Jacking a Boat: Qari & greenSLLIME's Oral History of 'Operation Hennessy'
One of the year’s best rap projects so far is a comfortable collaboration between two close friends, Qari and greenSLLIME. On a project with surprisingly heavy influence from Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Qari spits his stream of conscious raps over greenSLLIME’s grimy throwback production.. The timeless 20-minute project wouldn’t sound out of place from a collection of 90s boom-bap records while also managing to sound like a modern day lo-fi, muddy masterpiece. Operation Hennessy in itself represents a time capsule between two classic hip-hop aficionados inspired by an era of music. It might be surprising to hear, but this project was actually two years in the making, kick-started by Sllime sending Qari a beat to freestyle over- what is now the intro track for Operation Hennessy. Read on for the full story below.
Sllime: “It started with that one beat. I sent Qari a beat and you sent me that facebook video with the freestyle back, and in it you was saying ‘This ain’t no whiskey, this Operation Hennessy.’ I was like ‘damn, that sound dope’ and then you said you was talking about the movie, ‘The Life Aquatic’ and shit and I was like ‘oh, yeah.’ Muhfuckas went back to watch the shit and it was like ‘yeah this ‘Operation Hennessy’, this make sense.’ Boom”
Qari: “Have you seen ‘The Life Aquatic’? It’s a cool movie. In it, they do this thing called ‘Operation Hennessy’ where they go into this dude’s boat-”
Sllime:”They jack somebody’s boat pretty much, ya know what I’m sayin?”
Qari: “They just jack a n---a”
Sllime: “And that’s kinda what we doin’. We might not have all the resources, but we gonna take that shit, y’know I’m sayin? We wanna go find some shit in the ocean, but we ain’t got no boat… muhfucka we gon take your boat.”’
The project grew organically from there. Just close friends making song after song until they realized they had enough songs to make a project.
Qari: “We’re just gonna keep making music. This was just a fun project. Just collabing with your homie.”
Sllime: “This is like a stepping stone for me. On to the next one, ya feel me? It got me organized to do some more shit. Put out my own shit, and also put out some more shit with Qari.”
Qari: “This definitely helped us organize our music better, or I mean, this didn’t help us organize our music better, but this the result of us organizing our music. So it was like ‘alright, let’s put some shit out and package it.’”
Qari: “This was like an in-house project, we made this in the crib mostly. One of the songs was literally made in Sllime’s closet, which was ‘Pass The Mic.’ My daughter is on one of the songs and we recorded at Sllime’s too so I guess really it was two songs that was recorded in his house. We used really shitty mics to record this.”
Sllime: “J Dilla used to use his muhfuckin’ headphone microphone to record a whole album. I just found that shit out yesterday.”
Qari: “Exactly. We definitely didn’t characterize this as a pristine masterpiece.”
Sllime: “I don’t like how that shit sounds anyway, I never did. Like clean ass shit. The project is still too clean to me since we got it professionally mixed. It sound clean as hell now. It’s great, but we gon make that dirty dirty.”
Qari: “It depends on what feel you’re going for. This vibe was like a comfortable listen. Some parts I wish it was muddier. I wish it was a little dirtier.”
In today’s era, the school of thought is that crisp sound is key to capturing an audience’s ear, a 180 from the classic 90’s era of hip-hop where many of the culture’s legends made a name for themselves off lo-fi quality. Operation Hennessy harnesses that dirtier sonic point in time with intoxicating results.
Qari: “I feel like half of it is getting rid of that stigma that people think they need to get the best equipment to make a song. You can whip out your phone,you can get a tape recorder, and then bang on some pots and pans, and get some rhythm.”
Sllime: “You can record music videos on your cell phone now, iPhone got 4k video. Muhfuckas ain’t limited by no equipment no more. But for me, shit, all the music I listened to growing up and still like to this day is all muddy shit. Whether it’s 3-6 Mafia, Wu-Tang, RZA is muddied mastered, Mobb Deep. My ear is just naturally tuned to muddy, when it’s not like this I’m like ‘eww, what is this? This shit is wack, turn this shit off.’”
Qari: “Sllime is definitely like that. For me, I make all kinds of music so for me this is fun. I grew up around hip-hop. It’s just home for us. That’s why this project is comfortable and fun for us. It’s just us chilling at home and kicking some shit.”
Qari and Sllime’s relationship is as go-with-the-flow as their music making process is, but the laid back approach comes with its ups and downs.
Qari: “My favorite part about working with Sllime is that it’s easy. We both have similar tastes, so when we feel like shit needs to get done, it just goes without saying-”
Sllime: “Like the actual song ain’t never hard at all.”
Qari: “Yeah. The least favorite part is the fact that it goes without saying, and a lot goes undone and unsaid, and we can totally not get anything done. Sllime is like very nonchalant and doesn’t give a fuck about anything for the most part, so that’s my least favorite part. It’s like ‘yeah, I fuck with you, I don’t give a fuck about a lotta things, but we gotta get it done Sllime. Let’s fucking finish the project’ and then he’s like ‘Fuck that, I’m going to sleep, you go to the studio’ and I’m just like aight I’ll go to the studio and I hope you come.”
