Focus… Discusses “The Avant Garde Project”, Dr. Dre & Detox (The DubCNN Interview)


Interview By Chad Kiser

Dubcnn had the pleasure once again to sit down with former Aftermath producer Focus… to candidly discuss his recent release, The Avant Garde Project. This project showcases Focus… many musical talents and sounds, and is filled with depth and music showcased from all genres throughout. While it might be easy to assume that this project developed out the many Detox sessions he’s been a part of, you can tell when reading this interview that The Avant Garde has been an idea in Focus… mind for many years.

We discuss many things regarding The Avant Garde Project, as well as getting the scoop on his recent split with Dr. Dre, what his relationship is to his mentor, his involvement in the Detox, the development of his a.Fam label, and what we can expect in the future from the talented producer.


Dubcnn: Talk to me a little bit about your new project The Avant Garde Project. What can fans of your music expect with this?

It isn’t really geared towards any genre so it’ll be surprising to those that have been following my career thus far. I really just made an album full of music. Not one set theme. Whatever I felt, I did it.

Dubcnn: In other interviews I’ve read recently with you, you say that the Avant Garde Project isn’t a Hip-Hop record, or Rock Record; it’s just good music. How is this project different from the other productions in your catalog?

What I aimed to do with AGP was to get me out of the ‘box’. My listeners see me as a hip hop producer and that’s it. I grew up listening to rock, r+b, hip hop, jazz, even classical. I love it all and try my best to do it all. I used AGP to kinda show my abilities and further develop my songwriting.

In conceptualizing this project, what was the motivation or inspiration to put this project together? 

Being honest, it just sorta came about. I wrote a rock song in hopes of getting it to Lenny Kravitz and when it didn’t happen, I just kept it going. My original plan was to put out the ‘Pay Homage’ lp but getting that together was taking too long. I wanted to see what else I could do so I went in on the AGP.

Dubcnn: The reason behind that last question, is that you worked side-by-side with Dr. Dre for several years while he’s been fine-tuning Detox. How much, if any, of the “idea” for Detox to be a totally different sounding project came into play with the Avant Garde?

‘Avant Garde’ came outta the blue and when I was working on Detox, I solely focused (no pun) on Detox. I did my ‘Dedicated’ cd when I was in Detox mode. Dre’s ‘different’ and my ‘different’ are two different things. He is still going to keep the essence of what made him DRE, you know. I’m still new to many so I can experiment and really go different places with my music.

Dubcnn: Speaking of Dr. Dre, you recently left the Aftermath camp. Why?

It was just time. Dre has given me guidance and a doorway into the industry, I am trying to show him and my listeners that it wasn’t in vain. I’ve been with Dre for over 7 years and I was getting frustrated with my music just sitting around. I wanted to be on the various Aftermath projects, but we were so ‘Detox’ driven that nothing I was doing was coming out and really couldn’t be shopped too many places because I tailored it to Dre. Me and Dre spoke and I told him anytime you need me, I’m there but I gotta do this. He was cool about it and we still holla’ now about me being on ‘Detox’ so hopefully you’ll hear me on it.

Dubcnn: What is your relationship like with Dr. Dre now?

That’s still my mentor. We still good. I didn’t leave kickin’ up dust and cursin’ cats out. Just showing Dre that I’m a soldier in and out of the Math.

Dubcnn: We’ve heard the rumor of Detox for nearly a decade or more, and just recently there was a rumor swirling (fueled by Dr. Dre & Jimmy Iovine) about a Detox single called “Under Pressure”. Is Dr. Dre toying with us about his supposed final album?

Dre is strategic. When the time is right and the music is ‘perfect’, it’ll drop! This isn’t a game to him so he doesn’t want to regurgitate the leaks with the same rhymes and beats. He’ll sooner revamp the entire lp before running with old material. Dre is a perfectionist. Can’t rush perfection.

Dubcnn: How many tracks have you worked on for the Detox project?

I’ve submitted well over 500 tracks to Dre for Detox while I was signed to the Math. Could be more, but I know that I was constantly working on it and submitting every track as a Detox hopeful.

Dubcnn: One of my personal favorite songs you produced was “Where I’m From” for Game’s The Documentary. Why wasn’t Dre’s verse on the album version?

Good question. Again, Dre is a perfectionist. If he didn’t like the cadence of his voice or one line, anything, he probably heard what we couldn’t hear. I was dumb excited when I heard Dre spit on the song. Would’ve been a great look for the lp.

Dubcnn: “Live By The Gun” is also another favorite track of mine that you produced, minus Tony Yayo rapping on it. One of the things about that particular song that I remember from it first coming out, was that alot of people thought Dr. Dre did it. Is it frustrating, as a producer, to not get a just due so to speak for your creations?

It kills me, man, no lie. I have so many tracks out that people thought Dre did that I got tired of correcting them. I figure, if people truly want to know then they will read the credits. I produced Mac Dre’s “Get Stupid” but in the song Mac says Dre produced it. ‘Conglomerate’ was another one people put out as a Dre production. Yeah, it irks me but it comes with running with a legend, I guess.

Dubcnn: Who are your top 5 producers of all-time, and why?

Well, there is no order but Stevie Wonder, DJ Premiere, Dre, my father; Bernard Edwards and Prince. The reason for these cats is because they all have distinctive sounds and wrote music the whole world knew and loved. I took attributes from each of these cats to make me who I am.

Dubcnn: Tell me about a.Fam Entertainment. You have Al Gator and Kida you’re working with over there. What can we expect out of a.Fam?

I have had this company for years and I never really gave it my full attention like I have been giving it this past year. Gator and Kida have been around me for a while and I really believe in them both so I started rebuilding the company and focusing on their sound and look(s) in the net. I’m not signing anymore rap but a.Fam is looking for a pop female, a rock band, and either a solo male or male group. I want the world to expect great music from a.Fam in all genres, that’s my goal with the brand.

Dubcnn: Who are some of the artists you’re looking forward to working with that you haven’t yet?

I want to work with great artists, talented artists. I’m not throwing names out because it might be a new artist. I might just have a second chance with an artist I already worked with. Who knows.

Dubcnn: When an artist gets in the studio with Focus…, what can they expect from you as a producer?

I try to make it as relaxing and comfortable as possible but, as a whole, they should be ready to work. I will get the best out of you if we both have the same thing in mind, A HIT! I’ll stay in until we get it right and I would hope the artist(s) do the same thing.

Dubcnn: Without putting you on the spot, who are some of your favorite artists to work with?

I have had the honor and pleasure of working and befriending artists like Marsha Ambrosius, Busta Rhymes, Sterling Simms, and even Dr. Dre to name a few. They are my top favorite sessions to date. Christina Aguillera’s session was an amazing experience also.

Dubcnn: Any closing thoughts for our Dubcnn readers out there?

I hope everyone continues to follow my career outside of the Math. I’m not going to stop putting out great music. If you want to hit me, follow my Twitter. Stay humble, stay hungry… Stay Focused!