On streaming platforms, homogenous playlisting and algorithm culture incentivizes artists to blend in with the scene around them – whatever that scene may be. Sameness encroaches on the production side, too, where sample kits get shared communally, while the type-beat economy compels aspiring beatmakers to recreate what they’ve been told already works so they’ll show up in the endless scroll. This means that while browsing, it’s rare to get blindsided by something that sounds completely unfamiliar.
Which is why it felt so exciting when “in [out] my body!” randomly arced out of my SoundCloud autoplay this past February, arriving fully-formed to both build on and shatter the conventions of the digicore in my feed. CJ808 and QU!$7’s immersive mixing makes the track sound broadcasted in from an alternate history where electronic music got invented in the airlock of a space shuttle. It’s got a sense of swing that only feels vaguely recognizable — not quite plugg drums, but not quite the staple rhythms of any dance genre you can place immediately, either. It’s hard to tell how much of what you’re hearing is Lei and Zootzie’s voices and how much grew out of some bizarre preset that took years of tinkering in a DAW.
“in [out] my body!” marked the launch of the collective 2K3Lifestyle, brainchild of producers CJ808 from the UK and QU!$7 from Chicago. CJ had already built up a resume in the digicore scene as a member of NOVAGANG, but decided it was time to think bigger — so the two producers linked up with Lei and Zootzie and got to work.
I’ve never had to ask fewer questions in an interview than when I spoke with CJ and QU!$7. They both seemed to talk a mile a minute, constantly elaborating on their shared reservoir of ideas for 2K3 and their thoughts on online producer culture, finishing each other’s sentences over Zoom while sitting an ocean apart from each other.
You can see this dynamic in their music, too; each new drop on 2K3’s pages seems to unlock a new dimension in their style and hint at more plans in the vault. Outside of the collective proper, artists like zee! have even figured out how to assemble straight-up pop earworms from CJ and QU!$7’s shrapnel. Whatever shape it takes, the sound is still unmistakably theirs.
“Me hitting 17K on ‘in [out] my body’ felt way more invigorating than me hitting 30, 40K on just a type beat, bro,” says CJ. In the streaming era, there’s a lot of inertia against coming out of the gate with something so uncompromising, but CJ and QU!$7 won’t let that stop them.
Since I interviewed them in March, they’ve only delved deeper into their vision. Joining digicore vocalists Lei and Zootzie, CJ and QU!$7 have added a fifth member to 2K3’s roster, Wugga. (Both producers rap, too.) CJ says he found Wugga online a few years back while searching through artists from Chicago and recently rediscovered him (as fate would have it, Wugga works across the road from QU!$7, and they didn’t even know each other before linking up for 2K3). More projects are crackling in the distance, too, like a new rap radio account helmed by QU!$7.
“We are pushing the agenda forward and really breaking away from the scene in every move we are making,” CJ tells me. Their gamble keeps paying off.
CJ and QU!$7, how did you link up and start working together?
QU!$7: I’ve been making music for some time, and I was ready to do something different. Because honestly, I think all of us can agree that at about late-2019 coming into that summer of 2020, the music scene was very artificial. It was the same, you know? It was kinda time for something new. I had been making these little samples and stuff like that, because that’s what I like to do, and I’m like “yo, I need to take a different approach. You know what? Imma try CJ and see what’s goin’ on.” I had been making these very futuristic, enchanted, mystical, overly-animated-sounding samples, and I was listening to some of his work, and I’m like “you know what? All he needs is some samples I could throw at him that maybe could challenge him.” It just really went from there.
CJ808: I remember you hit me up, and you were saying “can I send you some mels,” and I was thinking “alright, sure.” Then you told me that you dead studied this stuff, and I was like “OK, lemme see what’s going on,” and then you sent me some stuff.
And I literally did not know how to hit it. I was so confused!
CJ808: He literally was sending me some chopped-up, muddy samples, and I was like ‘how do I work this?’ (laughs) It was some weird stuff you made with Massive. I didn’t know how to work it at first; it took me some time.
