In 1999, after hearing Jay Z’s Timbaland produced song, “Jigga What, Jigga Who”, during a car ride, Ace knew exactly what he wanted to become: a music producer. He went home that day, studied every element of the song and remade the beat on his keyboard.
Born to Liberian immigrants in Atlanta, GA on June 7, 1984, Grammy Nominated musical talent Lasanna “ACE” Harris has turned his teenage dreams into a thriving career. He has produced for Nicki Minaj, Lecrae, T.I. and Meek Mill. He is ½ of band, brand and music company duo PKOneday.
In this interview with Fufu & Soup, Ace Harris discusses his career, family, upcoming #ATLiberia project, the Liberian music industry, and more.
We are sure his words will inspire you as much as they have inspired us!
Private Show by T.I featuring Chris Brown is a pretty hot song right now; I hear it on the radio often. How did you get involved with that project?
I have a production venture with fellow producer Sham “Sak Pase” Joseph. And through our management team, we were able to submit records and work directly with T.I. We made the track and added the UGK sample thinking it would be cool to pay homage to that southern era. We sent it to Verse Simmonds who wrote it for Chris Brown. Chris decided not to use it for his album so we sent it to T.I. and he loved it and decided to keep Chris Brown on the hook. T.I. really brought it to life.
What influence do you think your Liberian heritage has on your musical style?
It has a tremendous impact. Growing up playing the drums in my father’s church, I was introduced to that West African rhythm at an early age. I consider my music very percussive and rhythmic. There’s something special and unique about African music and the drums being the core and the centerpiece of it.
Describe the stages of your beat-making process
It really varies from track to track. Right now I’m sort of in project mode so I’m focused on creating sounds and textures that fit a particular vision. But other times I’m so random and I literally just start banging on my drum Maschine or going through loops trying to find something that catches my ear. Sometimes inspiration finds me, but most times I have to go find it.
Is there an artist you want to work with that you have not yet had the opportunity to work with?
My dream list would be Andre 3000, Akon, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Coldplay, and D’Banj. Yeah, I know that’s a long list but I could do some damage. Imagine a Coldplay stadium rock record with some Afro Beat elements featuring Akon! Crazy!
Tell us about your parents, when did they come to America?
I am the son of Rev. Dr. William BGK Harris and Queeta Harris. I am one of 7 children. My dad came to America in the mid-1970s for school. My mom came a few years after. They actually met here in America at Tuskegee University. The irony of two Liberians being on the same campus in a strange land was a match made in heaven. When the coup broke out, they both ended up staying in America like most other Liberian immigrants at the time. They eventually settled in metro Atlanta where my dad founded a church that catered to the spiritual needs of many of the displaced Liberians and West Africans in the community.
What were some of the challenges you experienced specifically as a first-generation kid?
Well for one, having a name like “Lasanna” was always a challenge in school, not to be mistaken with “Lasagna” as the kids would tease. But looking back I really grew to love my name, heritage, and began to embrace being African Proud! Another adjustment was realizing that my parents’ heavy Liberian accent often confused the pronunciation of certain words. I remember going over to my friend’s house and asking where is the “ex box” only for them to point to their video game console the “X box”. I didn’t realize it at the time but my parents referred to the fridge as the “ice box” which sounded like “ex box” with their accent.
Who are the Liberians who influence and inspire you?
I would definitely have to say my father for being a visionary and a leader in the community. He is always pushing for change and growth but still taking time out to give back and help those in need. I also really admire Alexander B. Cummings who is the Executive Vice President at The Coca Cola Company. I’ve seen him speak a few times and he was so professional and accomplished. He echoed a quote that has always stuck with me: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
You interned for some popular hip-hop record labels in Atlanta like Purple Ribbon Label and DTP. There aren’t too many American cities where a young Liberian can have access to those type of opportunities. What was it like growing up in the Atlanta area and can you describe the Liberian community there?
I actually grew up in Buford, GA which is like suburban Atlanta; but when I went to college at Georgia State University I was able to really take advantage of the thriving Atlanta music scene. It seems like I started to pursue music at the right time because the music scene started to really take off here around that time. Artists like T.I., Ludacris, and Lil Jon were starting to make waves at the national level so it sort of worked out for me. I remember being in the city when Young Jeezy took off and there were Trap or Die Posters literally on very block. The Liberian community in Atlanta is very strong and vibrant. There’s a real culture here; plenty of events, festivals, and quality Liberian restaurants. The Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta recently opened a community center here.
Tell us about your upcoming #ATLiberia project. What inspired it and what artists can we expect to hear on the project?
#ATLiberia is a compilation project featuring various artists from here and abroad where I’m taking elements of African music and bringing them into my world of Hip Hop and Pop. I have features from Verse Simmonds, Kardinal Offishall, D Woods, Lloyd Musa, 2C, and plenty more! It’s going to be fresh, fly, and progressive. I really want to bridge the gap between African music and pop culture and I think this project will help do that. The name is an obvious play on my upbringing and heritage: Atlanta Raised, Liberian Made.