Spaghetti Westerns and the scores of Ennio Morricone, Philadelphia soul, opera and the Wu-Tang Clan all come together in the music of composer and producer Adrian Younge. He has produced and composed two new albums: one with William Hart, lead singer of The Delfonics, that's being released this week, and one with rapper Ghostface Killah — Twelve Reasons to Die — that will be out next month. Ghostface Killah and Younge will debut their album just after midnight Thursday at South by Southwest.
While Younge thinks of himself as a hip-hop guy, it's been years since he has listened to that music with any regularity.
"I was really raised on hip-hop, and hip-hop introduced me basically to all the music I listen to now," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "and what's sad to me is I can't really listen to hip-hop that much anymore. You know, I mean, there's a lot of great hip-hop out there, but I'm not an avid fan of hip-hop. I always say to people that I left hip-hop in '97, meaning that I departed from listening to predominantly hip-hop and just started really getting into records from the late '60s, early '70s. Once I made that change, I realized how much great music was made back in the day, and it started to become apparent how much we'd lost in music. And that's why I don't listen to much modern music anymore, because it just doesn't stimulate me anymore."
The influence of the music from the late '60s and early '70s is apparent on the collaborative album with William Hart, Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics. Younge says that as he was working, he "wanted to travel back in time to about '69 to compete with the other soul groups that are out there." Younge looks to the past for inspiration at least in part because he believes contemporary hip-hop lacks mastery of composition. He cites Quincy Jones for making the observation, and, he says, "I agree with [that] 150 million percent."
On the influence of Ennio Morricone's music on his sound
"To me, the Ennio Morricone kind of sound is a derivative of soul music. A lot of Ennio Morricone's music, it's very soulful, very cinematic and very psychedelic. So, the sounds that were used ... the chimes, the bells, the fuzz guitar, it's something that's nostalgic and speaks to a listener in a different way. You don't usually hear those types of sounds in today's music, but when you hear those sounds, it takes you back to the music I like the best: organic music that is composed by real composers at a time when recording was at its height, which I believe was around like '68 to '73."
On the technology of his studio
"My studio is fully analog. There's not even a computer in my studio. Everything's old: old instruments, old pro audio, the mic that he's singing out of is an old ribbon mic. Everything's old. So I record, and then when I'm mixing, I mix down in a way that they would have back then also, which is not perfect."
On how he teamed up with William Hart of The Delfonics
"One day on Twitter a little over a year ago, I tweeted the question, 'Who is better: The Dramatics or The Delfonics?' and people went back and forth saying who they thought was better, and one guy said, 'Hey, I know William Hart of The Delfonics.' I said, 'Wow, OK.' And he's like, 'Yo, I'm a fan of your music, man. I would love for you and him to do music together.' To me, it's always been a dream to do something with The Delfonics, but people say things all the time. It's Hollywood. So [to] make a long story short, a day later, I'm on the phone with William Hart and we're speaking for like two hours and then we're speaking the next day for like two hours, and we hit it off in a way that was just cosmic."
On the kind of music he seeks to create
"I wanted to create another world. You know, I tell people, 'I don't make music, I make worlds.' And what I mean by that is I'm not the guy who's going to make a single for somebody. ... I want when people are listening to my music [to] ... enter a world."
On a lesson learned from his friend, director and screenwriter Scott Sanders while working on the film Black Dynamite
"One of the things that Scott Sanders made me realize is that when a black person is done with something, they leave. The black culture does not go back. When they're done, they are out. And what happens is that white people come in and they go back and they study and bring a different approach to it and preserve what a lot of black people did. The reason why I say that here is I'm that white guy. I'm the black dude that loves old black culture. I also love old white culture. I just love history, but I'm the guy that wants to bring things back and push them forward. A lot of black people don't like that kind of stuff. They don't like doing that kind of stuff."
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest Adrian Younge had the dream of recording with the influential hip-hop group the Wu Tang Clan and the popular '60s soul group The Delfonics. He's just done both. He produced an album by Wu Tang's Ghostface Killah and composed the music on it. That album, "Twelve Reasons to Die," will be released next month, and they'll debut the album Thursday night at SXSW.
