Fact: Stevie Stone is unlike any other rapper you’ve ever heard. Is it the gruff delivery? Partially, but there’s been other emcees with a gravel-throat voice: Mystikal and DMX immediately come to mind. Is it his flow? Partially, but his ability to switch up speeds with ease is also a skill that’s shared by most of his label-mates (and the same goes for singing ability as well). So what is it that makes Stevie Stone so distinct?
The answer: Stevie Stone uses his voice as an instrument that becomes one with the track. Where as most rappers rap on a track, Stevie’s voice is in the track. Through layering, stacking and call-and-responses, he orchestrates his vocals to create a symphony of rhymes unlike anything that hip hop has ever heard.
During our talks with Stevie about his latest release 2 Birds 1 Stone, we tried our best to pick Stevie’s brain to get him to explain to us how he writes a track from beginning to end.
Who else did you enlist for the production and what were the results of that? Please elaborate a little more although you’ve touched on it a bit already.
I think all of the producers that I brought to the table were definitely instrumental to the whole sound of the album: Nick Fury from Atlanta, Squat, Wyshmaster, J White. J White came and got a few of them on me on this joint. Who else? Bandcamp Chris, he’s from here in St. Louis and he actually did the joint that I did with the secret feature that I’m not going to talk about right now, but it’s crazy and it’s far left. I’ve never really rapped on a beat like that like this. That’s why I said there’s a couple of joints on here that will really surprise people because you never heard me rap on something like this, but it’s dope. I’m trying to think of the other producers but there’s a host of them, I don’t want to miss anybody. Everybody did their thing though. My guys Darrein Safron, Frizz, Thomas Burns, Farrell Rogers did one. It’s a dope record. There’s a bunch of them man.
Was the process of recording pretty similar to your previous? How was it the same and how was it different?
It was a little different this time, I went down to Atlanta for a couple of days, which I want to do again. I want to do it again on the next project because there’s a different atmosphere and different creative minds together. When there’s one goal, and that’s to make hot shit, it brings something else out. I know you’ve heard the record “Grave Digga”: “I’m not a rapper, I’m a grave digger.” I did that down there. I love that record on the album. The process was similar but just a little bit different because I went out of town. It was similar though because I was in St. Louis, doing it, living life and whatever it brings. That’s what I write about.
When you get a beat I would assume that you get the original session files as well. Do you go in and make adjustments to the arrangement to fit what you want to do?
Awww yes. Every…single…beat. Everything you’re hearing me on, I’m arranging it. I’m like “Drop the hi hats right here”, “I want the beat kicking in right there,” “I want this going like that.” Yes. I’m very hands on with that. Sometimes my engineer, since we’ve been working together so long, he might do something but he already knows what I’m feeling. So he’ll do a “What you think about this?” It’s like that sometimes, but I’m definitely involved in every sequence of a song from the front to the back.
It’s easy to get that impression for someone who’s listening closely, it sounds like your voice is an instrument that is placed with everything else. Is that how you feel your music?
Definitely. That’s what my vocals are. I was just talking about this the other day, it’s like it may be me saying “ooohhhhhh” (from “Cast Out”). I’ll do that and stack that and then I”ll come with an octave higher and stack that and then a stab another octave higher and make that part of the beat every four bars because you’re making it a part of the joint. What it is is just texture. To me that’s what it is. It becomes texture and you’re really utilizing your voice as an instrument because that’s what it really is. That’s why I love singing: the melodies and the harmonizing. That’s what it is. Voices are instruments.
How did you adopt this approach? It’s very unusual because most people just get beats and rap over them. You’re inside the beat. Have you been making music like that from the jump?
Definitely when there’s other sound effects, but it’s instinct. It’s feel. I don’t ever write that type of stuff down. That’s just doing it, and “give it to me again” and closing my eyes and it feels like it should go there. I let the music guide me. When the music guides me there’s instincts and feels that says “This is supposed to go there.” I ain’t never questioned it, I just do it. If I don’t like it, then we don’t do it, but most of the time if we do then it was right because it feels right. Like I said, it’s another texture. It’s another instrument on top of everything on top of the beat.
For people like me, I want to hear an artist intellectualize and put into words what’s going through their head when they make those kind of decisions in a song, but I guess at the end of the day it’s just a feeling.
Yeah. That right there is just natural. It was nothing that I was taught or anything or someone saying “You should do this.” It’s just something that feels good. I do it and it feels like it’s right. When it feels right and it feels good, you go with it.
I really try to orchestrate. I call it orchestration. You know how an orchestra is very, very precise? Everything flips, from the strings or whatever instrument is coming in to transition and it’s going to be smooth. On paper it’s going to be like dope. It’s the same thing with what I try and do. Some records I just go in and try to bust on it but even those are going to have a little bit more to it. I may have a low tone going with it just to add something extra. I just orchestrating it between the beat and the lyrics and the melody and letting it become beautiful.
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