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Cherry Sky Studios: We're just writing, cracking jokes, having a good time

Cherry Sky Studios: We're just writing, cracking jokes, having a good time
Photo courtesy of Cherry Sky Studios

Cherry Sky Studios is a local rap collective comprised of rappers AhbiNav, eL.I.Be, T La Shawn and Rico Polo, and producers Diatonic and Steppenwolf. Right now, they're gearing up to drop their debut album as a crew. As individuals, they've already got projects under their belt, but Red Eye Flight is their first statement as a single entity. Gimme Noise talked to AbhiNav, eL.I.Be, and T La Shawn about the album and their journey in making it a reality.


What artists make up Cherry Sky and how did you guys came together?
AbhiNav: April 2011 is when we started Cherry Sky. Me and T [La Shawn] were part of another group and [eL.I.Be] was actually part of another group, and we were all disbanding at the time. So we were the original three that came together and started Cherry Sky. Now we are up to us three... Rico Polo [and] Rich Garvey, [who] just came on recently. He's on the project but very minimal. Then our two producers, Stefan Wolf and DJ Diatonic. So, that's us right there. That's how we kind of came together, out of unfortunate situations, made some lemonade out of lemons.

I knew of each of you individually but I wasn't totally aware of you guys as a crew.
AbhiNav: I think the biggest misconception, people don't know that T's part of Cherry Sky. They think he's Long Doe because of the Anchormen thing. When me and T were on One Mic [Studios] was when the Anchromen first started, we ran all those first sessions inside of One Mic, so Anchormen is like a Cherry Sky/Long Doe thing, that's the biggest misconception. Those are all our brothers either way, man.


How long has this crew album been in the works?
eL.I.Be: [laughs] About two, two and a half years.

AbhiNav: Since we started, man.

eL.I.Be: We went really hard in the first six tracks, then our attention just kind of diverted to other things.

AbhiNav: I started doing videos, T had the Anchormen, [eL.I.Be] started going with the Escape Artists, a bunch of different stuff.

T La Shawn: [El] dropped a solo [project], I dropped a mixtape.. All of this was still in the midst. The Cherry Sky project was not finished, but it was there.

AbhiNav: Hence the name Red Eye Flight; better late than never. 

eL.I.Be: [When] we first started out... We're all individual artists, so we just told everybody, talk to your beat-makers, talk to the people that you work with, just bring a bunch of beats to the table, we'll sit down and collect and just pick out beats. We did that, once that was figured out we just started cranking away. We just started sitting in the studio all together, just doing writing sessions, going back and forth, just knocking it out right then and there.

AbhiNav: The first six, seven tracks we knocked out right away, before Rez Rap was making a name for themselves around here, or even before we knew Tek. Both Garlic Brown and Tek have production on the album. We were just knocking out tracks from our producers, and like a year later [Diatonic and] Stefan came on, so did Rico Polo. Once they came in, we wanted to get them present on the album a little bit more, and that's how the rest of he album kind of came into play. So it was definitely on and off at times, we were focused on different things aside from getting the name out there as well. That's basically how it happened. It was an on and off type thing. The songs, I don't feel like any of them are dated really.

Tell me about your upcoming tour. How did that come about?
eL.I.Be: We went out with Prince Carlton [of Pledge Empire] out in Seattle. We did some shows out there, and on our way back we stopped in Montana.

AbhiNav: We drove out there, man, it was 27 fucking hours.

eL.I.Be: Straight, mind you. We left the last show in Seattle at 2 in the morning and we started driving through fucking Idaho, dude. It was no joke.

AbhiNav: Idaho and Montana. Montana's the biggest state to drive through, man. It sucks. I mean, it was cool, we got our connections and stuff down there. I went out to Denver sometime last year around May, June-ish, so I got some things out there. That's how we got all those connections, we were just riding through getting those, so that's how the tour came about. 

eL.I.Be: What I did is I also reached out to Company Costume and Mooonlight Grammar, they also had a tour presence out in Iowa and Denver, so we just collaborated with them, put it all together, and that's how it all came.

