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Nice Dreams Dirty Trips: Jean Kengz on combining North American rap with French production

Paris, FR – Earlier this year, French producer Jean Kengz teamed up with Mrzn, Young L3X and G Milla for this brand new international collaboration track titled “Nice Dreams Dirty Trips”. This is the fourth single release off Jean’s upcoming project titled The Substance.

“Nice Dreams Dirty Trips” is a French produced track fused with Canadian and American raps. The song is rooted in the idea of escapism, and having to temporarily leave reality in order to get your mind right and find your route to success.

The track features verses from Boston, MA artist Young L3x; Miramar, FL artist Mrzn; and Toronto’s own G Milla (who also contributed the track’s hook).

The beat for this track started off with a guitar riffed sample that eventually led into the rest of the composition. Jean wanted to play with the idea of duality so he divided the song up into two distinct drum-lined parts: the calm part, and the turn-up part. And the overall vibe of the song definitely plays off that juxtaposition. It’s one-part bounce, and one-part dreamy calm vibes. Take in “Nice Dreams Dirty Trips” below, and scope our in-depth Q&A with Jean after the jump.

Nice Dreams Dirty Trips: Jean Kengz on combining North American rap with French production -

Q&A: Jean Kengz

HipHopCanada: Start off by telling me about the significance of this track to you on a personal level.

Jean Kengz: Well, to be honnest, after working with a lot of US and Canadian indie artists, I decided to bring some French touch to the US underground rap game with a compliation project called THE SUBSTANCE. The concept of this project is to give vibrant music with different subject matter, thanks to exclusive collaborations between artists over dope beats hand crafted by myself. To date I have more than 20 artists on the said album. The album is almost done and set to be released later this year. As the fourth single to be released out of my compilation, this song is pivotal as it represents another style that I have developped by bringing a more ambiant vibe to my sound. And on a more personal note, I really like this song because of the motivational and uplifting thematic that represents based on a duality that we all face as individual: reality versus imagination!

HipHopCanada: On a technical level, walk me through how you built this beat.

Jean Kengz: If I had to walk you through my production process and reveal some secret ingredients, I’ll have to kill you after. Hahahha. Just kidding. More seriously, I did this beat maybe two or three years ago… I started the beat with the sample that I found deep and melodic; especially the electric guitar riff that I put on the beginning and on the hook structure. Once I heard it I felt like it was magic! I would say this guitar was the icing on the cake. So I built the loop first. Once I got the melodic aspects done I wanted this beat to be an antithesis with a smooth, cloudy melody meeting an energical drum rythmic session! So it was in this “duality” state of mind that I played the drums. And you can clearly ear that there are two parts: a part where the beat is more calmer, then a part where you feel like the beat accelerates and goes off. After I layed the kick and the snare, I added some spice to it (hi-hat, shakers and bell) to give it more groove and it was pretty much done. For the bass section I just followed the melody but I kept it very light on the bass for the melody to keep that ambiant atmosphere. My engineer did great work mixing the beat also. He kept the original sound and optimized it. I really cleaned up all the elements and made it sound exactly like I wanted: high melodic with bouncy drums that hit hard.

HipHopCanada: Talk to me about each collaborator you brought on board for this and why you specifically chose to work with Mrzn, Young L3X, and G Milla.

Jean Kengz: For this whole project I talked with a lot of artists about the project I was putting together and what I envisioned. And honestly it was hard to find the right artists for the right records. But with Mrzn, G Milla and Young L3X, it started with conversations about working together. We did a couple of songs with Young L3X for his own project to be released. But with the two other guys the fun part is that before that project we never worked together. We were already in contact but we never materialized. So I was speaking to each of them individually for a while and all three of them where down to contribute to this project. So from that I have sent them several beats with concepts and all three liked that beat in particular. I think the first one to lay his parts was Young L3X (he is also featured on another song on the project), then G Milla came with the hook and his verse. And the last one to lay his parts was Mrzn. It wasn’t that difficult to put the song together as all three of them killed it. I really feel like there’s a good chemistry with each of their voices and flows. It was just exactly what I envisioned.

HipHopCanada: Explain the title “Nice Dreams Dirty Trips” to me, and the significance of that.

Jean Kengz: I would say this… Sometimes escaping reality gives the perfect getaway to have a better overview on things. And once back from that trip, one can be more motivated on making a dream come true. So we tried to describe what “Nice Dreams Dirty Trips” are by taking people on a journey with nice dreams of success that can in some cases be fueled by substances and turn into bad trips. Like it’s not necessarily a bad thing to escape reality if it allows you to dig deep in yourself and find the drive to make your reality match your dreams.

HipHopCanada: I really like how this track has an international flavour because you have representation from all over. It’s a mix of Canadian and American flows over top of French production. How would you describe that fusion of sounds?

Jean Kengz: That fusion came naturally. Music is universal. So is hip-hop. Personally, I grew up in DR Congo where the musical culture is strong. Of course I was listening to Congolese music and legends like Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Tabu Ley (that’s where my sound comes from)… But when young Congolese got really into hip-hop (late ’80s, early ’90s) it was well received and became one the major cultural movements. In France as well… hip-hop as been a major culture for 30 years. The market here is quite big and diverse. I think this collaboration is a great representation of the state of the art in hip-hop today as each of us has different backgrounds, come from different places, and have different styles. But we were able to work on something cohesive. And the other great thing is that each one came with his own sound and style and it matched. This was organic. This is what art is all about!

HipHopCanada: In terms of regional sound, what do you like best about the Canadian sound and the American sound. Or do you even notice a difference in Canadian versus US flow and style?

Jean Kengz: The Americans are the originator, in terms of hip-hop. And they will always be. Their sound and style comes from their history and culture. But the great thing in life – and art in general – is that you can be an originator and dominate one subject, but it doesn’t prevent others [from mastering] the same subject as well as you, and even to add their touch on it until they make it theirs. I think that’s what Canadians did because they had to develop their own sound and vibe like we did here in France in the ’90s [and] early ’00s. The Canadian sound is refreshing. It brought that cloudy, underwater, deep and melodic vibe. The interesting part is the mix between pure hip-hop and Caribbean sound, i think that’s the big difference between US and Canada. It’s like we did in France; brought an African touch to our hip-hop sound! But like I said… music is universal and what is dope is that there’s a room for every style and we all benefit from that diversity.

Twitter: @JeanKengzbeats | @plainromero | @GMILLAA | @Youngl3x

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Sarah Jay

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Sarah Jay is based in Calgary and works as a freelance journalist and photographer. Sarah is also a former A&R talent scout for the Universal Music Scouting Program, and runs a vintage store during the day. Sarah has juried the JUNO Awards, The Polaris Music Prize, and The Prism Prize. She has been fortunate enough to interview and photograph some of hip-hop's greatest influencers including Future, ScHoolboy Q, Ghostface Killah, Moka Only, Maestro Fresh Wes, Shad, Joey Bada$$, Mac Miller, and more. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @ThisIsSarahJay

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