QU!$7: I had musical experience prior to this. I did jazz band for five years. I got to play at House of Blues in Chicago. I played in the jazz club. That was really cool. As a musician, I’ve transitioned the regular, standard side of things to being virtual. I started to DJ, I just started to do different stuff. CJ’s very correct — I really wanted to throw a curveball at him.
He’s been very on board with it, but at first he was like “I don’t know, man. I really don’t know what to do.” But when he sent that first lab back, I think he did pretty good. From the musical side of CJ’s perspective, he’s able to see certain variations and combinations that other people wouldn’t necessarily see if they took time to perfect their craft. His sampling ability, and his chopping ability, is very, very on-key, and his drums are very nice, simple, but kinda groovy at the same time. You should have seen his reaction when I sent that to him. He was like “huh?”
CJ808: I wish there was a way for me to show you…(laughs) There’s this one that you sent, bro, it was so weird.
QU!$7: Oh, the (imitating melody) ‘duh-duh-duh-duh’...
CJ808: No, it was like a vocal sample. A really droney vocal sample, and I just didn’t know how to hit it.
QU!$7: Sounded like a Earl Sweatshirt type beat. “Double back when you got it made…” (laughs)
How did 2K3 start? How did you link up with lei and zootzie?
QU!$7: You gotta tell the full story.
CJ808: Yeah. We were making these beats and stuff. I was mesmerized over how professional the melodies were sounding from QU!$7’s end...I just remember trying to get that down first. It sounded really electronic. Like house music.
QU!$7: You know how we do.
CJ808: And I’m from the Caribbean, and I live in the UK, so a lot of that influenced me. You know, jungle, drum n’ bass, those kinda jazzy chords. So that was the first thing.
We were figuring out how we wanted the beats to come in — signatures, like stopping and starting the beat, using silence a lot to create groove. We like to create little pockets of groove and space instead of just filling up everything, which a lot of people like to do nowadays. I’d say when I joined Nova, I started to build a reputation for making a lot of experimental beats, so I was really trying to put on QU!$7 to a lot of people that knew me, to show who really inspired me. I called QU!$7 because people were telling me “oh, you make stuff like Slayworld, and stuff like this” — because nobody knew what to call the style. People were trying to give some sort of name to our sound. I was fed up with it, and I was like “man, we need to name it. We need to name this style.”
xaviersobased actually helped me name it, as well. Me and Xavier were close, because I was with him since onwrd days, before all this. I was speaking to Xav and QU!$7 about it, and I came up with the name “2K3” with them. That whole futuristic era, Y2K, it was like the past and the future at the same time.
QU!$7: He had been meaning to start something. He had an idea, and he brought it to me, and I was like “Alright, cool, I’m on board,” but this had been in the works for a very long time. I told CJ “go out, get some placements, see what’s out there first before you start to put a name on anything.” What I tried to tell him is that — to be able to shift some type of sound, or change any type of sound, it needs to be distinct and profound. It needs to be very, very separate. Because back then, certain things that people do nowadays, it was very either easily incorporated, or it was just…there. So that’s why I’m like “before you name something, go out, see what’s going on, work on it before you put a name.” But he had been talking about starting his own thing since...it’s gotta be like August, man. He’d been talking about this. He was like “yeah, I’m gonna get a new sound.”
CJ808: It came from the Y2K movement from the mid-90s. Not the whole fashion shit going on now, that’s different. From back when people were actually getting hype towards the 2000s. People were really into the whole...the internet had just come out, everyone was going crazy, you know? And there were a lot of people feeling upbeat about that, because they felt the world was gonna get better. I take influence from that, because I grew up around that year, because I was born in 2003. So I kinda felt that I was growing up with music, commercials, and TV which was reflecting that kind of futuristic vibe. There were just a lot of progressive thoughts around the year 2000. But there were also people who were more uncertain about what that was gonna bring -- like, “is this what we want?”, you know what I mean? There was a whole issue with clocks.
