On a recent stop in Toronto, we had a chance to sit down with Hip-Hop legend Mannie Fresh. The Cash Money architect was in a relaxed mood, talking candidly about the things that matter to him. His vision for music and his vision for New Orleans was illuminating. His mannerism was effortless as he spoke about his goals, what he thinks of modern producers and what he sees happening in 2017. Despite having a thoroughly southern charm, he was direct with his responses. One thing is for sure though: the gems came embedded in his answers.
How’s Tour Life treating you so far? how do you like Toronto?
I’m good. I mean this is what I’ve always been doing so I’m kind of used to it. You know what I mean? it’s kinda good to see cool faces sometimes.
You’re a producer and a rapper. Talk about how you balance this.
I don’t think I got a balance it. It’s just how I feel some days. Some days I like doing beats, sometimes I feel like DJing sometimes I feel like rapping. Whatever mood I wake up in that’s where I go at.
Where are you living right now and how does it affect you creatively?
New Orleans, that’s where I’m born and bread you know what I’m saying? That’s where the creativity comes from. It’s still working for me I’m still here.
Kinda random but I gotta ask. What’s your favorite Jordan shoe of all time?
My favorite Jordan? I mean I am a sneaker head but I couldn’t tell you what number none of them are. You know what I’m saying I was never big on Jordans. But if I really had to name a favorite shoe…
But you still gotta name your favorite shoe.
I kinda like the dunk one. The one that looks like a dunk the red white and black one. What’s that called?
That’s the one? alright, that.
What’s your take on current Hip-Hop? Who do you like and what do you not like?
Damn, I like everybody and I not like anybody. I mean it’s still a new generation of hip-hop. You can pretty much find anything you want. I guess you just gotta be brave enough and cool enough to go dig for it. I don’t really think it changed, it’s just a different generation of hip-hop. In my younger days, there was some people that hated on what I was doing or whatever and it feels like that now. Feel like some of these younger dudes are not getting their fair shake. You know, it just evolved to something else. But you still got the battle MCs and you know you still got the political dudes. You just gotta go dig for it.
What’s in-store from you in 2017?
Wow, that’s a deep question. What is in store for me in 2017? 50 million dollars. Something like that. Me doing some big things, making major moves and keeping it positive and keep it moving. You know, creating family and that kinda stuff.
Any secret projects?
It’s no secret, you just take it one day at a time. I don’t know what a hit record is I just give what I can give you. I do music. You know, I haven’t dropped music in a long time and now I feel like dropping music. I feel like doing it. I kinda glad it happened that way because that way you kinda missed and people are like “ah! I’m glad to see you!” so I’m kinda glad I didn’t force it. It feels good to be in your space and say like “I’ma do when I’m ready to do.”
Tell me the story of how the legendary song “Still Fly” happened?
Oh man! It’s from a real place. When I was writing that song, Cash Money was in a place where Juvenile had just left and a lot of people thought the label was over. When I wrote “Still Fly” I was saying like, damn this is like life experience. It’s like what are you really coming from? Like if you wasn’t a rapper, what would be your true feelings? Everything in my mama name that defines everybody. Quarter tank of gas, everybody been there before. So that’s why I think the song went so well because everybody been there in life. Them simple lyrics they like wow this was my life at one point. So I was just writing from a real point of view.
Top 3 Most influential songs you’ve been a part of, in your opinion?
Damn, my top 3? I haven’t done them yet in my opinion.
You don’t think “Still Fly” and “Back That Azz Up” are your top songs?
I mean, I love them songs! but if you don’t think you can do better, maybe you shouldn’t do this. I mean I love those songs but it ain’t feel like an orgasm to me. My best song gonna feel like “Ahhh!”
What about your third favorite still?
I would say “Get Your Roll On”. It’s my, you know, getcha started song.
How are things going with Birdman?
I’m gucci. I mean if you cut the check I’m friends with you… and we just met!
You are trying to bridge the gap between Lil Wayne & Birdman. This is True?
No, not really. I just feel like i’m the older head of all of us like you know what I’m saying? I feel like if everything gets resolved, we can all live in peace. We got a lot of history all of us so, I wouldn’t want to leave this earth right now and I got kids. Wayne got kids and Birdman has kids and none of our kids never met each other and never talked about you know what we did so that’s kinda crazy to me. So that’s where it’s at. It’s important on a legacy thing more than anything.
