PREMIERE: Hieroglyphics Present Rap Noir (Tajai x Unjust) “Let It Rain” and “WATCHOUTTT!”
Tajai and Unjust talk about the latest Hiero project
Today MASS APPEAL premieres two new songs from the latest Hieroglyphics project, Rap Noir. Tajai of Souls of Mischief describes Rap Noir as “an Alfred Hitchcock, film noir inspired record,” in which he plays the part of narrator more so than actor. The project is a collab with Unjust, who we heard from on last week’s Hiero premiere. “It’s all sorts of crime tales,” says Tajai. “‘Let It Rain’ is from the perspective of a hitman. The B-side is called ‘WATCHOUTTT!’ a tale about being aware of who you’re hanging out with. It’s a dark record and I don’t mean depressing, just the subject matter, imagery, etc.” Check out both songs below, followed by interviews with Tajai and Unjust of the Hiero fam.
We’re digging both songs and the cover is dope!
Cool, man. We were trying to do something that evoked Hiero but that was still in line with the noir concept. So I think that worked out pretty well. It’s not a ski mask, it’s an executioner’s hood. People kind of mix it up. Hiero represents light, happiness, and positivity. So, we wanted to say, it’s still Hiero, but we’re not in positive mode right now.
When are you guys planning on dropping the album?
How is that you and Unjust decided to do an album together?
I gave him concept for the record and he sent me stuff that was just so perfect for the concept. All my albums are concept albums. If you look at Power Movement or even my mixtapes, Machine Language, or Projecto, or Nuntype, I approach music from an album perspective. So, I wanted a cohesion and the stuff he was giving me was right in the pocket of what I wanted. To me, it’s easier than trying to collect a bunch of darker, Hitchcock-y beats from a bunch of people. It’s good when you have a bunch of producers that are working together to build some kind of vibe, but I like working with one producer. Kind of like with the last [Souls of Mischief] album with Adrian Younge, how he had an overarching concept and it created a cohesion. When you’re soliciting beats from all over, that’s difficult.
You working on anything new with SupremeEx after all these years?
We’re talking about. The last one we did was probably what a decade ago…maybe more. Yeah, more. My daughter, who is on that record, is now grown and has music of her own. It’s funny, the first time she recorded was with me on that Nuntype record and now she’s got albums of her own. It’s probably been sixteen years since we recorded that last one. His name is Yameen now and he just dropped a record last Friday. We’re trying to sit down…but those records are super conceptual. The first one was about a renegade hologram and the second one is about sentient fish and cyber monkeys. So, I got to sit down and really put my mind to that one.
I found it interesting you had Jay Biz on Projecto. How come he left Hiero?
I guess he was just into other stuff, man. It’s weird because I think we have enjoyed a lot more success since he’s been gone. Not because of him leaving. He doing his own thing, you know. I get that. I’m sitting here in an architectural office right now. I think he wanted to go in the more EDM direction. This is a while ago…almost twenty years ago at this point.
It’s funny you mentioned being in the architectural office because I want to ask you what you do outside of rap.
I’m a designer. I design houses and right now I’m working on a restaurant. I went to grad school for architecture. I’m trying to finish up my test, so I can get my license and all that. I’m into philanthropy and real estate, and all that kind of stuff too. I just got a hotel in Panama called Hibiscus Garden. That’s a project we are working on now. We’re greening this hotel, making it so that we’re doing grey water collection and solarizing it.
On Del’s I Wish My Brother George Was Here album cover, various Hiero members are pictured on the inside panels. There is Opio, A-Plus, Damani, who must be Phesto, and then some dudes named CM-PX and Kwame. Who are they?
They the old school homies. Kwame used to manage Del for a few years in the beginning of his career and CM-PX I think still makes music. Me and Casual weren’t there ‘cause we weren’t allowed to go ‘cause we were kids. I was probably fifteen when they took that picture. They did it in LA. I think me and Cas made a couple songs while everybody was gone.
Tajai’s Top 5 Rarest Tracks/Verses
1. Tajai f/ Phesto Dee – Maximize Third Eyes
2. Edo G. f/ Tajai & Casual – Big Business
3. Tajai f/ Approach x Sleeprockers – Where U From
4. Superstars (Tajai x Superstar Quamallah) – Hood Famous*
5. Tommy Tee f/ Tajai – Petrol
*the whole album is rare
How did you hook up with Hiero?