Yeah, the year rolled over and it messed up the timekeeping in computers.
CJ808: Yeah! I kind of incorporate that fear of technology, and of the future, into our darker beats. And then we also have a lot more jungley, housey melodies, they’re more relaxing, and...they feel like they have no emotion, but they kinda do have emotion. They feel emotionless in a way, but at the same time, they have this really nice, clean feeling. That’s where I kinda got the influence from when I was making 2K3.
That’s how I came up with the name. Because it was gonna be Y2K3, but then we were like ‘nah, that sounds corny, because people are gonna think of the whole (fashion) movement going on now.’ So I stuck with 2K3, because it meant something to me - I was born in that year.
The way Lei came about, when I started getting more placements with people and joining Novagang, Lei had just joined CO-OP at that point. So I hit up Lei, and I was like “yo, I’m CJ. I’m trying to get people in for 2K3.” Because we was looking for a certain style to match it, a kind of electronic voice. Not just autotune. There’s more than autotune involved in this.
Yeah, I get what you mean. Lei and Zootzie have a kinda similar, blocky thing going on with their voices?
CJ808: Yeah, they have a similar inflection. I was really looking around for somebody with that kind of style, and Lei was on board. It was kind of rocky to start, though, just having one other person in a collective. It kind of paid off, though. A lot of people weren’t really thinking of us as being anything, because we were only 3 people at that point. Because all these other collectives just invite everybody, no matter if the sound fits or not. But we were trying to do it properly.
I think me and QU!$7 made a beat — I sent QU!$7 a melody, and then he put some drums on it and sent it back, and ultimately Lei made the “in [out] my body!” song.
CJ808: I was on call watching Lei do it, and I remember saying to Lei, “Oh, imma see what Zootzie’s saying. I’ll get Zootzie on it.” Zootzie wasn’t even in 2K3 at this point. So I sent it to Zootzie, and then he was like “alright, I’ll hit that.” Half an hour to an hour later, he sent back the song, and we were just like: “Damn. This has to drop! This fucking has to drop!” Because me and Lei made a couple other songs which haven’t dropped yet - we made “soldier,” the one we just dropped a few days ago. We made that before “in [out] my body,” I’m pretty sure.
QU!$7: We have a lot of experimentation with Lei and Zootzie. Because if you look at Lei, Lei is really a “teenage heartbreak”, “happy high school, bad high school” type-vibe artist. And Zootzie is bright-sounding, very fast-paced...he has a little trap, but with a twist of digicore to him that’s very up-tempo. So the experimentation that’s yet to be tested between those two is..well, we have a lot of stuff.
CJ, he’s been working incredibly hard. I think while everybody’s in the pandemic, a lot of people are in school — some are not — and I think he’s taking a lot of advantage of his downtime, especially being an athlete, he’s taking his downtime to perfect his craft. The experimentation, man, we got some stuff. I’m getting way better in my sample abilities. I told CJ I’m just gonna keep throwing curveballs at him until he hits a home run. He’s most definitely hit some home runs already, but I’ll keep throwing curveballs at him. Trust me, that “in [out] my body,” “soldier,” that’s not even touching the surface of what’s really bound to happen. CJ, Zootzie and Lei, they’re very efficient, so they can literally fly through something like — (snaps) — like that. Those songs aren’t even half of the stuff they’re working on.
Me, I’m just working on the sample ability, and I’m just chopping. I’m really trying to see what’s going on so we can be able to shift the sound, so I can bring my sound, so CJ can bring his sound, and everybody can be able to incorporate it into one. To me, that’s what it really means to have a sound. It’s obvious, it’s distinct. You can really tell what’s different. Me and CJ, we come on the same page, because we’re not really fans of sounding like anybody else. Of course, we’ve all made type-beats, but being able to create your own style? It’s unmatched, it’s undisputed, uncontested. It’s a very good feeling, like — damn! You just gotta work at that, you know?
