exclusive interview with droop-e
Droop-E (aka Earl Stevens III) is finishing up his last year at Dublin High School and has recently been named the president of Sick Wid It, the independent record label founded by his father E-40. He's one of the most in-demand producers not only on Sick Wid It, but in the Bay Area at large.
His impressive discography, which includes a song on pop's new album My Ghetto Report Card, is up on his MySpace page. Those familiar with Bay Area rap should be impressed by the number of local hits he's helmed recently.
I caught up with Droop-E after school one afternoon as he was headed down to the Guitar Center to pick up some more tools of the trade. The interview was for my recent story on 40 in SF Weekly, but I thought more of Droop-E's words deserved some light. Watch out for this hungry and humble producer. . .
T$: What's it like to be a part of this amazing family business, where everyone is both musically inclined and super creative?
Droop-E: It’s kind of hard to explain--because I’m very grateful, but I really don’t know anything else. This is all I know, this is what I was born into. So I don’t know much else. It’s just so natural.
This wasn’t even enforced upon me, you know what I'm saying? More or less I was doing the basketball thing and all of that. The beats, that just happened. I used to be more of a rapper--that’s all I did was write raps all the time and I don’t know what happened, I just started making beats and stuff and now that’s what I’m doing. My pops didn’t influence me on this and nobody else did, it just happened.
It might have been different if you had only stuck with rapping and not ventured into production, huh?
It woulda been a lotta critics on me too just because of the legacy that my pops put down. If I was just strictly rapping it would be real hard on me because I’d have to live up to that. More or less I’d probably always be in his shadow. But now I’m doing my own thing.
You are a prolific producer. I just noticed that you produced many tracks on recent Sick Wid It albums by the Mossie and the DB'z.
I got like four or five on each one of those and I think I got one on Mistah F.A.B.'s brand new album that he’s supposed to be coming out with. I just work all day, it’s all I do.
Do you still go to school though?
Yeah, still in school. Still in high school, this is my last year though.
Do your parents have rules about making music versus schoolwork?
Not really. I mean, it’s something like that but I’m basically grown. I’m a senior and I’m 18 so I don’t really have homework anyway and all my grades are good and all we do is sit in class and watch movies anyway. It’s the end of my whole school career or whatever. So not really, I mean I’m doing pretty good in school now. In the past if my grades was bad, like last year or the year before that, if my grades was bad they wouldn’t let me do music. But now, it’s too serious, it’s not like it used to be. If they was to do something like that I’d be missing out on a lot of money and that’s not too cool. It’s really my job now so they don’t really try to restrict me from my music. They might make me cut it off early instead of being up all night like I usually do, but they don’t tell me like I can’t do it, period. Nah, not really.
Now that you are the president of Sick Wid It, are you taking a lot of time to learn the business?
Man, all the time. Sometimes I’m in school and I’ll have to go outside and make a couple business phone calls during school or stuff like that. But I’ve been around a lot of people so I’ve been learning a lot and it just comes. I don’t have to take time out of my schedule to learn that. It’s been going good though.
How do you feel about your father's album having a big shot at success?
It’s a great feeling, cuz we’ve just been working real hard. All he do is work hard and grind and it’s starting to pay off now and he’s the one that’s bringing the Bay back so hopefully we’ll be back into the mainstream light sometime soon. I mean, he bust open the doors now all we gotta do is flood it. So I’m just praying to God that everything goes through the way it’s supposed to.
He is very generous with his time as far as helping younger artists. He seems to go out of his way to do that.
Yeah he does, that’s why it’s real messed up that a lot of people aren’t grateful for that. A lot of Bay Area artists aren’t really giving him his props for that. Prime example, the "Tell Me When To Go" thing. He could have easily went with a popular single, he could have had anybody, any rapper on the first single. He coulda had anybody. But what he did was he made a hyphy song, a Bay Area-type track so that people would start looking at the Bay more. And he didn’t have to do that. A lot of people don’t see that, they don’t really just put two and two together. It’s real simple. Basically they just gotta appreciate what he’s doing. He’s working on bringing the Bay back. It’s not just him that’s doing it, he’s the main factor and push behind it but a lot of the Bay Area artists out here that’s holding it down that’s giving the other regions reason to look at us and try to get at us so everything going good.
He bust it open and everybody else is holding it down out here so that when the companies do look they’ll see all the radio spins and how the kids out here react to the music and they see that it’s really something. So hopefully everything follows through, but it’s looking good right now for the Bay.
Don't a lot of people appreciate his efforts though?
A lot of people do, yup, but I think a lot of people do and a lot of people don’t. It’s 50/50. He do get his props but not everybody is necessarily feeling him like that.
Are you about to drop your own album?
Yeah, April 4, Droop-E and B-Slimm we got our own album coming out on Sick Wid It. That’s my rap thing but after that I’m gonna take a break from that and work on my productions. I have my [compilation] Bay Bridges that came out last September and has everybody from the Bay on there. It’s a good album.
I really like that album; you make sure that you've got a lot of different types of beats and sounds on there.
I tried to mix it up. Everything happens for a reason, but what I did was I gave the artists two or three beats to choose from so they’re the ones that picked the album. I had an idea of who I wanted on what track but I think on the next one I’m gonna control it and make it sound how I really want it to sound.
What software would you recommend to new producers who want to get their feet wet?
You probably should go get this program called Reason, it’s $399, I’m at Guitar Center right now. That would probably be the best thing to do. The main factor is for producers to sound different. Do something different, don’t try to copy what’s going on right now. Just do your own thing. That’s the only way you’re gonna stand out.
What's next for you after graduation?
After I graduate I’mma probably just take a little community college--just a little something, not too big. I don’t want to leave the Bay, I just want to keep doing my thing out here. Hopefully everything works out for me. . .
I'm sure it will. You have a good example of hard work in your family.
Yup, that’s for real.