Photo courtesy of Mo Parker
Ki’ of NC and Rookie Chi are The Ol’ Days. Both men wear different hats for the group, Ki’ is a producer and Rookie is a videographer, but both play the role of emcee. Their music is lighthearted and fun –reminiscent of the “old days” of Hip-Hop. The group dropped their debut album, 1979 in 2014 and has returned with their sophomore album, Crepes & Mild Sauce.
Crepes & Mild Sauce features appearances by Boog Brown, Kwote, D2G, and Noble MC. The album is produced by Ki’ of NC, Kayo, Slone, NATEOGDETROIT, Laquan Backstreet Beatz, DJ Proof, The Daydream Sound, RST, Kenny Keys and Point 5 aka Navigate.
The Real Hip-Hop chatted with The Ol’ Days about the humor in their music, the harsh Chicago music scene, and their new album, Crepes & Mild Sauce.
TRHH: Why’d you title the new album Crepes & Mild Sauce?
Rookie Chi: [Laughs] So here’s the thing, man we were trying to bring out the sophomore album which was going to be Silver Alert but we kind of came up short on the crowd funding. We were looking for something else to do. We looked in our inbox and we had this influx of emails from producers from France that were hitting us up with beats. The beats were heat, too. The two guys that were on there most prominently were Kayo, and Slone, shout out to them. They sent us a nice amount of beats and we put them together and it was about an EP’s worth back then. We were thinking about doing an EP but we couldn’t think of no way that we could fuse the two cultures together. We chose food. We said let’s get a crepe and let’s put a condiment on the crepe. Nobody puts condiments on desserts so that would imply that we’re trying to be funny at the same time. It’s kind of the fuse of the food and us trying to be comical at the same time. Mild sauce is from Chicago and the crepe is from oui, oui France. That’s how we came up with it in a nutshell.
TRHH: Wow. That’s funny. It seems like you guys have a humorous tone to most of the stuff that you do. Does that come naturally? Is it how you guys really are or is it premeditated?
Ki’ of NC: I would say it’s natural. This goes back to the roots of how we started. Vibing in the studio and just having fun is how you come up with creative ideas. One of the groups that did this and inspired us was Slum Village. When you listen to some of their early stuff they had some funny skits where they were just wildin’ out in the studio. We believe in keeping that fun alive. We’ll be in the studio trying to come up with a concept, we’ll listen to a beat and start singing some random words and say, “Let’s make a whole song about this since you’re BS’ing.” The first album we did a whole song about ugly women. You see ‘em and think they fine then they turn around and you say, ‘UUUGGHHH.’ It literally happens like that. We sing whatever we feel to that beat and we go with it. We don’t fight it. It’s organic. We just have fun like that. Every session might not be fun. You come in here and you may going through it with your girl and you might make a song about the ladies. One week it might be about money. We go off of feel.
TRHH: How is this album different from 1979?
Rookie Chi: 1979 was weird because it wasn’t supposed to be our first album. Our first album was called “God Bless America” back when we had three members. Our third member quit when the album was at 90% so we pretty much had to scrap that damn album and start anew. I always bring up to Ki’ that this was a very scary time for me personally because I had no idea whether we were going to be able to find a sound or an identity or not musically. We started from a comical place. Hell I didn’t even know we were going to have a third member. Ki’ brought the third member on as a surprise to me. This dude pretty much taught us how to be technically better rappers and then he left before we dropped the album. It was like, “What do we do?! He just told us how to rock the fuckin mic!” After that we didn’t know if we had the confidence to keep it going. Thank God we did. I always give Ki’ a lot of the credit with that. Ki’s was searching for sounds.
A couple of those songs from God Bless America made it on 1979 and we didn’t even have a sound yet. We didn’t know how we wanted that album to sound, technically. I think we kind of got to the point where we were somewhere in between Pete Rock & CL Smooth Main Ingredient and Slum V Volume 2. Shout out to the dude that mixed our album, Leland Philpot. He had a lot to do with that sound, just as much as Ki’ almost. Those guys were going back and forth when we were making songs. We would make like two songs per sessions, sometimes three, and these guys would put it together in a way where it was sonically coming together and consistent. That’s the difference between Crepes & Mild Sauce. With Crepes & Mild Sauce we weren’t really searching for a sound. We were borrowing somebody’s beats and trying to sculpt stories around the sound that they had already made for us.