CJ808: That’s what I’m saying. Me hitting 17K on “in [out] my body!” felt way more invigorating than me hitting 30, 40K on just a type beat, bro. It just shows that something I created with QU!$7, Lei, and Zootzie, people mess with it hard. Especially for that to be our first song on the 2K3 page, too. It shows that there’s a lot of potential with what we’ve got going on. Because think about it. That was our first song together. We never really sat down and spoke much about how it should go; it just all blended together. I feel like it’s just gonna keep getting better from there on.
I’m gonna ask y’all a fun question. I want each of y’all to describe what a 2K3 beat sounds like in a sentence.
QU!$7: (laughs) Uhh...
CJ808: You going first, QU!$7? (laughs)
QU!$7: Who’s gonna go first?
CJ808: Alright, I got you. Let’s see. I’d say...With one sentence, yeah?
CJ808: A futuristic experience.
QU!$7: It’s a science experiment.
CJ808: I’d say it’s an experiment. I’d say we’re just...switching up the structure, really.
What about you, QU!$7?
QU!$7: 2K3 was just born. The baby...he’s a couple weeks old. It’s newborn. 2K3 is very experimental. The thing that sets us aside from a lot of people...it’s uptempo, but not uptempo. It kinda puts you in a trance. If you really think about “in [out] my body,” you listen to the 808s, how they kinda glide all over the place...
CJ808: It’s smooth.
QU!$7: It’s smooth! That’s what I’m saying! I think me and CJ have to be the only people that will legit spend like 7 hours in a Discord trying to perfect the mix. The mix has to be perfect for us.
CJ808: Yeah, bro. If the mix isn’t perfect…The mix has to be perfect. It’s high-quality.
QU!$7: When you think about any type of producer, there are certain things that producers prefer to do in their DAW. Somebody, maybe they’re very heavy into reverb. Somebody might add a little crusher. It kinda sets us apart — everybody has their preferences, right? But being able to come together as one and smash those preferences together, it’s godly. It’s deadly. I could say one thing, and CJ could be like ”nah, you gotta hit it from this side,” and I could say “nah, you gotta hit it from this side.”
CJ808: It’s well put-together. There’s a lot of people who ride on gimmicks. I feel like we actually think of every single part of the song. Some people — oh, just the drums are hard. Oh, it’s just fast. We actually put it all together, consider every part of the song, and that’s why it sounds different. Because we thought about it and tried to understand every part of it, even before we came out with 2K3. A lot of people proclaim that they’ve made a new sound, but I feel like they’ve not really taken the time to think: is this really setting myself apart from everybody else? There could be one little difference, but I wouldn’t say that’s too much of a difference, you know?
QU!$7: Yeah. I mean, for an example, let’s take the plugg community. You got dirty plugg, you got clean plugg, you got pluggnb, you got...plugg’n’soul…
CJ808: At the end of the day, it’s still plugg, bro.
QU!$7: At the end of the day, it’s still plugg!
CJ808: Dro is still the creator.
QU!$7: It still sounds like something. There’s so many sub-departments and categories that all kinda fall into that one. I think where people think they might have something down, it’s more just - maybe he has his 808s like this, he might add a little delay to his hi-hats, you know what I’m saying? But I think really sitting down and taking time to perfect your craft, that’s really what’s gonna set you apart. CJ, he’s a very talented guy. And I think that’s what it takes: to say “you know, imma go back and review this, and see what’s missing that I could add.” Because it really sticks out. People talk about efficiency, but I think it’s more about quality.
CJ808: It boils down to that, yeah.
QU!$7: It really does. I’m a Dollar Tree baby, you know? We don’t be doing none of that high-priced stuff. A lot of the stuff they got at the supermarket, they got at the regular stores, you can get at the Dollar Tree. And it’s like...what’s the difference? This is a dollar, and this is $2.79 plus tax. So that’s probably gonna be like $2.90. But what’s the difference? It’s the same thing. It’s really about quality.
I’m telling you, we will sit down for a very long time and discuss how a beat should go, because we care that much. I think people might see that as a little over-the-top, or too much, or it’s not needed. But...
