Mila_J_VIBE_3 Mila_J_VIBE_3
Mike Ho

Interview: Mila J Talks New Album, Stonewalling Male Groupies & Love For The '213'

VIBE caught up with the Motown signee about testing out daring looks in fashion, experimenting with sound on her upcoming project and not “selling out” for mainstream success. 

Mila J didn’t take the express route to success. Post two disbanded girl groups, one shelved album, a fleeting name change and a host of mixtape releases, the “Kickin’ Back” singer is more sure of her voice than ever before. “There are no shortcuts,” she tells VIBE over the phone, fully unashamed about the detours in the rear view of her career. “I feel like I’ve learned from every test and obstacle I had to go through.”

After pressing reset during a brief hiatus from the music industry, Mila J re-emerged with her 2014 EP M.I.L.A. (Made In Los Angeles), featuring singles like “Smoke, Drink, Break-Up” and the Ty Dolla $ign-assisted track “My Main.” Her latest effort 213 is also an indiscreet nod to her hometown, where her passion for the arts crept into view after attending a Prince concert with her father at the tender age of two. Five years later, the then rising dancer landed an appearance in the late legend’s visual for his 1991 classic “Diamonds and Pearls,” a coveted honor many had hoped to brag about.

“This is the place of entertainment,” she says of her training grounds. “I want to rep L.A. hard because this is where I’m from.” After what feels like a lifetime of untraditional artist development, Mila J is cutting her losses and celebrating her wins as she inches closer towards the long-awaited debut of her first album--and warms up for a nationwide set on Jeremih’s Late Nights Tour.

VIBE caught up with the Motown signee about testing out daring looks in fashion, experimenting with sound on her upcoming project and “selling out” for mainstream success. 

VIBE: M.I.L.A. was your reintroduction to the music industry. With that end in mind, what strides do you feel you've made since that time now that you're on your second EP 213?

Mila J: I definitely think I've grown as an artist just from different things I've experienced since the first EP. I’m just happy to be in that artist mode. Coming from groups (Gyrl, Dame Four) definitely helped me and prepared me for where I am right now as a solo artist. As far as musically, I've definitely evolved as far as my sound and just being comfortable with my voice.

I'm looking at the titles of both projects, and it's easy to spot the common denominator between the two, that being California. As far as your early girl group days go, did the West Coast scene have a lot to do with why you tapped into rapping first?

It definitely did. Growing up, the first album I bought was The Chronic. That and Snoop [Dogg], and I loved DJ Quik. I preferred rap music over anything when I was younger so I was into all the West Coast rap. Ice Cube, Mack 10, all of that. It really did mold me, and it definitely had an influence down to my hairstyles and the way that I dressed. I would literally get sent home from school because my clothes were too big. Even now, people think that I still haven't grown up because they thought it was just a stage or a phase for me.

You just debuted your newest single "Down," and the cover art for the song doubles as a fierce fashion statement. Where do you pull your sense of style from these days?

I can walk past anything or anybody on the street and get inspired. My grandparents inspire me honestly. I look at old pictures of them like damn, you guys were fly. I just feel like there was so much authenticity back then because they had to make a lot of their own stuff. My mother and my grandmother still sew today. My grandmother stayed in furs and gowns. She was flashy but very classy at the same time, so I definitely pull from that. I'm also naturally sporty and tomboyish, so I'll look at athletic stuff. For that particular shoot, I wanted to do an Asian theme because I'm mixed with Japanese so I spoke with the photographer about my vision, and we found a really good location that gave off that feel. We found the props, the pants and everything just tied in. I really love Japanese style. They're not afraid to throw on anything, and it looks effortless.

"Down" definitely sounds like it could've fit perfectly on 213. Is there any truth to the speculation that it didn't make the cut?

You know what's funny? I just finished my album, but I wanted to keep it to a certain number of songs. "Down" was ready for the album, but I just decided to put it out because I already have enough. I recorded it right after 213, even though I did that project fairly quickly, like in a week's time.

It's impossible to ignore the odes to old school records that you've weaved throughout the scope of your music like Brandy's "I Wanna Be Downfor example. Which three albums have influenced you the most as an artist?

Some of my favorite R&B albums versus the ones that helped mold me per se were Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip , Usher's Confessions, Jodeci's [Diary of a Mad Band], Brandy's Full Moon, Jagged Edge's Heartbreak--I love all music, but ‘90s R&B music just does something to me so I think that's why I always refer back to it. It's very nostalgic, and I just miss that sound and that feeling so I always want to have it weaved throughout my music.

