preload
Dec 23

HypeBeast sat down with Mayer Hawthorne to conduct this interview. It’s a good read…

“If you name the most interesting new recording artist to have emerged in 2009, the list probably encompasses only a small number of worthy candidates. For the sake of music justice, make sure to add the name Mayer Hawthorne. The 29-year old musician hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan created quite a stir for himself within just a few months, due to his fine interpretation of classic 70’s Motown Soul. With his fairly distinct fashion aesthetic and his undeniable musical talent, Hawthorne infused a breath of fresh air to a musical genre that has been on its death bed for some time.”

Read the full interview here.

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Apr 16

Sonic Sum
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OK. Please introduce yourself.

My Name is Rob Smith. I am from the group Sonic Sum. I am also called Rob Sonic.

Can you give us a little background info on Sonic Sum: Who it consists of, when you formed under the banner and mission objective if any?

Sonic Sum is: My self vocals/production, Eric M.O. production/Bass, Fred Ones Turntables/production and Dj Jun, Turntables/production. We have been formally working together as Sonic Sum for about 6 years. But we worked on stuff before that, just not as a group. We are all on highly classified missions, so if you have a problem and no one else can help and you can find us.

Where did you grow up and where do you currently reside?

I grew up in the DC area, and have been coming to NY since I was child. I’ve lived for over a decade. I’m in the Bronx now but I’ve lived in every borough.

The thing that strikes me the most about Sonic Sum is the feel of live instrumentation within the music. Do you use live instruments on your records? Are they used on the majority of your records? Are you at all musically inclined (trained) or are you going based off feel?

Yeah. We enlist every thing we can from church organs to guitars with not enough strings. Necessity you know? Eric is really the only one with any training. The rest of us come from a more traditional hip-hop production background, but there’s really nothing traditional about the way we do it. Whatever works is our motto, we try to keep our songs as different from each other as possible!

Your lyrics hearkens a sense of compression & encoding; as if you’ve packed so much information into a very small amount of space. How do you feel about meaning in songs, levels of encryption?

I don’t really follow the compression thing because writing is how I decompress, but I’ll take a shot. It all makes sense to me when its written, but I am aware of my selfishness as a writer. I feel like I give it back the way I get it. Like you’re not going to pull ten things of true worth out of a days worth of information from the various sources we have. And if you do it’s instantly erased by some shitty add for a product. Well it’s like I comprehend in short hand, so that’s going to come out in my writing. I try to deliver message 1 and message 2 as rapidly as possible. So that people can see the similarity in opposites and that the sense that isn’t made is not our fault cause we are overwhelmed.

Do I remember correctly you hanging around the old Ozone message boards a few years ago?

Ummm. Yeah I guess, but how does one hang around images on a screen?

Does technology, and more directly the internet fit into your own strategical plan for Sonic Sum. In what degree?

Sure, the internet is cool. I’ve met lots of cool people on the web, its a good economical way to promote and surf the web, its mad webbed out. I just hope artists don’t have to rely on it, I know I wouldn’t, I’ll stop releasing music if there isn’t the human contact that music naturally evokes, It’s like anything else good and bad.

Please describe your relationship with Ozone.

If not for Ozone I prolly wouldn’t have put anything out, really Meech believed in me when I did not. Showed me the ropes of this the realities and most of all they had the vision. So they are friends, as well as Management, and they put out our music.

Have you known Mike Ladd for a minute? How did ya’ll meet up?

I have known Mike for years, We met through friends. I was kinda going through a bad time when I met him. I think the actual meeting was me being passed out drunk on his floor. And he just came in like it was nothing. Just came in went about his Biz, like “What up man”?

Just recently, you’ve linked up with Definitive Jux. Can you go into that partnership: its history, present & any possible future plans?

I’m doing some stuff outside of the group. And if it’s Ill, then Definitive Jux it is. I mean I’m a fan of the label so it’s got to be a great record for me to approach them with it. The way it happened is that I’ve known El for a while through Ozone, We always talked music and shit clicked on some things. I think he liked some of the more recent stuff I’ve been doing and it sparked some interest. We’re friends anyways so.

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Do you get a bugged reaction performing in NYC? How does the crowd react to your live shows, and is it any different from a few years ago?

For the most part people are receptive and we try to put on the best show we can. I think the thing with crowds anywhere now that is different from when I was younger is, it seems to me everybody wants to hear from someone else what they should like. So you develop these championing super fans and if you’re not who they want to see they don’t give you a chance. Which I think is bullshit. For the most part we get a great response.

Rob Smith: Top left, DJ Jun Bottom Left, Eric M.O. Right Front, Fred Ones Right Back

What’s the stage setup, live bass?

Its me on vocals and Eric on bass up front, And Fred and Jun on three turntables spinning our instrumentals and cuttin and Jun playing keyboards in back…So there’s more to look at than just me runnin my yap.

Are you hip to overseas reaction? Any feedback been thrown your way?

Of course I got friends all over the UK and Eric is from Dublin so, we are actually received very well on the other side of the drink. The thing about Europe is that they really enjoy going to venues and they dig into music quite deeply. So they are knowledgeable about acts that may not be that well known here. It’s fresh, always a good reaction, don’t really know about anywhere else.

What kinda science fiction you dig on?

All kinds. Mostly the standards: Bradbury, Vonnegut, P.K. Dick, Aldous Huxsley…

Favorite author?

It’s between Kafa and Mikhail Bulgakov…Too many to pick though. Reading is the one thing I wish I could do more.

Any non Def Jukies you’d like to get up with and collaborate on?

I don’t know, I’d like to work Shadow, Roots Manuva, Mike Diamond. The rest is people I know El-P, Anti Pop!

Have you ever visited the Peach site?

Yes a few times, It’s fresh.

So go ‘head and tell us what’s coming up for Sonic Sum: Future releases, all
dat.

In late April we are releasing a limited edition CD called “Plaster Man” which will have songs that we only released on vinyl and a few exclusive tracks. Then in September we are dropping our second album called “Films” and I really like it. It’s more aggressive but not outside of our sound so, yeah that’s the big one.

And finally, any closing words?

The lobby with it imposing mouth and morning breath, it’s disregard chewed us both. We were stories that were told to its friends that were giant and Laughing. Train’s pitched us like pennies from their drunken hands, they watch us lean. – Grand Central Station 1993.

Special thanks goes out to Rob Sonic, Ese @ Ozone, KennyK & Reggie for their help with this interview.

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Jul 15

Bomb Hip-Hop Records

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Redesigning the perception of independent hiphop music, Brian Coleman sits down with Bomb Hip-Hop’s David Paul on what drives one of the most well respected, subterranean hiphop labels on planet Earth.

Brian Coleman: OK, tell me why you started BOMB (back in ’94, yes?). What started it? Was it planned, or did it just happen? How was the label related to the now sadly-defunct BOMB magazine, and the BOMB parties you used to throw?

David Paul: I was doing a rap show on college radio in 1990 at KCSF (City College of SanFrancisco). I used to do a monthly playlist that would also contain a paragraph or two with a show review or small article. I had wrote a couple of articles for new up starting rap publications but the magazines never put out their first issues. One morning I woke up and decided that I was going to do a hip-hop magazine. I put the first issue together (Oct. 1991) by using an old typewriter, reducing the size of the text on a copy machine and then pasting the paragraphs together with a glue stick… pretty archaic, but it worked! After the first issue a classmate of mine Vic Osborne offered to help me with the layout of the magazine since I didn’t have a computer. I have to give Vic mad props cause he helped me for the first year until I purchased a computer, typing in the text and helping with the layout and he never asked for anything in return. The caliber of writers that wrote for the Bomb during it’s existence was extraordinary and is probably what drawed readers to the magazine. Writers like Funken-Klein (R.I.P.), Billy Jam, Spence Dookey, Cheo Coker, Jazzbo, Faisal Ahmed, Dave Tompkins, DJ Shadow, Kut Masta Kurt and many others who have all wrote or are currently writing for major publications. In 1992 The Bomb Hip-Hop Magazine issued two flexidiscs by a then unknown Automator (of Dr. Octagon/Deltron fame), Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf and other artists. While doing the publication I would always receive demo tapes for our Demos section in the magazine. In 1994 I released an album titled “Bomb Hip-Hop Compilation” that featured Jigmastas, Blackalicious, Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf as well as many others that we has been in contact with by receiving and reviewing their demos. That was basically the start of Bomb Hip-Hop and how it turned into a record label.

BC: The indie hip-hop world wasn’t anywhere near as burgeoning (or crowded) back then as it is now. Did that make things easier or harder (harder for distribution? Easier because of less competition?)

DP: Actually you hit it right on the nose! There was less distribution but also less competition. Nowadays everyone has their own label so there is such a flood of indie music out there. Stores don’t have the budgets to bring in a lot of units of a particular indie release and fans can’t afford every single album out there.

BC: As part of your new “Droppen The Bomb” compilation (out May 29, 2001) you’re including your first album, “Bomb Hip Hop Compilation” as a bonus CD. That’s big news to a lot of BOMB fans. Why was that out-of-print for so long (when did it go out of print)?

DP: Bomb Hip-Hop Compilation was outta print basically right after it came out in 1994. I originally released the album when I was doing the magazine in conjunction with an independent label from Los Angeles. They got credit from the pressing plant, sold the albums and took off with the money and didn¹t pay the pressing plant or pay me anything for the artists share as well as my cut… welcome to the business. That¹s when I learned I had to do it on my own. So that album has been out-of-print since 1994 and this is the first time that it has been available since then because I couldn’t get the master artwork or music back.

