Beat Break is a new series in which we interview our favorite producers about five of their biggest songs—what inspired the beat, how the collaboration came about and the impact the record has had on their career. Really, it’s just an excuse to get nerdy about production with some talented people.
Google "Blended Babies" and try to find a photo that isn't of the many rappers they've produced for (spoiler: you won't. I tried it. I had to get the personal hookup for that picture above). That's pretty much a metaphor for the way JP and Rich Gains work: move in silence and let the music do the talking.
The downside of such an antisocial approach, especially in today's social media-driven world, is how easy is it get lost in the shuffle, to find yourself forgotten about underneath the proverbial mattress of music and content on which the masses sleep (in more ways than one). Which is partly why I was so keen to speak with Blended Babies for Beat Break because I firmly believe these guys are the most underrated producers in the game.
After meeting at Chicago's Columbia College in the early '00s, JP and Rich Gains combined their love for hip-hop, rock and weed into a sound that's as groovy as it is gritty. With JP being an expert blues guitarist and Rich providing the more traditional hip-hop production, Blended Babies have quietly served up speaker-slapping soul for the likes of Chance The Rapper, Freddie Gibbs and Kid Cudi, while teaming up with Anderson .Paak, Chuck Inglish and Asher Roth for full-length projects.
Blended Babies are fresh off the release of their latest album, 7, and have plenty more in the pipeline, including a possible return of Pulled Over By The Cops, the loose collective featuring Freddie Gibbs, Chuck Inglish, Bun B, King Chip (formerly Chip Tha Ripper) and themselves. "You’re gonna hear something new come out from that in the next year or two, for sure," says Rich.
Here are the stories behind five of Blended Babies' biggest songs.
Freddie Gibbs — “Oil Money” ft. Chuck Inglish, Bun B, Chip Tha Ripper & Dan Auerbach (2010)
"[Chuck] was a barber for a little while and gave me the worst haircut ever. I think I started wearing hats because of Chuck Inglish [laughs]."
Rich: “We made that beat in Chicago. My boy Brendan played bass on that. I was just playing some keys and we were smoking mad blunts. We came up with the bassline and the key part first. Then I think JP walked in from work—he had a job at the time—and played the organ over it.
“At the time, JP was working on one of The Cool Kids’ projects, so Chuck rapped his verse on [“Oil Money”] first. Chuck used to live above me in an apartment building in downtown Chicago. He was going to Art Institute, I was going to Columbia. We had a studio with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, so he would come hang out at my house and just smoke weed. He was a barber for a little while and gave me the worst haircut ever. I think I started wearing hats because of Chuck Inglish [laughs].
“After that, Chip had come through and recorded his vocals. JP recorded the entire Gift Raps album at our house. Freddie was at a listening party at a bar down the street one night. We met him through Andrew Barber from Fake Shore Drive, smoked a blunt outside and he came over and knocked his vocals out. I’d been talking to Bun B about mad shit—life or whatever else—so I sent him the record and [he] knocked it out and sent it right back.
“Dan Auerbach had been talking to me about doing stuff for a little while, he was just looking for something really bluesy—he had a specific sound that he wanted to do some hip-hop stuff on, he’s a really big hip-hop head. I sent him that record and he was like, 'holy shit, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for!' He sent us back the vocals. He’s one of the most genius people I’ve been in the studio with to this day.
“We never really deaded [Pulled Over By the Cops]. It’s funny because Bun called me a month or two ago and he was like, 'man, we need to put the band back together.' All the police violence and shit going on, that message would hit harder now than it would’ve then. We’ve always talked about doing new stuff. You’re gonna hear something new come out from that in the next year or two, for sure.”
Kid Cudi — “The End” ft. GLC, Chip Tha Ripper & Nicole Wray (2010)
Rich: “I was downstairs smoking weed, watching a documentary, buying soul songs on iTunes [laughs]. I came across some random shit by this dude Skip Mahoney and I was like, 'holy shit, this a fucking crazy sample.' So I’m on my laptop, sitting on the couch and I looped up that sample, put some drums over it. A couple days later, JP played bass over it.
“There was a point where every time we went to New York, The Cool Kids and myself would always go hang out at Dame Dash’s crib-slash-studio. He had this spot called DD172 where Curren$y and Mos Def and Ski Beatz would hang out, smoke weed, watch movies, paint, make beats—do whatever. I was in the basement with Nicole Wray and Om’mas Keith—he did all the Frank Ocean stuff, fucking legendary dude—and he was just like, 'play me some shit, Rich.'
“We were smoking weed and Dame was passed out on the couch. I just happened to pull that beat up and Om’mas was like, 'oh man, this is fucking crazy!' He grabbed a guitar and played some bass over it. Dame wakes up and is like, 'what the fuck is this? This shit is fucking crazy, b!' Dame went and grabbed Nicole and was like, 'yo, you gotta sing on this shit.' She cut the vocals literally in the middle of a basement, no vocal booth.