AbhiNav: We had those shows so we knew we had to go out there and get the connections, so we went out there just the three of us to make those connections at that point. 
 

One of your songs that stuck out to me was "Black Sk8er," especially with the video.
AbhiNav: That GoPro, man! That's the wonders of the GoPro!

Did you skate alongside to get those shots?
AbhiNav: Tell you the truth, we had a lot of people that helped with that video. Elijah Collard of the Mighty Roll, Rayshawn Crawford, who's one of the main skaters in the video, the younger guy. I don't skateboard at all so I can't front like I was the one doing that. That was our guy Monty, who's a friend of T's. We just put the thing on a long-ass pole and were just skating along downtown. I took all of those, the performance shots in Cal Surf, I got those ones, but no, I can't even take credit for that. I gave him credit for that stuff on the video and stuff. Monty was the one who strapped on the GoPro and was getting them doing all the tricks, going up and down the fucking ramps and shit. It's pretty crazy. It was a dope video, it was a fun video, it was cold as hell that day though. It was raining and shit. 

When did you get started directing videos?
AbhiNav: When we started Cherry Sky, when we started this project, immediately we knew the importance of having visuals. Especially with Long Doe, those are dudes that looked out for me since I came in. T's real tight with Wiz and Bones, and they have some of the illest videos, with Dave Wilson before anybody else was doing videos with him. I knew that I could not afford to pay video directors, man [laughs], I gotta keep it one hundred, dude. So I just went and bought a camera. That's how that whole thing came [about], because I was too stingy to pay a director. That's how it is. We were pretty self-sufficient at that point, so at that time we were just bringing it in. I didn't even think that I would start shooting videos crazy like what I'm doing now. I had no experience with it at all. I didn't go to school for this. I took a couple classes in high school, but nothing crazy. I learned everything as I went along. The big videos, like Knox, Gene Poole, and Martyr's "Breathe", "The Essence" with the Anchormen and Big Zach, those are the ones that kind of solidified my place, and after that I started getting a lot of business. Everybody that I've worked with are people that I've looked up to, people that I really dig their music, which is why I've been kind of one-dimensional with the hip-hop stuff with the videos. Now that it's kind of here I want to reach out a little bit more. Me being cheap [laughs], that's how the directing came about; let that go on the record. 

T, you recently had emergency heart surgery. Do you mind talking about that?
T La Shawn: It was a big life-changing experience. You know, probably being too rock star lifestyle out here late at night at the clubs, drinking Red Bulls and vodka...

eL.I.Be: Let it be known that he does have a song called that too.

T La Shawn: Eating pizzas late at Cub, not really paying attention to what I was doing. Yeah, man, it was scary, but I got through it. Definitely living different now, healthier.

AbhiNav: We were in the studio, and that's when it happened. We're going over everything because we're gearing up, we're going over the track list and we're going over all of this stuff, and when you go into that obviously you're going to disagree a little bit, so we were having a little bit of a discussion, and it got a little heated, and all of a sudden T just kind of snapped out for a little quick second. I remember when we were at the How Drunk show. The first one, with Remo and Big Jess... T got onstage and he performed, and I remember he got offstage, and I remember he looked totally different. Not even fatigued, he was like sweating and shit. I was like, "Dude, what the fuck?" He's like, "Yeah man, I ain't feelin good, I'm gonna go home."

So that was Wednesday. The following Monday when we're in the studio, we got into that little thing, and all of a sudden T just started fucking sweating. Beads of sweat. I asked him, "Dude, did you go to the doctor from the last time? What the fuck happened?" He's like, "Nah man, it's just the flu." So eL is like, "Do you need us to take you the hospital, or what's going on?" T's like, "Nah man, I'm good, I just gotta go home and chill out." So we went about our day, and T called me an hour after we left the studio, like, "Yo man I'm down here at the ER, I ain't feelin good." He went into emergency, open heart surgery and shit, detached aorta, man. Real scary shit, fuckin real crazy. Definitely opened up a lot of our eyes. Much deeper than a heart attack, that is much worse than a heart attack. Ten percent chance of surviving that surgery. Glad to have you here, brother.