And Younge just produced an album with the Delfonics' lead singer William Hart, called "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics." Younge wrote or co-wrote the songs, he composed the music, and he plays most of the instruments. Although he grew up with hip-hop and started off as a deejay, Younge is obsessed with music from the '60s and '70s, including blaxploitation film scores. He wrote the score for a satirical blaxploitation homage called "Black Dynamite."
Before we hear a track from his new Delfonics album, here's a couple of things you should hear first that should give you a sense of the sound he was striving for. He wanted the drama of Ennio Morricone's film scores. He's a bit of Morricone's most famous score from the spaghetti Western "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly."
(SOUNDBITE OF SCORE FOR "THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY")
GROSS: Adrian Younge wanted to wed that Morricone sound with the soul sound of the Delfonics in the '60s and early '70s. Here's one of their hits from 1968. This is "La-La Means I Love You."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA-LA MEANS I LOVE YOU")
THE DELFONICS: (Singing) La, la, la, la, la, la, la, I love you. La, la, la, la, la, la, I love you. I hurt, so, girl...
GROSS: So now let's hear how Younge has combined those two inspirations in his new album "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics," featuring the Delfonics' lead singer William Hart.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUST LOVE")
WILLIAM HART: (Singing) There was a time we had just love. There was a time we had just love. I fell for you so deep in love that I was so into. You were the one that never thought that you were in love. (Unintelligible) the time we shared. There was a time...
GROSS: So that's "Just Love" from the new album "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics." Adrian Younge, welcome to FRESH AIR. Thank you for being here.
ADRIAN YOUNGE: My pleasure.
GROSS: So I started with that track, because to my ears it's the best illustration from the new album of how you've combined the soul sound and the Ennio Morricone spaghetti Western, you know, drama sound, you know, with the chimes and the guitar and the buzzy instrument, whatever that is.
YOUNGE: Fuzz guitar.
GROSS: Ah, OK. So why did you want to combine soul music and that Ennio Morricone kind of sound?
YOUNGE: Well, to me the Ennio Morricone kind of sound is a derivative of soul music. A lot of Ennio Morricone's music is just - it's very soulful, very cinematic and very psychedelic. So the sounds that were used, like you said the chimes, the bells, the fuzz guitar, it's something that is nostalgic and speaks to a listener in a different way.
You don't usually hear those types of sounds in today's music. But when you hear those sounds, it takes you back to the music I like the best: organic music that is composed by real composers at a time when recording was at its height, which I believe is around - like around '68 to '73.
GROSS: I love the way you said by real composers because I think, you know, one of the things I miss in a lot of hip-hop, in spite of the samples, is the sense of, like, a through composition, that somebody's thought through a whole composition, and you hear the drama build, and, you know, it kind of tells a complete story in one person's completely orchestrated, composed vision.
YOUNGE: Absolutely. I mean, well first of all, you know, I'm a guy that I say I'm hip-hop forever. I'm a hip-hop guy. I was really raised on hip-hop, and hip-hop introduced me, basically, to all the music I listen to now. And what's sad to me is that I can't really listen to hip-hop that much anymore. You know, I mean, there's a lot of great hip-hop out there, but I'm not an avid fan of hip-hop.
I always say to people that I left hip-hop in '97, meaning that I departed from listening to predominately hip-hop and just started really getting into records from the late '60s, early '70s. And once I made that change, I realized how much great music was made back in the day, and it started to become apparent how much we've lost in music.
You know, today on the radio they're playing a bunch of over-compressed music that is not very much thought out, and for me personally, I have no - it doesn't do anything for me. So...
GROSS: See, like you're, like, the - everybody's dream of what happens when a deejay is sampling records, which is they find a sample - the dream is they find a sample, and then they go and listen to whole records and really enjoy the music and get deeper and deeper into that person's records or in that genre of music.
