In 2004 Plantlife dropped The Return Of Jack Splash to much critical acclaim, including album of the year on Gilles Peterson’s BBC Radio 1 Awards. However, when you read “much critical acclaim” it usually means that the masses didn’t really catch on, which was the case for Plantlife’s incredible debut. As frontman Jack Splash explained to me though that wasn’t necesarily a bad thing, mentioning in conversation that he “actually felt lucky in a weird way that the album was a secret.”
Intrestingly enough for the groups second album, Time Traveler, Jack is holding the same expectations. “This one to me, I consider this one to be another underground album. I purposefully designed it that way, like I just wanted it to be so fucking fun. Basically I didn’t want to worry about shit; I didn’t want to worry about a single, or who is going to react which way to it, and more just wanted to have as much fun as possible. When the time is right then I’ll worry about all that other stuff, but right now I feel like I’m still percolating.”
After hearing the brilliance of Time Traveler, it’s hard to grasp that this is only the beginning of something much greater, but I do believe it to be true. I caught up with Jack for a feature in the next issue Vapors, but since they only wanted 500 of the nearly 4,000 words of the interview, there was plenty more information that needed to shared. Follow the jump for an abridged version of the dialog and some music.
For starters, who makes up Plantlife?
Plantlife, when we perform, is an 11 piece band with horns, percussion, basically the whole nine. We’re somewhere between Earth, Wind and Fire and Daft Punk. In the studio though it will be me, and then on this record my DJ Rashida hoped on some vocals and my homegirl Dena did some vocals,and then other various musicians. I’m a big fan of real old school producers like Phil Specter, Steeley Dan, and Brian Wilson folks like that who would bring in real cool session players. People don’t really that much anymore. I play piano, drums, but the thing on my record…I don’t like to give the exact science of how I make my shit, on some hip-hop shit I like to keep it a mystery. My first record it was 100% me, but on this new one I’m having fun and bringing some other people in too.
In hip-hop we often over use the word producer, but it sounds like you’re taking that roll in the traditional sense.
Growing up on hip-hop, drums are always the backbone to hip-hop, but even the most OG producers in hip-hop to me even weren’t just beatmakers. Like Dre was never just beatmaker, DJ Quik was never just a beatmaker, and Premier, you listen those Gangstarr albums and it’s so thorough and consistent. Tribe, listen to any album, or Q-Tip solo shit, and it’s such an energy and a feeling, and that’s where in my opinion…Not all hip-hop producers were the real scientists. RZA wasn’t just making the beat, he was making sure everyone came together and sounded the way they were supposed to. That’s what Quincy did with Michael, it’s what Brian Wilson did with the Beach Boys. I think it’s kinda like the secret of hip-hop. I always looked up to the guys who were so thorough in what they did that you’re listening to it and it couldn’t be anything but their energy. In time people will understand my energy and what my lane is.
The first album slipped under peoples radars, are you doing anything to make sure that doesn’t happen this time around?
You know what’s interesting to me is that I’ve actually felt lucky in a weird way that the album was a secret. This one to me, I consider this one to be another underground album. I purposefully designed it that way, like I just wanted it to be so fucking fun. Basically I didn’t want to worry about shit; I didn’t want to worry about a single, or who is going to react which way to it, and more just have as much fun as possible. When the time is right then I’ll worry about all that other stuff, but right now I feel like I’m still percolating. At the same time I’ve been producing too, so if some of those records blow up before mine, I would be happy for that because that will get people ready for what I’m going to do. I was talking to my homie months ago, and I was talking about how ill the underground LA scene was at a certain point, like how some of those dudes, I don’t care what anybody says, in my history book guys like Freestyle Fellowship or The Pharcyde, Divine Styler, I put those dudes up there with the Dr. Dre’s and the Tribe Called Quest’s. They were so ill and so ahead of their time, and kinda came out of nowhere so it went over people heads. ODB was just as bugged the fuck out, but because Wu-Tang came around first that by the time ODB came around to doing the solo shit people were ready for the madness. I’m trying to get people warmed up, and when the time is right, that’s when I’m gonna drop the bomb.
I can’t even imagine where you’re gonna take it form here.
Yeah, well, I already know, that’s the thing. I’ve been working on it already.
The song writing on the album is crazy. I was thinking there is no way you can just be sitting there with a pen and paper, there’s gotta be girls playing backgammon on a satin couch, just something going on around you to come up with the stuff you do.
You know what’s funny, on most of the songs when I’m actually rapping, most of that shit I write, but when it comes to the Plantlife singing stuff, it’s really such a vibe, that I write them in my head like Jay-Z or Lil Wayne. On the uptempo joints, I’ll be at a club or the strip club, and shit starts writing itself in my head. I’ll lock it away and when I’m working on the music later on, I’ll be writing the song in my head simultaneously. As soon as the track is ready to go, I need that mic on so I can start laying these ideas down.
Obviously one of the biggest influences is women, but you take an all encompassing approach to it. You don’t misconstrue sexuality with degradation. Can you talk about that approach to your music.
Well, that’s fucking awesome because you’re the first writer to bring that up in that specific way, and I’m happy you said that because I often times try to explain myself in interviews because people only hear certain parts of certain lyrics. Not that my music is hip-hop, but I’m a hip-hop dude, and I think that people have been doing that with hip-hop since the beginning and it drives me fucking crazy. It’s like 2Pac is only known for “I Get Around” and they forget that he wrote “Dear Mama.” For me, I just like to be real honest and sincere in my music. I’m not sexist, and I don’t hate women, I fucking love them, but at the same time I’m not gonna lie and say I’m not wild sometimes. There are certain women or girls that I have hated, or that were foul or were bitches, but I would never say that women as a whole are bitches, just like I know there are girls out there who think I’m an asshole because that’s how I treated them, and I can’t be mad at them for saying that. With me, I think that when people are uptight and that’s what causes the most problems in society, the whole not being open enough or not being honest enough to talk about real shit in a real way. I love women, I was lucky enough to have some girls early in my life kick knowledge to me because I was sexist at a certain point. It was part of growing up in LA, that’s how everyone was. Bitches weren’t shit when I was little, but then I met a woman who was like come on homie, what are you talking about?
You also slide in some social commentry too.
Deep down I’m very opinionated and political, but I don’t like most music where that is the soul focus. It’s like if that’s all you talk about, that’s not even a friend that you’d like to have. I’ll talk politics, but I’ll also be your homie with you at the club. There are people who can’t have fun, and that’s why I look at the forefathers like Prince, George Clinton, Sly Stone and even the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Rage Against The Machine. When they were kicking politics they were rocking the fuck out and having fun. I like to have fun with my songs and show both sides.
The album is incredibly dope and I haven’t stopped listening to it since it arrived. You can download a three song sampler below.
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