Music News

Lifted Aims for Timeless Pop, Like His Boss Kanye West

Exactly what you're going to hear and see on Kanye West's upcoming Cruel Summer compilation and short film is a guarded secret. Originally rumored to drop on August 7, the release now is scheduled for September 4 via G.O.O.D. Music and Def Jam, but none of that is to say that the album couldn't unexpectedly show up on iTunes at any minute, the way Jay-Z and West's Watch the Throne and recent digital splash Channel Orange by Frank Ocean did.

Boasting a potential roster of Ocean, Jay Electronica, Marsha Ambrosius , Q-Tip, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Common, Mr Hudson, Cyhi da Prince, Mos Def, Teyana Taylor, Malik Yusuf, members of Odd Future, Jay-Z, and who-knows-who-else, it's the most anticipated hip-hop release of the year. The rumors surrounding the release are rampant.

But one thing is for sure: You'll hear the certified platinum single "Mercy," featuring 2 Chainz, Big Sean, and Pusha-T, on the album. The track's producer, a native Phoenician who goes by the name Lifted, isn't sure what and who will make the final release, but he knows that much.

"Shit changes every day, so who knows?" he says taking a drag of a cigarette outside Marmera Studios in Phoenix. "I don't know what's going to end up on the album, but I saw a production worksheet the other day, and I had a few production credits."

Lifted has been living in the accelerated lane since West took a shine to his "Lambo" beat, featuring the pitch-shifted vocals of Phoenix-via-Detroit rapper YB on the infamous "Lamborghini mercy / Your chick she so thirsty" hook. "His tone is so crazy to pitch down, to screw. His voice normal is cool, but there's something special about his tone shifted down."

The track passed from the hands of Marmera owner Iroc to producer/director Che Vicious, who got the beat into the hands of the G.O.O.D. Music staff.

"I got a call from Che — like, 'G.O.O.D. Music likes one of your joints,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, whatever,'" Lifted says. "Because we hear shit all the time. I'll go run and tell everyone and it doesn't happen. So I didn't say shit this time. Then I hear Kanye likes it, and I'm like, no way. Shit. This is crazy. Now we're talking. Next call was, 'Kanye wants to sign you' [as a producer]."

A backstage look at the Watch the Throne tour followed, then sessions with West in L.A., London, and New York. The beat took on new layers courtesy of West and producers Mike Dean and Hudson Mohawke — a Scarface sample, the dancehall sounds of the Fuzzy Jones intro, and the prominent melody of Super Beagle's "Dust a Sound Boy." Upon its digital-only release, the song went to number one on both the US Billboard Hot Rap Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.

Back in the studio, Lifted cues up new beats he's working on. Lifted's frequent collaborator Hannibal Leq (who promises he'll be platinum before long, as well) is on hand, rapping over a few snippets of his upcoming album, produced entirely by Lifted, and nods his head to the selection of sounds: vintage alt-rock guitars, sweeping post-rock twinkle, the powerful pop vocals of singer Sam Bruno, dubstep-inspired drops, and soundtrack-quality swaths of Middle Eastern-inspired arpeggios (a direct nod to Qatar, where the Cruel Summer film was shot).

Some of the tracks may wind up employed by Lifted's hip-pop band The New F-Os, or they could wind up on a G.O.O.D. music release. "I'm trying to make real big, huge-sounding shit," Lifted says. "I'm trying to make timeless music."

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.