BC: Over the years, I think BOMB has been known more for their contributions to DJ/Turntablist culture (through the famed “Return of the DJ” series, started in 1995) than for all the MC-based hip-hop tracks and albums you’ve put out. Do you think that’s fair to say? Do you think many people think it’s * just * a DJ label? Does that annoy you?

DP: Yes, that is definitely what Bomb is known for. But if you look at all of the Bomb releases (9 singles, 3 EPs, 20 albums) 44% of those are rap, 42% DJ oriented and 14% instrumental/other. Sure it is a little annoying that people mainly know Bomb for the Return of the DJ series but then again, it’s good to be known for something than nothing at all.

BC: With the press materials you sent out with “Droppen The Bomb” you included a sheet that seemed to be answering questions before people could ask them, like why you took a year off, and also explaining some of the economics of the business, even describing in some detail – how you got burned on retail co-op programs with chain stores. Why? It seemed like it was something that you wanted to get off your chest.

DP: It wasn’t so much as wanting to get something off my chest as much as wanting to school people. Unless you have your own label you don’t really understand everything that comes into play. I always meet people and when I tell them what I do they think it’s cool and must be fun. I love music and it beats sitting at a boring 9-5 job but it’s not that easy either. If you have a 9-5 you know you’re getting paid so much every two weeks, owning your own label you could go a few months (or longer) without seeing any money. Fans always hear rap songs about how labels are shady but it’s a two sided coin. You never hear an artist rapping how no one bought his album and he’s sorry his record label lost thousands of dollars on him.

BC: You also stated in those materials that, as part of the hiatus, you wantedto take a year off and “get back to enjoying music again.” Did you? What have you been listening to lately?

DP: I’ve been listening to a lot of different stuff. Old Prince, a lot of 80’s music and early 90’s rap. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the business of music and forget how to actually enjoy music. I’m glad I took the time to get back to the roots of it all. Plus I had become a work-a-holic for a while there and all work and no play isn’t healthy.

BC: Is BOMB always going to stay as solely a hip-hop label? Have you ever been tempted to put out other kinds of music, like R&B, rock, electronic, jazz? Or is it important to stay focused?

DP: I have been tempted in past to do other types of music. As a music fan I like all types of music. A couple of years ago I actually signed an alternative rock band called The Planet Sun (Garbage/Curve style band). But once the album was ready I knew that I wouldn’t be able to properly market and promote that album. Business wise that is a totally different market that would take a lot of time to learn. I’ve been in the hip-hop scene since 1985, I know hip-hop so at this point it’s best to stay focused and stick with what I know.

BC: Tell me which two or three albums (or singles) you’re proudest of, and why.

DP: Obviously the Return of the DJ series is what I’m most proud of. But there are others like DJ Faust’s first album “Man or Myth?” and the “Revenge of the B-Boy” compilation. I can throw those on anything and listen to them front to back and it’s strong all the way through. Those will definitely stand the test of time, which is the true test when it comes to a great album.

BC: Which albums or singles never sold as many as you thought they should?

DP: Musically, one of the best records I’ve ever put out was the DJ Format “English Lesson” 12″ record. DJ’s like Cut Chemist, Z-Trip and That Kid Miles (Breakestra) were going crazy over that record but it just didn’t do that well in sales. I thought it would do okay and I told Format that I’d be probably be able to send him at least $500 at a certain point. But after all the expenses the project lost money. That was a shame because it affected the relationship that DJ Format and I had. Since he was in the UK he thought I was lying about the numbers that it sold. I offered to mail him copies of ALL the receipts and give him phone numbers to all the distributors so he could check on it. But he mentioned to me that anyone could make fake receipts and I could just have everyone at the distributors lie for me. When I look back at that situation I should have just told him the record did better than it really did and give him $500 out of my pocket. It would have been better than the grief and lose of a friendship. That record should have blown up but it didn’t and it’s a shame cause that is a HOT record.

BC: Did you have any idea how important and big the “Return of the DJ” series would be, when you started it in ’95 (with tracks by Q-Bert, X-Ecutioners, Babu)? Which one of those albums (3 volumes thus far) do you like best, or listen to most often?

DP: When I came up with the concept of the first Return of the DJ I never thought it would be important or big. I was just tired of rap albums no longer featuring that one or two songs that were DJ tracks. So I decided why not make a whole album like that. I don’t think it was some super intelligent concept, it’s just no one thought of it (or at least did it) before I did. In fact, the first volume really didn’t blow up. It wasn’t until 1997 when Volume II came out that people caught on and then I re-released the first volume. I can’t say that one of them is my favorite, they are all good and if you listen to them in order you can hear the progression of scratch patterns and styles.

BC: You’ve got a big BOMB 10th anniversary party planned in September in San Francisco. Obviously you started doing those parties in ’91 (while the label didn’t start until ’94). Tell me about some classic moments from the old ones, and tell me about what you’ve got planned (date set yet?) for the one coming up. Anyone definitely booked yet?

DP: The old Bomb parties are legendary. I usually did them during the Gavin Convention when they used to have it in San Francisco every year. Some of the artists who have performed at past Bomb parties include : Invisibl Skratch Picklez, Kool Keith (first live performance of any Dr. Octagon material), Aceyalone, Solesides Crew (Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, Lateef), Jurassic 5, Beat Junkies (Rhettmatic, J Rocc, Babu, Melo D), Supernatural, Schoolly D, Akinyele featuring Rob Swift, Shakey featuring Rahzel the Human Beatbox, Ultramagmetic MCs, Pete Nice & Daddy Rich, Alkaholiks, House of Pain (with B-Real from Cypress Hill), Pharcyde, Masta Ace, Freestyle Fellowship, Funkdoobiest and Nas. The 10 year celebration of Bomb is set for Sunday, September 23rd. There will be events on that Friday and Saturday as well but the big party of the weekend will be on that Sunday. We be announcing the artists sooner to the date, but you can be sure that there will be an awesome line-up.

BC: Tell me what tracks you really like, and which should get some good airplay, from “Droppen The Bomb.”

DP: Obviously “Definition of Nice” by Paul Nice (Featuring AG from DITC, DJ Babu and Gennessee) will probably get a lot of airplay, especially since we also have it available on 12″ vinyl. Other fat tracks would be the previously un-released Blackalicious song “The Calcutta Convention” and the new Swollen Members track “Dark Riders”. There’s plenty of tracks with different styles on the CD for DJ’s to choose from so I’m sure everyone can find at least one track they wanna bump.

BC: I’ve heard the Knightz of Bass “Reborn” record that you’re putting out (June 12). It’s pretty amazing. Sounds like it’s a lost Hashim electro record from ’84. Tell us about that group, since most people haven’t heard of them. Do you think old-school electro music is of interest to hip-hop fans these days, or are you looking more to the electronic/RPM fans?

DP: Knightz of Bass are a crew of three guys in Germany; Cooley Blast, MoE and Jelly Jam. They basically produce electro hip-hop (80’s retro style). They have put out a few releases in Europe but this is the first time that their music will be available in the US. I doubt young hip-hop fans will even check for this record. Maybe the hip-hop audience age 28+ because that’s what they grew up with but most of the so-called hip-hop fans nowadays most likely won’t go crazy for it. As far as marketing, it will be promoted to the electronica/RPM audience. It’s close to techno in some senses so I’m hoping that audience will catch on as well as the old school hip-hop heads.

BC: Tell me about the other records you have planned after that: Def Cut “Return To Burn” (never heard of him, please describe) and the long-awaited “Return of the DJ: Volume IV.”

DP: Def Cut is a DJ/producer from Switzerland. His style is instrumental hip-hop with vocal snippets and some scratching. Similar to the Freestylers in a way. As far as the new Return of the DJ (August 21st release date), I think fans will like it. It’s just some pure hard-core scratching madness.

BC: I saw on the BOMB homepage (www.bombhiphop.com) that you want the tracks on “Return Vol. IV? to be “as hard-core and as scratch-heavy” as possible, mostly because you think magazine critics “have been knocking hard-core scratching lately.” Please explain. That sounds like a dare to both artists and critics to me. What got you to this point?

DP: When Volume III was released a few critics dissed it. They were the same people that were all over turntablism’s nuts a couple of years earlier and now they were writing it off as boring. They even had the nerve to say it wasn’t very musical. If you listen to all three volumes in the series Volume III is very musical and the most musical out of the three. In fact there are some incredible things being done on that album but I think critics didn’t take the time to analyze and recognize what the DJs were actually doing. To them it was a trend and the fad was over for them.

BC: Tell me the biggest mistake you’ve made in the business over the years, and what you learned from it. And what kept you going after that.

DP: Well, there has been plenty of mistakes that I have made. But I guess that’s all part of the learning process. One of the biggest ones was falling into the trap of trying to take it to the “next level”. There is no next level for an indie label! I tried to jump to the “next level” to find out that I should have walked up the staircase. The jump from what I do and selling massive amounts of records is a very large leap. I tried spending money on music videos, independent promoters, magazine ads, retail Co-Ops and so forth. But let’s face the facts, major labels have that part of the industry locked down and unless you can spend $100,000-$200,000 on a release you can’t compete in that world. The best thing to do is keep cost down, grass roots promotions, work the press and hope you get the most valuable type of promotion : word-of-mouth.