Ki’ of NC: The difference with the second album to the first is we dug more to try to be artists. I only did one beat for Crepes & Mild Sauce versus producing half of 1979. I’m not no egotistical producer. I don’t have to have every track on the album, I don’t think like that. I wanted to fall back more as an artist and get more into my writing and really dig into the words that I was saying. I’ve heard a few people say that they can tell we grew lyrically. We showed some growth on Crepes & Mild Sauce. We showed some depth and that we’re not a one trick pony. I know some people say we’re comedy rappers but we’ve rapped about every subject on the planet. I hope we’ve proved that.
Rookie Chi: We got lyrical, too. Give yourself credit. I snapped on a couple of tracks. I’m a writer.
Ki’ of NC: I can write but I wanted to get more into it. I know you did, too. After 1979 dropped I saw Rookie grow as an artist. I knew Crepes & Mild Sauce was going to be dope lyrically because we were taking the pen to new places.
TRHH: Why did Facey McFacerton leave the group?
Ki’ of NC: Facey at the time said he was going to med school or something like that.
Rookie Chi: We don’t really know totally but he was definitely making a transition.
Ki’ of NC: I think he was moving to the west coast and going to med school.
Rookie Chi: It was a lot of different reasons but the main thing was it was a life transition that he was making. It was bad timing.
Ki’ of NC: I don’t want to say bad timing because stuff happens to people at different times. You can’t stop nobody from what they got to do. It was rough because The Ol’ Days was a group that almost didn’t exist after that. Rookie was devastated. We talked a long time and I told him we could do this. I said, “Let’s strap up our boots, get back in the booth, and keep going,” and we did.
Rookie Chi: Hip-Hop is all about the damn DJ and the producer. They like 80% of Hip-Hop. If he said we can still do it then I could have the confidence. ‘Cause I wasn’t doing jack but writing. I do the music videos but I was just writing in the rap group. Ki’ said that and I rolled with Ki’ and that was all good for me, man.
TRHH: What inspired the song Passport?
Rookie Chi: [Laughs] That’s Ki’s inspiration there.
Ki’ of NC: Out of the two of us the only person in this group that has a passport is Rookie. Here is the thing I believe, I believe you can manifest your thoughts. You put it out there in the world and it’s going to happen. Our dream is to go overseas and perform the songs that we do. That’s creative writing – manifesting what you want to happen. I’m a firm believer in that. I got a lot of stuff happening in my life now that I had to manifest. Rookie believes in it, too — wanting to go and do it and putting it out there in the world so it will happen. I can imagine what it’s going to be like on a flight, missing my family, having to Skype my wife because I can’t talk to her all the time, that’s what we want to happen. We put it on a song so we can make that materialize in 2017.
Rookie Chi: The other thing is I came up with the hook but Ki’ put this unique spin on the hook. If you listen to it again you can hear the Captain Kirk in us.
Ki’ of NC: We couldn’t get the hook right. I don’t know if people will hear it but we were struggling saying the hook. I said, “I do not like the way we’re saying the hook.” I started joking like William Shatner. He. Does. Those. Commercials. And. He. Talks. Like. This. I said, “What if we do it like that?”
Rookie Chi: I was dying laughing. You’d be surprised how many damn joints we just try something and it sticks.
Ki’ of NC: That’s having fun in the studio.
TRHH: How did you guys originally come together to form The Ol’ Days?
Rookie Chi: The first time I met Ki’ was at a beat battle. We was at beat battles throughout Chicago. Before I met Ki’ I was in this particular beat battle, shout out to Custom, if it wasn’t for you we would have never met each other. We were doing so many beat battles around Chicago that were really picking up steam. It was getting all types of young producers that were very talented together. Little did I know Ki’ was a North Carolina implant. He had just came from North Carolina maybe a year before. He was still learning Chicago people. I was there as a job and I didn’t think I was worthy of judging a rap beat contest because I had never done a rap beat. I didn’t do but a couple of songs and I was just spittin’ on them. My claim to fame was I was broadcasting a TV show that was Hip-Hop and I was doing music videos. I didn’t think I could judge rap battles. Custom said, “Go do it, you’re good enough, we need you.” The battle happened, Ki’ was in the running for several rounds. He was really strong. His beats were strong even back then. The dudes’ drums are stupid sick. He only did one track on the album but it’s the last one on the album! He wanted to put his stamp on it. I know you’re humble but you wanted to put your stamp on that shit!
