EYE ON EYEZ
Producer Eye on Eyez is one of the most mysterious artists out there. Growing up in a blue collar family, his way into music was anything but predetermined. With no real support from his parents, the New York based newcomer had to do janitorial work at night just to pay the bills and keep his dream alive. Today, Eye on Eyez has already worked with some of the biggest artists in the industry like Rick Ross and Gucci Mane.
Q: What inspired you to wear the mask?
A: I've always been into visual art as much as music, and I try to apply lessons I learn from one to the other. I’ve always loved visual arts and music - almost equally -- and I’ve gone back and forth between them several times growing up.
The mask itself was an original design I came up with for my first music video which was with the late Prodigy of Mobb Deep, just before he passed. I had no plans on being a masked producer, it was just for this video which was really dark and violent. The mask was part of this scene that created the whole "story arc" of the video.
In the process of making the video a lot of weird and downright evil stuff happened to people involved. There were these really strange coincidences. For example Prodigy had been in a scene with the grim reaper behind him, and then a couple weeks later he died in a very suspicious accident while in the hospital.
There were other issues I can't go into, like a few anonymous threats that just came out of nowhere, just for posting short clips of the video online. In my mind, we were just making this cool music video and at the time, I didn’t realize I was taking sides in some kind of secret war between the common man and the elites.
Prodigy's death hit me pretty hard, and the mask itself comes from the time of the Black Plague in medieval Europe. Again, this was initially for the video where I played a character that symbolizes evil and death. But when P died, it took on a different meaning for me, and I changed the mask from black to red to symbolize this transition.
What’s up with the prodigy video are you ever going to release it? Well that’s a question I’ve gotten at least 100 times! So it would be nice to answer it in a public interview like this. The video was a very candid expose about rituals in the music industry. Its dark as fuck. The simple answer is that we decided (for now) not to release it, and you can speculate as to why.
But what's interesting is that everyone is focused on the video - they know it exists, and want to see it. But what they don’t realize is that there was a painting made by the great American artist Casey Baugh - specifically just for this video.
To me, that legitimized the project more than anything. To have someone who’s considered a master; a giant in the art world -- take an interest in this project and make a custom piece of art to be included in the video, was a huge honor.
It’s the darkest, most disturbing painting I’ve ever seen. The temperature in the room drops when it’s unveiled. Maybe that's just the mood people get when they see it, but there's definitely a dark energy surrounding it.
Everyone knows Prodigy died shortly after the video, but there were several deaths and creepy coincidences that occurred around this time. It got to be enough where it gave me serious pause.
He's been offered a lot of money for this painting - I think in the last year it’s value has climbed easily past 2 million dollars - just because of all the strange events surrounding it.
We’ve agreed to keep it locked in a vault for now. It sounds extreme, but this is just one of those things where your gut is telling you something... I refuse to keep it at my home. If some fearless billionaire wants to buy it, you’ll have to give Casey a call and work it out with him, but kindly leave me out of it!
You have a very unique sound. How would you describe your sound and where does your inspiration come from?
If I’m making hip hop or electronic music, my drums are pretty typical, but as soon as you turn your attention to the harmonic and rhythmic components, that’s where my sound deviates a bit from what people are used to.
Like I mentioned earlier, I took an unconventional path into production and I think that’s most obvious with my basslines.
With live electric bass, you’re not playing a loop. You play each note and have control over the sound. You can make the bass dip and swerve and grind and tremble - so for me, a bass line is something that changes and evolves breathes. I actually imagine it to be some kind of snake like a giant python moving under the beat.
I fully articulate my bass lines, and control each note and make it do exactly what I have in my mind. I like my bass to be clear and powerful, and drive the groove forward at all times, and I spend a lot of time getting that just right.
Aside from the bass and drums, I use a lot of analogue synths and create sounds from scratch using vintage gear, super-rare synths I’ve collected over the years, custom gear. I also sometimes layer live bass on my tracks, so instead of it being a synth that I programmed, it’s actually me riffing and improvising.
I never use loops or other people’s samples. I make everything myself, whether it’s samples from an old analog synth, or if I’m calling in a live musician whether it’s a guitarist or keyboardist and sample them under very specific direction.
I want the entire beat to sound alive. That’s what sound design is all about for me. I’m not just layering things and making them full - for me it’s about the FEELING of the music. Music has to feel good. People will never go further to discover meaning, unless you first pull them in with FEELING.
What's your creative process usually look like?
I spoke about this a bit already, but the topic of creativity is interesting. I have way more ideas than I have free time, so whenever I get a chance to get in the studio, the ideas flow very quickly. So I’ve designed my studio so that I can capture ideas very quickly and get everything sounding how I want it as fast as possible.
As far as my creative process, there’s no specific order. Sometimes I start with the drums, sometimes chords, or just making a new and unusual sound using modular synths. I usually have a rough idea in my head, but sometimes just playing around with sound gives me ideas.
For me it’s a process of experimentation - discovering that ‘seed’ of an idea that can be fully developed.
Last summer I was on tour with Ghostface Killah, and he told me something that really stuck with me. He said “Music is like drugs. Everyone knows who’s got the fire, and who doesn’t”. That resonated a lot with me, and what he means is... Good shit is obvious.
When you have something truly good, you don’t need to lie to yourself. It smacks you in the face. Sometimes it takes a while playing with a sound, and then a melody just pops up and you know you’ve got something. When you know, you know. You start moving, you smile, like “Yyyyeah this is the shit right here.”
Earlier this year you released your biggest song to date “Polar Bear” featuring Gucci Mane - how did this collaboration come about and how was it working with Gucci?
I was already a fan of Gucci for years and knew his flow would fit a few of my beats. Polar Bear is actually the 2nd song we worked on together. The first song was “Overdose” which features Gucci Mane and Rick Ross, and is set for release in 2020.
The recording process went pretty fast. He's a cool guy. He was all excited because he had just bought a new Rolls Royce so we went out to the parking lot to check it out. I’m a big car guy so we talked about cars for awhile before getting down to business.
So after hanging out for a bit, listening to beats, he picked one. We threw some ideas back and forth, and he dropped his vocals in just a couple takes. It was actually very smooth and easy to work with. He’s actually a really nice guy if you’re not trying to murder him, lol. He’s an easy guy to get along with but he definitely knows what he’s doing in the studio, totally professional when it was time to record.
It's a fun song with a hard beat. Simple formula.
What can we expect from you in the future?
As a producer, a lot of my time is spent making new tracks because people are always coming to me asking for beats. As far as official moves in the works, I'm spinning several plates and 2020 is going to be huge.
My first solo EP is dropping in January, along with a project I just finished with an up-and-coming rapper from Atlanta named Frankie Smallz. I think this project really allows him to shine a bit, I feel like the energy of my production complements his vocal style really well.
I have a ton of material, with some really amazing talent – some big name veterans, some up and comers. A few of those will be on my solo EP. In 2020 I plan to release music with Rick Ross, Young Dro, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Asian Doll, T.I. Hoodrich Pablo Juan and more. I’m staying busy to say the least.