Christian Rich has spent the last decade producing tracks for some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B, but after all that time, all those epic collaborations, the duo has decided it’s finally time to make something for themselves. Ten years and an innumerable amount of hits later, it was time for an album.
Collectively, Christian Rich is twin brothers Taiwo and Kehinde Hassan. The pair first appeared back in 2003, placing tracks for Clipse, Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown. Since then, they’ve come to produce songs for everyone taking up storage space in your iTunes including Drake, N.E.R.D., Chris Brown, J. Cole, Vic Mensa and Earl Sweatshirt, just to name a few. In just the last month-ish, they’ve shown their range, producing for Vince Staples (the Future-sampling ‘Señorita’) and collaborating with synth-poppers Puro Instinct.
Their collaborative experience is apparent on their debut album, FW14, out August 21. Their singles from it far have been much revered, and include the juiciest of collabs with JMSN, Vince Staples and sooo many more artists that it doesn’t even make sense to list them here.
We spoke with Taiwo, the self-proclaimed evil twin of the duo, about the endeavors involving FW14, seducing aliens and the myraid ways one can depart from sober-dom. And you know what? He even gave us some really poignant life advice and let us in on a secret about the new album that no one, not even you knows. Well, until now …
What do you want people to get a sense of most on your new album?
The main goal of the album really is to establish us as full time artists now. We were artists back in 2009, took a break and went back to production, so the main goal is that people understand that, while we’re still producing for other people, we’re primarily doing our own thing right now. When you see us on someone’s song like Childish Gambino, the song “The Palisades“, it says featuring Christian Rich because we did the track. The track itself is our voice.
Sonically, we want people to hear the kind of chords that we like. Those major seven chords, bossa nova jazz chords, Roy Ayers kind of stuff. I think music is in a good place right now in general from hip hop to electronic for our kind of sound to take over.
What’s something that nobody knows about this album?
That’s a good question. I might have said this in another interview, but we stopped drinking for three months to do this album. Oh, and this may be a fun fact or a boring fact, but this whole entire album was done on our kitchen island. We would have artists cut vocals or we might go to a studio to cut vocals, but as far as mixing it and sending it out to the engineer and mastering and all that stuff was done on my kitchen table in three or four months.
I like being at home. We have a really nice big kitchen, especially for the size of our apartment. We have a lot of windows, so we get all this light that comes in. It just feels good to wake up and go mix something right there. I’m mixing it in the natural environment where I’m going to be listening as well, so it puts a good energy in it. A lot of people are going to be listening to this album and stuff at home, so we figured we might as well make it at there.
You also mentioned that you stopped drinking. Why was that?
We started having a bit too much fun. You need to really focus because one thing about living in L.A. is that every day you go out, there’s some event, and you go to the bar, and everybody wants to drink. There’s always something going on. You have to stop that and get to work because if you don’t, you’re going to have six out of seven days where you’re coming home groggy, waking up at 11:00 and I can’t afford to wake up at 11:00. I got to be up by like 5:00, 6:00 in the morning, if not earlier.
We talk to people overseas and got to be in that cycle, so it makes sense. We were in charge creatively of what was going on musically, from the album to the artwork. I had to find who I wanted to do it, give them the concept, come up with the whole treatment for the album and source out video directors. Everything from top to bottom, I had to take care of, even things as far down to writing the lyrics out and making posters. You’ve got to be really focused and zen to do that.
Do you feel sometimes music is better enjoyed inebriated versus sober? Do you have any opinion on people taking molly at your guys’ shows or enjoying it in altered states?
The kind of music we make, you don’t have to do drugs to listen it, but I understand that a lot of this is mellow. Some of the chords are so out there that some people do need to be on acid and molly and shit to listen to it. I’m not going to knock them because to each his own. You do what you want with your life. For me, it’s about if you’re enjoying the music. I prefer if you enjoy it sober or maybe a little stoned, but not fucked up. Then you’re probably going to miss the point of what the music is supposed to be. If you want to, you can really get high off music. Sounds corny, but it’s real.
Is there any music that you feel you’ve been able to get a high off of personally?
Oh, yeah. Jazz. Bossa nova jazz. Brazilian jazz. Stan Getz. Just a certain kind of chord progression, especially if someone hits consecutive chords, like three to four chords, usually four chords back to back. The best example of that is, let’s say, “Bonita Applebum” by A Tribe Called Quest. Each chord hits me somewhere that makes me just really amped … it’s like a high to me.
Are there any songs off of your new album that do that for you?
Yeah. The song “Bells” with Niia. Those chords, those changes and her singing. That combination. Also the pre-chorus on “Fast Life” with JMSN. The hook chord on “Compromise” really does it for me. That really takes me somewhere.