I don't know how often that actually happens. I think a lot of people just keep looking for the sample, just keep looking for that groove or beat or whatever. So, but you fulfilled that dream. You got really deep into music.
YOUNGE: Well, you know, it's a good point. Like with me, like around '97, for Christmas my parents bought me an MPC 2000 sampler and a little eight-track cassette recorder. And I started sampling records and, you know, producing hip-hop beats. And it got to the point where I realized - I innately realized that the music I liked the most was made by people that played instruments.
And I realized at this time also that if I wanted to be the best musician, the best producer, I had to learn how to play instruments because what would happen, it goes back to literally what you just said. I would find a - I would find a break or find a little sample that I wanted to loop, and let's just say that it goes (humming), and I like how that goes, I like how that sounds.
But I'm praying to God that when it goes (humming), and it goes (humming), and I would never get that. I would hear all this stuff in my head, you know, but I would never get it. So I was limited to what I could find on that record and then what I could also synthesize by sampling other records and basically morphing them together to make a new track.
But there's a limitation, and my head was going a lot faster than what I was finding in these records. So one day I just bought a piano, and then the next day I bought a bass guitar. Then I bought an electric guitar. And then I just started playing these things. I would - at that time I was in college. I would come home every day and just play the instruments, play the instruments, play the instruments.
And I would try to get my mechanics, my ability to play these instruments to match the speed of my compositional perspectives in my head, you know, and it got to the point where they met, and I was able to really be who I wanted to be, you know. So it took something that was a derivative, hip-hop, to take me all the way back to try to push things forward now.
GROSS: My guest is Adrian Younge. He produced, co-wrote and plays most of the instruments on the new album "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics." And his new Ghostface Killah album will be released next month. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: So if you're just joining us, my guest is Adrian Younge, and he's a composer and musician and producer. He produced the new Ghostface Killah album and has a new album called "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics," in which William Hart, the lead singer of the Delfonics, is features in a setting that kind of combines soul music and Ennio Morricone kind of music.
GROSS: Let's hear another track from "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics." And then I'll ask you about the story of how you met William Hart, the lead singer of the Delfonics, who you work with on this. So I want to play "Stop and Look (And You Have Found Love)," which is the single that's released from the album.
GROSS: You know, the Delfonics had their hits in what, was it, '70s?
YOUNGE: Sixties and '70s, late '60s, early '70s.
GROSS: Yeah, "La-La Means I Love You."
YOUNGE: "Ready or Not."
YOUNGE: "Here I Come," "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time." I mean, they had like 20 top 100 hits. I mean they - yeah, they had a lot back then, you know, "Somebody Loves You, Girl," I mean all that.
GROSS: And William Hart has a great falsetto, but he's 68 now, and there are very few 68-year-olds who still have a functioning falsetto.
YOUNGE: Yeah, yeah, I know. He takes care of himself. He takes care of himself. But to answer the question of what this song is, basically when I was thinking about how I wanted this album to sound, I didn't want it to be a mere rehash of old '70s soul. I can't stand that. You know, to me I wanted to go back in time. I wanted to go travel back in time to about '69, and I wanted to compete with the other soul groups that are out.
So when we were - when me and William were sitting in the studio, these are things that we discussed, you know, and what I wanted to do was find a song that felt like "Ready or Not," that had the sentiment, kind of a hip-hop flavor of funky, timing is a little off, but there's a super-warm groove in there and a message.
Basically I wanted to have something that had that, like I said, mixed hip-hop, which is more '90s hip-hop, early '90s hip-hop, with early '70s soul. So Quincy Jones said something that I feel is very imperative to soul music, to modern soul music. He said: Hip-hop mastered the drums, but hip-hop never really mastered composition, which I agree with 150 million percent.
Now so that being said, I wanted the song to have a hip-hop sentiment as far as the drums are concerned. So the drums are a little raw and dirty but still high in the mix. The base line, I wanted the base line to kind of be fat and warm as - like a Curtis Mayfield track. And then the bells and whistles and all that, that's something that Ennio Morricone would have done.
