Stanley Berry a.k.a Special Berriez attracted many talented individuals for his most recent collaborative project, City At Sunset. This EP displays range, funk and exhibits a headstart from a kindred garden.
These Northeast Quadrant groovers are conscious, headstrong and put forth work that is nearly ethnographic. Artists interviewed: Sol, MCGRDY, NishoSoul and Stanley Berry. Take a peek at our conversation with them below.
Fresh News Now: What made this experience joyous?
Sol: Doing the session the way we did it was fun to see everybody get in the studio and put it all on the project. It was a beautiful experience.
Nisho Soul: The mix of unfamiliarity and familiarity was interesting to see what environment this project would bring. It pushed my limits, songwriting wise.
MCGRDY: I enjoyed the whole dynamic of the recording process. Special Berriez was an awesome host! You could tell it was a friendly competition between emcees. I really enjoyed this because I could see how we were all pushing each other.
FNN: The best artists variate between person and persona. Does anyone have any alter-egos that they tap into in terms of their character?
MCGRDY: My character is heavily based upon real life – I’m not all that disciplined. I’m not all that responsible and I’m okay with it. I don’t beat myself up about it. I embrace who I am today. I’m brightening toward where I’m at in life right now.
Nisho Soul: I wouldn’t necessarily say I have an alter-ego. It’s more the flip-side of who I am on and off the mic. Off the mic, I’m very reserved, introverted and observant of my environment. In the booth, a switch hits me when I’m in the middle of a creative environment I become boisterous. I assert my lyrics to where I need people to feed off of the energy. The session dynamic really pushed me to deliver with conviction.
Stanley Berry: Sometimes I feel like a new age jazz musician in the sense of self-expression. It’s more about producing the music that speaks to what I feel.
Sol: SolLikeSol itself is an alter-ego. I push myself to be more extroverted and social. In reality, I am at home just chilling – introverted. But when I’m writing, I am expressing myself and things that I’m going through. Basically, I’m documenting my process through song.
FNN: Could you take us through the songwriting process? Did you have pre-written verses or have to rewrite anything?
Sol: When you’re on a project with lyricists of this caliber – I felt like I had to push myself. Before we got to the studio I had half of my verse written. Once I saw Mia [Sparrow] MCGRDY and Nisho come in and spit I was like I really have to go sit outside and fine tune my verse to make sure I’m saying what I want to say as best as I can.
MCGRDY: I had my verse ready for about a month ahead but then I had to edit it. You got to come correct with that caliber of artistry. On the fly, I had to think of exactly what I wanted to say in a shorter time. This experience brought me to a certain level of professionalism I hadn’t seen before.
“It was fun being around people from all different types of places. Our common denominator is art.”MCGRDY
Nisho Soul: Being in an environment with people who push you outside of your comfort zone pushes you to a whole new level. There was so much energy brought that I felt I had to match that.
SB: Firstly, I was encouraged by Judah to do the project as he gave me some guidance on exactly how to get started. We tried to make sure we staggered the schedule to make sure folks were safe (recorded last year) It was complicated but we did it. I’m proud of everybody.
FNN: If you had to estimate – how many artists and producers were in that session?
SB: We had about eight artists and I was the sole producer. It ended up being a lot of folks sticking around after their scheduled session to give feedback. Everyone embraced the process.
“Everyone respected each other’s artistry and experience but folks were also open to feedback.”Special Berriez
FNN: Is this the first group project you guys have put out?
SB: This is a compilation of different records. This is the first time I’ve done something like this. I don’t think we’ve called ourselves a group, yet. Who the hell knows? We could turn into a group!
MCGRDY: I’m widdit!
FNN: I seen something that said y’all are the Northeast Quadrant Groovers? Can you take us through that because I’m from the Midwest!
Nisho Soul: Washington D.C. specifically breaks itself down into 4 quadrants. The majority of the people that were there [in session] were from the Northeast Quadrant or the surrounding areas which is Maryland or Virginia. So all three of those areas coming together were on this project.
MCGRDY: I’m from Northwest, but I met Stan in Northeast. We have a mutual friend named Yayo – he’s like the glue of the city for artists for artists on our level and our pocket of hip-hop. Every area has its own genre and I feel like our genre is cousins of Neo-Soul in a sense. That’s how I came up and how I can mesh with these guys.
“Our main genre of music is go-go which derives from Jazz directly. Duke Ellington was from D.C. before he went to Harlem.”MCGRDY
SB: From Roberta Flack to Marvin Gaye our common link is soul.
Interview transitions focus upon “Spoken Word: Essence of Life.” artwork.
SB: Iconography is something that is big. The man who made this artwork is someone who could bring that to light.
FNN: I want to talk about the dichotomy though, because right down the middle, you have a tree and then you have you – Stanley, but on your right side, it seems a little tumultuous on your left side, it just seems like a regular DC cityscape. Where does that leave you? And what does the apple mean?
SB: I guess you could say it was sort of biblical because that is a burning bush. The things that you say set the tone for the pathway of your life. I strongly believe that you can speak life into words. You can manifest things from just putting it out there.
MCGRDY: When I first saw this artwork, I knew it made sense. It’s not some Photoshop universal template type of thing. We’re not just rappers and singers – we’re artists. We could say a line and it mean so many different things to so many different people. I knew this cover was more of an intimate thing because someone took their time to really stroke their brush with this one. This relates to the recording process because we don’t just go into the booth to spit buzzwords. We really express exactly who we are.