Follow ups to classic albums present a question: do you go the same route you did before or do you try something new? While making Codename: Ego Stripper, CES Cru had themselves this very conundrum.
As it turns out, it’s in with the new for CES and their upcoming new album which drops next week. We talked to Ubiquitous to get his perspective on how Codename: Ego Stripper would be different than it’s predecessor and what that would mean for the music.
Read on to find out what’s in store for you this next Tuesday.
What’s the meaning of Codename: Ego Stripper?
It’s for the personal interpretation of the listener. I think that anyone with spiritual background knows what it is to strip one’s ego and therein lies some meaning, but however that relates to the music is hard to describe without having heard it.
That’s an intelligent answer.
Are you fucking recording this? You better be.
Yes. Check out these meters.
I see the meters.
When you went into this album, did you have any preconceived ideas of how you wanted it to sound or what kind of stuff you wanted to be on it?
I did have a few things that I wanted to do. I had a few ideas about some genres I wanted to tap into and a sound that I wanted to kind of go for that was broadening the spectrum of music that you can expect to hear from CES Cru. That was kind of one of the main goals.
How do you think you achieved that on this album?
There’s a little bit of genre-bending. There’s cross-genre music that we’re doing. I think that there’s a showcase of a more classic style that we use on this record that is not a staple sound from Strange. It’s not that it’s some crazy, unheard of sound, it’s just not a sound that you hear coming out of Strange too much. I think that was something we were going for as well.
Tell me about the production of this album. Who’s on it and what was the process like in figuring out the beats you wanted for the album?
For the most part this album was almost completely crafted by Seven. That was for a variety of reasons: convenience’s sake and of course the most prominent reason being the sheer talent he brings to the table, and of course the past history we’ve had as a working relationship. Those are the main reasons but also because we were under the gun time-wise.
We had to churn out an album fairly quickly and making great music quickly is something you can do with Seven. You can make great music at a very high speed. There’s definitely some things that I wish we could’ve gotten into on this record that we didn’t really have the time to get into based on how fast you can work with people at a distance. That’s Seven’s other grand advantage here is that he’s literally down the hallway. So working with producers who live out of state and such can get to be – not necessarily difficult, but it’s just not quite as convenient.
I know you and Seven have been able to lock in pretty well. What’s it like working with him?
I love working with Seven. He’s very easy to work with and very good at executing ideas and bringing them to life as well as bringing fresh ideas of his own to the table. He’s malleable. He’s not opposed to me being like “What if we tried a key change here?” or “What if we did a melody that was sort of in this chord structure?” He’ll hear me out and oftentimes augment the beat based on a conversation.
He’s very open. The man is not made of stone. He’s made of flesh and blood.
What is the tree that survives the storm?
It’s the one that can bend.
Ah! I knew the answer. I just…forgot it.
There seems to be a lot of addressing on this album, either to certain individuals or groups of people on this album. You hear it on “Give It To Me” and “Phineas Gage” especially. It seems that some is directed to either past peers or current in Kansas City as well. Can you talk about that?
As far as that goes, I’ve got such a grand spectrum and long history with the people and other talent, rappers, and musicians in Kansas City that a lot of times when I’m addressing somebody I’m not just addressing one person I’m addressing a large congregation. In that way, when I’m addressing a congregation, my address may move around the room. So it’s not just even one person but several individuals that I’m addressing. With that said it’s really to whoever feels that it applies to them. It’s for them, whoever they may be.
What are some things that you felt like getting off your chest? I know it’s pretty self-explanatory in the lyrics, but what are some scenarios that you’ve encountered that fueled some of these lyrics?
It’s criticism, it’s critique, it’s a lack of support and congratulation and it’s also coupled with a support and congratulation from people that have not even been around. That is to say that there have been people that have been familiar with us for a long time that once we received a higher echelon of success, then those same people that were with us a long time then became bitter and, I don’t know, didn’t support the growth. It’s partly that there is lack of support in pulling out then there’s another part that all this extra support comes from this outside place. So it tells a story. It paints a picture that is very telling.
There was probably a point where it wasn’t as cool, hip, or whatever to like CES Cru as it is right now.
Definitely. We’ve come a long way and we came out of total obscurity frankly. It took us a really long time to get where we are. So I don’t want to say I was necessarily shocked by some of these reactions that we’ve received. I expected some of it, but even with the expectation of something coming my way I was still affected by it. I think I just had to put it all to bed once and for all.
It’s an open letter on more than one song. It’s an open letter to whoever and it’s really just for my own sake. There’s a point on a song where I say “What’s more therapeutic than this?” because there’s no reason for me to hang on to that shit for anybody else’s sake. I guess that’s the sort of epiphanies that I was achieving on those songs.
Do you ever think, like what if your life was perfectly peachy and everyone was nice to you and everyday was a great awesome occasion. Would it be harder to write?
I mean it might be harder to write a certain kind of music. I can vibe off of all different kinds of energies and where adversity can really inspire you that’s not the only thing that inspires me. I’m very inspired by hopeful images, positivity and all kinds of things. If in this scenario I’m well off or well-to-do or I don’t have money problems or I just have a good life and hang with my family there’s still things to talk about most definitely.
There’s a lot of different themes and sounds explored in this album. What was it like creating it as a whole because the songs flow into each other but there isn’t one distinct sound that overrides the entire album.
It was fun. For me it’s exciting because I’m so involved on the pre-production side of the record with Seven. We have heavy conversation about what it is that we might want to be trying to pull off on whatever song or whatever vibe we’re going for here, there, and everywhere.
Seven’s not only so fast moving but is so talented and when he completes something it’s a very complete thought. When he’s giving me a beat it’s generally anywhere from 85 to 1oo percent done. It’s just really an exciting feeling.
