GAWVI on ‘Lost in Hue’, learning from Pharrell and Darkchild
After GAWVI worked for years at Reach Records as a producer, the label released his debut project as a solo artist on Friday, an EP titled Lost in Hue.
Rapzilla interviewed GAWVI about the project, as well as how two Grammy Award-winning producers influenced him on his rise — Pharrell Williams and Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins.
“Probably in 2007 or 2008, I had the opportunity to be interning at a studio in Miami that had a lot of traffic,” GAWVI said. “At that time, Pharrell locked down the whole studio. And that was my whole time there … being a runner boy for Pharrell.”
By 2007, Pharrell had already produced four Billboard Hot 100 toppers with his production duo The Neptunes — Nelly’s “Hot In Herre”, Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl”, Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and Ludacris’ “Money Maker”. And GAWVI did more than run errands for him.
“At times, I would be like, ‘Hey, can I sit in and just watch you create?’ And [Pharrell] would be like, ‘Yeah, come in. Be right there on the wall, though,’” GAWVI laughed.
During GAWVI’s internship, he remembers Pharrell working on albums for his band N.E.R.D., Fat Joe and Shakira all at once.
“It was so impressive and just crazy to see the biggest legend in my book go from room to room, different genres, and create, and have fun doing it,” GAWVI said. “That inspires me a lot, how Pharrell has been able to put his hands in different genres and create stuff that he enjoys. I want to do that.”
Several years later when GAWVI lived in Los Angeles, an opportunity arose to take notes on the work of another superproducer, Jerkins, who had heard about GAWVI through Reach co-owner and artist Lecrae.
“[Jerkins] was like, ‘Hey, I really want you on my team. I would love for you to have your own space to work in my studio.’ I was just blown away because Rodney Jerkins is a legend,” GAWVI said, as Jerkins’ production credits include “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child, “You Rock My World” by Michael Jackson and “Telephone” by Lady Gaga”. “I was hanging out with him all the time and getting to see him work; producing a whole bunch of stuff at his studio.”
Rapzilla: Were there lessons you learned from those producers that you applied to Lost in Hue?
GAWVI: Yeah, definitely Pharrell with diversity and believing in whatever you feel. Pharrell, one thing that was cool about him was, there were some songs where I would notice he wouldn’t use the grid [controller], and he hated things being on time. He just said, “You have to feel the music,” so his drums sometimes have such a unique swing to them where they made your body groove a little bit different. You can even hear that on “Happy”. The drums are not literally on time.
Then Rodney, he taught me the system of what it is to have a great pop song and make it able to be played on radio format. Before I didn’t understand what that meant, but he totally broke it down for me. Usually, producers, we want to overproduce so much and try and show our skills. But what he taught me was that you have to leave a lot of room for vocals because you’re trying to present an artist, not be the artist at that moment, depending on the song.
He showed me all the biggest songs that have ever been on top 100 and broke down the formula of them. Why is it so popular? Why is it something that people gravitate to?
Speaking of influence, can you talk about Rhema Soul’s influence on this EP?
[GAWVI got his start working with Rhema Soul and produced three whole albums for the South Florida-based rap group — Dope Beats and Good News, Fingerprints and Dope Beats, Good News, Vol. 2.]
Rhema Soul is family. I can’t even express in words how much they mean to me. Konata [K-Nuff] and Butta P, they’re two of the emcees on Rhema Soul. They were basically my mentors when I was in high school, really shaping me and molding me on how to walk and live as a Christian, just understand how to study my Bible. And then Juan Love, the other emcee from Rhema Soul, he did the same, but he was always more of like the big brother, and we hung out all the time.
As a teenager, they always gave me the opportunity to produce music. They showed me a lot about hip hop as well. It was very much family and, to this day, they’re very much family. Konata was my best man at my wedding. They’re actually about to fly in to Atlanta next week to just hang out, so they mean the world to me.
Can you explain the title of Lost in Hue?
I want people to get lost in culture, the colors of life and, also, it’s a play on the words “lost in you,” where I desire to be lost in Christ, in my relationship with my wife, just be wrapped up in the moment. I think there’s a big story with the Gospel, big story with what my life looks like with my wife. It’s so vast and long, where I want to be able to get lost in that love. I want to get lost in the colors of the joy and the depressing moments.
You’re going to hear a lot of different vibes. The album, EP one and EP two, they’re very bright and colorful. Then also even “Late Nights”, it starts off dim and dark a little bit, but then it goes to that high energy where it’s bright, and it’s fun. So hue was definitely something I wanted to be communicated as far as color because that’s what I see. Sometimes I’m creating and music literally pops in my head like colors. It’s weird. I’m embarrassed I just said that.
Can you expound on that because, this past year, we’ve talked to others artists who see music in colors? Cataphant and Ohmega Watts said the same thing.
It’s really hard to explain. You know what’s a great example? And this is hilarious. There’s a movie called Ratatouille. It’s a cartoon, and there’s a scene where the rat is tasting the flavors of a cheese mixed with a strawberry, and his taste buds just go crazy. Visually, what they did in the cartoon is all these colors started surrounding him. He saw what he was tasting, and he was just blown away. And I know that’s hilarious — I just compared it to a cartoon — but that’s exactly kinda how it feels.
GAWVI said the special effects in his four Lost in Hue promotional videos, which were created by Vine star Caleb Natale, “kinda in certain ways” actually showed he feels when he makes music.
While Lost in Hue just dropped, GAWVI’s second solo project is scheduled to release on Sept. 9, and he expects his debut album to come out early 2017.
“I’m actually in transition right now where I’m going to become a full-time artist that I’m very excited about,” GAWVI said, “but it does not mean that I won’t be producing for the guys anymore. I’ll still be a producer. I think just anytime I produce now, it’ll be ‘featuring GAWVI,’ being more of a brand.”
Buy Lost in Hue on iTunes.