Sango’s Nostalgia Mixtape. Hosted by Sama’an Ashrawi.
The Sango Episode
Sango, one of the internet’s most revered beat-makers, tells the story of how Daft Punk inspired his first ever remixes– remixes you can only hear on The Nostalgia Mixtape.
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Sango: [Portuguese introduction] But you understand right? [laughs]
Sama’an: Welcome to another episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape. On this episode, we’ve got one of my favorite beat makers: Sango. But tell the story of how Sango and I met, we need to rewind a little bit. We’ve gotta go back to my freshman year of college when I had probably like the most un-hygienic roommate of all time. I’m gonna spare you all the details but it was really gross. I had made friends with these dudes, David, Jeff, and Tony, at orientation and I hit them up after a semester of living with this guy and I was like, “Guys, I can’t do this, can I just come crash on your couch for a night? I need a break.” And one night on the couch turned into two nights, two nights turned into a week… After week, I think it was Tony who said, “You know, dude, why don’t you just get your stuff and live with us for the rest of the semester?” And that’s exactly what I did. They basically saved me; they saved my freshman year and totally changed my life– without being too dramatic. And it’s cool to see where we’ve all gone since then. Tony is an auditor, which is cool because I feel like you know we all talk about tax evasion but how many of us talk to an auditor? Please don’t audit me, Tony. Tony’s brother Shaun, by the way, hooked up with a rental car for this trip to Seattle, so shout out to Shaun. Jeff, the other roommate, is a director who goes by Vash. His first music video he ever did was for XXYYXX. It’s the song “About You,” which went viral almost instantly. And since then he has found work in New York as a director and producer and he’s really good at it. And David you may know either from his solo work as Dpat, the producer, or from his work in a group called Sonder. And David is really central to the story because in 2012, our last semester of college, he had produced a song for Wiz Khalifa called “Remember You” featuring The Weeknd. I was already in Los Angeles. David was out here taking meetings, as he should, and he would bring me by the Soulection headquarters. There was a guy named Joe Kay who really wanted David to be on the label Soulection and I definitely remember not totally getting it at first. I was of the opinion that David was good enough on his own. He didn’t need a label, he didn’t need help, like, he could do it. And then shortly thereafter I totally got where the vision was going and Soulection is obviously now kind of ubiquitous. But it was somewhere in there… I don’t remember that one of the Soulection residency shows at Echoplex or at Soulection headquarters or at some kickback or Roscoe’s I can’t remember– Sango was there. David introduced me to Sango, and he immediately struck me as very down-to-earth guy, someone you could joke, with someone who could talk about the world with, and that’s important. It’s important to stay friends with people like that because life’s too short to hang out with people who give you anxiety. So when I started this podcast I hit up Sango and I said, “Hey man, if I fly out to Seattle would you do an episode with me?” Kind of knowing that I don’t hear a lot of Sango interviews, and, sure enough, Sango said, “Yeah, man, come on up!” So me and Jasmine came up– Jasmine Chen— and we recorded our episode with Sango in Seattle. So let’s let him introduce himself.
Sango: Hey guys this is Kai aka Sango I’m a producer and a father of one son. I would have to say some good news today is my grandfather just turned 73 today.
Sama’an: That’s beautiful.
Sango: And he’s thriving [laughs]
Sama’an:He’s got a lot of energy for being 73?
Sama’an: That’s dope. He can– He’s like walking around and everything?
Sango: I just got him some new walking shoes.
Sama’an:What’d you get him?
Sango: None other than Adidas.
Sango: Some NMDs.
Sama’an: Wooow [laughs]
Sango: He walks every morning — early morning — so he needed that. He needed some shoes. He’s walking around like with some old school joints. So…
Sama’an: What’s grandpa’s name?
Sama’an: Happy birthday to Grandpa Alandus.
Sango: Yeah, Happy birthday.
Chapter 1: Coldest Winter
Sama’an: If we hop in the Delorean and we go back to 16 17 year old Kai, who are we meeting? Like who are you at that time?
Sango:[exhales] An athlete. Like a straight up college– not college — high school I ran a lot of track, cross country. My whole family was like full of runners and stuff, so… Always had like something in my SanDisk mp3 player, changing it every day, never satisfied with what I uploaded to it. That was me: a music nerd. Just really wanted to, like, find the next thing. I had a moment in time that year I was listening to all acapellas. I would just download acapellas and just listen to them. Like I used to listen to “Heartless” by Kanye, acappella, more than the original.
Sango: I was just like… “In the night…” you know like straight up on that. And that’s how I got into like mashing up songs and stuff like on Virtual DJ. I would like take those lyrics, put it on like MY beats, or somebody else’s beats instrumentals, and that’s like… my DJ career may have began like me just messing with that type of stuff. But I was really just like… I don’t know if I had a girlfriend at the time, I probably did, but, I was really into my music, really into my sports. School was cool. I mean, you know, whatever…
Sama’an: You were doing it.
Sango: I was doing it. I had good grades. I didn’t I wasn’t failing nothing. I had like what As, A-minuses. Bs.
Sama’an:Better than me, better than I did.
Sango: Maybe like a B minus. But nonetheless I was a good student. But I was really umm… out of all my friends I was a good kid that was responsible. That was like… took everybody to parties in my mom’s van.
Sango:Because they would like secretly drink and I didn’t drink.
Sama’an: You were the DD.
Sango: Yeah yeah.
Sango: So I was a good kid that got taken advantage of his kindness a lot at 16, 17. I was just like a chill, “Yeah man I’m just here to… just hang out.” [laughs].
Sama’an: And this was… where are we now?
