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At some point in your career, you want to pay it forward. Regardless of the industry you’re in, there comes a time when you reached a certain level of success and want to groom the next generation with your knowledge and expertise. Che Pope, a Boston native, veteran music producer, songwriter, and former head of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, is in a position to do just that. After spending seven years with G.O.O.D., as well as making music with critically-acclaimed artists like Lauryn Hill, Dr. Dre, and The Weeknd, Che Pope has utilized lectures and podcasts to discuss his diverse career, sharing a perspective tailored to young creatives who want some mentoring in their own paths. Pope’s experience allows him to give gems in all aspects of the music business – no matter if you’re an aspiring manager, producer, singer, or artist, he has a piece of advice that can apply to you.
It’s why he’s finally launching a podcast of his own called Q&A With Che, a HiStudios Original, that’s available on the Himalaya app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. He describes the show as “Ted Talks with the urban entertainment industry,” using his large network of friends for real conversations on how they made it. The format is more for educational purposes and using the platform to expand his Q&A section of his discussions, with each guest detailing what they do, how their industry works, and their take on the future. Che’s first guest is DMV rapper IDK, who is coming off a major 2019 with his partnership with Warner for his label Clue and the release of Is He Real?
Speaking with VIBE over the phone, Che explains the genesis of Q&A With Che (the idea came after having a convo with Jay-Z), why IDK was the perfect first guest, his thoughts on Kanye and G.O.O.D. Music, and the books he’s reading today.
VIBE: Q&A With Che is going to be part of HiStudios’ original programming slate. You’re alongside sport personalities that also have podcasts like Mike Tyson, Gilbert Arenas, and Caron Butler. If I did my research, you’re the first “music veteran” with a show on HiStudios. Was podcasting a logical next step in your career?
Che Pope: I think it was important for me to share the information. And just really what’s the best way to? Obviously, the lectures are great. That’s like, ‘Okay, cool. I go to Harvard Business School just so those kids get it.’ This was a way to really share it with a wider audience, with anybody. And I’ve been getting hit up on Instagram or Twitter where people are always asking me tons of questions and this was a way for me [to reach them]. So many people would be like, ‘Hey, can you mentor me?’ I can’t mentor all of them. This was kind of my way of like, ‘OK, I can’t mentor all of you, but I can do this.’ I think that is what really attracted me.
I had a really great conversation with Jay-Z about it and he just loved the idea of it and that really put a battery in my back. Because at one point in time, it was this great idea we had, and just getting caught up in work and [being] busy and not pursuing it. Once I spoke with Jay-Z and he said, ‘This is amazing. You have to do this.’ That really put the battery back, and then partnering with HiStudios and Himalaya, it just really gave me the team I needed to really bring it out there in the manner that I wanted to do, the professional level that I wanted to present it at.
So you were already thinking of podcasting back then. When did that Jay-Z convo happen?
That happened about two years ago in his living room.
How’d the convo go? Were you trying to pitch yourself to Tidal?
No, I actually wasn’t. He said, ‘You know, you’re more than welcome to consider Tidal.’ But he was like, ‘I just think it’s a great idea.’ I wasn’t actually pitching anything. We were just having a business conversation. I guess you could say the next step in my career is not only the podcast, but I also have a start-up. I was just getting business advice and out of that meet, Q&A came up.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the hip-hop podcast landscape. We got everybody from ItsTheReal’s, which you were on. The Joe Budden Podcast. Rap Radar Podcast. Do you see the success of those guys as motivation to reach that level or are they competition?
I don’t think they’re competition. We are really two different things. I’m much more like Ted Talks than I am No Jumper, ItsTheReal, Joe Budden. Although ItsTheReal is a little bit different than Joe Budden. Joe Budden wants to be opinionated, sort of controversial at times and really drive listeners on entertainment. Mine is much more educational focused. Entertaining in the fact that people who are going to be on it cause anyone could be on it. It could be anyone from Diddy to someone you haven’t heard of. I think it is entertaining in that [regard], but it is much more educational than I am trying to entertain you and be controversial and all that kind of stuff.
