The spectrum of artists putting out original, innovative material these days is limited. Too many take the easy road, relying on the ever popular “all-in-one” package for their production needs.
Adrian Younge is the antithesis of these drones with their seemingly lackluster work ethic. Younge is highly sought after for his ability to recreate the lush, warm sounds that were enjoyed back in the heyday of any soul music enthusiast.
His comprehensive discography spans several record labels, including his own, and serves as a connection between artists like Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z, and The Delfonics. He has been hailed as a “musical genius” and may soon be on every artist’s collaboration wishlist.
Brooklyn Radio’s Lara Gamble found time in Younge’s busy schedule to discuss a host of new projects he’s currently involved with, including one highly-anticipated Netflix series being released this Friday, September 30.
What’s your earliest memory of hip-hop?
Being in kindergarten, dancing on the playground. That’s my earliest memory of hip-hop.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Orange County.
Did your environment growing up influence your decision to pursue music?
It definitely influenced me, but no matter where I was, I was always inspired by music. I’ve always been into it since I was young. The more positive, interested people you surround yourself with, the more intrigued you get with what you want to do creatively.
Did your family support what you were doing? I read that you’re self-taught.
Yeah, I mean, my family was always of the perspective of if there was something that you love doing, just try do your best. So, I would say yes.
Who would name as early influences on your style?
From A Tribe Called Quest to Wu-Tang to Curtis Mayfield to Ennio Morricone. Those are some of the groups/artists that really helped mold my sound. And studying why I like them so much and then meeting people like Tribe and Wu-Tang and becoming friends with them just kind of helped to really illuminate why I like these artists and kind of get into their minds and see how they think and what they were thinking when they did some of their most pivotal stuff.
It helped me put my mind right, and it helped that now that I’m trying to do pivotal things, I can maintain that pioneering, forward-thinking aspect of these great leaders as well.
You’ve said that you “aspire to be the modern day Quincy Jones,” and your discography is proof that you’re on the right track to attain such a status. What is it that you love so much about the music from the 60s and the 70s that is missing from modern-day composition?
I mean, many things. First of all, one of the things that I miss most is just the recording techniques. Right now, everybody records on a laptop with Pro Tools, and Pro Tools is an emulation of real studio equipment. So, when you’re using an emulation, it’s going to sound like an emulation.
I miss the sound of those old records. I miss the composition. There were real composers, real producers actually trying to make pivotal music, based on the fact that they actually studied chords and melodies.
Nowadays, you don’t need that skill set to make a lot of popular music, so I miss those aspects.
Is it worth having a fully analog studio that is more expensive and more laborious to create with?
The answer is absolutely yes because of what I do. If I didn’t do the type of music I did, it wouldn’t really matter. But with my music, the sound and the spectrum are very important. I’m recording with real instruments, like a real piano and real vintage vibraphones, real amplifiers, real guitars, real strings.
It comes across in a way that does not sound mundane. It’s something that’s special, and when you hear it, you know there’s some kind of energy being captured. You feel it. And for the kind of stuff I do, I need that because I would say that sound is as important to my music as composition is. If I didn’t have this technique, my music would be half-assed, and I don’t like doing half-assed stuff.
Someone on Instagram recently said, “If you love the hip-hop you grew up on, follow @adrianyounge. His work respects and builds on the past in ways that give me hope.” How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel great because I like to serve as a conduit to the past, meaning that hip-hop served as a conduit to the past to me, and it really gave me a respect for what people did during hip-hop’s golden era, as well as others before.
So, I want people to look at me as a conduit to the past, as far as the break, a conduit to the past as far as golden era hip-hop is concerned and also a fresh, new perspective on top of making classic and original music. So, when people say things like that, it means that my efforts are proving to be worth it.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, what can you tell us about your label Linear Labs?
Linear Labs is basically a bespoke, tailor-made type record label that releases music from my perspective, meaning that it has to sound a certain way, composition has be a certain way, and it speaks to the listener that really seeks a lot of detail in music. So, that’s what it is. Our new project is The Electronique Void, which comes out next month.
I was going to ask about the album later in the interview, but I might as well get into it now. What can you tell us about Adrian Younge Presents: The Electonique Void?
Well, basically, The Electronique Void – it’s my first electronic album, and I wanted to make an electronic album the same way our forefathers made electronic music. So, using the same kind of equipment and using the same kind of compositional perspectives to make something fresh and different.
There was a time where you heard this notion of electronic music and never thought about EDM, which is electronic dance music. So, I wanted to make something that you could hear “electronic music” and listen to it, and it’s not necessarily about dancing. It’s about just being in a world created by electronic synthesis.
It’s a very, very deep album. It’s not what I like to call an academic album because there’s just so much going on musically. I really tried to do things or take chances that a lot of people don’t take right now. I want people to listen to it and think like, “Ah, man. I feel like I’m listening to some old Kraftwerk.” Not a lot of people can have that feeling because there weren’t a lot of black electronic pioneers back in the day, as far as solo artists.
So, to me, this kind of takes that role. Conceptually, The Electronique Void is an album that explains more of like a concept, meaning that it’s not finite. It’s something that is malleable. It’s something that is hard to lock in and understand because you’ll never understand all the variables. To me, it’s a very deep, deep discourse on the notion of love explained with the foundation of electronic music.
You’ve collaborated with several notable artists like Bilal and Ghostface Killah. Is there anyone else you’re hoping to work with in the future?
Stevie Wonder. Still need to get with Stevie Wonder. I’ve worked with so many great people. I don’t even have that much time. (Laughs) And at the same time, I like just working by myself as well.
Your last release Something About April II dropped in January. How was this record different from the original Something About April from 2011?
Something About April II is the same concept, but it goes a lot deeper than Something About April Part I. Most of my concepts have something to do with a dark love story, and this is a dark love story, but the chord structure and the chances I took on this album are on another level than what I did on Something About April I.
Something About April I represents what my record crate would look like then. Something About April II represents what my record crate would look like at this time in my life where I’m more experienced as a DJ and where I’m more experienced as a music connoisseur. So, it’s just more of a mature, deeper album that actually takes more risks.
How did the “Luke Cage” project come together?
“Luke Cage” came together because the showrunner and creator, Cheo Coker, is a fan of mine and also a fan of Ali Shaheed Muhammad. He basically just called us and asked us to partake in this Marvel production, and we just said, “Yeah.”
He knew that Ali and I were working on an album called The Midnight Hour. So, he knew that we were already working together, and we said yeah, and they brought us on board, and it will be released September 30.
Who’s idea was it to name all the episodes after Gangstarr records?
Cheo Koker, the creator.
Do you have any plans to tour to promote the new album?
Yeah, we’re going be doing a full European tour in November. I’m not sure what U.S. dates we’re going to be doing but a full European tour.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
No, that’s about it. I think you covered everything. Thanks.