Walking into the same THC studio that served as the base to the critically acclaimed, modern West Coast classic, Good Kid Maad City, I have to say I was not expecting to run into a jam-packed FIFA session. LA’s perennial, wild collective, OverDoz. (consisting of Joon, Kent, P, and Cream), battled hard amongst each other on a huge flat screen TV in Hollywood. The group has been splashing through the local scene over the years with their high-intensity, vibrant, good-natured melodies, and fun, yet serious, lyrics that focus on the raw life experiences of the 4-man crew. One could easily draw comparisons to the likes of Slum Village, Outkast, and Digital Underground.
Through touring across the nation with Danny Brown and A$AP Ferg, as well as their appearances at Lollapalooza in Chicago and the upcoming SXSW in Austin, the boys are building a name for themselves and fine-tuning their regional sound for a global market. Constantly reinventing themselves of the course of their last four releases – which sound nothing alike – it’s hard to exactly fit OverDoz. into a music box when describing them. They push the boundaries of what we expect a West Coast musician, much less a hip-hop artist, to sound like. While reveling in the debauchery and hedonism that comes along with being an emerging act in the prime of their lives, OverDoz. manages to focus on more mature topics like single parenthood or drug abuse – and even the social issues affecting the crime-ridden South Central neighborhoods they come from.
Within hip-hop, the few groups that do exist seem to be interacting with one another strictly because of a business relationship; on the other hand, OverDoz., being childhood friends who grew up together playing sports, resonates that connection that they share and translate it well into their art. Having been a part of this resurgence in the West Coast, first making a dent in the game with their mixtape Live for Die for, and impressively guest featuring on records with Dom Kennedy, Nipsey Hustle, Problem, Childish Gambino, A$AP Rocky, and Kendrick Lamar, the newly-signed RCA artists are gearing up towards releasing their major label debut, titled 2008. The young, Dested ones have enlisted a wide array of producers such as Hit-Boy, THC, and super producer Pharrell to bring together a sound for 2008 that’s almost foreign to music fans of today. We got the chance to chat with them about their new album, the effect sports has had on their lives, group dynamics, and what to expect on their much-anticipated album 2008.
Left to right: Kent, Joon, P, Cream.
SENAY KENFE: Sitting in the studio with LA’s finest, one of the biggest collectives that have been periodically putting out heavy releases over the years, OverDoz. How ya’ll doing?
Explain to the people that don’t know the squad.
Cream: I’m Cream, shout out, I’m the wild one, uh-huh.
Kent: I’m Kent. Jam, everybody calls me Jam.
Joon: I’m Joon, I’m the broke one.
P: I’m P. I’m beating Cream’s ass in Madden right now.
I’ve seen you a month or two ago at the spot in Leimert [Park] you guys performed at. Wanna talk about that? It was for a good cause.
Kent: That was for my dad’s event. My dad does [anti-]gang violence – black on black crime. He takes low riders and motorcycles, different clubs, and he just takes them on a ride in the jungles, in South Central, Watts, closer to East LA, and Compton. It was just a second annual thing that we told him we’d perform at. This is the second year in a row he did it.
It was just a way for us to show that we care about what’s going on in our own community first. Because when it comes to performances in LA, we’re not too big on it. After touring and seeing the acceptance we get from other crowds, it’s rare that we get a real, big acceptance from our home city.
Where’d you get the concept of being a [singer and] rapper?
Kent: Me personally? The first time, I was just listening to records – singing came from me singing and seeing the reaction it got from the women in my family. Then when I got older, it started getting more attention from the girls.
Rapping came from just being mad. Just being upset and wanting to voice it in a way that was accepted. In my class and in our generation that was rap. So that’s where that came from.
As we sit here and watch everybody pick their teams, describe how important football has been to all of you guys.
Cream: Well that’s how we all met, really. Well, sort of, kind of. Little League football, playing against each other, playing in the same park, playing on the same block. Because me and Kent, we grew up close to each other when we were kids. So my block would play his block in football on the weekends.
Kent: We’d play in the park on Saturdays. Then it was also baseball too, we also crossed paths in baseball. That’s how Joon and P first met up, the first time I met P was on a baseball field. Sports played a very big role in us meeting, which it does in all cities across the world.