BC: Tell me what keeps you going, and why you chose to return to putting out records, rather than walk away. It must be even harder for you day-to-day since BOMB is a smaller operation than people probably think, and quite the opposite of a corporate record label (with lots of employees to back you up).

DP: To tell you the truth this is what I do – music is my life. I’ve been involved in the music business since 1985 and it’s been my only source of income since 1991. At 34 what else would I do (laughing), and to be honest I wouldn’t want to do anything else. It’s not like I stopped putting out records and then decided to return. I never left, just took a break from new releases and worked what I had and prepared the new releases that are coming out now. For the most part Bomb is a one-man record label. There have been a few people that have helped me over the years but for the most part it’s basically me. So if I don’t get something done, it won’t get done cause my only back up is myself.

BC: Are you 100% glad to be back in the biz? Did you miss it at all while you were “on hiatus?”

DP: Hmmmm… that’s a funny question. I’m definitely glad to have some new releases and have music back in the community but I also know how much work I’ll have to put it to make them successful. It’s all about timing. You can have a great record but it just comes out at the wrong time and fans are into a totally different style of hip-hop at that moment. Not to mention timing with radio, press and retail. You need all three to click and hit at the same time. That isn’t an easy thing to accomplish, but if it does happen then it helps a lot. Droppen the Bomb was originally supposed to come out two years ago but it wasn’t the right time. So I updated a few songs and deleted some of the dated ones for the version that is coming out and it seems like it’s the right time for this type of album. Some of the artists on the album are blowing up on their own right now so that will help push this compilation.

BC: Final comments for people out there, about what BOMB is all about, and why it’s different from other labels? And what people should look for this year, and beyond?

DP: I think what separates Bomb from a lot of labels are a few key things. First off Bomb is all about the four elements of hip-hop. I don’t just talk about it, I put my heart and money behind it with all my DJ releases, Revenge of the B-Boy (a breakdancing album), all the rap albums I’ve releases and the in-the- works Music To Bomb To (graffiti inspired album). Another thing about Bomb is it’s a very global thinking record label. I’ve had artists on my releases from a list of international countries; Norway, Finland, Germany, France, England, Japan, Australia and Canada to name a few. Upcoming releases for this year include Return of the DJ – Volume IV in August and the Bomb Anniversary Collection :1991-2001 in September (a 4-CD set featuring over 60 tracks). Next year I’ll have Revenge of the B-Boy : Episode 2, Music to Bomb To, a couple of rap compilations and a few surprises. I’m always coming up with something…

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Jun 29

Lootpack

loot_pack_crewphoto courtesy Stones Throw

The following interview was conducted in Japanese by an unnamed source. We did not alter any of the questions, so they may appear worded somewhat off, but we feel you guys will get it.

The interview is split into 3 parts with Dj Romes, Madlib and finally Wildchild all taking a shot answering questions. Enjoy.

DJ ROMES

How did you guys meet hiphop?

Block parties, man. Around my corner. They would have two turntables and the DJ would spin hip hop. This was around 1983. I wanted to be a DJ so bad man! That’s how I hooked up with Madlib. I had turntables, I was becoming a DJ. And I had Madlib in Math Class with me in Junior High. I didn’t know him, but I seen him listening to headphones bobbing his head. I asked him what he was listening to, he said “Some hip hop shit.” So I told him about this radio station, KCSB – a college radio station in Santa Barbara. They had a hip hop show there since like, ’78. DJ DDZ was there then.

Who was your biggest influence when you started hiphop?

I always liked DST. That was one of the first records I had, “Crazy Cuts.”

How did you start Lootpack?

We got together in Junior High. Madlib introduced me to Wildchild. They were popping (breakedancing) partners. We started freestyling together during lunch breaks. We used to battle wack MCs. I used to rap too, in the lunch room banging on tables and stuff like that! But Lootpack didn’t start ’til like 1989. We were friends before Lootpack started.

What is the meaning of Lootpack?

Man, you’d have to ask Wildchild about that!

How did you start your connection with the Likwit Crew?

Wildchild knew Tash. Tash used to work at Footlocker in the mall we used to go to in Ventura. Jack knew him, we showed him a tape and went from there.

Do you still roll with the Likwit Crew now?

That’s a tough question. Everytime we talk, we’re down, but we’re not on the new album.

How is King Tee as an artist?

King Tee! I was a big King Tee fan when I was younger. Madlib was a big fan too! He’s a true B Boy. Always has been, always will be.

You guys are in the music business from the Alkaholiks’ first album, right? Why didn’t you put out your album EP, “Psyche Move” sooner?

Shady record label politics.

How did you meet Peanut Butter Wolf? Also, why did you choose to do a business with Stones Throw?

We met at a music convention. One of the Gavin Conventions. He had heard our Psyche Move EP on a radio station in San Francisco. He really liked it, so he got the contact number off of the record and called. He spoke to Madlib’s dad, who was our manager at the time. It just went from there. We all felt comfortable with him, so we signed to do a deal.

What is the main theme of the album, “Soundpieces : Da Antidote” ?

Hip hop, pure and simple.

How did you end up to do a promo like this? Who’s idea was it to do a promo like this?

I have to give props to Zoo York. They were the company that came up with the treatment for the video. We all liked it, so we rolled with it.

Peanut Butter Wolf is in that PV also, right? Did you ask him to be in the PV? Did you guys think of him to do a role from the begining?

Wolf and Kutmasta Kurt (who is also in the video) had so much to do with our album coming out that we wanted to show love. You know, keep it in the family.

I heard that you guys do a wild freestyle on the stage! Well, what is the most important thing on stage?

Spontaneity. Everything we do is spontaneous. We don’t plan out a thing!

Anything crazy ever happen on stage?

Oh yeah, all the time. I remember one time in Germany there was a big whole in the stage – right in front of the turntables. Well, Madlib was doing a verse and he fell right through the stage! He just finished his verse – sitting down. He’s a true professional.

Are you guys thinking about the second album yet? Any idea how it’s going to sound like?

We’re hard at work right now, doing lots of pre production at PB Wolf’s house. The next album is going to be completely different than the first one. Stay tuned y’all.

MADLIB

How did you start Lootpack?

Yup, I’ve been together with Jack (Wildchild) and (DJ) Romes for a while. We started breaking together in junior high. Actually, when we first started out, Romes was rapping and I was the DJ!

How did you start track making?

I was a DJ before I was a producer. I had all of my pop’s old records. He hit me with the JB’s with the “Soul Clap” bass line on it.

Doing it to death, right?

Yeah, “Doing it to Death.” All scratched up! My dad had everything – jazz, soul. He was down with (famous LA arranger) HB Barnum.

Would you say you are influenced by him musically?

He used to always take me to the studio. I was mad young, just chillin’ up in that atmosphere. My dad taught me my musical sense. But my uncle too – John Faddis. He’s played trumpet on mad records all over the world. Back in the day he schooled me on music to listen to. He’d make me tapes – all jazz artists.

Who is a producer you look up to?

David Axelrod. PERIOD! He has such a heavy sound. Even when it’s mellow. He’s one of Quas’ favorites too! His scope as a producer.

Do you think producers have the scope like that in hiphop?

Yeah. I always looked up to Pete Rock and Large Professor on the SP 1200. Muggs too. The first Cypress album is so dope. The way he flips the sound. You could use the same records with the MPC 2000, but it ain’t going to sound the same. The drums come out punchier on the SP. I got the SP 12 in about 1990. Then I moved up to the SP 1200 in like ’92. I picked up the MPC last year.

What is your favorite musical instrument?

Fender Rhodes! I’d rather be playing the Fender Rhodes, no doubt! That’s my favorite instrument on all the old jazz records. PB Wolf bought me one three months ago. I thought I’d want to make tapes for myself. Now, I have about four albums with Yesterday’s New Quintet. See, I record a song into the Roland VS 880, play along with it for a while. then I take out that track and add my own drums. Some songs I keep in their original form, some I totally flip. Change the rhythms on some of them.

So you catch the melodies and chord progressions by ear?

Yeah, and I do it different too. Play my own notes around it. I get some of the melodies right, some I make up in my head. Then I have to add drums. Heavy drums, like on them Axelrod records.

Reaction has been great. The legendary pianist, Weldon Irvine gave you props!

Man, I was shocked. I had a dream about that.

I woul think you listen to all kinds of music…What is your biggest influence, though?

Steve Kuhn. Mad Sun Ra! Mainly I’ve been listening to old jazz. I’ve been buying mad Ahmad Jamal, Yusef Lateef. But you have to like all types of music, especially if you’re a DJ.

“Elle’s Theme” EP is doing well in Japan, now…Is the Yesterday’s New Quintent album coming out soon?

I’ve done mad albums – probably over 200 songs with YNQ. Some are Fender Rhodes based, some have Clavinet, Vibes, Wurlitzer, Electric Bass, Electric Guitar, Kalimba – man, I’ve used every instrument I can. Wolf and I have to go through and pick out an album right now – but it’s hard for me to stop recording!

Some say Quasimoto is Madlib. Is this true? Who is Quasimoto?

All the stuff happened four or five years ago. Off a mushroom trip. See, the story’s always different. Basically, Quasimoto is my alter ego. However you want to see it is cool with me.

