Joel and Benji Madden Team With Wiz Khalifa, Kreayshawn for Mix Tape: Track-By-Track
Good Charlotte’s founding brothers tell THR how the 12 jams of “Before” came to be, and reveal plans for a volume 2 and an acoustic album.
In the same breath that Joel and Benji Madden announced their first free mix tape as the Madden Brothers (out now via SoundCloud), they also informed the world that Good Charlotte was going on hiatus. That’s not to say that the two were benching their music career or swapping rock for hip-hop, however. What many people may not know is that the Maddens have been DJing for years while also mentoring developing artists in their Los Angeles studio. So another unexpected side project was, well, not unexpected.
Still, their frustration with the music industry prompted a different kind of album. “A lot of executives and people in the industry just seem scared,” Benji tells the Hollywood Reporter. “Whether they admit it or not. And I feel like this is the most exciting time in music.”
Indeed, following the lead of successful rap artists like Drake, the brothers took the mix tape route -- with no calculation. “It was just a project that we wanted to do and enjoy ourselves,” says Joel. “We’re not starting a hip hop career, it’s just musical expression.”
Before, as they titled volume 1 of their future mix tape series, features artists such as Kreayshawn, Wiz Khalifa, Machine Gun Kelly and Rockie Fresh. In an exclusive track-by-track, Joel, who's married to reality TV star and style icon Nicole Richie, and Benji explain how the album’s 12 tracks came to be.
As for what’s up next for the 32-year-old twins? A new acoustic album being executive produced by Pharrell Williams and due out in 2012. Volume 2 of their mix tape series is also due out this year.
“Let Go” (feat. Mestizo, Hollywood Holt, Cassie Veggies)
Joel Madden: “All of our songs have a deeper meaning to a simple lyric. This one is about how at the end of the night, this girl has to let go of you. And there’s another meaning: letting go of stress and all the bullshit. That’s why it’s the first track on the record, because it was us being, like, ‘Let’s make a mix tape, have a good time, we have no standards to live up to and no one to impress. We’ll just have fun with artists we love, friends of ours and people that want to be involved.’ It sets the tone for the whole project.”
“Oh My God (OMGMGK)” (feat. Machine Gun Kelly)
Benji Madden: “When our band came out, we were the underdogs. Even when we were the biggest we’ve ever been, we were never critics’ darlings. How many cool hipster magazines have ever given props to us? So we’re always going to have that outsider kind of vibe, especially when it comes to the music industry. With Machine Gun Kelly, that’s totally his vibe, too. That’s why he was into our music when he was a kid -- he identified with that. We reached out to him on twitter, found him on youtube before he got signed. I saw him at SXSW and immediately thought, ‘This kid is dope.’ I liked his whole vibe and his attitude. That’s one thing about Joel and I: it’s hard for us to work with people we don’t vibe with. These aren’t forced collaborations, we genuinely get along with everyone on the mix tape. I think you can feel it.”
“Take Me Back To Teenage Crime” (feat. Rockie Fresh)
JM: “The chorus is: ‘Where did all the years go? / Can someone take me back to when things were simple?” Essentially, it’s your mind when you’re a teenager – a kind of nostalgia, like, ‘I wish I could go back just for a day.’ It’s also a play on the title because it’s a sample from [electro artist] Adrian Lux, who has a track called ‘Teenage Crime.’”
“My years of mischief came at 18 or 19. I was a late bloomer because me and my brother were so focused on music. But then when we got in the van on tour and it was like the endless summer -- we were kids hooking up with girls, getting into stupid fights. I remember going to a college somewhere and lighting off fireworks at a frat house. And for this project, the point was to go back to the love of music and when things were pure.”
“Firetruck” (feat. Kreayshawn, Hollywood Holt)
BM: When Kreayshawn first put out “Bumpin Bumpin,” Joel was, like, ‘Check this chick out, she’s so dope!’ So he reached out to her, she came to LA and we hit it off. We could see immediately how talented and how original she is. She doesn’t need much direction… From a producer standpoint, giving her too much direction would be screwing up the process.”
JM: “I’m big on YouTube, I’m always searching for the new kids. I found Kreayshawn when “Bumpin Bumpin” only had 50,000 views. I went up to San Francisco to see her play at a show with, like, 30 people and when we did the song with her, it was before “Gucci Gucci” was even on YouTube.”
