With CES Cru’s Constant Energy Struggles looming on the horizon, we thought we’d talk to Ubiquitous, one half of the dynamic rhyme duo, to get his insight on what went into what some are already calling one of the best Strange Music albums of all time.
Ubiquitous revealed to us the meaning of the title, the pressure that CES Cru put themselves during the making of the album, his favorite songs off the album and much much more.
What’s the meaning of the title Constant Energy Struggles? Did you guys feel that you were in that?
The meaning behind Constant Energy Struggles is somewhat literal. It makes reference to a book called The Celestine Prophecy in which an energy struggle is described as an interaction of two people, their auras intertwining and them engaging in a sort of energy combat in which one leeches the other’s aura and takes the energy through four specific techniques in engaging the energy struggle. So Constant Energy Struggles sort of encapsulates the experience that we’re going through right now as we ascend at a very quick pace into the rap game, if you will. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of energy struggles and you only get what you ask for, not necessarily what you’re worth. A lot of people are out to get us and all of that shit and I feel like it’s a perfect title for what we’re actually experiencing right now.
During the making of this album what kind of pressure did you guys put on yourself?
Basically the pressure of our first time out. We’ve been making music for a really long time and we have multiple projects that precede this one but the pressure was that of a brand new look, almost like a first day at a job. The pressure was to make a good first impression even though we’ve churned out tons of music before this. We kind of look at this as our big emergence to a grander audience.
There’s some people that just make music for themselves and some make it for an audience. Who was this album for?
It’s an even mix. There’s definitely some personal stuff on the record, stuff that was more closer to heart, written more to exorcise a demon, monkey on the back, or a chip in the soul. There was some stuff that was created as entertainment on some vaudevillian shit, like “I got my cane, I got my hat, I’m doing the dance, doesn’t everybody like this with my big smile?” It’s a big mix of both. Some of it is very, very emotionally honest and soul bearing and other times we’re just kind of stunting and doing an amazing juggling act if you will.
How did you want this to be different than the previous projects you guys have done?
I wanted it to get bigger. I wanted to have a feel of not so regional or region-specific. I wanted it to have the feeling that we could come from anywhere. Obviously we’re American but we could come from anywhere in America and have a national appeal that they could have like over in Europe or Australia. I wanted something that was big. I didn’t want to confine myself to the same blocks. I wanted to think big and grand and hopefully we accomplished that.
I suppose when you say big you could apply that to the overall sound you were trying to achieve as well?
Yeah, the beats are bigger too to reflect that content and writing style. The beats are made to be able to stand up in a grander arena after playing a few shows with Tech and learning the difference of what it was like to play for two or three hundred to now playing for four thousand. It’s just a different ballgame. We tried to get some music that I felt would support us in a larger arena and would sort of capture a bigger audience.
Is this something you’ve wanted to do? Were you comfortable in this space during the making of the album?
I definitely embraced it. I look at it as growth. I look at it as an assignment or a challenge. I try to rise to any challenge no matter what it may be and just because I’m good at making one kind of music, doesn’t mean that it’s the only kind of music that I’m going to make. I’d be willing to make something specifically uncomfortable just to see if I could do it. Not to say that was the case here but I’m just definitely open to new endeavors and different styles. There may be some old school CES fans that have been following us since ’01, ’02 or ’03, and they’re going to be like “Whoa, their sound is a little different!” and it is! I hope they don’t fault us for that because we have to grow and change and evolve and keep our own interest piqued as artists. At the same time, there’s a lot of reasons for it. It’s not ’02 anymore, you can’t just jack a Charlie Parker sample and make a record like that anymore. There’s a lot more involved in the beatmaking process…but we still might make it sound like we jacked a Charlie Parker sample but we didn’t! You have to check it out and see what you think.
It’s been getting good reviews by everyone that’s heard it. How do you think it’s going to be received by fans of hip hop and fans of Strange Music?
I think hip hop fans are going to love it. Any super four element based, grafitti, DJ, b-boy, emcee style hip hop head, backpacker kind of dude is probably really going to feel this shit and feel like “Oh thank God somebody finally filled this lane!” I think they’ll really dig it.
