Los Angeles producer and composer Adrian Younge is a man of many talents. He has a body of work ranging from film scores, to psychedelic soul compositions, to production spots on Jay-Z’s 2013 release Magna Carta…Holy Grail.
After picking up an MPC and discovering sampling in 1996, Younge grew into the multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer he is today. He began gaining traction and critical acclaim for his work on the Black Dynamite film score, his own composition Something About April, and his initial collaboration with Ghostface Killah, 12 Reasons To Die. His style has become known for its idiosyncratic yet nostalgic sound based on 60s and 70s soul and funk, and hip-hop aesthetics. He doesn’t shy away from vintage techniques too, having a particular penchant for recording to analog tape.
12 Reasons To Die II, the sophomore collaboration between Younge and Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, is out now. The conceptual album is composed, produced and performed by Younge and told through Ghostface’s visceral rhymes. In honour of this release, we spoke to the producer about the album, his creative process, and working with hip-hop icons and up-and-comers.
You are just about to release the sequel to your critically acclaimed 2013 collaboration with Ghostface Killah Twelves Reasons To Die. How did you end up working together initially?
I was contacted by an A&R from RZA’s record label. He basically asked me to create an album with Ghostface Killah; that was a request I couldn’t refuse!
How did creating this forthcoming album differ to the first?
This album was a lot darker. For the first album, I was very aware of Ghostface because I’m a fan; however, we had never worked together. On this second album, we were not only fans of each other, but we became good friends. The chemistry was more involved and I understood his artistic approach in a whole new light.
You have obviously worked with Ghostface and RZA (who features on the sequel and was an executive producer on the 2013 release), and got Raekwon on board for this coming release. Is Wu-Tang Clan an influence on you personally?
Wu-Tang has always been a big influenced on me. Every single album that I’ve produced is inspired, somehow, by RZA’s production.
Another feature is Vince Staples on the track ‘Get The Money’. He is getting a lot of buzz right now for his debut album Summertime 06. What was it like working with him?
He is a young rapper that is exceptionally great. He is versatile, witty and is just a good all around person. He is very funny too. Just a good spirit to be around, and he is quick on the mic. I couldn’t believe how fast he finished writing and reciting that verse.
You wrote and performed all the music on Twelve Reasons To Die II, did you have any direct influences in writing this album?
I wrote all of the music and incorporated my band, “Venice Dawn,” for some production as well. My influences for the album range from DJ Premier, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, RZA, and Ennio Morricone. Basically, good cinematic composition helps to inspire my music and these producers are very adept in handling that task.
How did you get into production and composition?
I got into production as a hip hop producer, sampling records to make hip hop beats; this was around ’96. A couple years later, I realised that it was time for me to start buying instruments so that I can actually create the type of music I was trying to sample. That is what pushed me to become an engineer and producer.
You have a unique production technique; recording to analog tape. What drew you to using this?
I love vinyl and the sound vinyl projects. That being said, I want people to think of records when they listen to my music, regardless of what format they use. Analog tape is the medium or my conduit to that nostalgic vinyl sound. That’s why analog is so important to me.
You did the score for Black Dynamite; do you have a different process to creating music when it’s for a film?
Yes. For the film, my job is to enhance the visual. I can’t think too much about how the music will sound, without picture. I must focus on audiovisual enhancement, opposed to just music innately.
You seem to be heavily influenced by psychedelic soul from the 60s and 70s. If so, where did that influence come from, and what is it about this period of music that appeals to you?
That influence came to me when I started sampling records in ’96. I became mesmerised with the sound of that time, and this sound still captivates me. This period is just so raw, and the sound is full with so much organic colour. This colour comes from the tape and the live instrumentation; also, the great musicians of that time.
What have you got planned for the second half of 2015; do you have any future projects you are working on?
Besides the Bilal and Ghostface album that was released this month, I am releasing two other albums: An album with Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest) and a sequel to my Something About April album.
12 Reasons To Die II is out now on Linear Labs. In Another Life by neo-soul singer Bilal, which features production from Younge, is also out now.