You two rarely rhyme about the same topics.

Oh hell no! I have a family. Quas ain’t got no family. He’s a bugged out guy! He gets input from wherever – Sun Ra, the devil, phony people comin’ up to him, bitches asking for money, stupid ass record store owners.

Sounds like Quas is always angry!

Nah, he ain’t pissed at me. We just hang out and do music. He accused me of getting a big head though – when I did remixes for J-88, Planet Asia and all that.

Everyone writes about “The Unseen” LP like it was a conceptual whole.

Nah man, nothing I do is like that. I just do what I feel. Don’t really think too much about it. Quas is usually whatever I want to do. I just bug out, use something somebody might have already used but flip it different. Lootpack, I mainly show Jack and Romes beats and they pick ’em out. And they have a certain idea of the sound that they want.

WILDCHILD:

How’d you get into hiphop?

My uncle got me into listening to hip hop records. He was like 21 at the time. He would play records like Sugarhill Gang. That was one of the first records I heard and wanted to save up money to buy. This was around the time that Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” came out.

You’ve been into this a long time! Back then, who was your biggest influence?

Hip hop wise, it would have to be Grandmaster Flash. I liked DJs, the sound you know? That was the first I remember, ever. I used to listen to more r and b. Like One Way and Kyptic Crew. 80s r and b.

How’d you get into MC’ing?

Man, that wasn’t until my freshman year in high school. Me and my man God’s Gift used to kick it together. Me and Otis met in Junior High. Ocean View Junior High School. Just freestyling.

Is that how Lootpack started?

Nah, we didn’t get serious until our second year of college.

Where?

Oxnard College. We all went there. I went the furthest, they stopped early. I didn’t get my degree though.

What’s the meaning of Lootpack?

Lyrics On Orignal Tracks, Possible Antidote Created in Kali.

Your connection with the Likwit Crew?

We’re cool. They put us down when they turned one of our first demo songs into a song on their first album. This lead to the other feature songs on each album. They were trying to help us come up. We don’t represent everytime with the ‘Liks, but we’re still cool. We’ll always be cool with the ‘Liks. They helped us out a lot.

And PEanut Butter Wolf? Why did you want to work with him?

Wolf seemed like a cool cat. He knew his music well, so he was easy to relate to. And the fact that he liked us from the get go made it even easier. And he gave us creative freedom?

What is the man theme of “Soundpieces : Da Antidote” ?

Straight MC ing, battling. We tried to come from a different aspect, but be universal. That’s what the title came from. Different sounds, as far as the beats.

Most memorable song?

I’d say “Episodes.” That pretty much sums up the album. The changing of beats with the whole crew getting down on the track. Kazi, Medaphoar, Oh No and God’s Gift were all on the album. The posse song was dope!

What’s the most important part of your live performance?

Hmm! That’s a tough one. I guess doing a different show each time. Spontaneity. We build off each other on stage.

Any crazy moments on stage?

Yeah, one time in Scotland, it was just crazy. It wasn’t even planned. It started off all these girls coming on stage, then it just turned into a big party. It reminded me of an Alkoholiks show. Lots of people, on a small stage. But it wasn’t hectic, that’s what made it cool.

What’s up with your second album?

We’re working on it as we speak. Just trying to come different with it. But at the same time, we’re trying to catch everyone off guard.

Any idea of what it’s going to sound like?

I’m going to say one word: “abyss.”

Huh?

Deep!

The fact that Madlib has been going through a lot of transformations lately ups the ante. I think people are expecting something off the well — like Quasimoto or Yesterday’s New Quintent.

Yup. We’re going to go at it differently. Elevate from the first album. It’s still going to be the Lootpack flavor, but with a twist.

Any people you’re trying to work with on this one?

Hopefully Slum Village, Talib Kweli, our crew no doubt, Quasimoto, Percee P and Pete Rock as well.

Percee P! Man, he was the main influence on Organized’s early sound! How’d you hook up with him?

It’s the craziest story. Our first time in NYC, Percee came up to me in the club and he asked me to buy this old battle tape he had. That’s what he does, he sells old tapes to this day. Cold Crush Crew and everything. At first, I didn’t recognize his face, because I’d only heard him on wax. So he said, “Do you rhyme?” I said, “Yeah, do you?” He said, “I’m the rhyme inspector Percee P?” And I said, “Word, I’m Wildchild, from The Lootpack.” He was like, “WHAT?”

He knew you?

Oh hell yeah! He got just as hype as I got from him. Dude, it was over! That’s why we featured him on our forthcoming video documentary, “Da Packumentary.” He kills it! He was like, “Oh man, I love ya’ll stuff!” So we’ve been trying to make it happen.

Sounds like you guys have it under control!

Yup, things are coming together. We’re tying up a brand new single, coming out on Stones Throw Records in the summer. And we’re happy that our album is finally coming out in Japan! With our video! Man, I’m hyped! I hope that we get to tour Japan sometime soon, that’s always been a dream of mine.

Tagged with:
May 04

blockhead

photos courtesy centralcali.com

Blockhead is the man behind many of AesopROCK’s beats, and was one of four members of New York City’s Overground which also consisted of Dub-L (The Controls, AesopROCK, etc.). The Peach caught up with Blockhead on a Spring afternoon in 2001 and ended up in a grapple battle for dominance of the cookie tray! Here’s the conversation.

Peach: WHATS UP BLUD???

Blockhead: Nuttin…Chillin like the internet villian that I am.

P: So, yo. AesopROCK’s “Float” was the shit. How much did you produce of it?

B: I did 8 joints and the three little instrumental interludes…

P: And you’re doing some work on the next joint too?

B: Of course. I did 9 joints out of 16. Movin’ up in the world…

P: Haha. Does the next one have a name yet?

B: Yup, “Labor Days”. Ironically enough, that’s about when it’ll be dropping too.

P: Hot. How did the El-P teamup come about?

B: Well…Aesop’s publicist is also El-P’s. I think she gave him a CD and he liked it enough to what to put out his new record on Def Jux. Also, being down with Canibal Ox and the Atoms Fam is a bonus.

P: As a producer, I know, equipment can be kinda like the secret formula in the musician’s arsenal. Do you wanna talk about the kind of equipment you use?

B: Sure…I use an Asr 10. No more, no less. What do you want to know about it?

P: How long you been rockin it?

B: Hmmm…about 5 or 6 years now. I just paid my last installment a year ago though.

P: Have you been able to perform live? Do you bring the asr out with you to shows?

B: Nope…that would be hell. The Asr is like a big ass keyboard. It weighs about 80 pounds. I’m not trying to move it anywhere. I think DATs, records and CD’s work better for live shows anyway. I’d look like a dickhead on stage pressing buttons.

P: What’s the process in which yourself and Aesop work? Do you make a ton of beats and Aesop picks the ones he digs? Do you setout with a kind of sound in mind, or does form come out of chaos?

B: It’s different. Most of the time Aesop will come over and just listen to my new beats. If he likes something, he takes it. Sometimes he will actually write to the beat but most of the time he just picks a beat that suit whatever mood he’s written for. I got mad beats too so it’s not like he’s limited to just a few kind of tracks. He suprises me sometimes. Sometimes he’ll pick a beat I would never think he’d be into. Other times he’ll not be feeling a track that Iwould assume he’d be feeling….You never know with him…

murs_elp_cryptic_block_aesopl

P: A little background history if you’d please: Age, residence, preference in female anatomy?

B: 24 years old. Downtown NYC and and round ass with a flat smooth stomach connected to some nice titties

P: Word. Now a lot of cats may not know this, but you’re a sick freestyler and rhymer in your own right. Do you still get down?

B: Hah! Sick rhymer…that’s funny. Nope…I gave up mcing a while ago. I realized that my voice just wasn’t there for mcing. Too bad more mc’s don’t realize that…I will tell you this though: Me and my boy Jer (you know, from the Overground) are working on a parody album. We rap on that. We got a bunch of tracks so far but we just need to fine tune them. It should be dope. We did the illest R&B song ever.

P: What was it like working with Dub-L (The Controls) and the rest of the Overground crew. Do you guys still hang out?

B: Of course. We chill all the time. It’s just now we’ve seperated musically. Dubs is doing his own thing. I’m doing mine. Jer is doing instrumental work. And Niles is going to be a famous filmmaker. But we do shill on the regular. That’s my party crew. We get fucked up together.

P: The thing that always struck me about you guys was just the heaping helping of talent within the crew. Ya’ll dripped with originality and creativity. How long have you known Aesop, and has your past experiences with Overground and having fun with hiphop transpired into worthwhile knoledge of how to handle hiphop business in the new, Do-It-Yourself age?

B: I met Aesop in 94 at Boston University (where he graduated from and I dropped out). I think the Overground was a dope thing. I will always be a silly person. Ii’m not serious about much. Some heads take life too seriously. The Overground and Baby Show (Overground’s NYC public access show) really put that in me. As for indy hip hop business…man I have no clue. When it comes down to it, unless you’re the boss, you’re getting fucked one way or another. Indy or major.

P: Haha. Word. So what’s up with your solo record, “Let A Player Be A Player”?