CJ808: But that’s where I think rap should go, bro. That’s what I’m trying to get. I feel like when people make beats, they just make it fast, and don’t think too much about the real possibilities you can do. There’s quite literally infinite possibilities. You can go infinite ways. I can literally get a sample off QU!$7 and make 5 different flips off that melody and make 5 different beats on top of that. You can go so many ways with music. And that’s what we’re trying to push, just using whatever you’ve got.
You’re trying to make something unfamiliar.
CJ808: Yeah. There’s not a lot of people who make songs and it gets talked about a long time after on SoundCloud. People will make songs, and it’ll buzz for like a month, or a few weeks. That’s the shelf life, because somebody else just went and made the exact same song. If you make something that’s off-the-cuff, bro, people are gonna remember it. It’s gonna stick in their head. It’s gonna be years later — they might even forget about who produced the beat or who made the song, but they won’t forget the song. Tha’;s what I’m trying to do. There’s no point pushing the same stuff.
QU!$7: CJ, I think he was starting to go up around October, November 2020.
CJ808: I was working with Prblm around September or October, because Prblm found me off a 2K3 beat on my YouTube. It was me and you, it was a collab. From there, we started working. I got Prblm’s kit — it was a few weeks before the “TweAk AnTHeM” song came out — I took a beat and sampled it. I made it 2K3 in a sense, drum-wise, with the hi-hats reversed, but I kept it quite Novagang-ish. I sent it back to Prblm and Ways used the song, and I got into Nova from there. That’s when I really tried to build my image with 2K3. But I kept it lowkey, and then only brought it up when I felt like the time was right with QU!$7.
QU!$7: I had been telling him, “Go out and see what’s going on in the scene. See what you can do.” But he was like “Yo, we need to do something.” CJ was like “Who gon’ rap on the beats?” I said “We could just be having hard beats,” but he said “nah, it’s not the same.” I said “No, it’s really not.”
He was like “Yo, we can get Lei.” Because I think before Lei joined, CJ and Lei labbed.
CJ808: We had “blurry”. Me and 3ds made a beat, and Lei hopped on it. We was tapped in through Dalton. Shout out Dalton. Dalton helped me out with how to operate, and how to move with a collective. There’s times where I’ve had advice from Dalton and not taken it, but just the fact that Dalton gives advice...shout out to Dalton. I met Lei through him, and he seemed down.
Lei’s young, as well. He’s fifteen, so he kinda has that optimism. A lot of people, when they get a certain amount of views and followers, they kinda get stuck in their ways, and they’re scared to change, and adapt, and just try something new. That’s what I realize with a lot of people. I kinda had to find somebody who’s at that perfect moment, where they’re underrated.
QU!$7: Lei’s very versatile, too. If you listen to some of his new stuff, it’s like a switch - he went to this, then he went to this. Somebody that’s on that type of timing, that’s just amazing. Shout out to Lei, man.
CJ808: I was literally speaking yesterday with Lei. Lei was telling me, like a few years ago, he was rapping on just straight mainstream rap beats. But he was spitting, though! Just getting to the bars. So for him, all he’s doing is taking that old style and mixing it with the stuff he learned from making a lot of pop music. The way Lei mixes their vocals is also great. It ties in with the high-quality sound of 2K3, because Lei actually can make pop music. So Lei’s style blends in with 2K3 in general.
QU!$7: That’s what I’m saying! The versatility is just crazy, man.
Where is 2K3 headed? Collaborators, future plans? Talk to me about the general future of y’all’s work together.
CJ808: I wanna work with BrentRambo. I literally grew up listening to him. I think that would just be crazy. I love Chicago music. When I was working with QU!$7, I didn’t even know he was from Chicago, so that just goes to show, the scene in Chicago, they’re on a different level. I’d love to work with BrentRambo. Vocally and beats-wise. People don’t know too much about BrentRambo’s rapping.
QU!$7: He can rap, man. He can rap.
