Nicolay and Kay In this interview, WHO?MAG speaks to Nicolay and Kay about how the new album came together and also how the internet has helped their recording process to Nicolay’s production style and his future instrumental album.
By William Hernandez
WHO?MAG: Talk to me about the new album “Timeline”? NICOLAY: The “Timeline” album is coming out through Nicolay recordings. We’re excited about having it out.
KAY: Nic sent me the album and we recorded the songs. As far as how he set the songs, it touched on a number of different time frames. His style of production and what he did allowed us to come out with the concept.
WHO?MAG: How did the project come about? NICOLAY: It was a situation where Kay and I had worked before. Initially, it was his solo album “Top Shelf” and we recorded two tracks for that. We had met on Okayplayer and started talking about music. There was a track we recorded called “Seventh Scenario” which was with Strange Fruit Project and K-Otixs and a track called “My Thing” that had Tye Fifth on it. Unfortunately, the project never came out initially, so I was like we got to make sure this music gets heard and it ended up on my last album. After that, we found a chemistry. We’ve been comfortable working with each other and we kind of kept it going. We started talking about doing an album and that’s what happened.
WHO?MAG: How was the production process behind the album? NICOLAY: For me, it was situation I think we started out with just me sending Kay beats. I’d send them to him via email. He would pick the ones that were speaking to him and that were inspiring him to come up with ideas. He would record them and send the vocals back to me. I would do the mix and all that stuff and mastered it.
WHO?MAG: Kay, was it hard for you to write to Nicolay’s beats? NICOLAY: It was easy. I really like him as a person. To be honest, he pulled so much stuff out of me. He’s a real good friend and somebody that I trust over the years about giving good honest opinions about the stuff that I’ve done. Nicolay will tell you, he doesn’t do you normal “what people expect him to do”. He’s always trying to challenge himself as a producer/writer, kind of like you have to go along with the ride on that. He would send me stuff from different times and time signatures. I just took it upon myself to do the best that I could, providing writing that is worthy of being on that stuff.
WHO?MAG: Nicolay, talk me about your label and why you started it? NICOLAY: For me, ever since the “Foreign Exchange” album through BBE, I’m very grateful for the opportunity they gave me. But after that, I thought it would be better if I were to release my own material because there are a lot of things that you see in reality that people don’t really know what it’s like behind the scenes. When you start working with labels, you understand how things are going, how things work and you see well at least in my case, that’s how a lot of things go wrong that I felt didn’t need to go wrong. That was ultimately my motivation to start the label. Kind of like have an open channel for myself to release records that I want to have out on a bigger level that I want people to check out so I can pretty much release anything I want to see if it does well or not. It’s a cool position to be in and the “Timeline” album is extra special because it’s the first project on the label.
WHO?MAG: How is your relationship with BBE now that you started the label? NICOLAY: My relationship is fine. I’m not the type of person to have bad feelings toward anybody that I worked with. For me, it was time to evolve and that was done in all harmony so I don’t have any problems with anybody.
WHO?MAG: Kay, who are some of your influences as an emcee? KAY: I would say KRS ONE, Little Brother, Common, Mos Def, and Tribe Called Quest my favorite group of all time.
WHO?MAG: Nicolay, who are some of your influences? NICOLAY: A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, J Dilla, Slum Village. I listen to a lot of Prince and the Beatles. As a producer, Dilla was the dude I looked up most as a producer. He branched out and did things that were unheard of.
WHO?MAG: How is your production process when you’re in the studio? NICOLAY: For me it’s really simple, my studio is at the crib. I’m in there to spend as much time as I want on music. The cool thing is literally I’ll do months of work on it. For the most important thing is I’m given the opportunity to really spend as much time and effort in focusing on something as I can. That’s why I like to do albums because you pretty much have an hour to express yourself in a lot of different ways. To me, when I’m producing, that’s important to me, not just to make track after track after track, but just to put some sort of a feeling behind it that people will pick up on it and that they love that particularly quality about it.
WHO?MAG: What equipment do you use? NICOLAY: I recently started using Protools. Before that I always used Cool Edit Pro. I got keyboards, guitars, mixers whatever is necessary. A basic set up that really works.
WHO?MAG: How did the City Life 2.1 instrumental album come about? NICOLAY: The funny thing is not a lot of people know this. That was the first thing I released. I put it for free download on Okayplayer in 2003. Later, when it turned out people were feeling it. I made kind of like a beat tape deluxe. Then I came up with the concept of someone walking through the city and coming across all these different type of vibes. By the time we found out people were feeling it, BBE was interested in repressing it and put some bonus tracks on there. I’m working on the second volume and it’s going to be based on my experiences in Tokyo last year.