Classic Article: Sayzee & 2oolman
Rapper and producer duo Scorsese, now known as Sayzee, and 2oolman, now of A Tribe Called Red. (Photo by Redskin Entertainment Photography)
The following article was originally published on HipHopCanada.com in March 2008.
Scorsese is spending Ontario’s first ever Family Day holiday putting the finishing touches on his track “Ghostbusters,” for his soon-to-be-released mixtape Hit & Run. The song is pretty much done, and producer 2oolman is just recording a few bars of the first verse and some of Sese’s trademark hisses, which rival Young Jeezy’s “Yeeeeeah’s” and “Heeyyyyy’s” any day.
But Sese and 2ool aren’t paying by the hour at some recording studio in downtown Toronto, midtown Manhattan, suburban Vancouver or even St. Catherines, Scorsese’s hometown. No, they're in the homemade studio in 2oolman’s apartment above a gas station on a Six Nations Reserve near Caledonia, Ontario, one of the last places you’d expect to find hip-hop music.
But I defy you to question the quality of 2oolman’s sound or the bite of Scorsese’s rhymes. Their chemistry and work ethic is no joke either, as the duo have finished three songs already this afternoon in just a couple of hours.
“In one sitting, we sat here and banged out thirteen songs,” Sese says of a past recording session. “We finished Hit & Run in just four studio sessions.”
Even that type of 2Pac-esque effort isn’t good enough for these two, and apparently some of their collaborators on the disc had trouble keeping up.
“The only reason we had to keep coming back was the features,” 2oolman explains. “If it was just me and him it would’ve been done in a week.”
Watching Sese and 2oolman go back and forth finishing each other’s sentences, you’d think they’ve been friends forever, but their history goes back only a couple of years.
Back in 2005, 2ool moved with his girlfriend to St. Catherines where she was attending university. Armed with an iPod full of his beats, he hit the street in search of rhymes to pair them with. An employee at an urban clothing store directed him to a barbershop where Scorsese was in the chair arguing hip-hop with his barber, area emcee Bad Nu’z. They had been pondering their next move when 2oolman walked in.
“We were talking about music, like, yo we need to get something crackin’! We need to do something!” Sese remembers. “All of a sudden this guy walks in with the clothing store owner’s baby-mother saying, yo, I got beats.”
Scorsese says he liked what he heard right away, but 2oolman remembers that the two rappers needed a bit more convincing.
“They were kind of skeptical at first,” 2ool says. “But when I came through that night I had made three burnt CDs and they kept the barbershop open late and everybody came through… It was like my audition I guess.”
That “audition” led to collabs with many artists in the area, including Bad Nu’z, Fii, Soul X and, of course, Scorsese.
The Hit & Run mixtape is Sese and 2ool’s first full project together, but as Scorsese says on one of the interludes, it is not the album, but only the prequel to their upcoming Taxiii Drivers LP.
Prequel? Let Sese explain: “I have this habit. It’s like a problem,” he laughs. “I’ll make a bunch of songs for a release and then I’ll be like, fuck it, that’s not good enough to be the release, so I do a pre-mixtape for the release. Me and Esjay did pre-mixtapes for everything. Let’s Talk Science is the pre-mixtape for Carter 2: The Crack and PreSeason is the pre-mixtape for Sese Season which I’m working on now.”
So when Scorsese got with 2oolman to start banging out Taxiii Drivers, the same thing happened.
“We came here three times and we ended up having 25 songs, and we only wanted a 12-song album,” 2oolman says. “So we’re sitting here saying we’ve gotta do something with these songs.”
So Hit & Run was born. But after deciding to do the prequel, the talented, hard-working duo ended up with another problem—if you want to call it a problem.
“It ended up being 30 songs,” Scorsese laughs. “And we’re like, fuck, we have 30 more songs!”
That’s definitely a good problem to have, and Sese and 2ool know it. The whole thing ended up being so much bigger than they had planned.
“We didn’t even expect to have a single,” 2oolman says.
