I pop down to Baldwin Street on a gloomy Sunday morning – a few doors down from Start the Bus café, where I meet Norwegian rapper Ivan Ave and LA-based producer Mndsgn. They had performed together at the venue the night before, for the second date of the European release tour for Helping Hands – Ivan Ave’s debut solo LP, wholly produced by Mndsgn. They kicked off the tour in Glasgow and will be wrapping up in Oslo at the end of the month. With one of them based in Oslo and the other in LA, first things first, I wanted to know how they got to work together.

gal-dem: How did your collaboration come about?

Both: Gotta give a shout out to Tanya!

Mndsgn: Tanya Enriquez. I was introduced to her through a mutual friend when I moved to Los Angeles. She’s a super sweet, passionate Filipino chick. When I was trying to work and make ends meet through music she said “I know this guy Ivan through the Internet who is looking for beats.” I checked it out and instantly thought he was dope and he’s willing to pay for beats.

Ivan Ave: I got to know her through Tumblr, because we were both posting similar things, and I like the fact that I got to know Ringo through visual shit because it’s such a clear parallel between that and his music.

You guys first collaborated on Slow Jams EP and now on this LP – will you guys be continuing to work together?

Ivan Ave: As long as it feels tight. I mean, we’re gonna be spending a lot of time together over the next month so… (laughs).

What’s the hip-hop scene like in Norway?

Ivan Ave: The hip-hop scene in Norway is ‘perfect’, ‘flawless’ (laughs). But in all seriousness it is diverse, there’s such a broad spectrum of hip-hop. Mainstream Norwegian rap is big on the radio. I think it’s good that people are using the language because it is really poetic if you know what you’re doing. But personally I really like that old flavour of hip-hop but most radio stations are on an american or even on a grime tip.

My collective go by the name of Mutual Intentions. We’re a group of musicians, visual artists and photographers. I’m proud of what we’re doing at the moment, we’re a movement creating waves in Oslo and I hope we can at least bring some balance to the sound in the city.

What do you think about the idea of leaving home to secure your dreams?

Mndsgn: A lot of people leave where they’re from and become known elsewhere. Like I came Jersey and culturally that city didn’t resonate with me, so I moved to LA and that’s worked out for the better. LA is a good place to create, to get immersed in all the inspiration and then travelling to share it with people is a good feeling.

Ivan Ave: I don’t need to live anywhere else to keep doing music. I’m from a town of 400 people so I had to move to Oslo, but I don’t need to move to Berlin or Paris or LA. I think there’s a lot to be said in staying in a city where there’s potential for growth. If everyone’s trying to make it in the big cities the scene is never going to prosper. I see it as a responsibility to build something that will allow the next generation to do what’s not necessarily in the mainstream focus. We’re lucky with the internet. We both came up on SoundCloud.

Mndsgn: Yeah, it’s a modernised word of mouth, spreading like wildfire.

Ivan Ave: Word of binary code.

Do you have a dream collaboration you’d love to get involved with?

Ivan Ave: I’m not trying to do collabs for the sake of the name. I like to work with one producer on a project. You can do all the ideas you have for tracks but there’s a wholeness and consistency. A completeness to working with one producer. I have Ringo and Fredfades, Yogi Soul from Mutual Intentions so I’m good for now. 

I like Blackmilk’s productions, oh and Dwele. But those are dreams that don’t necessarily need to be realised. It’s important to stay within a generation because it keeps it [the music] authentic. A lot of kids buy into big beats that Prem [DJ Premier] made. Pulled up a floppy disk from 1994 and you paid ten thousand dollars for that beat and it doesn’t help push things forward. So I think it’s really important to work with people from your time.

Mndsgn: I just finished my record with Stones Throw and I was asked who I wanted. I had an open book to high profile musicians but then I couldn’t think of anyone. It ended up being mostly me on the project and some other musicians I’ve built real relationships with. I have to know someone personally for them to be involved in something as spiritual as music. There has to be a bond. It could be a homie that’s well established but that’s doesn’t matter, it has to feel right.

Best gig you’ve ever been to?

Ivan Ave: Fatima and the Eglo Band. First time I saw them play, I went up to the keyboard player like “Yo that sh*t was dope!” My favourite live album is by Donny Hathaway, called Live, and I got the same vibe from this show. They were killing it in every way. I also saw D’Angelo in Oslo. That show has the greatest band of our time. Pino Palladino, Chris Day, Terrance Martin.

Mndsgn: I caught him last year, that’s the only time I’ve ever seen him but that’s got to be the one for me. I was waiting and waiting, thinking he’s gotta do Untitled. And he finished and I was like really? Came back out and closes the set with it. I was high for at least the next week.

Who are you currently listening to that should be put on?

Mndsgn: DJ Harrison. This fool is a beast. Crazy producer, musician and engineer. He’s from Richmond, Virginia. He also has a band called Butcher Brown. He’s kind of all over the place, but you can tell he has a strong foundation in jazz and inspired by the same shit that we listen to.

Ivan Ave: Sasac. He’s a Swedish producer on Omega Supreme. He’s on a whole different tip man. Retro, 80s ballaeric funk. He’s super dope.

What does 2016 have in store for you two?

Ivan Ave: It’s starting out real good for me, ‘cos we’re putting this record out February 12th. It’s great to be touring it while it’s dropping; I’m even selling the vinyl now before it’s out, on tour. I sold a bunch of records last night. It’s great just to be able to give people a world premiere. I’m hopefully going to be making the next record this year, and also make sure people catch the one coming out now.

Mndsgn: Like I said I just finished my record right before coming out here and I think maybe shoot for a mid-to-late summer release. I also have this label that I started with Alima Jennings and Sofie. We started this label called Akashik Records. We’re pressing limited physicals of the homies, people that we hear and know that need to put on. Working with artists like Joyce Wrice, Jamma Dee, and this other cat Clark and the Community. Iman Omari put me on to him. It’s gonna be a nice and busy year, and hopefully tour this record later in the year.

Helping Hands is out now on Jakarta Records. Cop it here.