Prozack Turner: Re-Up

P rozack Turner knows how quickly things can change. When DreamWorks Records signed the Bay area native in 2002, he seemed destined for success. A generous advance and recording budget allowed him to bounce across the country to work with Pete Rock, Organized Noize, J Dilla, and the Alchemist. The production Dream Team helped Prozack […]


rozack Turner knows how quickly things can change. When DreamWorks Records signed the Bay area native in 2002, he seemed destined for success. A generous advance and recording budget allowed him to bounce across the country to work with Pete Rock, Organized Noize, J Dilla, and the Alchemist. The production Dream Team helped Prozack craft Death, Taxes and Prozack, the album he thought would make him a star.

Prozack’s star suddenly dimmed when DreamWorks pulled an EPMD and put up an Out of Business sign in 2003. The label was sold to Universal Music Group, who declined to release Prozack’s album, leaving him broke and unemployed. Bills stacked so high, he used a fake voice to tell collectors, “Zack is dead.” In a matter of months, he went from being marked as the next big thing to being another casualty of the recording industry.

Things are changing once again now that Prozack is preparing to release his new album, Bangathon. He describes the project as soulful and honest, recorded in Ireland amid a haze of studio sessions and Guinness bottles. Prozack spoke with about Bangathon, why he left America to record it, and what it’s like to dedicate a song to a p### star. You say on “Wonderful Life” that you used to steal a lot as a kid. What led to that?

Prozack Turner: I grew up in San Jose, California and we were just bored a lot of the time. My mom was at work quite a bit, and it’s a hard job for a mom to raise three boys. We were always on the loose getting into trouble just trying to have an interesting life. But I was a horrible criminal because I didn’t do it for the money; I would boost stuff because it was fun. Was having fun kind of what drew you to Hip-Hop?

Prozack Turner: Oh, completely. That’s the main thing with Hip-Hop – I like doing it. God knows that the money is not good at this level. It’s like a marriage because it’s a constant struggle, but it’s fulfilling if you stick with it. Not to be cliché, but I feel married to the music. Even though it’s hard, it’s definitely gratifying when you make a song that touches people. So what was it like to go through that struggle and get signed?

Prozack Turner: It’s crazy, ‘cause one year you’re working with your homies rapping in the shower in your boy’s home-rigged studio set-up, and then a year later, you’re in Battery Studios looking through the glass at Pete Rock. It’s unbelievable. Maybe to some cats in the game, that’s no big deal, but to me, that was really special. Or like with Jay Dee, R.I.P. I’m so honored that I got to work with the dude. People don’t realize that your life is so precious and you have to cherish everything in it. Life hurts, but embrace that pain and learn from it so you appreciate the sunny days. Things obviously weren’t so sunny for you when DreamWorks shut down.

Prozack Turner: That was really difficult because I had worked so hard on my album. I swung for the fence and was really confident with the project. [After DreamWorks shut down], I couldn’t afford to get the masters back because they put money into it. They were saying, “If you want the record back, you have to pay us for recording costs.” That was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was depressed for a while, but I’m a resilient person. I did my best and made a good record. I got to establish relationships with people I really respect in the music industry and never would have dreamed of meeting. It was awesome and I would do it again in a heartbeat. So you’re not disappointed that Death, Taxes and Prozack was never released?

Prozack Turner: Somebody bootlegged it, so it’s out there. People have heard it, but nobody ever did ads for it or released a real single. I’m just glad my A&R signed me and somebody even believed in me enough to make a record. I could be mad, but that doesn’t get you anywhere in life. That album had a song called “Dear Old Dad” dealing with your regrets about the relationship with your late father. Do you still feel that way?

Prozack Turner: No, not at all. I had written that song prior to my Dad passing, and I was almost scared to let him hear it because it was real scathing. I loved the dude and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I was blessed to even have a dad who loved me or spent time with me when he had the time. My mother was moving around quite a bit and I didn’t realize it at the time, but my dad couldn’t just pack up and move every time his ex-wife moved. I wish that he and I had ironed stuff out and I didn’t have to write a song to get over it, but I feel like that song helped me squash it. After my dad died, I forgave him about a lot of stuff. He loved me but wasn’t good at expressing it like a lot of men aren’t. He’s from the old school, you know? They didn’t have Dr. Phil. What have you been doing since the DreamWorks deal fell through?

