Young RJ Interview

May 29, 2008

During his entire career, producer Young RJ has consistently stepped up to the plate when the opportunity or obligation arise. As half of the production duo B.R. Gunna, he helped construct a new sound for Slum Village after group mastermind J Dilla left to pursue a solo career. When Black Milk was busy pursuing his own projects, Young RJ produced the third installment of Gunna’s Dirty District series on his own. And when he was given the chance to work with G-Unit emcees Lloyd Banks and Young Buck, he rep’d the D by producing bangers that landed on their respective albums.

Now, Young RJ is set to face a couple more challenges. His Concert Hall EP project with Frank Nitty (of Frank-N-Dank) is on iTunes now (click here for the project’s single, “Automatic,” and a rundown of the song by Frank), and he’s currently working on The Recipe, an album with Rapper Big Pooh, the slept-on half of North Carolina’s indie mainstay Little Brother, and Dirty District Vol. 4. In an interview with, Young RJ talks about a family-first policy, impending projects, and the status of B.R. Gunna.

You’ve got beat placements with Young Buck and Lloyd Banks, but for the most part, you really stick to working with artists from Detroit. Is that a conscious decision, or is it just something that worked out that way?
It’s because I choose to do it. I got a call to submit some beats for Jadakiss’ new album that he’s working on with Roc-A-Fella, but my main thing is to help out people that’s around me, make sure they’re straight with the position they’re in. That’s why you see me doing a lot of work with underground people, just putting it together for them. That’s the best way I can say it, just setting everybody up that’s in my crew to make sure they can eat.

So you turned down an opportunity to make beats for Jada’s project?
I didn’t turn it down, I just put it on hold for now. If I get the chance to really sit down and craft something, that’s what I’ll do. But for right now, for the next couple weeks, my main focus is on finishing the Big Pooh/Young RJ album, they’re going to be staying on my back to turn that in. After that, I’ll start to do work for more mainstream artists.

That reminds me of Dilla. I’d read that people were getting at him to get beats for someone like Jay-Z, but he’d be like, “Nah, I’m working on this Frank-N-Dank project right now.” And cats are trippin’, like, “You’re getting opportunities to work with some really big people, and you’re sticking with cats here?”
After a certain point, after you get money, then it’s not really about the money. If you’ve got money and the other people around you aren’t as financially set as you are, it makes you look bad at the end of the day, like somethin’ ain’t right. So the best thing to do is to get your people situated, even if it’s not you putting it out. … Somebody else might put it out, but they’re still able make a path for themselves to eat. And with doing that, more opportunities come. You can make more money putting your own record out than you can on doing something for a Young Buck or a Lloyd Banks. It’s good to get those placements for variety and to get your name out there, but as far as money, you can make more of it by putting it out yourself.

These past couple of years, the Detroit Hip Hop scene has gotten a lot of love, since the deaths of Proof and Dilla. What’s it been like to be part of that?
It makes you focus more. I think the deaths of Jay Dee and Proof [made people] not take life for granted. They understand now that timing is everything. As far as being part of the scene, it’s the same as it’s always been. People are supporting peoples’ records, that’s why you see us being able to do our Dirty District compilation, Black being able to do his solo album, Fat Ray coming out to do his thing, Guilty. I think it’s a good thing: the more people that are able to go out and do their thing, the more attention it brings to the city.

You and Black, both collectively and individually, did a lot of production for Slum Village. What was it like taking over after Dilla?
It was a lot of pressure, because at the time, after Dilla left the group, Jay Dee was kind of the person who engineered everything, like, “This is the direction we need to go.” So when we stepped up, we really had to learn as we went. It was just a lot of pressure. With a group that had such a highly-anticipated album as Fantastic Vol. 2, for you to come behind it and make a whole new sound … It was a lot of pressure, but we were able to pull it off, so that’s a blessing.

Last year, Black Milk saw a lot of solo success with his solo, and he just put out the album with Fat Ray. What’s it like coming up with him and seeing that happen?
It’s a blessing. Me and Black were doing the B.R. Gunna thing, and I wish nothing for the best of him. It’s good that he was able to go out there and make his own lane, because the more lanes we get out there, the more we’ll be able to politic with each other and help each other get things accomplished. So it’s a good thing. The more connections he’s got, the more connections I’ve got on my end, the better.

So what’s the status of B.R. Gunna? Are you guys still a group, or more of an informal crew, or what?
B.R. Gunna never really broke up, we just put things on hold. At the time, we were never really able to release music in a timely fashion. So Black stepped out and got his Fat Beats thing going, Fat Ray did his thing, and I did my thing, getting beats with Young Buck and Lloyd Banks, and everybody just did their own thing. But I just spoke to Black the other day, so it’s all good.