The evolution of R&B has fallen under attack to the point that some critics have argued that the genre is on its deathbed while hitting artists with allegations of selling out for mainstream success. How do you react to those conversations?

I think people do need to know that every sound and every genre is going to always evolve, so when it comes to the whole "sell out" thing, I don't believe in that. I believe every recording artist has the right to make any style of music that they want first and foremost. You're not going to tell a fashion designer, "you can only make pants." Like no, I'm going to make an entire line of clothes if I want to. I think it's always unfair that artists are expected to stay in a box that wasn't created by them because of this notion of not staying true. What is staying true, and who creates this box?

I listen to country. If I ever release a country song, people may think where did this come from, but little did they know I listen to that music. Your influences will come out when you're expressing your art, so I never feel like it's selling out. I naturally like ‘90s R&B because that's what I grew up listening to, but everyone's opinion is probably going to be different based on the time they were born. I honestly appreciate the newer things that add to R&B. I don't look at it like it's dead. It's evolving, and it's changing. This is where it is now. Before cell phones, there were pens and pencils, but I rarely see people pull them out. You have to stay with the times. It's exciting to me to see change. You can always incorporate new things but still stay true to whatever is organic for you.

Jeremih is having a great year in music, and you're slated to join him on the road for his Late Nights Tour soon. Tell us more about how that collaboration came about.

Jeremih and I are really cool. We've collaborated before, and we actually worked together for my album so it made sense. He was going out on tour, and I haven't been out in a minute. I have my project [213] out, and his camp was totally open to me opening up for him. I'm a fan of Jeremih and his music, and I know the show is great so I'm happy to be a part of it, and I'm definitely looking forward to hitting the road for the Late Nights Tour.

How intense has it been preparing for your set?

Hey, we were up there for an 8-hour rehearsal, me and my two dancers. I had to learn a lot of new choreography because I'm performing a lot of songs off of 213, so it was definitely grueling trying to mix the new routines with the old ones and teaching everybody the new stuff, but it's fun. Being on the road is my favorite part, so even if it were 12-hour rehearsals, I wouldn't even care because performing is what I like to do.

Throughout all your years in music, have you ever had an embarrassing moment on stage that still makes you shake your head today?

I haven't had that yet. I had a situation where something happened to me, and I was like, "where's security?"

Oh, no. What happened?

I was on the BET College Tour, and I took out my phone for a selfie with the crowd in front of the stage, and this boy literally comes out of nowhere and gropes me and runs off where no one can find him. I'm on the mic telling the students to rep their schools and trying to take this selfie, and my hands weren't free so I couldn't even pop him. It was really tacky, but that was probably the oddest thing that ever happened to me.

On "Kickin' Back," the lead single off 213, you make it known that you enjoy the simple but important things in life like family time. When you're staring at your hectic schedule tied to recording, traveling and performing obligations, how do you carve out time to press pause and relax?

If I happen to have a day off, I'll try to go see everybody. When I'm in town, I make that effort as soon as I land. Right now, I'm kind of all over the place, but I always try to squeeze in doing some type of activity when I travel because it sucks to say you went to all of these places, but you didn't really do anything, so I make a point to do two or three things, see something historical or eat at a restaurant. I definitely try to take in whatever it is that I can.

What's been your favorite destination so far?

I love New York just because [it] has really great energy, but my favorite would probably be Japan.

What do you usually do when you're out there, especially because you have roots there?

To be honest, the shopping was overload. Everything down to nail designs, anything you can think of, they just have in abundance. I like thrifting, so I did a lot of shopping, but then I love Japanese food too. If I'm shopping and I'm fed, I'm happy.

As someone who hails from a mesh of cultures, what do you think about the surge of Black Girl Magic that commanded the world's attention this Olympic season?

I think it's so tight. I think Black Girl Magic is dope because a lot of times things are taken [from us] and other people are praised for it, so I think it makes a strong statement now that the recognition is here and isn't going anywhere.

Earlier, you mentioned that the album is finally done. When you look back at the trajectory of your career to this point, I know working on this project had to be extremely special for you. Can you leave us with a sneak peek of what we can anticipate when it drops? Are there any additional features besides Jeremih that we should keep an ear out for?

There are some other features. I don't want to say yet though, but they will be on there. I stuck with a very small group of producers for the album. Even though I've done EPs and mixtapes, this album is my reintroduction because it's my first. It's taken a long time, and I just wanted it to have a very cohesive sound so you can get to know who I am, so even though I have features, there aren't many. My sound has evolved. I've definitely done songs that are outside of the R&B box, but it's still R&B at its core and it still has that ‘90s vibe to it. I'm really happy. It's my favorite project to date.

