Raydar Ellis may have taken a while to reach this point but, he is an emcee who is worth the wait. The hip-hop nation was late in recognizing his talent. Not only should he have been known by the underground already, I should have conducted this interview a long time ago. I should have known about him way before Traffic Entertainment (Karma and Michael Quarterson) sent me his music and assisted in hooking up this interview.
An album about an album, "Late Pass" by Raydar Ellis is helping to bring creativity back into hip-hop music. Released on Brick Records, the LP includes songs about relationships, the struggles of Black actors through the past decades, graffiti, hip-hop culture, fat women, and more. Production is mainly handled by Raydar, but some songs are produced by Hezekiah, 7L, Clokwork, Marty Macfly, The Fundamental, and The Beboy. Guests performances include Edo.G, Esoteric, Project Move, and Shortbus. Standout cuts include "And It Sounds Like...', "Whatchu Say Dat Deah", "I 4 An I", "Pay Homage", and "3 Steps". The diverse styles and topics give the album an intelligent depth for entertaining repeated listens. The old school styles of "Whatchu Say Dat Deah" is complemented by the scratched vocal samples on "And It Sounds Like". Serious issues on the concept tracks "Sambo Song" and "3 Steps" give the album a timeless quality. Every hip-hop fan will need Late Pass because they should have been bumping this album a while ago. Go ahead and listen, you are already late....
MVRemix: What goes on?
Raydar Ellis: I'm chilling, just got my laptop back from the shop, so I'm hyped. I was on the desktop earlier.
MVRemix: Your new CD, 'Late Pass' was just released. Tell us about it.
Raydar Ellis: 'Late Pass' is something like an organized confusion to me. Not the group, but the way it's structured. It's an album about an album. The confusion comes from me popping tapes randomly, in and out of the deck, which become the songs you hear. But, the organization is the reason I'm doing that, to get my album into my label on time."
MVRemix: What song on 'Late Pass' took the longest to complete? Why?"
Raydar Ellis: '3 Steps', the second single, because of all the places it had to travel. It went from Philly to NY, where I got the beat from Hezekiah at Beat Society. Then, it went to NJ and to MA, where I wrote and recorded my parts. Then, it went to Cali to get Honeylungs on the hook. Then, back to me in Boston. Then, back to Hezekiah in Philly. That song just took forever because of Fed Ex."
MVRemix: What is the meaning behind the title, 'Late Pass'?"
Raydar Ellis: It all comes from the label calling me at the beginning of the album saying, 'You're late on turning your album in'. So, for the rest of the album, I'm trying to figure out what the album should be. I called it 'Late Pass' because that's basically what the label gives me on the record, so I can hand the album in.
MVRemix: When creating a track, do you have a set theme and pre-written lyrics, or do you start with an idea or the music first?
Raydar Ellis: Usually, it is either a theme or the beat first. I rarely write without a beat because I'm always making beats. Like, '3 Steps' was done with the beat first. Then topic, then lyrics. 'Paint Your Picture' was concept first. Then, the beat.
MVRemix: How did you hook up with Edo.G for 'Shut Shit Down'? What was that collaboration like? Was it done in the studio?
Raydar Ellis: Karma at Brick hooked that up. I had been listening to him for years. When Karma suggested it, I was like 'Oh Hell yeah! Great idea!' We recorded at Beyonder's studio and the collaboration was dope! I felt like a kid on Christmas. He's a really down to earth dude and very professional.
MVRemix: What made you choose the producers for 'Late Pass'?
Raydar Ellis: Most of the cats I got down with, I had known for years, like The Beboy, Macfly, and Clokwork. Actually, Macfly was my room mate. So, for 'I 4 An I', all I had to do was go across the hallway to get a beat. Hezekiah came randomly, from when I went to Beat Society. I ran into him at the door, copped his album, and asked if he had a beat CD. He hooked me up and '3 Steps' was born. 7L came on board when we were thinking about a remix for the 1st single. But his remix was so dope that we had to put it on the album.
MVRemix: How did you hook up with Brick Records?
Raydar Ellis: I literally just showed up on their doorstep one
MVRemix: What is the meaning behind the name, Raydar Ellis?
Raydar Ellis: I'm a thinker and a researcher. I like to research random topics when they cross my mind. As a result, my friends were always like 'You always looking for something. You're like a radar.' So, the name was born. I added Ellis because that is my last name.
MVRemix: On the song, 'Power, Money And Influence' from Guru's 'Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures' album, Talib Kweli remarks that Pro-Tools made producers lazy. Do you agree?
Raydar Ellis: In some aspects, yes. In others, no. It's all dependent on how someone uses it. You can't, currently at least, open up Pro-Tools and 'Poof!' There's a radio hit, ready to go. It takes time to learn the functions, to learn how to mix with it, to understand how Pro-Tools effects your computer, and to get the best sound for your music out of it. Sure, it's a lot easier that editing tape, but technology isn't around to make usually difficult thing harder. That's customer support's job. It's just a different education. I don't think James Brown knows much about Fruity Loops. Or does he?
MVRemix: What are some songs you are most proud of?
Raydar Ellis: I'm proud of the whole record. I know, I know. Cliché response. My favorites, at this moment in life, are 'Applause', 'Dickrider', '3 Steps', and 'Paint Your Picture'.
MVRemix: Who are some producers you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Raydar Ellis: Madlib. I got a specific song in mind, concept first. D&S, Dawaun Parker, Ge-ology, Spinna, and everyone from this album again. Why stop now?
MVRemix: Who are some artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Raydar Ellis: I'm down to try stuff with damn near anybody. Going to Berkley exposes you to so many different styles of artists. I'm down to work with anyone from any genre. I love music too much to just stay in hip-hop my whole life. I want to do some more work with my homie Christian Scott, maybe a Bjork remix, and stuff like that. Anjuli Stars! She's dope!