TDE's Ab-Soul and Jay Rock speak on their dynamic, "rapping for fun," and their upcoming prjects.
While rolling in a pretty tight-knit crew, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock couldn't be more different. While Jay Rock favors mean-mug west-coast street rap, Soulo is known to create smoked-out, conspiracy theory-laden cuts. They've certainly learned a lot from one another however, detailing their dynamic in a new interview with XXL, as well as commenting on the concept of "rapping for fun," and their upcoming projects.
Read some excerpts from the sit down below.
XXL: What’s your status with the next record?
Jay Rock: Basically, I’m just locked in the studio. I’m still just really taking it in, getting in there, coming up with new concepts. I’m just taking my time; ain’t no rush to it. I’m just trying to get my craft together on the whole. I’m trying to step it up to a whole ‘nother level—just with me, within myself, battling myself. I keep hearing everybody [asking], “When you dropping something?” It’s coming, just be patient. I’m just trying to get everything together and stay focused.
What would you say is the biggest reason it’s taking so long?
Jay Rock: It ain’t really no reason. You wanna go when it feels right. If it don’t feel right, don’t do it. If you rushing, it’s going to always go bad. But if it feels right to you and within your heart, then that’s when you go. Right now, I just feel I got a long way to go within myself. Until I’m ready and until I’m right, that’s when it’s gonna drop.
Are you talking about the project as a whole or the songs you’re coming up with or—
Jay Rock: Just everything. [From] the project to me, myself—like I said, I’m still trying to hone my craft a little bit better. I’m trying to battle myself and beat myself, you feel me? That’s basically what it is.
It must be hard to be an MC around [the rest of the group] because you’re not that battle, backpack, lyrical type of MC but you’re around three guys that that’s just what they do. I imagine it’s harder for you to find a pure sense of what you’re trying to say.
Jay Rock: If you ever listen to us or been following us, you understand we all feed off each other. If you listen to all our albums, you hear a little of everybody [in everybody else] because we’ve been around each other so long like family. It’s hard to explain. Soul, he can explain it better than I can. But when we hear each other’s stuff, we all get motivated by listening to each other.
Ab-Soul: Rock was signed to Warner Bros. and their urban department at the time was questionable. It’s just a lot of different politics to why you would probably think Rock is a little more quiet, because he really has to reintroduce himself to the public.
That’s interesting. [Rock], you do have the very slow, structure thing about you—from the way you move to the way you rap; it’s very methodical. These guys are more bouncing all over the place—[ScHoolboy] Q in his voice, Soul is more in his topics that he deals with, Kendrick more in his flows—they’re kind of ricocheting all over the place and you’re always the one that’s sort of like step, step, step—like he said, that foundation. Do you think that’s a good assessment of your personalities or is that just some shit that I’m making up?
Jay Rock: That sounds about right. [Laughs] I want to elaborate on what Soul was talking about earlier: A lot of people don’t really know that I was the foundation. Everywhere I went, they was with me. A lot of people don’t really understand how long it took, the grind that we did in a 12-passenger van, driving from California to Maine in this one van with all of us. It’s still crazy. I’m still learning. Even though I was the forefront, I’m still learning, too.
What do you guys read? I’m sure [Ab-Soul] reads a lot of crazy shit or watches a lot of crazy documentaries. Do you guys share books? What’s the response when you give him a book and say, “Here, you need to read this”?
Ab-Soul: [Smiles] I’m probably the only one reading. He probably won’t even read it [if I give him a book]. I don’t want you to think—I’m not quite a cornball, but I’ll pick up a book that somebody suggests. The last book I read was Seat of the Soul. That was a good one. Honestly, I just feel like a lot of literature for me is further confirmation. And it’s important for me to use new words or words that I don’t hear because I learned a lot from rap that way, too. It’s important for me to do that same thing for the generation behind me. I learned so much from Jay Z’s songs—my vocabulary, in general, just from his songs. I knew words before I knew what they meant, from listening to rap music.
Jay Rock: I remember growing up, just me and my cousin listening to rap music when we was little kids. We didn’t even want to do our homework—all we wanted to do was watch the Box all day. We knew every rap song but didn’t know how to read words. That was kind of weird.
[Ab-Soul], you strike me as somebody who always wanted to be creative, to be an artist. Jay Rock strikes me as a reluctant person that didn’t necessarily want that, or kinda got forced into it. What’s the benefit of having the TDE infrastructure and access to the studio and rules and guidance? How’s that informed who you are today?
Ab-Soul: I just think it’s cool that you can spot an immediate distinction between the two of us; that you don’t think we’re so similar. We’re both from LA—but he’s from Watts; I’m from Carson. It’s like different boroughs, so we are completely different. The way we talk, our dialect is different—from where he lives and vice versa. To one person, Jay Rock may come across as “this” or someone who does “this” and to others he may be telling their story. It’s dope to me that you at least spot—whatever your opinion is, pick your poison, whatever’s your flavor—I’m glad you spot an immediate difference, that we both have different fingerprints. That’s very important.
How often do you guys rap for fun?
Ab-Soul: To be honest, bro, I really wrote a rap everyday, give or take, since I was 12 years old—I’m 26 now. Rap to me is kinda like drinking water, at this point. It’s not something that I gotta “do.” Sometimes it tastes great, if it’s at the right temperature and sometimes it’s bland.
Is it still fun for you guys?
Ab-Soul: Of course, man. It’s the funnest game ever—this is Scrabble in motion.
What do each of you specifically bring to TDE right now—not in terms of the history, but right now?
Ab-Soul: I think the biggest thing with all of us is just where we’re from. We’re all from the same place, but different parts. We all kinda get the outlook on all of LA when we’re in the same room. You can learn about Los Angeles in its entirety if you just go downstairs right now. I’m from Carson—that’s where our headquarters just so happen to be so I guess I bring that Carson flavor. Jay Rock is from Watts, 90059, Kendrick—CPT, Q—South Central. This is LA in its entirety.
What do you think TDE brings to the music game?
Ab-Soul: I think we’re showing the importance of a movement, of teamwork and having a machine [behind you]. We’re not just co-workers. We really fell asleep in the studio with Jay Rock, working on songs. We really hustled together from the bottom, all of us. We didn’t just meet each other here and got record deals, you feel what I’m saying? We really all started together with nothing. If anything, this should represent “teamwork makes the dream work.”