By Jerry L. Barrow
Nottz is one of the only dudes you can interview during Monday Night Football. The accomplished producer from Virginia, who has crafted rhythm for everyone from Busta Rhymes (“Everybody Rise”) and M.OP.(“Home Sweet Home”) to The Game (“California Sunshine”) and Snoop (“That’s That Shit”) is not a big fan of sports. In a hilarious clip with fellow VA hip-hop vet, Skillz, he admits that he doesn’t know the first thing about no pigskin, but that’s alright by me. Makes it that much easier to schedule interviews.
In the last few weeks his name has been popping up on releases from Skyzoo, (“Popularity”) and M.O.P (“Brownsvillian”) so I caught up with him at the start of the season to talk about his up-coming solo album, going from rapping to producing, people thinking he’d bit the “Hard Knock Life” formula and what Busta thought when Dre jacked him for Snoop’s “Boss’ Life.”
(Follow him on Twitter@NottzRaw)
NODFACTOR: Alchemist named you one of his favorite producers who rap, along with Diamond and Dilla. Talk to me about the song you did together, “Coke On Plastic.”
Nottz: Dilla wanted me to do a joint with him on his album and while he was here I worked on a couple joints for his album and shit and he laid a verse on one of my joints. Diamond came into town and all three of us got together. Pete Rock was supposed to be on it but it didn’t happen. I did a remix to that that I’m about to throw out there.
You’re working on your own solo album, what’s it called?
I’m leaning toward the title, “You Need This Music.” There is just so much bullshit coming out man. I dunno what it is. We need hip-hop back. Raekwon, that album he put out, that shit is fuckin’ bonkers.
Were you rapping first, or producing first?
I was rapping first. This was fuckin’ elementary school. I remember that shit like it was yesterday. I had a little talent show with a little 7 second keyboard. Back then I was on Grand Daddy IU and Mobb Deep. In middle school I really started writing. I used to battle niggas in the lunchroom with Grand Daddy IU rhymes. (laughs) then I started writing my own shit. Nobody wanted to give me beats so I started workin’ on my own shit.
How did the production become the focus?
Just putting the music in the forefront. I just figured this is what I wanna do, I just love the music.
The first time I saw you live was at Beat Society in NY and you busted everybody in the head with that “Everybody Rise” beat from ELE. How did that come together?
At first I was doing shit for DV Alias Khrist, before we did the Lyricist Lounge shit we did this shit called “Candy.” Then for Lyricist Lounge Vol 1 he did the song called “Holy Water” with Khrist and Lord Have Mercy. Busta was supposed to be on it and they ain’t want him on it so he was like fuck it, do some shit for me. Back then I had tapes, cassettes with beats on it. The first three joints on that beat tape ended up being the first three beats on his album. After that, you know Busta gotta big mouth so when people were like who did that beat and he was like “Nottz!”
That beat right there… I had an artist called Black And Decker with DNP. Before we started the DNP crew he was a solo artist I had and I did it for him. It just happened to be on that tape that I took with me. He wasn’t mad or nothing. It opened up doors for the crew.
Hell no. Dre say I’m one of his favorite producers but dude’s gonna do his homework. You know Busta was mad about that right there,though. Shit. That was crazy. Fatman Scoop hit me up one day wanting to use that as an intro to his shows and shit. I said look let me holla at Busta and Busta wasn’t having that. I wanted to see Scoop do that though, his energy is crazy.
I didn’t know that you did Skillz “Imagine” and that’s one of my favorite Skillz songs. How did you meet?
Man I done forgot how we met but that joint right there…I had a bunch of records in the studio and I just threw them on the turntable. I try to teach myself to fuck with anything. I love that record.
The synths and clavs are a big part of some of your beats, do you read music?
Naw, I just play by ear. I have this one dude named Brian that did a couple joints for Ne-Yo and he’s nasty with the keys. I bring him in every once in a while. Sometimes we need a sample replayed but otherwise I do it myself.
Another favorite of mine was Scarface’s “Girl You Know” when you flipped that Lenny Williams…
I always wanted to fuck with that sample but I didn’t know how to do it. I just came across it and just put that joint on. It was one of those days when you had beat block. When I did it Face called me up and was like “I got Lenny Williams in the truck.” And I was like “Play that shit.” He had me on speakerphone. And he was like “naw, I got the real Lenny Williams in the truck.” [laughs]. The nigga started singing and shit and I felt like a fuckin groupy and shit man! He was like ‘I love what you did with the track’ and he said it himself that I used it the best way. Me and Lenny Williams trying to knock some shit out now. Face was looking for him and for you to come home and dude is sittin in your living room not knowing his wife knew your wife, that’s some crazy shit. He came here for a play he had or some shit and invited me to come through and I said I’m not with the play shit so I sent my aunt and mom. My aunt and my mom was holdin the nigga arms walking in the joint. He gave my mom and aunt a kiss on the chick and fucked they heads up.
It was his birthday when he came down. Old head nigga and still be going to the gym pumpin iron an runnin on the treadmill and shit. That’s some shit I need to do now.
