VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Irv “Gotti” Lorenzo On BET’s ‘Tales,’ Lauryn Hill, Kanye West
Super rap producer Irv “Gotti” Lorenzo has heard a lot of good stories from the artists in his industry. When he sat down with uInterview for an exclusive interview, he explained how the second season of his BET show, Tales, which premiered on July 2, showcases the stories behind the famous songs.
According to Gotti, the first episode of season 2 is “a storyline of brotherhood and brothers going through some hard times and then reuniting and joining forces and coming back together.” He described the program as a “great father-son and brother-to-brother, family type episode” and urged everyone to watch it.
Gotti found that securing music rights from notoriously protective stars has not been difficult. “Thus far, the process of clearing the records and everything like that has been pretty good,” he told uInterview exclusively. I’ve got Lauryn Hill; she gave me ‘Ex-Factor.’ I got Dr. Dre and Snoop to give me ‘Deep Cover.’ They all know about Tales – they know what it’s about, and that it’s a hip-hop culture show. So thus far, it’s been very, very good with everyone giving me the rights for the songs.”
Gotti developed a relationship with Hill while working her on the “Ex-Factor” episode. “In [Drake’s] song when he sampled ‘Ex-Factor,’ it gave me hope, and that’s what made me pursue it,” he explained. “Because I said, ‘Oh, shit, she gave him clearance for that.’” Gotti described his friendship with Hill as “really solid and good,” revealing that the two have “a lot of love for each other.”
Gotti then told uInterview about his efforts to include current artists like XXXtentacion and Kanye West in Tales. He described clearing the former rapper’s song “Moonlight” as “a huge win” because “in such a short time of him being an artist, he’s like an iconic figure with the young generation.”
Gotti also described the process by which he and West created the song “Brothers” to fit with the show’s themes and younger audience. “I gave him, like, 20 tracks,” he explained, “and he picked that track and said, ‘Let’s do that and make it like a … brotherly uniting episode and everything,’ and we got it done.”
Tales airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on BET.
Full interview transcript below:
Q: What’s the first episode of season 2 about?
It’s a storyline of brotherhood and brothers going through some hard times and then reuniting and joining forces and coming back together. It’s a great father-son and brother-to-brother, family-type episode that I … really want everyone to see. I directed it. It stars Elijah Kelley, Thomas Q. Jones, Draya Michele, Isaiah Washington, LisaRaye [McCoy], you know… it’s dope. It’s really good.
Q: Have you had any issues securing the song rights?
Luckily, we haven’t really had a problem. Everyone has been really, really receptive to what I’m doing, and they kind of like when I choose their songs for it to be turned into a one-hour movie. So thus far, the process of clearing the records and everything like that has been pretty good. I’ve got Lauryn Hill; she gave me “Ex-Factor.” I got Dr. Dre and Snoop to give me “Deep Cover.” They all know about Tales – they know what it’s about, and that it’s a hip-hop culture show. So thus far, it’s been very, very good with everyone giving me the rights for the songs.
Q: What changes have you introduced this season?
What we did this season in the ten-episode order … I did four new-generation records, four older-generation records, and then BET wanted me to introduce potentially Tales R&B. So they let me do two R&B records, of which I picked Lauryn Hill “Ex-Factor” and Mary J. Blige “In My Life,” which is … both stand-out episodes in the season. And if they do well, BET would like for me to do Tales R&B.
Q: How did you get Lauryn Hill on board?
Drake … In his song when he sampled “Ex-Factor,” it gave me hope, and that’s what made me pursue it. Because I said, “Oh, shit, she gave him clearance for that.” I have a great relationship with Lauryn; I’ve interacted with her before, and I would say our friendship is a really solid and good friendship. We got a lot of love for each other, and she cleared it – and it got cleared. RZA of Wu-Tang, he helped, because he has a portion of ownership of the song too, and … I gotta shout out RZA; he helped get it cleared. And once it got cleared … the storyline of the song is really self-explanatory, so it made for a really explosive episode. What we did is we reversed it. Instead of a woman being torn with loving somebody who’s in a relationship, it’s a man. It’s a little twisted – it’s a man who’s in love with a woman who’s married.
Q: Did you make an effort to include young rappers?
The first season of Tales, I felt, we trended a lot older generation. And … I didn’t want my young generation to feel like I’m not messing with them, because I am; I love the young generation. So with the untimely death of XXXtentacion, we went after that record, and I believe his mother cleared it and gave us the rights to use it. Which was a huge win for us because … in such a short time of him being an artist, he’s like an iconic figure with the young generation, so we wanted to do something special. So with the XXXtentacion “Moonlight” episode, it’s like a vampire love story. What he did with the “Moonlight” video, it kind of inspired the interpretation. When you watch the video – which is him walking in the park under the moonlight, and it’s like, he likes a girl but he’s not talking to her. Like he’s afraid or there’s something preventing him from talking to the girl. So I just expanded on that and I followed a story and said, “Well, he’s not talking to her and he loves her but he can’t be with her because he’s a vampire.” Kind of Twilight-ish, you understand? So we followed that storyline and it turned out the episode was amazing. It was directed by the one and only Bryan Barber, who directed … the Outkast movie Idlewild. He was an enormous video director, and he brought the vampire tale to life.
Q: Do you have a favorite episode this season?
“Brothers,” because I got the Kanye West episode and it’s so unique in the fact that it’s a new song, so … years, later I’m gonna be like, “Brothers is a special moment.” Other than that, I like the other episode I directed, “XO Tour Llif3.” So crazy… If you’ve seen Euphoria on HBO, my “XO Tour Llif3” episode is like a mirror image. It’s about young America, about drugs and drug abuse within Young America. It’s about relationships and sex, and then ultimately suicide, you know what I’m saying? And it stars Bella Thorne – my dear friend Bella Thorne – and I cannot say enough about her as an actress. She is an amazing, amazing actress and brings so much to the screen, so that’s definitely one of my favorites.
Q: How did you get Kanye to participate?
I went to Kanye – took a pill with Mr. Calabasas – and met with him and I just asked him. I was like, “Yo, I want to do something special for the hip-hop culture.’ Normally with Tales, we take existing songs. I said, “But yo, let’s do a new song and let them see it and associate it with a two-hour movie, and it’s gonna be great.” And … at first, he thought about it, and then he gave me a call and was like, ‘Yo, I want to do it; let’s do the ‘Brothers’ record.” I gave him, like, 20 tracks, and he picked that track and said, “Let’s do that and make it like a … brotherly uniting episode and everything,” and we got it done. But really, it was just a conversation with me and Kanye, and him thinking about it and then saying, “Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s start.”