As far as Strange Music fans, I think they’ll dig it too. I feel like we are on our own shit. I feel like we bring a different flavor than maybe Strange fans are accustomed to and I think they’re going to get warm to it. It might take a little bit of getting used to but there’s some shit on this record that is pretty undeniably hard-hitting. So hopefully we can crack them open and win them over quickly.
What kind of attention do you think this album deserves?
I’d like to think we get all the attention. That all avenues will open up and that we do end up in larger retailers and that our record gets a chance to do that everything a record can do. I think we’re newcomers to the big leagues and we may be lacking in some regular things that you see on a big league record, like “Oh we collaborated with xyz-rapper who’s got a single on the radio or xyz-R&B singer who had a hit single last year.” We don’t have a lot of that going on. We’re still kind of doing us and working in our organic circle but I don’t think that’s a reason to discount the music. I think some people might write us off because of some shit like that. Sometimes that’s how hip hop works, it’s like “Oh they don’t have any homies. They don’t have one track with Big Sean, they don’t have one track with 2 Chainz, they don’t have no shit like this” but we’re still bustin’ super-hard, so I think those connections are going to be able to be made here pretty quickly. Within the next year or two it wouldn’t be too super-surprising for us to get some greater affiliations.
What do you think this album is going to do for Strange Music?
Hopefully open up a larger fan base. I think that a lot of people look at Strange Music in a certain way and hopefully we’re going to broaden that spectrum in a good way, meaning that you can come to expect a whole variety of things from Strange Music and that it is bigger than Tech N9ne. Tech is our flagship and our establishing artist and our boss among other things but the style of music that Strange Music churns out is diverse.
What are your favorite songs on the album?
A lot of good songs on there. Uh, I dig “Perception”, I dig “Confessions”, “Juice” that we did with Tech. I dig this joint “When Worlds Collide” when we’re bouncing back and forth, trading bars furiously. I dig “Meditate”, it goes super hard. I did the song “Smoke” we did with Liz Suwandi. It’s hard to pick, literally. It’s been very difficult to establish what the record is because of the attachment I feel for some of these songs. I just really stand behind the work. I feel like we did good work.
How have the people responded that have heard it so far?
Very positively! Travis O’Guin, Violet Brown, Dave Weiner and that’s just within the company. Dave told me that he’s played it for a couple of people and they seem to enjoy it. He’s not giving me their names but they’re other people that work for record companies in the game and shit like this. Tech has heard some of the music and he’s really digging everything that he’s heard from what I can tell. So, yeah, it’s almost a little numbing in a way. I’m waiting for someone to tell me that’s something’s shitty, or whack, or that we missed on this one, just to get a better feel for my creative aim but at the same time I’m happy that everyone seems to enjoy what we’ve made.
Tell us about the collaborations you have on this record. The collabos dude: Featuring who? What did they do? How do you feel about what they did?
Featuring Tech N9ne, he’s busting on there, rapping really hard like he usually does – doing rapper tricks, rapper stunts, cramming syllables and being super-articulate in the way he likes to be. Featuring Liz Suwandi on there doing some soulful, sultry shit. That shit came out real dope. Featuring JL of B.Hood who’s on there gunning with us bar for bar, making a crazy fast-flowing song. Featuring Info Gates on “Do Ri Me”, doing some KC flow, and featuring his production on a couple of tracks. Featuring a ton of tracks from Seven, who worked hand in hand with us a lot during the album and its creative process. Featuring the homie Leonard D. Stroy, who gave us a couple bangers on there. Featuring DJ Sku laying down furious cuts on “Juice”. Yeah, that might be the list.
Do you think it’s kind of cool to have a short list of guest features? It seems like these days there’s so many of them on every record.
Yeah! I think we did good in that way. I did not want to dilute the record too much. I did want to get some folks on there and had aspirations to have some other folks on there that didn’t pan out. I could give you a laundry list of people I want to do music with, that I would love to have featured on our record or do records with them or whatever it might be, but there’s only so many songs, so hopefully for everybody that we didn’t do tracks with, including some of our close personal friends and labelmates, there will be time for that in the future. But I’m glad that we churned out a mostly pure record. You won’t see us leaning too heavily on other people with this.
How do you think Godemis did on this record, and did he invent the term “wavy”?
