STUDIO CAMPFIRE STORIES: ‘ManMade’ Edition – “New In Town (Happy)” (feat. 1-O.A.K. and Carlitta Durand)


The roots for one kinda goes all the way back to a previous working session Phonte and I had in June of 2010 for The Foreign Exchange’s Authenticity album. When the two of us sat down in my studio to produce the original draft for what was to become +FE’s “Fight For Love”. We first worked out the chord changes and I laid out some “dummy” drums… Or drums to hold the groove together at the time simply for writing/recording or demoing purposes to be thrown away later on. Well…. Fast forward more than two years later  to October of 2012. I called Phonte and told him… “Man, I’ve had these drums in my head for a few days now and I THINK they’re the same pattern as what I laid down for the DEMO version of “Fight For Love”.” This is why I always say that a higher power is with you while creating music simply because it was really unbelievable how that SAME particular pattern was just archived in my brain like that. Things like that don’t happen just because …there’s purpose and meaning behind it. Since the drums were something I did originally and were simply thrown away and never used for anything released…. Of course I had the green light to utilize my own drum pattern. ……..and I did.

Once I recorded the major portion of the drum pattern and got the correct feel of the drums that I was looking for, I then played the hi-hat live over top of it, which really seemed to add some character to the joint. The sixteenth notes every second bar pushed the pattern along a little bit while adding a bit of movement – I wanted that because of the way I already envisioned the album being played live. Now with the drums moving the way that they were, I wanted the chords to take time going through the progression…… BUT when the bassline was added, it moved right along with the drums thus connecting the two effectively.

Carlitta Durand

Interestingly enough, Phonte and I originally heard Jeanne Jolly on this joint ……..that is until I did the music for “Tell Me Something New”…. But I’ll get to that story a little later on. Phonte wrote they lyrics and recorded a reference, which sounded dope… THEN he hit up the studio version of Ms. Johnnie On-The-Spot, the one and only Carlitta Durand who always comes through in that clutch. She went into the studio and smashed her part. Hearing her “response” in the form of a pre-hook and her hook over the music really brought it to life… This was a helluva pleasant surprise to me, because I didn’t even know Carlitta was gonna be on it – Phonte just sent the joint on through to me with the credits. Talk about a vocal “cherry on top”.

Now we had a joint featuring Phonte and Carlitta almost reminiscent of our “Say How You Feel” days from 3-4 years ago, which was cool…. But we wanted a different look for this one – enter mah man from the Bay, 1-O.A.K. I have known this brotha for a few years now. Back in 2009 when I was on the road with PPP (Platinum Pied Pipers), he and one of my favorite producers out of the Bay Area, Trackademicks opened up for us in San Francisco and Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, we recently ran into each other again after the last San Francisco +FE show in October at Mezzanine. At that time, I had no idea that he would 1) Be contributing to my album, which was already in the works at the time, and 2) Have such a key contribution to the album. Hearing his newly laid vocals on the track was the PERFECT compliment to Carlitta’s already recorded parts. It was precisely the type of energy we were wanting to bring forth in this song as 1-O.A.K. brought almost a “youthful” sound to the music that fit the subject matter and duet perfectly…

“’cause I’m giving yooooou!! …Nothing but the very best part of meeee… Feels like I am finally freee-eee!!”

…Throughout the recording process of this one, I always thought that part was dope because he sang that shit like he MEANT it… Then to hear Carlitta follow those verses up with her unassuming yet very commanding tone where words and phrases leave her vocal chords with the same ease and effort as that of a regular conversation. The pairing made for excellent chemistry, in my humble opinion because their communication back and forth in the song sounded authentic and realistic. PLUS… I would LOVE to witness to the two of them performing this song live… Together.

