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Parallel Thought Bites The Apple There's seven sins and Parallel Thought and Del The Funky Homosapien are looking for the most attractive one. With their latest album 'Attractive Sin', the New Jersey producers duo managed to get a hold of Del for the second time, after 2009's 'Parallel Uni-Verses' . There's been seven years since we last interviewed the crew consisting of producers Knowledge and Drum and emcee Caness. A lot of water has flown under the bridge. They grew from teens to grown-ups, extended their discography thoroughly and grew stronger as a 'movement'.

INTRO

A simple question to kick off. It's been 7 years since our last interview. I guess you're 7 years older right now or do y'all follow another pattern?

Knowledge: Nope, it's been 7 years for us as well. Damn! Though I can't believe it's been that long, I'm glad we are both still around to do this interview!

You were still young and up-and-coming back then. Now 7 years later, people would be looking for what could arguably be called 'maturing symptoms'. Please diagnose yourselves from a music and personal perspective, compared to then...

Knowledge: We were 17, 18 then. Things have certainly changed in both our professional and personal lives. Getting married, having kids, finishing school etc. But you would be surprised how much has stayed the same. It's still the three of us, we still work out of the same studio. I would like to think that our sound has refined a bit. The production itself has finally settled in.

Drum: Musically we were still learning. What to sample, how to make our drums sound right, nice and fat, how to record vocals and mix songs. When that first EP came out, we were pumped of course, but now it pretty much sounds like a demo to me. You can clearly hear a progression in every project we put out since then, cause we were learning each time. I also wound up going to a great school in NYC for audio engineering (SAE) for about 2 years. So after that I had a huge advantage putting together and recording our projects.

I think 'Parallel Uni-verses' was our best sounding record in terms of production and sonic quality. That was the record to me where we became adults musically. But beatwise we grew up quickly and I'm happy with a majority of our records even from early on.

Personally, since we last spoke, I had a little girl, moved into an apartment, got married, purchased a house, and had a boy, all within like 4-5 years (laughs). So I had to grow up real quick but I am blessed that everything has been going so well. And yes, we still work out of the same studio at my mom's house.

When I see previews on blogs on the new Attractive Sin album, I see writers referring to Parallel Thought as "he/him". Time to set the record straight: who's in Parallel Thought?

Knowledge: Yeah man, that's our fault. We have always had a low-key profile, we don't like taking pictures. There are three of us: myself, Drum and Caness. Drum and I team up together on production. Drum is also our in-house engineer he mixes, records and masters everything. Caness is the emcee in the group and also produces.

Drum: As a crew/label, we have another emcee Gene the Southern Child and an amazing in-house artist Kevin Vitella, who started with the '3:33' releases and now is doing the art for all of our projects. Also shout out to extended fam Tame One, Swave Sevah, and Loer Velocity.

I must admit I'm left clueless when it comes to 3:33. On your website it's catalogued as different artist than P Thought, I thought it was an alter ego though, but then again I read it's another group… Help me out.

Knowledge: 3:33 is not us. They are another group of producers. We really liked their style of production and when we formed our label, we offered to release their music. They are even less concerned with being in the public eye than us. Extremely talented highly prolific, they have a new album coming in October, 'In The Middle Of Infinity', which is light years ahead of their last album. Watching these guys' progress is inspiring.

I've read a little interview with you, where you point out that "producing" should be the 5th element of hip-hop. Totally agree. What are you going to do to get production officially recognized as being the 5th element? Or are you just gonna put it on Wikipedia?

Knowledge: It really should be, I feel like it has, with instrumental hip-hop coming back into the forefront. We have a follow-up record to the Del album, coming out July 24th, 'The Art Of Sound', which really showcases where the three of us are production wise. The record was initially going to be a free beat tape showcasing Caness' production. When we started mixing down the tracks, the project turned into a whole new beast. It's not your run-of-the-mill beat tape and has a lot of sounds you might not expect from us. It also has a few vocal gems on it as well, and a new solo track from Breeze Brewin, who hasn't been heard from for awhile. Someone we have been dying to record a full length with.

