Photographer, Ricardo Zapata has contributed in the past with his beautiful images from the Doomtree Blowout and Soundset Festival. Today he adds an interview along with his photography with P.O.S. from Doomtree on his fourth full length album. To see more photography from this interview visit Ricardo’s Flickr page. To view his entire portfolio, visit his website.
A couple of weeks ago, P.O.S headed back out to LA to team up with producer Andrew Dawson (Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Common) to finish up his fourth full length album. He invited me into the studio to take some photos of what was brewing (which you can see more of HERE and HERE). True to Doomtree fashion, he’s been keeping busy working on that and the upcoming Doomtree crew record due out late November, No Kings. I finally had a chance to catch up with him and talk about the progression of his music as well as his collaboration with the whole crew on these recent projects.
Real good, thanks. So what’s up? Real quick, can you catch me up with what’s been going on with Doomtree?
Yeah, we just finished up our second full length (our second official full length) record, it’s called No Kings. It comes out (uhh you’ll have to double-check me on this) I think the 27th of November? And we’re really excited about it. It’s the first fully, totally, completely collaborative record we’ve ever made. Like me, Lazerbeak and Cecil made all the beats together for the most part — It’s really fun. Let’s see, Sims just put out a free EP called Wildlife that’s really good and kinda speaks to where his last record kinda left off. Dessa has a new LP coming out pretty soon, Castor The Twin, it’s called. And I think in about two weeks I’ll have my fourth full length done, which is still untitled.
Sims has said that No Kings is weird — different from anything you guys have done before.
It’s super weird, yeah. It’s a super weird record. In a lot of ways actually, aside from those really collaborative beats — you’ve got the epicness of - Lazerbeak’s production styles where everything is a really long chord progression and everything is like, it’s all about the build. You’ve got Cecil who probably has the best drums. Ever. Of anyone. And you got me bringing crazy, crazy lasers and ridiculous noise and off kilter-ed drum patterns and Paper Tiger giving his all go stamp of approval on everything. I mean I just feel like the fact that everyone worked on the music together, all the producers instead of: I turned in my few beats, Cecil turned in his few beats, and Beak did most of the work himself, like on the last record. It’s more of all of our growth and development is apparent on there. Everyone is rapping their ass off; everybody’s doing it. For the most part, all the songs are really long, and really musical and it’s weird. It’s really hard to say, there’s only like five choruses on the whole thing.
So you guys are obviously pretty pumped for it and the work that went into it?
Oh yeah. We’re all really excited.
Any plans for another crew tour after that drops?
Yeah, we’re planning something. I’m not sure exactly when it is, or if I should say anything, but probably sometime next year after the record’s out. I think we’ll probably change up the format every time we do it just to make sure everyone is happy and comfortable and all that. It’s really great though to go on a whole crew tour and to hang out. It’s a lot of fun.
So you mentioned, you just wrapped up recording for your full length. You came out here to LA to record instead of staying in Minneapolis; was there a reason for that?
Yeah I was trying to [and did] work with producer Andrew Dawson. He’s worked on the last few Kanye West records and Lil Wayne and Beyonce and you know, he’s a mainstream dude. We went to high school together and I had actually reached out to him to mix Never Better and he mixed some of it, but not all of it (Joe had a bunch of it already) and he was already too busy with working on the most recent Kanye record (cause he took forever on that one I guess) but anyway, we wanted to work together really bad. I wanted to bring my weird music to a mainstream guy and just see what would happen if I had somebody giving it that kind of polish of mainstream rap beats, but with the same sound and aggression that my shit has always had. It’s just to see if I could make it bump harder, you know?
Oh yeah, for sure. Are you happy with what you got and working with Andrew?
I’m really happy. I would totally work with that guy [again] and I look forward to it.
How many songs did you record?
Ohhh, a whole fucking bunch (laughs). I haven’t decided on how many are going on the record yet.
The day after I was in the studio, Mos Def came by, how was that?
