N.O. Joe talks new memoir, music, and signing his 1st artist, Spuf Don

N.O. Joe
Photo credit: Nancy Byron

N.O. Joe is one of the pioneers who helped build the phenomenon known today as Southern hip-hop. N.O. Joe is a multiplatinum, Grammy- and Emmy-nominated producer who has worked with artists such as the Geto Boys, UGK, Scarface, and several other artists. He recently sat down with rolling out to discuss his new memoir and evolving from a producer to developing his own label. We also got a chance to speak with his label’s first artist Spuf Don, who formerly was in a group called Classmates with Travis Scott.

What made you want to write a memoir and what will it include?

Well, the memoir [will] chronicle me as a kid and how it inspired my music and some of the equipment I used. [And] how I transitioned from the mean streets of New Orleans as a kid to moving to New York, then to Houston. [There are] a lot of things to talk about like my relationship with Rap-a-lot in Houston and a lot of the music that I made throughout. It’ll take you from New Orleans to New York to LA to Houston.

Is the memoir going to talk about your accolades and the different ways you helped pioneer Southern hip-hop?

Absolutely, you are going to know everything about me. You will know all of the music and it’s also being aired with a documentary in Soundcloud. You will hear some music that I did back then that was never released. A lot of people don’t realize how much I have done in hip-hop and for the South period. I came into the game to express a new [idea]; I had a different idea of how I wanted the South to be viewed. I wanted to change the sound.

N.O Joe & Spuf Don
Photo credit: Nancy Byron

You’ve talked a lot about changing the sound back then, but how do you plan on doing that now for the younger generation with an artist like Spuf Don? How does Spuf Don’s sound reflect the direction you are looking to go in right now?

Joe: We produce together like on all his stuff, we are like a team. He comes from a younger perspective and I kind of live vicariously through him but with a classic sound. We kind of mix those things together and make it quality new-age music.

Spuf: My sound is mainly hip-hop but it’s mixed with a bunch of elements. What Joe and I are working, we are really combing many different elements like rap, pop, techno, house, EDM, but we still have the urban edge to it. It’s still keeping the originality we started out with, it’s really hip-hop based. There is still a lot of lyricism and it hasn’t lost any lyrical integrity.

Hip-hop has really evolved over the years. It is the biggest genre this year so how are you and Spuf able to come together?

Joe: A lot of producers and artists from my generation don’t embrace [the new generation]. I have a different take on everything; music is music. My thing is the hip-hop of today is what it is today. When we were coming up our parents were like what is this, this isn’t music or whatever. It’s kind of the same thing here, now there is a lot of music out there that’s not good but I’m not going to say all of it is bad. It’s just a different wave and with music, there needs to be a balance. With Spuf and I what we are doing is we are making music and putting a certain ear on it so when you hear it, it’s a quality product and not just thrown together.

Spuf, what drew you to music and made you want to be a part of hip-hop?

Spuf: Well, I’ve been around music and hip-hop since I was around five years old and I actually started out doing music when I was around 13/14 years old. I started out producing and then I started rapping when I was about 15 and that’s when I got into a group called The Classmates with Travis Scott. We went to college together and we roomed together and formed a group there. We did music for two years and then I got out of the group and started doing music solo.

What advice do you give Spuf Don as well as other new artists?

Joe: Well, first I would say know your market, know your demographic. Once you know your demographic, study it and you get on the internet and study it even more.  Even with the internet, I tell every new artist it’s not the easy, you have to get out there and grind. You have to get your social media up and do whatever you have to do to get to where you need to be.

N.O. Joe & Scarface
Photo Credit: Nancy Byron

There is a lot of chatter about a new project that may be coming out with you and Scarface, is there any truth to that?

Joe: Yes, it doesn’t have a title yet but Face and I, we work very well together. Sometimes the schedules can kind of conflict but eventually we put it all together. The album is going to be another classic and we got some great songs right now.

That’s great, are there any other projects you or Spuf Don are working on?

Joe: I am releasing a series of kits, like drum sounds and loops and a lot of the stuff I used and combined in the ’80s and ’90s. A lot of producers can have a great start if they want to do something reminiscent of some ’80s and ’90s music. It’s going to be accessed everywhere, I just closed the deal. I can’t say just yet, it’s with a huge company.

Spuf: The Light Years and Mad Trees project will be dropping soon. My new single “Fuego” is available. “Fuego” is the first single off Light Years.

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