12 to 6 Movement on How they Got Raekwon and Others on Their New Record and Why They Called it Titties Out

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NOT MUCH FOR METAPHOR, THIS GROUP.
  • Not much for metaphor, this group.

It took a while, but local hip-hop trio 12 to 6 Movement finally unleashed their new collaboration-heavy album, Titties Out. Since our last interview with the group, they added songs with Joe Budden, Opio and A-Plus from Souls of Mischief/Hieroglyphics and Psycho Les from The Beatnuts to a tracklist that already featured appearances from Sadat X, Raekwon, Bubba Sparxxx, Planet Asia, and Keith Murray, as well as a lot of local talent. 12 to 6 Movement admits that the extravagant guestlist, the cleavage-boasting cover and title are partially ploys for attention, but underneath the brazen marketing is a fun album. Titties Out mostly focuses on braggadocio and good times over beats that range from dusty soul/funk samples to modern synth-driven club fare to guitar-driven rock. Although the album is not without its tacky moments, every member of 12 to 6 Movement brings their A-game and the guests prove worth their fees. RFT Music caught up with the trio and Matthew Sawicki, who mixed and mastered the album, to discuss how they assembled the album, reaching across genre lines for guests, and why they went with that title cover.

Questions and answers edited for length and clarity.

Bob McMahon: We touched on this topic last time, but what was your motivation for get everybody you got on this album? I remember, Spark1duh? that you said, "Talent is not enough."

Spark1duh?: Because in the entertainment industry right now, people care a lot about image and shit. And this wasn't so much of an image move as it is an attention getter. Like to say "Hey, all these other people we've worked with, our friends or people that we've done business with, playing shows and stuff like that, we are on the same level as these people. You just need to fuckin' think about it that way." So many people think locally in this town, they don't even think to the next state. They're trying to take over this city. They're not thinking big picture or shit like that. In this industry, there's so many ways to market yourself. And the ways I see a lot of these more like "hood rappers," or whatever you want to call it - we're not backpackers, I don't know what people call us. Everyone has a label for something these days - they got big money behind them. Whether it's from drugs or loans or however they're doing it, you know what I mean? And they're paying to get radio play and shit like that. We figured why not sidestep all the money that we could spend to get played on the radio and for marketing, and hopefully people would just pay attention based on the strength of the songs alone that we did with these bigger rappers.

How did you balance having so many guests and still making Titties Out feel like your album instead of something you are just featured on a lot?

Spark1duh?: Having more verses than they do (laughs).

Ser Lesson: The three of us work good together. Especially, the songs are based off our style, so we brought other artists in and put them on our tracks, not the other way around.

Spark1duh?: We didn't try to cater to them too much.

Jus Time: Yeah, we made them cater to us. Like that Killah Priest track, you've never heard him rap double-time. None that I've ever really heard. And then he had to totally come out of his normal box and do something.

Spark1duh?: Maybe that song "Heavy Mental" he did, but that's about it.

JT: But that beat was just a straight didgeridoo, like it's a real crazy drum track. And he just kept goin' and goin', but like that (song), he kind of flipped it. The track with Opio and A-Plus...

Spark1duh?: They don't usually rap that smoothed out.

JT: Yeah, they double-timed theirs and they did their thing. With Raekwon, we did a super slow song.

Yeah, that surprised me.

JT: And it surprised us! Cause we sent him (the beat to) "Can't Be Done," we sent him a couple other ones. I thought "Can't Be Done" was it.

Ser Lesson: And I thought maybe "All Black" even too cause that had that same kind of Wu-Tang kind of feel.

JT: But he was like "Naw, son. I'ma do this one."

Spark1duh?: It still kind of has that Wu-Tang feel, it's just different.

Ser Lesson: He murdered the track, and it was nice cause it was the slow track so it seemed like we got to hear a lot of him. And he gave us 24 bars instead of 16.

Spark1duh?: The only one that really caters to the rapper's style is the Joe Budden track. That one's already kind of what his songs sound like.

That's another thing I wanted to ask about: how you actually made the songs. So as far as constructing them, you would send out beats and see which ones the rappers liked?