I graduated college in 2001 with a degree in multimedia. I was doing animation and stuff. At that time Flash was brand new and it was the hottest thing, and I became really adept in Flash. And how it happened is I reached out to Hieroglyphics and was like, “Hey, [I’m a] big fan, here is what I do.” Sent them some of my work. “Let me know if you need anything.” Tajai got back almost immediately and was like, “We’re redoing our website and we would love a Flash intro from you.” So, I did it, they loved, they used it, and I think they even used it as a background for shows. Everyone was really happy and enthused. I was so juiced that, that even happened and I knew I had to keep this relationship going somehow.
I knew about that Trinity Lost song and loved it. It had nothing to do with religion but it felt like it was a melding of those stories. I just animated it myself on my downtime and got it done. It took a couple months. I sent it in and that’s when they were like, “Wait a minute, that’s dope!” They flew me out just to meet me. We just started hanging around and talking. We found out we were on the same vibe and we just had a lot of similar creative ideologies. I was sitting in their office and I was like, “If I can just find one part time job, I’m staying because this is amazing.” At that time, a good friend of mine ID, Ian Davis, had just started working at Hiero and he had just left ABB Records. They were looking for a graphic designer and he made a call and got me the job. So, I stuck around the Bay and I haven’t left yet.
So, where you from originally?
I’m from Dayton, Ohio originally. Home of the Funk.
Tell us about the “phonotropic” visuals you’ve got on these 7”s.
This technology had never been put on a record that has then been released as a product. My background is animation, so I figured this would be a cool way to leverage this [tech] that will be more impactful than just putting out a loose, digital single release and having it float around, and not get discovered or whatever. This is something that adds value and adds a layer to the act of playing a record. The way it works is, you basically create an animated loop that is one to two seconds and you split the frames out around the record. You determine how many frames by running an equation that splits it up between the frames per second that your camera is shooting and the RPM, and how that plays into 60 seconds per minute. When you point your camera at it, it kind of tricks your eye because your camera is shooting at 30 frames per second and it’s spinning at a different frame rate, and your eye can’t catch them all. So, it drops a frame and your eye sees it as animating.
So, we know the Rap Noir single is the first of the monthly 7”s and First Light are next up to bat. What can we expect after that?
I don’t want to get in trouble because it’s not fully decided but I think we’re talking about doing one for Oh No x Tristate’s 3 Dimensional Prescriptions record that came out, potentially. There is a bunch which we have discussed. The order they are going to come out, I’m not quite sure yet. The next one that I hope to push is a single I have with my fellow member of Chosen Few and bestfriend, Cold Shoulder. He’s got a joint with Casual and Roc Marciano that I’m hoping will be the next one to come out.
The Hierotrope Series is a platform for whomever in the crew has got something they want to highlight, in addition to my unreleased stuff. I didn’t want to make it all about me. This is a crew thing. I think we’ll probably end up doing one for A-Plus’ new record with Nobody called Grow Theory. There will also be another Rap Noir single. Those four are the ones I’m kind of pushing first. I mean, I have so much unreleased stuff. I’ve got stuff with One.Be.Lo. He has collabs with different members of Hiero that I produced, that I kind of want to see on these. And I’ve got some stuff with Del that I’d like to see come out on these, but I don’t know if he’s down yet. I haven’t really talked to him about it yet. But I know that he and I have got like 15 joints we recorded a while back and I would like two of those to come out on one of these.
That would be dope!
Yeah, I love those songs, man! It just sucks because right as soon as we finished that, is right when the Deltron sequel machine started up. He started working on the Deletion 3030 sequel and, of course, that had to take presidence. So, we haven’t talked about it in a while.
How did your involvement in the Rap Noir record come about?
I was Op’s roommate at the time and people were passing through a lot. We were working on the First Light stuff. I had given Tajai a CD of beats ‘cause he was driving to LA and he was like, “Burn some stuff for me, I want to hear something.” I guess a lot of the shit I had been doing at that time was kind of dark and melancholy…and evil. I guess that fit in perfectly with the character he was trying to portray on this record. He literally pulled over on the side of the highway and called me, and was like, “Blood, this is it! This is the record right here! Oh my god!” I guess it just fit the vibe of what he was trying to do.