When the recently redesigned Mellow Orange label shared “Raindrops” last month, the first single for a new collaborative EP by producers Ghostnaut (Montreal, Canada) and Dualib (São Paulo, Brazil), the opening of piano keys and a sultry French vocal sample was like a clear disclaimer: this is soulful, jazz-influenced hip hop not to be overlooked.
And here we are. We’ve decided to shoot over a couple of questions to both Ghostnaut and Dualib to get to know them a little better, coinciding with the premiere of the Sideways EP in its entirety here at The Find.
At the bottom of this interview you find a full stream of the EP, featuring Raashan Ahmad, Mr. J Medeiros, Coin Banks, Dwayne Kerr (Erykah Badu’s flutist), amongst others.
We noticed on your Soundcloud that you’re a trained pianist. Can you tell us a bit about your musical background while growing up; how did you go from playing the piano to loving hip hop, or the other way around?
Ghostnaut: There was a lot of music playing at home when I was a kid. From Motown, African music, jazz to English pop and French classics. My mother grew up in Mozambique so I was lucky enough to hear a great melting pot of music at home. Also because both of my parents were playing instruments in their free time; my dad the guitar and my mom the piano.
As a kid I wanted to play the drums, but was forced to play piano instead. As drumming would’ve been quite noisy for my parents… But I’m glad that happened, because later on I started with classical music and then moved onto jazz, which was more my thing. I went into different phases but I always listened to hip hop. I grew up in a great period of time for hip hop in Europe, especially in France in the nineties, early 2000s. There were great emcees and beats with a jazz foundation I was tripping on. Like MC Solaar rapping over a Cymande sample on “Bouge De Là”, or the Jazz Liberatorz projects, to name a few.
Besides music, what do you do for a living?
Ghostnaut: I work in game audio as a Sound Designer, crafting sounds around characters and the story of a game. I’ve been at Ubisoft for a while now, and have been working on games such as Watch Dogs 2, Rainbow Six: Siege, and several Assassin’s Creed games, It’s a good combination for me as it allows me to think about sound pretty much all the time. I feel it’s a plus for my music on a creative level, as I can use daily skills for designing ambiances around a track, like I did on Sideways for the track “Don’t Give Up”. It’s a blessing being able to do both.
Sideways is a collaboration between yourself and Brazilian producer Dualib. What do each of you bring to the table?
Ghostnaut: Dualib has his own style using percussion and a great sense of movement on the drums, with a characteristic Latin influence. I’ve added my touch to it via additional samples, scratches or live instrumentations like we did with Raw Collective on the track “Sleeping Giants”. Also adding live strings as one of my friends is a string arranger (David Bridet, a.k.a. Da-V). Once I felt we had a great linearity between our songs, I contacted emcees, and we were lucky enough to have great emcees on board such as Mr J Medeiros (The Procussions), Raashan Ahmad, Coin Banks, Ben Beal, and Jetpack Jones. We also had Erykah Badu’s flutist Dwayne Kerr playing an amazing solo on the track “Sometimes”.
Dualib: Ghostnaut has a track record of working directly with other emcees, including his own Raw Collective. The beat you make has to have a few elements -or lack thereof- depending on how you arrange it, to make it or break it for rapping. The voice cannot clash with other elements, or it will sound somewhat confusing—perhaps even on a subconscious level. Of course, this is not a rule, but I’ve learnt this by paying attention to other great beatmakers such as Oddisee, Freddie Joachim, 20syl and Ta-Ku. Additionally, I believe I bring a more electronic sound, approaching each track with something avant-garde, while respecting the past on which hip hop was based on.
“I was lucky enough to hear a great melting pot of music at home. From Motown, African music, jazz to English pop and French classics.”
Each track on your last release, In Dreams, had a different theme. What’s the story behind Sideways, is there an underlaying concept?
Ghostnaut: On my second EP Lips Move, I asked Dualib to do a remix of one of my tracks (“Funny’s Prelude”) and after that he mentioned he’d really like to craft an EP with me, so I started thinking about ideas on our two respective cities, Montreal and São Paulo. For Sideways, the art of the cover was an inspiration for the release.
My girlfriend being an illustrator, we started brainstorming and doing sketches and we ended up doing a parallel on cold versus hot (Canada versus Brazil). But still in the same genre of music, so we needed to show proximity between both Dualib and me. That’s how we ended up reversing the colors on the artwork and make São Paulo and Montreal blend together in that way. It was the first time that I had the art before finishing the full project, so that was an interesting approach.
Whom or what would you consider underground gems that influenced you?
Ghostnaut: The Sound Providers, Jazz liberatorz, Asheru, Oddisee, Damu The Fudgemunk, Freddie Joachim… And also on the more recent stuff I really like: the vibes of multi-instrumentalists Masego, Tom Misch, and FloFilz, who gave us an awesome remix. When it comes to sampling, I also found that a few gems can be found in public music libraries such as KPM, or other online public resources. YouTube is my friend for that.
Dualib: The whole Low Budget crew: Kev Brown, Kenn Starr and others. And Damu The Fudgemunk, Oddisee, Freddie Joachim, Kero One, DJ Mitsu The Beats, Potatohead People, amongst many others. Some are not underground anymore, but at the time I was growing up, these were some of the main cats I was listening to.
Would you consider yourself to be a record collector?
Ghostnaut: Yes, I have a record vinyl collection. Not too big, but decent. In Montreal we are gifted with great record shops so I would go to places like Phonopolis and Aux 33 Tours during my lunch breaks and listen to a lot of stuff. I don’t stick to a genre in particular, but I tend to listen to a lot of jazz and Latin jazz. I also discover also a lot via Soundcloud or Youtube, and if I dig what I hear I usually buy the vinyl to sample or just for the pleasure of listening.
Dualib: I do have a small collection of vinyl, including some classics like Common’s Be and De La Soul’s Stakes Is High. I also like to collect the records from which producers got their samples from, like Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s Music, You All, which contains the sample for Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s classic “In The House”.