Flashing back to 2008, I used to make ends meet in Philadelphia by promoting different products in on assigned street teams. One day I worked with a dude named Anthony, we kind of hit it off talking about Hip Hop, the sitcom Arrested Development and women. He was a producer who frequented Just Blaze’s Megatron Don online forum, I was an aspiring audio engineer who wrote about music (suffice to say the latter became more of a hustle though I’d still like to learn the ins and outs of a studio), so I figured he’d be a good dude to know.
I was initially skeptical because everyone in Philly talks about what they’re doing but hardly anyone winds up being bigger than a local sensation (I remember a hilarious argument Ant had with a dude who swore his name rung bells all over the place, said dude is still pretty much unknown), come to find out my man was actually talented. He had some of my favorite production on Add-2’s Save Our Souls mixtape (Add-2 is the latest addition to 9th Wonder’s Jamla roster, wake up if you’re sleep) and then when I heard The Present I was fully convinced he was going places.
I decided to start doing these interviews realizing I had quick access to a decent number of talented people, so I reached out a few months ago thinking I would just rap with Ant about the forthcoming Memories Of The Fewture and his background. He said “I’m laying low right now, but we’ll have a lot to talk about soon”. As fate would have it, he had a whole LP with Skyzoo in the works, An Ode To Reasonable Doubt released this past December 4th. We’ve both come a long way from street promos and I love to see my folks rise from the bottom. Antman Wonder recently took a break while in the studio to talk with me on topics including his inspirations, how AOTRD came about and why he likely wont be going Hollywood anytime soon.
You’re from Philly which is a really musical city. Would you say that contributed to you wanting to do music?
Honestly I dont even think that had anything to do with it, I think it’s just the time and the era and the music that engulfed me. I could have been from anywhere but the music of the era I grew up in and the era before that was great. The older generation always made sure that I had good music in my life.
Who would you say were your greatest production influences?
Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, David Axelrod, Minnie Riperton albums. There’s a lot as far as musicality is concerned but when it comes to arrangements in Hip Hop it’s DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Marley Marl, everyone who set the groundwork. There’s a ton of them, Pharrell, Timbaland…
The thing with me is everybody kind of hopped on this Dilla bandwagon, I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t completely familiar with Dilla before he passed. I knew the name and as it turned out Dilla made some of my favorite songs of all time and I didn’t even know it was him that produced them. I was a fan and didn’t even know I was a fan as opposed to everybody who’s like “I loved everything he did” and they didn’t talk about him when he was around.
I was heavily influenced by Dilla without knowing it, so I think that speaks more than people claiming they followed everything he did. That dude influenced me and he wasn’t braggadocious about it, that speaks volumes to he was. He wasn’t a giant name like Pharrell and Timbaland but he was around in that mid ’90s era.
There are thousands of beatmakers and producers on the internet now. How would you describe your particular style and sound?
I wouldn’t compare myself to anyone else, I really don’t work on comparisons. I try to separate myself by just going off the essence of what’s been instilled in me from growing up. I don’t let too much that’s going on influence me, I try to achieve timelessness by focusing on what’s stuck with me throughout time. As far as other producers go I have my favorites, I’m a big Black Milk fan but I just do what I know how to do. I never really sat around comparing snares and melodies, but I don’t sample a lot so if anything sticks out it would be that.
So you prefer to play everything live as opposed to sampling?
Not everything, I program music and if it can be done live then I’ll do that. I prefer everything to feel organic no matter how it comes about, I don’t care if I use a cup and a pencil like Timbaland did. Whatever it is, I want it to speak to you and I don’t think everything should sound so robotic and contrived. I really just try to let it all flow naturally, a lot of times it doesn’t come naturally and I just decide not to produce, so I work a little bit slower these days.
What instruments and equipment do you use in the studio?
I never really speak on that, I like to let people imagine. My boy started calling me Antman Wonder because people could never tell what was sampled and what wasn’t. I have an array of things I can use and the way I trained myself is I can pretty much use anything, there’s never one consistent thing. I’ve used everything from FL Studio (Fruity Loops) to Logic and Reason, I started with Sonar and Cubase back in the day. I still have a MPC sitting here, I got the Maschine, I’ve been through all of it. There’s no go to, it’s whatever is at my disposal.
You mentioned being a Black Milk fan a minute ago. Is there anyone else you find yourself listening to who inspires you to stay sharp?