And also there's - I use something called a bell tree on here, a bell tree and I mixed it with timpani, and this is something that Thom Bell did actually on the Delfonics' first single "He Don't Really Love You." So I wanted to mesh all that together and try to form something new.
GROSS: OK, so this is "Stop And Look" from the new "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics" album with William Hart singing lead.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOP AND LOOK")
HART: (Singing) Stop and look and you have found love. Stop and look and you have found love. Stop and look and you have found love. Stop and look and you have found love. Now that you've found your other half, we have a love that's gonna last. Nature has opened up the door. Now we don't have to look no more. You've been looking for love, and I've lost all the way. But what if I told you I'm the one for you? (Unintelligible) You're in love with me.
(Singing) Stop and look and you have found love...
GROSS: That's "Stop and Look" from the new album "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics," featuring the Delfonics' original lead singer William Hart.
GROSS: And, you know, I have to tell you, and don't take this the wrong way, you know, because - you know, as I said William Hart's 68, and he's still singing in a falsetto, but I don't think he has, like, quite the control that he would've when he was, you know, decades younger.
And there's something about it that almost sounds like it's a vinyl pressing that was pressed something just a little bit off-center. So it's just, like, a little wavery, and it makes it sound - like it makes it especially like you're catching him kind of odd.
YOUNGE: Well, basically what I did - I mean, I have a - so my studio, let's just back up a little bit. My studio is fully analog. There's nothing modern. There's not even a computer in my studio. Everything's old and, you know, old instruments, old Pro Audio. The mic that he's singing out of is an old ribbon mic. It's - everything's old.
So I record, and then when I'm mixing, I mix down in the way that they would have back then also, which is not, quote, perfect. With William, he's still a great singer, he doesn't sound exactly, exactly, exactly, 100 percent like he did when he was younger, but he still sounds great. There's a modern - there's a modern, mature charm to what he's doing right now that I wanted to really capture and own on this album.
So in doing that, I had to also balance the huge reverb that they used to use back then, and I panned a lot of it, and I also mixed this down to quarter-inch tape. That's what they used to do back in the day. So my quarter-inch tape machine is an old, finicky machine, as well, so that there's also a charm in hearing a mix that's mixed down to an old, finicky, quarter-inch tape machine that comes off at the end sounding somewhat strange yet interesting.
GROSS: So how did you get to work with William hart of the Delfonics?
YOUNGE: OK, one day on Twitter, a little over a year ago, I tweeted the question who is better, the Dramatics or the Delfonics. And people went back and forth saying who they thought was better, and one guy said hey, I know William Hart of the Delfonics. He's like: Yo, I'm a fan of your music, man. I would love for you and him to do music together. And, I mean, to me it's always been a dream to do something with the Delfonics.
So a day later I'm on the phone with William Hart and we're speaking for like two hours. And then we're speaking the next day for like two hours. And we hit it off in a way that was just cosmic. It was just - it was strange, because I understood everything he was saying. I studied his music for so long. I studied music that was derivative of the music that he created.
And to be able to listen to a legend, you know, a legend like that, you know, I was - I didn't want to get off the phone.
GROSS: So how old are you, can I ask?
YOUNGE: I'm 34.
GROSS: OK. so you're obsessed with the '60s and the '70s, with music and movies and graphics of that era.
GROSS: Did you grow up with that in any way? I know you found it through looking through record bins for samples, and then you wanted to hear more and more and more. But did your parents or grandparents listen to music of that era or talk about movies from that period?
YOUNGE: No, you know, you know what's strange, this is - one thing that's really strange about black people, and this is what - something that we learn on "Black Dynamite." So I was an editor on "Black Dynamite," and I also did the score for "Black Dynamite," and I was...
GROSS: Which I should say is an homage to and a satire of the blaxploitation films of the '60s and '70s, yeah.
YOUNGE: Yes, so this is something that was released in 2009. Now Scott Sanders, a director of "Black Dynamite," is one of my very close friends. And Mike Jai White, which played Black Dynamite, is another good friend. And I learned a lot about them. And we taught each other a lot of things. And one of the things that Scott Sanders made me realize is that when a black person is done with something, they leave. The black culture does not go back.