Sango: This is… growing up this is Michigan, man. I grew up in a suburbs of a city called Kentwood. That was like… such a good place to live when it came to like family stuff, and just having friends, and having like a good amount of friends, and like just always– it was like a movie! It was like a PG version of American Pie. And just like yeah, we go to parties, and then, you know, we go to school, and it’s just like…
Sama’an: Lot of trees in your neighborhood?
Sango: A lot of trees, a lot of dogs, you know… When I first moved there I was like, “Mom, there’s no litter, it’s so clean! People have garages and they have cars in it!” Garage like you know in Seattle somebody got something like storage, it’s just extra room for storage. you know. Nobody is like cutting the grass here. It just rains and then like… that’s it, that’s the end of it. So Michigan was very homey and like very just I don’t know like… Family Guy! You know straight out of a Family Guy episode you know or like That 70s Show. [laughs].
Sama’an: Real suburb, like… Okay that makes sense. And then you said you’re really into acapellas… Let’s talk about “Heartless,” for example what part of “Heartless” acappella do you really like?
Sango: “Talk and talk and talk and talk” — that part.
Sango: Like… Yo ‘Ye is trippin, man! Like ‘Ye was trippin’ when, like, he was so fearless with his approach to that album, which is my favorite album by Kanye, 808s & Heartbreaksis my favorite album by Kanye. Like, hands down. Mainly because of how it’s the same type of vulnerability that Jay gave on 4:44 that Kanye gave as a rapper. Kanye he wasn’t seen as like hip-hop, yo, you gotta be hard. He already had that about him, like, you know, backpack rapper, like vulnerability, like emotions. He even took that further by singing, and he can’t sing, and put autotune on his voice, and sometimes it sounded kind of weird, but overall that was a monumental album in my life when it came to song structure, how to structure a song, emotion, and the way Kanye sampled in the album was like really revolutionary. And you saw people doing that after that– treating their music like 808s & Heartbreaks. But “Heartless” was not my favorite song off album… Mine is probably “Coldest Winter” because it’s just like… yo, living in Michigan, first of all, experiencing Winter… That album came out in November of that year. We were playing it from December all the way to March when snowed– it snowed in April really. So we were like… I was driving my uncle’s truck in like half a foot of snow. Really bad outside… playing “Coldest Winter!” Like driving home from a party, two in the morning, my parents don’t know where I am. I’m just saying I’m with my friends, but like they trust me enough. I wasn’t out wildin’ and stuff, I was just driving. Like I said, driving. Emotionally, it was a very somber like… Okay picture this: You’re like a designated driver, three in the morning, you’re driving like four kids home, you gotta go to different houses…
Sama’an: They’re all messed up…
Sango:They’re all messed up but you’re not. Some people might be sleep. Somebody might be like kind of just out of it, it’s kind of quiet.
Sango: You’re just the only one that’s kind of awake, obviously, and then “Coldest Winter” comes on… [makes mouth noises] that’s how the starts out.
Sama’an: And what’s the first line?
Sango: [mumbles opening lyrics] It’s like a called-and-response to himself. “Memories…” it’s like a sample from… is it The Police? [editor’s note: it’s Tears for Fears] I don’t know who he sampled, but, long story short: it was a very lonely song, driving, and you’re in the suburbs, you’re not in a city…It’s like street lights, that’s it — Shout out to “Street Lights” on the… I think that song comes after “Coldest Winter,” if I’m not mistaken, “Street Lights” comes on right after “Coldest Winter” or before, whatever — but, dark… just driving… maybe around some corn fields … just winter, cold. So like that album was crazy. But what got me into like discovering the instrumentals– or the acappellas– was… I was interested in like… I was addicted to hearing famous artists without a beat. Because all your flaws are showing, you know? Like you might even hear like some recording that didn’t get cut out. Like some chains moving or something like that, or like Wayne always had his cup sippin’, or like he was smokin’ or something.
Sango: So like it was very real. So I would listen to that because I enjoyed the realness of that, and the rawness, so yeah…
Sama’an: That’s dope. So you said you were listening to… you had an mp3 player, you weren’t doing the Walkman?
Sango: Now that was… I graduated from that. That was like… I got rid of Walkman when… that was probably 2000 like… maybe 2006. I was going into high school that year. Had the mp3 player. And you can get them at Target for, at that time, like 50 bucks. Maybe more. I didn’t have enough money to get the Zune, or like an iPod, so we had the mp3 players.
Sama’an: And was it one of those ones where it was like… you didn’t have any playlists, it was just on shuffle?
Sango: Yo, it was legit like a flash drive with a screen, bro!
Sango: And like a couple of buttons. And like going the whole like hundred songs on that mug.
Sama’an: So you had to have a GOOD hundred songs.
Sango: And you were forced! Yeah, I had like Daddy Yankee‘s album on there… Yo! Shock Value by Timbaland.
Sango: Yeah. The laugh? The laugh [makes mouth noises]. Timbaland is crazy with the samples. I sampled that recently in a beat. And then like I would keep my beats on there too. I would upload about maybe 50 beats, and 50 actual songs I like. So like I would play my beats for people around high school like “Yo I’m sellin’ these beats! Yo, I got beats! Wanna borrow my flash drive?” Not my… [laughs] Basically! “You wanna borrow my flash drive?” “Borrow my mp3 player” for like two classes. “Yo I got gym class, bro, we’re allowed to listen to music.” “Aight just pick some beats, let me know…” [laughs] “Write ’em down and then let me know what’s good on the beats.” So I would try to sell beats with that. Luckily, I had good friend,s and good enough people, that like they would give it back after school. Like “Yo, I’m ’bout to up this off of him.” But, nah, that was my bread and butter growing up, like my high school life… Kid Cudi as well. But it wasn’t Man On The Moon, it was before that.
Sama’an: Pre-Man On The Moon.
