In the ’80s and early ’90s, the art of the hip-hop love song was a beautiful thing. Emcees from LL Cool J, to the late Heavy D could whirl tales about the opposite sex in a manner that was smooth enough for the ladies and just cool enough for the fellas to get into. Somewhere down the line the hip-hop love song got lost in a stew of hyper-sexuality and raunchy innuendo where the love washed away into a sea of lust. Although they may not admit it, the release of California duo TiRon and Ayomari’s ode to the opposite sex A Sucker For Pumps hearkens back to the days where you can kick a rhyme about romance without being branded as emo or soft. Life+Times caught up to the duo to discuss their impressive album and rekindling the art of the hip-hop love song.
Life+Times: How did you two link up?
TiRon: We met on Yahoo! Chat when battle rooms were still popular. We used to rap into the computer microphone and post the raps. I really didn’t like Ayomari too much but when he moved to Los Angeles we decided it would be better to work together. Instead of putting out solo projects we decided to put one out together just to show people that this is more of a force and less of an individual kind of thing and that we should be both looked out for.
Ayomari: We wanted to touch on topics that our audience can relate to. Like relationships.
L+T: Was there a conscious effort in rekindling the art of making a hip-hop love song album with A Sucker For Pumps?
T: I wouldn’t say that we were trying to. I write songs about things that I do. I never write about things that I haven’t done. I can’t write from that romanticized idea about the opposite sex. Whether it be “fuck bitches, get money” or “I get mad hoes.” Although a lot of dudes talk that way, we had to do it our way. Even before this we had songs about being stuck in the friend zone. We were already writing songs that people weren’t really talking about but they could relate to. There are grey areas in hip-hop that don’t get touched period. Everybody touches on the same subject and everything is hyper-sexualized. The innocence in R&B doesn’t exist anymore. You wouldn’t think that songs like LL Cool J’s “Around the Way Girl” would exist in today’s hip-hop. There are no “jams” in hip-hop anymore.
A: With A Sucker For Pumps it was about pinpointing those moments that happened within the realm of love and relationships that everyone goes through but don’t necessarily talk about in hip hop. We may be indirectly rekindling the hip-hop love song but we’re trying to take it further than that.
L+T: Was this album purposefully directed towards women?
T: We don’t make music for rappers. We make music for people. We don’t worry about if the hip-hop heads or the old school rap fans like it. We want regular people to listen to it. Music used to be for the people now its music for the genre.
A: Somewhere down the line hip-hop got real corny. We aim to make music that people want to pass along to their kids.
T: We wanted to make an album for people who understand that they don’t understand women. It’s the “I still don’t know what I’m doing” manual.
L+T: Where did the title come from?
T: There was this pizza spot on Sunset [Blvd]. I walked into the bathroom and the words “A Sucker For Pumps” were carved into the wall. That stuck with me.
A: It’s a double entendre. Women are a sucker for pumps because they wear them and they know it attracts men and men love seeing women in pumps.
L+T: This wasn’t recorded in a big expensive studio but the album has a unique sound texture to it that proves you pay attention to detail.
T: Back in the ’60s and ’70s albums had a certain texture to them. Pink Floyd had Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall and Marvin Gaye had his sound. When you are recording on tape there is a lot of character. On War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends” you could actually hear them miss a key at the beginning of the song. In this day and age, artists chase perfection with their recording sound and quality that there no character in the music anymore. Everything is mastered, mixed and compressed the same way. I wanted my previous release MSTRD to sound dirty. J Dilla chased that aesthetic with his Ruff Draft so shout out to him on that. I mixed the whole project myself. We could have hired a musical engineer but there’s a certain kind of feel that goes along with it that I didn’t want to cheapen or lose. Music isn’t about being perfect. It’s about the feeling.
L+T: The album artwork is very interesting, talk about how the image of a woman laughing with a tear coming down her face.
T: There’s a movie called Funny Games with Naomi Watts. The movie’s poster had an image of Naomi with a single tear coming down her face. Just by looking at the poster you knew that the movie was onto something. That stuck with me and we decided to do our own version of that poster. DJ Amy Phamous, who is pictured on the cover, happened to smile in one of the shots and we thought it looked incredible. The smile and tear is happiness, pleasure, pain and everything that a relationship is wrapped up in the picture.
L+T: Lauded author and journalist dream hampton appears on “Denouement.” It’s the first time she’s done this since Tupac’s Hellrazor – which eventually became “Me Against The World.”
T: dream hampton was a fan of MSTRD and mentioned it on Twitter. We always wanted the female perspective to wrap up the album. My boys said to ask dream and the worst she could say is no. I emailed her and she replied that she would be honored.
L+T: Unlike most artists today, you take your time releasing music. Is that a quality over quantity strategy?
T: This year we’ve had at least ten women tell us that they’ve cried to our music. Some get married to our music. Our fans love our music and the message. Whoever is just doing music to do it, they aren’t sharing a real connection. If every artist was restricted to dropping one album a year, you would easily be able to tell who the dope ones are or are not.
A: Quantity doesn’t mean that you are creating a connection with a person; it just means you are staying in their face.
L+T: You may not be selling a million records but are being showered with critical acclaim. Are you happy with the response?
A: The album is like a full relationship. You start off listening in a relationship and by the time it ends, you break up with it just to do it all over again. This is the album that made my mother proud.