The name Kevin Rudolf may not ring a bell, but if you’ve heard the Rock guitar chops and solo’s on Timbaland productions, chances are Kevin Rudolf is the man behind them. Not many musicians can say they’ve worked with legends, but he was enlisted as guitarist on smash-hits ranging from Lil’ Kim ‘The Jump Off’ to Nelly Futardo’s ‘Say It Right’, and Timbaland’s ‘Scream’ - featuring Nicole Scherzinger and Keri Hilson. The New York-raised musician stepped out of the role as guitarist to produce tracks for down south rappers David Banner and Lil’ Flip.
But his talent doesn’t finish at guitarist and producer; ‘Let It Rock’ is the debut single by Miami-based singer-songwriter and features man-of-the-moment and label mate Lil’ Wayne. Having already seen success in the US - peaking at #5 on the Billboard 100 singles as well as being re-named ‘Let Philly Rock’ and adopted by World Series winning baseball team Philadelphia Phillies - this Rock/Pop x Hip-Hop genre-bending single is lifted from the Cash Money Records released album ‘In The City’ - an effort which is written and produced by the man himself, and boasts features from Rick Ross, Birdman and Nas.
Marvin Sparks caught up with Kevin Rudolf to discuss his fascination with the guitar, linking up with Timbaland, working with Lil’ Wayne and more.
Marvin Sparks: When did your interest in playing music begin?
Kevin Rudolf: I started playing the guitar when I was about 12. It wasn’t even an interest in music, really - it was an interest in guitars. I saw one in the store and thought I’d like to either learn how to play it or just jump around with it - some energy just drew me towards it.
Marvin Sparks: What affect did growing up in New York have on you musically?
Kevin Rudolf: I was exposed to a lot of different cultures, styles and life experiences at an early stage. Some of my friends burned out and can’t function anymore, and fortunately, I have been able to pull it together, write about it and make some music that I can feel. I’m writing about New York - I’m using it as a muse. It’s like a landscape to write on and that’s what I write my stories.
Marvin Sparks: Who are your musical influences?
Kevin Rudolf: I’ve been through a few different phases musically; I’ve gone through phases where I only wanted to be a guitar player and I loved Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen. Then I went through a phase where I wanted to make beats - I was putting down the guitar and just wanted to make beats so I listened to Timbaland, Dr. Dre and The Neptunes. And I’ve gone through phases where I wanted to be a songwriter, so I just wanted to focus on playing the guitar and I loved Bono, Sting and Phil Collins, great 80s songs, 60s songs and 70s songs, and soul music. I’ve gone through many phases and now that I am doing what I’m doing they all come together. I draw from all those different periods of times in my life.
Marvin Sparks: How did your working relationship with Timbaland begin?
Kevin Rudolf: I was introduced through a friend named Jimmy Douglas who was mixing and engineering his records. I ran into [Jimmy Douglas] on the street after meeting him a few times and said ‘Man, I’d love to watch you and Timbaland work’ and he said ‘Well, why don`t you come by tonight?’ I went by and I had been a huge fan of his work and brought my guitar - because I was a confident guitar player and wanted to have something to offer - and I didn`t want to feel like I was just sitting there. He plugged me in and I ended up playing a song called ‘The Jump Off‘.
Marvin Sparks: The Lil’ Kim song?
Kevin Rudolf: Yeah - and that’s how it started.
Marvin Sparks: What did you learn from that experience in regards to your own producing?
Kevin Rudolf: Well, that’s really why I hung around him - because I wanted to learn. I learned about beats, I learned about textures, I learned about drums, and how to make records sound a certain way. I learned not to over-think things, to go with your instincts, the elements contained in a hit-record. I learned a lot from him.
Marvin Sparks: How would you describe your music?
Kevin Rudolf: I don’t describe it, I let the people decide. I take what’s authentic about Rock, what‘s authentic about Hip-Hop and what’s great about great songs and combine them together when I write, when I produce, and when I make beats. I don’t ever usually describe the music. It’s a fusion of different styles and I’ll let the fans decide.
Marvin Sparks: You are classed as the first Rock/Pop artist to be released by Cash Money. What made you choose a predominantly Hip-Hop label over a conventional Rock/Pop one?
Kevin Rudolf: I was working with them as a producer and writer on a couple of their projects and I played them some of my solo stuff and they loved it. It was just natural. They said they wanted to sign it and put it out, we want to branch out into some different directions too - I think it will be a good match. At the same time, the great part about the urban world is they don’t over-think things or try to control you; they just let you do what you do - and Cash Money has let me do what I wanted to do, which is really rare in this day and age.
Marvin Sparks: With Hip-Hop sales declining of late, do you see other Hip-Hop labels venturing into different genres such as Rock and Pop?
Kevin Rudolf: I don’t think it’s something someone has done as a financial decision; I think there is a general crossing-over of genre’s and coming together. I think things are changing. I think a lot of Hip Hop people have loved Rock for a very long time and want to do something in it and now are taking the chance.
Marvin Sparks: Have you met Jay Sean?
Kevin Rudolf: Yeah, I have actually; he’s a really nice guy and we will actually be doing some work together.
Marvin Sparks: Any info on when we can expect an album from him?
Kevin Rudolf: I can’t speak for his album; what I’ve heard of it sounds real great and I’m going to be apart of it.
Marvin Sparks: Your single ‘Let It Rock’ features label mate Lil’ Wayne. What’s he like to have around?
Kevin Rudolf: Wayne’s dope; I’m proud to have him on my album. I’m lucky and blessed to be part of the family. He blessed my first single and it’s done great, and I’m producing a few more records for his next album - I‘m excited about that - and hopefully we‘ll be working more in the future.
Marvin Sparks: What can fans expect to hear when they buy your album, ‘In This City’?
Kevin Rudolf: It’s eclectic, really diverse; it’s different than - I think - anything that has come out for a long time, yet it fits into the culture today. There are a lot of features on it - well not a lot of features, but it’s got Nas on there. That’s a song that’s all New York references that I wrote, and he jumped on it - his verse is ridiculous. Rick Ross is on a song called `Welcome To The World`, and Birdman is on there, so we’ve got the Cash Money family on there.
Marvin Sparks: What has been the highlight of your career, so far?
Kevin Rudolf: The highlight of my career has been the single ‘Let It Rock’ blowing up the way it has. We have sold a million records in the US already, it’s in the top 5 - huge hit - and I ‘m really excited about the exposure I’m getting from that, because I think that there is a lot more to the album than people are expecting just from hearing ‘Let It Rock’.
Marvin Sparks: Having worked with many modern day greats, what would you say is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Kevin Rudolf: I wouldn’t say I got any straight up advice; I got to absorb the mentality of people who make great records - what it takes and what’s involved in that. That’s really what I’ve gotten from all of this.