When listening to music, regardless of genre, is there anything more refreshing than hearing honesty emanating from the speakers, seeping into our subconscious and creating a smile on our soul? We all know special songs or albums that accomplished this through the years. Just turn that special music on right now and feel how your spirit vibes to the art; a sort of healing takes place as a result despite the circumstances that you might be going through.
Up steps the 1978ers. yU and Slimkat are a duo that bring honesty and integrity to their music. Readers of this may have seen their names on various Mello Music Group releases (yU as part of Diamond District and Slimkat on production duties) over the years. So, to say that People of Today is their debut album may appear a little misleading. Immediately apparent is the quality of music and the genuine love of the craft that permeates throughout, an ethos that yU and Slimkat appear to effortlessly incorporate.
I had a chance to talk with yU and get some insight into the group’s origins and overall creative process. As I wrapped up this article, their latest project was providing the soundtrack to my words. My suggestion would be to do something similar as you read this article and gain a little more understanding into the 1978ers.
How did you and Slimkat hookup and form this incarnation called the 1978ers?
I mean, we’ve been working together since about ’98 and we come up from the same music scene. We’ve lived together about four different times; he’s like my brother. Slimkat even introduced me to my daughter’s –my first child- mother. It’s crazy. He’s just in a lot of different parts of my life.
In terms of doing music, he showed me how to use the drum machine or how to use a mixing board. Slimkat was the cat who I could play ideas for and we eventually started to collab on each other’s work over time. This album sort of brings it all together with us officially putting something out besides a song here and there.
Working together was going on during all the Diamond District recording as well. “Off the Late Night” (from Diamond District’s In The Ruff) was originally a 1978ers’ song. Oddisee heard the song while we were bouncing down some tracks and he was like, “Do you think we can use that for the Diamond District album?” I felt it would be a good way to prep people up for what the 1978ers plan to do.
The album is different, maybe a little more experimental, from Diamond District and your solo material. Where does this project fit in the overall scheme of things?
When Slimkat and I got together, we realized we both had a lot of similarities besides being born in the same year. We both played instruments in school: I played the trumpet and French horn and he played the trombone. We had no idea of that leading to what we’re doing now, but it plays a part in our sound. Like the records we listen to, I wanted live instrumentation, but I didn’t want something to be super duper clean, you know, make something that someone can sample from, a way to add onto the culture and build on the foundation.
The thing I like about Slimkat’s approach is that he would get a feeling for the record by listening to it from beginning to end, not just settling on the opening section. When you do that you hear all the little parts of the record that give it that overall feel and mood. We’re just cracking the surface with developing our sound, too, and putting things into play for the next project. But in terms of crafting this one, we had our boy, Andrew Flores, come through to help orchestrate the sound. He’s at George Mason University and he has a lot of musician friends up there. If we needed a horn section or whatever, he would help arrange it.
A lot of these songs were done prior to Before Taxes and The Earn, as both of those projects were supposed to fall under 1978ers. Things happen and Slimkat got busy and I pretty much had to take the helm in terms of how the album was going to sound. This time around, our project really showcases Slimkat’s sound. I’m just glad for people to be able to hear his sound since we’ve been putting down songs for a little while now. The age of a song isn’t as important to me, especially if I feel it’s good. If a song is, let’s say, six years old and is still hitting me a certain way, it means something.
I know you handle the majority of the lyrical duties. Does Slimkat jump on the mic at all?
Naw, but I wanted that to happen (laughs). He should have because back in the day he was an MC. There were pics of him back in ’96 rhyming with The Roots on stage with Malik B and Rahzel was beatboxing. Honestly, that’s what sets him apart from a lot of producers. When he’s making a beat, he’s bobbing his head and mumbling to it like he wants someone to rhyme on it. Similar to Dilla, Slimkat will direct people’s flow to make sure they completed the song according to the original vision of the producer. We’re both particular about that part of the production process.
Diamond District has its own angle. These are both families though, like this is my momma’s side and that is my father’s side. When I go on either side, there are different ways of interacting and certain places where I fit in. I have a different role within Diamond District. With 1978ers, I get to experiment a little bit more because it’s three different people within Diamond District and ideas have to be ran through the various channels, which creates a different vision for projects. At the end of the day, it’s all about making good music.
I’m kind of like the elder in Diamond District by me being the oldest. However, I don’t try to be like the know-it-all and act like I’ve seen it all or heard it all before. I like how XO and Oddisee interpret things when they were coming up. They put me onto things or ideas that I may be unfamiliar with and vice versa. I’m not mad at nobody; these are my footsteps. My pops told me, “Do what makes you happy. If you’re not getting what you want out of it, you got more work to do.”
Going forward, where are you trying to take 1978ers?
We are both picking up instruments. Slimkat also engineers at this venue called Bohemian Caverns/Liv where all these Jazz musicians come through. This is a way to get closer to the music and musicians themselves. One of the things we have in common is a general love and appreciation for music. Effectively listening to music is like being able to travel without leaving your house. In the long run, we’re just going to keep building. We’ve got an idea for a next album.
Aside from working on our material, Slimkat is working on placements and things like that. Hopefully, in the future you’ll see us implementing ourselves more into other people’s projects, bringing that sound to other people. I like crafting a project and making it flow. I spent so much time on getting the skits right on project to create a proper flow, just rounding it out. I would love to do that for others. There’s a song on the album called “Give It Up (feat. Kima Aldridge),” which basically gives appreciation to a few cats when I was just a fan of Hip Hop. Then I had a chance to meet them and it was a positive experience; they were really cool. Let’s face it: not every experience is going to be like that, but these two experiences were. These artists embraced us and tried to help us get further with what we’re doing. This song is like a tribute to them. I want to do albums and give props and appreciation to the people that have helped out. It’s more about the whole picture, widening people’s vision on this music that we’re doing, not just me. There were a lot of people who came before us and there will be a lot of people after us. If you’re connecting those bridges, that’s when you know you’re really doing something.