1. What’s in the name of this project for you?
As artists, producers and just creative people in general, I think we strive to create a life that involves mastering our craft 24/7, getting paid for and living off it, at least somewhat comfortably. The dream is why we persevere, why we keep grindin’ after many years and for some of us, decades or more. The “Open Eyed Dream” is when that comes to pass and we reach that goal to work for ourselves, doing what we believe we were put here to do. For me personally, after 10 years of working on my production versatility, understanding of the biz (publishing, distribution, etc) and building a network of individuals who are doers, my time isn’t far way to reach that goal of quitting a day job for good. I ironically came up with the concept while at my day job. I work in admissions for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and talk to students all day long about pursuing their dreams regardless of the naysayers and doubters. “Dreams” as a concept and basis for a project has definitely been done in the past, but in this case I took the more cinematic approach, as opposed to the cliche “follow your dreams” deal.
2. Why did you decide to drop it on new years eve?
It was something kind of arbitrary to be honest. Back in February 2011 when I dropped the teaser flyer (shout out to KMK Designs), I knew I had alot of work left to get it right, do it properly. I also knew that 12/31/11 was the last possible day to drop in 2011, and I had to release something to follow-up the first project “Infiltrate, Instigate, Expand” (EP version available of first project at http://www.amazon.com/Straight-N-Narrow-Records-Presents-Infiltrate-Instigate/dp/B00468B0KG – cop that!). And it definately seemed to fall into place with the theme “Open Eyed Dream” being kind of mysterious, that NYE was a good date for the release.
3. Do you feel the project is a good wrap up on your accomplishments for 2011?
110%. I left no tracks neglected and no corners were cut, from pre-production to mixing to post-production. It’s my best body of work and that is a good feeling.
4. What went into the selection of artists you worked with for this project?
Many of the artists on the project were on the 2010 effort, “Instigate, Infiltrate, Expand” (Kritikal, Tekneek Nico the Beast, Jon Quest, Human Hustle Ent, Apex, Living Proofe, Palermo Stone, to name a few). I added some dope emcees to this one like Franchise from the Come-Up Boys, Hubbs, Jay Mel, Mario Dones, Divine Seven, Nick Pratt…. I look for 3 things in an artist: Content, delivery, and professionalism. There isn’t one artist on this project who lacks those qualities and it will stay that way until I hang it up.
5. Are there any “bonus” tracks that didn’t make it this time that you can drop exclusively with your popgh family?
There are 2 dope cuts that weren’t recorded due to various issues, but with 22 tracks and 78+ minutes already, something would’ve had to have been cut for them to fit (only 80 minutes on a disc). Funny how those things actually work out in the end. If they are recorded, which I plan on, we’ll talk.
6. What’s your next move?
For me there’s never a next. Its a continual push. Network your ass off. Show respect to the game’s vets. Earn what you want and don’t expect anything to be given to you. So to answer the question, “next” will always change and evolve. I’ll continue to live by those principles as a producer and always seek knowledge while expanding the network vigorously.
7. What artists have you not yet worked with that you would like to in the near future?
At this point, there aren’t really any local artists I feel I “need” to work with, except for B-White of the 58’s. We’ve talked and hopefully something will line up. I respect his talent immensely. Other than that, my focus is on placing records with established artists in the game who have label deals or large independent successes.
8. Many listeners will pick their own favorites from this project. What’s your favorite and what makes it so?
This is the type of question most producers and creators usually stay away from, giving the political reply and saying “not one track stands above others” but that’s not me. If you know me, you get why. I have no problem saying that track 2, featuring Jon Quest of Varsity Squad is my favorite joint. I naturally always try to match certain artist’s skill sets with particular beats, and in this case, it was a dead-on bulls-eye. The entire essence of the track IS and EMBODIES why we love hip-hop.
9. You had the opportunity to involve your dad on this project. How did his musical talent influence you growing up?
Great question. I’m impressed you picked up on that. My Father is the reason I make music. Plain and simple. I was blessed with a Father who not only is an extremely talented musician, but also an aficionado of music. My music background really began with The Beatles, British Invasion groups, and classic rock. I didn’t even get into hip-hop until I was about 12 years old. As a career drummer and now successful guitarist, I can say that working with him on creative hip-hop blends, per say, has been the most rewarding of all my collabs.
10. Popgh stands for people of Pittsburgh going hard. How do you go hard for Pittsburgh?
Although I’m a Philly dude til I die, I’ve been in the Burgh since 2001 when I started college at Pitt. After graduation I found work and stayed here. Its a great city with a lot of musical talent. I go hard for Pittsburgh by putting projects like this together, and investing in the proper promotion to make it known, and not just “another mixtape in the bunch.” It stands out because of the Pittsburgh-heavy roster of emcees and one of these days I’ll contribute to national success for some of them, I’m sure of it. More than only projects like “Open Eyed Dream”, last year I helped orchestrate the first ever iStandard Producer’s Showcase to visit the 412. It was a huge success and we’ll be back in 2012, so producers should watch for it.