B: Well…it’s pretty stagnant right now. Ii got like 6 or 7 joints done (Aesop, Illogic, Slug, Percee P, Chase Pheonix, Beetlejuice) but the rest I’m just waiting on. I do all my recording at Aesop’s crib so with him being the busiest man alive (believe that!), I haven’t had a chance to record. It’s be a while…let’s just say that…

P: You’re, in fact, one of hiphop’s o.g.’s as far as the Internet and Usenet are concerned. Has feedback been good regarding your production or feedback to the album as a whole? Do you feel the net serves any true advantage to the artist beyond promotion?

B: Well, as far a album feedback, it’s been mostly good. People’s biggest problem with me is that apperantly I have weak drums. Who knew? It’s funny to me how people can go out of their way be like “he’s ai-ight but his drums suck”. I’m a pretty realistic person. My drums ain’t the illest but they’re good enough. Other then that, it’s been mostly positive. As for the net helping…oh yeah. Man, this whole shit wouldn’t have gone down if it were not for the net. But at the same time…sometimes I think the net is too much. Like, I never imagined Aesop or my fanbase would be what it is. For better or for worse. The net’s got it’s fare share of newjacks with opinions that just piss me off. Other then that, it’s all gravy.

P: A lot of cats on the net, you have to remember, keep to themselves and don’t express their opinions. For as many cats that do there’s perhaps an equal or greater amount that does not. Nahmeen?

B: Of course…I just wish the vocal ones would pipe down once in a while and instead of talking shit, maybe learn the history of the music they think they know everything about.

P: But that’s now within your power to do through music! The net is a forum. People will talk shit. You have a veil of anonyminity that shields you. But true movement and power will be delivered through the music.

B: Yup yup…you are right. As much as I talk shit about the net I can’t deny what it’s done for me. Not just me but a lot of good music that would otherwise go unheard.

P: And with that: your thoughts on mp3s? Aesoprock.com launched a successful mp3.com guerilla attack and shot “Obedience” to number 2 on their charts. Do you feel mp3 empowers artists such as yourself and Aesop or does it detract from a larger potential?

B: Well…in the case of Aesop’s early shit, it did nothing but good. It’s because of shit like that we’re where we are now. But nowadays when some new Aesop joint leaks on to Napster, that’s money out the pocket.

P: But you’re entering new territory being signed to Def Jux, huh?

B: Oh yeah…Def Jux is real deal.

P: Will you guys be touring?

B: Aesop will. I won’t. They asked him to go in June but he works a full time job, has a serious girl and has mad bills to pay. Hopefully it’ll work out for him. I’ll be chilling in the cut regardless. Hehe.

P: So next up for Blockhead: More ass, more videogames, solo joint and new Aesop joint?

B: Hmmm…hopefully more ass (as apposed to the same ass, ha!). I’ve been steady playing Nba2k1. That’s my shit. Ii challenge anyone. My solo joint will come out but when iI have no clue. Also keep an eye out for this breakbeat record i did for Mush Records, “Blockhead’s Broke Beats”. That should be out soon. And of course Aesop’s shizzle will be heard by all. I swear…heads ain’t ready for his new shit. Oh and I’m working with a bunch of different mc’s that will be named later…

P: Hot man. I appreciate the interview!! Any final shout outs??

B: Peace to Stinke! Aesop, the Overground…Anyone I’m down with.

Tagged with:
May 03

DJ Quest of Live Human & Bullet Proof Space Travelers
dj_quest_live_human

A member of both Live Human and the DJ crew Bullet Proof Space Travelers, DJ
Quest also actively DJ’ and appears on tracks by himself (you can peep him on
the Hip Hop Slam release ‘Turntables By The Bay’).  Fresh off a European
tour, The Peach finally caught up with him to chat for a minute…

Peach: Tell me all the boring stuff: how you met, how the group got started,
how you ended up on Matador, etc.

DJ Quest: The group got started in 1996, and basically the group came
together from playing shows. I was playing shows at the time, doing my thing
with Eddie K, and we just had a gang of people that would come on and do a
show, do the shows with us: LOC (beatboxer), Paradise (raggamuffin/dancehall
kind of rapper) that used to come through. Around that time we met Justin
Smith, a bass player…we met him at the Last Day Saloon. He started coming
around; doing some shows with us. He introduced me to Albert and Andrew.
The thing was…getting all those people together was kind of a hassle. It
was kind of a hassle to get everyone to rehearse. I was looking for
something even more solid instead of just having people come through.

P: Did you have a regular gig? Like a weekly or something?

Quest: I’ve never done that because I think that’s kind of boring.

P: I meant as far as a weekly gig where random people could just come
through.

Q: Naw, but since I started playing, I’ve always had at least one show a
month-stuff that comes up here and there.

P: (joking) Since like ’87…

Q: Roughly since like ’92 or ’93. I was deeper in the battle scene-djing
with rap groups. Anyway, that took me to the stage of working with emcees
and the live act thing. That whole thing just got me more beserk about
wanting to play with more people and getting a real act together. Although
the shows we were doing before the Live Human stuff was the real shit-and I
love a lot of the shows back then still. A few of the shows that I did with
Eddie K stand out in my mind. Like I said, I just wanted to do something
more solid. Albert had already been playing with Andrew for a few years
doing more of a free jazz ensemble with this guy Charles. They were working
on some stuff and touring with a dance company called Contraband. Anyway,
when Albert came back from tour with Contraband, Justin (the other bass
player) introduced me to him. We just hooked up from the first rehearsal I
had with those guys-and it wasn’t even a rehearsal…we weren’t even setting
up to play a show or anything. We just wanted to play music.

P: Just like a jam session.

Q: And it was just mind blowing. To me it was like, whoa…you could just
combine certain sequences that sould like they might be electric and at the
same time sound natural. And the whole combo was just weird. And that’s
all. A week later we decided to make a record, to make the first record. I
wanted to get in the studio and just put a record together just to have
something solid. Just so that we could have a more official…

P: Documentation?

Q: Right, as a group or as the beginning of a group. We played our first
show at the Cactus Club in San Jose and that…just the response was
incredible. Not that the crowd went wild…there was just silence-they went
silent.

P: They were mesmerized.

Q: There was total silence in the whole room. I kind of knew what the
response was gonna be, but it was like, “damn”. You can’t always predict the
audience. Sometimes they dance, sometimes they shout, do whatever. And
sometimes we come out and attack and sometimes also throughout the night
there might be different factors that fail to play a part in the making the
show tight. If we go on too early in the night and there’s someone else
playing earlier and they go on too long…a bunch of different things…you
don’t want to burn the crowd out too much. There are different things I’m
learning to watch out for now. Because I learned throughout the past years
where I need to play and when and how loud.
We mostly freestyle the shows, but as we more and more we have segments that
are somewhat arranged a little more-not necessarily in a song way, but in
more of the tone of what it is we’re playing…we know what that is, we know
when it comes back around and when we come to a break…wherever we want to
take it to. Basically, we’ve just been dissecting the music more, trying to
compose a little more. It’s tricky…if you’re at the show if you just sit
there in the audience, you’ll hear stuff that sounds happy, sounds sad,
sounds twisted, sounds mad…

P: Did you guys have an immediate vibe the first time you played together, or
did you have to work to achieve that?

Q: That’s the thing, we never felt like we had to work through anything. The
music was never perfect…I fuck up quite a bit. Playing on stage, I do
something that I feel stupid about afterwards…if there’s a certain groove
going and then I stop-that kind of fucks it up. And I’ve done that…we all
have. From day one, we all knew we wanted to work to get to a point where
it’s just clean. We’re doing that a bit more now, but back then, it was just
like, “see what happens”. We’re still like every rehearsal, just play
anything anywhere and it goes somewhere usually. There’s this thing we like
to call “the 3-D effect” because after you warm up and start playing and get
into it and it’s like all of a sudden there’s this feeling that I get that
whatever the music is that’s coming out of the speakers and the instruments,
I feel like this thing kind of elevates above your head and starts spinning
around and twisting-like a spectrum of all kinds of images and stuff. It’s
not really there, but you hear it. You see it with your ears. You know what
I mean? It’s something happening…we like to call that “the 3-D effect”.
That’s what we play for…just to get that feeling.

P: Do you think that when you’re playing, you think more like a musician?
Well, I guess the best DJs think like musicians anyway, but do you feel like
you’re one piece of this whole collage, or are you mainly thinking about what
you’re going to do?

Q: Both. When I come to a tricky point in the set that I know something has
to happen, then I have to use my skills, my “DJ mind”. When we’re all in a
groove and people are dancing, then I have to think as a group. So I have to
think both ways.

P: You were talking earlier about reading the crowd. So what would you do if
there’s a moment when you know the crowd is beat down from the previous
act-what is your plan of attack when you go out on stage? Do you come out
hype? or more subtle?

Q: There is no plan. We usually don’t have a plan, and that’s the nice
thing about it. We make up a plan when we’re there, but just from the past
experiences…we take what we’ve seen in the past and just apply that there
at that point-you know what I mean? It could be that the crowd is burnt out
from the other act, but once we come on, it’ll start jumpin’.

P: That’s what I mean…do you take a “pep-them-up” kind of approach?

Q: It depends on who it is. If it’s an audience that’s never heard us
before, it would be good to go easy, you know what I’m saying? Some people
react differently to what they see on stage. If it’s a Live Human crowd and
maybe they were bored because there was another act before Live Human, maybe
they’ll get excited when we come on.