T La Shawn: Yeah, it was crazy, I wasn't expecting that. I totally thought I had the flu, I had earaches and headaches, nothing with the chest like you would think. I just remember waking up three days later in the hospital, ready to go to [Honey's monthly networking event] Gravity; they're like, Gravity already happened! [laughs]

eL.I.Be: A lot of the community came together, especially during Gravity.

AbhiNav: We had a tremendous amount of support. We raised quite a bit of money, and we definitely want to thank all those people for all the love.

T La Shawn: Yeah, a lot of big names. I didn't even know that many people knew who I was. My family was buggin, like, "Man, you got some good friends." It kind of helped me get through a lot, especially being in the hospital for two weeks. It was crazy.

That's an inspiring example of what a hip-hop community can be.
AbhiNav:

There's a lot of benefits and stuff, but I don't really recall at one time, unless somebody died, when they had a benefit for somebody at that caliber, where it had that chance to have that much support. I've never seen it personally, I'm pretty sure it has happened. It's always a chance where it's either a preventative method or else it's too late, you know what I'm saying? It was real crazy to see that support, especially when one of our brothers is down. That shit will lift everybody's spirit. It was crazy, real crazy. Shout out the people that really had something to do with it, Big Wiz, Amber "Ace", the whole Gravity team. Taze was down there, all of those guys really pulled together and really helped him out in his time of need. 


T La Shawn: Even Atmosphere looked out, I Self Devine and them cats.

AbhiNav: The whole Rhymesayers crew, Toki shouted it out on Soul Tools Radio, everybody man, they showed a lot of support. We definitely want to thank everybody for that. 

Give me an idea of what an average recording session is like for you guys.
eL.I.Be: It'd be us, Abhi, T La, me, possibly Rico, sitting around late at night, got some food over here, got some drinks over here, and we're just going. We're just doing it. We're just writing, cracking jokes, having a good time...

AbhiNav: It was kind of always broken up, I don't think there's a time where all of us have been in there, besides when we first started going. But other than that, it was pretty scattered

T La Shawn: We always all had different flavors of music. eL [liked] a different style of beat than I did, I would be writing to a song and we'll give it to somebody and they'll probably be like, ehhh. It would just kind of linger until somebody felt it, you know what I'm saying.

AbhiNav: By somebody you meant me [laughs]. "I ain't feelin that!" That's a little bit of the diversity of the album. There were certain beats that these guys really felt a lot more than others, and there some that we felt more than others. That's how the tracks are kind of split up like that, who's vibing at the studio at the time. Who got in there, who's getting in on this session. Pretty seamless for hectic it actually was. 

eL.I.Be: [For] how many moving parts and how many people it took to make it happen, [it's] a very well put together album.

T La Shawn: No outside features, just all us.

AbhiNav: We had to make that a point. There's features on El's album... The first release out of Cherry Sky was eL.I.Be's Dreams EP, and the second release was the Book of T La mixtape. They're not feature-heavy, but there's definitely features on them. But we made it a point [with] the Cherry Sky album, the only features that would be on there would be guest production. So when we reached out to Garlic Brown or we reached out to Tek, or we reached out to Fox Beats..

That was the only features that were on the project really were the producers. Rich [Garvey] got a beat on there. It's not really entitled "Rich Garvey" because Rich works really closely with a homeboy of his named Vince, and together collectively they're a production team called Foreign Trait, so one of the last songs that was actually recorded for the album is me and T on "Episodes," and that was produced by Rich and Vince, Foriegn Trait. There's not a Rich Garvey solo track on there but Rich is definitely there with a production credit and one of the songs.