CJ808: I’m looking to one day get something in with a real spitter, bro. Someone who’s just...you know, bar for bar. No autotune. I’m not even kidding. There’s beats that don’t work with autotune, and beats that don’t work without autotune. There’s so many different iterations of the 2K3 style which a lot of people have never heard. We need to get clips out, too, just for that style, just for people to see what we’re on.
QU!$7: Brent, for sure. He’s from here. He a cool dude. I’ve yet to meet him, but I’m influenced by everyone in my city. Because, you know, when I started DJ’ing, the first thing that we learned how to DJ was house music. There’s so many...you got deep house, you got soft house, you got electro house, ghetto house, footwork, you got juke. Matter of fact, shout out to DJ Clent, shout out Traxman, DJ Elmo. I get a buzz off that, everybody in my city who do they thing. You go up north, they got they sound, you go east, they got they sound, out south...it’s definitely a bunch of history over there out west.
CJ808: Shout out ICY.
QU!$7: Shout out ICY. I been listening to ICYTWAT since like 2014, man, because I think that MadeinTYO “I NEED THAT PACK” had came out, and then he branched off.
CJ808: The scene in the UK, though...There’s not much people I can really shout out from the rap scene. But people I’d shout out from here...Aphex, of course. Aphex Twin is a big influence on me. Machinedrum. I don’t know if you’ve heard Machinedrum.
QU!$7: Machinedrum is hard. You talking about the dude that be with Jimmy Edgar? J-E-T-S?
CJ808: Yeah! You’ve heard Machinedrum, right?
QU!$7: Of course.
As one of his press photos, QU!$7 sent us this baby picture.
CJ808: Honestly, though, if I could go anywhere with 2K3 and I could pick anybody to work with from where I’m at, it’d be JME. JME, I’d love to have on a track. Lancey Foux would be nice, just because he’s a young guy from the UK. Shout out osquinn, though, for showing me that video. I don’t know if you guys have seen it on Twitter, there’s a video of JME and Skepta rapping in like 2004. She posted that on Twitter. I remember I used to watch that video a lot.
I was thinking there might be some juke or footwork in the 2K3 sound. With y’all being from such different places, one of you from the UK and one from Chicago, is that clash of inspirations what makes 2K3 tick?
CJ808: Well, house started in Chicago, didn’t it?
QU!$7: It’s common now. The whole Europe music scene, it’s there, no doubt. They definitely do their homework. They study. They’re pretty much as caught up as we are. They’ve yet to see what’s really going on over here, but you get a lot of European producers, the vast majority of them, on the same type of timing as us. Nowadays, if it sound good, then it is what it is. It’s really no boundaries. There’s no limit to this. It’s really normalized. You got duos like KappCEO and GualaGabe — yo, shout out to Gabe, he a northside baby, too. You have all these producers from all over, they just kinda branch out to wherever it is.
I don’t think I’m the only person here who sees social media as a marketing tool, or a tool for being able to connect with people. You meet a lot of people, it’s different, they bring their influence — it’s like a fusion! You got CJ, he got his influences, I got my influences, we put ‘em together — they collide! If you’re on the same type of timing I am, and you put the work in — first of all, you gotta put the work in. I’m sure people might be half-assing shit. It is what it is. But CJ was never on that type of timing. He’s really serious about this. And me being how I am, I can really get what’s going on. If I throw an idea out, he’s able to give me constructive feedback, and I’m able to do the same thing. That’s unmatched.
I don’t think you know how much arguing goes on, on a daily basis, about a beat. You have no idea.
Just disputes over little things?
CJ808: The smallest stuff! (laughs)
QU!$7: I be like, “Yeah, this is hard!” Then, (imitating CJ) “This is dogshit.” (laughs)
CJ808: It’ll be over the smallest shit. You know how we have our own aesthetic, with the typing and stuff? I’ll be like “No, QU!$7, I want you to do this,” and he’ll be like “nah, it has to be this.” We have too much attention to detail. It’s cool that we argue, though, because a lot of people be arguing over stuff other than the music. It goes to show that with us, it’s about the music.
