"Telepathic Stuff": The Making of City Slick's "The Believer"

A look back at the highlight moment from Decay and Fluent's sophomore album 'The Money and His Fool.'

Co-founded by Pennsylvania-based producer Fluent and Ill Don in 2003, the Green Llama crew is loaded with talented MCs and producers. Their best-known member is veteran producer Dibiase, but the collective also boasts the skills of Decay, Tone Liv, Nasrockswell, Vincent Price, Selfish, B Stilt, Varan and Butta Verses. After nearly two decades of activity, they have a deep catalog of solo and collaborative projects that employ a captivating and completely novel sound.

City Slick is an impressive, under the radar effort from Green Llama’s first decade of existence. Featuring Chicago-based rapper Decay on the mic and Fluent on production, the duo made their debut in 2007 with the release of The Antique Black. With cuts like the ultra-smooth “Gold” and the vocal sample heavy, Ton Liv-assisted “Pressure,” Decay’s verses flow effortlessly over Fluent’s raw and varied production throughout their first record.

After the release of The Antique Black, City Slick took a four year hiatus. During that time Fluent went to work on some solo projects, including the small press beat tape Cookiez. “I made a bunch of those joints over the course of a few days of furious inspiration, which is often how I worked back then,” he told me in a 2018 Micro-Chop interview. “I would sometimes make six or seven tracks a day for a few weeks, or even put together some poorly constructed album in a day or two.”

Upon sending the Cookiez tape around to some of his Llama cohorts, several of the tracks piqued Decay’s curiosity and provided the necessary spark for the beginnings of their sophomore effort The Money and His Fool. The Decay-selectracted instrumentals eventually morphed into ‘The Hustle,’ ‘They Won’t Get Me’ featuring Ton Liv, and ‘A High Note.’

Not one to follow a stock beatmaking formula, Fluent created the bulk of instrumentals for The Money and His Fool utilizing a method that some producers might find surprising. He decided to record most of the beats in one take after finding the sequencing process creatively draining and overly laborious. “Nobody really knows this, but I’d say 85–90% of my beats are actually live performances,” he told Micro-Chop. “I learned early that I did not have the patience to sit and program a sequencer for hours to get everything how I wanted it—especially on an SP-505, or worse, the 303.”

There are several standout moments on The Money and His Fool, but “The Believer” may be the cream of the crop. Brief, powerful, and void of a hook, Decay absolutely destroys Fluent’s upper echelon instrumental. The ominous grit and beauty of the beat comes from an unnamed electronic record that Fluent has sampled several times over the years. In terms of technique, Roland SP-303 aficionados will likely appreciate how the generous use of the 303’s time stretch feature gives the beat a one of a kind sound.

The song also serves a s prime example of the strong creative bond shared by Decay and Fluent. Their collective workflow was so strong that they both found vocal samples from the same MC to help give “The Believer” the perfect finishing touch. Sometimes I like to add a small, succinct vocal sample that I hear in my head that I think would fit on the beat, so I added the Jay-Z line at the beginning,” Fluent told Micro-Chop. “D ran with it, and he added the, ‘We don’t believe you, you need more people,’ line at the end. That was a microcosm of how we worked, just feeding off each other’s recorded audio and not discussing what we were going to do. Telepathic stuff.”

Though Decay and Fluent haven’t released an album in close to a decade, they have scores of beats and unreleased songs in their personal archives. Whether or not they decide to release any of it in the future, “The Believer” and the rest of The Money and His Fool is well worth revisiting today.

Thanks for reading, see you on Monday!