When something doesn’t meet our expectations, there’s a common knee-jerk reaction to say that it wasn’t good, but don’t be deceived. Sometimes we just need to dump our expectations to receive the full benefits of what’s being offered to us.
Take Son of Sam for example: no, it isn’t as single-directional as Kickin’ & Screamin’, and yes there’s a lot more songs about love, and yes there’s a lot more singing, but does all this mean Son of Sam isn’t a dope album?
“Fuck no,” would be the opinion of producer Seven, who contributed much of the sound that took up Krizz Kaliko’s wildly creative and diverse fifth album.
We talked to the seemingly-endlessly-inspired producer to get his perspective on the making of the album, what approach him and Krizz took towards the creation of it, and why Son of Sam not being Kickin’ & Screamin’ is a good thing.
Let’s talk about Krizz Kaliko and Son of Sam. How long have you guys been working on the record? When did that process start?
We’ve been working on that for like a year – maybe last summer. That album seems all like a blur to me. We did it over just a course of time. Let me think back.
When we were doing that album I had to keep jumping from that project to other albums and work on them then go back to that album, so I wasn’t as involved with Krizz’s album as I wanted to be. I wanted to just do it the whole way we did like we did Kickin’ and Screamin’ but we couldn’t because too many projects were going on at once. He ended up having to finish that album when we were supposed to work on Something Else so Tech and Krizz were recording at the same time. I wasn’t able to be as involved with it, but we worked on it for like a year, maybe a little bit longer than that.
When you started working on it, did Krizz approach you with any specific goals or requests? Did he give you any direction as to where he wanted to go?
Yeah, if I can remember right, we’ve always talked about doing an album that was more singing than anything. We started off that album doing mostly singing: “Send Your Love”, “Thank God”, all of those songs were more singing than anything. “Why So Serious”, that one was the first one he rapped on and when he sent it to me he was like, “Yeah, I had to.” That was the one that broke the singing streak. He just felt it and I thought he killed it on that so I was like yeah maybe you should rap. So that was the idea to begin with, we were going to do more singing, R&B but still kind of experimental and it all kind of changed as we worked on it, we tried all kinds of shit.
Gotcha. So what’s it like working with Krizz Kaliko and why have y’all done so much together?
It’s amazing to work with Krizz. He’s the most specific, picky, detailed artist that I’ve ever worked with ever. It used to be Tech, but just over time Krizz has for sure taken that. He’s really picky about things and it can be good and bad, but he always second guesses everything. You know, we’ll work on something and he’ll be liked “I wonder if this is too dark” or if it’s the right kind of snare. He hears music. He’ll hear more of the beat more than anyone before we work on it. He’ll have all the pieces put together and he’ll know the way that he wants it to sound, and a lot of times, if I understand the vision and I like it, I’ll make it exactly the way that he’s thinking. Then he’s like “Yeah, it’s perfect,” but then he revisits everything, and he’s like “But I wonder if we should change this sound, or change this snare, or make it less of a minor chord progression so it doesn’t feel as dark.” So we go through all those things and I go make the changes to the beats and I send it back over to him and a lot of times we just go back to the original. But he wants to try things, and second-guess it which makes for great music. That’s the nature of Krizz.
Do you recall any decisions where he made a suggestion and you were like “I don’t know about that, that sounds stupid,” but then it turned out to be a good decision?
Generally, I like all of Krizz’s ideas. He always has really good ideas and I always share the vision and I’m right there with him. I understand exactly what we’re going for. When we got done with the album we did the “Titties” song and “We All Need Sex”. That was after Krizz got back from being on tour. We were kind of done with the album, but after being on tour he realized that everything was kind of slow and R&B and he didn’t have anything to perform, so we were like “Let’s make some performance songs,” and that’s kind of where those two songs came from. I remember the “Titties” idea: I was like “I don’t know…” but then I worked on the track and I thought it was awesome. And there was some stuff that we did on there, intros and outros and little stuff we did to tie songs together that we didn’t use. Krizz always wants to have a sense of humor and sprinkle that funny stuff into it. Like we had some Napoleon Dynamite stuff influenced stuff that I don’t think we used. We had that in there and some other stuff and towards the end that’s where I was starting to question it with those songs, but it turned out awesome.