YOUNGE: When they're done, they are out. And what happens is that white people come in, and they go back, and they study and bring a different approach to it and preserve what a lot of black people did. And this - the reason why I - the reason why I say that here is that I'm that white guy, you know. I'm the black dude that loves old black culture. I also love old white culture. I just love history.
But I'm the guy that wants to bring things back and push them forward. A lot of black people don't like that kind of stuff. They don't like doing that kind of stuff, you know. So that's one of the reasons why I wanted to kind of go back and push things forward.
GROSS: Adrian Younge will be back in the second half of the show. His new album with William Hart is called "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics." They'll perform tonight in New York. Younge also produced the new Ghostface Killah album, which will be released next month. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with producer, composer, and musician Adrian Younge. He has a new album called "Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics," which features the '60s soul group's lead singer William Hart. Next month is the release of Younge's other new album with Ghostface Killah called "Twelve Reasons to Die."
So you've said that one of your goals has been to produce a record that sounded like The Delfonics, produced by RZA, producer of the Wu-Tang Clan...
GROSS: ...and, you know, with Ennio Morricone mixed in.
GROSS: And now you've actually produced an album not only with William Hart of The Delfonics, but you produced an album with Ghostface Killah, who is one of the Wu-Tang Clan.
GROSS: So how did that come about?
YOUNGE: So RZA has a label called Soul Temple Records and he started this with Bob Perry. So I get, I'm at South by Southwest last year and about a week, actually a week before I went to South by Southwest, I was contacted on Facebook by Bob Perry, saying hey man, I love your music and would love for you to do a Wu-Tang-oriented project. So that moment I said, wow. One of my dreams, or another one of my dreams is about to come into fruition. So I took about a week to develop a story. So this album is called "Adrian Younge Presents Twelve Reasons to Die Starring the Ghostface Killah." And basically this is a score to a vintage Italian horror film, a faux obviously a faux, Italian horror film. He takes place in 1968. So in my hand I pictured all the artwork. All those old Argento-type artwork and I wanted it to be something that Morricone would've scored back then. And then I wanted to pull in all of that Morricone sense of sentiment, all of that old American soul sentiment. And then I went to kind of fabricate that in a way that the RZA would have put the album together had he been a producer in the late '60s. So that was my whole vision.
So like with this whole thing with the Ghostface album I wanted to create another world. You know, I tell people I don't make music. I make worlds. And what I mean by that is that I'm not the guy that's going to make a single for somebody or make a single for somebody there. It's like I want when people are listening to my music they're entering the world. You know, it's just like when I first heard King Crimson back in the day, you know, I mean I entered their world. If somebody listens to the Beatles you enter their world. So back to this "Ghostface Twelve Reasons to Die" thing, I put this Italian crime horror story together and closed my eyes to really think about what the visuals would be. What would Ghostface Killah look like in this? You know, what with the characters look like in this? How do we enhance that we just audio, you know?
GROSS: So did Ghostface Killah come in and just lay in his rhymes down over this elaborate scenario that you'd to created would you feel like he got in the spirit of the story you'd created in your mind and in the images that you created in your mind?
YOUNGE: Well, OK, I'll be - OK, so basically I'm a real control freak - big-time control freak. So with this Ghostface album I had some trepidation regarding what he wanted to bring to the story because I respect the guy big-time, you know, and I want to make sure that all of his thoughts and feelings were incorporated in this project that we mutually share. So what I did, if you see the artwork for the Ghostface Killah album, I shot all that stuff. And actually what I did is I bought a camera and bought a whole bunch of vintage lenses and I spent about like two months studying vintage photography, buying old vintage photography books, learning how they use their lenses, learning how they adjusted their money in order to be able to shoot these images that took me back to that time frame. And I put these photos together and that I also put a script together - a full script with the 12 songs. I said, you know, in part one you should be rapping from 103 to 145, and then this is what you should be talking about, this is what we need to talk about in the story because it's a full story. So every song he has something that he supposed to elaborate upon. So when I put the script together I gave it to Bob Perry and Andrew Kelly, The A&R, and they made their modification to it and then submitted it to Ghost and then Ghost faced all his recordings actually in New York and sent me everything.