Check out 213 here.

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L.A.'s Problem Explains The Making of His Short Film “A Compton Story” And Releases New Single “Don’t Be Mad At Me”

We know that Los Angeles, California produces top tier talent when it comes to Hip-Hop, so we won’t even start with the long list of MCs and beatmakers that comprise that grouping. Yet, we have to acknowledge that Jason “Problem” Martin is right on that list with the greats of his city. Beyond ghostwriting for legends and presenting a slew of mixtapes, which has lead to his trifecta of self-produced Selfish themed albums, Mr. “Whaaat!” (his signature catch phrase) is now in the cinematic realm with the release of the short film A Compton Story, exclusively released on the Tidal streaming platform.

Based on events that could be from his real life, Problem squeezes in the everyday occurrences that a black man can go through whether famous or infamous. "I wanted to do a comedy. I thought ‘some gangster movie’ would be expected from me," explains Problem. “I grew up loving stuff like Martin, Friday, Purple Rain...so those projects were my major inspirations and the blueprints to tell my own story, A Compton Story.” Executive produced by Problem and President of the mighty Top Dawg Entertainment, Terrence “Punch” Henderson, A Compton Story twists and turns and features music that goes along with the scenes. It also debuts Problem’s newest single “Don’t Be Mad At Me.”

Watch the likes of Mike Epps, Jackie Long and Snoop Dogg enhance the visuals, along with the love of Problem’s life...we’ll let him tell you all about her.

------------- How did you go about casting your short film “Compton Story?”

The casting process for Compton Story was random as hell. It was a mix of people I’ve worked with or currently work with in some kind of capacity that was around during that month period that I was shooting. Once I drop the documentary to the film, you’ll see how random a lot of things ended up happening. It was a blessing. I just called up all my friends...I heard Deon Taylor say something, ‘Just work with who you fuck with.’ And that’s what I did, I just happen to have some real cool friends. Shout out to them for giving me their time and taking their time with me for this, cus it was a new process. I was dealing with some really high level people.

When did you meet the leading lady of the film, Daphne?

Me and Daphne met when I came back from Germany, I was one years old and I went to my Pa-Pa’s house and she lived three houses down. I been knowing Daphne since I was damn near born. I used to watch her down the street, I used to sneak in her house. Her Dad was one of my best friends on the block, he used to give me candy. He knew I loved his daughter. I used to tell her I was going to marry her when I was like four, five and six… I just been plotting on this for a long time. For us to kick back off when I’m grown, she went and had a fabulous life and went and did what I did, for us to reconnect right now is still strange to me. But you know on some confidence shit I told her, “I knew I was gonna get you.” So it’s funny man.

Is “Whaaaat!” your preverbal light blub saying when you come up with a genius idea?

Honestly, I would say “Whaaat!” to everything. It was just like my period to the end of the sentence or my exclamation point or whatever. I’d be sitting with the homies and somebody would say something funny I’d be like “Whaat” or if they did something crazy I’d say, “Whaaat!” But I was sittin’ with one of my partners at Diamond Life and he was like, “Aye man, why don’t you ever put one of those shits in your songs?” I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “That, the ‘What.’ Put that shit in your record.” Every record after that, I put “Whaaat!” in it and it just stuck.

“Compton Story” shows us just one day of the pressure it is to be a young successful black man in those L.A. streets. Do you feel or live as though every day is this hectic for you? And if so, how long before you realized these [L.A.] Valley streets are crazy as hell too?

It’s just hectic for any black man, let alone a successful one. Just the randomness of shit that can happen. Then especially if you came from an urban area or poverty stricken area, or low class area...and then to become successful you battle with the nuances of what you learned and what do you take and use in what situation is always the hardest parts for me. Like, ‘Do I use my Compton shit here? Or do I use my about to be 40 (years old) vibes?’ That’s the toughest part, knowing when to hit the gas and when to hit the brake.

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Recording artists Swizz Beatz and Timbaland attend The Dean Collection X BACARDI Untameable House Party on December 4, 2015 in Miami, Florida.
Frazer Harrison

Interview: Swizz Beatz And Timbaland Talk 'Verzuz' Battles, Respond To Fan Requests

Phrases such as “do it for the culture” or “push the culture forward” are used so often that their meanings have been diluted. But with their new series Verzuz, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland are doing exactly what those terms mean. Part beat battle and part educational seminar, two legendary producers, songwriters, or artists take 20 of their biggest hits and pit them against each other as the audience watches and comments on Instagram. Timbaland and Swizz competed against each other first, and then they coordinated other matchups: Boi-1da vs. Hit-Boy, Neyo vs. Johnta Austin, The-Dream vs. Sean Garrett, Mannie Fresh vs. Scott Storch, and T-Pain vs. Lil Jon. Each matchup has its own standout qualities - whether it’s Sean Garrett's wacky faces before launching a late comeback, Scott Storch adding harmonious keys in real time, or T-Pain and Lil Jon clowning with each other before previewing new music, every battle is a must-watch.

