Erick The Architect is Gearing Up to Release His Debut Solo Album [@ERICKARCELLIOT]

Erick The Architect is Gearing Up to Release His Debut Solo Album  [@ERICKARCELLIOT]

Hailing from Flatbush in Brooklyn, Erick The Architect is a multi-talented artist and producer. One-third of East Coast rap trio Flatbush Zombies, he’s now gearing up for his debut solo album after collaborating with a range of artists from Kimbra to Loyle Carner. GUAP had the chance sit down and talk to him while he was in London this summer.

Kat: What was the vision for your London show – what made you choose a DJ set over a typical performance?

Erick: I don’t do that often, so I thought it would be cool to incorporate both. I think it gives me an excuse to play the stuff I’m listening and vibing to and see how people feel about it when I’m not performing.

Kat: If you had to pick 5 songs to play to get a crowd moving in the UK, what would they be?

Erick: Teddy Bruckshot – Topper Top; Dave – Titanium – it’s harder than I thought – I would go with SAULT – Why Why Why Why Why. That’s a different vibe, get people dancing and s**t. I would play Kaytranada’s version of the Beyonce joint from Coachella [Cuff It], and maybe I’ll go [with] a classic, Witness (1 Hope) – Roots Manuva. 

Kat: What’s your favourite thing to do in London? Do you have a go-to spot?

Erick: I like getting drunk here, it’s a different vibe. The pub culture, it just stays open so late. I like that I can go to Manny or Brixton and get good Jamaican food. Where I live in LA there’s hardly any Jamaican food at all, and the food here reminds me more of yard food from Jamaica or from New York, so I like doing that. I like the culture here. I like the language. I like the slang. It’s funny. We all speak the same, [it] sounds Jamaican to me.

Kat: You got a favourite slang word from the UK? 

Erick: Safe.

Kat: Are there any artists, especially in the UK, that you’re listening to at the moment?

Erick: I’m listening to Little Simz, Orion Sun – she’s incredible, I wanna work with her so f***ing bad! SAULT – I’m big on s**t that I’ve heard a million times. Banda Black Rio. I do like the Leon Bridges [and] Khruangbin stuff – that’s really awesome music, [their collaborative album] Texas Sun, that’s really great. More UK artists, Cleo Sol is part of SAULT, but I love her. Those are the ones that come to mind right now. I did love Little Simz’s project a lot, with Inflo. Inflo [is] definitely one of my favourite producers. Headie One. Yeah, I’ll say that.

Kat: What made you decide on the name Erick the Architect?

Erick: My favourite movie is The Matrix. I remember when I saw it, I was at my brother’s graduation in college and I’d never seen nothing like that in my life before. One guy that was in the movie was the architect, he was dressed in all white watching all these different things happen at the same time. That’s the way my mind works; I’m looking at 90 things sometimes. I’m observant, I’m not gonna be the loudest person in the room all the time – that’s not who I am.

The architect is somebody who you trust. I never met no broke ass architect my whole life – architects are rich people. You know why? Because you believe in what they put on a piece of paper. You trust them with millions of dollars as an investment. No architect was given $4 to make anything. They get given millions of dollars. An idea is the same. A blueprint is the same as what I am, I’m a producer. People will be like, “Hey Erick, here’s my idea. I want you to build this and make it come to life. I just called myself that ‘cause I’ve realised that you gotta trust this person that they’re gonna build this thing that you’ve been talking about for months. I think I am The Architect. I don’t just make music, I feel sh*t.

Kat: The people that I’ve seen you work with over the course of your solo career show how tapped in you are with rising artists. How do you discover new artists and what’s the process like from discovering them to actually working with them? 

Erick: Most of the time people hit me up a lot, which is new for me. What’s most fascinating is it’s not just rappers from Brooklyn that live on my block anymore – it’s like Jungle from [the] UK or my other homie from South Africa. It’s like, what song did you hear from me that made you hit me up? I reach out to a lot of artists that I find, but they don’t always respond and that’s okay. I always try to hit people up at the infancy of their career because it shows that I actually believe in you before the world saw how great you are. I just always hit a person up in the moment ‘cause if I wait a couple months, this person might be outta here – they might be with Drake, you know what I mean?

I enjoy working with all kinds of artists. I want to keep doing that, but that window will close soon ‘cause it’s time for me to focus on myself and I want people that I work with at that time to feel like they’re special. Every person don’t deserve the sauce, ‘cause then it’s not desirable anymore.

Kat: Tell me about your latest single ‘Parkour’, how does it differ from your previous work and what was it like working with James Blake again?

Erick: I think that the record will shock people. People are already asking me “Who’s on the song? Who made this beat?” – just from a snippet or playing it in the homies car. A song that’s so futuristic at this point in my career says a lot about what I’m capable of and where I’m going. I thank James for being such an inspiration to me – he’s willing to push the boundaries of what’s normal and because of his experience, how much I trust him, I will always listen to him.

This was one [where] he didn’t need to convince me to do it. It was actually his idea to make my voice modulated slightly. I had obviously written a melody and recorded it, but it sounds so much different.

