Stereotypes Are ‘Bringing Hip-Hop Back,’ Talk New Album
Production superteam the Stereotypes have flown under the radar for years, but their work with artists like Chris Brown, Usher and Mary J. Blige has quietly made them some of the most sought-after producers in the industry. Having landed production credits on Grammy-nominated albums by Ne-Yo, Raheem DeVaughn, Fantasia and Justin Bieber, the Stereotypes really began to take off when their group Far East Movement became an international sensation in 2010.
Not content to simply craft beats for hip-hop and R&B's elite, the trio of industry vets -- comprised of Jonathan Yip, Ray Romulus and Jeremy Reeves, collectively known as the Stereotypes and individually known as Jon Street, RayRo and Jerm Beats -- have teamed up with their artist Three to release the debut LP 'The Fifth of Never' as a free download on Nov. 8. But don't look for them under their producing name. The hip-hop foursome are referred to under the moniker Jon Mcxro -- sound it out like the famed tennis star -- and currently have two singles out, 'Lego' and 'Girlfriend.' The BoomBox talked with the guys about releasing free albums, the state of hip-hop and their mercurial rise through the industry ranks.
So what's up with the album?
Jon: We're putting out a record called 'The Fifth of Never.' It's 10 songs right now, and it's going to be released on Nov. 8. As the Stereotypes, people would always ask us, "When are you going to do an artist project?" and our answer would always be, "On the Fifth ... 'The Fifth of Never!'" It's been an ongoing joke. We finally got around to doing it, and today is 'The Fifth of Never' for us.
For the Jon Mcxro project, are all three of you rapping?
Ray: The MCs on the records are Three, me -- Ray Romulus aka RayRo -- and Jon Street.
Jeremy isn't rapping?
Ray: Jeremy has vocal parts.
Jeremy: I do some vocal stuff, but I am not rapping, I'm singing.
You guys come from very different musical backgrounds, from underground rap to gospel to hardcore punk. Would you have been surprised 10 years ago that you'd be making the club rap hits you're making now?
Jon: We really believe that things happen for a reason. It was very coincidental, the way we met, the way some of our placements have happened, the way that this artist thing just kind of happened at the time it happened. Everything is timing. We don't ever force anything. We've been the Stereotypes since '03, me and Jeremy. We've had a couple of placements, and things were cool, but it wasn't our time then. In '07 was when we really made the mark and had our first hit, so we look at it like '07 was really our time. And right now, it's 2011, and its time to do this Jon Mcxro thing.
Ray: Yeah, the way we came together -- I was an A&R at Def Jam in 2004, and that's how I met Three, he was signed through the Stereotypes -- the first artist I signed to Def Jam. It didn't go too well, and the project just sat there. But I built a great relationship with the guys, and when I got let go from Def Jam in 2007, and moved out here [Los Angeles], like he said, it was all timing. That's when the production started to happen. Three got back into the picture and we were like, "Hey, let's create this group," and here we are.
You've all been deeply involved in the music industry for a long time, from the label side, signing acts, producing, as artists. How do you feel about the industry right now?
Ray: Coming from an executive background, it feels great to put our own music out, not having to wait for clearance from your boss, marketing ... just being able to do it on our own. It feels great.
Why are you releasing it for free?
Jon: We're doing it for free because we feel like a lot of music fans right now -- which we don't agree with -- feel like they're entitled to free music, which obviously sucks, but in our case we have the luxury to give music away. We've been lucky enough to sell a lot of music with the other acts that we've been working with. With our thing, we want to keep it really artistic and really true to form, like what we really grew up listening to.
Are you just focusing on the album right now or do you have other production projects coming up?
Jeremy: Producing will always be our bread and butter. The artist project is mainly just a passing project; it's something we decided we want to do. We still have a lot of things coming out. We're working on the Far East Movement album right now. We have two other acts signed to major labels. We have Maria K signed to Jive and also Sterling Simms on J [Records]. We're going to continue to focus on them. We have other acts we're working on developing and releasing and of course, we're still working with the greats. We've just worked with Ne-Yo. We got other things on the table as well. The artist project is something that we felt was kind of like our secret pleasure. We just want to play it out and see what happens, for our own satisfaction, and see how it plays out.
Jon: It was kind of like now or never. We made that decision. If we don't actually make time to do it, we'd never do it. We'd always end up working on our songs whenever we were done with other sessions. At that stage, it would take us forever to finish. We just kind of made the decision, "You know what, let's buckle down and try to get this going." We took a good two three weeks or so, and got it done. Now we got a project that's ready to be released that we're proud of.
What other artists are you working with now, besides ones that you've signed?
Ray: We just finished working with K-Naan and and of course Ne-Yo. And Kerli. She's dope.
Jon: We are working on the Far East Movement's second album right now. It's coming out really dope. We're exploring a lot of different sounds, really honing it on the international sound.
You guys were instrumental in developing them, from an early point. You guys easily could have fit in that lane as rappers yourselves.
Ray: We really didn't want to... when we create that, that's their thing. We love that, but honestly, when you listen to our album, it's super hip-hop. It's real hip-hop. That's not to say they're not hip hop, but they're more on hip-hop over electronic-electro beat.
Jon: We're bringing it back to what we think was the golden era of hip-hop, late '90s and early 2000s.
Ray: Uh oh, introducing, Three!
Three: I just wanted to say, we come from so many different backgrounds. We got California, New York, Texas. It creates a sound that is sonically different. You know, real music.
Ray: Make sure you put his quote first! [laughs]
Three: Yeah, what we used to listen to and what we were brought up on.
Ray: Honestly, we would sit around and be like "Damn!" I don't want to name names of people that put songs out that make us go, "What the f--- is this," but we're sitting here going, "This doesn't..." "What the f---?" So we made some stuff that like what we grew up listening to, and hopefully the kids will be receptive to it.
Three: And we put our own spin on it, you know.