One time I went to iHop and ran into Roy Ayers around 3 am in the morning. I was leaving the studio and one of my homeboy Moose works at a Jazz station out here and he was with him.
“Home Sweet Home” is one of my favorite of your beats and now you fucked people’s heads up with “Brownsvillian.” What’s it like working with M.O.P?
Man they some of the realest dudes man. They don’t get what they deserve for real. I think they can be bigger than what they are but then I think about the image. They are fucking HARD CORE. Ain’t no changing them dudes but they deserve more. I sent them the Brownsvillian joint over the internet. Home Sweet Home was on the Lord Have Mercy album, but when he got dropped M.O.P kept it.
Was Game’s “California Sunshine” another one of those long lost “Detox” beats?
Naw, I did that shit a couple hours before I left for Cali to play joints for Game. We was going out there to mix a record and I just so happened to play them joints. It was crazy because there was a whole lotta producers in there, I ain’t saying no names, but they was playing they shit. Game was like “to the next one.” He was really getting’ on niggas. I’m out in the waiting area with my manager just chillin. Niggas kept running out the room asking me when I was gonna play my shit. There was some chicks in there and I played that shit and they were in the corner singing “California Sunshine” and Game was like “that’s one!” Then I played him the “You Heard” joint. That was originally for Little Eazy E but niggas move too slow on it ain’t fuck with it. I coulda sworn that was gonna be a video but it never happened.
And they just leaked the Snoop and R.Kelly record., “Pimpin Ain’t Easy.” It had to come from R. Kelly’s side. “That’s That shit” woulda been bigger than what it was if R. Kelly coulda toured. Snoop asked me to send him some more shit and Snoop said “we gotta another one.”
The whole process of the shit is I send him a beat and he tells me if he’ll fuck with it then I tell him where to rap at, etc. Do that, then he sends it to R.Kelly so he can do his hook, then Kelly sends it back to me so I can do some more shit to it, then I send it to Snoop. But this time we did the record he sends it back to R.Kelly to do more vocals and it never got back to me or Snoop and now it’s on the Internet saying it’s R.Kelly’s song featuring Snoop. My nephew was like “you know that Snoop joint is on the radio.”
When Busta’s “Get Out” came out people were comparing it to Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life.” Did that bother you?
Yeaaah! It did man. I always made beats like that but nobody picked up on it. I can play so many beats a couple years before that came out, with me doing shit like that. I just steer away from what the normal niggas are doing. I can go back years.
How you make a Christmas record sound gangsta, son? What’s the craziest thing you think you’ve sampled?
You know what, the Training Day joint. That was a Christmas records. I just turned that shit evil. I always felt like the fuckin Grinch.
You did “Big Money” for Swizz and “Barry Bonds” for Kanye, is it more competitive making a beat for another producer?
Na, I look at them as artists too. When I’m doing a beat for em that producer shit isn’t in my head until someone mentions that shit. There’s a couple producers I did stuff for and I smiled like the Barry Bonds joints. Kanye only fucked with niggas he thought was hot.
This “Coming To America” shit is crazy. You played that “Queen To Be” at Beat Society, too. Where is that now?
Game did some shit to it and it was gonna be on Dr’s. Advocate. It was crazy cuz he was talking about AIDS and shit, but there was a crazy interview he had at the beginning where B.I.G was talking about Eazy E dying from the Monster. The song was crazy.
So where is the song?
I dunno. You know niggas don’t wanna come off some shit.
Speaking of Biggie, how did the “Dangerous MCs” come about?
The day before I did that shit before we went to NY. We were going out to fuck with Busta. It was the same day we recorded “Get Out.” Puff called Busta at the studio asking if he had some shit for Dangerous MCs and Puff was like I need that verse. We need that record. That was the last joint recorded for the Born Again album. At first it was supposed to have been Busta, Biggie, Jay-Z and Snoop, all four of them.
I texted you when I heard Skyzoo’s “Popularity.” How did you link up with him to work?
At that same Beat Society you talking about. That was the first day I met him. We did the “Popularity” joint last year and another joint. I met him back then but never got a chance to work. When you an artist working with another producer I don’t try to step on nobody’s toes, he was messing with 9th Wonder and I said we can catch up some other time. After he got signed he said I need to come down and do some shits. He did a video to it and he’s supposed to send me a rough.
So when are you and Pete Rock doing an album together?
I’m ready over here. That’s on Pete. But I’m trying to knock this album out and hope this shit do good. The whole shit knocks. I’m waiting on a few features. I gotta joint with The Game and Scarface called “Tomorrow May be Too Late” and I have another joint with Jazzy Jeff doing the cuts. Other than that everything is straight.
Last question. What’s going on with Detox, man?
I gotta couple joints on there but he’s really really working on this shit. He started that album over and kept one joint that I did and everything else was destroyed. He started all over. I got four or five joints on the album now.
It’s been so long that people have this idea in their head of you, and DJ Khalil and Denaun in this room collaborating together for this grand finale…
Hell no, man. When I get out there I’m in one of the main rooms by myself. You be so fucking spoiled by the sound in that room, it’s so loud. I just be in there banging shit out.