HOME OF BRAVE NOTEBOOKS: WOODENCHAINZ on Making of SHAKE C’s AMERICA INC LP

By SUNEZ

AMERICA, INC.

When the breaks fade and the verses are all told, quoted and chronicled, Woodenchainz will have just played us the interludes.  The snippets of Soul that offer some vital aural portraits of the blue collar struggle of La Porte, Indiana to the wonderful family he has made.   So in these interludes that become LPs we may miss the founding stories few media will quest on for.  Now here, we premierely listen closer to an interlude of a Woodenchainz’ master work.  This one is a crucial debut of a sibling, a supreme MC, Shake C, a man of personal bar journals and militant commentary, who spends his moments imagining lyrical obstacles. In hurdling the toughest tracks he leaves trails of flows, cadences and conceptualizing depth, Shake C’s America Inc became one of the great Hip Hop albums of 2013.  The following then are stories of these tracks, when Woodenchainz and his brother from another made this debut to Shake’s ever promising career…

WOODENCHAINZ:  I guess the best place to start is with the subject matter and how it all came about. He has about 2 EPs and probably 3 completed LPs in the can.  He just can’t stop making music.  That’s what he does.  I’ve produced more work for him than I have for anyone else.  Whether some of that sees the light of day is yet to be found out.  The progression of what we started out doing together versus what’s going on now with America, Inc.  He’s just an MC who’s always been real lyrical and his understanding of how to structure a good song and composition has always just been there. His joints is always interesting and with the adlibs.  Me and Kevlaar 7 talked about it a hundred times—Shake’s ability to write interesting hooks and choruses is unreal.

When I first met him he was somewhat of a Southern transplant from the Indiana-side of Louisville, down at the bottom.  Jefferson, Indiana which is part of Louisville. The way they’ve done it down there has always had that southern touch to Hip Hop. Kind of hook heavy and more focused on the hooks and bridges than the actual verses.  He’s always been the way he was so even when he was there he still had a little bit more of the flavor that you hear now.  He just took the best of all those elements.  When we first got together, the first project we worked on was Black Monday.  It was his concept on his design but we worked on it from its conception to completion.  Around that time, I was all, ‘fuck them hooks, spit 64 bars, just go in on the beat.’ We went back and forth on that for a while.  It became a good blend.  It’s just his ability to write hooks that draws you in, defining the concept of the joint, is all unreal. I always considered him to have that star quality but he’s still an MC’s MC.  He could crossover or whatever he wants to do.  He’s got tracks for everything, every situation but it’s done so tastefully.

SUNEZ:  “Intro

WOODENCHAINZ:  Jeff Bridges from that show The Newsroom.   Shake showed me the clip and told me it’d be dope to have it in the album but didn’t know where to put it—as an intro, end or interlude.

SUNEZ:  “America Inc. (In The Beginning)”

WOODENCHAINZ:  That sampled The Dramatics’ joint.  A lot of people have heard that sample.  We were at my old studio a couple of years ago listening to records. This song comes on and it’s just a good joint to listen to.  I have a lot of stuff I won’t even sample because it’s so graphic I don’t want to mess with the original.  For me, a lot of Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack joints I won’t touch.  And a lot of Marvin [Gaye] too.  The original compositions are so beautiful.  I gotta little playlist I play for my daughter at night like “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”  I sampled that before but I can’t.  It was a long time ago and it’s a joint that’s not gonna come out. I have sampled some Donny. I think it was the album he did with Flack—I’ve sampled “I (Who Have Nothing)” about five or six times because the instrumentation on that shit, the minor chord progressions on that are just ridiculous.  I couldn’t help it. I’ve come close with “For All We Know” and chopped up some of those piano notes but I deleted it.  It’s so beautiful. “Jealous Guy,” “She’s My Lady” that RZA sampled.  I sampled some Marvin. I took “If I Should Die Tonight” where I took the break—it’s not really a break but the bridge in the center of the song. It’s like thirty seconds long. I just chopped it out  and pitched it up like a half step and I looped it. I just went in on it talking real life shit.  But I can’t do it. My man Bigpipe was engineering that track. I came out the booth and was like, ‘the beat’s ill, the verse is ill but that’s Marvin, yo!’

SUNEZ:  I think you are one of the few that I am comfortable sampling any beloved Soul track or any genre I love!

WOODENCHAINZ:  [laughs] I put a lot of self-scrutiny on the joints cause I’m such a fan of the originals.  Usually when I sample something I can tell you the back story of the artist or the joint because I’m such a fan of the music—the whole Soul movement. It’s been an obsession for the last fifteen years so it takes a lot of scrutinizing if I’ve done the original justice. Sometimes you can’t deny a great half bar loop but everything goes through scrutiny if I’m doing it right.  If not, then it can’t come out because I’m not going to be happy about it.  It doesn’t matter who will rap on it or how the joint turns out.