Spark1duh?: Only on some occasions. Some of them they were in town with us, like Sadat X. He's kind of... we're not like tight buddies, but we're friends. When he comes to town, we're one of the first people he calls. And this is the third track we've done with him, collectively. That's just like doing a track with a friend. He comes to the studio and hangs out. Who else...

Ser Lesson: Hieroglyphics was the same way.

Spark1duh?: (talking about Ser Lesson) He's friends with A-Plus, they just kicked it.

JT: A-Plus slept on my couch.

Spark1duh?: The next night they went to Carbondale and hung out with them for another show.

Ser Lesson: Yeah we went out and did an Adult Swim party with them.

Spark1duh?: When we went to (South by) Southwest, Souls of Mischief just walked us into the green room like we were part of the band. Some of them we're actually homies with. We're not just some fucking dudes paying people to "Hey, be our friend!" (laughs)

Ser Lesson: "Do songs! Do songs!" But we did do that too. (laughs)

Spark1duh?: The (Bubba Sparxxx) one was a hook-up through (producer) Koko, cause he had worked with him before. So we didn't actually meet him, he sent that back.

Ser Lesson: Joe Budden came to the studio and did it with us. At Jay E's house. Keith Murray, I promoted (his) show, brought him into town. I was basically his babysitter for a day. That dude is the craziest dude I've ever met. But it was a good time and he came to the studio and laced it for us. One of the illest Keith Murray verses I've ever heard! I fuckin' love that shit!

How do you develop these relationships?

Spark1duh?: Just being real, man.

Ser Lesson: I think smoking weed has a lot to do with it. "Let's smoke some good weed." The reality is, we promote a lot of shows, and so we bring a lot of artists in town. And then you just gotta build a business relationship, and then sometimes you click with people and that turns into a personal relationship, and sometimes you don't give a fuck about the person and it stays a business relationship. A lot of the dudes are really cool cats.

Spark1duh?: Well, we're pretty charming son of a bitches. (laughs)

Ser Lesson: We are that too, we are that too. Most cats really are down to earth. If you're a down to earth person, you link up. It works.

Matthew Sawicki: You guys aren't afraid to approach them. I think that's helped.

Ser Lesson: Yeah, we're definitely not scared. If we see something and we want to do it, we'll go out there and we'll do it. We're not scared to do what we want to do.

JT: I think that what we got done, if we had a label behind us, it would have cost maybe a hundred grand. But just off our foot-solider, come in your face, personally say "hello" at your show-

Spark1duh?: Well we came to them with business instead of "sign an autograph." We're like, "Hey, let's do a track, dude."

JT: We got it done for a tenth of the price as what a label could have.

Spark1duh?: "Do you want to go back to the hotel and drink and not make any money, or do you want to make some extra cash and hang out in the studio and smoke some good-ass weed?"

JT: And it works. More of St. Louis needs to know that. I've really made an effort to tell a lot of people that. This isn't rocket science. We didn't go out here and throw a roofie in Planet Asia's drink and make him do a song with us. We just said, "What up? How you doin'? You're gonna be in town, let's do this." And so many people could be doing that. It's not just us. We're good, we're special, but we aren't the only ones who can do these things. Everyone should be doing this. Every major artist who comes to St. Louis for a show should be doing a feature with a local artist before they leave. Ser Lesson: And I'll tell you what, if you go to the show and you don't know who it is, just look for the motherfucker doing all the bitch work on stage, and I guarantee you that's the manager. And then just go talk to that person after the show. He's a link to it. And that's what we do. We just look for that person if we don't have a connection already, you go and you talk to that guy. ...You gotta have balls.

You guys also reached out to St. Louis artists who don't play hip-hop. What inspired you to get Dan Marsala from Story of the Year and Jason Holler from Kentucky Knife Fight to sing on the album? They're not the first people to come to mind when I think of a singer rappers would reach out to for a hook.

Spark1duh?: Me, the singer of Bullets and Octane, and three of the dudes from Story of the Year, Josh, Dan and Ryan - the drummer, guitar player and the singer - all grew up in the same neighborhood. (Story of the Year's) first album's called Page Avenue. We all grew up on Page Avenue in Overland area, you know between 170 and Lindbergh. So skateboarding was the tie that binded with us. I started running into them all the time again. We did some shows with (Story of the Year side project) The Fuck Off and Dies, some solo but I had (12 6 Movement) come out too. And we just started talking about it... Somehow we talked about doing it. And Dan Marsala's actually got a track on my new album that's going to be coming out too, but we sent him a couple of tracks. I think he heard the Raekwon track, but this one ("Never Go Away") was a beat that Matt did, it had live instrumentation and shit on there, he was digging it. He knocked out some hook and a little bit of other parts and we threw it all together and it worked out great.