“I went back to Chicago a couple days later and I was like, 'JP, I got some shit bro.' Played it for him, gave him the files, he mixed it up. GLC rapped on it first. He called me one day after I’d given him that beat and he rapped me that whole verse over the phone. The first line is like, 'My brother told me a long time ago / Don’t focus where you been, G, focus where you tryna go.' But the original lyric was, 'Kanye told me a long time ago.' That’s who he was talking about in that first line.
“Chip heard the record, rapped on it. Then Chip played it for Cudi on a tour bus when they were tripping balls on mushrooms. Cudi heard it and was like, 'yo I gotta add my magic.' He put his verse on it. The rest was history. That was the first major placement we ever got. Plain Pat emailed me and offered us—I can’t even remember how much money, man—like five or 10 grand. And we were like, 'yeah, of course, bro! Done! Cudi album? Sure! Can’t wait!'"
Asher Roth — “Common Knowledge” (2011)
JP: “That beat was made on the spot at my boy Nick Breton’s Truth Studios in West Hollywood. It was during the time we were all working on Pabst & Jazz with Asher. I was in the studio with him playing him beats and he heard the start of that song and just started rapping.
“I hung out with Asher for three days straight. I slept over at his apartment at the time in Culver City, and he had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game and a ping pong set. Basically, I brought all the files that me and Rich had been working on—all the new beats and stuff—and I just played him stuff and he would start writing. He was so motivated and into it.
“I would go play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and every time I got to Shredder towards the end, I would let him know like, 'yo, you gotta finish your verse.' And he would do it! It was a weird back-and-forth. I’d be done with the game and then we would record the song. We did five songs a day for three days, so we did about 15 songs in total. After that, me and Rich went and got the rest of the people on there. It was pretty amazing.
"We got to go on tour because of [Pabst & Jazz], so that was cool. Those three days were super special. We had so many ideas and it was so cool to have an outlet through Asher. It was such good vibes that me and Rich didn’t really have to think about it. All the ideas just came to us.”
Rich: “That record laid the foundation for what RetroHash would be. RetroHash was really Pabst & Jazz 2.”
JP: “We still talk to [Asher] a lot. You don’t even know how many tracks we still have in the vault that are unreleased.”
Rich: “We have two more RetroHashs and Pabst & Jazzs right now.”
Chance The Rapper — “Smoke Again” ft. Ab-Soul (2013)
"Chance was rapping in the studio. And I actually had to turn around and say, ‘hey buddy, I really like what you’re doing, but is there any way you can do that in the hallway?’"
Rich: “That was made in Chicago. I remember JP was sitting in front of a Motif keyboard and was pulling up tones and making a beat all on one keyboard. I would be like, 'nah…nah….nah' until we found that horn sound. We recorded that, I started writing raps over it and he pulled it all into Reason and did those super dope 808s. I wrote like a full Juicy J, demeaning-ass, fuck bitches, get money-type verse. I told JP like, 'you gotta record this! You gotta record this!'
JP: “I didn’t want to record the verse.”
Rich: “Honestly bro, these eight bars are really fucking good. I was like, ‘I’m gonna use these eight bars as the hook, chop and screw it, and bounce out the files.’ But nobody used that shit for years. And then Chance was at our house in LA and was playing beats off JP’s laptop and found that one, and that was it.”
JP: “We also got a live drummer on it, my homie from church. He’s an amazing drummer. That’s a big part of our sound—the fact that people don’t know that’s a drum loop, it’s actually a guy who came into our house in Chicago and played the drums. That’s why it’s got that syncopation on it. Stuff like that makes a difference.
“[Chance] used to sit in on sessions and often ask Rich for advice while I was upstairs mixing songs with The Cool Kids or something. There also a time when I was at Rap Trax, a recording studio in Chicago, and Kids These Days were there. I was their engineer. I was tracking all their shit, Vic brought a bunch of friends, and one of them was Chance. He was in the studio and was super hyper, so I was like, ‘who is this dude?’
“Vic and all them made a song and it was so good that Chance was rapping in the studio. And I actually had to turn around and say, ‘hey buddy, I really like what you’re doing, but is there any way you can do that in the hallway?’ He laughed and was like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ He kinda felt embarrassed, but at the time, I didn’t even know that was Chance. I had met him, but I didn’t know who he was gonna be. He was super humble so it wasn’t a negative thing at all.”
Rich: “We knew [Acid Rap] was going to be big because we worked with him on 10 Day and we saw the growth from 10 Day to before Acid Rap dropped. But we didn’t know that song was going to be what it was. We didn’t even know he was going to shoot a video for it.
"We actually had a song with Kendrick before we had a song with Ab-Soul. There’s an artist we work with called ZZ Ward, on her first album, a song called ‘Cryin Wolf.’ So Dave Free from TDE would come over to our crib and smoke weed with us when he was trying to sign Chance. I think Ab-Soul got on ‘Smoke Again’ basically through Dave — that’s a whole other story, you gotta ask Dave about that one.”
JP: “I couldn’t be fucking happier [for Chance], I couldn’t be happier to be involved in [Acid Rap], I feel blessed. I hope he becomes president of the whole world.”