With “America Inc.” we were listening to that [Dramatics] joint and he said he had an idea. It’s called “Road To Brooklyn.”  I chopped up the samples that you hear but it had no drums and I sequenced out the samples about three years ago.  The first cut is co-produced because he came with the drums later.  He got his man AG—call him the new AG because we don’t want the confusion with AG—he’s an artist from where Shake is from.  His name is Angel Gallahar and was always called AG since they were kids.  Shake sent the track off to him and that opening verse he had to be on the album leading it off.  Not a lot of people start off their album with a guest verse.  Ladybug is my wife who sang the hook parts that Shake wrote.  The rest is history.

Now Shake’s got gigs and gigs of beats of mine.  He’s been there just saying ‘that one’s mine.’  So he’s sitting on big folders.  What he did was pick all the beats he wanted for the most part and laid out and arranged all the beats first.  Then he wrote the album.  Then he came in and got the features squared away.

SUNEZ:  “The Rose’s Revenge

WOODENCHAINZ:  That “Revenge of the Roses” has a story to it too. Back when I was working on Sophisticated Movement with Kev that joint was the original beat for “Ask About Me” with Styles P and Bronze [Nazareth].  I was so proud of that beat.  I know others have hit those samples.  Maybe Statik Selektah and a couple of people.  I usually avoid that but originally I wanted “Ask About Me” to have that real Hip Hop Boom Bap feel to it.  I took Styles P vocals, sequenced his vocals on the hook. I remember I sent it to Kev. I was so geeked on the shit. I said, ‘check this out! This is the one!’  I didn’t hear from Kev for like two or three days.  He gets back and says it’s dope but he don’t think that’s it.  Damn!  I would’ve bet the winning lottery ticket for that being “Ask About Me.”  That was the only conflict on Sophisticated Movement and it wasn’t really that because me and Kev trust each others’ judgment.

SUNEZ:  So what makes a track wrong or right for an MC?

WOODENCHAINZ:  It’s a real fine line.  It could’ve come down to the way he originally thought it would sound in his head.  But it was a blessing in disguise.  The final choice on that song ended up crazy.  I came by Shake’s crib and I played the beat for him. I told him the story and Shake was like, ‘What?!’  He said, ‘you can leave that shit here.’ A day or two later I’m by Pipe’s crib and he stayed with the beat too.  Shake got his verse recorded and sent to me a day later.  Originally I was trying to use a sample of “It’s A Man’s World” but not the JB [James Brown] version. I used a live version that the MC5 did.  It has this part that sounds so crusty and has those chord progressions.  It was just going to be a track for me.

SUNEZ:  “A Pound of Flesh”

WOODENCHAINZ:  That’s Shake’s beat.  When I came to see him one day, he had the beat list laid out.  We were going through it and he wanted to get Bronze on this one.  Out of all the joints that he picked, and I know Bronze pretty good.  It’s not something I would expect to hear him on.  But when I heard the theme he had for it, it made sense.

Bronze was with it and Shake sent him the beat and what he wanted him to do with it. That was right before he went to Colombia [on tour with Wisemen] and he stays mad busy anyway.  It came down to about a three weeks before we started mastering the album.  I was at work when Bronze sent me that shit, the mp3 reference track, and that really is one of my top five Bronze verses ever just because of the subject matter.  Most people ask for Bronze features they want that rough and gritty Bronze, that “Poem Burial Ground” or “Blowgun” type shit.  As far as Bronze as an MC, I’ve always been more of a fan of “Blinded,” his more vulnerable verses.  One of my favorite verses is “Sinuhe’s Impasse,” one of his early tracks.

SUNEZ:  From an unorthodox request for Bronze, it goes to “Bruce Lee (Can I Kick It?).”

WOODENCHAINZ:  That came down to the wire on that.  He was on the fence about putting that out.  At the last minute I gave him a little nudge to put it on there.  It’s dope.  He’s flexin on it but I said you’re not going too far with it.  You’re still an MC and you gotta show them what you can do.  It’s part of the overall masterpiece.  A lot of the other songs aren’t political stuff. It just all deals with you being a man dealing with the current state of things.  You got other sides to you and showing them what you can do is a part of it.  He’s always fighting boredom. Everything always has to have interesting arrangements, changeups, tempo changes to it.  He gets real bored real quick with your three minutes, thirty second, three 16 bar verses and a couple of 8 bar hooks.  It’s also very reminiscent with old Shake cause his wordplay gets real clever even from the title of the song. His adlibs are real interesting.