A lot of this album, to me at least, has both of you stretching your artistic boundaries and your palette in a lot of ways. I’ve never heard Krizz do any music like this, and as a matter of fact, I haven’t heard really anyone do music like that with a lot of the changes and all of the genre mashing. Did you know what you were getting into with this album?
Well, we didn’t really know when we started working on the album if we should do what we did with Kickin’ and Screamin’ or have it be an extension of that – because we really nailed that album with creating a sound. It was real cohesive. It was awesome what we created on that album. We talked about if we implement certain elements of that album into this album: “Do we use those sounds, or do we completely totally abandon some of the dubstep-type stuff we did on it?”
We went back and forth with that a lot. I think that was the biggest thing that we dealt with when we were trying to figure out what we were doing with the album. I know every time I get into Krizz’s album that he’s going to want to try a hundred different things, I expect that and I know that that’s what’s going to happen. But with this album I wasn’t able to be as involved with it as I normally am with Krizz, because I had to keep jumping back to it then jumping away, so I kind of just felt it out as we worked on it.
Speaking of that, the album somehow has a cohesive feel to it, to me at least. It goes all over the place, but it works and I think the interesting thing about that is that you had two other producers working on it J. White and Youngfyre. Did anything they do affect what you did?
For sure. Krizz would show me tracks that he got from them and ask my opinion on it, and I would think “If we start to go that way, then we can do a track like this.” At first I think we were really worried about the album in general being cohesive and what it’s going to sound like. Up until the last day that we put it together we kept wondering if it’s better than Kickin’ and Screamin’ and kept asking that. Then we put the songs together and listened to it and realized that it’s a great collection of songs. I think it’s wrong that we keep trying to compare it to Kickin’ & Screamin’ I think we should just make music. If we keep trying to top Kickin’ & Screamin’ we’re never going to be able to do it, so let’s just make music. As long as it sounds good together as a collection of songs, then I think we’ve achieved the goal. I think it’s totally different than any album Krizz has done, in a good way, and it just works.
Have you heard much music like this from anyone else in general? Because you hear a lot of genres coming together in a way that we haven’t heard before.
I feel like it’s typical with Krizz to have that kind of experience with his music, that it’s like genres being tied together. He definitely did stuff on this album, especially on the R&B front that’s way different. Like, we always try to do a standard R&B song, because that’s kind of Krizz’s roots, but on this album we didn’t do that. We sat back and were like we didn’t do the standard R&B song. Then it was like “Well who cares?” because we did all of this R&B stuff that’s so different and experimental and it’s really cool, so let’s just not make a “standard” R&B song.
What did you think about the contributions of J. White and Youngfyre?
What both of them did was really, really dope. I remember when I heard “Kill For Your Lovin'” I was like “Fuck, I need to step my shit up for this album.” Youngfyre killed that and “Schizophrenia”. I remember me and Krizz talked a lot about “Schizophrenia”, because even when I heard the beat it was so different and sporadic. It made me be like “Okay, that should be the blueprint for this album –that kind of vibe.” I always like what Youngfyre does. He’s totally inspirational and a really good producer. J. White too. All the stuff that he did, like “Night Time”, is really dope and Krizz sounds so good on that.
What when through your head when you heard the results of the first two songs, “Titties” and “W.A.N.S.”?
Well, when I heard “We All Need Sex”, me and Krizz talked forever after he finished that song. He didn’t want to put it on the album because he was so unsure of it, because he had never done a song like that before. I told him that’s the whole point. That’s what you do – we make songs you’ve never done before. That’s how we approach albums. He was like “I just don’t if it’s a song that I should do.” I told him that he should definitely do it. It was really catchy and just an awesome song. We were trying something different and it just worked out – “Titties” also. I thought it turned out really, really cool. We didn’t have anything like it on the album and Krizz killed them.
Do you ever hear some of the songs he does and just go “This shit it crazy!”
Yeah! I mean, all the time! That’s all the time hearing what he does on shit, it’s just so different. He’ll do hooks – like he did a hook for Tech’s Therapy EP, and when I listened to it I’m like “Holy shit, that hook is so crazy and I never would have thought of anything like that before.” That’s the nature of Krizz’s songs, you never know what to expect. He’s very unpredictable.
