Every time I talk to N.O. Joe, I learn something new.

When I spoke to him last year during the massive press run over Scarface’s seminal 1994 album The Diary, the conversation jumped around from Face to UGK and how he reacted to watching Bun B recite “Murder” in one take. When I sat down with him and his young protege Spuf Don at his Stafford, TC hub to discuss Deeply Rooted, I learned that he literally produces by ear. If he hears a sound or a sample, he can easily bring it up by knowing the exact instruments used to make it. In a way, N.O. Joe is a genius and is probably growing into one of my favorite music conversations on Earth.

AllHipHop spoke with Joe and he broke down not only the particular organ that he introduced to Southern hip-hop (B3 Organ) but his early days producing for the Geto Boys and more.

On live instrumentation
“Actually, on Til Death Do Us Part, there’s a live version in the Rap-A-Lot vault somewhere. We of course recorded the kind of sample version, but I wanted to take the next step. Let’s play this stuff live. It was voted out [laughs], and within the next year Dr. Dre came out and he had a lot of live playing on his. And that when the eyes opened like, “Wow.” We had a live album and didn’t put it out. I always like to move in advance; I like to stay ahead of the curve. As long as the artists give me my freedom, I can move everything to the next level. But I understand that it’s a lot of money on the line to experiment.”

Inspiring the sound of the South
“Subliminally, this is pretty much how it’s broken down – I gave the south its soul. With the synths- that was kind of West Coast, the drums were kind of East Coast. The bottom end was southern. So when those things blended together perfectly, that’s why a lot of people like it. The music was from the south, but you couldn’t say that it was southern music. Even coming from down south where we wasn’t really up on the times, I had kind of an advantage because I started in New York and I was able to see a lot of things in New York that I could bring down south, but not have it have such a New York sound.”

Merging His Sound With The Sound Of Now
“I would partially credit a group called The Classmates that I produced in 2010 which included Spuf Don and Travis Scott for us bridging the music together making it more youthful and that’s what Spuf Don and I are doing on Spuf’s new project as well. People slept on Spuf and Travis because it was ahead of it’s time and I’m glad Kanye and T.I.P saw what I saw. On the new Scarface Deeply Rooted, 22 year old Spuf Don co-produced three records. He’s been seeing me produce for Scarface for a minute and was a Scarface fan, so that’s why he was able to help keep the youthful part of it authentic. When producing different artists, I always like to get into the artist’s mind and with Travis Scott gaining the attention grabbing the number 3 spot on billboard and Scarface 20 years plus still at the top of billboard on his new release. It lets me know I was on to something, so be on the look out for Spuf Don coming up this month.”

You can read the full interview which breaks down his recordings with Pimp C, The Odd Squad and the difference from being a NYC R&B producer to one of the mavens behind Southern hip-hop here.