SUNEZ:  “Religion & Nutrition (The Resistance)”

WOODENCHAINZ:  He did that one on his own and sent it in to be mixed.  When I was giving it the first few plays in my headphones I closed my eyes.  I could just picture someone at a podium kind of laying it all out but in the form and fashion as an entrancing public speaker.  I see people marching on the hook.  You get the vision of people marching on the hook parts and really buying into what he’s saying.  And what he’s saying is putting a lot of shit on blast.  It also shows peoples’ complacency that when a popular figure gets caught doing some vile shit people just write it off. Society will let you off the hook if you’re viewed as crazy enough or if what you got going is working.  You get the feeling when Shake is speaking it’s this mass of people living and dying by his every word.  But it’s anti-propaganda instead. He had all the arrangements like the march and step but I put a little distortion on it and added the bullhorn effect, screwed the vocals a little and the chant.  I also liked his arrangements as far as his bar counts. It starts off with a little longer verse but as it goes on its every 4 bars or 8 bars that it goes back into that hook.  So it’s like the crowd is getting more and more riled up and at the same time getting a little more in line.  So like I only have to tell you 4 bars now and you’ll keep marching.  That’s one of my favorite cuts on there

SUNEZ:  Then the Kevlaar 7 produced track, “American POWs

WOODENCHAINZ:  I originally picked that from Kevlaar and another one even though that’s the sample of Billy Paul and it’s been hit.  That was off the 360 Degrees of Billy Paul.  A lot of the records on that were 8 minutes long.  It’s the same one DJ Premier used for the Billy Danze track on Warriorz with the beat change. Also, RZA for “Babies.”  I actually kind of fell out of love for using it for myself.  When I got it from Shake, it was written as you hear it.  The only difference from the original cut and the final album cut is that intro with the helicopter and a little bit more of the Billy Paul sample.  The stem folder to mix that joint Kev pre-pitched all his samples so I had nothing to work with. So I went back into the Billy Paul record to cop that little piece and pitch match it to give it that feel.  The original Billy Paul joint is originally about prison and Shake, not even knowing that, had written the track.  He knew the song but not the whole song as I knew it.

SUNEZ: “ The Soundtrack”

WOODENCHAINZ:  That actual beat itself was a few years old. Me and Merc Versus had been part of a state wide beat battle way back in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Bronze and Kevlaar were the judges.  I wasn’t even going to enter.  At that time we were working on Sophisticated Movement so I didn’t want to be involved.  So I made ten beats real quick and that one was one of them.  Shake rode out with me and when I played that beat he asked what I was doing with it after the battle.  I ended up winning that beat battle too.

What makes that song so special to me is the first two verses were his times growing up in Louisville but that last verse is about us. Every time I hear that verse I think back about being on the highway to that trip out to Chicago.  For thirty seconds I can do that and I really appreciate that he did that on one of my beats. I love that track.

SUNEZ:  “Home of the Brave”

WOODENCHAINZ:  Another beat that was originally for my next project. I’m a huge David Ruffin fan.  Nobody had that voice and his solo joints, his post-Temptations solo albums.  He falls in that category of me not wanting to sample his stuff.  But I can’t deny it.  A lot of the compositions he was singing on plus his voice you could sample anything from him.  I believe that sample is from “Diner.” I had that and it was a little corner bar chops.  I’ve been working on my next project since A Beautiful View ended so there’s a lot of stuff that was going to be on it that didn’t make the cut.  I told him the track didn’t fit where my life’s at right now so it’s all you.  It’s another track where Shake is going in on it and flexing but has a dash of information.  The video of that track sums it up well.  There’s the scenes of where we live at and it all ties together.  The choice to drop that as a single was relatively easy because it’s aggressive enough to grab peoples’ attention.

SUNEZ:  “Made in America”

WOODENCHAINZ:  Kevlaar had sent that beat, with some others, to J Ronin in the early 2000s. That was one of the first beats Kev ever made.  Cappadonna ended up doing a verse on it.  Ronin had the track with Cappadonna forever.  It was one of those cutting room floor type songs.  When Kev was doing Die Ageless and recording out here at about the same time we recorded “Kings,” his original plan was to get Roc Marciano on the album.  I offered to produce a cut and he was with it.  I’m a huge Roc Marciano fan. I love Ka, that whole sound especially the two of them have is incredible to me.  That Marcberg still gets regular play with me.  I love the minimalist production and that’s what I was trying to replicate.  I had a couple of beats that Kev was going to send to him.  We’re listening to joint and I tell him that old cut Cappa put a verse on would be great.  So Kev sent it to Marciano but it just didn’t work out in the time frame.  So that beat was just out there again and it just clicked that Kev and Shake on that would be out of hand.

