Catching Up With The Traphouse Jodeci

By Ishmael Brown

From listening to his first rap album at 17 to becoming the Traphouse Jodeci, writing and producing some of your favorite hip-hop and R&B records since 2012, Indiana-native Ye Ali has grown exponentially within the music industry. His transition from artist manager, to rapper, to producer has revealed his ability to shine across various landscapes, and it has been exciting to watch him in real time. In anticipation of his newest project, “Private Suite 2,” we caught up with the now Los Angeles-based artist during his trip to NYC last week to talk about his creative process, his upcoming project, and his interests outside of music. Here’s what he had to say:

Ye Ali, wearing SOLTAU, photographed by Chioma Nwana.

For our readers who don’t know, what is your name, where are you from, and what do you do?

My name is Ye Ali, AKA Traphouse Jodeci. I am from Indiana, and I am a producer and rapper.

You’ve said that someone else gave you the nickname “Traphouse Jodeci” and that you didn’t even like the name at first. Can you give us some background on the name and what it signifies?

Yeah. I used to DJ parties in college, and I would play the afterset, so a lot of chopped and screwed R&B, all the Jodeci and shit like that. One of my older frat brothers had—the frat house was called “The Traphouse,” so he just called me “Traphouse Jodeci” because I played Jodeci a lot.

What frat were you in?

Kappa Alpha Psi.

As a producer, I appreciate the fact that you’re an artist who can hop on his own beats. But which skill came first? Did you start as an artist who discovered that you also had the ear to produce? Or did you start as a producer who realized that you also had the talent to be a dope artist?

I didn’t start on either. I started managing artists in college, so I was on the PR side. I was always popular on social media, so I just used that to push certain artists I went to school with. And then working with them, they told me I had an ear for beats—picking beats for them. That made me sample dig and tell producers what to sample. Basically, I would get into production because I was co-producing because I provided the sample. I didn’t know that was a thing. That just made me just say I was a producer. But that was before I even made a beat. I didn’t make a beat ‘till like 2017, or some shit like that.

So this is really recent.

Yeah. But before that, I was an artist first—like a rapper first. After the management thing.

Which DAW do you use to make beats?

Sometimes Logic or Fruity Loops. It just depends on which producer I’m collaborating with and what I’m exactly doing. If I’m not using a sample, I’ll just use Logic, but if I’m using a sample, usually the Serato sampler into Fruity Loops. Shoutout to my boy Bizness Boi—he taught me that. But yeah, it just depends on who I’m working with and what they’re more comfortable with. I’m not super comfortable with either, so I can work a little bit in both. I don’t really have a preference.

What is your creative process of making a beat?

Being alone, first. I just do my part first—smoke, think of some ideas. If I’m sampling, find some cool samples. If I’m sampling myself, figure out what vocals to use. Yeah, so usually just being alone and then showing it to my homie, and then I might play something on the keys and put it on my story. He’d be like, “Yo, send it to me.” I’ll format it, and then I’ll send him the video of me playing the keys and 30 minutes later, the beat sounds like it could be like, ScHoolboy Q and YG on it. I give him artists that I think would like the piano keys and the melody. So, yeah. Usually just solo, and then I send it to one of the homies.

For you, what’s the biggest difference between songwriting and making a beat?

In the industry, you only get paid for one of them, which is producing, unless you’re very tied in. A lot of writers don’t get paid. That’s really why I started calling myself a producer. I write on almost everything I produce, in some way. I don’t like to label myself a songwriter. Producing, I think, is more of an acceptable term. It’s more broad. Producers write the melody to the song. So whoever made the beat, if you’re singing their melody, that producer technically wrote the song too. He wrote the melody. So, it’s like that. It just covers all bases.

Can we expect anything from you in the next half of the year?

Yeah, I’ve got a project coming out in June, “Private Suite 2,” which is a follow up to a tape I dropped in 2016 which was like my first official project. So, yeah, follow up with that. Fans knew me from there. Mostly rapping and some R&B stuff, so we’re just going back to the same format of a few R&B songs and more rap, too. You know, I kinda got away from that from my first project just because once people told me they liked the R&B, I just mostly did that. But the rap stuff is sometimes just more fun for me to do and easier to create and I don’t have to think as hard, you know?

If the entire landscape of music changed tomorrow, what would you do instead?

I’m not trying to be funny, but first it would be a pornstar. Like if all else fails and shit, I know I could be that nigga in porn. No doubt about it.

Feature films or just short snippets?

I’m talking about the porn where you press play, and I’m already banging. No acting. But aside from those aspirations, I would probably model or act. Some things that I’m kinda doing already.

Are you acting already?

Nah, but people have been trying to get me into it, so I’ve just got to find time to dedicate to taking some classes and stuff like that before I jump all the way into it.

Chioma NwanaComment