My inspiration doesn’t really come from people that would be considered in my genre. I listen to KING and their musicality inspires me, they’re perfect to me. If someone’s music gives me a certain feeling, I want to be able to give someone else the feeling I got. It’s never a thing where I want to take someone else’s technique, if I feel a certain type of way about a song then I’ll be motivated to say “I want to make somebody feel like that”.
I like Terrace Martin and of course my homies Skyzoo and Add-2. I listen to dope Hip Hop for inspiration with my work ethic more than it inspires the music I make.
Tell me about how An Ode To Reasonable Doubt came together.
From my end it started with hearing “Bring It On” back in 1996, every producer has looked for that sample and nobody has been able to find it, so I figured I’d recreate anything that moved me that much. I sat down one day, took it apart and recreated it with my imagination. I put it out there and Justice League’s manager Ivan heard it, he said I should do a whole project like that. I started on it and stopped because I was working on Memories Of The Fewture, then Illmind came across my music and played Memories Of The Fewture for Skyzoo. Skyzoo hit me up last year and said “I want to do a Reasonable Doubt project”, which got the ball rolling and that got me to finish it because I was less than halfway done when he hit me up.
We executive produced it together, he picked which songs he wanted to do and I recreated them. I started it in 2012, on Skyzoo’s end some kid told him he should do a Reasonable Doubt tribute in 2011 because he had liked the way Elzhi’s (Illmatic tribute) project was done. When Skyzoo came across me, I guess that was just perfect for him.
It’s funny I was supposed to do a EP with Add-2 before he signed with Jamla. Then he got with them and did a EP with Khrysis and I ended up doing a EP with Skyzoo who’s a former Jamla artist, so it’s a small world. I didn’t even know that me and Skyzoo would fit together well, but we did which is why we put out “Sleeping Giant 2“ before the Reasonable Doubt project.
So how has it been received?
Honestly, the ratio of love to hate has been crazy. I expected a lot more animosity, I barely got any and I’m very thankful for that. Primo told me he loved the album, so I’m blessed. It could have went a totally different way where people were throwing pitchforks at me. I’m glad our project worked out because it was a very big risk, I saw what happened to the kid who did that joint with Lupe with the Pete Rock T.R.O.Y. sample. The whole internet went crazy on him, that’s a potential career killer. That kid remade one song, Reasonable Doubt is one of the greatest albums of all time. I’m dealing with an album that has the likes of Ski Beatz, DJ Premier, Irv Gotti, and DJ Clark Kent, the titans. If you screw over that, people will come for your neck.
For a dude with so much talent, why do you choose to keep such a low profile?
I want the attention to be on the music and not on me. It seems like the reason we’re having such low quality music is because everyone stays relevant by face value and based off of the things they say as opposed to the music. Everything is about what this person did but the news isn’t about their albums, promoting your album based off of the news you make is just backwards to me.
I always want it to be about the music, I don’t need to be in videos and doing extra stuff. The lifestyle is nice but it just takes away from my gift. I believe I’ve been blessed with a gift and I feel I would be spitting on that if I made it about me and not the gift I was blessed with. I’m not that great of a person to be all in people’s faces like “You should pay attention to me” (laughs). I enjoy my music a lot more than I enjoy talking.
Finally, with Memories Of The Fewture being long awaited, what can people expect from that and what else do you have coming up?
This year is gonna be really stressful but it’s gonna be great because people are opening up their ears. I was supposed to drop Memories Of The Fewture back in 2012, it was supposed to be the last thing I did in music. I was quitting and I didn’t want anything to do with it, but some people heard it and passed it around, and that’s how I became the dude who other producers gravitate towards. What you can expect from it is my imagination, it’s like going on a field trip through my brain. I like time based things, which is why I really liked doing the Reasonable Doubt project, it’s something that gets encapsulated and can be timeless if treated right.
On this project I pulled from everything I grew up on, not just Hip Hop but TV, video games and everything I heard musically. We’re not just shaped by what we choose to listen to musically, we’re shaped by things we just hear in passing. If you hear a theme song from a show you grew up on, it’s gonna do something for you. I didn’t want it to be one dimensional so I included elements of everything that structured me, a big part of me is put on display with Memories Of The Fewture.
As far as the rest of the year, I’ve been working with Jahlil Beats, I’m supposed to be working with Rockwilder, my man Focus from Aftermath, and Illmind. There’s a lot of stuff I did last year that hasn’t even come to light, certain things I cant even speak on yet but hopefully it all comes to light. I know I’m gonna do my part, I dropped the Ode To Reasonable Doubt instrumentals and I’m dropping Memories Of The Fewture in February. I look forward to all of it, hopefully it’ll be an explosive year.