It kind of segues into fashion too. Because you guys have been, over the years, routinely rated as one of the most stylish groups.
P: One of my things about fashion is so many people try to take credit for things that have been recycled for years. OverDoz., we’ve never taken credit for a certain sound, we’ve never taken credit for a certain way that we shoot our videos, and we’re certainly not about to take credit for a style of fashion. But I think that if anybody knew anything about fashion, you would have to say that a lot of the way that people dress is coming from the LA lifestyle and the way that we grew up. Whether it be Vans or skinny jeans and Jordans, I’d have to say I saw that first starting out in the West Coast.
I know a lot of people in fashion like to voice their opinion on what they did first and what they had to go through in order to do that. But Cream was getting into fights about how he dressed at Crenshaw in the 9th grade. We got The Hundreds tattooed on us when we graduated high school, so it’s been a part of us for a while. I wouldn’t take credit for being a pioneer or fashion person.
Speak upon how growing up in LA has helped shape your sound. In terms of the production that you guys continually connect with, as well as your rap style.
P: I think it just made it original. Literally, all of us are from LA. And anytime you go somewhere or somebody from LA goes somewhere, people will be like, “Ya’ll from LA, huh?” They can just tell. I think that shows in the music too, I think that’s just who we are. It’s just a different vibe and it shows in the music because that’s where we’re from.
Describe the group dynamic and translating that into the world. Besides you guys, as a group, coming together as music, but also, “We are a group.” It’s not just, “This person is a rapper, this person does this” –
Kent: With us, it’s just that a group dynamic is always going to be important because, in most friendship situations across the world, you’re always going to have a group of maybe two to six boys or men that have grown up together and are still chill. It’s not often that you find them in business with each other. I think that’s a lot of things that’s overlooked for people. Whether it be the way release our content, how it comes out [periodically], how our how our videos are shot. We like to show the aesthetic of that brotherhood that isn’t necessarily missing, but is kind of tarnished.
I think it’s important to us, and it has to be important to us first before it can be important to the world and portrayed across the world. Because since we’ve signed, the hardest thing to do is to get people to pay attention to what we’re trying to say on a musical aspect. A lot of people try to make it corny or try to dumb it down and make us conform to the sound that is popular now on the West Coast. Which is not necessarily the jerk music, ratchet shit. It’s hardcore, true lyrics, but is it really getting the point across? Or what message is it trying to convey?
I think just people seeing us as four people before we even open our mouths, that’s a bigger symbol that symbolizes so much unity as a people who – we just self-destruct, man.
Then, not only that, if you just look at us, even our skin tones, from the physical aspect to the parts of the city that we live in, we’re all spread out. With Joon being in Pasadena, me being on the East Side, Brett being in Inglewood, and [P] being in South Central. It’s a good dynamic, but people don’t pay that much attention to it because everybody’s just worried about themselves. Nobody really hangs out in groups… Me and Cream have known each other since 4 and 6 – you don’t find that no more. You don’t because people still robbing and all types of shit from each other. It’s hard being in a group, but like he said, it ain’t no groups if we put it like that. Kanye West and Jay Z won a fucking award for “Niggas in Paris” for best rap group. Nobody gave a fuck.
P: Yeah, all of us got different perspectives. There’s four of us so all of us can touch somebody else in a different kind of way that the other might not. If they don’t like my verse, they’re going to like Joon’s verse. If they don’t think that something was tight, they’re going to think that Cream is funny as fuck. It’s always a give and take with our group. Being in a group, we’re growing together. And I think that shows in our music as well, our music has grown and we’re just growing day by day.
“[BEING ON A MAJOR LABEL IS] LIKE DATING A RICH GIRL.”
How would you explain to somebody who’s not familiar with what’s been bubbling in the West Coast for the last almost decade now. How would you describe this new West Coast sound?
Kent: I wouldn’t explain it and I wouldn’t describe it. I’m tired of people talking about a sound that never fucking left. It never left. It’s just that people water down the radio, water down content, and people even watered down South by Southwest. So when you got all this water, it’s hard to find gold out of that shit. It’s hard to find a fucking diamond in that shit. And it just so happens that we live in Los Angeles, this is the first pit stop for everybody in the world to come to, to become what we are.
Joon: We’re just now getting noticed for all types of music. First niggas just know one type of music that the West put out, and now, everybody’s noticing all the different types of music that are coming out.
