Released last month, 'Occasion' finds the likes of David Banner, Marsha Ambrosius, Bun B, Freddie Gibbs and Esthero lending lyrical assists. The title track sums up the message the twosome are driving home on the album: life is best lived when there's a party to attend. But just because Double-O and Naledge are set on throwing back a few drinks and getting close to the ladies doesn't mean their work suffers in the process of having fun. Beats and rhymes are still served up fine.
Read on as the guys discuss how they landed a collaboration with Houston rap staple Bun B, why one West Coast MC inspires Naledge's rap game and what song made Double-O feel like he made a career move from street ball to the NBA.
'Occasion' is the album title. What inspired that celebratory vibe?
Double-O: Honestly, the vibe behind the album was us really coming to grips with the fact that we don't really need to worry about where we should be, as much as enjoying the life that we get to live kinda right now. We sometimes get a little annoyed that we aren't in a major label deal, or those sorts of situations aren't necessarily happening, but then we realize that for our friends that are [in major label deals], it's a much more frustrating scenario to not be able to put music out then it is to be able to put music out as much as you want. We live a life that not even most of those people who say they live it are really doing it. We're out here partying all the time. We're out here on the road, on the stage, giving everything 110 percent. It's just making it an occasion.
Why did you decide to work with Bun B on 'Pour It Up'?
D: Bun B has been like a definite mentor and confidante for the last couple years since he was on the 'Drivin' Down the Block' remix with us back in 2008. And so we just always kinda like spoken to him and just picked his brain about things. He's even said in interviews that sometimes he sees the similarities between UGK's arc and ours in the sense that it took a lot of albums before UGK became like a nationwide household name. We're in a very similar situation. You know, we're on album No. 4 and there are some artists that are out there that are literally bigger than us right now based off of buzz, not even any actual music. It's one of those things where he's always just kinda been around. And once [Naledge and I] made the 'Pour It Up' record, it didn't feel right if we were gonna mention Pimp C in the record and that we didn't have [Bun B] at least approve the record. He heard it and then said, "I wanna get on it."
Is there a strong memory during the recording process that sticks out for you?
Naledge: Man, the whole experience of doing this album has been a blur 'cause there was a lot of Hennessy and blunts and Jameson. I think this experience is different because [Double-O and myself] aren't usually in the same room -- we live in two different cities. A lot of it is usually sparse as far as being in the same room. It's never one continuous process. So this time it's different so it's hard to pick one moment. Just being in the house in L.A. [recording] was just a lot different. It felt like going back to the very beginning of it because that's how we started, in L.A. and always being in the same room. It felt like something brand new again.
You're on a fourth album. Can you think back to a time when you didn't think getting to a fourth was going to happen?
N: I can't say I thought a fourth album wasn't gonna happen. It just makes me feel old. Like I always envisioned it, but it's one of those things when you're in elementary school and people ask you, "What are you gonna be when you grow up?" We're kinda grown up now so we can't really talk about future plans and goals without having real things set in motion. At the stage that we are in life, personally, now's the time to put things in action. We always said we wanted to run our own label, we always said we wanted to run our own company, we always said we wanted to be more hands-on with the business aspect of what we do and take things to the next level, and that's what we're kinda doing. The whole process of this fourth album is just going to the next level. I definitely envisioned it.
Double-O, you're the resident beatmaker. Did you produce everything on the album?
I produced every record. The only record I didn't 100 percent was the song called 'Player of the Century.' That was actually a demo that Naledge sent to me last year that had a beat on it. The record to me was so much bigger than the way it sounded. So I was like let me go back and remake this and make it as big as I feel it could be. Shouts to the homies Nez and Rio, they're the ones that co-produced the record with me.
This is four albums in and I'm sure you've come across a creative wall a few times. How do you deal with that?
D: You know it's funny people forget, I've known Naledge now since 2000. That's a long time and a lot of records. Before our first album even came out. It was one of those things for us, we were already operating efficiently as far as chemistry before we even became a group. I think that's how we made the group happen. We were like, "This is working now." There were long lulls from 2000 to 2004, where we might've only done one or two records together a year. Now we have a ton of records with other producers and other people. I think that when we came together in 2004, he moved out to L.A. and I was already out there. And everything started to click.
Can you name any songs that you clashed on?
D: There's only been one record where I'd say there was a little bit of a clash of ideas. It was 'Take Over the World,' which was on the last album. That was the only time a record was picked by our manger as "this could be the one" so it had to be done in this type of vibe for this to work. That was the only time it felt like we were playing the NBA rather than street ball.
What do you want people to get from 'Occasion'?
N: I want this to be something they can play in any situation as far as their every day lives. When you going out, there's a song for that. When you in the shower, there's a song for that. When you're talking about relationships, there's a song for that. I kinda wanted to create an iPod Shuffle with my voice on every song [laughs]. We've accomplished that. It's an occasion, it's a positive record, it's about vibes and not all about straight-on lyrical content and metaphors. This album is a lot more coloring outside of the lines and having fun. If it looked and sounded fun, we didn't second guess it.
The whole idea of us having went to college, people want to put too much thought into it. It's rap music, it's still supposed to be fun. We second-guessed things [in the past] and over thought things and we didn't do that this time around. It feels a lot more pure.
Naledge, you were a rap newcomer at one time. Who do you think is going to be the next big hip-hop star?
I think Kendrick Lamar is a phenomenal artist. I haven't heard an artist like that in a while. He excites me; he makes me want to rap.