And I think it's really interesting that you chose IDK as your first guest. He’s coming off his Warner partnership for Clue and his album Is He Real? dropped last year. He’s a younger rapper but he has this business savviness to him. Why did you want to interview him?
That’s specifically why. I built a relationship with the kid cause he was in negotiations at one point and time to sign with G.O.O.D. Music. He is from the DMV area originally, which is where my mom is from. So we kind of made a cool connection a few years back when he was still this independent kid coming up trying to figure it out. But he was far more informed than most artists I meet. He was talking to me about his independent promotion and his marketing plan and things of that nature, which he had written himself. And I was like, ‘Wow, this kid is [incredible].’ When he finally did the deal with Warner, he was just the perfect first guest for me cause he is living what these kids want to do, what many of them want to do. His journey is really a testament to educating and empowering yourself and challenging. He had overcome adversity. He had been in jail before. It built himself up from scratch. Really talented story and his story is just getting started. I think the sky's the limit to where he can go.
Before I let you go, I want to talk about Kanye. You’ve been there since Yeezus. You’ve been there since Cruel Summer. Now, he’s on this new trajectory of dedicating himself to God, releasing Jesus Is King and Jesus Is Born. He’s no longer making secular music and is reportedly done performing solo shows. When you were working with him, did you see any early signs that his artistry was progressing towards this?
No, but I would say the thing with him is he is always evolving. I would say you never know what is next, which is exciting. I couldn’t say I saw this coming, at all. You never know what’s next, I will say that, which is one of the exciting things when working with him, for better or for worse, you know? Whether it was a Trump hat or “slavery was a choice” comment or whatever, or those amazing moments like Yeezus or some of the amazing musical experiences I was apart of. You never knew what was coming and that was exciting. I wish him the best on it. When it was time for me to move on? I wish him the best with it.
You were with G.O.O.D. Music for six and a half years?
Yeah, seven years. Since 2011. I was one of the longest running people that lasted the longest with him [Laughs].
Why did you want to leave?
I think for me it was the next progression in my career. To transition from working with somebody and helping them build their stuff to building my own company. I am building a music incubator, start-up. It was really sort of the next progression in my career. I had to take that step as a business owner. And that takes a lot of work, a lot of focus, and a lot of commitment, you know? It’s one of those things. They say that saying, ‘if it was easy, everybody could do it?’ It’s not easy.
You once described your role at G.O.O.D. with Noah Goldstein as “getting shit done.” Now that Pusha-T has taken the role as president, what do you think of his “term” so far?
I think Pusha-T is an artist, and I think he has aspirations of his own label. I don’t know what’s going on with G.O.O.D. Music. It’s kind of like in…what’s the word when something is in suspended in time? Desiigner left the label. I know 070 [Shake] is putting her album out, but that’s more Def Jam. I don’t think there’s really a G.O.O.D. Music focus there.
I think Kacy Hill isn’t there either, right?
Yeah, Kacy Hill left. I do think they still have some artists. I know Teyana is active. I don’t really know much about what’s going on these days at G.O.O.D. Pusha-T is one of my favorite artists, and I think he’s still focused on Pusha-T. I don’t know what his involvement is with the label at all or a day-to-day basis or if he’s still involved at all.
I think that means we’re going to see something major happen. Big Sean still has his album coming out, so maybe something like that.
Yeah. Big Sean’s coming. I’m sure Pusha’s coming. I know 070 Shake’s album is amazing. I’ve heard it so I’m excited for her because I know it’s a long time coming and she’s great. She’s gonna be on the Swedish House Mafia project as well. I think she could really be one of the next, big young artists.
I saw that books are your thing. What are you reading now?
As far as this year, I want to read as many as I can. I have different people that turn me onto books. You never know what someone is going to refer. Right now, I am reading Ben Horowitz’s new book What You Do Is Who You Are. I think Ben is just a brilliant guy and the fact that he loves hip-hop too, which is really cool. Anytime he drops a book, I try to get it.