What’s it like working with Wayne? Is there something we’d be surprised to know about his creative process?
I mean he was the first one in and the last one to leave. For him to be the superstar of it all, I mean, it was destined. Even his process and how he do songs. Like he would do 4 songs in a night. That’s what we did and that’s what he kinda incorporated into his process right now. Like I said he was always the first one in the studio and last one to leave. With that being said, you see why he is where he is.
Let’s talk about these “non-fist-pump” EDM beats you laid down for Wayne. How often do you see remnants of your work in society?
I mean we just wanna do new things. I don’t wanna labeled as a hip-hop producer. That’s crazy to me. There so many genres of music that I like, you know, it just so happens EDM is one of them. Like Rock is one of them. Even Wayne did a Rock album. It’s not saying I’m toying with your music. It’s like I grew up on that. I grew up on everything. So, I don’t wanna be labeled as somebody like ‘oh he only does hip-hop’. I love music, from classical music to hip-hop so I kinda wanna do everything. Yeah I mean, it’s like a gift and a curse. I love the 808 drum machine but I get tired of hearing the 808 drum machine. But a lot of kids be like ‘but that was your go-to thing?’ and I was like yeah at the time, yes, but it’s time to move on to something else. So, I get it and even how part of the South has been relevant because it was the Cash Money movement. So yeah, I do get it.
What percentage of your beat making is software/hardware and have you changed this formula over time?
I’m just getting into software. Most of my old stuff is MPC drum machines and SP1200s. Now I’m on Ableton. So yeah I’m just getting into it and I think whoever Ableton is, he’s a crazy nerd because it’s endless what you can do on Ableton. He sounds like somebody who’s mind was always fussing at him and his mind was like “Ableton what are you doing?! he would be like I’m working on something!”
Do you prefer to build with an artist in-studio or are you able to work through email?
Nah, I rather build with you. The email thing is just not for me. I mean, I have tons and tons of music but I rather sit down with an artist in the studio and shoot the dice and see what happens.
Who are some of your favorite producers today?
Wow! some of my favorite producers today… Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, like it’s old school dudes. In Hip-Hop, I’d still say Kanye. I like Mike WiLL, damn it can go on, Sonny Digital, 40. Like you know, I like dudes that can actually do albums and just not one song.
What are you playing in your headphones right now? any current music?
You gunna get Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Gladys Knight, disco songs forever. I’m like playing disco all day long.
What about Toronto artists?
Yeah I mean, who could not listen to Toronto! right now y’all on fire. It’s like not crazy to say but Drake rules the airwaves and sh*t. Y’all like Drake for president! Then again what’s that other kid who’s from here? PARTYNEXTDOOR of course.. tell him to come and see me for once.
Top 5 Goals this Year?
Ah man, that’s deep. Maybe it is to unify New Orleans and that does include what we started. You know the Cash Money thing just because it’s just what the world wants to see. That right there would be big to me if I could get everybody on the same page. I guess, keep people together and keep it positive. I’d love that you know what I’m saying? Definitely, travel the globe, bring Mannie Fresh everywhere cuz like I’m kinda studio head, I just wanna stay in my little room and create so this is like kind of a first time getting out and going around. So I just wanna travel the globe and see people, culture and all of that stuff. Make 50 Million Dollars. What else? from there I don’t know like I said I’m like one day at a time. I mean I guess I like to do everything, I like to make country music, I like to make pop music. I would say that’s a goal too. Like just to get labels to take it real and break into Country, Pop and like break into EDM.
Any message/ tips you wanna convey to the young producers and artists?
Yep, I think ya’ll should unplug y’all stuff and go home cuz there isn’t enough room for y’all only me (laughter). Nah, I mean it’s hard work and if you put in work and treat the people around you fair, it’ll come back to you and believe in you. I never needed somebody to tell me what I could do or where I could be at. It’s gotta start with you. If you wholeheartedly believe in you, you are already successful. It doesn’t matter how much you made or where you at, if you believe in you, that’s success right there.
Photo Credits: Drew Carrymore & Justin Boruta