Working with him is a freedom and it’s a space of comfort; he’s a really good person, he’s funny, he’s a bright entity with a lot of good energy and aura around him. He allowed me to be just a writer and I didn’t have to worry about production. It’s basically a song about my move from New York to LA and how it changed my life and you got me f****d up [if you’re] thinking that this is the only time that you’re gonna hear me like this. It’s coming into a new form of myself. It’s definitely still me, but it’s a bit spicier. 

Kat: How did you find your sound as a producer when you started and what has it evolved into?

Erick: When I first started making beats, I was really inspired by any producer that was really into sampling. I didn’t play any instruments at the time, so it was The Alchemist, Dilla, 9th Wonder. I was really into going to record stores and finding random s**t and trying to make something outta everything I bought.

I didn’t have no money, so if I paid five or ten dollars for a record, I was trying to use every piece of it so that I didn’t waste my money or it just collects dust or space in my room.

Once I realised that to commercially release music, you need to clear samples, it started to change how I approach music and I started to look at myself as a musician and not just a producer. I was more concerned with making full pieces of music that encompassed everything – the arrangement, recording, how far someone should stand from the microphone, if you need to do another take, picking the right takes. I became more invested in trying to create something from the bottom to the top and not just like, “Yo, this is a dope beat, but did you carve space out for an artist to get on this?” 

Kat: Between rapping and producing which do you prefer?

Erick: It depends on who I’m with. If I’m with somebody who’s ill at making beats, I don’t mind just getting out a rap. I think sometimes I write mad fast – I write faster than almost everybody I’ve ever made music with. I like writing in that moment. When somebody takes the role of just making a beat for me, I can force myself to think about what I wanna say, how I feel. When I make beats for other people, I feel like I have to figure out how they feel and selfishly, I like thinking about myself.

When you produce for somebody else, you don’t add your identity. It’s your album, so f**k what I think, I’m trying to tap into how you really feel. I’m so attentive to the artist’s needs ‘cause I’ve been in that seat too and I never want to feel like I’m imposing my personal preference on someone else. I want them to be like, “Damn bro, I didn’t even know I felt like that,”. If somebody’s producing for me, I want them to know I’m a savage and I will eat this beat up and I’m not playing with you – I want you to remember me when I leave.

Kat: As a multihyphenate talent how do you manage your time?

Erick: It’s hard, I am a very addictive person – I’m addicted to a lot of things that are good for me, I fall in love with things.

A couple months ago, I was really addicted to buying VHS tapes that were Japanese dubs of American movies – don’t know why. [I’m] balancing my time with these weird things that I fall in love with. Music always has to come to the forefront, but I always need a balance so I don’t get stressed out or feel overwhelmed. My passions, they become so important to me that I can’t do them half-assed. I don’t know if it’s ‘cause I’m a Leo, but that’s just how I am with anything that I do.

The addiction I’m talking about are things that help me maintain my innocence. Now that I’m a grown person, I go back and try to grab those things that I couldn’t afford when I was younger and it just sits on my table – it reminds me to just chill out. I think if I was surrounded by music all the time, that’s how people go crazy. That’s how I balance it. It’s collecting things and speaking to my elders and having a wider perspective of life than to feel like I know everything.

Kat: How does music inspire your artwork and vice versa?

Erick: One of the things that I think that you lose when you type lyrics on your phone is tonation, right? When you write lyrics [you] use your phone and it’s all written in the same font as everyone. So when I go to rap it, I’m gonna say it like a robot, which explains why most people’s music is monotonous and boring to me.

If I wrote the word love in capital letters, I’d pronounce it differently than if I wrote it in lowercase letters. Not only that, the font that I did it in, I might say it a little different if I wrote it really messy. A song like ‘Headstone’, I actually wrote that on paper because I knew I wanted to actually see the references of the songs that I had written, the artist that I was talking about. You add a little personality. You see those things written and drawn, but they have so much more texture and meaning when you actually take your hand to do it as opposed to typing it. Music is inspired by that and it makes me feel like they’re both one and the same. I can’t really think of music without art and, I can’t think of art without music.

Kat: What can we expect from your debut album?

Erick: I’m definitely in a bag that I’ve never been in before. I want to be Grammy nominated, I’m a little bit tired of being underrated. People say that and some people like that, I don’t like that. It just kind of creates the perception that I’m not that good – I’d rather be overrated. Underrated means that people don’t know who I am and that’s why I’m not bigger. That means that I need to have my music touch more people for you to rate me higher.

 This album is the beginning of me being like, “You heard of The Architect?” is done. I want it to be like, “Yo, you heard The Architect’s new s**t?” That’s what should be said. This album is full of music that I think will be the biggest music of my career. It’s diverse, it’s unique, it’s who I really am and I feel like I’m ready for people to make judgement on that. I’m just excited for it to be out. I’ve been working on this s**t for many years. 

You don’t get [the] first time again so I have to make sure it’s fire. I feel like I’ve been doing this for so long and I don’t want to be underrated anymore. I also don’t want to just live in an underground space because ‘Parkour’ is the beginning of like, “this could be on the radio”. I’m ready for my album to come out and to start to change people’s minds. 

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Kat Friar