Sango: It was with 10Deep. It was free. That was back then when you had to go on the website, like Karmaloop days, you know, like, “Yo I’m ’bout to buy some 10Deep and like Crooks and Castles and like LRG…”
Sama’an: And a mixtape.
Sango: And a mixtape.
Sango: And you would get it shipped. Or like you would go to your local sneaker boutique and pick it up.
Sango: That was like my bread and butter of high school. Producer me, I was like really hustling; I was an athlete, but I was really hustling to like… just to get people to listen to my music and my ideas. So the only way I could do that is by making those mashups. I would make mashups and put them on CDs, and like people would have ’em at parties. I still have ’em on my computer.
Sama’an: So it would be like your beat with someone else’s acapella?
Sango: Sometimes my beats, sometimes other people’s beats. Like one of my famous ones was: I had a “Diva” beat and I mixed it with “Milli.” I think Bangladesh made both of those beats. People were like, “Oh wow! This is like… This ain’t ‘Milli,’ but this is isn’t ‘Diva,’ this is a mixture.” And they were like, “Yo make more!” So I made like four of them, and then it got kind of old, but like I got my name around high school and people were like, “Yo hit up Kai for parties, he’ll give you a playlist for like a good two hours.” High school was waaayyyyy way like… better than college for me– if I had to choose. Most people are like “I like college better,” nah, college was depressing. College was like… I had no sleep, I worked too much, and I was like… besides getting engaged, other than that it was just like a big blur of just tired… tiresome. Eating sandwiches and bootleg chicken meals. [laughs] Like Wendy’s? Nah. I’ll take highschool any day over a college day.
Chapter 2: Daft Punk’d
Sama’an:How did Daft Punk come into your life?
Sango:Daft Punk’d! I used to call ’em “Daft Punk’d” because I used to watch Punk’d. [editor’s note: KRAFT PUNK]
Sama’an: [laughs] Okay.
Sango:Like MTV Punk’d?
Sama’an: Yeah [laughs].
Sango: But Daft Punk came into my life when I saw a video on MTV…
Sama’an: “One More Time?”.
Sango: “One More Time!” So the “One More Time” video… I saw it late night. I was probably watching Boondocks and then I switched over to mp3 [laughs] mp3. MTV! And saw it. I was like “Yo is this anime? Or… What is this?! MTV got anime?” And it was like a music video. I was like, “This is hard! This looks like some old Sailor Moon stuff.” I was into anime at the time, like, not heavy, but I messed with it. And I feel like if you’re a producer and you don’t like anime… something is really weird with you.
Sango: But I saw that late-night and I was like “This is hard!” and I woke my brother up outta his sleep like, “Yo! What is this? You know what this is?” … “Oh that’s Daft Punk!” He went back to bed. Daft Punk! And then a couple weeks later I was like, “Yo… Remember that video? It came on again. Who is that?” … “Oh yeah I actually downloaded…” illegally “…the album. Want it?” … “Yeah, yeah!” So he gave me… this is the times when you had to sync your iPod to your computer, and whatever you plug up to your computer, you’re stuck with that sync and you’re stuck with that music, that library. So like pretty much I would try to steal my music from him and it didn’t work because I had to delete all my stuff from my iPod. So like we figured it out. You know, go to C: Drive, go to Library, and select artist, get your flash drive, dump all the files on there. He gave me that and he gave me Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool album, and from then on I just listened to it and I was like, “Yo… I’m about to step it up, I’m about to start remixing this stuff.” And that was the first time I ever remixed anything. So like that changed my life because it motivated me to listen to production in a way where it could be like… dude they had no lyrics! It was just like “One more…!” that was it! It was like damn near a sample. It was probably one of them singing it, but like it wasn’t like a chorus and bridge and like… it’s nothin’ too crazy it was like… you know, a couple lyrics here and there, and I was like, “Yo you can make music, and not have a face, and not necessarily have proper choruses and verses and bridges and hooks and still have a hit.” Obviously, that was a hit. So I was like, “I’m ’bout to start making music like THIS.” Listening to Daft Punk, and listening to Flying Lotus, and then listening to, I guess, Toro y Moi, those are like the three steps of me really understanding the format of what I want to become. Like, “Okay you want to be a DJ that is an artist as well? And you want to produce and be known as one in the other, you know? That’s how it came into my life, man.
Sama’an: Which Daft Punk album was that?
Sango: That album is called Discovery. Their first album is called Homework. And most most people don’t know…
Sama’an: They don’t know about Homework!
Sango: They know about Discovery and that’s it. And then they know about the joint with “Lucky” on it.
Sango: That’s the only two albums that people know about Daft Punk.
Sama’an: Talk to me about some of the other songs on Discovery other than “One More Time.”
Sango: “Something About Us.”
Sama’an: That’s such a groove!
Sango: I actually have… when I remixed it, I took some lyrics from — I forget what song — there’s like a section of that song that had a break and I added his lyrics on it. I was like, “Yo! I’m ’bout to start remixing stuff real now! This is like… this is it.”.
Sango: So that’s my favorite song off the album. “Something About Us.” I didn’t even attempt to make funky music like that. Like dance… I was just into it. I would like listen to that and go back to make like Timbaland-sounding beats you know? So it was just a new aspect of how to produce. And like I was really into that. But Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’ was like that one that made me just turn up as a producer, like, I’m about to just go hard. Like… I can’t be left in the dust, this is like other-worldly. When I was trying to figure out how to take my music to the next level– keep in mind I’m in high school, like, “What’s next?” Bruh I was thinking like I was already on or something like that. Like… “What’s my next move? What are people gonna wanna hear?” What people? Who? Like what? Your mom?
