The Waco-born, Dallas-based artist (real name: Larry D. Griffin Jr.) parlayed his modest success with the hip-hop trio Strange Fruit Project into producing tracks for artists like Ghostface, Erykah Badu, the iconoclastic rapper Rhymefest, and most recently, Kanye West. Their first collaboration, “Power,” from West’s yet-to-be-released new album, is already a hit. A new Strange Fruit Project CD is expected later this year.
Rhymefest isn’t exactly a household name, but he’s well respected in the rap world and wound up having a pretty major effect on your career. How did you meet up with him?
Through Phonte, a rapper from North Carolina I’d worked with. Rhymefest was putting together an album and Phonte was on one of the songs, but for some reason Rhymefest couldn’t use the original beat. So Phonte was like, “Yo, I know this cat Symbolyc One and his man Caleb [McCampbell, Symbolyc’s frequent collaborator]. They can redo this beat and make it better than the original.” So Rhymefest sent me the track, and he loved what we did with it.
That’s almost exactly the same story of how Rhymefest introduced you to Kanye West.
That’s right. Like I tell a lot of people, relationships are everything. Rhymefest felt like I scratched his back, so he was going to scratch mine. He was in the studio with Kanye and he happened to play him some of my beats. Kanye loved what he heard, and two days later I was on a flight out to Hawaii to work with him.
That must have been mind-blowing.
I got the initial text that said, “Kanye is loving your stuff. He says he’s about to change your life,” and I was pretty excited. A couple of days later I got an itinerary saying that my flight leaves in the next four hours. My wife and I were at Red Lobster; we had already ordered our food, but it hadn’t come out yet, so they had to pack it up. I ran home and started throwing stuff in suitcases.
When you got to the studio in Hawaii, Kanye had already recorded “Power.”
Yeah, he had demoed it. It was completely different from what it is now. He spent so much time, put so much detail into the song.
So Kanye has changed your life.
Yeah, it’s been good, man. Having a single with one of the biggest