Over a revved-up dancehall production from production chameleon Seven, CES Cru and Tech N9ne rip a party scene to shreds in a way that only Strange Music can put it down. You want something you can dance to? It’s all there. You want that and real lyrics? Only CES Cru could deliver such a track.
We talked to Tech N9ne to get his perspective on the upbeat anthem from CES Cru’s latest addition to the legendary Strange Music catalogue. Tech talks about the song’s production and how it affected his flow and hints at the future of CES Cru in this revealing Strange Music exclusive.
Tell us about “Power Play”.
I never looked at the credits who did the beat. I’m not sure if Seven did the beat. Do you know who did it?
Seven did the beat yeah. I got the song on my last tour. I was on my tour bus and they sent me the song and I was like “Wow!” It was different because it was a reggae track. A lot of people online are calling it dubstep. No, it’s a reggae track the way that it’s moving. (Imitates drum beat) I’m like “It’s island-y.” It’s Caribbean and shit so I was like “Wow, this is different for CES,” and it was fun for me because I feel like that an artist should almost be able to deal with any musical situation or deal in any musical situation. When they sent me that and I listened to their verses I was like “Hell yeah!” Ubi was toasting at the end, doing the Jamaican toast and I was like “Yeah man.” I got to have a lot of fun on it because it was not the norm for CES Cru, nor me, nor Seven. The fact that Seven thought to do an island type beat but hip hop it out and put his Seven shit on it just makes it even better.
I think the people who can’t get used to it because it’s so different for us and CES Cru just need to picture being on a beach somewhere with a gang of bitches or a gang of liquor or just a gang of fun and when they think of that song they’ll love it (laughs).
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard you spit on a dancehall beat.
So this is an example of you and especially Ubi flexing some musical versatility in a big way. How are you able to approximate so many different styles so well?
This is the reason I think, it’s because I’ve been exposed to so many types and styles of song and music when I was younger. The things I fell in love with are the things I’m able to do. I’m a lover of music so it just doesn’t stop at hip hop or R&B. It’s more than that. That’s why I think I can tackle everything.
You might see me on Tha Carter IV with Wayne and then you can catch me on Five Finger Death Punch’s album. You see me on tour with E-4o and then you see on stage ripping with Slipknot at the Knotfest, or see me bussin’ with Wiz Khalifa but then you see me on a song with Serj Tankian.
It’s just because I fell in love with all different types of music when I was younger that I grasp a lot more than just what’s in my circle in the ghetto when I was younger. It wasn’t only hip hop or R&B in my household, it was everything. It was gospel, it was rock, it was jazz, blues, it was everything. That’s why.
It seems to be a hallmark of this label that there’s so much versatility amongst all the artists. Do you guys consciously look for that or did it happen to work out that way?
I look for it. I choose these motherfuckers. I pinpoint them like “Oop, that’s what I want. That’s CES Cru? I need ‘em. That’s Rittz? I need him. Stevie Stone? I need him.” Boom, boom, boom. “Krizz Kaliko? Boom, I need him.” I see similarities: lovers of music. Same thing with ¡MAYDAY!. Lovers of music. That’s what I like to keep around me. MURS, lover of music. All the rest of the artists as well. That’s how I choose them. When I go see their shows I see the love and the will to want to create and innovate.
Speaking of innovation, tell me what you think about Ubi’s verse on “Power Play”. People either love it or they’re like “Why is he doing a Jamaican accent?”
It’s a common thing in hip hop. When Lauryn Hill does it or Wyclef does it, they’ve been doing that style in hip hop. It’s called “toasting.” That’s something that’s hip hop tradition but these youngsters don’t know that because they were just born and they only know fucking…you know, the newer shit. I don’t want to call anyone by their name because I don’t want people thinking I’m talking bad about them. A lot of these youngsters don’t get it because they don’t understand that it’s a tradition in hip hop to toast.
I think the way that Ubi did that shit, he killed it because the whole verse rhymes to the end and it shows his skill and it shows he can play with it. He has the art of rhyme down so cold that he can play with it and put an accent on it. When Eminem was going “Doing, doing doing doing…I keed, I keed!” I mean he’s playing with it because he has it down pat. So the motherfuckers that don’t understand that this is hip hop tradition to do the toasting, they can miss that and that’s cool, but recognize his rhyme skill to be able to rhyme every word all the way down to the last word. It was fucking brilliant.
So what do you think of the song now that it’s all finished and also how fun was it to shoot the video?
I think Godi set the stage for me because “Now we up in here acting like some fucking clowns.” It’s like he’s painting a picture. “Niggas holding up the wall, like they don’t know how to dance.” He’s scoping bitches and shit. I loved it. I started off talking about sexing because of Godi’s verse. We kickin’ it, but as I start getting into my Jamaican flow, my toasting, it started getting gangster because most of the hardcore Jamaican Rastafari shit is gangster as a motherfucker. I start banging. “Busting until everything dead!” I went from sexing to “I’ll kill your motherfucking ass if you fuck with us. We kicking it over here.” So Godi set the stage for the kicking it and the women and I love him for setting the stage so wonderfully. It’s bright, you know what I mean?
