Funk, P-Funk, G-Funk, boogie funk, disco…it can all get a bit confusing for the casual listener. For Tuxedo, aka Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One, it is simple: they are “keeping it G!”.
Having both grown up on the sounds of George Clinton, Zapp, and Cameo they found they shared a mutual love of the music when they met at a show in around 2005 and swapped mixtapes. Both started out as hip hop DJs which explains how their musical tastes developed with Nate Dogg and Death Row’s G-Funk based rap which heavily mined the old funk records.
Since then, both careers took off in separate directions, Mayer with his sparkling neo-soul on Stones Throw and Jake One’s soaring hip hop productions for rappers including Rick Ross and Drake (see Drake’s ‘Furthest Thing’). But in those intervening years the collaboration was slowly building: Jake would send Mayer beats and Mayer would write the songs until in 2007 they had their first record made.
After Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” blasted disco back into the public consciousness and with artists like Stones Throw label-mate Dam Funk also leading the charge, it had to be now or never. The result was their self-titled album to be released March 2nd on Stones Throw, Mayer’s first return to the label since 2009’s A Strange Arrangement.
As they embark on a European DJ tour Tuxedo explained to R$N the difference between G and Kenny G and why they’re all about feeling good…
So you’re just starting a European DJ Tour?
Mayer Hawthorne: Yeah we start in Stockholm tomorrow.
What’s the idea behind doing a DJ tour rather than a live tour?
MH: A live tour is quite a bit more expensive to put on so we’re hoping that we can open those doors up by being out here DJing.
Jake One: Then they’ll let us come back with all our friends and backup dancers!
MH: Right! Then maybe they’ll let us come back and bring the whole show. The live show is something that we take extremely seriously and we don’t want to dumb it down you know. We don’t want to cheapen it. We want people to get the full experience if we’re gonna do the real live show.
But you hope to come back and do a live tour in Europe if things go well?
MH: Yeah that’s the plan
JO: We’d love to do it.
You mentioned in another interview the recent resurgence of this disco funk sound with the likes of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, I know you guys have been into it for a long time, why do you think this resurgence has happened now and how strong is it?
JO: I think it’s one of those types of genres that probably will never go away and will keep coming back at some point just because it’s party music and it feels good. It’s kinda hard to compete with that. It’s always gonna find its way. Like anything it gets played out, obviously the number one song right now is in the vein of it so it has the spotlight on it right now. But you know it’s going a little crazy when Taylor Swift’s gonna drop one or something but you never know, it wouldn’t shock me you know.
You also talked about having to be careful not to cross that fine line into corny or cheesy disco…
MH: You gotta get the quote right though man! There’s a fine line between keeping it G and Kenny G!
JO: We want no part of Kenny G. Even though Kenny G’s from our hometown [Mayer laughs]. And he actually played on some awesome funk records in his time.
MH: He did that’s right!
JO: Unfortunately he’s just kind of synonymous with cheese. So we wanna stay away from that you know.
MH: We’re trying to stay out of that Kenny G zone and keep it G.
How do you ensure you don’t cross that line?
JO: You know there’s just certain chords I think that scream that, you know, we don’t have any saxophone solos. I dunno, like my hip hop background doesn’t allow me to do certain things like that. I just hear it and it sounds bad to me. Which is maybe why we don’t have the number one song in the country. But we’re ok with that.
I wondered how your geographical origins [Jake is from Seattle and Mayer from Detroit] might have influenced your sound, individually or collectively?
JO: Growing up as a kid this kind of music was some of the first I can even remember so.. Cameo, Zapp, Bootsy..It’s just the stuff as a little kid I remember being excited about…not even knowing what it was really…But it’s kind of been adopted by the west coast in general as kind of like their music. To this day if you go to LA you’ll still hear that playing out of cars. Obviously Mayer has his own relation with it too.
MH: Yeah most of that music came from Detroit and Ohio you know that’s my neighbourhood, George Clinton, One Way, Kevin McCord, Roger and Zapp that’s all Midwest man.
JO: Which I never realised till I was older – I thought those groups were from LA.
MH: Yeah both of us came from hip hip so… I was actually in a funk jazz band in high school but I learned more about funk music from rap than I did from anything else.
JO: Yeah definitely.
MH: J-Dilla, Dr Dre, Ice Cube…
So the album drops on 2nd March – how do you mark the occasion?
JO: We’ve got a launch party in LA on the 4th which is already sold out so that should be good. And that will be with a full band so we’re doing rehearsals getting ready. We’re really excited about that.
And privately do you do anything?
MH: Every day! It’s a celebration man! It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been working on this record off and on for five years or something.
JO: The music is celebratory music. It’s music for partying and having a good time so..
MH: It sort of lends itself to that.
Mayer, you started out as a hip hop rapper and DJ, any plans to go back to that one day?
MH: There’s always that element of hip hop in everything that I do, whether I’m trying or not. It’s part of who I am. Even if I’m making without rap music you know, that hip hop is in there.
JO: You still program a drum from a hip hop perspective.
MH: Yeah and when we go to mix our records, I want my snare to hit like a J-Dilla snare. I’m not trying to get the Kenny Loggins drum sound, you know. I’m trying to get the Dr Dre or J-Dilla drum!
Something we really focused on for this record was using all the original real analog synths. There are very few digital elements on the record, none of the drums are quantized. It’s a feeling that you just can't get from digital plugins.
'Tuxedo' is out on 2nd March on Stones Throw – pre-order it on iTunes.