Mello Music Group is looking more active than ever in 2015 with a label compilation and a few other projects under their belt three months in. Next up on the release schedule is Detroit rapper Red Pill with his project Look What This World Did To Us. Having already dropped a three-track EP of his at the beginning of the year, Mello Music Group is releasing his label debut full-length at midnight. The album has been years in the making and Red Pill is a mix of excited and nervous for the world to finally hear it. We caught up with him to ask him about the concepts of the project, working with producers like Oddisee and L’Orange, getting drunk for a music video and more.
Your album, Look What This World Did To Us, drops on Tuesday. What are your feelings right now?
Red Pill: I’m really excited for the album to come out. It’s my best work to date, what I think is my most complete project. Mello and I have worked very hard over the last year to make sure every part of this album is right, from the photo shoots, to the artwork, to the mixing/mastering. It’s a long process. There’s nervousness, anticipation, artistic anxieties, business anxieties. And there’s even a nostalgia for the process, looking back on the creation of the album and then finally getting to release it. It’s a very personal album both in the actual music and the work we put in to make it happen, so there’s a lot of emotional and material investment in it. But overall, just excited for people to finally get a chance to hear it.
From the songs we’ve heard, it seems like a lifetime worth of work to mold the concept of the project. How long did it take you to complete it from the first song written?
In a lot of ways it is a lifetime of work. I think for a lot of musicians and other artists, you’re always pulling from and building on earlier work or inspirations or ideas, but either didn’t have the resources or the ability to create exactly what you wanted at the time. Some of these song concepts are four or five years old. Some of the lyrics were written over two years ago but got repurporsed on songs for the album. But when I was writing them I didn’t know they’d end up on this record. I had a few songs here and there, some lyrics, a beat or two, in the works for a few years. But I really sat down to shape the scattered ideas into a cohesive project in December 2013 and finished writing it in May 2014. I recorded it and had it mixed that summer, and had it mastered and completed shortly after. Making an album can be a long process.
You must feel a bit relieved on top of the anxiety that the album is finally about to be released. What would be the difference if you didn’t have Mello Music Group on your side? How involved are they in the whole process?
Yeah its absolutely a huge relief. At this point no matter what the reception is or the sales, it’s coming out regardless. So there’s a relief in knowing it’s no longer in my hands.
And there’d be huge differences without Mello’s support. I think first and foremost the cosign has an immediate impact. I have to back it up, but Mello is becoming one of those labels that I think people see as a trustworthy brand. If Mello Music Group signs a new artist, I think fans give them a chance based on their knowledge that Mello puts out consistent quality. I’m the new guy at the party, but since Mello brought me, you’re willing to give me a chance. If I make a good impression with you, the next time you see me you’ll hopefully remember me. And that relationship continues to build to the point that now we’re friends, I’m not just Mello’s friend. So that’s important. And then there’s the obvious business resources; having a publicist for the first time, not having to wonder how I’m going to come up with the money to have my CDs printed, getting access to other artists, rappers and producers.
And I can’t speak for other people on the label, but for me Mello is very involved in the process, in a good way. I keep Mike Tolle, the owner of Mello Music Group, in the loop on the creative end and he does the same on the business end. And those two worlds meet pretty frequently and we offer each other insight. I’m on the phone with Mike at least a couple times a week going over strategy, bouncing album ideas off of each other. Mello has a track record that I think speaks for itself. So there’s a trust that I have that I believe in what they’re doing for me and value whatever advice I get from them. Mello’s main goal is good music, good art. I have a great relationship with the label.
You were involved with the ‘Persona’ compilation, you worked with Apollo Brown for the Ugly Heroes project, and L’Orange produced your latest single, “That’s Okay” and the list goes on regarding Mello Music Group collaborations. How would you describe your relationship with your label mates and should we be expecting you to be more involved with them?
My relationship with other artists is pretty good. Apollo Brown is like a big brother to me, he really changed my life by offering me the opportunity to be part of Ugly Heroes, which eventually led to me signing with Mello. I see him around every once in awhile in Detroit which is cool. And I consider L’Orange a friend as well. I’ve officially done three tracks with him, all of which have turned out to be some of my personal favorite tracks. We talk now and then and I’m always happy to hear what he’s working on.
With Mello, we don’t all share a home base like a Stones Throw in LA, or Rhymesayers in Minneapolis, so it’s a little difficult to develop really strong relationships with everyone. But when someone like Mike Eagle has a show in the Detroit area, I’m always going to try to make it out and support. If I need something from one of them, it’s just an email away to Mello and everyone has been supportive so far. And I’m always down to contribute musically, offer advice, etc… as well.
The Internet is a great place. You seem to associate yourself a lot with Detroit in an age where the Internet seems to be a lot of up-and-comers “home.” How much has Detroit influenced your life, especially your new album?
Detroit has given me a very blue collar approach to my music. We’re part of the Rust Belt, everyone has seen the pictures of the forgotten factories and empty businesses. The blight and the ruin porn. We all know about it and most people are tired of it being exploited.
With that said it has an affect on you if you’re exposed to it daily. It’s a constant reminder of who we are as Midwestern people. And for me I think that’s driven a folk inspired brand of hip hop. An everyman mentality that pushes me to create music inspired by every day people and experiences. I can’t say that I Detroit or Michigan in general directly inspired my new album, but it created the kind of economic environment that became the inspiration for the album. When I graduated from Michigan State University, I ended up at a small machine shop working while I was pursuing music. Ugly Heroes was me writing about my time at the plant and Look What This World Did To Us is the aftermath of my time there. I found myself depressed, drinking a lot, living check to check. From that I found inspiration for the album.