Adrian Younge on Being Sampled by Jay-Z and Living the Vinyl Life

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What’s old is new for Adrian Younge. The producer has crafted a vintage sound, harkening back to the days of emotive soul and lush instrumentation. And it’s made him a hot commodity in 2013. In between dropping Ghostface Killah’s horror concept album Twelve Reasons to Die and Souls of Mischief’s upcoming There Is Only Now, Younge has snagged credits on two tracks on Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, “Picasso Baby” and “Heaven.”

While shooting the music video for Souls of Mischief’s title track somewhere in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Adrian spoke to Hive about being sampled by Jay-Z, his “vintage” sound and what’s next.

How did you hook up with Jay-Z for Magna Carta Holy Grail?

Well basically, I put out an album with Wax Poetics in 2011 [Something About April]. One of our dreams was that someone like Jay-Z would sample it. Then, the A&R of Magna Carta “Hip Hop” [Kyambo Joshua] showed it to Jay. I haven’t spoken to Jay personally about it but in the Samsung commercial, there’s a part where he says, I want “keyboards like that” and that’s my song.

So were you ever in the studio with Jay-Z?

No. No! I got a call like “Yo. They sampled two of your songs on the album.” It’s dope. It just worked out. It’s one of those magical moments.

Given that your songs were sampled, do you wish you could have been at the recording sessions to oversee the process?

I’m good, man. That’s what sampling is about. Curtis Mayfield doesn’t need to be there when the Beastie Boys sampled his music. For me, it was just flattering. Now, I’m entering into deals with all them like Roc Nation, trying to be in the family.

Did you get a congratulatory Rolex for being on the album? Maybe a Samsung phone?

I got something a little better than a Rolex. I got some good stuff.

What’s better than a Rolex?

I got some paper! I got a watch too. I’m a vintage watch dude … a Mito? I’m happy about everything. Timbaland is the one who sampled it and he wanted to get an old sound on a new album. My sound is an old, archaic sound.

Are you worried about being boxed in as the “vintage sound guy”?

My whole life is vinyl. I own a record store in Los Angeles. All I do is buy vinyl. I really don’t listen to new music. New music to me is old records. So the question is “Am I afraid of being boxed in to something I love the most?” Hell no. That’s cool with me.

I’ve read somewhere that you don’t listen to new hip-hop after 1997. Is that true?

What it is, I tell people that I left hip-hop in 1997. I was so hardcore into listening to hip-hop, buying the new albums, but everything starting changing in 1997…

What about the music of Ma$e?! Even Jay invoked his flow on Magna Carta Holy Grail!

The music of Ma$e? [Laughs]. There was dope stuff that came out after 1997; there’s dope stuff that came out in the 2000s, a whole bunch of dope shit. I dig old records because it’s inspiration to me. It’s my sound.

Any more Roc Nation projects coming this year?

Possibly. Uh. I wish I could say. It’s big shit. Really big shit. Basically I’m doing something with one of the biggest rappers in the world.

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