TrueToo had a chance to talk with west-coast veteran MED (aka Medaphor) who just recently released a collaborative project with his longtime coworkers: Blu, and Madlib, titled Bad Neighbor.
Our sole Canadian presence got a chance to talk to him about his relationship with Madlib, his appearance on Madvillainy, recording with Anderson .Paak, and much more. You can listen here or check out the transcript below.
You’ve worked with Madlib a lot in the past, how did you develop that relationship?
MED: The way I met Madlib was… I was a local artist myself, and they [Lootpack] were too. I think the time we originally connected, I can’t remember the year but, I was about fifteen or something. I was a local producer, and I was rapping all the time… I was doing all the shows, like local shows, high school rallies and what not. Then one of my boys heard the Lootpack Demo. He played it for me, and it was really dope, really different. So we went to Madlib’s house when he was living with his Dad, he actually lived about a 15-minute walk to his house, so it wasn’t far at all. We went there and we rapped, man. I ended up calling him later that night cause I was so into music, you know, I was a music head. I wrote my verse that night, I called him, kicked it for him, he liked it, and he told me “You know what, you need to come over here, and just come work with us. I know you got a group, but you should just come work with us. So I left my group *laughs*, pretty much. The reason why I left my group was because we weren’t a real group anyway. We were performing, I was writing all the raps, and stuff… and these other niggas were chasing girls, and they were more into the high school activity – they weren’t really into music like that. So that was an easy decision, and then I was sixteen and I started running with Madlib.
Was Madlib big at that point? Or did you guys come up together?
Nah, hell nah. We were living in his Dad’s room; smoking weed at the side of his Dad’s house. This was like right before the Alkaholiks situation came in, so this is maybe like a few months before Tha Alkaholiks got their deal. ‘Cause we used to be around them all the time, and that’s when Madlib started producing for Tha Alkaholiks album, and it started growing from there. Then he ended up moving to Santa Barbara. It was a crazy process.
Madlib doesn’t do a lot of interviews, what’s he like?
He’s real chill, man. He’s like one of the nicest guys you can ever meet. Real humble, real forgiving… the only thing about him is when he keeps to himself, he keeps to himself. You really got to appreciate him and give him his space because that’s just how he is. You know, the more you call when he’s in his own space, the further away you’re going to get to talk to him. He likes to work – his main thing is listening to records and doing music and taking care of his family.
When you guys get together do you smoke a lot of weed?
Well back in the day we used to smoke a lot of weed. Nowadays we don’t go to the studio together… He pretty much just gives me beats to use, he does that with everybody. Like I said, back in the day, when we were working in his house, like when I was sixteen, or like nineteen or whatever, his Dad actually got us a studio. His Dad had his own label, and we had our own studio in Ventura in his office so that that was pretty dope. We were smoking, he would make beats on the spot, we would write, he would start the drums, start running the drums, add the bass, and he’d hear my rap and add to it, so it was like way super dope back in the day. Now we don’t smoke as much because we only see each other when we go hang out. We aren’t in the studio no more like that. We’ll either be in the car smoking to songs I’ve made, or most likely we’ll just meet up and go hang out. Me and Madlib hang out a lot. We probably hang out – talking about music 20% of the time, and 80% we’re just being friends.
To be honest with you, I was a super hip-hop head. Straight New York influenced, West Coast influenced, but when I started working with Madlib that’s when I really started opening up to different artists like Ultramagnetic MC’s and The Dooms, and shit like that, he really put me onto a lot of the stuff that I was missing because I was living a West Coast life. All my friends that I hung out with that were on the streets, those cats didn’t listen to hip-hop. You know, they don’t listen to hip-hop, period. So I was in different worlds, I had my West Coast street homies who listen to nothing but that gangster rap, and then I had Madlib. A man who pretty much opened me up, he had a whole crew to open me up to a whole other appreciation of lyricism and hip-hop; boom-bap beats and jazz records, so that was great. I think my style is how it is just because I was in the middle of two different worlds even in my own city. It was just a great appreciation.
You mention how you were a major hip-hop head… What were your major influences at that point?
When I first came in the game, I think my first album was the Beastie Boys album – Licensed To Ill. Me and my older brother went to the store, he was six years older than me, so he took me and he got the Run DMC album – which I wanted. Then I got the Fat Boys – I was into the Fat Boys – but one of my favorite rappers back in the day was KRS-One for sure. His presence, his voice, the way he dominated the mic. I mean, it’s hard to find a true MC like KRS-One to this day, no matter how much money they making. No one can take control or credit like KRS-One could.
How different was it recording with DOOM and Madlib now compared to the way it was back in 2004?
