Consequence has a legitimate claim to being hip hop’s Forrest Gump. Whether it’s making classics with A Tribe Called Quest in the ‘90s, helping Kanye West rack up Grammys over the last 20 years, or getting Chris Rock on his upcoming album, the multidecade veteran’s pen has put him in spaces with some of the greatest artists of all time. And even his vocal exercises have led to unforgettable hip hop records.
“I was singing Anita Baker in the shower one day. At the [A Tribe Called Quest ‘Stressed Out’] session, I met Spliff Starr for the first time because Busta [Rhymes] came through, and he brought him,” Consequence told REVOLT. “We all started freestyling. When it got to me, I kind of did the Anita Baker s**t, and that’s how we got ‘Stressed Out’ because that’s a flip of ‘Good Love.’”
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the Grammy Award-winning songwriter discusses Q-Tip helping him with his voice, learning how to record himself from Kanye West, and how his upcoming sophomore album has songs that will shift the culture. Check out the exclusive with Consequence below.
What do you remember about your early sessions with A Tribe Called Quest?
I started recording in the sixth or seventh grade. I was traveling to Long Island, networking, and figuring out where to get the best studio rate. By the time I recorded with Tribe for “The Chase Part 2,” it was like making it to the big time. My voice back then was unique because it had a real pitch to it. I used to smoke, so Q-Tip was going through the advantages and disadvantages of what it would do to my performance and throat. Obviously, it loosened me up. That’s what any intoxicant does. But I’m glad we had those conversations because I eventually stopped smoking. I figured out how to get to that space without having a supplement. I would sit with [Tribe] for hours and just learn.
Tip and I were hanging out daily when he was figuring out what would be [Beats, Rhymes, and Life], and he wanted me to start exercising for my throat because of my smoking. He said, “We have to figure this out because your s**t is ill.” What I would do is listen to old R&B before I went to the studio. I was singing Anita Baker in the shower one day (laughs). At the [“Stressed Out”] session, I met Spliff Starr for the first time because Busta [Rhymes] came through, and he brought him. We all started freestyling. When it got to me, I kind of did the Anita Baker s**t, and that’s how we got “Stressed Out” because that’s a flip of “Good Love.”
Speaking of Tribe, when was the last time you worked with Phife Dawg?
We last worked in person during the “Glow In The Dark Tour.” He came out and did a couple of joints. He did one joint with Tony Williams and me. He also did something else. I think it was this remix I was doing for the [“Q.U.E.E.N.S.”] joint, and I think I wound up using the vocals for something else. We developed our own relationship independently of Tribe.
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You possibly have the most Kanye West features on one project — your Take Em To The Cleaners mixtape.
I definitely got the most Ye features outside of JAY-Z.
That mixtape came out months after The College Dropout. What do you remember about working with a young Kanye?
What sticks out about The College Dropout and Take Em To The Cleaners is that we did all that predominantly in Kanye’s crib. When I started my new chapter with Kanye and G.O.O.D. Music, I had to start from the beginning. At one point, Kanye told me, “You’re about to learn how to record yourself.” He was recording me for a minute. But he showed me, “All you have to do is this.”
What was your favorite G.O.O.D. Music session?
We definitely had a great session with Puff [Daddy] one time when we did “Crack Music” in LA. “Crack Music” was originally for Puff. We were in the studio. I wrote another joint. I don’t know if he used any of the lines or whatever. This was also the Last Train To Paris time. Keyshia [Cole] was f**king with us. That’s how she ended up going on “Last Night.” Kanye did “I Changed My Mind” with Keyshia.
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What do you need in the studio to make your best music?
Tea, water, and minimal traffic (laughs). I don’t like to mix vibing with working. If I’m in a session, whoever doesn’t need to be in there doesn’t need to be in there. I don’t really subscribe to the whole 20 people in the studio. If we’re hanging, everybody can come through. But, when it comes to the construction itself, then I like to keep it to a bare minimum.
You’ve been in this game for decades. You must be sitting on stacks of unreleased records.
Yeah, I’m sitting on stacks. Throughout the last few years, I’ve worked with Kanye on his last three projects. We won the Grammy for the gospel joint. I did the Donda joint with him. During those travels, I’ve been working in my spare time. But, this last year has been really where I zeroed in on it because my son is older now, so he’s going to put a project out, and I’ve contributed a lot. I had health issues, but now I’m good. It’s time for me to put my sophomore album out finally. So, I’m looking forward to it. I’m really excited about it.
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Speaking of that sophomore album, you have new music with the likes of Chuck D and Rick Ross, among others.
Yeah, we’re putting a record out in about a month. It’ll probably come out at the top of July. We got the video with Chuck called “What Has America Done.” It’s incredible. Chuck D actually did the artwork. I got Chris Rock on my project, too. He did a verse. It’s not a rap verse, but it’s a verse. I’m one of Chris Rock’s favorite rappers. I didn’t know that, but apparently, my verse on “Gone” was his favorite feature on Late Registration. We wound up meeting by chance, and I said, “Yo, I’m Consequence.” He said, “Consequence?” I said, “Yeah. I’ve been pouring out some liquor for the fact that my pal’s gone/And tryin’ to help his momma with the fact that her child gone.” He said, “Oh, that Consequence. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” I also worked on his Tambourine album, which was nominated for a Grammy. That’s the homie.
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What’s an unreleased, culture-shifting record you hope comes out one day?
When people hear this [sophomore album], it will be a shift. It’s 10 songs, and every song is significant. I’m realistic. I’ve understood that people only know what they see. When you see me playing in the back, you might assume I’m chilling. Nah, I’m going for it. This record is very special to me. It’s got joints on it, and it’s top-tier lyricism. It’s top-tier storytelling. There are stories on this that are amazing. I’m 100 percent confident in this project.
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