I think, as we sit here in THC Studio – I didn’t mean to phrase it as “this new sound,” I just mean to say this Renaissance that’s going on between production crews like THC, like Polyester [the Saint] –
Kent: From the production? Oh, see, I was speaking from the artistry level from what we put in our videos to what we’re saying on the rap. From a production level, that’s just being ahead of the curve. If you, as an artist, don’t know what you like – it’s what’s in your iTunes too. I know I wanted some shit that sounded like what I was listening to – a mesh of everything I was listening to. We’ve been knowing Poly for years and that was just – I wouldn’t say fate – I’m spiritual, so it was an act of God, man. Meeting them at the time we met them and were able to roll together with them and learn different things from them.
Learn what parts of our lyrics needed work or who needed to do this and who needed to go first, who needed to go second. We started making songs shorter because the production was so good that we didn’t want to – we can talk about all different types of ways and equations that we form for songs. But it’s just no rules when we work with THC.
Why do you like working with them?
Joon: Why do I like working with them? Because they’re my friends. Nah, I did shrooms with this nigga and I didn’t like him at first. We almost got into a fight. First time we met he had his shirt off because he has a tattoo and I was like, “Yo, put your shirt back on.”
Can you talk about where life has taken you since Live for Die For? Which I know wasn’t your guys’ first joint, but from there to now with this new album, 2008.
Joon: Niggas got babies. In-house pussy.
Kent: Yep, that’s it, that’s life since then. Life since Live for Die for has been live or die for. It’s been a testament of that song, it’s humbling. Because, like I said, there’s still a lot of water that’s just being – mother fuckers just letting it flow.
Joon: You got to put a little water in your shit in order to –
Kent: You got to put a little water in your shit. We’re still finding – which I always like to do – you gotta find your niche. We know it’s videos and performances –
Yeah, you guys have some great videos. The “Tofu” one, there’s a bunch.
Kent: It’s just that and training ourselves to be able to invest in ourselves. We can’t depend on the two major reasons that music is still profit, which is the fans and the label. You can’t depend on those two things in order to make money for yourself and your child; honestly. You can’t depend on no other man, but for sure, in music, if you’re going into it for them. Whether it be sharing an album with them – I feel like we always did music for ourselves and our own psyche.
Live for Die for was shit that I could listen to if I never recorded a song again. If I’m working at FedEx, at least I can listen to that and listen to a “You’re Blowing it” when I’m still mad at my chick. I didn’t start recording until Outkast stopped, put it like that. So we made music to service shit that was missing with us for a time period.
It’s just business now. It’s not hard, but it takes time; everything takes time. We can’t just shoot videos and put them out no more. You gotta get permits and budget cuts and – you know.
That was a good point that you made about that connection that you guys had with Outkast. Because a lot of people liken – there’s these comparisons with Outkast or with Slum Village, which are two groups that, while also touching on serious issues as you guys do, also bring along the comedic and feel-good and party elements of hip-hop that are just as intrinsic to the culture as anything else.
Kent: “Multiply,” “Climax,” “Bombs over Baghdad” – all of that shit. Those are the types of songz that will not get played anymore on the radio. Not by a black artist, it’s not common. And when it is, people don’t like it or people will talk shit about it. Just don’t say nothing, man. Everybody has opinion these days and we let it affect us a lot.
One thing that I’ve noticed in comments and blogs is that we’ve always gotten better, so that’s the only thing that matters. As long as the public keeps accepting your shit, it don’t matter.
P: Yeah, but at the end of the day, like he was saying, niggas make shit for themselves, that should be the goal as an artist: satisfy yourself with it. Because if you’re doing that, it should satisfy other people too.
Joon: Even if it don’t, fuck it. It’s still satisfying.
P: That’s the kind of music that we make.
Can you talk about the life of going from being an independent artist to, now, being on a major label?
Kent: It’s like dating a rich girl. If you ever dated a rich female, you know what I’m talking about.
Occasionally she let’s you drive around.
Kent: She let you drive around occasionally, but she’s going to let you know that that’s her shit one day in one way or another.
I was going to bring up the fact of the visuals you guys were talking about earlier. How important is it as an artist that’s trying to bring more awareness to what you guys are doing – what the visuals are. Because you guys work a lot with [Calmatic]. Talk about that relationship because he’s the man.
