Laughs and smiles were omnipresent. Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T., Smoke DZA, and Girl Talk met at a Burbank, California studio last month to play their Full Court Press project for friends, collaborators, and the media. As the album’s bass-heavy beats courtesy of Girl Talk—a.k.a. Gregg Gillis—played through the speakers, it was evident why the quartet was so happy. The production meshes magically with the stylistically diverse flows and vocabularies of Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T., and Smoke DZA, each of whom bring their distinctive voice to this debut collaborative release.
As Khalifa mingled in the other room, Girl Talk, K.R.I.T., and DZA huddled together to celebrate the pending release of their first project together as a unit. In our Q&A, the three artists discuss the making of Full Court Press, Girl Talk’s production process, Big K.R.I.T.’s amazement with his career progression, and Smoke DZA’s impressive rhyme creation tactics.
As a basketball fan, when I think of “full court press” I think of tight defense. Since most of the album is laid-back sonically, how did that work into what “full court press” means for you as the album title?
Girl Talk: I threw the title out because I was imagining everyone with their skillset. It was less about the intensity and more that everyone brings to the table something different, and that everyone was applying that to this project. You hear Wiz singing, doing his melodic thing. You hear every side of everyone, so it's almost like using everything we got on this one project. So, that’s the full court press.
Big K.R.I.T.: Having soul and samples, especially how Girl Talk produces, and to be able to have that kick drum and that snare and that 808 hitting like that—that’s still aggressive to me. Depends on how you listen to it, too, because if you’ve got two 15s in your car, that shit’s tearing your trunk up.
“I threw the title out because I was imagining everyone with their skillset. It was less about the intensity and more that everyone brings to the table something different, and that everyone was applying that to this project.”— Girl Talk
It definitely has that bottom.
Big K.R.I.T.: For me, it’s just an exciting experience to be on the record with my brothers. We’ve all been working and been around each other for years, and to have created something that was really us having fun, bro, you can't beat it. We actually had fun making rap records that's jamming.
K.R.I.T. and DZA, this is a much lighter project for you as far as subject matter. How did you adjust what you were doing lyrically and stylistically to fit into the production on the album?
Smoke DZA: I didn’t. I just did the shit that I do. Gregg is somebody that I've worked with for a minute. So it was really easy for me to get in my pocket. K.R.I.T. is my brother. We've been doing this over 10 years. Same with Wiz, so it was like another day at the ranch. Now I’ve got somebody throwing me a precise alley-oop.
Big K.R.I.T.: We spent one day in the studio and it was like a family reunion. I was working with Girl Talk anyway. We had four or five songs that I just got with him that we were working on, so when we got in the space [with Wiz and DZA], it was like being on tour all over again. Every beat he plays is jamming, so that wasn't a problem at all. It kind of relieved me, ’cause I was able to actually just be an artist. I do a lot of production, and in that case I'm always so focused on the beat, too.
[When Girl Talk] comes in there, he’s playing some jam and I just get to write. Then we come up with topics that would be a little lighthearted because of what we normally go through in the music industry—how we create music, how stressful it could become sometimes with the business. So in this particular case, it was like, “Bro, I just wanna have fun.” Whatever we’re talking about in the moment, we make it a song and it’s effortless in a sense, too.
“We’ve all been working and been around each other for years, and to have created something that was really us having fun, bro, you can't beat it.”— Big K.R.I.T.
So Gregg, as a producer, with “Put You On” when you hear K.R.I.T. do the stop-and-start flow and change things up with his delivery, how does that affect you as you’re working on the song?
Girl Talk: It's funny because after the fact, I love cutting it up and changing it up. But with something like that, it just works. I always take it home and then try different iterations, beat changes, different variations. With something like “Put You On,” it’s literally just the way they exactly recorded in the studio just ’cause it worked. But I tried many combinations. There were many hours of tinkering with it and then it just turned out exactly how he laid it down.
With “Season,” I was intrigued about how you, DZA, were talking about never being satisfied, wanting more. You also talked about nobody clipping your wings. How or what do you draw from to get imagery to insert into your lyrics?
Smoke DZA: Living life. My art imitates a lot of life. There's a difference, but it’s not that far of a difference between Sean and Smoke DZA. I'm living my life and I'm giving my life experiences in riddle form. Sometimes it’s to be decoded and sometimes it’s not. But the way for me to keep it authentic, and why you can see it so clear, is because it’s really what I’m doing. Somebody with expertise can really give you a vision more than somebody that’s just looking out the window. That’s why it hits like that.
Big K.R.I.T.: Big bro is a legendary lyricist, first off. I like how he’s being humble and all that, but fuck that. There ain't many people that I fear in the studio with what they might write. He is definitely one of them. It doesn't matter what kind of beat you give him. East Coast, West Coast, whatever—he’s gonna snap on that. So that's what happened, and that’s what keeps happening on every record he does. He is definitely king of New York. He’s snapping on every record. Literally this morning I was watching his Funk Flex freestyles and I was mind-blown. Three minutes in and I was like, “What the fuck?”
“My art imitates a lot of life. It’s not that far of a difference between Sean and Smoke DZA.”— Smoke DZA
Girl Talk: He does it project after project and has so many consistently great projects.
Big K.R.I.T.: He don’t write none of the shit down. I’m in the studio and I’m typing in my phone and he’s just over there bouncing his head. “I got my verse.” Get outta here. That’s why I know when it comes time for you to write your lyrics down for your album, you got a lot on your hands.
So K.R.I.T., with “No Singles,” I was interested with you talking about turning nothing into something. Why is that an important thing to mention in that song?
Big K.R.I.T.: I’m from Meridian, Mississippi, man, and I somehow rapped my way into this room. This has been a blessing, and I’m not taking any of this for granted. I couldn’t have seen this coming. I literally spent years making music with my friends, and we’ve grown a lot. Everybody went through what they went through pandemic-wise, but coming out of that it really puts in perspective the amount of time that you spent doing something you love and what you received from that. I went from not having anybody around me because I couldn’t to now, where we’re starting to get back into our community. More than ever, I’m thankful that I could create something like this with my brothers. FL