From running with the Swollen Members crew to creating an array of solo and collaborative albums, Vancouver based rapper Moka Only is a well-known name in the game. With this in mind anticipations were high when at the start of 2011 he announced that his latest album, Crickets, would be made alongside Swiss beats pioneer Chief. An upcoming producer and record label owner Chief has worked with names such as Aloe Bacc, Kissey Asplund and CO$$ to create a wealth of electronic sounds. With the album finished and a European tour underway the pair stop by to talk about the music making process, working with another and touching down in cities for the first time.
Alright guys, thanks for speaking to us! Where did both of you begin in the music industry?
MOKA ONLY: I began in Vancouver in the mid-90s. I had already rapped for while by then, and then I started doing beats as well.
CHIEF: I started djing in the 90’s at age 14, and started doing beats when I was 20. I first produced for local artists and then a few years later I started having demand from international artists; mainly via MySpace at first. Since then I’ve produced for Blu, Co$$, Sene, Kay Dee, Dynas, John Robinson and Moka Only…
How did you two meet? When did the idea to collab on the album come together?
M.O: Chief and I met through MySpace a few years back. He asked me if I wanted to collab. Many people reach out to me for that and sometimes I don’t respond… But I decided to look at his MySpace page and I was blown away. I liked his style so we did a track called ‘Felt Before’ which I used on my album Carrots and Eggs. After that we stayed in touch and decided to release one of my albums on his label, Feelin’ Music, the album was called ‘Lowdown Suite 2- The Box’ — Chief did the beat for ‘Do Work’ from that album. Almost two years ago we decided to work on an album together properly and here we are with Crickets!
C: What Moka said. The two tracks we did together came about so naturally and we just felt it would be great to work on a full album together. It’s also because there’s a good connection between us and it’s easy to work together.
The album is being described as indie meets hip hop was this important for you both to bring something new to the hip hop industry?
M.O: Wow, I hadn’t heard it described that way! Oddly enough I really like that description. It’s fair, after all we are indie… and we are hip hop. Makes sense. I don’t think it was a conscious effort to “be different”, we are both unique artists so the end product should not sound ‘standard’. When two artists come together to create music there’s chemistry at work whether it’s good or bad. It will usually stray away from what the artist’s sound like on their own, but after listening back to our album it all seems like such a natural fit.
C: We didn’t have any discussion about how it should sound, what direction to follow, to reach a certain audience, etc… But of course I love the idea that not only hip-hop fans will like the album. We’ve already received good feedback from certain people and the media that are not only into hip-hop, which is really great. For me, anything I do has to be a challenge to do something different, personally I’m more interested in pushing boundaries rather than doing stuff which has been done a million times already.
Some of the tracks on the album have quite a chilled out vibe, was it important to create an atmosphere when producing the album?
M.O: I’m a chilled out kinda guy and so is Chief… he may have more to say on this topic.
C: I guess it kind of reflects the way we are, I’m kind of chilled out too, not a nervous or angry person, so I guess it translates into the album’s mood.
Moka you’ve collaborated with legends such as MF Doom, the late J Dilla and Buck 65 just to name a few but who has been your favourite artist to work with?
It’s not fair for me to pick a favourite, all the artists I’ve worked with were people that I wanted to work with. They all have their own sound which makes them individual; therefore it’s logical that there cannot really be a favourite. Crickets has been very enjoyable to create with Chief. I’ll say that.
Moka, some people may know you as one part of the Swollen Members crew but what’s the difference between your work with them and the collaborative albums you do?
Big difference. Like I said about chemistry, when four guys are working together there is going to be some compromise to create the end product, Swollen showcased that. When I work on my own material it’s in a different realm than what we had as a group, and that’s great. Same goes for Mad Child when he does his solo stuff. It doesn’t sound like Swollen. Me personally, I like jazz and soulful type of beats for my solo stuff, that’s the background I created for myself and how I like to express myself. A difference between the Swollen stuff and the other collab stuff I’ve done is the energy. The Swollen music was always a lot more up-tempo and darker sounding. Most of the other collab stuff I’ve done is a little more ‘vibed out’, jazz, funk, experimental.
Chief, where did the idea to pioneer your own label – Feelin’ Music – come from? What can we be expecting from the label in the future?
I haven’t had such a good experience with other labels. Sometimes you just don’t know what’s going on and have to deal with too many annoying things. It’s a lot of work to release stuff on your own label, but we know what’s going on and we control things from A to Z. It’s definitely not easy to run a label these days. I think other artists also like the label’s policy; they get full creative control and no-one is forcing them to do things they don’t want to. I think the force of Feelin’ Music, is that the label is basically founded by artists, and it’s very well organised on the business side too, so they get the attention and support they deserve.
As for future projects, in November we’re going to release a new album by Jazzo & Melodiesinfonie, they’re two very young beat makers from Switzerland. We released their debut EP earlier this year. They’re super young, but already very talented, I really want to keep developing things with them. They are actually joining Moka and I on three dates on the Crickets tour, and we will tour more together next year. I have another album with a US rapper that’s almost finished, it should come in March/April 2012, and then maybe “Crickets 2”? “Crickets 2 – They Return”? “Crickets 2 – The Invasion”?
You two are going on a European tour in November, what places are you most looking forward to playing?
M.O: Every city! Although I’ve got friends in London and Berlin that I’m looking forward to catching up with so that’s an extra bonus, but I will be giving equal love to all of the cities we perform in. I don’t play ‘favourites’! That’s so p.c. of me!
C: Definitely everywhere! I’m very excited about this tour and playing in the main European cities, most for the first time, it’s going to be hectic but great!
Who are your favourite artists in the industry right now?
M.O: The High Llamas.
C: Right now I would say Thundercat and Jonti, mainly instrumental/electronic stuff at the moment.
Thanks for the time guys, any last words?
M.O: I only have first words, so thank you for the interview it’s appreciated. Much love. Now go eat some eggs and bacon.
C: Thanks to you for the interview, everyone come see us live!