Caness: It could be considered a form of DJ-ing. Some people say activism is the fifth element and I think I've heard beat boxing before too. A lot of people don't even know what hip-hop is including a lot of 'hip-hop' artists.

Let me do a little flashback, before we go on to the new project. I want to congratulate you first on 'Parallel Uni-Verses', definitely one of my favourites of 2009....

Knowledge: Thanks man! A personal favorite of mine. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think it's the first time in hip-hop , where you have a prominently west coast and east coast emcee pairing up with one set of producers.

Drum: We are really proud of that record and it's nice to know people are feeling it. Sometimes you get caught up making music and you know we like it. But when it comes out and you see people talking about our projects and production, it's humbling and also lets us know we are doing something right.

ATTRACTIVE SIN

'Attractive Sin' is dropping soon, a full length album with Del The Funky Homosapien. You had a project with Del before with the 'Parallel Uni-Verses' album. How did this 'semi-sequel' come to life?

Knowledge: It took a while for this album to be finished. It started during the tail end of recording 'Parallel Universes'. Del had expressed interest in us doing a full length. While we were mixing that record we started recording songs with Del. We knocked out about 15 tracks real quick. Then Del went on tour and we got busy with other projects. So the record stayed in the limo for a few years. We went back to it last year and really revamped the it. We kept maybe 1/3 of what we originally recorded and literally started from scratch this past January. I'm glad we did, because the end result now is a lot stronger than the original version of the project.

How does the recording and creative process happen in a project like this? Please tell us all about your and Del's work and studio ethics?

Knowledge: Simple really. Del does all his recording in Oakland and we work out of our studio in Jersey. So it's file swapping at its finest. We would also prefer to be in the studio with the artists, like when we worked on the Tame. C-Rayz and Swave Sevah albums. Del prefers to work solo out of his studio. We just make sure to send him the beats that he would sound best on.

Drum: I gotta give a lot of credit to Del. He could be doing music with anyone. But from the relationship we built with him through Tame, he really does trust us musically. We are 'producing' the album in the traditional sense of picking tracks to use and giving it direction, and for a well-established artist like Del to just let us cut songs or change beats without question is a dream. So musically we have a lot of creative control, but lyrics and topics wise it's all Del's control. We never gave him an idea or topic to rap about, he just gets a vibe from the beat and writes what he wants. So although we aren't in the studio together now, we've met dude and chilled with him, so we know each other. That makes the process natural and comfortable.

The one sheet is said to be announcing: 'legendary west-coast style is meeting P Thought east-coast production'. Could you describe what those two different vibes mean for you and how/why want to blend them?

Drum: Listen to the first track on 'Attractive Sin', 'On Momma's House'. I think that explains it. Del has a different flavor and style because he's around that Bay area and Oakland sound. You have so many different styles, even from that one coast. But the fact is Del has been around in hip-hop since the 90's. And that all started from the east coast so he naturally has that classic 'hip-hop' sound if you ask me. He's always got lyrics, even when he's more laid-back on a track he's still killin it. I think it was a 'why didn't I think of that'-kind of idea.

How would you describe your production style 'in general'?

Drum: I hate just saying '90s' or 'classic' or 'East coast' hip-hop because I don't wanna be put in one category. But in general, that's what our sound is. You'll hear different stuff from us on the Del record, and we recently did some production on Southern group G-Side's album which fit in but still sounds like us ('Rabbits' and 'Cast Away'). Also Caness, the group's other producer, is from Alabama, so he has an authentic Southern influence. And to be honest at a certain point with the level of music we are making, the lines get blurry and you start to just look at it as great music and don't get caught up putting it in a category. That's my goal. For people to just say we make great music. Not great, classic shit or Southern or experimental or whatever. Just great music!