“And we did a video now too,” Scorsese adds. “Everything just fell into place.”
The single they speak of is “You Got Problems ’08,” a bass-heavy neck-breaker featuring the aforementioned Esjay. The video is done by Kitchener-based director (and rapper) K.C. and its simple concept and solid two-colour effects match 2oolman’s stripped-down beat. The video has been featured on HipHopCanada.com since mid-February and the single is one of the website’s Choice Cuts.
The fact that Sese and 2ool left this track off their full-length album shows just how good these guys are, because it is a banger. 2oolman is deadly on the boards while Sese and Es cut into their haters easily on what is only the second track of the disc, which is available for free download here on HipHopCanada.com.
It only gets worse for those betting against Scorsese and 2oolman on the tape, as 2ool’s beats hit harder and harder on every track and Sese never runs out of rhymes. They go from reflective to emotional to sarcastic to downright mean.
No matter his mood—or the mood 2ool creates for him—Sese’s punchlines are on point and never corny. On “The Future Is Back,” he boasts, “Sese drops science like a high school credit,” over futuristic synths that 2oolman says he plays himself. On “The Definition,” 2oolman samples the hell out of the theme to MacGyver and makes no mistake, not that he makes any on the rest of the project. With tracks like “Heavenly Sword,” “7 Days,” “Heaven Or Hell,” Hit & Run,” “Family Stone” and—well, every other track, these so-called leftover beats are bound to have rappers racing to the Rez to work with him.
What’s funny is 2ool must have missed the memo about how talented he is, and won’t admit that he’s even good.
“I don’t really think much of my beats at all,” 2oolman says. “I always think my stuff could be better. It’s not even comparable to some people I hear. Some of the young producers I’ve heard in Canada, I’m not even up to their calibre.”
Sese is across the room screwing up his face, looking like he wants to backhand 2ool. He laughs, “The modesty is just drowning me right now!”
But 2oolman really is the best young producer you haven’t heard of yet. He’s just a genuinely nice guy and won’t say so, and both he and Scorsese are really cool to spend a couple of hours with talking about music, sports, movies or whatever.
Oddly enough, the title to Hit & Run is inspired by the 1975 flick Death Race 2000, a B-movie about a nationally-televised road race in which running over pedestrians earns contestants extra points, and the disc has a couple audio clips from the flick on its interludes. Both Sese and 2ool are pretty big movie buffs, and their taste is definitely not average.
“I like old shit, like Bladerunner,” Scorsese says. “Weird stuff like that.”
Taxiii Drivers is based on the classic ’76 film Taxi Driver starring Robert De Niro and directed by, of course, Martin Scorsese. They recommend everyone see both movies, but they really recommend their album, which they’ll release this spring, and from the tracks they shared, it is nothing short of amazing.
The intro’s beat is layered with what seems like 100 different sounds that start out clean, get dirtied down, then end up cleaner than before. It has a real blaxploitation feel to it, and it’s obvious that 2oolman is not playing around on this album. The next track, called “1970’s Heroin Flow,” sounds just like its title and Sese comes out firing. With lots of energy, it’s the perfect opening track, building anticipation for the rest of the album.
Scorsese starts to let us in on track three, called “Mama Don’t Worry,” and 2ool’s bed of organs, saxophone riffs and deep bass add to the emotion of the track as do featured singers Avery Hill and Adion. “My Soundtrack” is Sese’s favourite, a song about putting in work on the streets and still feeling insecure. It’s the most emotional track he’s shared, but he’s still very lyrical while relating his desire to escape the life. He spits, “I’m a shark in a goldfish bowl/I’ve outgrown my surroundings, you know this though.”
If they can keep making music this good, both Scorsese and 2oolman will be outgrowing their surroundings very quickly, both on their own and as a group. For now though, their constant grind comes to a halt as 2ool must head to Buffalo to be with his girlfriend and her ailing grandmother, while Sese plans to spend the rest of the day with his four-month-old daughter.
After all, as Scorsese points out, “It’s Family Day.”