger Rock.
Sure! Thanks for saying that. I’ve at all times felt that music is the soul of flicks and TV exhibits. For Younger Rock, there’s a lot occurring within the visuals and innately within the story, as a result of we’re spanning three completely different intervals of my life. You bought little Dewey working round with an afro, then 15-year-old DJ working round with a mustache, after which college-age me. There’s a lot occurring, however the thought was at all times: We will carry these scenes with iconic music. Instantly, whenever you hear [those songs], individuals are simply taken again to that specific time of their lives.
Do you may have any particular hopes for what “Face Off” accomplishes?
Our objective was to create a tune that received individuals’s coronary heart fee up just a bit, and their adrenaline pumping just a bit bit extra, and in addition created a tune that might doubtlessly grow to be anthemic in individuals’s lives. It began with us personally, with me and Tech and Joey and Iso, [saying], “What is the tune that we need to hear each time these guys hit the stage? Or each time I hit a film set, or the health club? What’s a tune that we all know that groups would play within the locker room earlier than they went out on the sector?”
The objective was to create one thing that is long-lasting, that has the power to span time. And it shakes the cities, strikes the gang, and will get you actually f–king going.