Sama’an: The kids in the cafeteria?! [laughs]
Sango: Yeah [laughs] but you know that’s the way I thought. I had a level of confidence, but it was an unsure confidence. I was like, “Mmmmaybe. But let me just try it.” So that was the next thing I wanted to do. I wanted to like remix something and then that Daft Punk album was something I should have remixed a loooong time ago. But it took me a little while to do it. But I did it. And during that process I remixed the whole album, it wasn’t just a couple songs.
Sama’an: So you remixed Discovery.
Sango: I remixed Discovery, all what, like, 10 songs?
Jasmine: It’s fourteen songs.
Sango: Psssh I remixed FOURTEEN songs. But pretty much during that process it took me what, like, two weeks to do? I had time, dude. I was a college student.
Sama’an: You were on a PC or on a Mac?
Sango: A shared desktop that everyone had.
Sama’an: Like a big old computer with a big monitor? That situation?
Sango: Yeah. It was a Dell.
Sango: A Dell computer that my dad bought for us to not break because someone was watching porn on the older one and broke it. It wasn’t me, bro! It wasn’t me!
Sango: “Mom, I’m telling you, someone was watching it. It wasn’t me.” Our theory: me and my brother think it was one of our friends who came over and was watching it.
Sama’an: I definitely ruined one of my parents computers for sure. Sorry mom, sorry dad.
Sango: I ruined computer that we had that I’m speaking of, though, because I was an internet nerd and stuff– or computer nerd — and I tried to like… it was around that time when Windows XP was upgrading to Windows Vista. And I wanted Vista so bad but I couldn’t get it. So I downloaded the bootleg version and I messed up the computer. I was like, “Mmm. Broke.”.
Sango: So yeah we had to do one of two things: we had to reboot it and lose everything, or just keep it and run with it, but we rebooted it and lost everything.
Sama’an: So you’d take the acapellas that you liked listening to and you’d put that over Daft Punk? Or…?
Sango: No I straight up remixed it.
Sama’an: Oh like you chopped it up.
Sango: I chopped the songs up. I would add little textures over it, like when I added Andre 3000’s vocals on that “Something About Us” remix. I did that. The hardest part about that process was that I didn’t know how far to take a song to call it a remix.
Sango: I didn’t know if it was just like adding a couple of things, or if it was like totally deconstructing it, different tempo. So I did track 1, track 2, track 3, I was like, “Okay, now I’m figuring this out.” Maybe by track 14 it ended up being a totally new song. That’s off how I kind of figured out the limits of what a remix is. Like because you don’t want to get to a point where you’re sampling– okay for example if Jay-Z samples a song, is that a remix to an old 70s song? Or is that his song? You know what I mean? Or is it up to us to call it that? Or essentially is everything a remix?
Sama’an: Everything’s a remix.
Chapter 3: Sango’s First Ever Remixes
Sama’an: That was your first time doing remixes?
Sango: That was my very first time doing remixes.
Sama’an: That’s crazy.
Sango: It was… don’t know what year. Young me. I was like, what, who knows? Sophomore in high school?
Sama’an: That’s so crazy.
Sango: The one memory I remember from that is going to Chicago for Thanksgiving to see my family and I played it for my family in the car. And I burnt a disc and I was like,”Dad, check this out, I made all this.” And I forgot to explain that it was remixes. I just made it and it sounded like, he was like, “What is this?! Is this what you’re making?” … “Oh no I remixed it!” … “Oh what’s remix? What is this?” So I had to explain it to him, but he really loved it. You know I was really inspired by that. So it was a good time in my life as a musician to discover that. I would say like doing that, remixing ‘Discovery,’ is equivalent to when I first downloaded FL Studio, or equivalent to me downloading Reason, or equivalent to me figuring out how to DJ live on Ableton, that’s like a milestone in my life as a producer. It was like, “I learned to do this now,” it’s like a new chapter. It was like, shoot, equivalent to like karate belts you know?
Sama’an: Wow! That’s so great. So the Daft Punk album Discovery, that was like… you figured out how to remix based on that album.
Sango: I figured out how to remix, I figured out just how to be an artist because those guys they were artists. They were producers and DJs, dude, like, selling records. That’s it. That’s what they were doing. And they didn’t need like some vocalist to lead them to success. Two dudes from France making music, vocals or not. They’re killing it.
Sama’an: That’s so cool.
Sango: But pretty much I want to go back to the album cover because album covers are really big in my life. That’s how I got into music in general, like, just looking at covers. Staring at Michael Jackson’s album covers. One of the most memorable album covers I remember is… what was the second Tribe Called Quest album?
Sama’an:Low End Theory.
Sama’an: Not Low End Theory. It might be the third one.
Sama’an: Midnight Marauders? With all the faces on it?
Sango: Beats, Rhymes & Life.
Sango: It’s a figure on there.
Sama’an: Yeah yeah yeah!
Sango: Looks scary as hell!
Sama’an: It’s like a really dark album cover. It looks like dystopic.
Sango: Yeah. It’s like equivalent to people that grew up in the 80s and stuff…
Sama’an: This is a scary album cover.
Sango: Yeah it’s a scary album cover.
Sama’an: That doesn’t look like happy things are happening.
Sango: So pretty much, you know how people be like, “Yo, when I first saw Thriller I was like shook! Oh man!” That’s equivalent. That album cover… Beats, Rhymes & Life album cover is equivalent to how scared I was.
Sama’an: Yeah. And that was when Dilla first recorded with Tribe.
Sango: I was listening to Dilla early. But I didn’t know who Dilla was ’til I was in college. But I knew all of his beats.
Sama’an: That’s exactly how I was too.
Sango: I was like, “Who’s J Dilla, dude?” Like “Uh… all the stuff you been listening to.”.