I've heard the 'Bring It' track which came out real dope but sets a real different vibe than e.g. 'Flashback' did for the 'Parallel Uni-Verses'. How different will both albums be productionwise?

Drum: I think this record is a little more laid-back. It breathes a little more and takes you up and down. But so did 'Parallel Uni-verses'. It's hard to compare them. They are just different records.

The first time I heard Del on your production must've been on the 'Ol' Jersey' joint from Tame. Was that the first time you worked together and did the spark for these next records like 'Attractive Sin' happen there in a snap? Was it love at first sight?

Knowledge: Yeah that was the catalyst for everything. Tame suggested we get him on the track. Which led to doing another joint 'Oops' from 'Acid Tab Vocab'. Which directly led to Tame asking us to produce the entire 'Parallel Uni-verses' record. It was a non-stop 3-year period where we went from 'Ol Jersey Bastard' right into 'Acid Tab Vocab' right into 'Parallel Uni-verses' and the start of 'Attractive Sin'.

All artists you did larger, full projects with, have very unique, distinctive voices; Del, C-Rayz, Tame,... They also have very advanced patterns and rhyming skills. Coincidence?

Drum: I don't think we did that on purpose, but I will say they stand out now that you have so many people who rap. I guess that makes sense why we gravitated to them as fans first and then reached out to work with. I also feel like because they sound different, they can be acquired tastes, but once you get it, you get it and that builds a really loyal fanbase. They are all really chill people too. We won't work with dudes who ain't humble but most in the underground scene are.

The roster of artists you worked with is growing (to our readers: check out pthought.com) but apart from some remixes, the projects I listened to the most were those with C-Rayz, Del and Tame. You obviously enjoy working in this tight mc-producer relationship, one production team + 1 or 2 mc's like back in the days...

Drum: I would say the biggest reason we started working with one artist for one project is because we have always wanted to become great producers. We have this convo all the time about how you can't be considered a great producer unless you've done a complete album with someone. So that's what we've done. It's easy to just make a beat and do a song and move on, but making an album takes effort and we enjoy that. It's also easier then trying to track down people for verses and songs and getting different recordings and all that. We've done that before but we prefer our simple formula.

Apart from the work you've done with Del, what's your favourite project out of his extensive catalogue?

Knowledge: 'No Need For Alarm' is my definitive favorite, even beats 'Deltron'.

Drum: I really like concept albums so I'm gonna say 'Deltron'.

Caness: 'Deltron' is probably his best overall album but my favorite is either 'Both Sides Of The Brain' or 'No Need For Alarm'.

What's to most irresistible (and thus attractive) sin for you personally?

Drum: I think greed and envy. It's easy to be greedy and to want what someone else has and you don't. I used to take all the good in my life for granted musically and personally, but I've learned to be happy and appreciate everything.

Got to congratulate you on the cover artwork. Who did it?

Knowledge: Thanks, All the credit goes to Kevin Vitella (kvitella.carbonmade.com) who is our in-house designer on everything.

Any hidden metaphors?

No hidden metaphors or anything. We just give him the music and he always comes back with some breathtaking artwork.

It did remind me of the artwork for CunninLynguists 'A Piece of Strange', which has the same theme. But, yours is drawn more dynamically (laughs) Were you aware of that cover?

Knowledge: I'm glad you mentioned this. No, we weren't aware of the cover when it was being made, only after we saw comments popping up here and there. The 'Eve in the garden'-theme fits perfectly with our title. Honestly it's already a overused image in general, but it worked well with the album art.

Why should we rush to the store or iTunes to buy the album when it drops? Max. 7 words.

Knowledge: To support the crew!
Drum: Support good music from good people.

LABEL + INDUSTRY

You originally rolled with Day By Day Entertainment. Parallel Thought Ltd is now a real label as well. The good old story of 'creative control' or are you born entrepreneurs as well?