QU!$7: Being able to be different is just unmatched. What’s crazy is, it’s competitive, too. That’s what CJ never said. It’s really competitive, because what’s gonna set you apart from someone else’s beat that sounds the same? Is it the name? Is it the reputation? Is it the quality?
CJ808: A lot of the time, it’s for things other than the music, bro. It’s about the person naming it. If you’ve both got the same beats, I mean…
QU!$7: You know, the music scene might have died down a little bit, but it’s getting regenerated right now. Everything that you used to hear, it’s getting regenerated. What you’re hearing from a lot of people, it’s their demo stuff. It’s, you know, testing the waters. If you really sit down and think about it, it died down, but now, people are starting to branch off and do different things.
CJ808: It’s ‘cause it’s a new generation of kids coming up. The people who was up around 2016, they were like...my age now. I’m 17, bro. QU!$7 is 19. We’re really into the prime where we’re old enough to know how to use the equipment around us, and we’ve had a couple years on it…
But you’ve still got the innovation of somebody young?
CJ808: Yeah. And there’s kids like Lei. Lei’s 15. And Zootzie’s 17. So we’ve all not even hit 20 yet.
QU!$7: You better do that Algebra II! (laughs)
CJ808: That’s what I’m saying! (laughs) Oh, you know how you were talking about Chicago and the UK connection? If you look around, bro, all of us in 2K3 are Caribbean, so that has probably a part to play in it, too. Me and Zootzie are Trinidadian, and Lei is Caribbean too, and QU!$7 is from the Bahamas. We all got that Caribbean influence with the timing. Because if you peep over there, a lot of people listen to Caribbean music and think it’s off-timing. But really, we just grew up accustomed to hearing claps and snares on other timings.
QU!$7: On the downbeat, yeah. That’s what it is! Honestly, you really wouldn’t expect it — and I’m just gonna say this, because I feel like everybody knows this — let’s say you take a producer from the East Coast and the West Coast. Honestly, they can make the same things. A lot of people don’t expect for you to be making certain things. I’m smack-dab right in the Midwest, so I’m right in the middle; we get a lot of influence from both. You travel down to Atlanta, you go up north to New York...nowadays, you don’t have to be put in a box. You don’t have to be categorized as: what does New York sound like?
Nowadays, it’s more about how you go about things — how do you approach a beat? I was telling CJ the other day: if we had a sample challenge, and we had 10 other producers in the same studio, they’d probably do different things with them. It’s really how you approach it. And that’s what we can’t stress enough. Being able to be different, and section your beat different from somebody else, is just unmatched.
Nobody wants to hear the same things. I’m a DJ, you know? I obviously know what can mix, what doesn’t mix, what can’t be mixed, what maybe can be mixed. What goes together, what maybe doesn’t go together, what would never go together. You really have to know how to go about things. That’s what’ll really get people thinking.
CJ’s telling the truth. If something sounds the same...it’s the same! Can’t nobody get mad at that. If it sound the same, it sound the same. And we just not cool with being like that. I’m sure everybody’s parents have said, “you got a B, but you could’ve got an A.” I think some of them wanna be B+ producers, but don’t wanna be A+ producers, you know? All it takes is…
CJ808: That extra step.
QU!$7: That’s all it take, man. But I can tell you what. If we gon’ take an extra step, we gon’ take 2 more extra steps, man. Being able to chop a beat, then chop it again, throw different variations...I’m telling you. “in [out] my body” was just a start. It was just a start. That’s not even touching the surface.
CJ808: I’m telling you, QU!$7 opened my head, bro. I thought I was open-minded with this music stuff, and I probably was compared to other people, but...QU!$7 don’t really tell me “yo, this is how you do this, and this is how you do this.” He kinda says stuff to me, and makes me think. He wants me to actually think about things for myself, so I can come to my own conclusions.
QU!$7: (music suddenly starts playing)
CJ808: Bro, are you making a beat or something? (laughs)
QU!$7: I’m making a sample right now. Sorry about that. I just had to do this.