Towards the end of January I took a drive south to Beacon Hill to meet up with Tay Sean and Jerm along with assorted other members of the Cloud Nice posse. Helladope emerged on the scene with a sound and style very much their own while at the same time complimenting much of what else is emerging in Seattle right now. They have been talked about by everyone and starting this Wednesday embark on possibly the biggest month of their career. Opening for Goodie Mob at Neumos on the 24th, Snoop Dogg on March 5th at Showbox Sodo and then releasing their full length self titled debut on the 12th of March at Nectar. The guys are hustling.
TML: Can you guys introduce yourselves, where were you born and raised, how long have you been making music?
Tay Sean: My name is Tay Sean, I'm 22 years old, born and raised in the Seattle area and I've been making music all my life.
Jerm: My name is Jerm, born and raised in Seattle. Been actively making music for 13-14 years.
Tay: And our powers combined to form Helladope!
TML: How did that formation come about?
Tay: It's a funny story actually, do you remember this story about how I met you? August 4th 2006. Me & Blake (now their manager) and the homegirl all moved in and it was her birthday and so it was the first big party we ever had at the crib. That's the first time I'd ever seen Jerm and he's freestylin outside with a bunch of the Alpha P heads. At the time I was hella eager and I was like hey man I got some beats you should hear. So they came into my room and started freestyling to some beats, I musta been what 19 at the time. That was how I met Jerm. It was probably another year before we made our first song.
TML: How long was this album in the making?
Jerm: We were working on the album like a year and a half before it was completed, that was like almost two and a half years ago.
TML: Were you hanging out in the lab writing or was he giving you beat discs?
Jerm: I just started coming over, I know other cats from BYC, homies that he got. He just start playing shit.
Tay: After we did a couple cuts I kinda had a good idea of what the sound was that I at least was aiming for with the album, it was kinda that more techno pop shit which seems hella popular in the town right now. At the time I thought I was doing something different (laughs) but apparently not. There was definetly a few beats that Jerm was not fucking with but I think together we were like yeah this is the direction we are gonna go with this as far as the production.
TML: So was the electro pop sound what you had been doing for years prior to this?
Tay: No, definetly not. That was something else specific to the HellaDope project.
TML: I've heard that the title is changing to self titled, is that true?
TML: What inspired that change?
Tay: "The Return to Planet Rock" is just a corny name (laughs).
TML: What was the first beat you remember hearing when you were a kid?
Tay: You mean like a hip hop beat though?
TML: It could be a drum break from a James Brown song, not necessarily a Hip Hop beat, whatever.
Tay: Oh, Michael Jackson. Yeah I used to want to be Michael Jackson
Jerm: I think mine might be Michael Jackson too.
Tay: I think the first song that I really tried to remember lyrics to was "Bad" and then I got the Moonwalker on VHS and it was over.
TML: Is there a history of muscians in your families?
Jerm: My mother is an actress and a singer. My brothers sing. I pretty much grew up in church doing alot of singing an performances.
Tay: Yeah, my whole family plays, at least on my daddys side. They all play piano, guitar, my grandma is really good on piano. My great uncle, my grandpa's brother, was in a group called Brownstone back in the day and I heard some of his music, I like it. But yeah, on my daddy's side.
TML: Have they heard your music? Are they fans?
Tay: Well, you know on my daddy's side they are all Jehovah's Witness. My Dad is not and he's heard my music and he is definetly a fan and his wife is also a fan and they like a music. My Momma and my brother are probably the most supportive people besides the imeeadiet team here. My grandparents though, because they are like Jehovah's Witness i haven't really exposed them to some of the more explicit content that they would probably find rather immoral thats in our music but ah that's more for them and not for me.
TML: What do you guys see Helladope contributing to the current Seattle scene?
Jerm: I think a lot of raw talent. A lot of fearlessness in their approach to music and a lot of experience of doing this.
TML: What is your persepctive right now on the scene here in Seattle Jerm? You've been doing this for a long time here in the town. Are you excited for it?
Jerm: I'm excited, I think it's well deserved. I don't think it's understood yet and exposed as much as it could or should be. But I'm pumped for it alot of people putting in a lot of work are getting respect that they deserve and that's whats up.
TML: What was the first record you bought?
Jerm: Doggystyle... I bought it as a Christmas present for my older brother knowing that he wouldn't like it so I could keep it. It was tight.
TML: And he didn't like it?
Tay: So as far as Hip Hop record I think the first Hip Hop record I bought was DMX Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood.
TML: Were you into diggin prior to that and beat making?
Tay Sean: Absolutly not. I mean I was definetly making beats but that album came out when I was 10 or 11. I was only making beats so I could rap on them. And it was hella wack. Wack ass beats. I didn't start digging, I didn't really understand Hip Hop at that point. Not til I was 12 or 13 and my little sisters daddy put me onto golden era type shit and more stuff from his era. I realized that this is a much bigger culture than just the Jay-Z and DMX and the things I had been exposed to through KUBE 93 and shit like that. That's when I started digging, sampeling, stuff like that.
TML: The beats on the album just convey this happy, feel good vibe. Is that a concentrated effort or is that just what comes when you sit down to make a beat?