GROSS: So part of the lyric and the rap is: I'm a black vigilante killer. It's the Almighty lives of the murderous Ghostface. Murder. Murder. Murder. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill.
GROSS: Does that fit with your story or does that sound like just...
YOUNGE: No it's not...
YOUNGE: It's not noted in black like hip-hop, like oh, I got my gun. I'm going to shoot the - no, it's nothing like that. It's a very, it's very contextual. It's something like, this is a basically what this is, this is a vintage Italian crime story. OK. I'll say some of the story. So Ghostface Killah historically has a character called Tony Starks. He uses his - this is one of his alter egos when he's doing albums. He's been doing this since the '90s, OK? So in my story Tony Starks is a member of a white Italian crime family. He's the only black guy in there. And the Italian crime family, they're called the Twelve DeLucas, OK? So he's the only black guy in the Twelve DeLucas in the late '60s. And he's doing runs for them, he's doing hits, he's, you know, making them money. But because he's black he can't rise in the ranks. So when he decides to do is start his own criminal faction against the Twelve DeLucas. So a war ensues between them and then he falls in love with one of the women of the Twelve DeLucas. She betrays him and then the Twelve DeLucas kill him. And then everything else is - I can't say it, but you get the point. So this is why he sang that stuff. At this point, he's getting revenge. So basically what this is supposed to be, this is supposed to be like a blaxploitation movie that was made for Italy.
GROSS: There's a reference in the opening of the track that we're going to hear, which is "Rise of the Ghostface Killah"...
GROSS: ...in which he refers to vinyl and I know you're obsessed with vinyl records.
GROSS: So just explained that reference and then we'll hear it.
YOUNGE: OK. So that's RZA. So RZA is narrating the entire album, OK?
GROSS: Oh OK.
YOUNGE: So he does that at the beginning. And if you listen that, or when we listen to it, you'll hear a choir going (Singing) La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la. And basically what I wanted to do, I wanted to capture - '70s, that '70s, early '70s horror nostalgic element that I feel like has been lost in modern cinema. And basically it's that type of Antichristy(ph), "The Omen," you know, good-versus-evil type thing. That's what this is supposed to be. So when we hear him making that reference, I'm trying to figure out if I should just tell the story right now.
GROSS: No. Just to the reference.
YOUNGE: OK. Well he - OK, well, he says...
GROSS: Because it's it sounds to me like he's making people into vinyl records, but...
YOUNGE: OK. Well, basically, what happens - so, you know what? I'm backing up. I'm letting it loose. I don't care. Let's go.
YOUNGE: OK? I'm with Terry Gross right now. I'm going to go. All right?
YOUNGE: So this is how it goes. Tony Starks fell in love with one of the women of the 12 DeLucas, and she lures him into a trap. And what happens is she invites him to an old record manufacturing plant in Italy, OK, to meet her. So he goes there, and the 12 DeLucas sabotage the meeting by killing his people, and also killing him by burning him in a barrel of acetate. Acetate is what is used to make records. So when they burn him in this acetate, when they burn Tony Starks in this acetate, they make 12 vinyl records, for souvenirs of his death to give to each one of the 12 DeLucas. And when these records are played, the spirit of the Ghostface Killah comes out to kill them all. So when you hear the song, murder, murder, kill, kill, kill, and all that stuff, and I'm a black vigilante, pro-violence, he's now Ghostface Killah coming back to kill all these people. So that's what this is. That's when Tony Starks becomes the Ghostface Killah.
GROSS: OK. And excuse me, I laughed in the middle of that. I know it's this big drama, but I think it's just hysterical the way you've managed to work your obsession with vinyl records into...
GROSS: ...into this horror-revenge story. Wonderful.
