Interview compiled and edited by Michael Krieger for The Higher Plane
For this installment of the Big Ten, I had a chance to interview Notherground CEO, artist and producer 6th Sense. He first caught my attention a while back when I heard him on a Mick Boogie hosted tape called Go For It. Since then, I have always been on the lookout for his music. 6th is as talented as they come in the industry with a grind to match. Enjoy the interview and big shouts to 6th for taking the time.
THP: For our readers who may not be familiar with 6th Sense, can you give us the obligatory intro with a little background about where you are from and how music became such a huge part of your life?
6th: First off, thank you Kriegs and shouts to The Higher Plane. My name is 6th Sense, I’m a twenty something from NY. I’m a musician, always have been, always will be.
THP: Do us a favor and describe the music scene in New York when you first got into hip-hop in comparison to now. What differences do you notice? Further to that, how does a new artist or producer get recognized in New York City amongst all the noise?
6th: That’s a really good question. One of the biggest reasons I got into hip-hop stemmed from the New York hip-hop scene. I was 15, 16 going to open mics at the Nuyorican, catching shows everywhere. It’s definitely a different vibe now then how it used to be, but I don’t know if that’s just because I’ve gotten older. I feel like the spots are mostly filled with people within the industry. I don’t pay too much attention to the scene aspect of things, I’m not much of a scenester. People may see me out and about though, I have places I like to go.
How does a new artist or producer get recognized here in NYC? GRIND. Be dope and original. Do as much work as you possibly can, and network with people. You can’t be standoffish or have a “talk to my manager” attitude.
THP: I am intrigued by your company, Notherground Music. Your motto is ‘It ain’t underground, it’s Nothergorund.’ Where does the name and concept originate from? What makes your group’s brand of music stand out amongst the crowd?
THP: Let’s talk about your body of work for a little bit. You function as both an artist and producer. Every time I open Google Reader, your name is appearing somewhere in relation to some project. You have recently worked on projects for Outasight, and The Kid Daytona to name just two. First, do you ever sleep? Second, where does the inspiration come from to create and collaborate on all this music?
6th: Do I sleep? Yes. Do I tan? Hardly. When you work with talented artists you don’t always have to rely 100% on yourself for inspiration. Having artists present motivates and pushes me to create. As I’m creating I stay in tune with their vibe to make sure everything’s quality.
THP: You are also a frequent collaborator with one of The Higher Plane’s favorites, Mick Boogie. How did that relationship come about?
6th: The way the story goes is that I did a freestyle on a Cornerstone mixtape that Mick and Terry DJed. Mick heard the freestyle and liked it. Bout a month later we did “Go For It.” I can’t say enough good things about Mick. No matter what, if he asks for ANYTHING, I do it. Most of the time it’s fun. He always involves me, and he believes in my capabilities as an artist and producer. We’ve always been looking for that one concept/project that we can do entirely together, and I know once it comes along it’ll be dope.
THP: Speaking of collaborating with Mick Boogie, you were heavily featured on the De La Soul project, Le Da Soul: 20 Years of De La Soul. What type of influence did De La have on you? Who are some other artists, groups or producers that have had a large influence on your career to date?
6th: There aren’t many folks that aren’t influenced by De La. I even had a song called ‘De La Soul.’ As far as De La goes, I’d say Buhloone Mindstate, Stakes Is High, and The Grind Date are my favorite albums. I’m just being honest! De La’s all about being yourself, not being afraid to be abstract, but keep it funky. I’m hugely inspired by J Dilla, Stevie Wonder and Kanye West.
THP: I saw an interview you had done earlier in the year where you were saying you made a New Year’s resolution to focus on the production side, but you recently released It’s A 6th Sense Mixtape, Yo! that features you spitting on every track. Not to call you out and shit but, you throw that resolution out the window or what? Is your plan for the future to focus more on the production side?
6th: Well, half of that mixtape was done in 2008 and the rest was done throughout 2009. So, there’s really only 5 songs that I’ve done all year behind the boards and on the mic. And plus, there’s no hooks. It’s so minimal. I just wanted to put the 6th Sense Mixtape Yo!! out because I thought it stood on it’s own sonically and lyrically.
THP: Let’s talk about It’s A 6th Sense Mixtape, Yo! a little bit.
First, when “Thoughts” dropped on the Internets, I thought the world was about to end. On one track it seems you have created this juxtaposition. When the beat comes in and you begin to rhyme, it’s quite dark. You seem to be in this jungle, or your mind is trapped in a certain place and the only thing that will set you free is to let your thoughts out. During the last 1:17, the sound becomes different. It’s as if the heavens have opened up and this weight has been lifted. Can you describe everything behind how the track was crafted. The beat? The rhymes? Your mind state? Its arrangement?
6th: I feel like you described it so well already. I don’t know if I set out to create a juxtaposition. I definitely went into it disregarding any rules. I just didn’t give a fuck. I mean it’s two long verses with no hook. I just drop out the drums. And when I’m done rhyming I decided to bring some melody into the picture. Even though there was no intention of juxtaposition, it works. I totally agree. More than anything I think I just wanted to get on the keys and express myself just through music and melody.
It’s amazing to me how much incredible response I’ve gotten for that song because it IS so dark. What I’m actually saying comes from a very real part of me and the way my brain sometimes works, especially the second verse. I had the first verse already and I wrote the second, I also disregarded any rules, and I noticed how the style of it was very much a thought after a thought. I was in the booth and for some reason right before the 2nd verse started I said “thoughts.” So, I kept it. And what’s eerie is how the first verse starts “a penny for your thoughts.” It was all random.
THP: On It’s A 6th Sense Mixtape, Yo! I would agree that you deliver a minimalist sound on the production side. Is that intentional in order to compliment your rhyming style and message you wish to deliver? When you are putting a tape of your own together, do you write or produce the sound first?
6th: Part of it is to compliment the rhyming, but I’ll tell you what it really is. I’ll make a minimal beat and being both the producer and the artist I’ll know what direction to go in. Even if it’s not a direction per say I’ll feel liberated enough and comfortable with the track enough to start flowing. I feel other artists wouldn’t be interested in the tracks if they heard it, and they don’t have that connection with the track cause they didn’t create it. It always happens that once people hear me on the track, then they want it! I don’t know, it’s a little difficult to explain, but when you work for other artists you have to go out of your way sometimes to create something for yourself.
THP: I referred to track arrangement above. Kanye is a producer who is noted for his arrangement. For his ability to put all of the elements in their proper place to create a masterfully cohesive song. Is this something you focus on heavily as a producer?
6th: I’ve always noted Kanye for his melody and message. Not to say he doesn’t have great arrangements, but when I think of arrangements I don’t normally think of hip-hop musicians and producers. To me, great arrangements stem from multiple musicians that are tight and have an excellent producer and songwriter leading the way. I love to study music intently listening for that aspect. Sometimes what might sound like a simple arrangement is so dense in musicianship and songwriting.
THP: Let’s end with a doozy. The music industry is in an interesting state with digital sales beginning to heavily outweigh traditional SoundScan numbers. As an artist in today’s industry, first, how do you define success? Second, how do you then measure the success of one of your project?
6th: I’ll say this. I’m always pleased, never satisfied.
Overtime with The Higher Plane
THP: 3 Artists You Want to Work With
6th: Justin Timberlake, Andre 3000, Questlove
THP: Greatest Yankee of All-Time
THP: More Comfortable: Rhyming or Producing?
THP: Name A Project You Got on Deck
6th: Outasight’s Further dropping December 15th
You can also cop his new mixtape here.