The one thing you can count on in hip-hop is that rap legend and supreme lyricist, Reggie "Redman" Noble will always deliver the rugged and raw with a side of humor. That is a welcomed wave of balance in these times of extra thugness by rappers that are hardly as hard as they claim. Red, though? I bet he would really "Smack Tha Sh!t Outcha" like the video title for his newest single. The slow flow funk track compliments Red's comedic side as he presents situations he might find himself in like, "Women always throwing hints when they rent due/ and I throw a hint right back, 'What the [email protected] you gon' do?' Go get your money you brought ya wig outta/ Before I pay ya rent I'll smack the sh!t outcha..."
The second track of his just-released three-song EP titled, 3 Joints (get it? Redman...weed lover...joints...yeah) is sandwiched between "Its a Banguh" and "Zugga" with the former being an uptempo reworked beat version of his and partner Method Man's hit "Da Rockwilder." The latter is a bongo-based neck breaker with punchlines galore.
Video wise, this one is a continuous scene of Red putting the smackdown Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson style on anyone in his path. He's an equal opportunity palm and backhand slapper as well, from little people to Grandparents can get some five fingers to the face action. Mr. Noble also played double duty in this video as he took on the director's title for the Riveting Entertainment production. He recently did a career-spanning interview with yours truly on the new RivNow.com show "The Real Ones." Check it out below.
With their first collaboration since 2016, Drake and Future clearly have the biggest song of the week - and the young, new decade - with "Life Is Good." Other releases include a new song from Grammy nominee Lil Baby, an LP by wrap up impresario Uncle Murda, and more.
Future and Drake – "Life Is Good" The two rappers behind the 2015 joint album What A Time To Be Alive had opposite outputs in 2019. Future released the album Future Hndrxx Presents: The Wizrd with an accompanying film, along with an EP called Save Me during the summer. Drake had a quiet year, but at the end of 2019 he began to satisfy fans again with an interview with Rap Radar and the song and video for a new record called "War." The two have jumpstarted the new decade with "Life Is Good," a track that showcases each of them talking sh*t over multiple catchy beat changes. In the hilarious music video (with guest appearances by 21 Savage, Mike Will Made-It, Lil Yachty and Big Bank Black), they take their hands at regular jobs as trash men, bakers, fast food restaurant servers, and more while pursuing their dreams as rap stars. Spotify | Apple Music | TIDAL
Lil Baby – "Sum 2 Prove" Lil Baby recently appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to perform his song "Whoa," and weeks before he sees the results of his Grammy nomination for "Drip Too Hard" with Gunna, he's released a new solo song called "Sum 2 Prove." Apple Music | TIDAL
Khalid – "Eleven" After a 2019 that saw him top the Billboard charts with his album Free Spirit, Khalid has started the new year with a single called "Eleven." In an interview with Apple Music, Khalid described it as "the perfect track to just play on your stereo, grip the wheel of your car, and just, I mean, just go where the wind takes you." He added, "My mom lives, breathes, sleeps R&B music, so I really feel like this is the ode to just people who came before me, and I really love the song. It reminds me of that Timbaland era and Aaliyah and music just felt so good. You just wanted to turn it on and just drive just to nowhere." Apple Music | TIDAL
Megan Thee Stallion and Normani – "Diamonds" Megan Thee Stallion and Normani have teamed up for "Diamonds," a highlight from the soundtrack for Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), a film that sees Margot Robbie reprising her role from the ensemble cast of DC's Suicide Squad. Apple Music | TIDAL
Alicia Keys – "Underdog" Alicia Keys enlisted the cowriting talents of Ed Sheeran for her new song, "Underdog." In an interview with Ebro on Apple Music, she said, "it couldn't be a better time for us to really recognize each other and each other's struggle and what it takes to actually get up every morning and decide to keep going. And we definitely need something that's just going to make us remember that we can. It's one of my favorite songs lyrically because it really... the rhythm of it is ill and it has almost this folksy vibe, but it also has this rhymey pattern in the vocals. And I feel like the story of it is ill, because I've always wanted to create, to put together, a story." Apple Music | TIDAL
