Christian Rich on Shaq's music career, NBA predictions and more
SI.com caught up with production duo Christian Rich, who count Pharrell as a mentor and released their debut album FW14 in August. Twin brothers Taiwo and Kehinde Hassan, natives of Chicago via Nigeria, count J.Cole, Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples and Childish Gambino amongst their collaborators. They took the time to chat about their sound and vision for the project, in addition to flexing some wide-ranging sports chops.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
SI.com: What’s the vision behind your project?
Tai: The album really felt like a necessity because of all the production we've done over the past few years. It felt like we needed to put something together in order to give our fans and people who haven't heard of us a cumulative album of what we do, what we like at the moment. We incorporated sci-fi and some very abstract sounds, we're really into Phillip K. Dick, Twilight Zone. The album itself touches on the idea of love and all that stuff, but in the context of a sci-fi theme.
Ken: The album, the reason there's a car or a ship on the cover, it's supposed to represent the listener driving through the emotions, almost like the cell as it goes through the body. That's why the mood changes so much on the album.
SI.com: How would you describe your production style?
Tai: We try not to stick to a sound, we try to just create. The one thing that's consistent in all our music is either great melodies, great notes, or great drums, they always hit you somewhere. That's the consistency in our music: we go from the feeling. We just sit down and structure the hook and verses from there.
SI.com: What’s the collaborative process like?
Ken: One of us usually starts an idea separately, and then we bring them together. Tai might start some drums, I might have a chord progression, then we touch up each part. We might just be going through sounds back and forth on the same laptop. Most of the time we work off of two and bring the ideas together on one.
SI.com: Shifting gears, how’d you guys get so into sports?
Tai: Well, growing up in Chicago on the North Side, everything was about basketball on the block. We were 8, 9 years old and you had to know how to play, or at least attempt to. And then football, we'd have the winters with however many feet of snow, so we would play tackle outside with no gear. We'd watch "NBA Inside Stuff" on Saturday mornings with Ahmad Rashad, see highlights of Iverson, Ray Allen, Jordan. We'd go to the park and try to emulate the moves, which we almost never got correctly [chuckles]. You almost had no choice but to like the Bulls, because we had the best team in the '90s.
We started getting into football more after college, because as you get older you start going to bars not just to drink, but to watch games. Being from Chicago obviously we're big Bears fans, but we've lived in quite a few places so we’ve gotten to see other teams. Who would you say our teams are right now?
Ken: We like the Patriots. Our boy Brandon Lloyd played for San Francisco, we went to college together, we see each other once in a while. I like the Seahawks, besides the fact they won. Beast Mode is nasty. And Richard Sherman—one of the guys we collaborate with on records used to be his teacher over the summer in high school. He told me his story and about his non-profit, and I've grown to like that team because of the guys off the field.
SI.com: Are you guys still Bulls fans?
Ken: The new Bulls, we like them but I wouldn't say they're our favorite team. It's a funny story, Nazr Mohammed is from our neighborhood. He and his brother lived down the street, and his cousin got us into music. … I don't know if I'm so happy about the way our team is building up. I like [Jimmy] Butler, of course [Derrick] Rose, Nazr, [Pau] Gasol. I love that they play real team ball, but I wish the Bulls could be our team right now. They’re just not.
Tai: It hurts to say that. To be honest it's really the Clippers.
SI.com: So as Clippers fans—you guys are fashion-oriented, what do you think of their new jerseys?
Tai: I didn't see 'em yet.
Ken: When did they come out?
SI.com: Earlier this summer. I think they're pretty ugly ...
Tai: I'm gonna look them up right now.
SI.com: In the meantime, if you could work with one athlete-turned-rapper, who would it be?
Both: [Laughing] Shaq!
Ken: Shaq is one of the illest rappers, for me. Us being '90s babies, I don't think people understand—Shaq had hit records in the '90s.
Both [in unison]: "No Hooks."
Ken: I would produce a whole album for Shaq.
Tai: OK, I think I'm looking at the Clippers jerseys right now. The one with the circle, I don't know what to think of it.
Ken: Not feeling that. If you're not a Clippers fan and you're just tuning into the NBA, you can't tell who that is.
Tai: Well, I have a different perspective on this. I think it's better for branding, and focuses on the center [of the jersey]. It looks cool, like they're playing overseas or something. It's gonna be good with merch, fans like switching stuff up. It's dope, to be honest.
SI.com: If you guys had to compare DJing and producing to a sport, what would it be?
Tai: Hmm ... We're a duo, so we'd have to work with each other.
Ken: It's like tennis. When you have doubles matches, not only are you watching your opponent, you're watching your partner and his opponent as well. You have to move in harmony to win the match. When I'm DJing I have to know what my brother's doing. The people you're going against are the audience, you have to understand them and what you're partner's doing on stage.
SI.com: Any parting thoughts?
Tai: I think the Warriors are gonna win it all over again.
Ken: I think the Clippers will be a contending team, after they pulled the DeAndre Jordan move they know what they're doing this season. I wanna see the Bulls, Cleveland. I wanna see how Kyrie's going to change his game. One, he's gotta wear ankle braces and two, he needs to realize he's not giving enough assists. I'm excited for the season. And football season.