Knowledge: It's a multitude of things. We've had the opportunity to work with a number of labels/distributors from Day By Day, Amalgam Digital, Crosstalk to Gold Dust/!K7. We were able to take the negative and positive aspects of our interactions with these companies and plot out how to do things ourselves. The playing field has leveled in the last few years between the majors and indies. Everyone is scrambling on how to break artists and sell records. As artists, we are coming with the most important aspect which is the music. Then piecing together how we can tackle the rest.

We have some great distribution partners with Fat Beats and Alpha Pup. Our press and radio is handled in-house. Bottom line is that we wanted creative control. It's such a self-rewarding process when we can be involved in every aspect of the record...creating, production and promotion, and cutting out the label middle man. In the end the majority of these labels work on your record for three months, then collect money for x amount of years, they're like a bank. I hope to see more artist-driven labels moving forward.

Drum: Right now it's just about cutting cost and being as profitable as possible for our own releases. But as we grow, we would like to sign more artists like 3:33 and grow it as a business. But I really just think it started out of necessity to put our own product out without having to pay someone else or point fingers when something doesn't work. I would like to run my own business but not necessarily just a label. A record store- studio- label office- venue would be my dream business. All in one building.

What are some labels, you think, that have the right balance between creativity and business?

Knowledge: For hip-hop you can almost count on one hand who is left. Of course, you still have the long-standing powerhouses Stones Throw and Rhymesayers, and then you have Warp, Planet Mu and the Numero Group. I think all of the mentioned labels have the perfect balancing you are talking about. Building a long-standing brand and always catering their audience with quality music, superb packaging, and never forgetting who their core audience is.

Drum: I would agree with knowledge for the most part. I would put Duck Down in there too. To me it's any label that signs artists that they know and actually care about. Also keeping themselves small enough to be able to give the attention needed to each project seems to breed artists who don't sign multi album deals.. But rocking with the same label because it starts to feel like family.

Caness: No Limit was one of the best labels ever in regards to their business and creativity. Master P was able to create a mass cult-like following releasing his music and his artists exactly how he wanted to. RZA is another one of the most influential producers who carved a lot of avenues for future artists.

Where do you want to take your label?

Knowledge: We are working on small goals for our label, which we finally managed after a year and a half and that is self sustain our releases from the previous records profits. Finally gaining ground where we are finally able to release more projects for the coming year while at the same time not giving up a ounce of control.

Drum: We want to be known as a close knit set that puts out quality product from the music to the artwork and packaging.

Caness: I would just like to see Parallel Thought continue to release music.

I get the idea your quietly building up a roster? What are your goals considering that?

Knowledge: Right now we are looking at signing anyone outside the crew. And honestly I don't think we are in the position to do that. We are our own test subjects. So far, our model has met our initial expectations. This Del album is a big one for us. But between 3:33 and the other Parallel Thought releases we are booked solid until 2014.

Caness: We just work with different artists and are always creating new music so we would like to create an outlet for that.

The music business shifted extremely during your 10 years in it, mainly because of the digital 'revolution'. What are the biggest challenges and threats you're facing in the industry for the next few years?

Knowledge: I think things are starting to shift. I was a bit sceptical about how our government went after Megaupload. It was interesting to see the reaction of the file sharing sites. While I don't think you are ever going to completely abolish illegal file sharing. I do think it's going to become a bit harder to find what you are looking for for free. Still doesn't get everybody to buy your records, which is our ultimate goal and the biggest challenge we are all facing. But I think as long as we present a quality album both musically and in our presentation, we will always have an audience. We place a high importance on forgoing digital only albums. Can't stand them. I feel like the project isn't complete unless I can hold it, whether it's a tape, LP or CD. I'm still bugging Numero to press the long overdue cassettes of the 'Eccentric Breaks & Beats' album we did. There's only so much of a relationship a listener can build with a digital file sitting on an iPod.