Prozack Turner: I have just been studying the indie market, working on my production skills. I moved to Los Angeles to be where the money is. I have no interest in signing to a major again. That’s just a sinking ship, and there are only so many life preservers. I’m trying to make some gourmet cuisine and the majors are only interested in fast food artists. Now you’re getting set to release Bangathon. How do you compare yourself to when you first came into the game?

Prozack Turner: I’m a little bit more seasoned as far as understanding the business side of the music industry. In a sense, [being dropped] made me better because I had it all and lost it. Now I have that fire again and I’m hungrier than ever. With this new album, you see that you’re not guaranteed anything. It’s like in Rocky where dude lost but is saying, “I almost knocked him out. If the fight would have gone another round, I’d be champ.” So Bangathon to me feels like Rocky II, because I’m coming back and I know I can make this happen. What made you travel to Ireland to record Bangathon?

Prozack Turner: My family is of Irish descent, and I’ve always had an affinity for Ireland. I had a break-up with my girlfriend and I was kind of depressed. We lived in Oakland and it’s a small town, so I was running into my ex all the time. I just had to get out of town to regroup my thoughts and come back fresh. I bounced out to Ireland with some beat CD’s from producers I know, stayed with some family and friends, and before I knew it, I had this album done. Oh No produced the most songs on the album. How did you end up working with him?

Prozack Turner: Through Madlib. I heard Oh No’s beats on Cali Wild, and I just wanted to work with him. He’s a real forward thinking cat and I love that. A lot of cats just make beats, but he has a sound. I like producers who have a particular sound because it makes the difference on the track not just going all over the place. On a less serious tip, what drove you to write “The Ballad of Adriana Sage”?

Prozack Turner: [Laughing] Marc Stretch referenced her in a song we did for our group, Foreign Legion. I never heard of her, so I went on the Internet to look her up and she was beautiful, freaky, and everything you’d want in a girl. So, I sent that Foreign Legion album to Adriana and said, “You might get a kick out this because we mention you on this song.” She ended up e-mailing me back saying it was dope and I started talking to her on e-mail fairly frequently. I wasn’t trying to holler or anything, just small talk. One day I looked at her website and I’m like, whoa! This is a human being that I had conversations with, not just some p### star. I was blunted and wrote the song about wanting to be with her. Has she heard it yet?

Prozack Turner: Yeah, she digs it. After I sent it to her, I was hoping I didn’t hurt her feelings because I say in the song, “I’m not judging you, but aren’t you tired of having guys all up in you/Just f88king you and never really loving you?” I wasn’t trying to offend her, you know? It was like a love song saying she should come be with me, but the song was a total joke. She sent me an e-mail saying how she listens to it in her car all the time, so it’s cool. Foreign Legion was known for unique on-stage antics like you rapping in a sac on Marc Stretch’s back. What made the group go that route?

Prozack Turner: It’s funny because we’re known for that, but we only did it for like three months. We started doing shows in the Bay in ’99 and the Hip-Hop scene at the time was really amazing. Zion I, Hiero, Jurassic 5 and Dilated Peoples were all doing the same shows, so we’d be on a bill with seven groups. We did crazy things sort of as a publicity stunt so people would remember us. They’d drive home and say, “Who the hell were those dudes dressed up like the Flintstones?” So it worked, but I felt like people started coming to the show just to see our stupid gimmicks. I didn’t want to turn into the Village People, so we cut that s**t out. It’s fun to do silly s**t, but it’s more gratifying when people come to your show and just like the music. What’s the creation process like now without Foreign Legion?

Prozack Turner: It’s not as fun, man. When I think of Foreign Legion making Playtight or Kidnapper Van, I have great memories to attribute to those albums: drinking beer, eating Indian food, and just laughing. Plus, I was in Dublin recording this album with an Irish engineer in a cold ass studio and I didn’t have someone to turn to and ask, “Is this cool? Is this corny?” You have to trust yourself more when you’re doing it all alone. You say on “Bangathon” that “hip-hop ain’t dead.” What do you think it needs to live a better life?

Prozack Turner: I think it’s already happening on its own. I hear people talk about the golden age of Hip-Hop and how it all used to be so good, but I remember when A Tribe Called Quest dropped “Award Tour” and Vanilla Ice was dominating the radio. There’s always been garbage music out, so don’t look to radio to tell you where Hip-Hop is going. It’s all about who can grind the hardest and make good music, and I could do this s**t forever.