Parallel Thought, which is the trio of emcee Caness and producers Knowledge and Drum, is a group that’s been working its way into the collective consciousness of hip-hop fans over the past handful of years. In large part this is due to the amount of liner notes they’ve been showing up in. From working with Del The Funky Homosapien (who is pictured above with the production members of the group), to Tame One, to C-Rayz Walz, to Cannibal Ox, to Slug, to MF Doom, their resume has become quite impressive. Since 2004, however, something that’s been missing from that resume is an actual Parallel Thought album with all three members. That will be fixed on July 2nd with the release of Articulation, a free EP that will be available via the group’s bandcamp page. The EP comes on the heels of the release of their latest album with Del, titled Attractive Sin, and right before the July 24th release of their next instrumental album, The Art Of Sound.
RapReviews caught up with all three members of this unbelievably busy group to find out more about all their projects, why it’s taken so long for them to come out with another album as a trio, and the very interesting reaction they have when an album they’ve spent years working on gets shelved.
Adam Bernard: On June 19th you released an album with Del The Funky Homosapien titled Attractive Sin. What changes for you musically when you work with an artist like Del versus when you’re doing your own projects?
Knowledge: He’s super easy to work with, almost too easy, whereas someone like Tame (One) is extremely picky in his beats and extremely particular in how he’ll do his rhyme structure, or his song structure. Del, if we give him something he’s gonna lace it, and it’s extremely easy, but sometimes I wish he would almost have a little more input because he left so much up to us on this project. In the end it helped. We had a lot of time to work on it. When we’re working on a project with the three of us it’s a hectic process. We just finished this Articulation EP and these six songs might have taken more time to record, master and mix than the Del project did just because of how the three of us are when we’re working on a project together.
AB: Why does it take so much longer to work with the people that you always work with?
K: We have more opportunity to scrutinize the music and say we need to redo this and redo that, and I know with the Articulation and The Art Of Sound projects, these are more standalone, whereas in the past it’s always been us doing a full length collaboration with someone else. After ten years we’re finally going to stand on our own and we really want to make sure we make a fantastic first impression, so we just push ourselves as far as we can musically.
AB: Before we talk about Articulation a little more, going back to Attractive Sin; with your first collaboration with Del garnering such rave reviews, was there a pressure to measure up to that, or did you decide to take things in a completely different direction?
K: You know what, about half the record was recorded while Parallel Uni-Verses was being recorded. I’d say more than half, and we went back to it this past January. It’s kind of like a whirlwind. We did a record with Tame, we did another record with Tame, then we right into Parallel Uni-Verses. With all that going on Del asked us to send him stuff for a solo record, which then turned into Attractive Sin, and that sat for a few years, and we just went back to it this January. We put a new mix on it, and put a new master on it, so you’re gonna hear a lot of elements of Parallel Uni-Verses, but you’re also gonna hear a good amount of brand new stuff from us.
Drum: Del’s solo album is like a segue from Parallel Uni-Verses to Articulation and The Art Of Sound and all the new stuff we’re putting out. You can hear in the album us start to stretch out musically.
AB: When you say “stretch out musically” is there any way you can describe what’s going on there?
D: Yeah. The newer joints that we did on there are definitely smooth and more laid back, as opposed to Parallel Uni-Verses which is a New York street hip-hop type album in terms of the tempo. Most of it’s real uptempo and strong drum breaks and stuff like that. Some of the other stuff on the Del record is a little more laid back, not so break heavy, still drum heavy, but just more vibed out.
K: It’s been us. It’s been mainly Drum and I. Caness has been working on stuff. We did the C-Rayz album and then went right into the Tame record, then the last three years we were working with Tame and Del. Now it’s time to really focus on our stuff, our stand alone pieces. It was really Caness, too, cuz he was ready. We had 40-50 tracks done with him, and we had a full length done called Sick With The Art, which will come out next year. It was supposed to come out a few years ago, but it’s better this way because we’re at a perfect spot musically.
Caness: Because of our progression we have more of an opportunity to release that (project). A lot of those opportunities came from working with Tame and Del and those type of artists, so we were kinda trying to establish ourselves so when we do release something people will hear it.
AB: So there was never any fight, never any blow up, like “hey, how come you’re working with every other emcee, and how come we have 40 tracks and we haven’t released them?”