Shake was amazed at it because of the timing of the beat.  It’s not a 4/4. It’s more of a 4/6, like the pattern.  Kev be doing that.  Sometimes the samples Kev runs do that.  Instead of having four bars, four beats, there’ll be six bars of a sample and they overlap.  His production’s real interesting like that with the odd timing.  So Shake loved the joint and gave it a try and what you hear is him giving it a try.  The parts with the snare rolls he’s throws in that extra line then comes back into the verse.  When Kev wrote his verse he mirrored a lot of what Shake did on his verse.  It gives it a real cohesive feeling where someone just jumped on it.  And the content is heavy.  Kev’s verse he says they cross the street and clutch their valuables.  Valuable to who?  That totally smashes stereotypes.  A white man sees a Black man and might cross the road and hold his wallet tighter.  But that motherfucker ain’t no different than he is.  So valuable to who?  I don’t want your shit. I got my own.  I think that’s a real important track for what’s going on today.

SUNEZ:  “Mirror, Mirror”

WOODENCHAINZ:  That was originally over a different beat as well. Shake had wrote that to a beat that another MC had already used.  One of my Iron Workers Guild brethren, Relik.  He did it for a spoken word album he had, NPR: Nihilism Produces Revolution.  The sidebar on that is that the entire album only has three beats. The rest of them all he wanted me to do was create soundscapes so I really had fun just making noise.  He’s ultra-intelligent and lets it all go.  One of the three beats on there, which were more or less interludes he spit on.  The original “Mirror, Mirror” beat was one he had picked an Shake didn’t realize at the time.  Relik already made a demo version to that song for it.  So I told Shake just hit me the vocals and the tempo and I’ll cook something around it.  That’s actually a Willie Hutch sample and it’s rare.  I think it’s from the Mark of the Beast album.  I chopped the samples up, did the drum work.

SUNEZ:  “American Horror Story”

WOODENCHAINZ:  That’s a Lee Moses sample.  That was just a sequence I made a long time ago and Shake had heard it.  He loved it and took the file for the sequence which was only four bars. He tracked it out and wrote to it.  And homey Deadmics, Shake handpicked him for that track.  The thing about Deadmics that’s real dope to me is the fact that a lot of his writing is first person but a lot of his subject matter is about the, for lack of a better term, the ugly people. Ugly I mean just bad people.  He has a real ability to write from that point of view when he wants to. He’s one of the most gifted writers I know.  The whole premise of the track is the youth believing what they see on tv and media is true and that’s the scariest story out there.  Shake’s hook he took the Andre 3000 approach and pitched the vocals up.

SUNEZ:  “Mortal Kombat (The Demons)”

WOODENCHAINZ:  This is from the first person perspective of a kid in the situation that “American Horror Story” told in general.  “I told you I was trouble, I am what you made me” and the whole arrangement of the hooks was dope beucase he interjected a lot of sarcasm, for lack of a better term.  “Do you ride with the sheep or howl with the wolves?”  The bridges are basically a shout out to the past, the role models and figure heads saying, is that what you want for your kids?  It’s brilliant writing.

Ed G is in semi-retirement having a baby and doing what’s so much more important than any of this.  We call him our 9th Wonder because his best is so reminiscent of 9th’s work.  He showed it on that.

SUNEZ:  “Wounded Notebooks” is an intense track and I learned so much from Shake telling me about it.  That he couldn’t even finish all the verses for it.

WOODENCHAINZ:  That was originally over a different beat I had made years ago.  He heard it years ago too.  When he heard it his whole mood changed and got somber.  Later he told me the concept and it was one of those songs that popped up.  He actually recorded the demo on the original beat. It was one of the hardest things to do in having to come at him to do it.  I know what the track means to you and the personal risk to you to say these things but the beat is just not right.  The lyrics and the verses were way deeper and the beat didn’t hold it up right.  The way you hear it is another beat I made for my own album and I had it on a drive and it just clicked to use that.  He was reluctant at first but he vibed on the beat and did it.  A month later he sent me the joint and it sounded different.  On the demo there was a half verse after what you hear and he was always saying he was going to finish it.  What he’s gone through I know about but I don’t know if he’s ready to share it all with the whole world.

 This is one of the histories of Woodenchainz’ soul’d musical interludes. Creative  Interludes between building family that become LP scores for him and his brothers lives.  Here, the living, organic Hip Hop of America Inc that has planted seeds against the generically modifying rap ciphers.

WOODENCHAINZ PROFILE HERE

SHAKE C INTERVIEW HERE

SHAKE C – AMERICA INC. REVIEW HERE

@WOODENCHAINZ

@SH8KEC