Coming up next, music fans will be treated to the biggest matchup yet: Teddy Riley vs. Babyface. In an interview with VIBE, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland break down how they came up with Verzuz in the first place, their favorite moments so far, and why they want the culture vultures to slow down for once.

 

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@teddyriley1 VS @babyface 🙌🏽 This is one of the iconic moments me & @timbaland have been working on! The Sunday will go down in the history books! Once again VERZUZ made it happen ! See you Sunday 6pm est on @teddyriley1 Live Zone Zone Zone !!!!!!!

A post shared by No Breaks In 2020 (@therealswizzz) on Apr 2, 2020 at 9:27pm PDT

--

What made you decide to do the first battle between yourselves?

Timbaland: I think the first battle was something that I can say that me and Swizz had this idea for Verzuz three and a half years ago. The world is so dark right now, I woke up one day just feeling brave and I called Swizz like, “we should do it over IG Live.” As soon as I said it, we just did it, we just had fun with it. We just gave the world something beautiful for 5 hours to take their mind off of what's going on.

Swizz Beatz: We did it before at Summer Jam, so that was the first one, and then Timb came back to me and said,  “you know what, this is the time where we should do it again.” And I thought it was a great idea. Plus it fits right into what we were building anyway

Was it both of you guys at Summer Jam or was it a different battle at Summer Jam? Swizz Beatz: It was me and him. We didn’t have enough time to do how we did on IG, so IG was the real one. Summer Jam was the warm up. Because we only had like 12, 15 minutes on the set so it was very short but it was effective with 50,000 people there. And we were just celebrating each other, and that's the thing I wanted to tell everybody. It's an educational celebration, even though we talk smack and we make it interesting, cause we gotta have that for fun, but it's really educational and it's really a celebration. So everybody that's been on Verzuz has been an educational celebration. I mean, look at tonight. We got Ryan Tedder vs Benny Blanco, you know that's a whole other side of the music, but those guys deserve to get celebrated as well. I think it's gonna be a great battle, they’ve got big big big records.

So from you guys' battle, what were your favorite moments from each other's sets? Timbaland: My favorite moment was seeing my friend, and we were both in a great space. He went to the car and plugged up, and was really into the music. It wasn’t about what songs did I play, it was about just seeing my friend and both of us having fun. I think that was a moment in itself for me.

Swizz Beatz:I agree with that. My favorite moment with Timb was his energy. We haven’t seen Timb get loose like that: glass of wine in his hand, his energy was way up, his spirit was way up. This was a crucial time cause the entire world was watching and feeding off of our energy. When we did it at Summer Jam, we wasn’t going through all these trials and tribulations, so people had a lot of other options and different things going on, and not really paying attention as they probably should. But this time, people really got to pay attention ‘cause we all on lockdown, we all sitting down and people got to pay attention to the energy. I think that energy transpired into Hit-Boy and Boi-1da wanting to contribute to that energy and all the others that came because of that. But what we inherited was a real job, Tim [laughter]

Timbaland: A real serious job.

Swizz Beatz: What people don’t understand is, they can be home and type up a wish list. If they don't think we don't want the same wishes they do? They crazy! But everybody not coming outside. It's hard. When we get these people to agree, it's a celebration man cause it's not an easy thing to do. It’s a lot on the line. And a lot of the women are like “we want the ladies, we want the ladies.” Okay, but the ladies ain't answering yet. You think we don't want the ladies? We working on it, you know, we delivered mail to all of your favorites to come outside, and it's looking real good. We got some great things coming, but I just want the people to be patient and know that me and Timb is doing this from our heart, for the people. A lot of people are like “I need JD and Puff,” and I’m like well if it were that easy, it would have been already. … But nobody is gonna be mad, nobody is gonna be mad. At the end of the day, they just gotta trust the curation.