P: Well, if it’s your crowd, they’re always going to get excited when you
come on…

Q: Of course, but maybe not…we try. We try to make those decisions at the
last minute. I have also learned, apart from what your question is, that you
have to have volume control and little techinical things…that play a big
part in what’s going on in the room. As a DJ, if I have a sound that’s going
to be earshocking on the turntables…if I’m going to drop it and the people
haven’t been hearing anything like that for awhile, it could either wake them
up, or it could piss them off. I have to watch my levels…all that shit
plays a big part. I’m now realizing the lights in the room have a big effect
too. I don’t really know what works best as far as lighting, but I’ve been
noticing certain colors and certain moods work for certain tracks-and certain
lights fuck up my eyes too when I’m trying to do something. Like strobe
lights sometimes are too crazy. I love strobe lights when we come to a point
a point in a track where it’s kind of a climax-I like all that shit. So many
details…

P: Do you guys do your own lighting?

Q: Nah. Hopefully one day we’ll have enough money to go and the road and
have mini-light shows to go with the music. Sometimes they do a really good
job, but you never know…

P: Most shows I’ve seen of yours…the audience is very quiet, concentrating.

Q: In San Francisco they’re breaking away from that and starting to get more
into the rocking or dancing…a lot more. But the average Live Human virgin
listener doesn’t know how to react quite yet…and I don’t blame them. I
wouldn’t know how to react either. You see a DJ up on stage, and you assume
it’s going to be a certain type of sound…and it’s not like that at all.
It’s kind of like all of us tweaking around with our shit. I like being able
to be on stage, and people are paying attention. Just drop the beat, drop
everything and just go off on some shit-some bizarre electronic sounds or
something. I like that. The nerd in me comes out. There’s a lot of that
that’s not really that musical, but it’s technical stuff that i’ve learned
throughout the years…how to scratch a certain sound with a delay and make
the delay work for me so that the sound keeps going, and when I’m done with
the phrase and it comes back around. We all do that sort of stuff.

P: Like experimenting with sound?

Q: Yeah, yeah.

P: What do you think about other bands that have a DJ in the band purely for
like a cosmetic reason?

Q: A cosmetic reason???

P: Where they’ll have a like a really dope DJ, and they’ll just use him to
scratch in a word every now and then?

Q: I don’t think about them. I think everybody that plays music deserves a
place in the industry somewhere, and some people just have to get in where
you fit in. And that’s not necessarily the most creative thing to do, I
think. I’ve done that sort of things with bands before. I worked with MCM
and the Monster around the time I first started messing around with bands.
>From my experience, when I first started playing with bands, I didn’t want to
be in the background all the time. I guess if you’re a wack DJ, it’s okay to
be in the back…I just didn’t feel like that was my place. I worked for my
stuff, I practice a lot, and I felt like what I was doing deserved a little
more show then it was getting. I like being able to work with other people
as an ensemble, but I felt at the time, DJs weren’t getting enough props and
that’s one of my reasons for wanting to step up a little bit. Albert and
Andrew…these guys can play drums and bass…I have to be able to show that
I can work my tables just as well. I don’t think that DJs that work with
bands are totally wack, but it’s not something I would do…I have to clear
that up…there’s a certain sound that’s called a “hip hop band” which sounds
like wack drums-drums that have no fat kicks- and a lot of wack lyrics. And
that’s the typical “hip hop band”. It’s a certain sound. Whenever you hear
like really thin drums and bass and usually a DJ doing some wack shit and
usually a crazy white kid screaming on the mic-rapping or wanting to rap-

P: How about Limp Bizkit? Do they fall into that category or no?

Q: Kinda. I don’t really know their music, so I can only speak so much
about it. I think to make it easier to understand, there’s a certain
rock-hip hop sound to the drums

I feel kind of lucky too that I’ve been able to hook up with the people that
I play with because Albert for one, he’s a really heavy-foot drummer and he’s
solid, a solid drummer. He has a lot of hip hop style in his playing and I
think it makes it easier to feel it. But there are so many people who are
doing “DJ in a band”, it’s ridiculous. To me, it’s not about being in a band
because it’s a trendy thing. The Live Human stuff…we didn’t come together
because we were like, “okay, we have to rehearse and get here and there…”
It just happened. We didn’t plan on that at all.

P: Organic.

Q: Yeah, we liked what we heard and kept doing it. And for that reason, I
don’t consider myself a hip hop DJ either. To a point I do, because I still
play hip hop and I love a lot of hip hop stuff, but I’ve grown from that.
Hip hop is cool, but it’s been kind of stale for the past 10 years anyway.
There’s some dope west coast stuff coming out…things here and there, but
it’s not like in ’86 where every record coming out was like, DAMN.

P: You had to get it.

Q: Beats were just fat and rhymes were simple yet clever. Funky.
I don’t feel like I can rely on hip hop to vibe off of, get inspired off of.

P: How did you end up getting record deals?

Q: It was kind of an accident. We put a record out. The first record was
Live Human featuring DJ Quest-came out in early ’97. A label in the UK,
Fatcat Records, heard it and wanted to license a few tracks off of it. We
licensed four tracks for a 12″ which came out on Fatcat Records, and they
wanted to put out an album. And we were like, well..we’ve always been
struggling and never really had the means to do anything on that scale, so we
were like, okay, these guys are willing to put up the money, we’re willing to
play some music, record it, and see what happens. The Monostereois album
came out, and Matador heard it. They heard the album and they heard of Live
Human, and they were interested in doing something with us. And since the
album was licensed to Fatcat, but it was not in the states-it was European
and the world license only-we were like, we need someone to put out music out
over here because we had the record out for awhile and the other things that
we had done for Fatcat that nobody even heard of over here, so we thought we
needed to move on. Matador was willing to take us on and give us a shot.
That’s how that happened-from linking with one label, music got out in Europe
and Matador heard of us through the European releases. So far so good.

P: So you’re working on another record? You said you guys were working more
on song “structure”

Q: It’s going to be half and half, you know what I mean? Still some of the
stuff that we know already that we’ve been playing around with. We’ll just
clean it up and make it tighter and record some of that. But half of the
album is going to be like the Elefish album that doesn’t go anywhere …but
it goes everywhere. Whatever we do on the record is going to be a lot of
experimenting. Not to say that it’s so much of an experiment because we know
that whatever we end up putting on the record…we’ll hear that it’s working.
But the techiniques and the formulas for recording the album are going to be
in ways similar to what we did last time. But I think that we already have
about half the stuff that’s going to go on there that we feel pretty strong
about.

P: Where are you going to record?

Q: I don’t know. We’re going to record a lot of stuff here (Quest has a home
studio), record some stuff at Albert’s, record maybe again at the same studio
where we’ve recorded the past two albums.

P: Where is that?

Q: In the Oakland Hills. It’s actually a friend’s house and studio. It’s a
really nice place at the top of the hill. A view of the entire Bay Area.
Whenever you get bored, just go outside.

P: Wow, friends in high places…

Q: Very high. I feel priviledged when I go up there. I don’t want to come
home. Naw, you know…it makes the recording process a little smoother. The
way we did the past couple of records, we went up there, stayed up there,
recorded, mixed and everything like that. I think this time I want to do a
little bit more pre-production. Work out some of the structure to the album
and so when we get there we can just lay it down and get it over with.

P: Do you forsee it having any emcees or is that just totally not what Live
Human is about and it’s never going to be like that?

Q: We have played shows where emcees have come on and it’s fun.

P: But it’s just not the essence.

Q: Yeah, I think that the moment that we have emcees on the album, we’re
going to fall into the same hip hop band category.

P: NO!

Q: Eventually, maybe we’ll feel like doing that but at this time, I think we
want to keep it instrumental. It’s so…many colors. You know what I mean?
It’s exciting to me to be playing this music. I feel like keep it
instrumental. The moment you start putting in vocals, then a track becomes
“about” something. Instead of being a track for pure listening. That you
can feel; make it whatever you want it to be about.

P: like jazz.

Q: pretty much.

P: What’s going on with the Space Travelers…what’s happened to everybody?

Q: Well, we have an album coming out. March. On Stray Records. It’s a
crazy album. It was kind of weird because we didn’t really work on it
together-we all did our own parts. I did a couple of tracks on it. Eddie De
f did a couple of tracks, Marz did a couple of tracks. And Eddie K did most
of the album. He’s the emcee. The idea that we have is that we don’t want
it to be a “turntabilist” album.

P: Is Eddie K rhyming on ALL the tracks?

Q: No, he’s not rhyming on all the tracks. About half the tracks are DJ
tracks, but they’re not like “turntabilist”…which are tracks just made up
of scratch sounds. That stuff is cool, but I think all of us appreciate the
art of making beats a lot more than perpetrating with turntable-made beats.
I mean that stuff is cool, but we’ve done that already too. The album is
going to be a trip because it’s half turntable and half emcee, but everything
is blended together. Not like one side rap and one side DJ songs, but all
the songs…

P: are intertwined?

Q: yeah.

P: Oh, I see. Okay, so what equipment do you use?

Q: I don’t use Vestax.

P: Should I put that in big letters?

Q: I just don’t use Vestax. I use 1200s. I like the Rane.

P: You’re endorsed by them?

Q: I’m glad I am, cause it’s a really dope mixer. I’ve had that mixer for
two years…I’ve dropped it and everything…it’s a fat mixer.

P: What model?

Q: TTM-54
My favorite mixers have been a Gemini 12A, the 2200…they had the first
small mixer that came out
peach aside: (i may have gotten those model numbers wrong…i’m not too
familiar with them).