Speaking of song recommendations on your album, your guys’ album is super inspired by space and the movie “Interstellar.” Which song off the album would you recommend that I listen to if it was my last day on Earth and then I was getting blasted off into space tomorrow?
That’s a great question. I would recommend you listen to “Face” because “Face” is very calming … It’s with Denitia and Sene and it’s very calm. My nephews … They sleep to that song. That’s the song their mom plays for them to sleep. It’s really chill, so if you’re going to outer space and you’re probably going to fucking die on Mars or the moon, you might as well listen to that and maybe fucking martians eating your brains would be less alarming.
What about if I wanted to seduce an alien?
I would say “Bells” because when Niia‘s singing the verses, it’s very chill, but then when you’re seducing someone, there’s different levels to it. You got your game on and you’re talking sweet nothings and then you kind of go in really attack and do your thing. That’s when the hook comes in. It’s still crazy chords, but it’s amped up and you can really have some fun, rough situations.
You’ve been producing and working in the game for over a decade. It’s interesting where you came from, how you stuck with it and where you are today. If you were to give somebody who used to be in your position advice on how to just persevere and keep being motivated over a long period of time, what would you tell them?
You have to make calculated moves. You have to know where you want to end up and make those decisions. Really what it boils down to is two things. You have to believe in God. That’s just my opinion. God really has to be able to guide you through these things. Also, you have to find that truth within yourself, so you can’t try to be like other people. You may get ideas and get inspired, but you really got to tap into who you are because at the end of the day. The only thing you can rely on is your intuition and your knowledge that you’ve acquired. It’s got to come from a real place. If you’re trying to fake it, you’re trying to keep up with who’s doing what, you’re going to get lost in the shuffle.
It’s also keeping yourself at bay because if you blow up too big, you take some crazy dare, you got some crazy fucking hit record and you don’t know how to follow that up, then that’s a recipe for disaster. One of the best people to look at now for example and what I’ve seen is The Weeknd. The Weeknd really started with this very underground sound and now, he’s producing with Max Martin. If he came out producing with Max Martin, people might not like him next week, but because everyone followed him from the first three mixtapes and all the way to his album, everyone saw what he was doing. You got to grow with him and now you’re going to keep growing with him. That’s really what we’ve been doing. We haven’t reached anywhere near where we’re going to be and where we want to be and where we want to go. We’re just taking our time.
People are like, “You guys been in the game ten plus years.” Well, yeah. I’m only thirty three. I started in the game when I was nineteen, but that’s music. People like to put timing on it. You’ve got comedians like, Jim Gaffigan or Louis CK. These dudes are fifty years old just getting their first shows. They’ve been doing comedy since ’88.
What keeps you going? What do you look towards to motivate you?
It really boils down to when people reach out to you like, “Yo. I want to work with you.” It’s not about the money, it’s not about the ego, it’s just about the people appreciating what you do that keeps you going.
Do you feel anybody can do what you guys are doing? Or do you feel certain people who have reached success have something special about them?
Ten years ago, I would’ve said, “I think I’m the only one that can do what I do.” Now, anyone can do what anyone is doing in music or film. Is it going to be the same quality? I don’t know, but technology has allowed anyone to be able to do whatever they want anytime, which is good and bad. It’s bad for the people who came from the nineties and the early 2000s that kind of did things in a certain way, paid all these dues and then some kid just comes six months of learning Fruity Loops from YouTube to get ahead.
Of all the people and personalities that you’ve worked with over the years, is there somebody that you feel like you guys had the biggest hand in shaping their careers?
Well, we definitely played an intricate part in Earl Sweatshirt‘s career. I want to say he was already there in the sense that he was already popular by the time we worked on the debut album, but we helped make him a serious artist. Before, people were kind of like, “Well, they’re kids. They’re just talking about crazy stuff. Nothing intelligent.” When we came and did the album and all that stuff, we brought in this old school feel of the producer that’s going to come in, oversee the project, make sure that we get in the studio and you actually do a song. We brought that feeling into his album, which could genuinely help him be able to be taken seriously when he came back into music.
As twins … do you think that you could do this without each other?
We can do it without each other, but I don’t know how effective it would be because we both bring something to the table that the other’s stronger in. If I was to go out on my own and produce, yeah, it’d be dope, but I don’t know how dope it would be if my brother wasn’t putting his hand in it and vice versa.
Is there an evil twin or are you both nice?
I’m probably the evil twin. I’m very low key about it though. You won’t be able to tell.
What’s next for you guys?
There’s some production stuff coming out and we’re trying to get ready to do the next LP, so we’re coming up with ideas, going through generals, talking to artists and stuff. I might be singing on this album, too. We’ll see. We’re working on new glasses too. We had some glasses that came out last August, so we got some new ones coming out in the fall. We’re getting ready to market that and do a commercial and all that stuff.
You can preview Christian Rich’s new album FW14 here. The whole thing is out August 21.