It was totally different, even the Madvillian cut, I recorded [that] with Madlib in the studio. I think, I’m not sure how I got on that album. I remember the day: I walked in there, Madlib asked me to step on some stuff, but I’m not sure if DOOM or Madlib wanted me on there, or they both did. But I went in there and heard the beat and I wrote to it… I was hype. That beat was crazy, man. I didn’t really know the potential of that project, to be honest. It’s one of the biggest independent hip-hop records out, I’m blessed to be on there.
What about Blu? What’s he like?
Blu’s a good person, man. The weird thing is him and Madlib are great people, really cool, sometimes they can keep to themselves because they’re just so artistic. But Blu’s a great person, he’s definitely a cool cat, definitely got his own original style in person and in music.
You’ve been a household name on the underground West Coast scene for years now… Have you ever felt the need to branch out further?
Hell yeah! I think about it all the time! You know, when I first started out I put myself in a box. I always wanted to be that hip-hop cat, and as I developed and grew I figured out that I like a lot of different music. I want to approach my career that way, I don’t want to be stuck in a box. So, lately I’ve been working on a lot of different music and stuff, but I never really had the energy to put forward into being somebody who I’m not, just to make it. I definitely know I got to appreciate the business end, because this is a business to make money, so I’m trying to find my way without compromising who I am.
Can you explain this whole thing that Madlib does where he releases a couple EP’s before releasing the full-length?
Yeah, the EP’s are pretty much like heavy singles in a sense. By heavy I mean there’s more content on it. It’s just more of a presentation, man. Singles aren’t selling… You just have a better time putting the EP together to present to the world and represent the final product you’re trying to get out there. But I definitely feel like EP’s are important – there’s just more content on there. It depends on who puts it out, and how they do it, but with the Bang Ya Head label we love to put out EP’s with the instrumentals, and the bonus songs, and we’ll even give people an acapella. That makes it fun for the upcoming producers and what not. We just try to figure out a way to keep it going – just try to market it right. I don’t really think anybody is going to really buy a record with one song and an instrumental on it anymore.
Yeah, actually. Me and him went to the studio and recorded that in the Stones Throw studio. That was one of the funnest sessions even though it was just me and him. Obviously, a lot of other ones were fun too, but that dude has energy, man. We were up in there dancing, it was pretty fun. He didn’t smoke, I smoked, and I pretty much just sat back and watched him work. This dude is a musical genius, and he just knows his craft. He knows what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. I was just sitting there, he was recording and engineering… and then we just pressed play and got up and started dancing. It was tight.
What’s your favorite song from this album?
That changes all the time. Right now… that’s hard to say…. I’m liking “Drive In,” right now. “The Strip” is one of my favorites… At one time “Birds” was my favorite, that beat was crazy as fuck. That chicken noise… I was dying ‘cause that shit was fun. This world is full of people who got their own opinions, but I just hope people enjoy the album.
Are there bird sounds on the song “Birds”?
Yeah. Or chickens, or something… *makes chicken noise*. That goes on with the whole beat, that’s what the sample is doing. Sounds like we’re on some kind of foster farm.
What’s next for you guys?
For us, it’s kind of early but we’re going to have somebody really dope remix a few tracks, and we’re probably going to throw a couple new songs on there [the album’s remixed version], with that same producer, and give the people that actually supported the Bad Neighbor album something a little special. We are an independent label, and we’re out here to beat all these other labels, and it’s really not the label – it’s good music that were trying to present. We want to give the fans appreciation, and we got a Bang Ya Head 3 compilation coming out in March. We have crazy people on there: Me, Blu, Elzhi, Gangrene, Cocaine [80’s]… and that’s just the EP. This is going to be the first installment of this thing ahead for a compilation that’s coming out. So yeah man, we’re working.
That’s going to be a compilation album?
Yeah it’s going to be a compilation. We did the Bang Ya Head 3 compilation album in 2010 2011. So now we’re going to this one. I think it’s going to be really special for the label. It’s going to be a good introduction for the label as far as bringing solid music and great artists.
From the interviewer: Overall, talking with MED was a very cool experience. If you can’t hear it within the interview, MED is a very charismatic personality and was an absolute pleasure to talk to. He’s someone who has remained true to the art throughout a lengthy career, and is driven by his love of hip-hop. It’s great to see him and his label releasing an album that will definitely be appreciated by a wide variety of fans. We look forward to hearing what’s next from MED, and make sure to check out his latest release.
You can stream Bad Neighbour on Spotify here:
Keep up with MED and his BangYaHead label with the following links:
Bang Ya Head Twitter