How is it to work with an artist like that? Because some rappers and artists only have a certain range. They can only go in so many directions, but it seems that Krizz has a nearly unlimited playground of music. I’ve heard him do country, metal, all this different shit and it sounds convincing and it never sounds contrived. It sounds like he belongs on that song. How is it to work with someone who can just do whatever?
Well at first, I used to think that that was a curse. I was worried that he sounded like an artist that sounded like he didn’t know what he wanted to do, but then we continued to make albums like that, and rather than him sounding like he’s an artist that doesn’t know what to do, he started sounding like an artist that knows exactly what he wants to do. What he wants to do is make all this shit that’s totally different then throw it all on one album. That became the way we approach albums. We’re going to just try everything, and it became his sound. That’s what he does.
The good thing about that is that with Krizz, because he always wants to try different shit, it always feels like we’re experimenting, but the outcome is always cool. It doesn’t ever end up being something that sounds too experimental, like unlistenable, which is what happens with a lot with projects where people just experiment. It’s cool for the artist, but it’s not cool for everybody else. With Krizz I feel like it’s nonstop experimenting. We get to try whatever and it always comes out cool.
How does that affect your production? It must be fun to have someone there to push your boundaries and get you to do and think of something you would have never thought of before.
I’m not going to lie, it is challenging sometimes to work with Krizz because he hears it a certain way, and he wants it that way. I have to be able to grasp it, and of course there’s times where I can’t and it’s not exactly what he’s hearing. The great thing about it is that it is a challenge. Otherwise everything would just be too easy. Krizz makes it really challenging, and there’s frustration sometimes and being unsure of everything, but that’s great because that’s part of being an artist and a producer and a musician. It’s not supposed to be easy. You’re supposed to do that, and the great thing about it is that it all pays off when we get done with an album and we listen back to it it’s like “Yeah, this all turned out so dope!” even though there was frustration and challenges and wondering if we’re doing the right thing or not, and me trying to figure out what Krizz is trying to do, like the vision and everything. Then I listen to the album when we get done and I’m like “Fuck, man, it turned out crazy.”
For someone who knows exactly what they want, do you ever have a producer’s ego that’s like “Well I still want to make this a Seven beat or have certain elements of my sound on here because otherwise I’m just pushing buttons for Krizz.” How does that coincide? Because you’re a pretty humble, easygoing dude, but you probably still want to put an artistic stamp on it.
Yeah, if I’m doing something that’s just a carbon copy of something else or something that somebody wants me to do that isn’t necessarily something I would do, then I’m pretty uninterested in working on it. I normally won’t do it. The good thing about Krizz is that he’s a really good listener and he really listens to other people’s suggestions, which not everybody does.
There are two different kinds of artists: there’s the ones that listen to suggestions from other people and the producer and there’s others that just don’t. They just do what they want to do and they’re not open to outside opinions. Krizz is one that if I have my reasons why we should do something this way, he always considers it and listens, and normally if it’s a good idea we’ll do it that way. He’s not just stuck on one thing. So if I ever feel like we’re doing something that’s not something I can put my stamp on, I tell him and I figure out a way to do it and make sure that he agrees with what I’m doing before we do it, because I don’t want to just make whatever.
So your productions with him are a true collaboration a lot of the time?
Yeah, even though Krizz hears it a certain way and we go back and forth a lot and it’s challenging and frustrating, he definitely is really receptive to outside opinions. If I tell him “Let’s not do it that way, let’s do it this way,” he always considers it, and sometimes he’s like “Yeah you’re right,” and other times he’s like “I don’t know…”
I heard that about “We All Need Sex”, that at first he wanted it to be some serious song and that he didn’t expect this country approach that you put on it. Then he played it and even talked to Tech about it, who was like “You should do this,” but from what I heard he was not expecting that at all.