Sango: You heard of Common? Yeah, Dilla. You heard of Busta Rhymes? Yeah, Dilla. What? Slum Village? Dilla. What?! I was just so mindblown. But that’s how I got into music in general like at a young age just looking at album covers. That album cover in particular, I was shook, bro. I was like, “What is this?” And then like “Get A Hold” came on and it was like, “Drifting, drifting, drifting…” Bro! I was like, “Ooh this is hard!” I was like four or five years old, bro. I was just lovin’ it. And my dad had, like, under our TV he kept all his CDs. I would just open it and, like, look at discs. That one and Michael Jackson’s ‘Dangerous’ album with the circus joint. Michael Jackson’s albums are flawl… his album covers, bro?! What?!
Sango: I think my favorite Michael Jackson album cover has to be either ‘Thriller’ or ‘History.’ You know the ‘History’ album?
Sama’an: Is history the one where it’s like royal and it’s like gold all over it?
Sango: That’s ‘Dangerous.’
Sama’an: That’s ‘Dangerous?’ Okay okay.
Sango: It looks like a circus. He has like eyes and stuff.
Sama’an: The mask or whatever?
Sango: Yeah yeah.
Sango: ‘History’ is like a statue like a Michael Jackson statue. Hard! And like Thriller, obviously you know what Thriller is. But basically going back to the album cover thing is just like…. album covers are so… they make me move. You know I design myself, and that’s probably how I got into art too. I was so intrigued with like content and like booklets and pamphlets and like print and like words and text. I just loved it! And tracklists, just like reading the back and like– okay it was like a trend in R&B where everybody just spelled stuff wrong, and like… “2 U” it was like the number two.
Sama’an: Usher was, I feel like, ahead of the curve on that!
Sango:Nah that’s so corny. I wish somebody would. Actually! I’m a victim to that.
Sango: I have a song on my album called “Twogether.”
Sama’an: You spell it with the “2” ?
Sango: But it’s in line with the song. It’s about divorce. And it’s a song about two people… by the way when have have you heard a song about divorce?
Sama’an:It’s so rare.
Sango: Besides “Hollywood Divorce.”.
Sango: By Wayne and like Outkast, but…
Sama’an: That’s a great Andre 3000 verse! Oh my gosh!
Sango: That is one of the best Andre 3000 beats he’s ever made. He produces, guys! Don’t forget that! Andre 3000 produces.
Sama’an: I didn’t know he made that beat!
Sama’an: That’s a great beat. Did you ever see Idlewild the movie?
Sango: Yep! It was pretty wild. [laughs].
Sama’an: It was really ridiculous but it’s amazing that they got the money to make it.
Sango: Idlewild was wild.
Sama’an: Yeah. I’m honestly that kind of a fan.
Sango: You know off a little bit of a tangent… One of the most like fierce like gnarly movie lines ever that I heard was Idlewild. It was like a pimp or something like that. I forget his name. He was like… he said… Am I allowed to cuss on here?
Sama’an:Yeah you can cuss.
Sango: He said… I’m quoting… “Pussy and money. If God knew anything better he would’ve kept ’em to himself.”
Sama’an: [just an insane laugh from Sama’an].
Sango: I was like… yo, man, that’s rough. I was shook up when I saw it. I was with my family and stuff… It was more rough than seeing nudity. That’s like a really rough like…
Sama’an: That’s a raw line.
Sango: Yeah it was raw.
Sama’an: Like in the bad and good sense at the same time.
Sango: [laughs] I was like, “Yo, who wrote this?!” But yeah that was like a little tangent. I love that movie. It was such a cool movie.
Sama’an: You know what song I feel like is really underrated? Talking about Andre 3000 is… do you remember when Fonzworth Bentley had an album?
Sango: Fonzworth Bentley has a song called:.
In Unison:“Cool Outrageous Lovers Of Uniquely Raw Sounds”
Sango: Bro that beat is the dopest beat! And Wayne’s verse?!
Sango: How did Andre 3000 pull that off? That was peak Wayne, peak Pimp C. And you got… what?
Sama’an: Both of ’em.
Sango: Both of ’em, bro.
Sama’an: On one song.
Sango: I love that song but what were you gonna say about Fonzworth?
Sama’an: Well he had the other song with Andre 3000 and Kanye called “Everybody.”
Sango: Yup. Fire beat.
Sama’an: They did a video for it, too, and they’re all dressed up and they got like a dance routine. I think Sa-Ra produce that one.
Sango: Sa-Ra. Fonzowrth Bentley was like…
Sama’an: Do you remember the “Workout Plan” remix where he had a verse?
Sango: You know what he is, bro? Fonzworth Bentley is like a leprechaun of rap.
Sama’an: Yeeeaaah that’s such a great… [laughs]
Sango: He’s like super rare, he pops up randomly, and it’s just like good luck. It’s just like… Fonzworth Bentley has never… He’s never brought a bad vibe to anything. It’s just like Fonzworth Bentley appears…
Sango: He’s in and out, bro, it’s like crazy.
Sama’an: B-E-N-T-L-E-Y, you ain’t know you better ask somebody.
Sango: He used to write for people too.
Sama’an: That’s crazy.
Sango: Fonzworth Bentley is like… we don’t deserve him. We don’t deserve will.i.am either.
Sango: That “bahia bahia” song or whatever it was? Yeah, I know that! He was like the first person ever to — I remember — to use baile funk.
Sango:He had a baile funk loop and it was just like a section. It was kind of like funky rock and it was like… bro! It was like [beatboxes] and then it went into the song again. I was like, “You could have kept that!” But we don’t deserve… Uh. We don’t deserve uh… Who?
Sango: will.i.am [laughs] We don’t deserve him.
Sama’an: That Sergio Mendes album, for me, was like a classic of my high school years. Because I grew up my parents played a lot of Brazilian music for me. My dad loves bossa nova and so that was my bridge. I was like, “Alright, Dad, you like Sergio Mendes. I like rap music. Guess what? Sergio’s got rappers on his album now.”.