Rich: “Chance for President, dog!”
Blended Babies — “Make It Work” ft. Anderson .Paak, Asher Roth & Donnie Trumpet (2015)
JP: “That beat was made at our Los Angeles 'Blender' in West Hollywood. My buddy Rami [Beatz]—he makes beats for Kid Cudi and people like that, he’s super dope—he came over and played some keys. I recorded them while playing bass with him, then kinda threw that drum loop together over it. Donnie Trumpet stopped by one day, heard the beat and flipped out. I think that was after Anderson had done a freestyle to it because me and Rich would have him come over and play him beats and not say anything for, like, two hours while he’d freestyle.”
Rich: “That entire [Anderson .Paak EP] is pretty much Anderson freestyling.”
JP: “And then he would rewrite them after the fact. The freestyle [for ‘Make It Work’] was so fucking amazing that I had been bumping that with people for a while. But he finally came back and recorded the lyrics, and I almost dropped to the floor when I actually heard what they were.
“Once again, I played that for Donnie Trumpet and he flipped out. Immediately, he knew exactly what to do and that song just became epic after that. Asher had been coming to our crib so much, he heard that beat and I swear to God he begged me like, ‘you have to let me rap on that!'”
Rich: “He was sat on the couch and was like, 'JP, please let me rap on this!’ He was breaking up with his girl or some shit at the time. There’s multiple people involved in that song who were going through breakups. That was just the cathartic expression of that shit.
"Evan Bogart—he’s our publisher and has written songs for Rihanna and shit—he was trying to sign Anderson. JP and I had a meeting with him and he played us that ‘Suede’ song, and we fucking freaked out. We were like, ‘you have to link us with this dude.’ He came through, we vibed and recorded like 20 songs.
“[The EP] was actually his idea. [‘Make It Work’] was gonna be on Malibu. He joked with JP about getting Drake on it or something, ’cause he was recording that song with Dre at the time. He texted us one day like, 'I can’t come over ‘cause I’m at Dr. Dre’s house.' We were like, 'don’t come over, bro. Stay there.' [Laughs] And he was like, 'man, I wanna do an EP before my shit comes out.' JP and I were like, 'fuck yeah, bro.'
JP: “We did whatever we could to get that shit out at that point."
Rich: “It’s one of those projects where really big fans of his are gonna be discovering for years and years. There’s probably gonna be a vinyl reissue of that pretty soon.”
JP: “We vibed super hard with [Anderson]. He never touched a drum set or made a beat when he was with us—he was so humble. He would say, 'man, I love the soul in your guys’ music. I just wanna decorate it.' Every time we got with him, I was like, 'he is one of the most talented people I have ever come across in my whole life.'"
Rich: “He’s like the new Stevie Wonder, man.”
JP: “He’s like Ray Charles to me. He’s that good.”
I also asked Blended Babies about Kid Cudi and King Chip's "Chillen While We Sippin," which they produced with Chuck Inglish. In 2014, the unreleased song was uploaded to Chuck's SoundCloud, which resulted in Cudi lashing out at Chuck and threatening him with a lawsuit. The story behind that is just as wild.
Rich: “The real story behind that is: Chuck made a beat for Cudi, Cudi rapped on it in New York one time. Chuck brought the files with him to our house, 'cause Cudi had given him the files to finish the song. One night I was going through the computer, found that shit, smoked some weed, remixed it, JP added some magic to it. Chip had come through later and added a verse to it. Later, Cudi came through to work on 'The End' or something, heard it, loved it, didn’t do anything with it, so the record just sat there for, like, five fucking years.
“Fast forward to a year or two ago, The Cool Kids got booked for a crazy high-paying show for some billionaire in Bangkok. I went with them to Thailand. Me, Mikey and PJ—the guy’s DJ—went out partying fucking hardcore one night. I mean, Bangkok wasted. Get back to the hotel room and I’m just playing music loud as fuck. I was like, 'man, this song is dope as fuck! How is this shit not out there?' So I just put together quick artwork and uploaded it to SoundCloud. Chuck had absolutely no idea.
“The next morning I wake up and it’s like worldwide, 'New Kid Cudi Song!' I thought people would think it was an old Kid Cudi song that was unreleased. I was shitface wasted in Thailand, bro. You have regular drunk, then there’s Bangkok, Thailand, Hangover 3 drunk. That’s pretty much where I was at. You know, there’s like a dead guy in the ice box [laughs].
“People loved the song because, obviously, it’s a great fucking song. But Cudi flipped out—rightly so to a degree, because in hindsight, what I did was definitely not right. But I dunno, after like half a decade, if you’re not gonna put that song out for the people, then you really can’t be too mad about it.
"I feel bad about what ensued with Chuck and Cudi afterward, but I also don’t think Cudi was necessarily angry about that song coming out because of conversations he had with mutual friends. I think he was more upset that he wasn’t included in the release. In all honesty, if I ever run into him, I would apologize. But I am happy the world got to hear it.
“That was my Hangover Part 3 moment, bro.”