After three long years spent warming the bench at Interscope with no album release in sight, MC Planet Asia jetted from the label in 2003 on a mission. In the past six months, the prolific MC has unleashed — in rapid succession — a solo album, two mixtapes and the sophomore Cali Agents album with rhyme partner Rasco. Furthermore, he plans to unload two full-lengths recorded under the alias King Medallions in the few months remaining in the year, as well as a joint project with Bay Area producer Architect in 2005.
“From now on, it ain't no more 12-inches, no more EPs for me,” Asia says. “I'm dropping straight albums; I'm dropping straight bombs.
A fixture in the California underground-rap scene since the mid-'90s, Planet Asia has worked with a who's who of West Coast producers — Peanut Butter Wolf, Madlib, Evidence, Kutmasta Kurt, Will.I.Am — but the forthcoming Champion Catalog (label TBA) project with Architect has him as enthusiastic as a rookie. Frequent collaborators since 1997, the two have vaults brimming with raw-feeling tracks ready for release.
“Architect is the original hip-hop dude; he brings the classic, real hip-hop sound,” Asia says of the producer's dusty, crate-digging sample style and minimalist approach. “Everything is heat rock — nothing fast-forwardable, just back-to-back hard tracks.”
Sample-clearance issues initially sidelined most tracks off Champion Catalog, but getting stiff-armed on label permission need not spell the end of a dope track. On “Swallow Dem Whole” from Planet Asia's The Grand Opening (Avatar, 2004), for example, Architect had originally looped a Diana Ross sample but wasn't able to clear it. Because everything was synched on MOTU Digital Performer, though, he just chopped up the kick and the snare of the sample and made a different sequence to back the rumbling piano line.
“I couldn't clear the Diana Ross sample — too much drama — so I looped the first attack of the piano and came right in with the snare,” Architect recounts. “The original sample had a blues-style beat; the bpm was, like, 54, so I just had to chop and speed it up.”
Architect's production plan begins with Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables, an Akai MPC60 sampling workstation and an old Numark DM-1150 mixer, and everything eventually ends up in Digital Performer on his 450MHz Mac G4. A Manley VoxBox preamp/compressor and a Roland VP-9000 sampler round out the core setup. Although an admitted former analog head, Architect far prefers the flexibility of Digital Performer to wrestling with ADATs. To warm up a cold computer sound, he recommends a single-channel channel-strip plug-in with an EQ and dynamics section.
“A channel-strip plug-in can warm up the computer sound, and the Manley spices it up a little bit,” Architect says. “It's not exactly analog, but the compressors give it a lot of warmth so that it doesn't sound so crisp.”
Architect may throw a compressor on drums, but he cautions against doing too much. “I like my stuff to sound like a break because I take kicks and snares off old records so I don't muffle out the kick,” he says. “I keep the airiness to it so that when the snare comes in, they don't sound like they come from two different places.”
As for Planet Asia, now that his vaulted material will finally surface, he feels confident that he can do anything. He even speaks nonchalantly of coaxing Jay-Z out of retirement and reconciling the acrimonious feud between Jay-Z and his bitter rival, Nas, a near-impossible feat. “I want to do a song with Nas and Jigga on the same track,” Planet Asia says. “If I ever blow up, that's what I'm gonna do.”
The man thinks big. An ambassadorial role in the Middle East peace process can't be far off.