Tell me about the work it takes to make these things happen. Timbaland: Aw man. It’s transforming the mind of the mindset that was set for so long. People get caught up on the word battle, and I have to remove that and say “look, that's just a context, don't look at that. It’s really a celebration and an education”. And once I say education, the talk slows down. Me and Swizz set the rules, it's 20 for 20, so it's not what you thinking but people always throw other stuff on. Let's just celebrate you, people wanna give you your flowers while you here, and just give people education on who did what, what transpired in the past as far as creation. show your talents, show your work. Let us celebrate you right now. We need feelings right now, we don't have nothing, everybody is on a common playing field, it ain't about no money it ain't about no nothing, just come and let's celebrate this greatness that you presented to the world. That’s when they get it and start shaking their heads, but it's a process. And then i pass it over to Swizz. (laughs)

Swizz Beatz: And then you get phone calls from people who don’t qualify. You gotta have 20 joints, a lot of people wanna just jump into it because they feel like it’s a dance challenge or something, or a challenge we would see on Instagram where everybody is just doing it to get the looks. No, these are real architects that’s on this. Everybody that we’ve officially presented are architects. Now, some might have played the wrong songs at the wrong times and different things like that, but that's not on us. But these are people that got 20, certified. So a lot of people don't wanna come outside that do have the 20, and a lot of people that do wanna come outside that don't have the 20. So we gotta keep this thing curated because once it gets silly, it just gets silly. And a lot of people are doing their own thing, which is cool! But what me and Timb are trying to offer, once again, is an educational musical platform where people might talk some smack, people might get excited, some might lose some might win but at the end of the day the culture wins. These people are putting this on for free, ain't nobody got a dime yet. And all the corporations and everything are all to the table, but right now we just enjoying it like this. It’s 6 million people unemployed, what type of business are we talking about right now? That’s not what this is about right now. This is about healing as we get through this time together.

And of course me and him had a plan, we had to plan for three years for it to be done with businesses and partners and things like that, but right now this is not the time for that. We would look crazy. And a lot of people call us like we not on our game and we got such a great idea that we just letting wash down the road. I don’t feel like we letting anything wash down the road. I feel like 1.) We making history, 2.) It's educational, 3.) It’s for the people and 4.) We hit 203,000 people yesterday on live. That's not a small number, that's a few stadiums. With no sponsors by the way, just the music, no negativity, just the music. And that's what gives us the energy to be on these phone calls with these artists. The artists are hard bro, these people not easy. The requirements and... it's just a lot. My wife looking at me like “I don't know how much longer got dammit” cause this is...you late for dinner now. And we in the house, it ain't like I'm coming from somewhere, I'm in the house [laughter]. But it’s something we devoted to and we gonna keep it special.

One thing that's been really interesting to me in all these, neither the artists or the commenters feel the need to hold back. It’s interesting because sometimes when artists are talking to each other, egos can be fragile. So an artist may not say something cause they dont want to jeopardize that relationship. But i’m seeing artists talk sh*t. So what do you think makes the commenters and the artists feel so free and so open to say what they want in these battles? Timbaland: Thats a good one. For me personally, I think it's because it's from the heart. This aint bout nothing, it's for the people, by the people. That's how I see it. And you gon get what you gon get. And I think artists are engaged with it and they be in tune because it's a musical history. I believe Meek posted something on Twitter saying that “these battles make me appreciate music way more than i ever did.” Fans just being free. Like Swizz said, we filling up a stadium, but a stadium where everybody can speak their minds. And I feel like right now, in the world, we on one playing field. You ain't talking bout what Range Rover i got, what diamond chain, that don't even matter. So all you have is your opinion. That's it.

Swizz Beatz: I think the comments is a safe space as well. I think it just feels like a community and everybody got a license to keep it real in that community. I thought that was interesting too, because I see people in there talking crazy that, man if it was somewhere else, it would really be these things we talk about. But it's like being at a fight, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, we gon talk shit on the sideline. Like “Aw man that aint it right there.” It’s like that, vs. pointing in someone's face and talking to them like that. It’s like friends communicating at a showdown. People are looking at it more as a sport than anything, I believe, when they in those comments.

 

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Two icons went head to head in a Epic battle . Thank you for doing it for the people 🙌🏽 203k in attendance let’s keep it going @timbaland VERZUZ 🎬🎬🎬 @artokoro

A post shared by No Breaks In 2020 (@therealswizzz) on Apr 2, 2020 at 10:31am PDT

