Words With Serge Severe
Real name: Sergio de Barros
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Influences: DJ Premier, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan
Who he’s down with: Animal Farm
You were a solo artist before you joined Animal Farm and now you’re releasing solo material again. What is that transition like?
I have a respect for both solo and group acts, because that’s what I came up listening to. Joining Animal Farm was really cool, just to be able to work together and be in one space as a unit. Doing shows and tours with a group, it teaches you to put any ego aside and actually learn how to work within a group.
I was doing solo stuff before an opportunity arose to rock with Animal Farm. Being in a group actually opened me up to be able to collab on bigger scales with artists -- from the “Culture Shock” album doing stuff with Talib Kweli and DJ Rob Swift. It’s easier, though, in some ways to be solo because you don’t have to wait for all the people in the group to agree on one idea.
Your new album “Service Without A Smile” came out April 3 and was produced by Terminill. What’s it like working exclusively with one producer on an entire project?
I’m all about working with one producer. I grew up listening to Gang Starr and Primo was lacing the whole thing. The same with Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth and Tribe’s stuff. I like the cohesive sound.
My first two records, “Concrete Techniques” and “Back Of My Rhymes,” were like that. I worked with one producer, Universal DJ Sect. There’s a big difference between his sound and Terminill’s. Collaborating with Term, I had to push myself to get on his beats. They’re pretty big. A lot of the songs are like “Monstrosity,” which has a darker sound.
So when you heard the beat for “Monstrosity,” was it something that was hard for you to rap over or were you seeking a different sound?
I don’t want to go to a producer and do the same sound that I did with another guy. I like all types of sounds. With hip-hop, I don’t just like strictly boom bap. The cool thing about hip-hop is the different sounds that people are doing all over the place.
When Terminill showed me his batch of beats, a lot of it was darker and I think it fit the album title, “Service Without A Smile.” It’s like a metaphor for the industry and how it can be a little ugly. People don’t really care what you can do, but more what they can sell off of you. I think Terminill’s soundscape fit where I was going at the time and what I was feeling.