To the left, view the interview FouKi and Koriass gave to Paroles & Musique Editor Eric Parazelli about the Génies en herbe album, as a complement to this article.
“Mike is a natural. He always has great ideas. He’s truly fascinating to watch,” says Ruffsound at the other end of the line, talking about QuietMike, 13 years his junior. FouKi’s unwavering ally also has nice words for the guy he considers to be one of his mentors: “He’s a true warrior. He’s always evolving. It’s quite motivating.”
Marc Vincent has followed a warrior’s course. When he landed on the rap scene in the 2000s, there were few successful models to look up to for Quebec beat-makers. The young musician from Laval produced his “first potable beat” in 2005, Yvon Krevé’s “J’représente.” The firepower of his compositions drew the attention of other local rap music greats, including Connaisseur Ticaso, Imposs, and Sans Pression – who called upon his services, as would several leaders of the new Rap québ’ wave (Yes Mccan, Souldia, Rymz) a few years later. Since then, the Ruffsound name has not only become synonymous with quality, but also with popularity, as evidenced by “Toutes les femmes savent danser” (by Loud), “Cinq à sept” (by Koriass), and “iPhone” (by FouKi) – three songs he’s co-produced, that are among the few pieces of their kind that have found commercial radio success.
The last of those three songs was coproduced with QuietMike. At the young age of 23, this producer already has a number of accomplishments to his credit; most are attributable to his work with FouKi, with whom he’s been developing outstanding chemistry since high school. QuietMike was introduced to beat-making at the very beginning of the decade, a time when he was exploring the possibilities of finger drumming on his MPC Machine. He hit a home run in 2017 with “Gayé,” a folk/reggae-tinged piece based on a sample from a song by the Moroccan artist Hindi Zahra.
That song was Ruffsound’s first contact with Mike’s repertoire. “I was floored,” says the veteran producer. “What a big jam!” Mike also has nothing but praise for Ruffsound’s work: “My initial contact with [Ruff’s music] was Koriass’s ‘Montréal-Nord’ and ‘Devenir fou,’” he says. “FouKi had introduced me to that, and I couldn’t believe how well done it was.”
So, it was with unmitigated enthusiasm that the two artists undertook their first-ever collaboration, in 2019, on “iPhone” and “No Offense” (both FouKi songs). “It was cool and super organic,” says Ruffsound. “We ordered griot music and made beats. If you’re somewhat familiar with Mike and his squad, you know that nothing’s ever complicated with them.”
“I’ll admit that I was kind of flabbergasted during our first session,” says Mike. “I had rarely made beats outside my close circle, so I was amazed to witness another technique, another approach. Ruff is less into sampling than I am. He built the track from A to Z.
“What I love doing most is collaborating,” he continues. “It’s really inspiring to all get together in a studio. Something’s lost when everyone is working at home, each in his corner. I’ve gone to U.S. studios with friends, and I was able to see that collaboration is the name of the game there. They have three producers side-by-side with laptops, and the workflow is always pretty fast. The guys are sending loops to one another, and they each work on them.”
It was in that spirit of collaboration that the two producers attended the Koriass and FouKi creative cottage in Morin-Heights last winter. “It all went very quickly,” Ryuffsound recalls. “We were creating beats while the other guys were throwing around ideas, writing verses, or having a beer on the couch. Mocy [the project’s engineer] was recording the guys’ voices as soon as they got moving into the vibe. The main thing is chemistry. You’ve got to be able to joke around and chill out while in the studio. If you keep silent too much, it’s not going to be good.”
“It wasn’t a pace I was quite used to”, says QuietMike. “I was a bit stunned at first, but I ended up learning a lot.”
Many of the beats used for “Génies en herbe” were written over one day when Ruffsound made a brief appearance. Others were re-worked, since they were based on sketches that had already been started with other his beat-making colleagues (Jay Century, June Nawakii, Alex Castillo, Realmind). “When we felt that the guys were a bit less inspired, we fed them beats that we already had on our computers. It always got the session going again right away,” says Ruffsound.
Afterwards, the two producers exchanged mock-ups in order to finalize the album. Rousseau (a producer close to QuietMike) and Pops (the Clay and Friends guitar player) also participated. On account of the pandemic, Koriass and FouKi also had to finalize the album separately. “We were good responsible citizens, we didn’t cheat… Actually, FouKi was going to, but we stopped him,” jokes Ruffsound.
Since then, the veteran Ruffsound has started to enjoy his work with the young prodigy QuietMike. “We’re going to work together again, that’s for sure,” he promises. “Yeah, but it might be awhile…” cautions Mike in reference to the COVID-19 social distancing measures.
“I’m now sprucing up my gazebo to be able to entertain people,” adds his obviously more optimistic accomplice. “My backyard studio is going to be unbelievable!”