|Next Project:||The Death of Adam (November 11th)|
|Twitter:||88-Keys on Twitter|
Kanye West has been rightfully hailed as a game-changer in today’s music industry; there’s no question that, with his solo success, he has inspired many an established producer to make a bid for big-name status as an artist. 88-Keys, one of the newest up-and-comers of the producer-turned-rapper stripe, was encouraged by K-Weezy himself to go public with his rhyming skills, and, from what we’ve heard this far, his unique vision and conceptual approach may be just the breath of fresh air the game has been gasping for.
In his debut album, The Death of Adam, set to drop November 11th, Keys explores mankind’s most powerful motivator – womankind, of course – and the tragic lengths to which one will go in order to “get some.” 88’s conceptual thrust – ha, ha – is exemplified in first single “Stay Up (Viagra),” which charmed many DJBooth members with its frank discussion of the difficulties certain males (particularly the aging) face in delivering the goods between the sheets.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth.net’s DJ “Z,” 88-Keys steps inside the Booth to discuss the origin of his stage name, his sophomore project’s potential title, and possible candidates for the purely hypothetical ménage à trois of his dreams.
Listen to the Interview
88-Keys Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a producer-turned-artist who is set to release his highly conceptual solo debut, The Death of Adam, on October the 28th. Please welcome Decon Records recording artist 88-Keys.
88-Keys: [applause sound effect] Thank you, thank you, thank you kindly! Actually, the release has been pushed back to November 11th.
DJ Booth: Okay, so, set to release his highly-conceptual solo debut, The Death of Adam, on November 11th, please welcome 88-Keys.
88-Keys: [applause sound effect] Thank you, thank you – no autographs, please, no autographs.
DJ Booth: [laughs] How you doin’, my friend?
88-Keys: Man, I couldn’t be any better – just finished the album basically yesterday, and now I don’t know what to do with myself.
DJ Booth: Well, you could help me with my work – how does that sound?
88-Keys: Hey, that’ll work. How much does that pay?
DJ Booth: I can’t go over figures with you on the phone, but we can get our lawyers in a room and settle that.
88-Keys: All right, cool, sounds good to me.
DJ Booth: I have been reading a lot of material on you for the past few days, but nothing that I have read explains the origin of your stage name, so what’s the story behind ‘88-Keys?’
88-Keys: Well, when I was about 14 years old I was trying to make beats on an Ensoniq ASR-10 keyboard at my friend’s house, so Q-Tip, who was a customer of me and my friend’s – my boy John Carrerro used to sell records back in the day, and I was his employee, I used to help him out. So Q-Tip came over, he was a regular client of ours, and he brought the Large Professor over with him, so, as the Large Professor was walking through the door, I was workin’ on a beat, and he just started freestyling, before any introductions were made or hellos were said, or even a head-nod was given, he just started freestyling, and he called me “88-Keys,” in the freestyle; there was this line like, “We got 88 Keys on the grand piano,” and I was thinkin’, “Man, I got my name from the Great One, if I ever make it into this business,” even though I do not know how to play one lick of piano.
DJ Booth: Did it motivate you to learn how to play piano?
88-Keys: Honestly, no, because I was just findin’ so many dope samples with pianos, without piano, that I didn’t really care at that point. I was makin’ dope beats anyways. I found that the beats that I was making were doper than producers who did know how to play piano. Eventually, I’d like to learn it one day, but I feel like, unless I could get the kind of lessons I feel like I would need and I would enjoy, then I’m not even interested.
DJ Booth: Well, I’ll tell you what: I’ve long wanted to learn to play the piano as well, so when you’re interested, give me a call, we’ll take lessons together.
88-Keys: All right, cool.
DJ Booth: Maybe we’ll get a discount or something.
88-Keys: Yeah, I’ll be able to make my next album, “Keys & Z.”
DJ Booth: I like that… Key-Z; sounds like a dish with spinach. Every producer in recent memory that I’ve spoken with either started their career wanting to become a rapper or singer, or, after years of production work, they though they had what it took to become one or the other. So, which route more accurately describes your path?
88-Keys: Which route describes my path? I would say me wanting to be a producer, and the rapping thing just happened. Like, I put a lot of effort into my raps, but I wasn’t trying to become a rapper, I was just trying to fill in some blanks on my album. But then Kanye heard the rap and he convinced me to put the raps on my album, ‘cause he says I got like a thousand times better at rapping, and he was really impressed.
DJ Booth: Well, Kanye, of course, took a similar route: he produced to start his career and now he’s a famous musician on the mic and behind the scenes. Would you say that you’re kind of mapping out the rest of your career based on the success that Kanye has seen?
88-Keys: Well, I would say so. I’ve definitely taken a lot of pointers, and I’ve learned so much from him since we [met] back in the year 2000, but, I actually map my life out according to God’s words; everything I do is inspired by God. He pretty much pulls the strings, and I try to keep the strings intact.
DJ Booth: So you are a puppet of God.
88-Keys: Yeah, definitely a puppet. Not a hand puppet – nothing comes in through the rear – but I’ll say a marionette.
DJ Booth: Okay, so nothing that would be seen on Comedy Central?
DJ Booth: In your bio, there’s a quote from Sir Isaac Newton that says, “Good things come to those who wait.” Considering that you have been knee-deep in this industry for over a decade, the real question is, I guess, why did you take so long to put out your own solo project?
