Ceewhy : I'm a real understudy of music, not just hip-hop
Ceewhy has built a name for himself locally through a number of albums, mixtapes, and powerful performances with his band Gorilla Panic, but his latest album, Freedom=Genius, may be his most tightly realized piece to date. Gimme Noise caught up with the rapper and band frontman to talk about the new album and how he approaches music.
Gimme Noise: The record seemed to have a real pop sensibility on a number of songs.
Ceewhy: As I'm working on it and getting it done, I'm sitting here with Garrison [Grouse] from Breakfast Anytime - he co-produced it with me, me and him are super tight, that's my brother - we're listening to it in the first stage of mixing, and he looks at me, like, "Dude, there's a lot of pop records on there!". But I feel like it's still so hip-hop.
It felt really natural, it didn't seem forced.
It's a fine line to walk. I make what I want, but I want to share it. I don't need them to love it, but I want them to. I think of myself like a chef. I'm making food that I like, but I want you to like it too
What was the process of writing this album?
I got stems for everything and I went in personally and arranged everything the way that I wanted it. The first stage was getting the beats and putting them together, King Karnov did production, DJ Corbett did production, Garrison Grouse did production, Mike Forte did production, and a couple of cats Wizard was working with over in the UK like Pete Cannon, Appetite, they collabed on a couple beats. Wrote the songs, wrote the hooks out, recorded it, listened to it. I like to be involved in the whole process. Garrison did the mixing and mastering, but I was there every day to track every second. I love just being a rapper and being lyrical, just going, no concept, no idea, just going. Just staying fit lyrically like that. But I always feel like I should give people options. The way that we perform these songs at shows is different than what you're gonna hear on the album. So, you might not like the album, but you'll dig the shows. You may not like the shows, but you'll dig the album. Or both, which is better for me. It's slight differences that are entertaining.
How do you translate material from the album to the live show? You play with a live band?
Always. I'll rarely do solo shows, because I feel like it's not a proper representation of the music. It's real hippy, real communal. I write everything, arrange everything, put it all together and figure it out for the fellas, then I bring it in. I make sure to bring in a myriad of songs, whether it's ones I've recorded to or beats I've picked that I didn't record to so they can breathe new life into things that I wouldn't have thought of. What I do with my band, I direct traffic, [but] everybody has the chance to make it their own. There was a song called "Cruise Control" that was super hip-hop, but by the time we got a hold of it, it was straight Fishbone punk rock. I encourage my bandmates to make things their own and put spins on things. Though I'm the leader of the band, I don't want to minimize my brothers. If I'm not going to use your thoughts or expertise as a player, why wouldn't I just keep going off a two-track?
Even [the fact that] we're going under my name, that wasn't my decision, that was their decision. When we first decided we wanted to be a band, I asked what to change the name to. They said "Ceewhy", and I'm like, the fuck for? They said, "Well you've already kind of made a name and it'd be a shame to drop it", and we argued for about a month. I really love and respect these dudes. Shout out to LA my drummer, Efron the keys player, and Josh on bass. We're short a guitar player, Garisson is playing guitar for us now. We're actually making a transition; the name Ceewhy as far as representing the whole band is about to go away. On the flyer, it's Ceewhy plus Gorilla Panic; after this project is done, we'll just be Gorilla Panic. I'll still be Ceewhy, and I can do solo stuff if I want under my own moniker.