YOUNGE: Yeah. Go for it.
GROSS: Let's not put it off anymore.
YOUNGE: Go for it.
GROSS: So this is from the new Ghostface Killah album. And it's - the album is called "Twelve Reasons to Die." It was composed and written and conceived by my guest, Adrian Younge.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RISE OF THE GHOSTFACE KILLAH")
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la...
RZA: The DeLucas pressed Tony's remains into 12 vinyl records, one for each member of the family. But little did they know he would return.
GHOSTFACE KILLAH: (Rapping) Yeah. Yeah. Yo, yo. Medusa stare, my guns bust in silence. I'm a black vigilante killer, pro-violence. It's the rebirth, born again, rise through the vinyl spin. They took out Starks, but the light shines within. It's the almighty rise of the murderous Ghostface. Bodies dropped in alleys, left a cold case, Colombian neckties from a black Gambino. Bodies get dumped in the black El Camino. It's Reno, gangster wars, money, power, respect. Revenge is felt like the heat from a tec. Tommy guns are irrelevant. I'm bulletproof now. I could fly through the air, and duck your chick-a-pow. Black superhero, crime boss arch-nemesis, good vs. evil since the first book of Genesis. Battle to the end, that's the way of the thriller. And Starks is reborn as the Ghostface Killah. Yeah. Yeah. No one could get iller.
(Rapping) Murders, bodies chopped into Ziplocs. Kill or be killed on these cobblestone street blocks. Crime boss, I call warn the DeLucas. Watch my eyes turn red, I got a squad full of shooters. Murder, murder, kill, kill, kill. When the gas starts to pump, I put the spark to your grill. Yo, late night, stuck in the limo, Hogtie, the capo all up...
GROSS: That's from the new Ghostface Killah album, "Twelve Reasons to Die," which was composed, conceived and produced by my guest, Adrian Younge. We'll be back after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: So if you're just joining us, my guest is Adrian Younge, and he is a composer and musician and producer. He produced the new Ghostface Killah and has a new album called "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics."
So let's get to DJ'ing. What kind of DJ'ing were you doing?
YOUNGE: OK. Well, I - OK. As far as DJ'ing, I own a record store in downtown LA called The Artform Studio, and it's a boutique record store, and also a hair salon. So when you walk in, everything there is vintage. You know, it's like all these vintage records on the wall. It's, like, everything - it feels like - people call it a museum. And it's a hybrid, you know, between the art of music and the art of hair.
Now, what I do as a DJ represents what I have in my store. It's all - like, I love spinning old prog rock, old vintage soul stuff and old soundtracks. You know, that's what I spin the most. So, basically, I DJ'ed for parties. I have a club called Bridges that we've - we've just had our 10-year anniversary, and it's a hybrid between, like, hip-pop, funk, soul, house.
And I'd spin at Bridges, or I'd spin at different parties. There's something that we do called Rendezvous, where we literally just been vintage Italian soundtracks. That's it. You know, I mean, you know, it's just eclectic stuff. I collect records and spin records because I like the music. I'm not the guy that spins records for people to dance to. And that's one hell of a craft. I just don't - it's just not enjoyable for me like that. You know, I like to spin music because I love what the music sounds like. And most of the music I love is, you know, it's slow. It's like 70 or 80 BPMs. It's the slow stuff that you can't really dance to. So that's the kind of music I spin.
So, you know, in a DJ set, I'll play some rare Ennio Morricone records and play some old Francis Lai type stuff to old, soft-porn Emmanuelle type stuff. You know, I love all that old music, you know, and that's what I spin, predominantly.
GROSS: I'm glad you mentioned soft-core porn.
GROSS: My husband...
YOUNGE: Why do you love that I mentioned this?
GROSS: No, no - because my husband just got back this - I don't renumber his name but I think he was German...
GROSS: ...and they're these German soft-core porn scores.
GROSS: And, apparently, he had a reputation outside of that. But they asked him to do these movies, and he kept doing more of them. And it's this really odd music.
YOUNGE: You know what it is...
