What if Marvin Gaye and Yasiin Bey made an album? Ever wondered what a Fela Kuti and De La Soul collaboration would sound like? The Soul Mates Project traces the roots of hip-hop and the history of music by imagining “collaborations that never were.”
The brainchild of producer Amerigo Gazaway and brother, Rickey Mindlin, the Soul Mates Project is now a creative platform for unique collaborations spawned through music, visual arts and multimedia.
After an incredible interview with Amerigo himself, Stop The Breaks had the pleasure of interviewing Rickey Mindlin about more of the business side of things.
1) First and foremost, congratulations on dropping the new and very dope The Trill Is Gone. You guys have done another amazing job in combining two legendary acts together on a cohesive project. How has the rollout been so far?
Thank you. The response thus far has overwhelmingly positive. We heard from Bun B recently and he told us that they used to joke about someday remixing UGK’s music with B.B.King’s. We obviously had no way of knowing that but the fact that this shared idea somehow made its way into existence, I think, speaks to the power of the music.
2) You’re credited as an Executive Producer for Amerigo’s projects. What is your role in putting the projects together?
The role changes with each phase of the process but you could liken the first step to that of a typical A&R role only instead of scouting and developing the artist, I’m scouting which artists we’ll pair together and then developing that concept.
Where a traditional A&R would help find their artist the right producers and songwriters, I’m researching to find Amerigo the right ideas, visuals, acapellas, interviews, live performances, stories, and basically any useful media or collaborator that will help us create and execute that concept.
Amerigo’s process is pretty laborious and because every song he produces gets revamped a dozen or so times before it’s finished, I spend a lot of time listening to each version so we can collectively identify what’s working and what isn’t.
Once the project begins to take shape, I’ll start conceptualizing the album artwork, teaser/single videos for us to edit and begin trying to write an album description that accurately conveys where we’re going with that particular project.
3) How does it feel seeing all your social media channels flooded with praise and acclaim from people all over the world? Must be incredible I’d imagine?
It feels rewarding. And it’s a big part of what makes all of the risk and sacrifice worth it. When you strip it all down, we’re just two brothers creating our idea of a cool multimedia art project.
It’s the same thing we were doing in our living room as kids only now it’s on a much bigger scale and we have the opportunity to share it. The fact that the albums have resonated with so many people is the icing on the cake. And I think a testament to Amerigo’s unique talent and consistency.
4) The tagline for your company, The Soul Mates Project, is “collaborations that never were” – talk to us about what you’re trying to achieve.
Ultimately, we’re trying to connect the dots between hip-hop and its predecessors by using “the remix” as a primary method for music historiography.
We initially started it as a platform to house our mixtape projects. The “mashup genre” can be somewhat saturated and I think we’ve stood out, in large part, because we’ve taken that format one step further; not just paring together two distinctly different sounds but by trying to create an authentic sounding collaboration between artists that never actually recorded together.
That’s where the tagline “collaborations that never were” came from but it’s since evolved to encompass collaborations with other like-minded creatives that share a similar vision. We collaborated with New York Magazine cartoonist, Drew Dernavich, who created the satirical album art for side two of the Yasiin Gaye project.
We collaborated with UGK historian and documentary film maker Sama’an Asrawi on The Trill is Gone and we’re working on an album now with a soul singer out of the bay area named Xiomara Grace Watson.
5) Since starting the company in 2013, what was that moment when you thought to yourself – “wow, this is getting huge”?
I think “huge” is relative in this case but there have certainly been a lot of those moments that I’m grateful for. Touring Europe and Brazil and getting to connect with fans around the world was really inspiring. Seeing praise from artist we’ve grown up admiring.
I’d say the biggest was when Apple used one of our remixes in an iPad commercial. That was defining moment because it gave us the opportunity to show the record labels and publishers (who often try to shut our projects down) that there was a monetary benefit in allowing our tributes to exist.
In 2013, I had written an open letter to Sony on behalf of Amerigo and our former label on why they shouldn’t have shut down our Bizarre Tribe project and 12 months later we were generating one of their highest grossing sync deals of the year. I think that was a big moment for us as well as for remix culture and sample based music in general.
6) Before co-founding The Soul Mates Project, you worked in the music industry both on the management team at Sanctuary Urban and in the publicity department at Sony Music – what did these roles teach you?
Those roles provided a lot of the foundation for how we operate now. When you’re independent and not tied to a major label or management firm, the jobs that typically fall under the responsibility of an A&R.
The marketing team, publicist, art departments, etc. has to be done internally so leveraging those experiences for what we’re doing now has been really beneficial. Amerigo got his degree in digital media too so having that knowledge base and skill set has been invaluable.
7) What’s next for The Soul Mates Project? I tweeted Amerigo the other day begging him to do a Nas x Coltrane mash up – please tell me you’ll executive produce this into happening?!
We’ve started to ramp up an effort to work directly with the artist and/or estates whose music we’re re-interpreting. We’ve heard from the estates of a few legendary artists over the last few months so we’re working hard to bring some of those potential collaborations to fruition.
Other than that, we’re working on Amerigo’s instrumental release for next year, the next Soul Mates project, and Xiomara’s debut album. We’re also working on the soundtrack for an upcoming documentary that Complex is doing.
I love the idea of a Nas/Coltrane project by the way. That’s one of the coolest things about social media; getting to connect directly with the fans and hearing their feedback and ideas.