Uncle Murda – Don't Come Outside Volume 2 Fresh off the 2019 version of his annual wrap-up and an appearance on MSNBC with journalist/hip-hop head Ari Melber, Uncle Murda has released his new album Don't Come Outside Volume 2. After showing gratitude with the single "Dear God I F**k With You" and teaming up with Tory Lanez for "62," we're expecting more street sh*t from the Brooklyn spitter. The album has him sparring with the likes of Benny The Butcher, Conway, Styles P, Dave East, and more. Apple Music | TIDAL
Mick Jenkins – The Circus The talented, thoughtful Mick Jenkins has followed up two projects in 2018 with his first EP of 2020, The Circus. Apple Music | TIDAL
Doe Boy – Streetz Need Me II Doe Boy, a signee to Future's Freebandz label, has released Streets Don't Need Me 2 with guest appearances by Young Thug, Young Thug, Key Glock and Lil Durk, with skits by comedian Mike Epps. Apple Music | TIDAL
MadeinTYO – You Are Forgiven (Deluxe) MadeinTYO had had a busy last two years, with the release of his debut album Sincerely, Tokyo in 2018 and a 2019 that saw him touring with Billie Eilish, touring with A$AP Ferg, and appearing on Ferg's and Chance The Rapper's respective albums. He's beginning 2020 with a treat to longtime fans: a deluxe edition of his 2016 mixtape You Are Forgiven, with nine new songs. Apple Music | TIDAL
T3 – "Relax (ft. Illa J, Frank Nitt)" Earlier this week, T3 spoke with VIBE about "Relax," the single from Mr. Fantastic, his first official solo project since closing down the legendary group Slum Village. "That’s a fun record. The concept is as Detroiters, we always feel like we have a chip on our shoulder because they are always counting us out for some strange reason. At this point, we don’t even get offended by it anymore. That makes us extra cocky sometimes because of that." Apple Music | TIDAL
Ty Farris – No Cosign Just Cocaine 3 Ty Farris is somehow one of Detroit's most underrated lyricists and one of its most respected at the same damn time: he doesn't have the level of popularity as other rappers from his city like Royce Da 5'9" and Guilty Simpson, but he's repeatedly proven that he can hang with them lyrically. No Cosign Just Cocaine 3 continues the consistent stream of output over recent years, and sees him showcasing what he says is "a perfect blend of ... the story telling and introspective songs from #NCJC1 combined with the witty and aggressive bars of #NCJC2." Stream the album below from his Bandcamp page, and buy a copy with merch.
No Cosign Just Cocaine 3 by Ty Farris
Moneybagg Yo – Time Served Shortly after announcing a deal with Roc Nation, Moneybagg Yo has released his latest album, Time Served. The 15-track project includes features by Lil Baby, Blac Youngsta, Future, DaBaby, Summer Walker, and Fredo Bang. Apple Music | TIDAL
Lil Mosey and Trippie Redd – "Never Scared" Lil Mosey and Trippie Redd draw inspiration from apocalypitic Mad Max vibes in their new video for "Never Scared." The catchy tune appears on Mosey's 2019 album, Certified Hitmaker.
Young Dolph – "Juicy" Young Dolph starts the year with a hilarious new video for "Juicy," a song from his 2019 joint album with Key Glock, Dum and Dummer.
Knxwledge – "Do You" Knxwledge is one of the most creative, prolific producers of the past decade, and he's beginning 2020 with a beautiful two-part instrumental, "Do You." We expect this to be the first of many releases from the California musician. Apple Music | TIDAL
Sy Ari Da Kid – "Aria" In advance of Sy Ari Da Kid's upcoming album, which features guest spots by the likes of T.I., Big KRIT and Cyhi Da Prynce, he releases a touching video for "Aria." The visual, directed by Dontell Antonio, laments on the amount of children without a father in the home, tells a story about a child in a tumultuous household, and shows Sy's love for his infant daughter. His upcoming album, It Was Unwritten, drops on Jan. 24.
Superhero Hip-Hop Pt. 1 – Various Artists VIBE Editor-In-Chief Datwon Thomas used his Twitter account to reach out to his followers to ask them that the best superhero hip-hop theme music. The result is this playlist, which has 30 songs by the likes of everyone from OGs like Puff Daddy, Jay-Z and MF DOOM to younger stars like the late Nipsey Hussle and Future. Listen to the playlist below on TIDAL.