I know that some artists can be very cautious about things that they agree to. And they may be like, "I don't wanna do this because if I lose I’ll look crazy.” Has it taken a lot of convincing to get some of these people to do it? Swizz Beatz: Man that's what we tryna tell you, this is not an easy job. Like people are overthinking, this is a lot on the line. And so far everybody in Verzuz has been taking it...I spoke to Mannie today and I know that he know that he probably didn’t win that battle, you understand? But in his mind he had fun, he put on for the people, he felt he probably could have played a couple of different records, and he kept a high road about it. Some people say that he won, some people say I won, and you know the energy is good. But everybody can't take that to the chin, and that's what I’m learning. I'm like man, especially a lot of artists in the younger generation, they got all these excuses not to show up. Me and Timb don't wanna just put on shows from a different era, we wanna put on shows that’s from them! But I'm telling you, it's a lot of ego involved. And my message to those artists is “leave your ego at the door, bring your music and have fun.” That's it. It's for the people. But a lot of people that I know wanna jump in but he like “man I can't,” “he saying this one did this, this one did this to me.” Like that's crazy. That's a young mentality. A more mature mentality is like yo, he might win some, I might win some, he might lose some, I might lose some, let’s just do it. It's music, we just celebrating music, it ain't that crazy. So a lot of people requesting all these battles it's like, yeah that sounds easy, now who's gonna go get it done? (Laughs)

A colleague of mine found a lot of similarities between these and soundclashes from the carribean. Are you using that influence on purpose or no? Swizz Beatz: Not necessarily. At the end of the day, Verzuz is not just about music. We didn’t get into the sports side, we didn’t get into the comedy side. There's other things that we’re gonna do, but this is a well thought out plan and we’re starting it with music because that's our strong point. But we got other things thats gonna blow people's minds that's set up, but this is a very calculated thing. This is a duration, this isn't just for the hype of quarantine. This is for us to have a different platform that celebrates creativity period, not just music. So we would love for people to understand what we’re thinking, cause I see a lot of people tryna pull from what we doing and tryna run with headlines of their own quicker than what we’re doing, but we don't care about that shit, that's not even their type of business, the people that's doing it. They don't got no musical background, no creative background, they just wanna feel like they’re part of something. Which is great. But what we plan on doing is...when you free the artist, you free the world, right? So we plan on giving a lot of artists and creatives the voice that they probably never had, or was never understood. We’re thinking very very big, but right now we like the level that we’re at because we vibing with the people, and we gonna also vibe with the people but right now we just having fun. That's all you can do.

Now Swizz you had also posted on your IG that a lot of companies and corporations are tryna cash in on this right now. What kind of offers are they putting out there and how does it make you feel to get those offers so early on in the process? Swizz Beatz: Me and Timb were definitely appreciative, but there's a time and place for everything. Not saying that we won't look at everything, we not silly, we gonna look at everything, there might be something that's really amazing. But, and I think I can speak on Timb’s behalf too, but with a lot of people and ideas, people are so short-minded sometimes. They think about what can help their basic now and not their overall period. For me, it's a time and place for everything, and going direct to the artists and all of this stuff here, which all of the companies are doing, which is cool, but I don't like how they tryna play on them as well. Like don't do that, don't do that. Right now, there's no politics involved and we’re having a great time. The minute you see a logo running across that screen, it's just gonna feel crazy. And I think we should be promoting what we promoting: the artists. Period. The creatives. Period. No interruptions. Give us five minutes on that, let the creatives have theirs, five minutes without being interrupted by a logo. That's our vibe right now. Let the creatives get their five minutes without being interrupted by a f***in logo. Let the artists be people for five seconds, you know what I’m saying? Timb, you can expand on that if you want.

Timbaland: Nah you said it right. Just give us a minute. I was gonna sum it down to just let us breathe. We're having fun. Don’t mess up the fun. Just give us a minute. We’ll come to you.

Swizz Beatz: Or put your proposal in now and come talk to us after the quarantine. You can do that now, and then after the quarantine we can get to it. Cause right now we in a very hardcore situation. This is the second of April, so this is a very crucial month. If things don't change this month, there isn't gonna be anything to talk about but survival. It's not gonna matter anyway. We got 6 million -

Timbaland: It’s 10 million now.

Swizz Beatz: It’s 10 million?

Timbaland: It’s 10 million now, Swizz.

Swizz Beatz: Well okay.

Timbaland: 10 million unemployed, we can't even talk about a business right now, like come on.

Swizz Beatz: That's 10 million wolves. That's nuts man. That's 10 million good people that can turn bad.

Timbaland: Very quick.

 

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Attention 🚨 #VERZUZ @scottstorchofficial vs @manniefresh tonight 9pm est on @scottstorchofficial live.........

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Swizz Beatz: Inshallah, a lot of things need to turn around quick. When I say quick, I mean quick. Everything needs to go in effect now. Because you telling us we cant go outside? And then you saying we can't work, and we can't pay our bills and all this and now you got blackouts happening? All right now. This is a Will Smith movie. And the crazy part is it's for real. The economy is what, 16 trillion now? In four weeks? That's a different type of bleeding.