Sango: “Check this out.”
Sama’an: “Check it out.” That was a great album.
Chapter 4: Engaged Life
Sama’an: Talk to me about Robert Glasper and Black Radio.
Sango: I heard about Robert Glasper… I was in college, well into college. I’m good friends with Joe Kay from Soulection and he played a couple of songs on Soulection Radio. I was like, “Robert Glasper…. where have I heard this from?” Thinking… Like I had this dude’s album. Had his album for… I don’t know how long. I was given his album by a friend of mine his name is Steve Efflin [sp?] he’s a drummer. I met him when I went to school in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Western Michigan University. Crazy drummer. This dude, bro, he can play anything. Like a crazy white dude that just goes in… like a crazy rhythm. But he gave me– he’s like a jazz head — he gave me his whole jazz collection and then that was in there. Like Weather Report, Wayne Shorter, and all this stuff. And it was like Robert Glasper. Checked out Robert Glasper. Uhhh what song is this? It goes like… [makes music noises with his mouth] I’m so bad with names.
Sango: It goes like…
Sama’an: Is it on ‘Black Radio?’
Sango: I think Bilal is on that song. It’s on ‘Black Radio’ the first one… Or is it ‘Black Radio 2?’ No it’s ‘Black Radio 1.’ It’s the first one. Stokely. “Why Do We Try.” “Why Do We Try” was a song that I fell in love with. It was just so weird. Like, “What is this song?” Comes on all awkward, goes in, and it just drops. It was like the album I listened to all the way through the first time I went to Australia. That flight was crazy. That album inspired me so much creativity-wise, content-wise; obviously Robert Glasper makes compilations, he brings people in to make music with him, and that’s what I want to do, you know? I want to like bring people in of all shapes, all voices, all genres, and just kind of marry everything together. He’s doing that. Robert Glasper is a successful artist when it comes to that. Genius. We don’t deserve him either.
Sama’an: And you said this came into your life in college?
Sango: Yeah that album came into my life in college. It was a cool time. It was a time when I was really going back and forth from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Kalamazoo driving in the snow and rain.
Sama’an: How long is that drive?
Sango: 45 minutes to an hour depending on if you speeding. But I would go back and see my wife, Angela. We were engaged and like dating at that point time, but it was like a back and forth thing, we didn’t live together. A lot of people, you know, they live together sometimes before they get married. We didn’t, actually. We just went from semi-long-distance-relationship to, like, engaged, and then married. And then got married and then moved, now we’re living together. But that album was like the theme song of my trips. Any time I had a long trip that album was going on.
Sama’an: So that album kind of reminds you of your engaged life?
Sango: Yeah my engaged life. It was very peaceful. That one and inc. ‘No World.’ That album came into my life a little earlier. It was like right before I got married in the summer before I got– I’m sorry, the summer before I got engaged. It was like a point in time when my pops was like trying to figure out — ’cause my mom and dad are divorced — it was a moment in time where he was trying to figure out what to do next. He had a lot of conversations with me and my older brother about just like, “So, son, what do you want to do next? What do you think I should do next? What do you see me doing?” So. That album, ‘No World,’ it was the soundtrack of that summer. It wasn’t a sad summer, it was like a quiet summer. I was dating my wife at that time, too, it was cool. It was like a good summer for me, but it was a pretty sucky summer for a lot of other people I knew. I was like I was like a like a consoler, I guess. Is that a word?
Sama’an: Yeah. You were a healer.
Sango: I was a healer. Yeah, that summer I was just like talking. I was an ear to everybody. So like that album was like… I would play that album for people, like, “Listen to this album.” [makes a beat with his mouth] You know those guys… their lyrics… you can’t really make them out really. You should check it out. Atu from Sonder, he showed me that album.
Sama’an: That’s cool.
Sango: He was like, “Yo, this is the best album I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s up there!” And I’m like, “Really?” I would go visit him in Detroit. And he was like, “Yo, you gotta listen to this.” Atu is like one of those guys, he’ll tell you something, and you gotta listen to him because he doesn’t like a lot of things. He’s really picky. Even with his own music. He even told me that he hated the Frank Ocean album when it came out.
Sama’an: [laughs] Oh my god.
Sango: I was like, “Frank Ocean is fire, bro! How you gonna disrepsect my mans like that?” He was like, “Nah, it’s not that good.” And then you know if he’s listening, he probably changed his mind after that. But he’s very picky, he has a very picky ear, so if he recommends something you, listen to it. That was a cool time of my life man. I was an anchor for people helping them out, and then the Robert Glasper album was kind of like icing on the cake of the whole year. Forget what year that was.
Sama’an: What were you studying in college at the time?
Sango: I was studying graphic design. At that point in time I was just going to class, doing my intern work, just working with clients, keepin’ it moving.
Sama’an: What kind of stuff would you design like when you interned?
Sango: One of my biggest works I had to do was I had to work on a series of poem books. Poem books? A series of poems that ended up being, like, books.
Sama’an: Books of poetry.
Sango: Yeah it was like a book… like series 1, series 1 through 5. I had to design five series, and I had like 5 different clients, and they all had to like agree on it and how to be cohesive, and it was like a big packet that you bought Amazon. You can buy it, I don’t know where it is, oh Amazon, I forget the name of it, but I have all the booklets at my house. Really really cool stuff. Really cool stuff to have at your house on coffee tables. I don’t read poems like that but…
Sango: If I’m reading anything… the only thing I really, truly read is like information.
Sango: I’ll read like a book for dummies or something like that. Like, “Yo you wanna learn how to get your bitcoin game up?”