Tay: I think it's more so the later. That's kinda my natural position when I'm making music, I'm a happy cat. I like pretty things. I like to make beautiful music. I think it takes a little more effort when I'm trying to do the opposite, trying to make the grimey beat, or the street beat, that takes a little more effort, I have to like, really specifically do something about that but I think that more happy shit is more natural to me.
TML: Is Cloud Nice a collective or are you guys expecting to do a project as a group?
Tay: We all work together. Jerm is on a bunch of our cuts, Mikey is on one of the songs on the album. I'm also on some of Mikey's shit, and Mikey does production for Jarv. So we all kinda cross with each other. But as far as a Cloud Nice project as a band it would probably be more of a compilation thing. That's just kinda functioning under too many cooks in the stu.
Jerm: There are alot of strong solo artists on Cloud Nice.
(Room breaks into laughter)
Tay: Maybe, never say never. I don't know. Just do what's natural for now.
TML: You guys have collaborated with a lot of people, have those all been pretty organic? People you have relationships with outside of music?
Tay: Absolutly. Rarely do we fuck with people solely based on their musical merit. We fucks with people we already fucks with. Not to say I wouldn't fuck with people based only on their musical merit, but most of the time I like fucking with people who are already family. Would you say the same is true?
Jerm: Hell yeah.
TML: Is Goodfellas one of your favorite flicks?
Tay: Chucky and Rudy, who are two of my roommates threw it up, don't know whose it is but it seemed to be a good fit for the wall.
Jerm: It's a dope movie though. The movie is real.
TML: Is this where you recorded most of the album?
Tay: No, we only did the last couple of songs here. We did most of it at the other house, we was living 37th & Barton, deeper south in Beacon Hill. Before may, most of that shit was done before may.
TML: How does growing up in Seattle shape the album?
Jerm: Seattle defiently shapes me as an artist just cause of how diverse it is. From education, to rich and poor, different cultures, definetly makes me who I am as an emcee and I think when we start doing this album, not only did we want to focus on some music that was gonna be more lively and make people have fun, still say some slick shit and some real shit, but we wanted the people to have fun and really try to represent Seattle. I think that really comes out on the album. Just some different shit, different topics, spices of life.
TML: Are there any collaborations that we can be expecting and or looking forward to in the near future?
Jerm: I'm gonna start ghost writing for my manager, Gangsta Grillz: Asian Cribs, Stay True, Wear Blue. It's gonna be a real dope album. (laughs)
Tay: I don't know if I'm entirely at liberty to about all of them. I'm working on something with Isabella Du Graf, we have just a couple bare bones things. I think that Krispy from Hi Life Soundsystem and Godspeed is also gonna be invovled in that project to some extent. I'm defiently working with Thaddius a lot aka Young TH from SOTA Boys, State of the Artist. I've been working with him a lot and it's kinda figuring itself out.
TML: The cut "ExtraHellaDopeness" has been popping off at shows, can you talk about that session?
Tay Sean: A lot of people get it twisted and think that I made that beat, Parker made that beat and when he sent it over to me... Like they got that Members Only 206 project popping off and that was all they idea. I guess every track has a feature on it and I've heard a lot of it and it's fucking dope. But yeah as soon as he sent the beat over to me I was like fuck it, they actually came over and I had wrote something but I scrapped it. Parker had a studio in his moms crib in West Seattle looking at the whole city with a beautiful view. We laid it down on the early morning mission and it came out really bomb.
TML: What is your favorite Hip Hop album of all time?
Tay: I would say, I'll give it up to something like the Love Below.
Jerm: I'd say, of all time shit that I'd listen to from begining to end 100 times probably be some local shit. One of the Merm & Mal compliations, i just got vol. 4, thats my shit!
TML: Were you guys paying attention to the Tribal shit?
Jerm: Yeah that's when I was a shorty, first coming up. That was definetly some dope shit. That was when Vitamin was first coming up. that was the shit.
Tay: I'm a little bit younger, I was living in the north end Everett, Mill creek, then Renton, didn't really settle in Seattle until 14 or so I wasn't really a part of that.
TML: What are you guys listening to right now?
Jerm: I'm on some throw back shit, trying to find some old school No Limit, Young Bleed, Rap-A-Lot, our shit. Local shit too.
Tay: I would say the majority of shit I listen to is not new music. But as far as new music that i fucks with I'm really into that Dam Funk shit. Sa Ra Creative Partners.
TML: Do you play any instruments?
Tay: To what extent I can, I'm not a guitarist or pianist but I use it for beats and shit.
TML: What's it feel like to be opening for Goodie Mob?
Jerm: It's pretty dope.
Tay: It's a dream come true.
Jerm: That was in heavy rotation back in the day.
Tay: Soul Food all day.
Jerm: Anything Outkast/Dungeon Family released is pretty hard.
Tay: It's crazy to be sharing the stage with people I idolize so much.
TML: Got any last words?
Jerm: Local shit. Local shit is dope. Merm & Mal, Alpha P, Hi Life, Cloud Nice, SOTA Boys, south end/CD shit Northwest, Broken Mic foundation. Blak & them, Jace & Blak. Hip Hop Congress.
Tay: What he said.
Jerm: 206 Zulu, we fucks with you.
Many thanks out to the Helladope team, Tay Sean & Jerm as well as Blake Diamond (their manager). Be sure to get your ass to Neumos this Wednesday (2/24) for the Goodie Mob reunion show and you might as well roll early to catch these cats!!! Support that local music y'all.