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Studio Campfire Stories: Platinum Pied Pipers “Stay With Me”

The Summer of 2004 was a pretty interesting time in my life to say the least. I had just released my first ‘pro pressed’ album, Passion & Definition in July, was playing some shows here and there, meeting kats in the Detroit scene who I had been a fan of for years. I had also been let go from the Medical Supplies Sales job I held for a year, and as a result I became a full-time musician (until I moved East in 2006). I had some die hard supporters, thinking I was doing something… But looking back on it, I was just beginning to pay my dues hadn’t even really begun to get my feet wet musically. Anyway, with all of the new kats I was either meeting, running into, or working with around The D, I had yet to meet Waajeed. I always had people telling me, “Man, you gotta work with Waajeed,” yet, I hadn’t even met the brotha yet. Of course, with the way everything else was just kinda ‘falling’ into place, I simply assumed we would run into each other at a venue one night (which actually happened at the Carbon Lounge in Hamtramck… and we said ‘what up’ in passing). Oddly enough, it was actually my homegirl introducing me to his girlfriend at the time after running into her at Buffalo Wild Wings that did it – If I remember correctly, the two of them went to high school together. Weird? Yes… But, I happened to have a copy of Passion & Definition on me (as I always did back then) so I passed it to her to give to him. The next thing I knew a few days later, I got a phone call from Waajeed and we agreed to get up one day at his spot in Downtown Detroit just to meet up. And now that I think about it, that instance was probably the first and only time that I have ever gotten a call back from passing material along to someone… in HOPES of a call back. OH, I take that back…. I actually met 14KT, Buff1 and the rest of the Athletic Mic League the same way back in 2002. They called me back to back after I hit them with a copy of Zo! Presents… A Canvas For The Adoration of Music at an Athletic Mic League/Subterraneous show in Ann Arbor. So, I guess passing music along comes through every now and then, huh? Maybe…

Anyway, I ended up taking a trip to Jeed’s spot in Downtown Detroit and we chopped it up for a good hour or two about music in general… Including the hustle, the passion behind it, and the bullshit. We hadn’t planned to work on anything that day but I guess higher power saw things a bit differently. During our entire conversation, I was sitting at a suitcase Fender Rhodes just messing around on the keys until finally Jeed was like, “Ayo, you know what? Let me see if you’ve got something for this joint real quick.” I was sitting there with the “oh damn” face on as I was partially put on the spot… I’m good, no pressure, right? So he played the joint he was talking about and all I hear is a stripped down track with nothing but these swinging ass drums with this seductive voice on top of it. That was IT….

Me: “Who is THAT?”

Waajeed: “Tiombe Lockhart, a singer I’m working with for the new album.”

He then proceeded to explain to me the meaning behind his newly formed group, Platinum Pied Pipers and even broke down some of the album’s concept…. but I was all into this track that I was hearing. After listening through the song, I told him to start it over so that I could feel my way around what she was singing. By the middle of the song, I knew I had something as Waajeed said, “Aw man… we’ve gotta record that!” Right then and there, he started the joint over and I proceeded to record the bass part via the Rhodes…. and recorded another pass with just the chords and it became the foundation for this new song. Jeed was so hyped up about it, he started talking about turning it in to Ubiquity (Records) (PPP’s label at the time) and knowing that they would love it, etc…. I was kind of excited, but the music “industry” had already warped me so, even by 2004 that I wanted to see proof of things happening.

Sure enough, he turned that joint in and Ubiquity really took to it. Waajeed hit me up one day telling me that they were considering it as the first single. Word?… Whatever man, I’ll believe it when I see it…….. Well, a couple months later, I was in Record Time in Ferndale, MI flipping through copies of “Stay With Me” 12″ vinyl singles.

Funny how things happen when creativity comes into play. Even now when I hear this song being played in a venue, I always think back on how everything seemed to line up just right in order for it to happen and come through the way it did.

(Not So) Fun Fact: The crazy thing about this song that no one really knows about is Waajeed gave me a “Co-producer” credit on it. So if you happen to own one of the first pressings of the 12″, you may notice that it reads:

“Produced by Waajeed, Co-produced and keys by Zo!”

But Ubiquity wasn’t having it and they pulled the “Co-produced by” recognition and gave me credit for playing keys only… Despite their silly shit, Jeed and I still joke about this story to this day

“Maaan, I met this dude…. two hours later we did ‘Stay With Me!'”


Most of the time the best stuff never happens in accordance to our script…

Me and Waajeed in D.C., August 2006