P: What do you use when you’re making beats?

Q: I use a MPC. I like simple stuff. I’m not really a computer nerd. The
MPC is pretty simple to use…you can start out with a loop and add beats to
it or you can start out with beats and add loops to it…and then I transfer
my stuff to a Roland 1600. So, I use 1200s, I use the Rane mixer.

_____________

DJ Quest would like whoever is using djquest@aol.com to give him his name
back…

Tagged with:
Dec 29

ugly_duckling_photo

Ugly Duckling : Dizzy Dustin, Andy C & Young Einstein

P: So, I was reading your press kit and everyone was saying the same thing like, “they’re the non-gansta alternative from the LBC” and blah blah blah…What do you want written about you that has not been written yet?

Dizzy: The fact that we’re real hardcore thugs…We all did bids. We all just got out the pen.

Andy: The thing is, we don’t talk about pimpin’ hoes because we pimp so many hoes on the daily that it would just be repetitive to be talking about it up in the songs.

Dizzy: Definitely. And we don’t want it to criminalize us.

Andy: We talk about who we kill and…

Dizzy: They could hold it against us if they really want to look deep into it.

Andy: We’re really some bad mama-jamas. Especially Einstein.

Dizzy: Actually, I’m strapped right now.

P: Everyone’s packing…

Andy: She saw it.

Peach: What about the whole retro thing? Do you guys mind that title?

Andy: Well, we’ve been a group since 1993…We were kind of doing music that was timely when we started and as we have the inability to progress, and we’re really not creative enough to catch up with what everybody else is doing, so we didn’t intend to be retro…It just happened that what we were doing was kinda cool again.

Dizzy: We all took the little yellow bus to school, so we’re late.

Andy: Year 2000, we’re cool, retro. In ’96 we just sucked. We’ve been doing the same stuff.

Dizzy: It’s in fashion now.

A andy: Give us a couple of years, it’ll suck if it just keeps being the same thing.

P: Well, when I was listening to the album, I thought, “sometimes I wish hip hop was all like this again…Why must we deal with people pretending they’re taking shit to the next level when they’re really just not hitting the beat right.”

Andy: That’s why we don’t pretend.

Dizzy: Realists…have you heard the snippet tape? We’ve got a couple of gansta songs on there you have to check out.

A andy: That’s our real shit.

P: And the label was like…no, you’re supposed to be retro!

Dizzy: The next album is gonna be “ducky style”, so we’re gonna bring it hardcore and g-rated…No, g-funk.

Andy: G-rated? What, we have to say bad stuff in nice ways?

The conversation gets into semantics…and then…

P: Actually, I wanted to ask Einstein a question. I was talking to Domino and he kept playing me records and saying, “Einstein hipped me to this”. So what is your favorite city for digging-if you can reveal that information.

Young Einstein: Detroit without a doubt. We cleaned up there. I got about thirty records a couple weeks ago.

P: Do you ship things home or do you carry?

Y. Einstein: I just carry them. We don’t have enough money to ship stuff yet.

Andy: You did well in Manchester England too didn’t you? Mostly old school rap stuff.

Y. Einstein: Yeah. For like soul and jazz stuff, Detroit without a doubt.

P: So, you guys took the grassroots approach. How did you decide to sign with a label that wasn’t a traditional hip hop label? Because I think Ihad a record with “Fresh Mode” with a blue label…Did you guys put that out yourselves?

Guys: Yeah.

Andy: Well, labels weren’t necessarily beating down our doors. Def Jam wasn’t really calling.

At this point Dizzy suddenly gets into a discussion with an undercover narc for Maritime.

P: Did you have a plan when you put stuff out?

Andy: They just liked us; they were nice to us. We told them we wanted to do it and they let us do it, so…

Y Einstein: And they gave us loads of money…

Dizzy: And bought us Bentleys…

Andy: We got approached by a few people, but they (1500 records) were the only ones that really had their stuff together and were willing to let us make our own stuff. They never really made us bring in outside producers and change our tunes, so…It’s all we could ask for. Plus they didn’t make us clear our samples. That’s the main importance. Our record would never come out if we had to clear samples.

P: My friend is a songwriter and he was just contacted by the Insane Clown Posse because they want to sample his shit. I was laughing so hard. He said, “have you heard of this group?”

Dizzy: Shaggy Two Tone.

Andy: We should try to do shout outs to all the big groups just so they could use it in songs…Insane Clown Posse…so they’ll use it as a scratch.

Dizzy: Kid-Kid-Rock

Andy: So, you asked us what the plan is?

P: Well, no. I was just wondering…When you put your own record out-at that time J Boogie…I went to the store and was like, “what’s new, what’s good?” and he said, “this record is dope!” and it was “Fresh Mode”. He was like in the store pimpin’ your shit.

Dizzy: (to Einstein) You gave a shout to J Boogie, right?

Y. Einstein: Of course.

Andy: We were just chickens with our heads cut off on that one. Calling and sending them to whoever would take them. We lost a whole lot of money doin’ that, but…

Dizzy: It worked.

Y Einstein: We ended up selling like 3,000.

P: That’s dope.

Andy: We got a call from Finland one time.

Dizzy: Most importantly, it was spread out.

Andy: It goes for big money over in Europe.

Dizzy: We’re lookin’ at about 10 pounds in europe…About $15 here. Big money.

P: Well, I do online stuff, and I just got an email from Israel. I was like, people listen to hip hop in Israel, damn!

Andy: We actually did a whole song about that on the new record called, “Hip Hop In the Holy Land”

Y Einstein: Didn’t we sell records in every country?

Andy: I know we didn’t sell records in…Nigeria.

Y Einstein: Yeah, they do.

Andy: Ecuador. We sold some in Algeria, though.

Dizzy: I think someone went out there and had the CD on them and sold it to someone for $20. I don’t think they could pick it up in Nigeria. I didn’t see no record stores in nigeria. I don’t know how it works.

Andy: Sade is Nigerian.

P: Do you feel like you’ve had to prove yourselves over and over to people? I remember at Hiero when they were trying to figure out who was gonna go on tour with them, they were like, “I don’t know who this group is…” people were like, “I don’t know”. The profile doesn’t really tell the whole story if they haven’t heard your music yet.

A andy: We still don’t have any idea why they let us go out on tour with them. Del was really positive about our stuff.

P: He liked your stuff and Domino totally championed you guys.

Andy: I am still really puzzled any time someone is willing to tour with us. Cause it’s like a lot of people have this real b-boy image. And it’s like you’re supposed to be…not a tough guy, but a hardcore hiphopper.

Dizzy: And you’re not?

Andy: Well, we give the impression that we’re kinda…

P: Where is your baseball cap?

Dizzy: It’s upstairs. A white one.

Andy: My cap and my wallet chain are upstairs… It’s like the thought it just we don’t know anything about rap or we just jumped on (the bandwagon) as some rap group. Cause we just don’t look like guys who are supposed to rap. But ironically, most kids that are in the culture don’t know hip hop history and culture so well. Their immediate thought is “Hey, if it ain’t like the Wu Tang Clan, it ain’t real” or something. When you’ve been listening to rap for twenty years since you were a little kid…

Dizzy: We’re actually a hip hop white boy-band. Like we were on three different labels at one time, and they all put us together. We got writers and producers…

P: And they’ve taught you dance steps…

Dizzy: I went to hip hop classes. I learned everything. Ilearned to pose.

Andy: “Yes, yes, y’all”. Now you try it…

Dizzy: “One two, one two”. “Yeah, boyeee”. I got all my hip hop from the school of hard knocks.

P: So what preconceived ideas do people have when they see you?

Andy: People expect us to suck, I think.

Dizzy: Well, when they see Andy with a bed-head, they look at us, like, “what’s goin’ on here?”

Andy: That’s actually kind of an advantage, because if we do our show and do it well, it’s a double surprise.

Dizzy: Shock value.

P: So what do you guys listen to?

Y Einstein: Mostly old school. Jazz and Soul.

Dizzy: My mom. I listen to my mom.

Andy: She’s over there bossing you around…

P: Tell me you don’t still live with your mom…

Andy: My girlfriend has me listening to Destiny’s Child. That’s all I ever hear anymore. That’s all I’ve heard for the last six months.

Dizzy: Can you believe that? No, seriously, old school hip hop, classic rock, you know what I mean?

P: Groups? Artists?

Andy: Hieroglyphics…People Under the Stairs who was on the tour earlier. We’re friends with them, we like that band. A lot of cool hip hop flavor on the west coast and east coast. We get a lot of cds and tapes while we’re traveling. People hand you stuff.

Dizzy: I got this CD from a guy called Mr. Clean last night. You’ve got to open the CD up-it’s the real Mr. Clean logo with his face.

We are all laughing…

Andy: It’s easier to talk to you because you have a sense of humor. A lot of kids that are supposed to be in hip hop culture have kind of been told somewhere or other that you’re NOT supposed to have a sense of humor…or everything is “yeah, yeah aight. you know…cool.” and they’re not phony, it’s just seems like satire.

P: Iknow, I’m not the demographic anymore. I have found myself saying, “you need to listen to Rakim” or I feel old like, “You don’t know who Chuck Dis?!”

Dizzy: Speaking of Rakim and Chuck D, they’re on the new album…

A andy: Story of our lives right there. Sometimes we feel like we’re selling 8 tracks. It’s nice and maybe some people like it, but for the most part it’s just gone and it will never come back.