Sama’an: You got Bitcoin for Dummies at the house? [laughs]
Sango: [laughs] Yeah I’ll read something like that. I mean I do like fiction and stuff but… it’s art, but when I’m reading something I like to learn. I don’t like to just have fun. If I’ma have fun, I’ll just watch a movie, or watch TV, which I don’t really watch a lot of TV. I just play video games and watch my son’s shows. But yeah that’s what I was designing. That, obviously, posters. I was designing my own stuff. I was touring and like doing shows while I was in class and stuff. It was crazy like my professors thought I was lying to get out of class. I’m glad I got college out of the way but it was definitely… Kids! Stay in school. College is a choice, so you don’t have to go to college if you don’t want to.
Sama’an: If you’re gonna go, stay there…
Sango: Yeah. High school, public school, ain’t no choice. You gotta go. If you wanna know and like be a functioning human in this world. You’ve got to at least be taught somewhere like at home, at school, whatever, but college was more like a luxury.
Sama’an: I feel like when I listen to your music, when I listen to like Sonder, when I listen to Atu, Dpat, I feel like the two sounds I hear the most are — not including your baile stuff — the two sounds I hear the most are like Sade and inc. Like when I listen to inc. I really hear how it– I didn’t know that Atu showed you that but I totally hear it in his music. It’s very like moody but melodic at the same time. So like inc…. is that something that you play when you’re making your own music or is it just already in there?
Sango: I kinda stopped listening to that album. I’m like a… I treat albums like books. I listen to ‘Pimp A Butterfly’ twice, I listened to ‘DAMN.’ once. I’m just using Kendrick as an example because like it just makes sense to me right now. So like ‘A Seat at the Table,’ I’ll listened to half way, I didn’t hear the whole thing. I’m just like that person. My attention span is short. But I’m willing to sit down with albums. I’ll listen to albums out of order. I’m like… I just don’t care about like details when it comes to music. I just like care about like… does it sound good? Does it make me feel good? Cool. Next! I’ve got that lesson, cool.
Sama’an: Like you get what it’s about. Like, you get it.
Sango: Very rarely do I sit with albums that I keep. Even the ones I love, they like fall out. I haven’t like revisit my favorite album like the past 10 years. I’m not obsessive over music. I treat music as like… tools. Like you how would you feel if you watched Stranger Things over and over and over and over and over and over.
Sama’an: You only need to watch it once, really.
Sango: …and over and over and over and like, yo, you’re like, “I need to watch this episode again!” Like, alright, cool! We get it. But it’s not the same as film compared to music, but the concept is: I got the idea, it took me a couple times to get it.
Sama’an: You got the information.
Sango: I got the information, now it’s time to move on to something they may have next. Doesn’t mean I don’t like it, just… I need to get around to it. You know? inc. is somebody those guys or somebody I do listen to but not anymore.
Sama’an: Okay gotcha. I feel like everyone’s relationship with music is different. Like even if it’s even if you’re like a total music junkie like we are, I feel like the way that we all consume it, it’s just it’s such a personality-based thing. So, it’s interesting.
Sango: Yeah it is.
Chapter 5: The Jamaica Theory
Sama’an: Okay last two things. First of all, tell me your Memphis Theory.
Sango: My Memphis theory is… actually my Memphis Theory can graduate to my Jamaica Theory.
Sango: I’ll start with Jamaica first. Jamaica… I’ll say this bold statement: Jamaica is responsible for all Western music. Responsible. Solely responsible. Why? Well, hip hop was started in New York by Jamaicans, by toasting on music.
Sango: Toasting, rapping. Give or take. Same phrase. Toasting on dub beats; dub went to London, Jamaican diaspora from Jamaica to London, they had their own sound, they brought dub there. And dubstep created EDM, created House, created all this stuff. House music graduated and moved onto like two-step, garage, techno, all that other stuff that U.K. owns, that’s like as far west as they can go. In the States, you had people from Louisiana, you had people from the South, they did blues. How you think blues got there? Well majority of the slaves were given back and forth from Haiti, from Jamaica, from the islands back and forth to uh… I’ll put this thing in your mind: slaves from the United States were limited with instruments. We only had our voice, that’s why gospel was born in the States. You good to Brazil, they have Goji (?), they have samba, and they have bossanova, because the slaves were allowed to still do the music that they always done. Jamaica has their own — it was similar to the States — but Jamaica had their own country, it’s a small island. So at one point or another you’re gonna be outnumbered. It was like from one white man to like hundreds of black people. You’re outnumbered, they’re going to keep their… they’re gonna keep it. So in the States it’s different, the ratio was kind of different, way less black people and more white people. So they really came down on slaves, my ancestors, and limited them, and we were only given the voice which is gospel music, like I said. So the reason why I say Jamaica is responsible for western music is because through slavery come limitations, comes doing things through secrecy, doing things where you can’t be shown, you have to do things through– like for example capoiera was born because it was dance but it was a fighting thing. So if you’re trying to fight, I guess like slaves trying revolt and stuff, a slave owner might think: Dancing. “Look at this guy dancing.” Oh he might kill you! This is capoiera. Or for example you got Bible hymns. You know slaves in the states were really scared to read. They knew how to read but they didn’t want to be found out reading, so they would sing the songs. All slaves are smart, by the way.
Sama’an: Had to be.
Sango: Slaves in the states… if there was a slave that read and he or she would turn it into a song so they can learn these hymns.
Sama’an: Memorize it by singing…
Sango: Yeah yeah yeah! So it’s just singing, “Oh, they’re singing.” But they’re actually like reading the Bible. They actually were memorizing these things. So throughout history, Jamaica and its diaspora, has inadvertently touched society and its music. Don’t get me wrong, Rock n Roll started in the States by black people, Blues started in the States by black people, but at one point in time it touched Jamaica, Jamaicans has to have touched it, and it ended up growing into this big bubble of Westernized music that we created as black people. Which goes into the future, like a little later, into southern hip hop. Southern hip hop… I think the Mecca is Memphis because Memphis birthed trap music, they birthed the hi-hat roll, the 808 hi-hat roll.