JT: We saw (Kentucky Knife Fight) them...

Ser Lesson: It was the after party for Dead Weather at Halo Bar.

JT: And they're like "These dudes are ridiculous." We had to have them. To me, they're by far my favorite rock band, local or regardless... I am fully confident- we put them on the cover, along with all these other huge names of our heroes that we grew up with. I don't know about fully their opinion, but I have the highest, utmost confidence that those people will be everywhere in the next year or two. That's one of the best bands I've ever heard... They had never met any of us, I just hit them up online. It's like, that's the new technology, you know? We just saw them once and I hit them up online about three or four times until they finally were like "Okay, what's up?" And then I sent them the song and they're like "Yeah, this is fucking cool." And then next thing you know, Jason came to the studio, knocked it out and there you've got a song.

Spark1duh?: I think that's something that you're gonna see us do a lot more of too is team up with people that you wouldn't expect hip-hop... People in this city and state, I mean I hate to generalize so much, but I've been doing it for so long that I see the way things work, and people stay in their little crowds. They don't go outside of their safety circle or whatever you wanna call it. With skateboarding, I hung out with everybody. I listened to everything. It's like "everyone's invited" type of thing. It doesn't matter if you're a thug or a hip-hop dude or a nerd or whatever. In high school, there's all these different tables. There's like the Nintendo club table, the burnouts and the preps and the jocks and all this shit, whatever you want to call it. Everyone skateboards, everyone's invited. We don't make fun of anybody into doing your own thing. So with music, shit should be more like that in this city. It happens in other cities all the time. You see... I don't want to come up with too many dumb, lame-ass excuses, but Linkin Park and Jay-Z or some shit like that. Stuff like that needs to happen more. And we're hanging out in the same circles. I'm at bars, I grew up with these people. Why not do tracks together? And they're just as interested in the type of attention they're going to get from doing a track with a hip-hop group that's on our level doing stuff as we are as interesting their fans who might normally go "I don't normally like hip-hop, but I like this. This is awesome."

You put a lot of hard work and money into this album. Were you worried that people would look at the cover and not take the record seriously?

JT: Yeah. Absolutely.

Ser Lesson: I mean, but we go titties out (laughs).

Spark1duh?: It's seriously been a topic of discussion that we've talked about a lot, even post-deciding on it. It's tough, man, like seriously, should we try to be more serious? But we're kind of jokey dudes. I think we fuck around and have fun with what we do. What we're trying to say once people pay a little bit more attention to it, they're gonna get what we mean when we say "titties out" and it's not just about...

JT: It's not Mardi gras.

Ser Lesson: But they are really nice breasts on the album cover too. Great advertisement. (laughs)

Spark1duh?: The other thing is too: shock value works, dude. You see something like that on the shelf, you're gonna look at it, I guarantee. You're walking through Best Buy or Vintage Vinyl or anything, you look and you see a huge rack that says "Titties Out" on it, you're gonna go "Huh." At least being a dude, I know I'm gonna do that. I think you're going to definitely pick it up and be like "What the fuck?" And as soon as you catch the fine print, you're gonna go, "Holy shit! What the fuck is this?"

JT: But it's also hurt us too. On iTunes, they edited "Titties Out."

Spark1duh?: The title of the album, we looked at it like, some of the people that made it biggest, the negative attention can sometimes be better than positive attention. Marilyn Manson always had problems with that, Eminem, Kanye's album, the cover. People who had seen that said it was crazy. Jane's Addiction back in the day, that Ritual De Lo Habitual album, they banned it and shit cause it had naked claymation shit on the front. For years and years. And all these bands were huge bands. They made it big even without the love. It's almost if we can get some people up in arms like, "Oh 'Titties Out'! Keep it out of our schools!" and have churches and shit talking about it, that'd be better for us.

Ser Lesson: That's our thing, man, we're T.O. We say "titties out" all the time.

JT: That's part of our lexicon

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