Getting to know Detroit’s Son Guilty Simpson

Detroit’s Son is coming to Australia. The one and only Guilty Simpson will be linking up with Australian producer Katalyst for his upcoming tour, where the duo will be launching their 2015 album ‘Detroit’s Son’ produced entirely by Australian producer Katalyst. A known favourite of J Dilla, Guilty has worked with some of the best producers in the game, including collaboration albums with Madlib (OJ Simpson, 2010) and Apollo Brown (Dice Game, 2012). Simpson has been a staple of Stones Throw Records since the release of his first album, the critically acclaimed ‘Ode To The Ghetto’ in 2008. A talented lyricist with a hard edge, Guilty gives you his reality in his tracks, painting a portrait of his life, times and surroundings in the city of Detroit. 

We chat to Guilty about his upcoming tour, working with Katalyst, growing up in Detroit and more. Victor McMillan writes

How did you first link up with Katalyst and how did the album develop from there? 

Me and Phat Kat, another Detroit emcee, were over in Australia on tour. He (Katalyst) was already in contact with a couple of people over at Stones Throw. He mentioned us coming over because he had some smoke to offer. Me and Phat Kat went over there just to vibe and kick back and smoke a little bit. He started playing some sick beats, he caught us off guard because we didn’t know he was that dope, you know what I mean. Before long we made the connection and me and Phat Kat did a feature for him a song called ‘War Drums’ that’s on the Quakers album.

Shortly after that I found out that he became my label mate and it was proposed to me about doing an album, and by me previously hearing his beats and knowing what he could do it was just a simple connection you know what I’m sayin'. I just wanted to work with him I think he’s very talented and a very humble dude.

You’ve released a number of projects produced entirely by the one producer, such as Apollo Brown, Madlib. Etc, what is it about this approach that you like?

I like hearing a range of different producers. Sometimes when you have an album that you’re working on you get a bunch of producers to present beats and sometimes you only hear three or four beats from one producer. You kinda don’t really get the depth of what they can do in my opinion. Sometimes when you get around producers they have pre-conceived notions of what they think you might wanna hear so they let you hear those beats. Once you get past those seven or eight beats you might hear the more experimental stuff that they do, and sometimes that’s when you truly find the gems or a track that you might not have normally heard.

I think with one-producer albums it allows me to hear 30 or 40 beats from a producer as opposed to the 3 or 4 I would’ve got. The chances are, by me being an emcee, that I tend to get a lot of producers sending me the same version of their style of beat they want me to be on and I didn’t truly like that.

I guess it gives you a bit more freedom.

Most definitely.

Your album is titled Detroit’s Son, how would you say that growing up in Detroit shaped you as a person?

It shaped me with everything, it made me aware, and it presented me with a certain level of survival skills. Where I might lack in book sense or study sense I gained in common sense. I think a lot of situations that Detroit might present you with, or similar to any ghetto or rough inner city area, you know, you have to have a certain kind of awareness about yourself, where you are, your surroundings, and everything that’s going on around you.

I think it presented me with a certain set of skills and it also allowed me to get to know people a little bit deeper than the surface. Usually when you think of Detroit, you know, some people might think that it’s so crime ridden that the people don’t really have a vibe for each other, they don’t really communicate and show love to each other but it’s totally the contrary here. Living here gives you a better understanding of the city, something that other people wouldn’t take the time to indulge in or be able to get a true understanding of what the city is from the outside looking in. It’s a very unique place but I think it prepares me to be able to survive anywhere.

Since 2008 the struggles in Detroit have been well documented, how do you see the state of the city in 2016?

It’s beautiful, it’s great, it’s on the way back up. In fact, it’s funny enough that I’m talking to you now, I just watched president Obama give a speech. He was in Detroit today basically talking about the nice bounce back of the auto industry here and about how cars are selling here again. There are a lot of different things going on in Detroit but really the heart of it is the auto industry and as long as cars are selling, the city will thrive. Not only Ford, General Motors and Chrysler but the smaller companies that supply them with parts to go with the cars, those are the people that truly suffer when the cars aren’t selling. Now that the economy is doing a lot better and the American dollar is a lot stronger and the cars are selling, the city is really bouncing back. Some of the best Detroit days are ahead and you should be able to see them in the next 2-3 years.

What can the fans expect from your upcoming tour?

I don’t like to separate but true hip-hop with no motive, I’m not really trying to sell them a lifestyle that, you know, I haven’t been directly involved in. I’m not really selling trendy music and selling brands and stuff like that. Really I’m just selling myself, the honesty through the music, a true hip-hop experience based only lyrics and rhymes. There won’t necessarily be a lot of call and response and ‘throw your hands in the air and say ho’. It will be commentary with my songs and just truly vibing out with the people. And Katalyst, luckily I’ll be with him, he’s gonna be playing a lot of my music that I’ve done with him, music I haven’t done with him but anything that a true fan of me might be familiar with from the J Dilla stuff to the Apollo Brown and stuff with Madlib. It’ll be like a collage of a lot of different stuff; hopefully the people can come out and enjoy it.

What Stimulates Your Soul? 

Family stimulates my soul. Not only relatives, because you don’t get a chance to pick your relatives, you’re born into this world and you’re related to people but your family, your friends, the people you hold close to you, including those relatives, your friends that you choose to be in your life, that’s family. That’s everything to me and I think that’s what builds character.

You can catch Guilty, along with Katalyst, on their ‘Detroit’s Son’ tour at the dates listed below:

30th January – Transit Bar, Canberra City

31st January – Laundry Bar, Melbourne

5th February – Plan B Small Club, Sydney

6th February – Mojo’s Bar, Perth




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Guilty Simpson Mix by Mike Who