Timbaland: That's why this is so important. Because even for me, and I tell Swizz this all the time, it's giving me joy for three hours out the day that feels like I left my house. But I didn’t leave my house. It’s that feeling of great music and curation and you don't be thinking bout the offers and...nah man. I'm looking at the people. It can be frustrating because they asking “who next who next,” “I want this person next,” but that means these people are engaged in a time like this, where people are losing jobs like...you can't do that, you gotta give us those five minutes. It’s serious out here. Very serious.

What were some of your favorite moments from the other battles so far? Timbaland: My favorite moment from Sean and Dream’s battle was Sean kept making them faces (laughs), like what is wrong with you? But then he’d drop a bomb so it's like oh snap! That was one of my favorites from that. And then with Johnta and Neyo, it was like i was on the dance floor just going crazy cause I didn’t know Johnta did all these records and I didn’t know all the records that Ne-Yo did, so every moment of that was amazing to me. My best moment with Mannie and Scott was that Scott saved “Still Dre” for last and it was like “Goodnight, close the curtains.”

Swizz Beatz: My favorite moment was when Hit-Boy and Boi-1da was playing exclusives that people respect in a battle, cause thats a hard card right there. I like that they both had mega records that nobody had heard of, to pull out in a battle. I like that they had exclusives. But big exclusives. Cause it's hard to play exclusives in a battle, people are playing hits. So he had to pull out Drake, Hit-Boy had to pull out Nipsey. So I thought that was amazing. As far as Johnta and Ne-Yo, still my favorite battle so far, for many reasons, for the educational reasons, for the diversity in the playlists, how they were gentlemen about it, how the energy was. But man, to find all these hidden tracks from both of them that I never knew either of them produced, that was the best for me. And then artists calling me for Johnta’s number like right after that; young artists by the way, big ones too. I thought that was super cool, they called for Ne-Yo too. With The-Dream and Sean Garrett, my favorite part was The-Dream playing golf (laughs) and Sean Garrett swinging at the last minute and made everybody respect his name at the end of the day, no matter how we felt at the beginning of the battle, he made a great comeback on that.

I liked that Mannie Fresh had skits, I would have cut like two or three of those skits out, but I liked that he came with character. I like how Scott Storch was comfortable. It was calculated. He said “you got the skits but you aint got the hits.” I just love how smooth he was with his weapons, like he had a dangerous hand of weapons and he was just handling himself like a boss. And Mannie wasn't scared to show up to the competition, which, trust me, we had other people we wanted to go against Scott but people are not coming outside. So I respect that Mannie came outside. I respect that. So when two people say yes we gotta respect that. Cause obviously you wanna see Scott vs whoever in your head. Nine times out of 10, we called that person and asked them to come outside. So that's how we got to have fun with Mannie and Scott. 203,000 people showed up for that and they didn't leave, so we had a great time with that.

So what are you guys expecting from T-Pain and Lil Jon? Who are your early picks on that?

Timbaland: I think we gonna get a lot of high energy, cause T-Pain is a character and Lil Jon is definitely a character.

Swizz Beatz: I think they’re both gonna have everybody on the dancefloor heavy. We felt at the last minute that T-Pain is (accomplished) sonic wise, producer wise, as far as a writer and as an entertainer. I feel that Lil Jon’s energy is gonna be great because, you gotta curate these things as much as possible even tho people were like “aw man we wanted see T-Pain go against Scott Storch” but i just felt like that wasn’t gonna be a fair match for T-Pain and T-Pain would agree as well. But it wasn’t about him backing down, he obviously signed up. But us as executives had to ask “is this really good for anybody?” … Now T-Pain and Lil Jon, the energy’s better with them. T-Pain's energy went up like “Yeah, that's what I'm talkin bout.” When they doing this together, we want it to be an equal exchange and equal excitement ‘cause people feel that energy. T-Pain and Lil Jon just feel a like a party on Saturday, so that's why we did it on Saturday. Let's do a party on Saturday, get the tempo up and energy up. What do you think?