Anyway, I met him at this joint and ironically I voted for him for like two rounds and in the third round I voted for the other cat. He lost in that round. We got back up at a different place called Café Lure, rest in peace to that place, it’s one of the places in Chicago that gentrification took away from us as a venue. I was just small talking to him like, “Yeah man, I just put out this joint called The Wackest Mixtape EVER with my comedy troupe. It’s funny. Kind of like the skits you be doing.” I’d heard a couple of skits he did and I thought he was funny as hell. I said, “Yo, man we should do a collabo,” and he was like, “Cool.” I meet him with Ki’ and he upgraded the callbo to “Let’s start a group.” He had another dude there that I knew named Facey. He said Facey should be in the group and I said, “Wow.”
Ki’ of NC: I did meet him at the beat battle. I met a lot of dope cats. A lot of the prominent Hip-Hop producers in Chicago were at that beat battle. I didn’t win but I got to meet Rookie. He had me highlighted in two of the videos. That was love because I’m not from here. Moving on to the second time that I met him, I was on a beat showcase at Café Lure and that’s when Rookie approached me. I had gotten approached earlier by Facey. It was kind of like a double booking. Everybody wanted to get up with me so I said, “Hey, you meet me on this day and you meet me on this day.” I gave them the same date and that’s when they came through and met me at my crib. We was vibing. All of us had the same taste in Hip-Hop. We all loved Gang Starr, Slum Village, Tribe Called Quest, and Pete Rock & CL Smooth. We laid a track that day.
Rookie Chi: I just put out a podcast where I played a whole bunch of unreleased stuff.
Ki’ of NC: We recorded our first joint and that was the spark for The Ol’ Days. After that every session we was recording at least one or two songs. That is the humble start of The Ol’ Days.
Rookie Chi: We were freaking people out because we would tell them how many songs we’d do a session and they’d be like, “Damn, y’all do that many a session?” Cats don’t be doing that many songs per session.
Ki’ of NC: It was the grind years. When groups come together and its fresh and new and we’re getting better at the craft. I’m making the beats, you’re making the rhymes. It was a factory at the time. We got songs for days from that time. In that year we recorded like 40-to-50 songs.
TRHH: What’s your opinion on the current Chicago Hip-Hop music scene? Your music is different from what’s promoted and pushed to the forefront right now.
Ki’ of NC: Rookie has very strong opinions on this because of recent happenings so I’ll let Rookie handle this.
Rookie Chi: It’s funny, I would have probably still been broadcasting the TV show and doing all of the fan stuff in Hip-Hop if it wouldn’t have been for the way the Hip-Hop scene shifted here. I was looking at who was blowing up back in the day. It was 2006 or so when I started rapping and cats like Soulja Boy and all these “Young’s” and “Lil’s” was doing hella good. I was like, “Oh my God, the sound is changing.” I got scared and then I got cocky. I was like, “I can do better than them,” so then I started rapping. It’s funny because in the Chicago scene there are so many artists. When you have shows you have all of these artists there and instead of fans they’re there being critics pretty much. We had a few shows we did where we were rapping our hearts out and we were looking at a crowd that was looking at us like they were the judge and the jury on the Supreme Court. This is a Hip-Hop show and they were like, “Grrrrr!!”
It’s a lot of damn artists in Chicago. I don’t see enough fans. Fans usually come out when cats come from out of town. When Little Brother used to come they would blow it up. When Brand Nubian would come they would blow it up. Me and Ki’ saw our biggest numbers when we opened for cats like Slum Village and Talib Kweli. Cats come into town and the Chicago scene comes alive, but when you do your shows and they’re local if you get 30 you did terribly good. That’s how I feel about it. It’s hella fickle, but it’s tons more artists than it is fans here.
Ki’ of NC: When I moved here I was feeling the scene out and I didn’t know what to really expect. In North Carolina I felt like the scene was non-existent. Chicago is a bigger city and a bigger stage so I felt like I had more events to try to go to here. I was kind of blind to the city. I found out it was fickle. When we became a group and had a little bit of success Rookie said we were actually doing pretty damn good because he didn’t see groups doing the things that we were doing in their first two years. I had to rely on Rookie to be a gauge for the city.
Rookie Chi: I’m like, “Dude, do you know that don’t happen here?” and he was like, “Okay, let’s keep moving!”
Ki’ of NC: All I know is to keep grinding. I’m in a big city and I see these events and I’m going to do them. Rookie held it down with that. We did the Slum V show. We rehearsed it and got ready and pulled it off. Rookie’s eyes were big as hell and he said, “Ki’ do you know what we just did here in Chicago? This is unheard of!”
Rookie Chi: We finished the Slum V show and they were about to hit the stage right after us and they were still tripping. They were still in the crowd like, “Where the album at?” and “What’s up with that one song?” and I’m like, “Do you know Slum V is on the stage right now?”