Drum: The challenges would be to make music that actually stands out and start a 'brand' of which people wanna be a part of. It's cliché to call it a 'movement', but growing a click that people feel a part of, seems the way to go. Funny thing is, it has kinda been always like that. You had the Flipmode Squad, Terror Squad and shit like that. They were a bunch of artists who would roll together and be a 'brand'. Go back further to Junior Mafia and further to BDP. I just think you had a period of time after that where artists were popular off one single and people forgot about these dynasties and legacies. That a group was stronger than one member, on some Wu-Tang shit. I think it's getting back to that. Getting fans to be loyal was a focus lost during the industry change. Labels and some artists seemed to stop caring about people who actually bought their records. And some of the fans fucked it up too. But I would say building that fan loyalty back up, will be the name of the game.

Caness: If people are willing to pay for MP3-files then I'm not sure the industry is really facing a threat. I think the benefits of the technology, as well as the negative aspects, are making it easier for artists to create, distribute and promote their work which creates more competition, It also cuts a lot of industry people out of the picture. So I guess the 'industry' might feel threatened by the shifts.

CLOSING QUESTIONS

What artists would you like to team up with for a project like 'Attractive Sin'?

Knowledge: Breeze Brewin. We have a number of tracks recorded and we were blessed to get one for the 'Art Of Sound' album. But there is not a single artist I want to do a full length with more, and he knows that.

Drum: Agreed. Everyone else is like 'obviously they wanna work with them'. Danny Brown, Curren$y, the obvious choices get repetitive. Not to downplay them at all.

Caness: Queen Heroine, Slick Rick, etc.

Name some recent hip-hop releases that you kept for more than 3 months on your iPod?

Knowledge : Ka - 'Grief Pedigree', Roc Marciano- 'Marcberg'

Drum: Danny Brown - 'XXX'

Caness: 'Marcberg' and 'Grief Pedigree'.

What was the most crazy thing you saw in Jersey recently?

Knowledge: I think the cannibal craze is making a comeback out here.

Drum: Well, I didn't see it, but that dude who cut out his intestines and threw them at cops was wild.

Caness: Haven't been there recently.

What else is next for PT?

Knowledge: 'Art of Sound' is coming July 24th. Before that we are releasing two free EP's. One from Caness titled 'Articulation', which is the precursor to our group's rap debut 'Sick With The Art', which will come out next year. We also our doing an EP with Gene The Southern Child titled 'Ride With The Southern Child', which is the precursor to his debut 'Land Of Ice & Sand', also coming out next year. So the next few months we're releasing a ton of material more so focusing on the immediate crew. October 30th will be the release date for 3:33's 'In The Middle Of Infinity' album. They're also releasing 'The White Room' in December which is a cassette-only ambient/drone/noise project, and will release "7 sets of 7" which is a collection of all the remixes they have done from Danny Brown to Company Flow. Next year is shaping up nice, besides the already mentioned projects, we have our album with Swave Sevah 'Hell Up in Harlem' planned, another 3:33 album 'Bicameral Brain' and 3:33 is re-doing Cannibal Ox's 'Cold Vein' into 'Cold Brain'.

When we speak again in 7 years, what should be the first question I ask you?

Knowledge: I'll just be thrilled that we are still here.

Caness: When we spoke 7 years ago, what was the last question I asked you?

Drum: Ask me what my kids are doing with music. My daughter will be about 11, and my son 8. I'm trying to raise super artists!

Shout outs?

Drum: The PThought crew, Del, Tame, Swave Sevah, C-Rayz Walz, Ya Sin, DJ Ruffneck. All the press people who have covered us and support our music. All the PThought fans who actually follow our releases and anyone who has told a friend about us, and my family of course.

Caness - My family, Gene, Loer, Tracy, and Platform 8470!

'Attractive Sin' drops June 19

 

POSTED 06|07|2012
conducted by Wulf

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