Well, when we worked on that song he had an idea for how he wanted the guitars and the chord progression that we used, and we had the notes figured out and I knew exactly what chords they should be. I had an idea for what kinds of drums to use, but based off the idea that he wanted to do on that song and the influences where he was taking from that was kind of the idea. It didn’t turn out exactly the way he was describing to me because that’s not the way I heard it. When I sent it to him he was really unsure about it because it wasn’t exactly what he wanted to do, but I was like “Just try it. I bet once you record your vocals on it then it’ll be different. Just try it, you’ll like it.” Then he did, but it was totally not exactly what he wanted to do. The guitarist we worked with was Rob Rebek because he’s really good for that kind of style. When he plays that style, he fucking plays that style, because that’s what he’s good at. That almost down home type, bar room style is what he does and he does it really good. So that’s what he did and it ended up being more in that lane than anything.
How do you think this album compares with other Krizz Kaliko albums, not as far as better or worse, just how does it go in the progression of him as an artist?
I think it’s a good album for him to do now, at this time, because of what Kickin’ & Screamin’ was. I think he almost needs this to transition into the next thing because this album wasn’t a super-specific album. It really is all over the place, and there isn’t a real focused direction like Kickin’ & Screamin’ was. Like when I listen to Kickin’ & Screamin every song has a sound that all ties together, and this album doesn’t have that. I think that it’s appropriate that we do an album like Son of Sam after we do Kickin’ & Screamin’, because as much as I want to do another album that’s as cohesive and Kickin’ & Screamin’, I don’t want to just do that every album and have it become repetitive that we’re doing that. I love that he did an album like Son of Sam and has tried all these things and got opinions and got out some of the crazy stuff that he wanted to do that was sort of all over the place. That way when we get into the next album, who knows?
We’ve already been talking about what we’re going to do on the next album and it sounds like we might take more of a, not sound-wise, but the approach we took on Kickin’ & Screamin’ was like “Let’s just box ourselves into this little world while we’re making the album and not listen to a lot of things and just focus on the sound that we’re trying to create,” and it feels like we’re going to do that again. I love doing that because it’s like we just get lost in this world for three or four months and then come out of it and just be like “Look what we made and we didn’t even pay attention to anything else.” So, hopefully that’s what we do on the next album.
There are two different kinds of approaches you can take and there are pros and cons to both.
For sure, there are risks that you can take with both of them. It’s good that we’re just not doing the same thing every time. That’s the beauty of music, you don’t have to do the same thing. You shouldn’t.
It’s cool to vary your approach because at the end of the day you’re going to have a wide collection of albums that can be appreciated for different reasons.
Yeah, that’s the thing. Fans are always like “This sounds nothing like what we’re used to from Krizz,” or “Because this one doesn’t sound anything like that one, it’s not good.” But that’s what it’s supposed to be. You’re not supposed to just keep making the same albums over and over and over again as an artist. Listen to the greatest artists of all time, their albums sound nothing alike, because that’s bad to do. Who wants to do that? It sounds miserable to me – just the same thing over and over again.
Do you have any favorite songs from the album?
Definitely. “Why So Serious” and “Kill for Your Lovin’”. “Why So Serious”, I just love that song. It turned out so cool. That was one of the beats where Krizz wanted me to make something and I totally didn’t make what he wanted me to make, I just made some other shit because I couldn’t get in the mode. I sent it to him and he was like “I don’t know, I just don’t know if I want to use it or not.” I told him he had to write to it and use it, so “Just try something.” He did it, and he didn’t know why he was questioning not using it. There were a lot of songs on this album where he liked the beat, but he didn’t know if he wanted to use it, and I would just tell him he had to use it, because I can hear what it could potentially be, so “Just try it.”
It’s cool that you’re able to have that role, I guess you guys have gained a rapport to where you’re able to do that.
Yeah. I can’t do that with everybody. Obviously, that’s not how it works. I can deal with him on that level because we’re friends outside of music. Some artists I work with I don’t want to have a relationship outside of working on music, but when you can build a friendship with someone outside of music, it can have so many benefits to the musical side of things.
You can be candid.
Yeah, absolutely. There’s some great things about that, there’s some bad things about that too (laughs).
Is there anything you want to say about the album before we wrap this up?
I just don’t want people to listen to this album and compare it to other albums, because it wasn’t created that way, and it wasn’t meant to be taken that way. I think you need to listen to this album and not be judging it against anything Krizz has ever done, because it really is different than anything he’s ever done, so I think that you should just take it in that way.