Ki’ of NC: I’m happy being in a city with a grand stage but it’s still weird here. All I can say is Chance the Rapper. Look at Chance the Rapper, they’re hating on that guy. Why hate on this dude? He just made history. As a city I love it and hate it, I don’t wanna diss it though.
Rookie Chi: You know they love to hate here. Y’all just do! I’m from here!
TRHH: Is there something I don’t know about? Who is hating on Chance?
Rookie Chi: Nobody knows that. The Chicago timelines were going crazy when Chance won, man. People were like, “I can’t believe people actually believe he’s an independent artist,” and “Chance is this and that but he ain’t all that if you think about his music.” What the fuck? It ain’t coming from nowhere logically. Just last week y’all was tripping on mumble rap controlling everything. So we get this dude that represents everybody in Hip-Hop, and he’s from Chicago, and he’s not like a mumble rapper, what the fuck? Did we just not win that? We won! You sound like Donald Trump. You win the Presidency and you’re still a little sore. If you read my and Ki’’s timeline you might actually see a little bit of hate ‘cause it was all around us.
TRHH: I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by that because this is Chicago. I’m a little bit older than you guys so I remember when Common moved to New York and people were pissed off. He became public enemy number one. Same with Kanye.
Rookie Chi: With the Native Tongues! Dude, he was setting history in a different direction and all we can say is “Fuck Common, he shouldn’t have done that. He needs to come back.” What the fuck should he come back and do? I mean, now I think he should come back because he’s a lot more established and he could do a ton. Remember when Kanye came out? He did that one show at the Tweeter Center and he announced that he was with Roc-A-Fella and put the chain on – that was huge! And all I heard when I was doing interviews was about how Kanye wasn’t this or that and he stole beats. I couldn’t hear a positive interview ever and that’s when I was just doing interviews and TV. I don’t know, man, this Chi-Town hate thing really needs to change for the better ‘cause it’s crazy.
TRHH: What’s the ultimate goal for The Ol’ Days?
Ki’ of NC: We wanna put out quality music and keep the tradition going from our heroes. We spoke earlier about A Tribe Called Quest, De La, Slum, Gang Starr, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, all those Hip-Hop people we love who dedicated those years and that time to perfecting the craft – the beats, the rhymes, the promo, the videos – doing all that great stuff to make great music and leave a legacy. We wanna do the same. I feel like we wanna keep that flame or that torch going. A person once told me that if the world is lacking something maybe it’s meant for you to fill that gap. Not that there is a shortage of Hip-Hop, but there is something that we would want to hear if we put that out in the world. We try to rep Hip-Hop to the fullest and keep that going. That’s always been our core thing and that’s why every album you hear is crafted. It’s not like we threw it together. People complain that it takes us a long time, but it’s because we don’t believe in putting out shit. We’ll record until it’s right, the beats gotta be mixed right, and the album has to be perfect. Some people don’t care about that but we do. I’m not going to worry about what other people our doing. This is our brand and our contribution to Hip-Hop.
When everybody is listening to that classic Tribe Called Quest sound they’re not thinking about all those things, but we get it. We understand from the lyrics to the beats. Rest in peace J Dilla, the thing he did with beats I respect that the way Big L or Biggie took the time to write dope verses. Why try to rep all of that, man. We understand what true real Hip-Hop is, whether we’re being funny or sending a message. We’re just trying to keep that going along with the greats. Every now and then we’ll get a nod from our heroes and that’s cool along the way but we’re gonna keep doing it. We might be in our graves when people really appreciate our music. They’ll get it and see that we’re really about this. We weren’t playing around. That’s just a legacy thing. If you want to put a stamp on this thing we want to make a legacy for ourselves and show that we represent the greats and maybe possibly we can be a great too one day if we work hard and eat our spinach [laughs].
Rookie Chi: My bandmate is the wholesome guy. I’m gonna say I would like for one of our albums to get paid for. Paid for by what we do. People say they want an album and we put that album out and it pays for itself, that’s my goal personally. If we’re able to do that time after time again that’s how I’ll know we made it. Obviously there is a margin as far as success goes but that’s the main thing that I want for us. I want our art to pay for itself. I want for us to be in the black for once. Seriously we put everything on the line for this. We got families, we got jobs. We spend the first 15-to-30 minutes of our meeting every week talking about our jobs and families. Sometimes our meeting gets cut short because of family stuff. It’s real with us, dawg. It’s real.
Ki’ of NC: It’s not like we in our twenties, we’re The Ol’ Days [laughs].
Purchase: The Ol’ Days – Crepes & Mild Sauce