I do not believe he invented the term “wavy”. I’ve seen the term wavy on clothing, as a bite from the logo for the navy, our military, you know. That’s out there. He may have definitely picked it up and is running with it and wielding it on a regular basis but I don’t think I can give him the credit for the invention of wavy.
How many drugs was he on and how often during the making of this record?
I would say he was on all the drugs, all the time. Um, very rock starred out. It’s not like he was, you know mainlining in the studio or anything like this, but I think he was definitely working during the day and going in, going hard, getting wavy at night, coming in the studio doing work, and repeat. He was on some other shit during the album, but you know we got it done (laughs). As far as the work he did on the record, he’s busting! He’s got some killer verses on this record that people are going to bug out when they hear this shit. All’s well that ends well really.
Do you ever have to rewrite verses because of his verses?
Mmmm…through the course of CES Cru it has happened, but not on this record.
Very good. Let’s move on to this tour you guys are going to be on, The Independent Powerhouse Tour?
How do you feel about going out on tour and getting your name out there?
I feel pretty good about that.
The artists that you get to surround yourself with on tour, it’s a pretty strong set up. How do you feel to be amongst these people, and not only that, them being your labelmates.
I think it’s a great way to go out. It’s not my first tour. We did a short tour with Mac Lethal and that was great fun – The Don’t Resist Tour, we did in the fall of 2011. It’s a nice line up. Tech and Lynch are veterans in the game and that’s just kind of crazy that we’re going to be sharing the stage with them on like 50 shows or whatever it is. Krizz and Kutt are definitely the left and right hand I feel like of Strange Music and Tech and they’ve been around from the jump. That’s going to be super strong. I know that Rittz is brand new to the record but he’s got his pre-existing thing going on and he’s already making a serious splash. He just got on with the label so I think that’s strong all the way around. I don’t really see a weakness in the lineup. I think that everybody’s going to have something original and different to bring and hopefully round up the tour nicely. Hopefully there will be a hot show every night.
Okay, well enough about that tour, let’s get back to this album. I’m done with the tour. What do you think this album can be put next to? What place do you guys think you deserve with the work that you just put in?
I mean I don’t want to jinx it you know? I don’t want to say that it’s going to be comparable to whatever and then – you know, I don’t want to jinx it, but what I am hoping is that we carve a niche as one of the hardest hitting duos in hip hop that there is right now. There have been some pretty hard hitting duos in the past, and there’s some crazy shit when a couple guys get together: you’ve still got like Royce and Em, or Kanye and Jay, that make huge crazy records, but as far as duos in the past, Outkast, Camp Lo, Tribe Called Quest…I think there’s been a lot of duo imprints that have been put into the game. I’m hoping to be sitting amongst them, somewhere. I don’t know where exactly but yup, I’m just trying to get into that club, as one of the hardest hitting duos in the game.
Did you guys ever feel like you wanted to really prove something because you were so new on the label?
What did you want to prove with this album?
Basically that we can hang, and not only can we hang but we are your competition, your fiercest competition, so watch the fuck out.
If you had to compare yourself to a superhero, who would it be?
A superhero…well…I’d love to be Batman but I’m not as independently wealthy as Bruce Wayne, but if I was then Batman…or Iron Man, who is also extremely independently wealthy. But these are regular guys, with really sweet gadgets.
Very good. And if you were to pick an actor to play yourself in a biographical movie, who would it be?
Well…that’s a good question Jeff.
It has nothing to do with anything but I’m just kind of wrapping this up.
How about Joseph Gordon Levitt? He’s a looker, right? Ladies love Joseph.
I was thinking Rachel Weisz.
She could do a great me.
I think so too. Either her or Kiera Knightly.
Yes…yes…now you’re whistling my dixie.
Anything you want to say about anything at all before we close this up?
Umm…oh what do I have to say? I have nothing to say.
Anything about the record? Anything you’ve been meaning to get off your chest about the record that you haven’t? Is there a soundbite that you’ve wanted to include but you couldn’t get out because I didn’t ask the right question?
I don’t have any sexy soundbites that I preconceived I can tell you that this record is particularly personal to me and those in my inner circle should hopefully take some very uh, take some interpretations from it that will touch their lives. Bong.
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