NMV Sit Down: Professor Fox
Nashville based, Chicago bred super-producer Professor Fox talks starting his new alternative project in Vesper, accidentally scolding Curren$y, and helping gather the origins of Chance The Rapper's SoX (Social Experiment).
We were more than fortunate enough to have caught up with the multi-talented Professor Fox as he begins his new career in Nashville, TN.
SM: Steven Mainzer
PF: Professor Fox
SM: Fox. What’s up man, you’ve been livin' life I see. How's Nashville?
PF: Nashville is hot as f**k but definitely home.
SM: Settled in already?
PF: Yes, absolutely settled in.
SM: What have you been working on?
PF: I just finished the Vesper album. It's called Years. I feel it’s the perfect representation of where I am musically right now. Samantha [Humphreys] and I both poured ourselves into this project.
SM: What motivated you to start Vesper?
PF: Samantha, my partner in Vesper, was just a client initially. But the writing process with her was unique and didn’t feel like anything else I had been a part of. She didn’t even live in Chicago at the time and it was kind of just a tease making music together. After a handful of successful sessions together, I finally had her move to Chicago so we could work all the time. The idea of being in a band and performing was not something I ever thought I'd find myself doing.. I absolutely love it though.
SM: Describe that chemistry with Samantha.
PF: Sometimes you’ll have a good writing session and things fall into place and people are proud of what they did. She was playing songs she had written already and the music I wrote to those songs fit so perfectly. The second time we got together, it was like this magnetic force. It was like we shared a brain. We didn’t even have to communicate words with each other. The songs just flowed through us and then came out of the speakers. It’s really tough to describe. It is just magic.
SM: Out of all the respected legends you have worked with: Chance, Vic, Mac Miller, Curren$y, Wu-Tang, who brought the most heat in the studio?
PF: I think out of anybody I ever worked with it has to be Vic Mensa. Vic just has a presence that is intimidating, and also empowering. When I worked with him, I had to choose my words carefully, which, as a producer forced me to make even more calculated decisions in the studio. His attention to detail makes him my top choice. He’s number one for someone I would love to bring back to the studio.
SM:Who did you enjoy working with most of that list?
PF: Everybody brings something so different to the table. But Curren$y was an absolute treasure. I was working on "Wunderkid" with Thelonious Martin, and Spitta' stayed at the studio for a couple of days. We worked on "Atlantis" (ft. Domo Genesis) and we just cooked up new songs together as well. I think I’m the first person that has yelled at him and told him what not to do in the studio. I told him he couldn’t smoke in the booth.
SM: YOU TOLD CURREN$Y NOT TO SMOKE IN THE STUDIO?!
PF: Yeah, and he’s like “Oh s**t alright", and then he’s in the booth and I hear the lighter clicking and I said “Hey what are you doing” and he’s like, “Man, how did you know?". Then I was like, “Don’t you dare light that in there I can hear the lighter” and then he said , “S**t that’s probably why my bill is always so high when I’m leaving the studio, I’m breaking the damn microphones.” And the album artwork just ended up being him and my dog.
SM: For “House Shoes” right?
PF: Yep. Yeah I love that song.
SM: How did “Hey Ma” (by Chance the Rapper) come about?
PF: That’s a crazy story too. So “Hey Ma” was already made really. Chance and MC tree had worked on "Hey Ma" and it was out, and Leaders was using it as a commercial for a 10 Day listening party. I think it might have been Pat [Corchoran, Chance's manager] who called me up because he had heard what I did with Vic and KTD (Kids These Days). They had "Hey Ma" and they wanted it on the end of the album but they needed something else to it. So I called Donnie from KTD and Peter Cottontale, and one of my students who was a real good singer, and we just took the song from Tree and we replayed the sample. Donnie put the horns down, Peter did synths, and Lili K did hook. Then, I think SoX (Social Experiment) started at my studio. I don’t know if it was like officially, but I think it was the first time they were working together.
SM: So you brought them together in a way though?
PF: Yeah, they were already tight but back then KTD and Chance had just started working on putting the finishing touches on 10 Day. Also, on that note, the song “Don’t Harsh My Mellow,” there are so many Easter eggs on that song.
SM: How so?
PF: My favorite one is that Austin Vesely, he does a death metal scream in the song.
SM: I didn’t even know that.
PF: Yep, there’s so many gems and no one knows it. Chance, Joey Purp, Towkio, basically all of Savemoney, Dally Auston. They’re all doing like gang vocals, so all the “Heys” in the song -- that’s pretty much everyone from Savemoney. Yeah, that night was crazy.
SM: You have an impressive teaching resume with SAE and Columbia College. What motivates you to educate the youth?
PF: Man, I had a mentor when I was a student at Columbia and his name was KOSINE. And he went on to start the interns there and he was one of the most charismatic people I ever met. He took me under his wing and he would listen to beats I had made, and I had just started, I was 20. He would break them down and tell me what was wrong with them. Every week they would get better. One week he wanted to introduce me to Prolyfic, who was working with Lupe Fiasco over at 1st and 15th. And Xtreme who had just placed a Ne-Yo and Ghostface joint. All these guys wanted to help me navigate the music industry and network. They helped me look for specific things in talent and find things in myself that I could do better than others and help me become me. I realized, man I wouldn’t be in this position without those guys taking time out to teach me. So I was really understanding that I needed to give that back.
SM: That’s awesome and inspiring. Let's get into some rapid fire. Favorite music software to use?
PF: I write in Ableton and mix and record in Logic. I write and create primarily in Ableton, then bring it into Logic to record vocals, tweak and mix.
SM: What's your favorite tattoo?
PF: My favorite tattoo is on my left forearm arm. It's of a woman in a wolf’s cloak breathing fire. Lots of story and meaning buried into that one.
SM: Dream collaboration? Someone you haven’t worked with.
PF: My dream collaboration would be to work with Justin Timberlake.
SM: Name your biggest current musical influences.
PF: My biggest influences are Damien Rice, Chvrches, Phantogram.
SM: Favorite cartoon character and why?
PF: My favorite cartoon character is Rick Sanchez. He knows he is right because he only operates off calculation.
SM: You’re on a desert island and can only eat one thing, what are you eating?
PF: IF, my ice cream doesn’t melt, I'm eating Oreo ice cream forever.
SM: Share a piece of advice for upcoming producers.
PF: Find an artist that will be your ride or die. You won’t get on through dope beats alone. You need an artist that shares your vision and brings your tracks to life.
Catch Professor Fox live in action at Vesper's show at Emporium September 6th.