It was awesome! Mos Def came through, listened to the whole project, gave his input, and then we sat and talked rap for hours. It was really fucking fun! We talked rap and politics and it was like hanging out with an old friend. We never met before, but you know we clicked right away.
That’s rad man. I know you have quite a few collaborations on this album, who do you have making appearances?
If everything goes well, Mike, Dessa, Sims, Cecil, you know Doomtree guys. I got Justin Vernon from Bon Iver. I got Justin from Motion City Soundtrack who just happened to be in LA and er never worked together and I wanted to see if he could come in — get him out of his zone a little bit. He makes incredibly poppy pop music and it’s really catchy and he’s got a pretty cool vocal range. I wanted to see if I could get him on the record but not in such a pop way and more of a… you know, what I do kind of way. And it worked out, it worked out really well actually.
Uhh, who else? I’m not sure who else. Well, I don’t wanna say. I don’t wanna say unless it goes. You know, I still haven’t even gotten the verse from Mos Def yet, so you know. Even if that doesn’t go down, that was a really good meeting to have.
Oh, yeah. For sure. What about that Busdriver song? You think you’ll use it?
Yeah. I got Busdriver. I’m not sure where it’s fitting in the order yet. But there’s a couple more people that I got on the record. I’m not sure if I’m going to use it yet. You know, from the time I made the last record to this one, me and all my friends have just learned a lot more about collaboration and how to do it. Both from just experience and everybody working with Gayngs, getting out of our box in that kind of way. I think everybody is really excited. But yeah, there’s a whole bunch of different people and they show up with their own verses, the show up as cameos, or might just show up in the background. I have Astronautalis in there… all kinds of people.
A lot of different people and a wide range of talent eh? That must be really exciting.
Yeah. I’m really excited for people to hear it because it is stylistically much different than Never Better. But I feel like stylistically Never Better was much different than Audition. I think it’s a reasonable progression.
Definitely. I think where you’ve gone from each record has certainly had a stylistic change, and a great progression. From what I’ve heard, this continues to move forward from where you left off with Never Better, you know?
Yeah totally. You’ve definitely heard more than most people. Like everybody in Doomtree didn’t hear until I came back from LA this last time and you’d already heard more than that.
I know you’ve been playing a couple new songs at shows, how have they been going? Good reception from the fans?
They’ve been going really, really well. Really surprisingly well actually, because it’s a lot different. Going from such guitar-heavy music, guitar-heavy hip-hop and being kinda pegged as the “rock guy” in rap and the “punk guy” — which I don’t mind. I feel like subject matter-wise, it’s a lot more focused and pointed than it’s ever been. Lyrically and style wise, I feel like it’s… I don’t know, it’s just different than I’ve ever done before. And then beat-wise, there’s no guitars on the whole record. Some of the beats are slower than anything I’ve ever rapped on, ever. There’s actually pretty moments on this record and there hasn’t been many pretty moments on my records. But uh, guitars or no guitars, the big parts are big, the heavy parts are heavy. You know, working with Marijuana Deathsquads for the last three years or whatever has been a really big, solid factor in how I want to create music and how I want it to come across. It’s still isn’t as aggressive or antagonistic as it’s ever been, but I feel like the packaging of it, as far as sound, it’s more easy for everybody to maybe get into. And not like everybody everybody, but like everybody as in you’ll understand what I’m saying the first time you hear it.
So what was your process like when making this record? Do you normally have a specific process you stick to?
Nah, it’s always just been, like what I’ve been working on and what I’ve been writing and different ideas. This record, I actually had almost the whole thing done and it just felt too much like Never Better, so I scrapped almost all of the music and got Lazerbeak and Cecil to give me new beats and just got into it and tried to start from scratch when I got to LA. I’ve never tried to write a record like that before, but I went in to do it this time. And it’s the same process; the process is about making a song that’s going to be really fun to play live, usually.
Do you have an idea of when you’d like this to be released?
Fair enough. Alright man, thanks for your time and good luck with finishing it up. I can’t wait to hear it all put together.
Anything else? Any last words to share?
No Kings No Kings No Kings No Kings No Kings (laughs) See ya man.