C: Oh yeah, there definitely was. That’s how Sick With The Art started. I kinda came at Knowledge like yo, what’s good, lemme get some beats. I was ready to start working on a project and I kinda aggressively got him to give me some tracks.
D: It took a minute because me and Knowledge live in Jersey and at the time Caness was living in New York, so it was a little more of a stretch. Naturally you do stuff with somebody that’s closer, but it really worked out.
K: At the same time we worked on some other records that haven’t come out. We did an album with Swave Sevah. That was almost a year we spent back and forth. We did a record with someone in New Jersey called Yasin that hasn’t come out yet. Caness, on the side, he did an album with Loer Velocity. There were all these things going on, then we slowly started to work our material, and now, moving forth, that’s why you’re gonna get an instrumental record, the EP, a full length next year, and a whole bunch of other projects.
C: We’re like a crew more than a group, so to not have a Parallel Thought album to me wasn’t crazy or anything, it’s just like I’m doing my thing, they’re doing their thing, but at the same time we’re a crew and we do stuff together, too.
K: For me, sometimes I like it better. I know it doesn’t do anyone justice, but when a record gets released, that’s when I get really detached from it. I rarely go back to the records that we’ve released. Once it’s out it’s a part of history. I think in the back of our heads, at least for me, I’m holding on to this record, I really really like it, and that’s what matters most, at the end of the day, for me. Do I enjoy this piece of music, do I enjoy this piece of art, am I ready to share it with the rest of the world?
D: I feel a little bit differently. Sick With The Art, the one that’s gonna come out, is almost like the second or third version. Anytime you sit on something you’re gonna want to do it better, so it works out in a positive. The other thing is there’s so much music being put out right now it’s very difficult to make yourself heard. If we had put out Sick With The Art two to three years ago, honestly, nobody would have cared. We probably would have sold maybe 150-200 copies. We’ve always wanted to be bigger than that, so the whole waiting on these releases was also not wanting them to fall on deaf ears. For me, the same thing with Knowledge, I really take these albums personally, but I want them to be shared with as many people as possible. I would hate to waste putting out the album we did with Swave on some label that’s barely gonna push it, and only sell a couple hundred copies. To me it’s worth waiting, and sitting on it, if we can build up a name, and Swave, who happens to be on tour with Immortal Technique, can build up a name. Caness is putting out mixtapes, he’s building up a name.
K: The other thing we did is we incorporated ourselves. We’re our own label now. That was a big part. It was “how are we gonna tackle the press, the marketing, the radio, the retail, the whole set up?” We’ve shopped records and it didn’t work out so well, so we wanted to make sure that we’re going to do this on our own, but we need to do it properly. We don’t have $3k to spend at biz3, but we can learn how to do this, so we decided that we’re going to do everything in house so we have complete creative control, and now it’s better. It’s better musically, it’s better business-wise, it’s better marketing, everything is in its row now so we can just hit everyone with what’s been there.
K: Producing the Del and Tame record. I’m a huge fan of Tame and the Artifacts, and a massive fan of Del and Hieroglyphics, and to do a record with both of them at that point in their careers, and ours, that was like a dream come true project. I think it might be the first time in history you have a predominantly west coast emcee, and an east coast emcee, on a whole album together under one set of producers. Doing a record with those two guys, and the way it came out, and the way it was received, all in all, it was one of my proudest moments.
C: The fact that all the artists and all the people I’ve been able to connect with and work with, the majority of them are some of my favorite artists. I’m huge fans of all these dudes. Before I went to New York I had no idea of what the scene was like there, I just knew the artists and their music, and next thing you know I’m in the studio with these guys and to me that was dope.
D: I’ll take it back a little bit. The first thing that hit me like “damn, I can’t believe we’re doing this” was when we were doing the first EP that we came out with and we got Slug from Atmosphere on a record and he actually came out to New York, we met him at a studio, chilled for the night, and did a song together. I’m sittin back thinking like this dude is selling a ridiculous amount of records, he already has his following, there’s no reason for him to fuck with somebody who’s not established, but this dude is so humble, and this goes for pretty much all the artists we’ve worked with, and is so about the music, it just doesn’t matter. It could be Just Blaze, it could be Parallel Thought, it doesn’t matter, if the vibe’s right all these people want to do is work because they love this music so much. That was the early on thing for me, realizing all these artists, for the most part, are reachable, as long as you speak the same language they do it’s all music.