When I asked Seven to produce “Power Play” for us, I wanted to go for this particular sound and I kind of articulated that to him and just gave him a rough idea what I wanted it to sound like. That cooks for a day or two or maybe even just six hours and then here comes Seven with “Here’s what I came up with” and it’s fucking great. It’s really just exciting and almost intimidating sometimes because he’s so good at bringing an idea to life that the pressure’s on me to do justice to what he’s brought in to the picture. It’s exciting, it’s tense and it’s cathartic. It’s a great time making music.
How do you think your writing has progressed on this album? Is it better? Different? Both?
I mean…it’s different more than I’ll say it’s better. There’s a part of me that’s trying to outdo myself to a degree but not in such a way to where it negates my past work. It is different and there’s some pretty cool feels to what we’re doing on this album. I guess it’s really just up to the fans if they think its better, but I can tell you this, I’m sure that there will be a debate. People will ask which album is better. Some people are going to say Constant Energy Struggles and some are going to say Codename: Ego Stripper. I think there will be a debate because it’s not a sequel record. This is not Constant Energy Struggles Pt. 2. It doesn’t have that feel. It’s a different flavor man. People have their own tastes.
Do you guys feel more comfortable to do certain things based on the sales of the first record?
I’m constantly getting more comfortable. Through the course of my signing I’ve been developing a whole bunch of different styles and I showcase them here, there and everywhere and I really like that I got to show off some new styles on this record. You’re going to hear me do things that you haven’t heard before and you can’t find anywhere in my catalog. So that’s awesome and that’s fun for me. I don’t know if people are going to like it or not but it doesn’t matter because I gotta expand my own palette. If I’m not entertained making my music then we don’t have anything. I was very entertained by a few of the things that we did on this record.
One of those tracks that had you guys doing stuff that I haven’t heard was “Give It To Me”. Of course we’ve heard you and many rap fast but this was done in a throwback fashion that was very early to mid nineties.
“Give It To Me” has a classic hip hop feel and I think that was intentional.
I think that there’s a lot of people, and I’ve heard this from fans, that are just so happy that they found us. People have told me that we’ve single handedly brought them to like rap music and they didn’t like it before or that they used to like rap music and they didn’t like the direction that it’s taken, but it’s causing this renaissance in them that wants to come back and give rap another try.
I think a lot of that comes back to the nostalgic feel that a song like “Juice” on our last record puts out, where we’re paying homage to Rakim. People like that feeling. They really like the idea that that feeling could come back and be prevalent and that maybe the music could take that direction again. A song like “Give It To Me” is a song to let them know that yeah it’s not just about paying homage to Rakim, this is a sound that can rock and continue to rock. The b-boys thank me for making the music for them to break to. The OGs thank me for keeping pure hip hop circulating. It’s a cool feeling man.
What are some of those elements that you think you guys are proud of representing that they might be talking about?
I think that we’re real. We have a little bit of a message. We’re people: humble people, flawed people. We don’t portray ourselves as these larger-than-life rap icons per say.
Hip hop is pop music these days and that means whether you want to hear hip hop or not, you’re going to hear it because it’s popular. It’s going to be mixed in with everything else that’s popular, so it’s going to be in the forefront of music. You might hear it in the Super Bowl or something like that. It’s unavoidable, right? So, people get exposed to this pop version of hip hop and it can be formulaic.
Like right now it’s trap music, right? It’s glamorized and it’s rich and it’s nouveau riche and fucking everybody has money and everybody fucking drives a crazy car, or not even a car but some 28o,ooo dollar fucking three wheeled bike or some shit. That’s the aesthetic. So I think when people discover that there is more music made in this same template but with a different aesthetic, that they’re very turned on by that because they’re drowning in all that shit that is maybe entertaining but kind of unrelatable. It’s like watching a fucking 1oo million dollar blockbuster action movie. Like, this shit is amazing. Wow: car chases, guns, explosions, hot girls. Whatever the fuck it is but at the end of the day that’s not your life.
When we were talking about some of the lyrics, what are some of the verses that you’re the most proud of when you look back? I can imagine that sometimes when you write you feel like you’re transmitting something else and it leaves you in awe of what you just wrote.
“Fate”. My verse on “Fate” is going to be one of my favorite verses for the rest of my life. I know it for sure.
It may not take that grand of a meaning to the audience or maybe to anybody, but it’s just a personal verse for me and like you said sometimes you feel like shit gets channeled and that was one of those verses th at I felt some sort of channeling effect with it. I could even now go back and check out my own lyrics and it kind of astounds me. I’m very removed from it. I can look at it, read it, take it in and kind of be impressed with myself which as a performer or any kind of performer, magician or whatever. If you understand how your trick works it sort of loses the gloss. My verse on “Fate” I look at it and I can still admire it from the outside without losing that touch. It’s still got a mystery to me which is kind of awesome, almost like I forgot myself while I was writing it. Like I woke up and it was done. Something like that.
How about song-wise, what are some of your favs on the album?
What are my favorite songs on the album? You know, I don’t know. I’m not good at favorites in general. That’s kind of hard to say. I haven’t allowed myself to take this album in from a fan’s perspective yet. I’m still on the inside of this one…I like the song where you quit rapping. Where you retire from rap and songwriting.
What can the fans expect from this album?
For the fans out there wondering “Why should I do anything with…this?” What do you have to say?
This is the brand new CES Cru record and its fucking fabulous. If you enjoyed Strangeulation at all you’re going to really enjoy this CES Cru record because it will have somewhat of a feel to it, of a Strangeulation record but that is CES Cru heavy. We have a ten percent presence on that one, we’re sprinkled in there pretty decent. We’re here and there and everywhere so this is going to have that same feel, sort of, but with lots of CES plus a lot of our homies from Strange. And it’s just dope. It’s super dope.