So Rich Garvey came on towards the end of the project?
AbhiNav: Yeah, it was like late December, early January 2014. Relatively a new addition, a very strong addition, we feel very great about his addition. He's a very talented person, overall. Performance-wise, talent-wise with production, rapping-wise, very strong performer. We feel very good about having Rich on the squad. It was a sporadic thing, but we definitely felt that we had to have him a part of the project.
 

eL.I.Be: It's crazy because we have so many individuals, we have so many outlets, we have so many people individually, that when you combine all of us together, it's like a super-network of individuals, artists, producers...

AbhiNav: We take pride in our individuality for sure, us as individual artists, or even him in Anchormen or him in Escape Artists, or me with the videos. It was so many elements going on that it easily could get misconstrued. We're all in different places, we all thought it was very important to put this out, just for people to know, so they can definitely pinpoint who is there. It is weird that we dropped it after we have a couple projects dropped, I don't really have a problem with it, because I feel that the project is a solid project. There probably won't be another Cherry Sky collective project. This was just one project, we're all solo artists. We definitely wanted to put it out there so people would know that we are Cherry Sky, this is who Cherry Sky is. Everything else we do from here you guys can watch us do individually, but at least we're gonna give this a run. Give it the tour, give it the shows, give it the proper amount of exposure, give it the proper amount of marketing behind it. At least they'll know who's really in the crew and what the crew's about now. 

T La Shawn: Just like when Wu-Tang dropped 36 Chambers, they didn't have no features on the album, but when they went off and did their solo stuff, that's when you heard a Nas or somebody else featured. It's kind of really the same thing. We all break off; El's gonna probably do another project, I'm working on another project right now, me Abhi and Taze got a project coming [as] Flight Team, new Anchormen... So we're still all working but Cherry Sky is just something that we had to let people know who we were as a label more than a group.

eL.I.Be: I went out to LA, I went to the ASCAP Festival last year. I didn't officially release it, [but] I got six tracks on a little EP called Hope Tomorrow Never Comes, I went out there to kind of shop it around, kind of see how it did. It fared pretty well, so I think I'm gonna run with it and make it expanded, probably put five, six, seven more songs on there, so that's really what I'm working on after the tour and everything kind of settles down.

T La Shawn: I got a solo album following that mixtape called Precious Jewels. It's pretty much done, I just got a couple more tracks to record. After that I'm doing an EP with my guy Sun Chi, it's called Sun & La. Then we got the Anchormen project, the second one. That's pretty much a wrap, we're just waiting on a few things. Wiz's got a project with Big Jess he's doing. Once all of that stuff is wrapped up we're probably gonna get back to it. Yeah, man, it's a lot. 

AbhiNav: And I'm shooting all these motherfucker's videos in the mean time. I have a bunch of production from a bunch of people, but I honestly have not even started on my solo joint yet. I'll be dropping that sometime, who knows when. We'll see when the videos die down or something. Stefan has a beat tape coming out. Diatonic has been dropping stuff...

eL.I.Be: He's got a beat tape actually coming out, and then he has an album coming out with a bunch of selected rappers, so he's on the rise as well. Rich has got I think a project with Psymun coming out.

AbhiNav: Rich got a whole gang of shit.

eL.I.Be: We can't even really speak on Rich, Rich has got a lot of shit going on. 

AbhiNav: Rich is doing everything, man. I know he has a solo project in the works, I know he has a project with Ackryte, he has a project with Psymun... Rich is definitely doing a bunch of shit. There's definitely a lot of projects coming out, they're just all in the works right now. 

eL.I.Be: T's gonna come out before me. I'm looking at November.

AbhiNav: T's probably looking at late summer here.

T La Shawn: We got something for everybody with Cherry Sky, I think.

Check out Cherry Sky's album release show at Honey on Thursday, May 1, with Big Jess, Tall Paul, Pledge Empire Records, and Moonlight Grammar.

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