The release of CES Cru’s full length Strange Music debut Constant Energy Struggles is just around the corner, and anticipation is at an all-time high.
To help you get acquainted with some of the sounds behind CES Cru’s upcoming album and catch a glimpse into the Kansas City underground scene, we recently caught up with KC producer/emcee Info Gates, the man behind CES heaters like “Peter Parker” and “Klick Clack Bang”.
For those that aren’t already familiar, Info Gates is a staple in Kansas City’s underground hip hop scene, but is quickly earning respect and notoriety for his work with not only KC’s finest, both on the boards and on the mic.
Check the full interview below, and make sure to cop Info’s newest release Everybody Knows Everything, which features the likes of Wrekonize, Godemis, Mac Lethal, and more!
What’s your background in music? How did you get into producing hip hop?
My background in music is I’ve been around it since I was born.
Both of my parents are jazz musicians so at a really young age I was exposed to it and had a lot of little tyke instruments and shit like that as a kid. So it was kind of put on me as a little baby.
I was around a lot of jazz, a lot of Motown music like that growing up. When I got to be a little older I got into rock music. I started out playing in bands. I played the guitar and the drums, mainly guitar, and I stopped playing music for awhile after high school for maybe three years because my bands kept breaking up and then I had some legal issues so I was just kind of unmotivated musically.
I was always a real big fan of hip hop music but never really looked into making it growing up. I guess I just kind of always assumed that what I should do was just play instruments and write music. When the bands fell apart I got into checking out what I could do by myself, like looking into software programs and vinyl and drum pads. I just kind of started playing around with everything and just realized that there was this whole world of infinite possibilities that you could by yourself now.
You don’t need a drummer, you don’t need a bass player because you can do all that yourself as long as you know how to you know? So I started doing it myself when I was around 21, 22 years old, I started doing hip hop. It’s been 10 years or so.
How would you describe your production style?
Versatile. I don’t like to cling to one sound. I mean I feel like I have a couple sounds, a couple styles of sound maybe whether in drum sounds or synthesizer sounds that are maybe recognizable, but I’m influenced by so many genres that I like to make songs that are of all kind of different paces and all different vibes.
So I would just say eclectic…versatile. I don’t do just one thing. I try to be able to work with people in all aspects of music.
I think your new album is a really good example of that.
Thanks man. Yeah that’s definitely what I was shooting for with that one.
How did you meet Ubiquitous and Godemis?
The first time I actually actually met them was at Barbaric Merits CD release. These guys are a dubstep/DJ duo from KC. They did, I believe their only official album was called “New Mutations” that they did, but they had me and CES Cru both on there and I had heard [CES Cru’s] name and I’d seen their stickers up.
I think I even bumped into Ubi at a house party in the college years in Lawrence, but it was real vague and quick. We were just kind of out there on different paths and our paths connected with the Barbaric Merits thing.
So they did a CD release at the record bar and they showcased. Their album was half just beats, half emcees ya know. It was like a real mixed up, mashed up album they did, but the only rappers on there were me, CES Cru, Lez Ismore and I think that was it, so we were all there at that show, like they performed and I performed and we had already know each other’s songs and shit.
Like they knew the lyrics to my shit and I knew the lyrics to their shit so it was just kind of like, we met each other on some like “Damn I heard your shit, your shit is tight” stuff and we really just hit it off and became friends like way beyond the music and shit, once we got to know each other. But yeah that’s how we met, through the Barbaric Merits album.
What’s your working relationship with them like? Is it like all fun and games or pure work or a mix of both?
I think it’s exactly that: a healthy mix of both. I mean, it depends on the situation. If we have all kinds of time on our hands we can obviously be more lax and experiment more and try new things and just get high and pitch ideas and just try shit.
But if it’s like a deadline situation or like we need to have a certain kind of song ASAP, then you know, it’s more like business. It feels more like a job in that situation, where you have to get something done and you’re doing your best in a quick amount of time.
We can make music under any circumstance, but we do do both. We have our relaxing-just-sitting-around-and-shoot-the-shit creativity times and we have our “Oh shit, we have to come up with something now” times, and I think we work well under either circumstance.
What has it been like watching them grow as artists and individuals since you’ve first met them?
It’s been a trip, but I think the most important thing that you see is that they’re quote unquote keeping it real, like staying true to who they are.
Of course they’re getting busier. I can relate to what they’re going through I’m getting busier, the stakes are higher and the pressure is higher.
The benefits that you’re starting to reap get better, but the pressure comes with it and decisions come along with it – how you spend your time. Everything changes. You may see people less. You might not be able to bullshit as much.
Hopefully nobody perceives any kind of arrogance from them because there isn’t, it’s just that cats are getting busier. That’s what’s beautiful I think.
They’re both staying true to the people that I know them to be, they’re not turning their back on anybody, they’re just staying the kick ass people that they are and getting better at the job that they’re doing.
What’s your favorite track that you’ve produced for them?
Ooh! Uh…it’s really tough for me because they’ve both done solo stuff and we have group stuff and they have just CES Cru stuff, but right now I’d have to say probably “Klick Clack Bang” is my shit. I’m probably the most proud of that one as far as just the CES Cru stuff goes.
Which tracks are your favorites on this new album coming up?
Oh man. Umm…I really really like the one that Lenny D and Reggie B did: “Perception”. It’s got this super-catchy piano line that Reggie did and Ubi sings on the hook this really dope melody. I love that shit.
