SMKA is a music venture – with a dream – centered around a core group of talented musicians, producers and business-minded individuals. SMKA was founded in August 2008 by Blake “808 Blake” German (Producer), Kyle “7King” King (Musician/Audio Engineer/Producer) & Mike Walbert (Entrepreneur/Business Manager). Since then, SMKA has achieved rapid and impressive notoriety, with highlights including a collaboration with the Atlanta Symphony and the production of “Saturday” ft. Niko Villamor, Brittany Street & Kid Neer recently released on Mick Boogie & Terry Urban's mixtape Le Da Soul: 20 Years of De La Soul, an homage to the hip-hop legends. SMKA feels that an artist is a brand, and its belief is perhaps best exemplified by its efforts around the production and promotion of its latest mixtape release The 808 Experiment: Vol. 2. The mixtape features SMKA collaborations with some of Urban Music’s most exciting artists, including Nappy Roots, Grip Plyaz, Yelawolf, Proton & Aleon Craft. This past week SMKA scored a Washington Post review for The 808 Experiment along side Ludacris and Justin Bieber, while executing a flawless, at-capacity release party at Star Bar in Atlanta with performances by many of the mixtape's featured artists. Extraordinary feats and associations for such a young venture.
At Affix, we're not only proud to represent SMKA's music for licensing, but we're also big fans, so we jumped when offered a chance to sit down with 808 Blake for a candid, one-on-one Q&A.
Q. What is Urban Music to you? How does your music fit into the Urban genre?
A. We try not to define our music. When you start labeling yourself, or music, then you have put a limit on to what you can do. We try and create music we like and music that we feel like making on any given day. My experiences play a big roll in the music I make. It just so happens I grew up in Decatur, so I grew up listening to Outkast, 8ball & MGJ… I guess I just identify with “urban” music.
Q. How has the perception of Urban Music changed over the years to the general market?
A. Urban Music has made its way to the top of the charts. Urban Music sets trends. It defines a culture.
Q. Is there something or someone in mainstream media that is getting Urban Music right?
A. It’s funny cause there really is a strong disconnect between popular brands, and what is current in music and Urban culture. The coolest thing I have seen recently was a Coke commercial/song with Cee-Lo and Janelle Monae, who are two of the most creative people in music. I was pretty happy when I say that. And I think the song was called “Open Happiness,” so that didn’t hurt.
Q. What's in your iPod right now?
A. A lil Howlin Wolf, N.E.R.D, A.Leon Craft, and some Grizzly Bears.
Q. What was the first record that inspired you to become a professional in the business?
A. Thought Process, Goodie Mob ft. Andre 3000.
Q. Who are your musical idols?
A. Norman Whitfield, DJ Toomp, Quincy Jones, Outkast Goddie Mob, Kanye West, Donald Byrd, No ID
Q. Outside of music what are you passionate about?
A. Movies and sports.
Q. Do you draw inspiration for your music from sources outside of music?
A. I really try to make music bases on emotion and experiences, even little things such as a rainy day can help inspire a sound for me.
Q. Name one song that you love that would surprise us.
A. "My Endless Love" by Lionel Richie, I promised my family that when I get married I will play that at my wedding. Also “If I Could Live on the Moon” by Kermit the Frog, Kermit is that dude!!!
Q. As a producer, what is it that gets you excited about working on a project or that draws you to an artist?
A. I love an artist that is willing to be taken out of their comfort zone. It allows the artist to tap into things that they may have never thought possible and thus push their creativity. It also pushes me to a good motivator. As far as projects are concerned I usually pick projects that will help me grow creatively. I try to find projects that take me to places that I have never been because I am always eager to not only grow, but also learn more about music.
Q. Your work is extremely diverse. We understand you’ve even composed for the Atlanta Symphony. How did that come about and what was that experience like?
A. Working with the symphony was a great experience and probably a pretty lucky one as well. It came about because the symphony wanted to get kids throughout GA interested into classical music by showing how a lot of today’s music derives from classical music. They brought us in to take a classical piece and sample it into a hip hop beat. It was actually a lot of fun because we took Copeland’s Ho Down Piece and pretty much chopped it up to make a totally new song. The experience was well worth it to have seen the symphony take music you’ve created and play it live.
Q. The 808 Experiments - both Vol. 1 & Vol. 2- have received quite a buzz. How did the idea evolve from concept to release?
A. It basically was an idea I created to not only showcase our production, but also showcase some of the immense talent in Atlanta. The first album happened more like a snow ball with one artist pretty much reaching out to others about the project and was very organic how it all came together. The latest album really was a great experience because I was able to meet so many different and talented artists for the project. It was fun because we were able to get some of the most talented up and coming artist from the A involved. And the project really took on a role of showing a completely new side of Atlanta music.
Q. How did you get the community of artists that are in the 808 Experiments involved & excited to contribute?
A. After the first project a lot of artist really reached out to us about getting on the project which really helped us to find the right artist for each beat. I think a lot of artists see The 808 Experiment as a new staple for Atlanta underground music and I hope it continues to be that way.
Q. You have created such a buzz about the “SMKA” brand. How has that come about in such a short time?
A. I mean I really have to give Props to my partner Mike on that one, he has definitely taken our company to new levels with events such as A3C Perfect Attendance w, Fadia Kader. It really boils down to hard work, which is one thing I stress to the max, “Nothing Matters without Hard Work”.
Q. Since you have a great perspective on your own brand, how do you feel about music being used to strengthen another brand?
A. I mean I think its great. It’s a way of taking your music and using it as a product, which I don’t care how much you value it, it still is a product and a tool, and I think that it is important to view it as such.
Q.Any parting words?
A. Thank you for the opportunity, and we will continue to work.
To sample SMKA's music available for licensing, including several instrumental versions of tracks featured on The 808 Experiment- Vol. 2, check out their artist profile on to www.affixmusic.com.