It was “Love Letter” that the ubiquitous Jeremiah Jae first worked with producer L’Orange. Found on L’Orange’s The Orchid Days LP, the track escapes outright interpretation as Jeremiah Jae works within L’Orange’s deceptively sinister production to never quite dedicate the heart spill the title suggests. In fact, “Love Letter” could be of the Frank Booth ilk, sending permanence to the doorstep rather than flowers. In a way “Love Letter” is the impetus of a character Jeremiah Jae portrays on The Night Took Us In Like Family, a collaborative concept record with L’Orange.
On “The Lineup” Jae is deep within the lifestyle of his gambino character, a character L’Orange describes as a gangster “whose hubris and risks get the better of him.” Jae’s lineup is not a starting lineup, but rather the usual suspects told to stand in front of a wall displaying measures of height and face a two-way mirror to be identified. We learn though that Jae’s character is not concerned with getting pinched, as the witness on the stand has already been compromised to have the case dismissed. Rather, Jae is plotting his rebuttal for the snitching that led to him being placed on the lineup. The track arrives in the record at a critical juncture when it would seem the hubris is at its height and Jae’s character feels invincible and untouchable. And yet, the drums by L’Orange thud in a manner that feels like a heart thump in the throat. It marks the descent in Part Four: The Damning, as the character becomes consumed with madness fueled by revenge.
Read on for a brief interview with Jeremiah Jae and L’Orange.
What’s the story behind this collaboration? When did the two of you meet and what talks transpired that led to a collaborative album?
Jeremiah Jae: I was approached to do a feature for The Orchid Days project on the track called “Love Letter”. That was really my introduction to L’Orange and his music. I think doing that track kind of sparked the idea to do a whole project. We both have an unorthodox approach to the music and he thought my style of rhyming would complement the beats. Although we never met in person we started building songs and slowly over a few long months of going back and forth, sending music, the pieces sort of fell into place.
L’Orange: From listening to his music and style I knew I could send him my more challenging beats. That pure creativity I felt from him on that track made me want to do more. I tend to have a group of tracks that I put to the side because I don’t think MCs would be able or want to rhyme on them, but those were the ones that I loved hearing Jae rock to. We talked about working on a project for a while before we got started, but all together this project took about nine months.
How did this become a conceptual record? And for the two of you, what was the themes you wanted to delve into on the record?
JJ: To me, most of my music is driven conceptually. And I think that’s something we both pushed for when working on this project. The style of production was really what inspired the theme for me. L’O’s beats have this early 1900’s noir gangster movie vibe. I think we both wanted to tell a story from that time and perspective and relate it to present day.
L’O: I think both of us feel the need to add concept to our music, but we do that in different ways. Often my concepts lean more towards storytelling and his more ethereal and abstract. It was interesting to see this project unfold because I didn’t have a concept in mind initially. By the time he and I were exchanging songs and ideas, I started to see this theme emerge and it was easy to build the narrative around it.
I’d like to know about the title, The Night Took Us In Like Family, and how it came to be. What came first, the title or the album?
JJ: The music came first. As we were working on it we had a few titles in mind. I think hearing everything we made altogether help sparked the idea for the record. We were creating a really dark landscape and it felt like the night. I think the title makes more sense when you listen to it all the way through.
L’O: This album is very dark and challenging. People that are used to my albums being about love, loss and introspection might be put off by how outwardly focused this album is. It’s a story of a man who’s hubris and risks get the better of him—a classic trope in early 20th century radio crime dramas. I knew that Jae and I would bring out things in each other that people haven’t seen from either one of us, so I wanted to approach a simple theme in a complex way.
In hearing the production that L’Orange sent you, how did the narrative of this gangster full of hubris begin to take shape, was there a particular beat that got the creative flow going in that direction?
JJ: I think one of the first tracks I wrote to was “The Lineup”. Thats a good example of how the beat influenced the words. I based the concept to that one around the vocal sample in the beginning of the track. It made sense to go in the gangster story direction and being from Chicago I’ve always wanted to do an Al Capone type of project. It just worked out.
How did Jae’s writing influence the added samples that push the narrative in the instrumental cuts and given that you have many instrumentals on the record, how do you feel the inclusion of those assisted in the narrative?
L’O: The instrumentals were the last thing I worked on for the album. I wanted to make sure I understood our identity before I approached them because it was important to me that they seem seamless but also move the story forward. I liked the idea of separating the album into chapters and that felt like the best way to create clear progression.
Both of your are known for introspective styles, it seems that in working together it was like putting to magnets of the same polarity together, it caused an outward venture to the music. Was the notion that “we’re both known for this, let’s work in an opposite direction” ever discussed or understood? Or did it happen organically?
JJ: It’s really about putting our combined energy together to make something new. I get bored doing the same things, so I need to venture in different avenues. Im also a producer, but for me this project served as a platform to focus more on the rhymes and the story this time around.
L’O: It wasn’t something we planned. I think we were reacting to each other. The beats I was sending JJ were off kilter and dark and I think he immediately reacted to that. Then, I would play with the song until I felt like it was a good marriage. Despite what we’re known for, I think we’re both most comfortable when we’re working on something that makes us uncomfortable.
Given that Jae (and correct me here if I’m wrong) resides in California and L’Orange is in North Carolina (and correct me if I’m wrong again). How did the two of you keep an open dialogue to hone the creative direction of this record?
JJ: I lived in California for a few years, but I’m back home in Chicago. We connected through emails, Skype, and via the phone. I’ve never made a full project with someone long distance, but the beauty about the internet is that there are so many options and ways to connect with artists now its possible to create with someone you never met. I do kind of prefer being in person and really vibing on the spot, but I’m into trying new things and doing things in a different way. There were some challenging things about it, but the challenge added something to the music I don’t think would be there if we were in person. We probably would’ve made a different project.