Like you said before, you’re working on The Recipe with Big Pooh. How did you guys link up?
It started off, I was going to work on another mixtape compilation album, and we reached out to Pooh and we just built a relationship from there. (Violator DJ and RJ’s manager) Scrap Dirty and Pooh speak on a regular basis, and I was like, “It’d be dope if we could pull off an album together,” because both of us really don’t have the notoriety as much. Pooh’s got the Little Brother thing, but people haven’t really heard him on a solo level. People know me for doing the Lloyd Banks and B.R. Gunna thing, but they haven’t really heard me focus in and do an album with an artist. I thought it would be a dope idea, Pooh thought it would be a dope idea, so we got together and made it happen.

… Pooh was like, “J, I trust you, I trust your ear to do what we need to do to make this album work.” I think people are going to be very surprised when they hear the project. We’re keeping it what people want to hear as far as keeping it Hip Hop, but we’re taking it to another level sonically as far as where Hip Hop music is at. I think people are going to be real surprised, I’m real happy about the album.

You said you guys are ten songs in?
Yep. I’m thinking it’ll be 13, maybe 14 songs, but who knows. We might do 15, 16 songs. My main focus is to make sure we’ve got enough songs to make the consumer happy. People doing ten songs, and after you put out two singles, you aren’t leaving the listener nothing to listen to. My focus is just making sure we’ve got enough songs, and that they’re dope, and not just throwing extra songs on there just to fill it up, so people will be happy that you’ve got a solid album.

Do you guys have any guests?
We’ve got a couple people. Frank from Frank-N-Dank, Eric Roberson, I’m waiting for Dwele to get back from overseas then I’m putting him on a song, O-Dash, Pooh’s supposed to be getting Phonte on a couple of joints, and we’re working on a couple big features, we’re just trying to figure out what’s going to fall through., so I don’t wanna say too many names yet.

This is your first solo project with another artist. How would you compare this experience to your experiences with B.R. Gunna and Dirty District Vol. 3?
It’s dope, especially when y’all have the same vision of where you’re trying to go. The only thing that’s difficult is both people getting on the same page and actually having the same ear. Other than that, it’s dope, because you’re able to step a little more out the box. When you’re doing a compilation like Dirty District, you’ve got different artists putting their different vibes on there, and you’re really trying to make it mesh together well. That’s the difference: on a compilation, you’re working on making everything mesh between different artists and their styles. Working on the project with Pooh was real dope. He’s not hard to work with, and he works real fast.

Talk about the Concert Hall EP with Frank Nitty.
Frank is on the Pooh project, so we were working on a couple songs on there, working on the Slum [Village] project, just submitting songs for other people, and we’re just like, “We’re over here working every day. We might as well knock something out so you can have something out there, so you can let people know what you’re coming with before you come with Stadium Music,” which is going to be the title of his full-length album. Just to let people know where we’re going. … To keep the buzz going for Frank, and show that he can stand on his own two without Frank-N-Dank. We know Frank-N-Dank is still a group and they’re still doing their thing together, but just to brand Frank as an artist. We just knocked it out, in I’d say about three or four days, the whole EP. We just wanted to get something out there, some music I feel needed to be out there a little more.

And what kind of music is that?
Experimental, and not just so cut and dry [with] a sample, a drum beat and a bassline, but taking it a little more alternative and trying to make the music a little bigger. We were just going for making the music as big as possible, but not overdoing it. With Stadium Music, the whole thing is the energy, and the vibe it gives off. If you listen to Yes records, or Runt, different groups in 80s rock and 70s prog. rock, it gave off a certain kind of vibe. We just want to push the envelope, but not be so cut and dry since we’re able to put music out whenever we feel like it. Expand your horizons and your thought process of how to approach an album, and that’s what we wanted to do. We didn’t want it to be a shock to people when we came with this left field form of Hip Hop. We didn’t want to come left field and throw people off, so the EP is just a taste. I think we balanced it kind of well, the balance of Hip Hop and alternative. So we want to do that, and make the Hip Hop as big as possible, something you can hear in the stadium. That was the purpose of doing the EP.

How far are you into Dirty District Vol. 4?
Right now, I’m just getting all of the features lined up. This time, I think I’m going take it a little more … still Hip Hop artists, but I’ma try to go get the cream of the crop of Hip Hop artists that’s out there. And I’ma make it a little more sonically gutter, I’ma make it moreso like a mixture of Dirty District Vol. 1 & 2, not moreso clean. Taking it back to what the essence of it was, two tracks with people rapping on top.

Young RJ & Rapper Big Pooh “Smile”

Young RJ & Rapper Big Pooh “Money”


  1. Tommy says:

    This was a good read.Keep doing your thing,thing

    June 1st, 2008 at 4:43 pm

  2. Marcel says:

    It’s always good to see Detroit on top! 2008-2009 is definitely our year!

    June 2nd, 2008 at 3:18 pm

  3. MoonChild says:

    that dirty district 3 was dope

    June 2nd, 2008 at 3:33 pm

  4. Naveen says:

    – these are awesome! She is grgeoous and so are these portrait! And she totally does not look like that cat is giving her ANY trouble totally casual haha!

    October 7th, 2015 at 3:44 pm

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