Interview: Producer Shafiq Husayn on his psychedelic upcoming album & collaborations with Erykah Badu, Hiatus Kaiyote
By Sound Check
January 10, 2014
Since the release of his critically acclaimed 2009 album En’ A-Free-Ka, fans of the Grammy Award Winning producer, Shafiq Husayn have been awaiting his next complete album. I’m pleased to inform you that the wait is almost over. Shafiq, who has worked with the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, Prince, Erykah Badu and John Legend, will be releasing new album, The Loop sometime in the spring and it is jam packed with some of the juiciest names within in the soul genre.
You’ll be hearing a lot from Shafiq Husayn this year. Not only is his own project dropping, he also has collabs out in 2014 with Krondon, Erykah Badu, Hiatus Kaiyote, Bilal, Taz Arnold, Jametta Rose and Anderson Paak (and several more). There will also be a shiny, brand spanking new Sa-Ra album out this year for fans to sink their teeth into, which will see the group releasing a single each month. Good times ahead.
By Ayara Pommells, AFROPUNK Contributor *
Photo Credit: Eric Coleman
You have a new album coming out. The Loop. What made you decide to call it that?
For a couple of different reasons. The Loop is an acronym for Love’s Infinite Power. It’s a seamless album. It’s a continuation from En’ A-Free-Ka. A little bit more diverse but everything is still relative. It’s trippy. It’s wavy. Psychedelic.
The sound of the album is going to be psychedelic?
I would say people would think so. Psychedelic. A hint of it.
Do you have any features on this album?
Yes. We have Robert Glasper. We have Miguel Atwood Ferguson. Erykah Badu. Hiatus Kaiyote. Bilal. Om’Mas Keith, J Mitchell, Flying Lotus…
Hiatus Kaiyote are fairly new but have managed to create a huge buzz during 2013. What were they like to work with?
It was great. It was fun. We have the same manager. She [Nai Palm] wasn’t feeling good the first day when we started working but we managed to pull out a song that winded up on my album. It was amazing.
And Erykah Badu?
Erykah is like working with your favorite sister in the family.
A lot of jokes?
Mama Sista. [laughs]
I have to ask about Prince because he is one of my all-time favorites. What’s he like?
Technically, I’ve worked with him twice. I worked with him on the “Gett Off” remix. I didn’t meet him that time. But then we worked with Nikka Costa and then we got him. But, he’s Just like us. Just like us. Straight down to earth. No BS. Strictly about the music.
Do you have any favorites on The Loop?
That’s a hard one. I would say I like the song called “Howard’s Way”. I have a song called “It’s Better For You” featuring Anderson Paak (formerly Breezy Lovejoy). I have a song called “May I Assume”. That’s pretty amazing with Fatima . It’s pretty packed from start to finish.
You do a lot of work within the community. Do you feel as though there’s still that community element within the culture?
Yes and no. By default, yes because of the cliquing. Community is basically common unity. And so when you say “cliques” or “circles”, that’s usually based on that common interest or that common thing they have. So these are the ones that hang out to make it their community or their society. But every society may be different as far as how it applies the hanging out. So, you see it but you don’t see it in its proper context. You can see the principle of it working but the outcome is still not fruitful because it’s only benefitting a certain group of people. On the flipside, if people got together sincerely, wholeheartedly they could see the benefit. That it could have a far more reaching benefit because of their active unity. Common unity.
If you had to pick one book that you’ve read over the years that has impacted you the most, which book would that be?
Mmmm… That’s a tough one. Can I just say a style of book?
It wouldn’t be fair for me to say just one book. It isn’t possible. I’ll say any book dealing with the Knowledge of Self. Anything that will tell you that you have a higher self and a lower self and give you clear instructions on what it is. How it works and how you can basically overcome it or use it properly.
Would that be cross faith? I know that certain schools of thought deal with Knowledge of Self but really they just mean it in one particular platform. Is that regardless of your religion, regardless of your culture?
That’s exactly it. Because when you say higher self and lower self, everybody got one of those. Regardless of whether you’re so-called “religious” or not. Everybody got a conscious. Everybody got a soul. Everybody got flesh. Everybody got faculties to think and people have the ability to act out on those faculties. You may have particular schools of thought who may apply… I’m gonna use a wristlock. Because all martial arts teach a wristlock. All martial arts teach some form of forward punch but depending on which school you’re in, they may use it slightly differently, but the intent of the usage is the same.
