FROM KEVIN GATES' PERSPECTIVE
On the concept behind "Smiling Faces":
I really don't like to speak behind my concepts of my songs, because everyone takes something different from each song. What you took away is not necessary what someone else took from it. I feel like it takes away from the magic of the song.
On writing the track:
I don't really like to talk about my creative process, for fear it might take the magic away from the music.
On his unique style:
I just do what I feel. I listen to what the beat is saying, and then I allow myself to be lead by my emotion.
On the song's content-- people smiling to your face but acting different behind your back:
The song is very self explanatory and music [is] my therapy, so I vent in everything I do.
On his decision to focus on rap rather than street life:
My following [made the decision]. I didn't know I had the following I had, and once I saw my following once I came home it changed my mind. I didn't come home to be a rapper, i was doing $1000 dollar shows and shit. I ain't never sold any of these people work, they are fucking with the music heavy.
On his lyrical ability:
I read a lot, I read from vast selections of literature ...and if I don't understand a word, I go look it up.
On his reaction when he first heard the beat:
I had a canvas to release my pain, I look at the beat like a canvas. When that beat came on I knew what to say.
On his studio essentials:
A small work space, good instrumentation and no distractions.
On his favorite line/verse in "Smiling Faces":
"Memories haunting me / jumping up out my sleep / she might say bae it's ok and put me straight back to sleep / I do this 3 or 4 times / my life on constant repeat."
FROM THE PRODUCERS THE FEATHERSTONES' PERSPECTIVE:
On who they are:
We are regular guys from Baltimore that just happen to be family and connoisseurs of good music with the interest of steadily growing and learning new things within all musical genres. Our entire family is musical and we play just about every instrument between us.
On how the collaboration with Kevin Gates came about:
We were initially connected by our publisher. After that we really took a hands-on approach and crafted something special specifically for him where he could display his true raw talent. Lyrically the guy is CRAZY and its actually quite refreshing.
On if they worked together before:
This was the first project we worked on together. We started working on material for him after we heard Luca Brasi and saw his buzz growing. We have other records that we’ve done together but as of right we’re just not sure what they’ll be for, however we are working on trying to get a single for his album.
On if they had Gates in mind when making the beat:
Definitely, we had been following Gates and his movement online for quite some time and just really liked what he was doing. His energy and charisma that you hear in his music made us excited and inspired to craft music specifically for him. The most important part was creating something that could stand out and be different yet in perfect synergy with what we had heard from Kevin up to that point.
On how the beat happened:
We had just done records for B.O.B, Spenzo, Ester Dean and Cody Simpson and we kept getting requests for urban records with creative sounds that didn't sound like anything else. After searching for the weirdest sounds possible we came across that main sound, which became the foundation for the track. Really the main thing was just finding something unique that stood out but didn't overwhelm the track.
On their favorite aspect of the instrumental:
The simplicity it presents at face value. But when you analyze it, it is a lot more musical then it seems. That in itself is hard to do, to be musical while staying simple.
On if "Smiling Faces" record is a good indication of The Featherstones' style:
It’s one aspect of our style. Our style is pretty much great melodies over hard hitting drums while using abstract sounds. We're really all about trying to push the envelope creatively, not just in hip-hop, but whatever artist/genre of music we’re working on we try to take that approach.
On if they recorded in-studio together:
Not on this particular record, but we had been trading a bunch of different ideas back and forth. We really wanted to give Kevin a record with street edge that could still bang in the club. With “Smiling Faces” we really just wanted to create a great record that would showcase Gates’ versatility and personality.
On the equipment used to create this instrumental:
Everything was done in the box, using Cubase.
On their go-to machines:
We use Cubase and a host of plug-ins and sounds. We also incorporate live instrumentation.
Giving you the direct perspective from Kevin Gates and his producer The Featherstones, "Track Breakdown" is an HNHH series that highlights a specific cut by speaking to both the artist and producer about the song's creation.
Kevin Gates doesn't seem to do much talking, but he doesn't really need to when his music says it all. Kevin Gates is a rapper who comes from the streets of Baton Rouge, Lousiana, and chose to focus on his rap life instead of the streets. His music reflects this, and in it he expresses himself in ways not many gangsters usually do.
There's a lot of emotion in Gates' lyrics, there is wordplay and there is melody-- we might not usually associate those three things with a hard rapper like Gates, which is what makes his sound so unique and interesting. Gates has been slowly building a fan base for himself, ever since being released from prison in 2011 after a three year stint for drugs and firearm charges. All his hard work has culminated most recently into an album, Stranger Than Fiction.
The album follows The Luca Brasi Story mixtape and we find Gates really come into is his own when it comes to sound and theme-- something which was obviously developing in Luca Brasi. The overall feel of Stranger Than Fiction is completely in-line with the particular song we're looking at, "Smiling Faces." It has a dark, moody and almost lonely feeling which is echoed through out the album, and it gives you a look into the life of Gates.
We spoke to Kevin Gates about "Smiling Faces" where he raps about two-faced friends and other doubts in his mind. It's a very honest track, and as the rapper tells us, he let the emotion lead him when making it. The production also plays an important part in making this jam unique-- it's simple yet there are so many layers. The producers behind it, The Featherstones, spoke to us about how they linked up with Gates, revealing they have more collaborations in the bag, which we will hopefully hear soon.
For now, listen to "Smiling Faces" below, and then click through the gallery images to find out more about the record.