I'm looking forward to it for sure. I think they're both salesmen and they have good energy. As far as who's gonna win, I don't know. In these battles you realize there's these songs that come up that you didn’t know that they did, so it's difficult to predict the winner. Swizz Beatz: I agree with that. But that's the good part, it keeps you watching. It’s a lot of predictable battles we could do. But it's like it's too predictable. So a lot of the battles people, when they first see them, some they’re gonna agree with but a lot they’re gonna be like “but why?” Certain big names you’re gonna see, and you’re gonna see names as big as those names and you’re gonna be like “Come on Swizz and Timb, how you gonna do that?” but when you actually see it, you’re gonna see why and how we did that, and i just want everybody to trust the curation. Look at Johnta Austin, people was like “Man we need Ne-Yo to go against Dream, thats not a good thing” and next thing, look, everybody got educated on that shit. So we don't wanna do predictable battles, then it starts becoming like a candy store and it's like no man, we took our time with this.

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T-Pain performs onstage during day two of Nickelodeon's Second Annual SlimeFest at Huntington Bank Pavilion on June 09, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.
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T-Pain Talks Upcoming Battle With Lil Jon

Instagram Live has been the place to be in recent weeks when it comes to the music world, and Swizz Beatz and Timbaland have coordinated a series of battles between some of the greatest producers and songwriters of all time. The next battle: T-Pain vs the king of crunk, Lil Jon. VIBE spoke to T-Pain about why he decided to participate, and what he expects from Lil Jon.

VIBE: I just spoke to Swizz and Timbo yesterday, and they were saying that some of these battles were difficult to set up, in part because some of the artists were scared to lose. What made you participate in this?

T-Pain: Well for one, I don’t see it as competition. I know the public sees it as competition, but I see it as a celebration of history. If all these people are going hits for hits, it’s not about who has the biggest hits. We had hits! There’s millions of millions of people who would pay to even be in these battles or be mentioned in the name of the people who are doing these battles. We all had hits. It’s not really a competition about who has the bigger song, it’s about two people getting together that actually had hits. That’s pretty difficult to do, to run for as long as anybody that’s been doing the competition is running. Like I said, I don’t see it as a competition; I see it as a celebration. Either way, the people win. Win or lose, it ain’t gon change my life tomorrow. (laughs) Even if they see it as me losing, I’m still T-Pain after that. Those hits still exist.

Have you watched all the other battles?

Oh of course. I’ve been tuned in crazy.

 

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Tomorrow who you got ???? @tpain vs @liljon ........... VERZUZ.... 9pm est

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Which have been the best to you?

The obvious one. (laughs) Fucking Dream and Sean Garrett is my favorite one, just cuz of how Sean was tripping for a while. (laughs) But it made for a good show, and we got to hear a lot of dope records that a lot of young people not only didn’t know about, but that even older people forgot about. Like I said, the people watching are the real winners. Nobody’s really going against each other. It’s a competitive industry as it is, and we proved our point by putting out the hits in the first place. Seeing Sean and Dream go against each other, two of the greatest hip-hop/R&B songwriters of our generation, it’s a great thing to see.

One element from these battles is that they’ll bring out songs that the audience didn’t know that they did. Do you think there are a lot of songs you’ve done that people don’t associate with you?

There’s a ton of those. People don’t even know that I produce my own sh*t. People don’t look at credits no more. It’s a bunch of country records I did that I’m not even trying to put out there that I did. It’s an honor to do it, I just don’t look for that kind of props. I know what I did, the check’s coming in, I’m fine if people don’t do that.

What kind of strategy are you looking at for this?

I don’t really have a strategy man. I’m just playing songs. If I saw it as a competition, I’d definitely have a strategy. But I’m just playing music. I’m not trying to beat out Lil Jon. Lil Jon is a f**king GOAT. He changed sh*t. He created party music, the crunk era, sh*t like that. Not only are we completely different –– obviously you want to make it entertaining, but if there’s nothing there, you don’t want to force it and make it silly.

At first, the matchup was going to be you and Scott Storch. Did you feel any way when they switched it?

Nah, not really. I understood. It made complete sense. They said they didn't want it to be a pure producer against a songwriter. Even Lil Jon is a songwriter, he's on a lot of the songs that he's going to play. It's not pure production against songwriting, you wouldn't have anything to compare. I like keeping it the way it makes sense. Give me someone who's written a verse before.

That’s all the questions I have for you. 

This was probably supposed to be way more controversial than this. (laughs)

(Laughs) I wasn't expecting controversy, you're not a controversial guy.

I'm not, man. I wish I could come in this b*tch like “I’ma kill this ni**a, ima murder that motherf***er.” But nah, the ni**a got slaps for real. (laughs) Ni**a got slaps. I can't wait to hear em. I know he's gonna have a DJ set up, he's gonna come in there screaming all over my goddamn phone. I'm more excited to have fun on live with Jon, I ain't seen Jon in a while. I'm more excited about that than the competition.

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