Sango: That’s trap music to a T. You don’t have a hi-hat roll, you just got 808, and that’s just techno because techno techno use 808s, 909s. But the hi-hat roll was something else, and a sub, a clap or a snare, a clave or a snare, or a hi-hat roll, and there you have it: that’s trap music. And Memphis started that first. 100%.
Sama’an: What’s your favorite Three 6 Mafia song? Or name at Three 6 Mafia song that you like.
Sango: Ummm I would say… I don’t know, dude, I wasn’t really allowed to listen to them because my mom thought the name was crazy. So I listened to whatever was on the radio by them. I would say my favorite Three 6 Mafia song is “Poppin’ My Collar.”.
Sama’an: That’s a great song. It’s a beautiful song.
Sango: Because it sounds like what? Sounds like untouched Southern hip hop. The samples, it’s the samples. You know boom bap. Boom bap is very east coast. very soulful, very like brick like hard east coast music. Whatever Big K.R.I.T. is doing, and like OutKast did, and 8Ball & MJG did, that’s southern boom bap. That’s like traditional Southern music and it’s like true to its roots.
Sango: So that’s like top of the line southern rap. Geto Boys too.
Sama’an: When I was in high school my favorite Three 6 Mafia song in high school was “Ridin’ Spinners” [laughs] [makes a beat with his mouth] But I remember I was jammin’ that song so hard — side note: I spent a summer’s worth of lifeguarding money putting a system in my trunk. That was a great song for having a system in your car — but I didn’t see the video for that song ’til like months after I discovered the song itself. And the video for the song, obviously, first of all is amazing beacuse it has all the spinning rims, but the intro is a different Three 6 Mafia song called “Testin’ My Gangsta” and it has like a Isaac Hayes or like Willie Hutch sample [makes another beat with his mouth]. And then the beat comes in. It’s like… “I come from a city where they love to hate specially on the triple 6 somethin’ somethin’ and the radio even help ’em at it.” I don’t know… their music sounds like… It’s like I see it when I hear it. I didn’t even have to see the videos to know what it was going to look like. You know what I mean?
Sango: Definitely. You know what’s interesting about those guys? Or actually the “Spinners” song. I’m not sure if I’m trippin but they had a sample… they had a umm… who was that? Oh my god…
Sama’an: NWA, Eazy-E sample on that song.
Sango: [makes sample noise with his mouth].
Sama’an: He was once a thug from around the way and then they sampled it to “He was once a thug, a thug.”
Sango: Yeah but they chopped it up!
Sama’an: Yeah they chopped it up!
Sango: And it sound like just some weird stuff didn’t.
Sama’an: That song would’ve been fine without it. But it was the fact that they included to put it in.
Sango: That’s very Jamaican.
Sango: Jamaicans they add a lot of vocal chops. I’m trying to think of an example. Umm… There’s like this famous sound effect that a lot of rappers use and beats, it goes like… [makes sound effect with his mouth].
Sama’an: Yeah yeah yeah.
Sango: That’s Jamaican.
Sama’an: That’s totally Jamaican.
Sango: You know that sound effect, right?
Sama’an: Yeah it’s like… [tries and fails to make sound effect with his mouth] I don’t know.
Sango: Yeah yeah yeah. So pretty much like weird, peculiar sounds like that. It just adds texture to it. It’s another layer for texture. That’s a brilliant song.
Sama’an: I remember that whole summer I was just like… I showed my show my dad the video and he would like call me if he was just out in Houston and he saw it. Everyone in Houston at the time had spinners because of that song. So my dad was just driving around and he would see one — this was before facetime — he would just call me and he’d be like, “Son, I just saw some spinneeeerrrrs!” And I would freak out like “Aww my dad loves rap music.” It was beautiful.
Sango: Yeah yeah yeah.
Sama’an: Dude, thanks for being on the podcast, man.
Sango: Ay, man thanks for having me, man. Appreciate that.
Sama’an: It was an honor. It was a privilege.
Sango: I feel honored because, shoot, man, for you guys come to me, you know, in my city, Seattle, and just like show love like this, that’s a gesture right there. So I appreciate that.
Sama’an: Yeah, I mean, this is like bucket list for me. So, thank you, man.
Sama’an: How cool was that to hear some Sango’s first ever remixes? And the fact that it was Daft Punk too which is much different than the Baile Funk he’s come to be known for. One thing I really related to was his story about figuring out that all his favorite rap songs were produced by Dilla like way after he started listening to them. I had the exact same moment and it was also through David aka Dpat. Our freshman year of college he gave me like The Roots’ discography and a bunch of other rap albums and I would jam them so hard. My favorite Roots song was “Dynamite,” for example, my favorite Tribe Called Quest song for a little while was “The Jam,” and it wasn’t ’til several years later into college that one of my friends was like, “Yeah, you know Dilla produced all those, right?” And I was like. “Who’s Dilla?” And then I… and then my life was changed forever. So yeah. So big shout out to Sango. Thank you for giving us your time and for letting us peek into your world a little bit and we’ll catch you next time we come to Seattle, man. Aight, y’all, peace.
Sama’an: [00:59:24] Thanks for listening to another episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape. This particular episode was recorded by Jasmine Chen and produced by Jason Crow and hosted by yours truly, Sama’an Ashrawi. Catch ya next time.
Sango’s Nostalgia Mixtape playlist. Over 40 songs pulled straight from Sango’s memories.
If you want to hear the songs mentioned and used in this episode, check out Sango’s Nostalgia Mixtape playlist on Spotify,Apple Music, and Tidal.