GROSS: But the cover have like, you know, women with their breasts, naked and everything...
YOUNGE: Right. Exactly. Yes.
GROSS: And it's really just like - it's hysterical, but the music's really interesting, though some of it sounds just like schlock. But the stuff that doesn't sound like schlock is pretty good.
YOUNGE: Well, you know what it is? It's instrumental music that is very sexy. It's very sexy, and it's the chord changes. The chord changes are meaningful. You know, it's like basically telling stories without words. That's why I love that music so much. That's why I studied that music so much.
GROSS: I just thought I should mention for anybody who's thinking why was her husband bringing home soft-core porn...
GROSS: ...music with these pictures on it, and the answer is because he spends so much time in record stores. And this was playing.
GROSS: And he thought, wow, that is great. I've got to know what it is. And that's what it was.
YOUNGE: Yeah. I have - in my record store, I have a wall of records, but on this wall of records I have a list of just rare European soft-core porn original records. I mean, they're all, like, aligned on the wall. I love that music. I love that music.
GROSS: OK. Now, you love opera. One of the things you love is opera...
GROSS: ...which really surprised me, because that usually does not go with hip-hop or with soul music.
GROSS: How did you develop an interest in opera?
YOUNGE: Well, I love music that can make somebody cry. I like to move people without saying a word. And opera, even though they're saying words, it's more like I always look at their vocals as like a lead instrument and how they play the lead instrument. It's like a violin, you know. And I just love the feeling, the emotion, that is evoked, the passion behind the music.
But also the opera singer that I use for my - that's part of band, her name is Brooke DeRosa, she showed me a lot of stuff that even pushed me further in it. And I was like, oh, my god. I mean, it's just a world of great music. And this song that you're about to play which is entitled "Something About April" fuses soul, psychedelia, and the cinematic notions of having or seeing an opera singer sing, you know, like I wanted to put all that together into one song.
GROSS: OK. So this is "Something About April" and...
GROSS: ...tell us the name of the opera singer and the soul singer we'll be hearing.
YOUNGE: OK. In "Something about April," the lead singer on my Venice Dawn band, Loren Oden, and he's also singing on the "Black Dynamite" score and everything else I do. He's the soul singer. And this album is called "Something about April." This song is the title song called "Something about April." And what "Something about April" actually means, it means that there's something about the month of April.
And it represents springtime when everything is blooming, when everything is coming back. And that's what the opera singer represents. The black soul singer, he represents winter. So if you listen to the lyrics, he's talking about how it's dark and cold and, you know, should we come back together? She's saying it's spring again; we should let bygones be bygones and come back. And they represent both of these times of the year.
And they also help to accentuate the disparity between these two feelings I was trying to capture in one song.
GROSS: Well, Adrian Younge, thank you so much for talking with us. It's really been fun. I really appreciate it.
YOUNGE: Oh, thank you, Terry. Thank you for having me.
GROSS: Adrian Younge produced and co-wrote the new album "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics." And he conceived, composed, and produced the new Ghostface Killah album "Twelve Reasons to Die." Younge and Ghostface Killah will debut the album at South by Southwest Thursday night and the Adrian Younge Band will perform later that night. Here's Younge's song "Something about April."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETHING ABOUT APRIL")
BROOKE DEROSA: (Singing) Something about April makes me want to spring, fall into your arms, and clip my wings. Recline in love and history. My mind rewinds the time for me.
LOREN ODEN: (Singing) Oh, something about winter sends my heart astray. Those cold, cold winds of love whistle tunes of yesterday. The sparrow sings in harmony. Melodies and mystery. My soul can see the sun. Mm-hmm. And likes the lakes a lot. Oh.
DEROSA: (Singing) Oh...
GROSS: You can hear a track from Adrian Younge's new album, "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics," on our website freshair.npr.org. The new book "Lean In," is described by its author Sheryl Sandberg as a sort of feminist manifesto, but the book's pretty controversial in feminist circles. Coming up, our book critic Maureen Corrigan weighs in. This is FRESH AIR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.