2Hei is a producer from Hampton, Virginia that makes church music for gangstas. 2Hei is heavily influenced by the legendary A Tribe Called Quest and R&B music. Those influences are reflected in his sounds as 2Hei enjoys creating loops over smooth melodies like his R&B influences. In his Hampton community, he owns a barbershop that helps his neighbors and friends come together for fresh cuts and networking with each other. 2Hei makes his own avenues to unify his communities, whether it is having barbers fading someone's haircut or fading out a finished beat he just produced for an artist.
Jay: In your Beatstars bio, you described yourself as such: “2hei, will go on a FINAL QUEST to a place known as the LOST HEAVEN in order to master the art of HIKO TAMASHI. By doing so he will be able to have what is called an INVINCIBLE SUMMER.” They're references to the Caesar Nero, Invincible Summer, Lost Heaven, and the Hiko Tamashi volume 1 & 2 albums. Was Caesar Nero a fictional name? Was the Hiko Tamashi series like an audio soul searching journey for you?
2Hei: Being from Hampton, you see a lot of things man that can be traumatizing, My mans got killed years ago and that hurts me to this day. I pride myself on being a blerd (black nerd) because that's my escape. I create these worlds and ideas thanks to influences like Hanna-Barbera cartoons, anime, video games, nineties black movies, and mafia movies.
I do it without going too far to forget who I am, where I'm from, and what I've been through. Those are the names of my beat tapes that are currently out. Final Quest is my last beat tape. Lost Heaven was my first beat tape that just turned five years old. Invincible Summer is a tape, Caesar Nero is a tape and an alter ego that I created ten years ago to represent myself as a black ruler, a Black Caesar.
Hiko Tamashi is something I created to describe my style. My music is often called soulful and so Hiko Tamashi means "flying soul" to show how "high (Hei)" my soul is in this music. The series was a way to search for who I am as a producer because I kept hearing my style wasn't going to pop off at the beginning of this thing. Lately, I've been getting praises from some of the dopest producers and musicians ever like Havoc of Mobb Deep, Robert Glasper, El Debarge, Lex Luger, 9th Wonder's soul council and I'm working on a third one hopefully out in the summer to get my name out there.
Jay: I enjoyed the 1990 Sumthin beat on your BeatStar profile. I enjoy the smoothness of the looping in your production. How did you begin producing music?
2Hei: I appreciate that my dude, my style is all about simplicity and being very minimal. When I started rapping, I would make beats up in my head and often told producers what to do. It wasn't until this one producer tried to give my man Omarthegroove beats that he didn't make and almost got Omar in serious trouble. That made me think, "Ok, let me learn how to do this, so my homies ain't gotta worry about stuff like this again." I just kept improving from there.
Jay: What are some dream collaborations you would want to do?
2Hei: Definitely Kendrick [Lamar] man. Nas would be dope. Q-Tip. Jill Scott or Erykah Badu. Madlib, Project Pat, Key Glock, Lupe Fiasco, Tyler The Creator, Frank Ocean, Clipse, and Pharrell. If they come out of retirement, Daft Punk. It's a lot mayne, I love to work.
Jay: How much did A Tribe Called Quest played as an influence on your production? What are your top three ATCQ songs and why?
2Hei: Tribe is everything to me. It's my way of life. It's my soundtrack to this thing called life. Tribe taught me musically how to "be" about music and go beyond just making a sound and "remixing". Knowing those artists and making sure to educate the masses. Also staying humble.
I know Lyrics To Go is my favorite tribe song because of the Minnie Riperton sample and how the drums and guitar riffs kick in and it sounds so melodic but goes hard kinda like how I want my sound to be. I may say Wordplay. That was made by a young J Dilla who is my favorite producer of all time. Then I guess Electric Relaxation because of the three-bar loop which is crazy to have on a hip hop record. All those records aged well too which is another reason I love tribe: Timeless.
Jay: On Twitter, you cited that Jill Scott, aka Miss Jilly from Philly, is one of your biggest influences. How was she a major influence on your music?
2Hei: Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Janet Jackson, Sade, and Aaliyah influenced my approach on how to be harmonic and incorporate melody. Black women are influential in general. They make the world go round and that's evident in my music. I often sample a lot of female artists because they match the mood and energy that I need. I gotta thank my mom for playing those when I was young cause I saw how it made her feel including Jill Scott, I want that same feeling of emotion as well.
Jay: What influenced you to become a barbershop owner?
2Hei: That was a business move and an attempt to try to find ways to impact my community. My parents and I always had these discussions. My dad is ahead of his time as far as owning properties and finances so that was my start.
In a society that sees you as less and often mistreats you in their spaces, why not create our own? I hope a lot of us can do this and it's not for everybody obviously but at the same time we do need that support as well because oftentimes that's our downfall. Black businesses are so hard to maintain and that's why you should support them.
Jay: You’re currently working with Peninsula Baby from the 757 for an upcoming project. Talk about that collaboration.
2Hei: I'm excited we got some joints that are going to change how we view VA music and hopefully put Hampton/Newport News on the map. One day we were talking about music and then the idea came. We recorded two songs and decided to work on an album. It's gonna be different from what we usually hear locally. We are shooting for this fall to release the project but we may drop some singles in the summer, especially this one we have called Time. Oh man, it'll be the perfect blend of harmony and knocking drums for the whip.
Jay: What was the best no that you have ever received and why?
2Hei: Probably being told no by local artists at the beginning of producing. My style didn't fit with what those artists wanted. I'm glad they were declining to work with me because at the time in 2013 everybody wanted what was hot. I wanted to be different and still needed to improve. Now a lot of people want to work with me. It works out always.
Jay: Who are some indie artists that you would want to shout out?