88-Keys: Actually, before anything else is pretty much God’s plans and God’s timing. It just wasn’t in the cards for me to have my debut album back then. I probably wouldn’t have come up with the concept that I came up, or found the records that inspired me to dream up this concept. It was just bein’ at the right place at the wrong time, or being at the wrong place at the right time – I’m glad I arrived where I did on Decon, and bein’ able to do what it is that I’ve been doin’.
DJ Booth: So basically what it comes down to in the end is, it was meant to be.
88-Keys: Yeah, it was meant to be. Truer words have never been spoken.
DJ Booth: Let’s delve into The Death of Adam. 88, why did this poor sucker have to die?
88-Keys: Man, to answer that question, you’d have to ask, “Why do men succumb to the power of the vagina?”
DJ Booth: Well, because it’s a vagina.
88-Keys: Exactly. Just cut and paste that answer to the question – even though it may not directly cover that answer, everything revolves around that power.
DJ Booth: I might be looking a little too much into this, but I noticed that track 14 is entitled “Another Victim.” Does this mean that we should already be on the lookout for a sequel?
88-Keys: That’s a good question. Honestly, I can say I’ve never thought about it like that. But thinking about it now, I would not want to do a sequel to this. Adam’s Case Files, the mixtape, was the prequel, but a sequel to this, I feel it would probably be beating a dead horse. But I actually have like six other album concepts in my head, ready to go. I just have to sit down, pick the next one, and flesh it out.
DJ Booth: Okay – out of the six concepts, which one is leading the pack, so to speak?
88-Keys: I would say the one leading the pack is an album that I have in mind called Gorilla Love Fair.
DJ Booth: What is it about?
88-Keys: Man, that’s under wraps. Honestly, I’ll say, out of the seven album concepts that I have, that I’ve had for some time now, I would say The Death of Adam‘s maybe third, it would rank third or fourth.
DJ Booth: If The Death of Adam is only third on that totem pole, how come it was chosen as the first selection for the album?
88-Keys: That’s the one God led me to create first.
DJ Booth: We mentioned a second ago, of course, you’ve worked with Kanye West, who actually executive produced this project. 88, in the movie business, executive production usually means funding. In terms of this project, how did Kanye contribute to the overall end game?
88-Keys: Man, he did a lot of things… He actually helped me [cut] the fat, and whittle this album down to the best 14 songs. And it’s not just sonically the best 14 songs, but it’s also the 14 songs out of the 21 original songs plus four interludes, which I made, which was my original idea for the album. He also helped me rewrite the story – I helped him rewrite my story, which actually has a completely new spin, and it’s a genius spin. He also suggested that I put my vocals down on the album, so now I appear vocally on the album, both singing and rapping, or, should I say rapping and singing. Man, what else? He’s overall just given me the confidence that I can hold my own when it comes to comin’ up with lyrics and stuff, and I actually found it fun to do. Like, one of the reasons why I never took rap seriously, or never really tried to put out my own 12-inches or anything like that, was because I always found rapping hard to do, especially trying to come up with that first opening line.
DJ Booth: Well, it seems like executive production actually means tastemaking, motivation, talent scout – there’s a lot of things that go into that title. And I agree with you: as a fellow Chi-Town native, Kanye West is certainly doing his thing, so to have his stamp of approval on this project I’m sure means a lot. He also contributed to the lead single, Stay Up (Viagra), and in it he says he’d like for us to imagine what a threesome would be like with Cassie and Kim Kardashian. So, for your money, 88, would those two ladies be the first getting calls, or do you have another two in mind?
88-Keys: You mean for a video, or just like…?
DJ Booth: Oh, no no no – in general, if you’d like to have a threesome, would Cassie and Kim Kardashian be the first two people that you’d speed-dial?
88-Keys: Oh, no – it would be the online model Scarlet and, what’s her name… oh, man… I’m trying to remember… Yeah, I guess Kim would do, but Scarlet would engulf us both.
DJ Booth: Okay, so Scarlet and Kim. I don’t know… Kim’s already been with Ray J., she’s with Reggie Bush now – I mean, she’s kinda been around the block.
88-Keys: Hey, there’s nothing really wrong with being around the block, just as long as, like, the streets were clean. There’s always the sanitation suit that one can wear. She’s in the public eye, so of course she’s gonna be looked at with way more scrutiny. If Kim Kardashian was just a regular girl in the hood, and she still looked as fly as she did, and maybe even carried herself the same way, I think a lot of people wouldn’t have the same view on her as they do now.
DJ Booth: I agree with you wholeheartedly.
88-Keys: Shout out to Kim Kardashian; never met you.
DJ Booth: If you get a call from her, we’re both gonna know why.
88-Keys: [laughs] Thank you. Thank you, and my wife won’t thank you.
DJ Booth: I’m sure she won’t, but maybe she won’t listen to this interview, so we won’t have to worry about it.
88-Keys: [laughs] No, no, no, no… the wife hears everything.
DJ Booth: Anyways, Keys, go ahead and give a website or a MySpace page, so that all of my listeners and your fans can find out more about the project.
DJ Booth: I appreciate your time greatly, and thank you so much for joinin’ me inside the DJ Booth.
88-Keys: Thank you.