Christian Rich Talk Biggie And Tupac, Release Their New Album
Taiwo “Christian” and Kehinde “Rich” Hassan, the Nigerian-born, Chicago-raised producer duo that make up Christian Rich, are twin brothers. “My brother is older by 5 minutes. But I’m still probably more strict than him,” Taiwo told me over the phone. “Do you guys read each other’s minds?” I asked. “Aren’t twins always weird like that?”
He paused, ruining all my romantic notions of unbreakable, otherworldly twin bonds. “I don’t know. We have similar intuition, and we know each other’s mannerisms. But I’m not sure about mind reading.”
The two have established themselves as dependable hit makers with Grammy nominations and a reputation for developing sound for hip hop’s most buzzed-about names, including N.E.R.D, Earl Sweatshirt, Drake, J. Cole and most recently, Vince Staples. These collaborations take on a new identity for their soon-to-be-released debut album, FW14. Read on as Taiwo talks Aaliyah, Chicago’s music scene and the current state of the hip hop union.
Galore: Who were your influences in the process of producing your new album?
TH: A lot of our references for this album came from older songs. “Real Love” sounds like an old R&B record, but also like Daft Punk’s “Something About Us”. We were listening to that song, and a lot of old ’80s R&B, but the core of the album is still hip-hop influenced. “Compromise”—that’s really J-Dilla.
Have those been your influences for a while? Who did you listen to growing up?
TH: When we were 15, it was all about Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders…all those jazz samples! We were listening to Dr. Dre, like The Chronic, and of course, Doggy Style. Oh, and we listened to a lot of juke music, like Chicago house. We loved DJ Beatman. Oh! We loved “Show me Love” by Robyn.
Was Chicago an influence on your sound?
TH: For sure, especially because when we were growing up, it wasn’t cool to listen to what we listened to. Chance the Rapper, all these kids, if they came out when we were growing up, I don’t think their success would have been possible. For example, it wasn’t really okay to listen to Common in our neighborhood. If people knew that you listened to that, they’d make fun of you. The city influenced us by pushing us to listen to be unafraid to listen to what wasn’t popular. I like Mick Jenkins, Chance the Rapper—all of Donnie Trumpet. Nico [Segal] is dope. I like all those kids. It motivates us, as the older OG legends to see that they keep refreshing their own sound, all while doing big things for Chicago.
What’s your guys’ favorite love songs?
TH: Ooh. Probably Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebaum”. Or The Neptune’s remix of Sade’s “By Your Side”. Oh, or SWV’s “Use Your Heart”. You know that song?
Fuck, no, I don’t know it. I’ll check it out. Tell me—Biggie or Tupac?
TH: Wait, what’d you say?
You know, The Notorious B.I.G? Who do you like better, him or Tupac.
TH: [Laughing] I’m laughing at you for saying the Notorious B.I.G like that. But yes, Biggie, definitely. Both of us would say Biggie. We grew up in Chicago, and everybody was down with Pac, so we had to be down with Biggie just to be different. Well, I’m kidding, but at the same time, they’re just very different rappers, and for a few different reasons, I related more to Biggie. Tupac was more of a revolutionary, and ahead of his time. Think about all of the cases of police brutality right now—if Pac was still alive, he would be on some next level. Even at the time of his death, he was in such a great place with his acting and music career. But I wasn’t so aware of that at the time. I was dealing with the cold weather, seeing my friends in the game, the way Biggie delivered resonated more with me. Both of them though, they were so ahead of their time. They were so smart.
Right, but sometimes I also wonder about artists who die—like Aaliyah, for example. What if she’d stayed alive and just faded into obscurity?
TH: [Laughing, to his brother] Rich, you have to hear this girl talking shit about Aaliyah. I get what you’re saying, but I think she would have figured something out. I think she would have maybe pursued her acting career more. I also think that society, the way it is, we tend to kind of sweep R&B artists under the rug, without realizing how much they influence other music.
That’s true. R&B artists have bizarre career trajectories. Like what is Usher’s career?
TH: Well, that’s also changing. Right now, The Weeknd has done a good job of establishing himself as a ‘cool guy’, and as more than just an artist. Usher is happier to sign on to whatever he feels will keep him relevant, whereas The Weeknd is more resourceful—he’s using Max Martin to produce! Kids these days are more strategic than the older R&B guys. They consider their aesthetic, their timing…ultimately Usher’s a smart guy. He signed Justin Bieber. But he approaches his career in a more traditional way.
It’s cool that you guys aren’t nostalgist in terms of your approach to music—
TH: Oh, we’re definitely excited about the climate of music right now. In the past, many artists were forced to be products manufactured by labels. All the people that are popping now were people who didn’t fit into these categories, from Drake to Jay Z—even Kanye. That’s been our story as well. It took a while to establish ourselves as a dependable brand, and now that we’ve blown up, everybody loves us. But we had to do a lot of work to place ourselves in that position, and the tools that the more contemporary approach to music allows definitely works for us.
Who are you guys most excited to have hear your album?
TH: Anybody. Everybody. The audience [Laughing]. Our friends have been mad at us for years because they feel that we gave up a lot of our identity as artists in working as producers. So when the label sent us a picture of our album, everybody reacted strongly. So that’s great, to see that support. But mostly, we’re just excited for people who like music to listen, and feel what it sounds like when artists have been pushed away from a scene, but never stopped. We want to enjoy and embrace that.