Exile has a been a formidable force in the underground hip-hop scene for two decades now producing tracks for artists like Aloe Blacc, Snoop Dogg, Mobb Deep, Big Sean, Pharoahe Monch as well as a slew of others. We recently got a chance to talk with him about his storied career as well as what’s next for him as he looks for new ways to continue his prolific career and cement his legacy.
For those who don’t know you, introduce yourself a little bit.
Exile, Los Angeles, Dirty Science Crew/Records, Emanon, Blu and Exile, Dag Savage, Hip-hop god of the pacific. Beats, live MPC, raps, graffiti, Killer of Giants.
How did you first start making music?
A home stereo system, with a turntable at the top, below was the AM/FM tuner and tape deck. I would hold down the tape button and press in the phono button to cut the sound in and out while scratching a Star Wars record. That’s how it started. From there, I got another stereo system and another turntable where I’d click the sound in an out by pressing in the A&B speaker button – basically the buttons that you pressed to turn speaker A and B off and on. So I would click the sound in and out with my thumb. I basically used the speaker button as a crossed figure on the turntable and learned how to scratch very well. Keep in mind this is pre-Internet folks, no videos to show me what to buy and how to do what. Just a young imagination trying to figure it out on my own. From that point, I finally got a DJ mixer, and I had two tape decks and one turntable. I knew I wanted to make beats but I didn’t know how, so I used the turntable and a tape deck to make loops. I’ll try to explain: while pressing record on the tape, I would scratch in with the turntable, two bars of the song, and then create a two bar space before playing yet another two bars, and repeat for about 3 minutes. Sounds like a recipe for like a soufflé… anyway… so then I would have a tape that would have used two bar loops but would have two bars of silence in between. I wouldn’t take that tape and play it or record another tape, so I could scratch in the missing two bars. So then I would have a tape of a fully completed loop. I wouldn’t take that tape player in the other tape deck while recording in the other one, and then I would scratch in horns, then I would take that tape and play the full loop with the horns and then add more and more and more, etc. etc. I had an infinite amount of tracks at 15 years old… mind you this is before laptops, Internet, or any of that. I’m very thankful for this experience and to be able to create a pop in this way. This was a magical time.
What was the first big moment for you in your music career?
Well after making mini mix tapes and songs on for track, with Aloe Blacc, a fan of ours pressed vinyl for us. This was then played on mainstream Los Angeles radio Power 106FM, on the underground show called Friday Night Flavors with J.Rocc, minus Mr. Choc and The Baker Boys. This pretty much flipped out me and Aloe and let us know that we were on the right track.
What’s your personal favorite song or project you’ve made or worked on?
1996, Imaginary Friends with Aloe Blacc. Very rare cassette tape. That and Below The Heavens, 2007, Blu and Exile.
One of the projects you’re best known for is your album with Blu, Below The Heavens. What was it like to see the reception when it first came out as well as the impact it still has on hip-hop today?
It was a blessing, it was like a dream come true. Me and Blu have made many dreams come true for ourselves but this was just sort of the incline of all the dreams. I’ve always wanted to make something that was thought of as a classic for the West Coast. It was one of my major goals.
You just released a project with Aloe Blacc, who you’ve worked with for years now. What was the process like making Dystopia?
Making a lot of beats. And listening to a lot of raps, recording a lot of beats and recording a lot of raps.
Any artists that you want to give a shoutout to that people might not know about?
The Last Artful, Dodgr.
What’s next for Exile?
Dirty Science Crew.
(Interview by Graeme Bainbridge, Hip-Hop Music Director)