I really like “When Worlds Collide”. I really like Godemis’ “Wavy”, his solo track. That shit’s funny. I really like the whole album but those three probably stand out at first listen. I love what they did with “Wall-E” conceptually too. That’s one of the beats I did and I think lyrically they fucking kill that too.
It seems that the KC hip hop scene is really starting to blow up in the last year or two, what do you think is responsible for that?
I think Strange Music has a big, big hand in what’s going on right now and what could go on in the future. I think this city has a reputation of not supporting its locals until they’ve left and done well elsewhere, which I’ve never understood.
It’s always puzzled me: why people don’t see and embrace the hunger and the talent that this city has. I mean historically, in different genres beyond rap.
Guys were here and they had to leave back in the jazz days. Guys had to leave because they were getting big here and in St. Louis and shit, but they had to get bigger.
I think Strange, if anybody has the capability to get what’s going on in Kansas City outside of the city because I think those are the people who are ultimately going to embrace it. And I think once it gets seen and embraced by people outside of Kansas City, people in Kansas City will have this renewed sense of pride, which is really kind of lame to me, but I think that’s how they are here.
When you go elsewhere, you do it big in LA, you do big in Atlanta, you do it big in New York, now everybody’s proud of you that you’re from Kansas City, but when you’re here, you’re just like…here.
I think Strange definitely has a big hand in the excitement because CES is getting a little bit of a push on a national, even international level now, and people are feeling like “Dang maybe that’ll like stow off into the whole scene somehow probably.”
But yeah people definitely need help. Everybody who’s ever done anything of any importance always had some kind of help from somebody, you know? You can’t just do it all by yourself. You need people to help. You need people to promote. You need people to help you, you know? I think we’re blessed to have Strange here because otherwise you would have to leave.
That’s what I’m embracing is the fact that you know, maybe I could go get a place in LA or get a place in Atlanta and network out there, but I’d rather stay here. So if I can stay here and still get my music pushed out then that’s the ultimate goal.
Totally and do you think the population of this city is starting to catch up to that feeling and starting to kind of see more importance in helping in those earlier stages and build up that fame so that they can get outside of there and still rep Kansas City?
I really hope so. I guess I can’t exactly say. I think locally the fan bases are getting bigger. Like CES Cru’s, mine, the people that are in a good position right now, the music is getting more attention from people, but I don’t know if it’s quite where it needs to be.
I don’t know if people really understand what we have compared to the rest of the country. We have a scene that can compete with LAs or Chicagos or anybody else. There’s that many guys here that are good. Sometimes I just don’t know if we realize. I hope we’re starting to because I think I see it because I listen to music all the time, all different times, from all over the place, underground and mainstream, and I’m impressed by what we have locally. I legitimately am. I hope other people are or are at least starting to but I guess it’s just going to take more time.
I think the more success that we have outside of Kansas City the more success that we’ll have in Kansas City, which is ass-backwards, but that’s really how it works.
I’ve also noticed that there’s a paradigm shift going on within hip hop to where you’re starting to see some really enlightened type shit. How does it feel to be a part of that paradigm shift within Strange Music and within hip hop in general.
It feels great. It’s exciting. The name of their album Constant Energy Struggles is really relatable to several conversations that we’ve had, even in the presence of Tech honestly. Just the fact like, everything that’s happening right now is amazing and it’s great but man everybody deserves it, so it’s kind of that energy struggle like “This is awesome but am I lucky?”
It’s hard to really know how you feel because you believe in yourself and you’ve been doing it for so long and you feel like at some point something’s gotta give when you’re doing it for so long. So it’s a little bit of both.
You’re like “Damn this is awesome. I’m really lucky” but then you’re also like “This is supposed to happen.” You know what I mean? It’s a real struggle of what your position is on it. That’s how I feel.
I have to like pinch myself if I ever feel too much of one of the two. I can’t feel too lucky because then I’m feeling like I’m not good enough to deserve it and I can’t feel too egotistical because there’s plenty of people out there that are super talented that aren’t in my position.
So it’s a real constant struggle to figure out what your role is on that. At the end of the day I can just say that I’m excited about what’s going on now and I’m really excited about the future. Definitely.
If you had to choose between producing and rapping which would you pick?
If I had to choose I would choose producing, just because when I’m producing I can have a million other really talented people’s voices over my stuff.
If I’m rapping then I have no control of what I’m rapping over so I always have to get it elsewhere.
Anything you want to say about Constant Energy Struggles before we go?
I think it’s on a scale of one to ten I think it’s a ten and I don’t say that because those are my dudes, I say that because I’ve listened to it 100 times from the perspective of 100 different angles and it’s just, these guys are peaking right now which is crazy to me.
They just keep getting better. The production is top notch. The raps are top notch. The features are top notch. I really feel that they bring something new to Strange and even more importantly to the whole hip hop game right now.
I don’t think there’s a pair out there like them right now. And I think they represent something that’s really really big, like a whole subculture and city of people that are just talented and hungry.
They’re representing the city perfectly and I’m just really excited for it to get out there. Hopefully not too many of the little online kids start hating and talking shit when they know damn well the shit’s good, you know what I mean?
If so, hey, whatever comes, that shit’s dope to me and I know real good music and that shit’s real good music.
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