Shooting the video, I was just kicking it so hard during the video and my gangster part of the song just felt like “Damn, I tripped too hard on this motherfucker! We kickin’ it!” The atmosphere during the three day shoot we had for the video – which the video is turning out wonderfully too. I just seen a piece of it. It’s just the whole vibe of the video is just so party and so accomplished that it was hard for me to trip with somebody but when you say them words “Off in my circle everything red!” Then I went back to where I started “Whoever wanna see me need a ticket, all the bitches got interest for me to stick it because I’m wicked.” I go back to what we talked about and what Godi started with.
The video is just so fun man. Usually a three day shoot would be tedious but the first shoot was a big fucking pool party at a big, nice home – a swimming pool with beautiful women everywhere. All of them I didn’t know – all new faces. It was so beautiful. Then the next night the club scene that had even more beautiful women. Some of the ones returned because they had so much fun the day before. The third day was yesterday on green screen.
It’s a massive video and it’s super accomplished. It’s different for CES Cru because Godi is always partying, Ubi is more of the serious type. Godi’s a fucking crazy emcee that’s looking for the party, just like me, but Ubi’s a lot more chill so to see Ubi in this light is a wonderful, refreshing thing as well.
Speaking of being accomplished, CES Cru has come a long way not only since they started but even just since they signed, which was only a 2 or 3 years ago. I actually went back and watched their signing video and you said that you thought they would be able to create a new lane for Strange Music. Back then did you envision this kind of success for them?
Yeah man. I expected them to do this. The more people they get in front of the more that lane is going to get wider and wider. They just need to be seen and need to be heard. The more they’re heard and seen the more people they gain. I just saw them gain The Gathering of The Juggalos for the first time, like “Whoa!” I saw them go to New York and gain everybody out there as well. So it’s like they have the ability to go as far as they want to and it’s happening. It’s just they need other people to see them as well and that’s what’s happening man. I always believed that they would do this. I wouldn’t of signed them if I didn’t think they had the ability to do it or if I had to super push them. I didn’t have to because their talent speaks for itself.
What’s it like to put on such great talent from the home city and to see them have this huge growth spurt? They got off their first solo tour which did very well.
It’s funny, I was just thinking about that today on the way here. I’m so proud man because I remember when I was at their show at The Riot Room and I was like “I need these guys”. I just wanted to augment what they already had and make it bigger and better for them and that’s what’s happening. They just deserve a big push and they have the talent to do it. It just makes me feel so good that I can do something. I thought about it today. I’m so glad that they were able to quit their jobs and now get paid to do music.
To tangent from that a bit and highlight their growth also highlights the growth of Strange Music. What this is is an empire based on substance, skill and talent. Was this a thought when you guys started doing this? The music that the label puts out really sticks in people’s hearts and that’s not the way you make money it seems, or used to anyway, in music.
All this, this Strange Music symbol I’m looking at right here, Strangeland, all this was premeditated in my head. The Snake and the Bat needed to have symbolism because of me being a big Public Enemy fan and me being a big Ice Cube and Lench Mob fan. You see these symbols. I wanted that. All of this is premeditated man. I wanted it to look like something strong like Superman or Batman. The Snake and the Bat man. It’s fucking beautiful.
I wanted this to truly live up to the name Strange Music. We’ve done that. We’ve done that with Krizz Kaliko. We’ve done that with CES Cru. We’ve done that with all of our artists: Prozak, Stevie Stone, everybody. We’ve done that and we’re going to keep doing that because all of this is premeditated for us to have top notch music. Me and Travis always believed in having things top notch. There sould never be a slouch. When you walk into our homes it’s not a slouch. When you walk into our studio it’s not a slouch. When you hear that music – not a slouch, because once we start slouching we will not do business anymore.
This is all premeditated to be the best. If you’re going to do something then be the best and make noise. All these motherfuckers we talking about including CES Cru make noise man and we were brought here to make some fucking noise and that’s what we’re going to keep on doing until we have everything we need and that’s world domination.
What do you see in the future for CES Cru?
World domination. I need everybody to know that they’re the best at what they do. I’m a fucking humongous fan of CES. I’m going to go steal all of their shirts at headquarters because the merch there is serious because people are selling it everyday. Penny and them are selling it everyday. You take something out of there it has to be accounted for, even the boss, so I’m going to go steal they shit – but we write it down to account for it. They gotta count that shit (laughs). I’m going to take all that shit. I’m a big fan and I just have to get them on a bigger stage, and their stage is getting bigger and bigger everyday.