What are some of the themes and messages in The Loop?
Love. Love and everything is connected. There’s nothing separate. Every living thing is bound to every other living thing. It puts you in the frame of mind of presence. Some topics on the album are metaphors and some are very direct. Some of them are a blend but they’re pretty much talking about one thing. Talking about life. So out of these 12 songs, there should be pretty much something on there for everybody no matter what level you’re on.
Will there be any visuals coming?
Absolutely. Yes. We have tons of movies and shorts and slides. Documentaries, videos, art pieces. It’s pretty much a collaborative effort from what we call the Dove Society, which is basically a creative collective from a group of artists, musicians, writers, visual, and graphic…Every format media. It’s pretty much a multimedia house of intellectual property. We chose to get ourselves together and create economy instead of waiting on somebody to give us money. Creativity doesn’t cost anything.
A lot of artists nowadays seem to be moving away from trying to get major deals and self funding instead. Are you pro KickStarter campaigns and IndieGo-Go type platforms?
Absolutely. You have more control over your situation. I saw something interesting the other night. An artist who started off as a standing mime, like the standing mannequins in public? She said she went from having that to basically having a frame of mind of asking. She said when she had a band, she could see the levels of pride and vanity in each particular person. One person might have been a little too proud to actually put the hat out and ask somebody for the money. But having her training as a mime and being in public and rejected so many times, it basically strengthened her. So when it was time for her to hit the stage and performing in front of people in live subways to big stages, she already had that mentality of what we’re talking about of entrepreneurship. She didn’t have any shame in asking for the money. Why? Because it’s a benefit for everybody. They’re doing it themselves and more so, how she’s asking for it. When you think about $10. People get a whole lot for that $10 when it comes to the music and visuals and graphics nowadays. Check your pride. Check your vanity and interface direct with the fans, unless you’d like to continue to be slaves… Unless you like somebody else to make your decisions for you and take your money in publishing and rights and all the other things that come along with that.
Kanye West. I know you know him well. Over the past few months he’s been very vocal about being anti-corporate and more free-willed I guess… Can you be anti-corporate and be signed to a major?
It’s an oxymoron. It’s like, how are you gonna be a free slave? Either you’re free or you’re a slave. You can’t be both of them at the same time. Now, you can use tactics to balance that. That’s the part that the corporations use to make themselves successful. It’s very balanced in their approach. Now Kanye, and this is not speaking radical about Kanye. Kanye is just very strong in his opinion maybe because he’s seeing it from a particular angle because he’s all the way in it. I can respect him for that but it is not clear to everyone what that angle is so it causes confusion and makes us want to ask questions like you’ve asked me.
How do you feel about Jay Z’s release of Magna Carta? Is that a good way to be moving ahead?
I would say yes. I’m doing it like that. It may not be as large a scale as Jay Z but in this day and age, people are using sponsorship to amalgamate brands. What I did see, the jewel in that though… All Jay Z did for me, he just really placed a template out there everybody can follow themselves if you ‘X’ out the middle man. I would say in the Beyonce case, how he dropped that album? She ‘X’d out the middle man. It was completely like, that’s how you do it. You don’t give nobody nothing. No time to think about it. You just have to accept what I just gave you. And don’t let it be dope, like how it is! That’s another thing you’re gonna have to sit there and chew on for a while. That’s a touchdown. She won. These are all strategic moves that are being planned but they’re showing people that you don’t just have to do it one way. On the flipside, Jay Z and Beyonce are a couple, but you see them operating in two completely different ways. The first one, attaching themselves with other brands that make sense and then the brand that he attached himself with makes even more sense because most people are using apps on their phones. That is the ultimate direct to fan measure. There’s no more direct than that. We used to give cd’s away. Now you can take that a step further and give flash drives away now.
When is The Loop out?
Probably the first couple weeks in April. Coming out through Eglo Records out of London. On that label we have Floating Points and Fatima.
2014 is coming. I believe that words are powerful and have energy. So 2014 for you is going to be…