Sllime: “Oh yeah, my favorite part of working with this muthafucka is shit be raw. Everytime I ain’t gotta worry about getting a wack verse. I know my beat in good hands. Muthafucka be opening my beat to me, I’m like ‘damn, I ain’t even hear that shit, this muthafucka cold.’ Least favorite part, I don’t know… it be all the other days this muhfucka annoying me, man-”
Qari: “It can get real little brother, big brother sometime.”
Sllime: “They be thinking I’m an asshole because I get to yelling at muhfuckas for no reason whether I realize it and explain it, ‘oh, I was asleep and you done called me 4 times, and I got strep throat and you talking about come down the street.’ It ain’t like I hate this, it ain’t never like that, ya know what I’m sayin?”
Qari: “We like working with each other. There’s nothing I dislike about working with Sllime. We’re just friends. It’s funny though because since we’re friends and make music, it’s like there’s a line between getting music done, and this isn’t just with Sllime, this is just a fact about making art and taking it seriously, you gotta communicate when it comes to working with art with your friends. It’s like let’s turn this into more than just a up-for-fun project, and then taking the steps to manifest that. This project taught me how to do that because I still haven’t put put a lot of my own projects, so that why I work with my producers- I said producers, I mean my homies who are producers, ya know? It helps us all learn how to get better at what we’re doing and how to package it and we keep building stepping stones to the next project we’re gonna do. I know this is gonna lead to more work from all of us.”
Qari and Sllime aren’t done working together, but much like the creation of Operation Hennessy, don’t expect a clear-cut timeline of the next project. In whatever form it takes, it’s going to come again from them kicking shit in the studio and figuring out what’s worth putting out.
Qari: “Yeah, Sllime will text me at like 5 in the morning with just an idea he has. Me and a lotta my friends who make music together, our friendship is based off sharing ideas and helping each other grow. Me and Sllime been thinking about making spaces to help our homies to create and curate events and stuff. As far as music goes, we’re always gonna make music. But right now we’re still building and expanding what we can do to help each other ground ourselves to make it a business for ourselves. Individually in our careers, we’re all just taking the steps to prepare ourselves for that.”
Sllime: “Y’all gonna hear that tape. Y’all know what the sound is. That shit, I wanna do that shit again.”
Qari: “I genuinely always wanna do this shit.”
Sllime: “Yeah, he always gonna do everything. I’m gonna wanna hear him on this shit, muhfuckas wanna hear on some other shit, bitches wanna see him play the guitar. He gon have to do all this shit, but as long as he got my beats in his inbox, we’re gonna do this shit again. It ain’t gonna be called ‘Operation Hennessy’ again. There’s just way too many names to go back to that.”
Qari: “We almost called this tape ‘Octopussy’ before ‘Operation Hennessy’. We had a bunch of ideas. If we can keep working with each other and making raw shit, that’s the goal. We didn’t give ourselves a deadline for this project or nothing.”
Sllime: “It wasn’t stressful. If you gotta think too much, I ain’t tryna do that shit. I ain’t get into this to be thinking and working. Some muhfuckas think I’m lazy, but if you try to get me to do the wrong shit, I’ma be lazy muhfucka. That ain’t my job. I ain’t coming to the studio at 1am. I wake up 4am and start working then in the crib. That’s when I’m at my most productive.”
Qari: “What he just described is what makes it easy to work with each other. We understand each other’s individual cycles, we don’t really haggle each other to do too much. We’re just gonna fall and meet in the middle because that’s how it has to come. It has to be natural and it has to feel good. That’s when always get the best result, when we come together when the time is right… It’s always the right time when we just keep doing it.”
Until the next batch of music from Qari and Sllime drop though, they’re going to continue working on their own shit while also continuing to push Operation Hennessy and all the acclaim it’s received so far. It is truly one of the first “must-listen” projects of the year. It is a refreshing callback to hip-hop’s past while also keeping a modern approach. If that isn’t enough to get you to listen, then maybe some words from the project’s creators will...
Qari: “You should listen to Operation Hennessy because it’s magnificent raps paired by magnificent beats. It’s like the best raps in the city. I had the biggest comeback of 2018 and I’m the king of R&B.”
Sllime: “If you don’t listen to it-”
Qari: “You’re a bitch.”
Sllime: “Your body parts will start falling off one by one, and you will die in your sleep.”
Qari: “I feel like people have to listen to it because the people are sick, and they’re dying. And they’re sick, and they’re dying. And they’re sick. So what we’re doing is saving their souls.”
Sllime: “I just wanna give them some ultimatum to scare the shit outta them so they have to listen. If you don’t listen then, I don’t know, what’s his name, Bill Murray is gonna shit on your chest. He be around Chicago randomly. I know Bill Murray, I’m calling him. If y’all don’t listen to ‘Operation Hennessy’, Bill Murray gonna shit on your chest”