Being able to make an album together as Jaded Inc. would have been good enough for Mayer Hawthorne and 14KT, who grew up together in Michigan. But being able to include a track from the late J Dilla made the project a, well, “Monster” for the two music makers.
“Monster” represents the only song on the duo’s upcoming debut, “The Big Knock,” due out June 17, that features a contribution by another writer. Hawthorne tells Billboard that he and 14KT (real name Kendall Tucker) had already started working on the album when he discovered the track on “an old J Dilla beat tape I had from the late 90s. I was just listening to it one day and that beat came out. Most J Dilla beats are made for rap; you want to rap on them. But this beat came on and I said, ‘Holy shit, that sounds like Jaded Inc! That sounds like stuff we’re doing now,’ very melodic and new wavey. It made me want to sing on it instead of rap. It just fit, y’know? It just worked.”
The duo hit up the Dilla estate and received permission to use the track and are stoked to have it be part of their fledging repertoire.
“It just shows you how far ahead J Dilla was, because that track was made all those years ago and it still sounds new and it fits our brand new project in 2014,” Hawthorne says. “It fits right in with the whole album.”
Hawthorne and 14KT, who were both in the Michigan rap group Athletic Mic League together, say they’ve been talking about doing something together for years, but largely without planning.
“It created itself,” says 14KT, who recently moved from Ypsilanti to join Hawthorne in Los Angeles. “We never really planned it out, per se. We’ve been working together for years, since high school. We always would share ideas back and forth, and maybe about five years ago I just sent (Hawthorne) some music and ideas based off records I was listening to, and it just went from there. We were just throwing ideas, and the next thing you know we had songs and it just snowballed.”
The duo has dubbed Jaded Inc.’s sound Beat Wave, a combination of the Ghetto Tech that Hawthorne calls “the soundtrack of Detroit during the 90s” along with “a little hip-hop and a little New Wave. It took a long time to figure out how to successfully blend them together, because they’re very different sounds. We combined the drum sounds and the rhythms of the Ghetto House and put my top line and my vocals on it, and you get this bizarre combination of things that we call Beat Wave. We thought the sound was different enough that it needed its own name. We don’t know anything that sounds like it.”
Hawthorne and 14KT hope to turn Jaded Inc. into a live entity as well.
“We’re still trying to figure out exactly how to present it,” 14KT says. “Right now we’ve got so many ideas on the table, but we haven’t finalized exactly how we’re going to do it yet. But it’s definitely something we want to do in the future.”
Meanwhile the two have other projects in the works: 14KT has released a pair of solo albums the instrumental “Nickel & Dimed” and the R&B-oriented “Saturn Return,” while Hawthorne is still promoting his third album, “Where Does This Door Go” and also has “another side project coming out at the end of this year” that’s under wraps in order to keep the focus on Jaded Inc.