P: I grew up with Cal, it’s just another one of those crazy “how we all came together” shit. I grew up with him since we were like five playing baseball. We ended up just being around each other as we were all getting into music. He decided he wanted to shoot videos, so he just started shooting videos for us. The first one was “Roll ‘em Up.”. We shot it and he’s been doing it ever since. He’s been progressing at the same time we have. Just like how they progress. That’s how we know it’s right…
So I just heard three [of your] new tracks from the upcoming album – it sounds amazing. The last record in particular, the “Last Kiss” one – [which] I just found out was a collaboration with Pharrell… I was asking you about when he was tweeting about you guys.
Kent: When he was tweeting, we had just met him. He had just become – I don’t know if it was aware – but becoming a fan of the music to where he was rapping our lyrics back to us on FaceTime and shit. And we shared it with the fans over one of our webisode videos. That’s all that was.
That helped us get – not that we were lacking self-esteem – but as a group at that time, but we were for sure not making money for that shit. We were making no bread, if you knew us, it was from us collectively doing music and shooting music videos with [Calmatic]. Even though we had done Live for Die for already and had a bunch of music recorded.
He went crazy over one song, I played him one song on that – I didn’t play it for you – and he just kept making us play it over and over and over and over. I’m like, “Okay, cool.” That just let us know that we knew what we were doing. Then, a year later, when we ended up signing the deal and ended up reaching out to him to make our record, it was easier for us to work with him because he’s a genuine fan of our music. That gave us a good spirit in going into the session. We recorded that song so fast, that was one of the fastest, best songs I’ve ever recorded.
How’d you feel about that experience of being in a studio with Pharrell, Cream?
Cream: So when we was first going to the studio with Pharrell, we were just in there chilling at first. Then I had walked to the bathroom. It’s different when you’re just saying, “Oh, man, when you see Pharrell,” until you really see the person. I had to put my head down for a second like, “Oh, that’s really him, damn!” But he came in so kosher – so calm, like a real down-to-earth person. You never feel that, “Oh, he’s in the building,” really because he’s just so down-to-earth; cool guy, had his kid in there, his girl, just ready to work. He got to it, very respectable. That’s my G.
I don’t think that even sounds like, “Oh, this could be this or this.” Like, “We made this song to be a single or a club hit.” That song is an organic composition. But if I heard it on the radio I’d be like, “Oh!” I’m trying to think of what’s, recently – I don’t know how to best express that, but that’s how I feel about it.
Kent: It’s because it’s been a while, honestly. That’s why it’s hard to voice that, it’s been a while. I think that song is real powerful, but it’s just a stepping-stone to show that we can work with big artists and still maintain our sound and uphold our shit. We did songs with like a Dom and Kendrick and Nipsey and all these people. We held our own, I’ve heard them get on records with other people and you skip the song when the other person comes on. So it makes me feel good when people know our parts of the song and other peoples’ that we collaborated with.
Describe the place of humor within your music.
Kent: They had a coach named Coach G that used to say, “You gotta laugh to keep from crying.” So that’s kind of been the undertone of what we’re trying to brand right now with our group. We’ll make light situations funny for everybody to talk about it and it don’t necessarily matter what we think, it’s just the fact that we’re getting people to talk about that. The “Rich White Friends” song is funny, but there are some people who are not going to think it’s funny. That’s perfectly fine, but it brings about a great conversation.
Kent: It’s a conversation starter. That’s why I told you it’s not necessarily the first single, it’s the first look. Because we don’t want that to be what people – “OverDoz. just wanna start mother fuckers arguing.” No, what the fuck else are you talking about then? “I’m in love with the coco”? Crack head? Everybody’s crack heads now? For sure.
So we just do what we’re supposed to be doing with the position that we’ve been placed in – that’s all. Now, the timing that it takes is just business. I’m aware that the fans and people that are new fans – just how music works, that’s what people are used to. But from the business aspect, whether it be the people that we take samples from that we’re paying homage to because that’s our art form, that shit takes time, believe it or not.
Keep up with OverDoz. at BLUNNITVILLE.COM, on Instagram @_overdoz, and on Twitter @overdoz. Photos by Julian Berman.