“The Right Track (So Cold)” (feat. Rockie Fresh)
BM: “Rockie (Fresh) and I were sitting around one day talking about dreams and getting inspired and that song came about. We came up with that hook together and Rockie wrote some if the verses, but this was one song that was really easy. I had put the acoustic guitar down, and he really liked it. While we were finishing up the [instrumental] tracks, Rockie wrote his verses and did his thing. He, like Casey Veggies, is definitely one to watch.”
“In The Night” (feat. Wiz Khalifa, Detail)
BM: “We hit up my friend Detail, who’s a songwriter that’s had many hits with R&B guys. He was going in the studio with Wiz Khalifa, who we had met and thought he was dope. We did the song in, like, 20 minutes -- just wrote the hook and he put the verses down. We had that song and it never got used so we asked Wiz if he would mind if we put it on the mix tape. And everybody said cool.”
“The Trees” (feat. The Cool Kids)
JM: “We got hooked up with The Cool Kids through one of my best friends Nigel, who goes by Hollywood Holt, and now I’m friends with them. For some reason, we have a very deep connection with Chicago where all the kids show us a lot of love. These Kids are on their own wavelength and they do their own thing -- they created the whole vibe of this song, they picked the beat and completely wrote that song. All we did was the production, then they ran with it. But I love ‘The Trees.’ I think they really killed that one.”
“Treated!” (Freestyle Interlude, feat. Hollywood Holt)
BM: “Hollywood Holt heard that little beat and he was, like ‘Yo, let me get in the booth real quick.’ He did it in 10 minutes. The Treated crew is Hollywood and Mana’s crew in Chicago. Hollywood is like family to us, so we’re way down with Treated crew. Hollywood and his cousin Mano, who is Kanye’s DJ, have been really supportive in this whole process. They were the first to tell us to do the mix tape and they gave us the confidence to be ourselves.”
“Doin’ My Thing” (feat. Tayyib Ali)
JM: “Lyrically, this is about doing your own thing and not really caring about anyone else. Tayyib Ali is on it. He’s this young, unsigned up and comer from Philadelphia. I’ve got strong ties to Philly -- I love the city and the artists from there, so I’m excited about this new rapper. I think Tayyib is awesome and has so much potential. With this track, Tayyib took the beat that he loved and cut verses. I was going to lay a hook, but that line “Doin’ my thing” really stood out to me for some reason. So I cut it up and chopped it up and made it the chorus. Originally, I was gonna sing on the song, but then it was, like, this doesn’t really need our vocals. Tayyib killed it and it sounds good with just him.”
“Made it Happen” (feat. Billy Blue)
JM: “This track was very special – and weird, since it’s very poppy in a way. It’s not easy for anyone to get on there and rap. A few people tried and it just didn’t sound right. Then we were down in Miami working with Pharrell on an acoustic record, and Billy Blue, who’s a new rapper on Interscope, was at the studio working with someone else. He came in, we started talking and hit it off. And Billy was like, ‘Yo, if you have any tracks, I would love to jump on there.’ Right away, he liked this track and in an hour-and-a-half from start to finish, he just murdered it. It was kind of a sleeper but ended up being one of my favorites. Because he’s so Dirty South -- like a gangster rapper. It’s a weird mix, but it works.
“Diamonds” (feat. Dirtywaters, Arkangel)
BM: “We wanted to throw a little electro in there and this is a track that I like to spin when I DJ.”
JM: “In 2007 we made a dance-y rock record and got ripped apart for it. But Dance Floor Anthem is still one of my favorite Good Charlotte Records. When it came out, we were ahead of the curve and I’ll stand by that. We’re not interested in trying to make Good Charlotte into anything other than what it is and that’s why Benji and I are doing these other projects. We have an electro EP coming out this year with 12th Planet and a bunch of other people.”
“A Million Tears”
JM: “At the surface, this is a love song with much deeper meaning for me. That’s why it’s the last track on the mix tape. It’s like, some people you may care about, others you don’t. Some days are good, some are bad. You have a million things you’re always having to deal with. Life is full of your own wins and losses, but it’s what you choose to perceive. For me, a million tears is all that shit -- we only get one life, we one heart, one mind. Sometimes we only get one chance, so you have to really understand how special you are, how important life is, how important your job is. You have to give yourself the credit and the opportunity to succeed before you shoot yourself down. It’s a positive message, whether it’s with love or life or money or whatever you make it about -- your dreams and hopes.
All people are looking for love and happiness. We all want to feel important. We all want to be noticed. We all want to be what we dreamed of being. And all the other bullshit and people in the world, they get in the way of us getting to experience happiness. Like with our music, we’re just trying to give people three minutes of a smile. Maybe we don’t always succeed, but we’re always trying.”