P: Are you maintaining? Are you going to keep your same stance?

Andy: We’re a one trick pony. We can only do one thing, so…We have the same technique for making all the tracks.

Dizzy: I think I could do punk music if I tried.

P: You’ll be the next Limp Bizkit.

Dizzy: We’ll be the Beastie Boys backwards–We’ll do hip hop and then punk.

P: Rage is looking for someone…

Andy: (in a deep voice) RECOUNT! I’d just think of stupid issues. (shouts) “Clean these sewers up!”

P: I’m so poorly prepared…I didn’t have time to dig dirt on you.

Dizzy: I have some dirt. He used to be a dancer for Kwame.

Andy: And he used to be Kid Frost.

Tour discussion…and then talk turns to the strategy for the new album…

Einstein: We’re not even going to radio until January.

Andy: And our record comes out in Europe in February. As if going to radio was a thing…

P: Well, it depends on which radio you go to…

Dizzy: I play the CD on my radio all the time.

Andy: Yeah, that’s the only radio we could go to.

More show discussion.

Andy: I’m so amazed when people call us about a show.

E einstein: We played at the Great American Music Hall For Senior Citizens.

Dizzy: An auction. They had an auction. It wasn’t senior citizens. They were auctioning things off and they wanted a group, so we were the group.

Andy: Yeah, they wanted a house band, but they knew our label, so they just said, “hey, give us one of your bands”. It was everyone in dockers.

Dizzy: Everyone was all dressed up with their wine glasses.

Einstein: They auctioned off my chain, actually.

P: How much did you make at the show?

Andy: A couple hundred. And we made 120,000 on the chain.

Dizzy: That’s our future, that’s our plan. Things go bad, we’re selling the chain.

P: Ebay! Putting your own shit for auction.

Dizzy: Actually, we’re secretly signing our wax and putting it up on Ebay so we can make a little extra money.

P: Do you guys have a website?

Einstein: freshmode.com

P: Cause I looked up uglyduckling.com, but that’s not you guys…

Dizzy: Car sales place. I own that.

Andy: We just do rap on the side.

Tagged with:
Oct 20

dilated_court_blockphoto courtesy Block

Evidence

Catching up with the other Dilated Peoples’ emcee / producer extraordinaire, Evidence, was not an easy task. He’s in the studio. I leave him a message, he calls me back from his cell phone, I miss him again, they go to Europe, he comes back but has laryngitis, then they go on tour. Now that there are several layers of “handlers” (publicity & marketing people, managers and tour managers), I’m quite surprised that I ended up just knocking on the tour bus and having Ev open the door. I’m ushered past a huge cloud of smoke engulfing the Triple Threat DJs (Apollo, Shortkut, and VinRoc) who are doing a spot date with Dilated as Reflection Eternal suddenly had to bow out of the tour.

P: What is your usual approach to production? Do you start with samples or do you have things in your head that you try to emulate?

E: Different things trigger production. I would just say more than any one thing or one idea I have, certain moods or times dictate my production. My favorite thing to do is to wake up at like 6 or 7 in the morning before everybody, take a shower, get dressed, and make beats-early before everyone’s up. Somehow I feel I have an edge on everybody while everyone’s asleep-you know what I mean? Or everyone’s going to work and I’m already ahead. Those beats are usually my energetic beats because I’m up in the morning. I usually get a cup of coffee or something so I’m up. For the other type of beats that I make on the road or at night time, it’s usually emotional type-stuff. I can channel feelings-like if I’m lonely or something like that, I’ll make some moody shit. If I’m having relationship drama, I can make some shit like that. Honestly, I can channel it. The only thing that’s different about what I do than a musician is that I don’t play my music, I sample. The only catch is that I took piano lessons when I was a kid, so I can hear melodies and I can hear what’s in key and what’s not. For my production techniques, I usually start with the drum; like a high-hat and a snare just to set my tempo and I find my music. If I’m doing a remix, I already have someone’s vocal. I’m singing their vocal. My job as production is to do the best job of enhancing vocals. I’m not looking to make the superstar beat and outshine the rapper, that doesn’t do any good. I want to enhance the rapper and make the song better. So if you hear my instrumentals sometimes, they might not be the hottest instrumentals, but once put the rhyme to it, they make the hottest song. A lot of people don’t understand that. It’s more than just the beat. Those are loose techniques of beats. As far as technically, like I said, high-hat and snare is usually my start and then I’ll start searching through records. I think it’s all good if you find a big piece of music and you loop it. I’m not really mad at that. As long as you possess the skills to chop up the music as well and you know how to innovate. Sometimes, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. Don’t do too much sometimes. But if that’s the only thing you know how to do is steal someone else’s music, then I don’t look at you as creative-you know what I mean? In a lot of my music, I’m taking random hits, bass tones, noises, sounds, piano stabs, licks and combining, making my own tapestry, my own collage. Really innovative, like if you’d see a serial killer would type out each letter from a different magazine and make out this crazy sentence, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Some people could just take a whole word and create, but I take each letter from a different place. I do some serial killer shit.

P: Do you have certain rules like “you can’t sample the same person twice” or are some things more legitimate than others as far as how and when you can sample someone?

E: No, cause the greatest thing in the world is, “Yo, I know that record, but DAMN, listen to how he flipped it!” That’s the dopest shit. Taking something that’s right in front of someone’s face and doing it totally different. It shows that you have a keen ear or you have an edge up as far as the way you listen to music. I sample from obscure things a lot because in today’s game there’s so much stuff that’s been you know, take a James Brown for instance-anybody is played out unless you’re doing it just the way I said, like “Damn! This sample has been right in front of my face for ten years and I know the song, but I’ve never thought to do it like that.” If you’re going to take some known shit, do it like that.

P: It always seems like everyone finds the same thing at the same time and then everyone’s got the same beat. How does that happen?

E: Because producers are all doing the same thing. We’re all going to record stores. People in record stores see kids buying the same record and then the next time they recognize a kid got a sideways baseball cap, the record store owner is like, “This record is hot. I seen Pete Rock over here buying it the other day.”

P: Now it’s $25.

E: Now it’s $40. Last week it was $.50. Now that Pete Rock bought it, there must be something on it, so you’re going to want it too…so here it is. So some other kid will flip it at the same time and then it’s a race to see whoever gets out first. It happens all the time. It’s happened to me plenty of times. It happened to me recently-Pharoahe Monch just used the same loop I used for “Triple Optics”. “Triple Optics” has been an underground record for a long time. It’s just luck of the draw. Did he hear my shit? Maybe, maybe not. Did I hear his? No. We both came out with it, so there it is.

P: How about Babu? Does he ever come with a particular thing like, “I want to scratch this in” or whatever?

E: Babu brings a lot of elements to the table. Having a DJ in the group is probably one of the best things that’s happened to us. He vibes with me while I’m making the track and he gives me ideas on enhancement. I could make a piece or a sketch or something, but he comes with the highlight; the final background touch that just makes it all pop into 3D. For “Eardrums Pop”, a cut on our album, I just had that beat and we were trying to think of a chorus. I had a line “Watch your ear drums pop” in the verse and he was like, “No, no, no…I know such and such said that on this one record-he said that same line. I want to get that acapella and cut that shit up.” And it just became classic like that. Babu…he brings a lot to the table. And making beats. He makes beats for the crew too. He made “Service” (#7 on the album) and he made the beat for “Soundbombing”- a lot of people don’t know that.

P: I have to check the credits more carefully.

E: No, they didn’t write the credits on that song, so a lot of people don’t know.

P: I went through and did a discography-which goes on forever, and I’m sure I’m missing hella shit. Do you remember when you did everything?

E: No, I don’t remember all of my stuff, but if I wanted to know, it would come back.

P: How do you decide who you’re going to work with? I’m sure there are a lot of people saying, “I want Evidence on my track, and for awhile you were on everyone’s track”. What is your process?

E: A lot of people would just call me. They’d get my number somehow, and be like, “Yo, I wanna do shit”. I really just work on vibes sometimes. Sometimes I’m real stoned and reclusive, and I’m like, “Nah, I’m cool right now”. Sometimes I’m really feeling hungry, and I’ll be like, “Yeah, let’s do it right now”. Sometimes it’s been about the money, sometimes it hasn’t. Some experiences I’ve been very excited to work on, some I’ve had to drag a little harder to get there. At this point when you’re looking at all these shits (the discography), I was in my room hungry as fuck-trying just to get known…no matter what. Working with anybody I could. I was just hustling real hard. It just so happens that turned into popularity somehow. I’m just trying to ride this shit out.

P: How do you balance being both a producer and an emcee? Not a lot of people even attempt it, let alone do it well.

E: It’s hard because my motto is like, “Don’t be the jack of all trades, be the master of one”. Find one thing and do it well. Alchemist, Joey Chavez-all my people…that’s what they do, they find one thing and they run all the way with it. Which is what I wanted to do with emceeing, but it just so happened that being around all those people, I got so influenced, I had to do it. I had to make beats myself. As an emcee, no one can tell you what you want to rhyme on more than yourself. So honestly, it’s like being two people because it takes up twice the time, and there’s like twice the sacrifice. There’s digging and all of the production elements and really studying people’s shit. It comes with that aspect of it-production values: cueing, learning the equipment; just turning your mind into a computer. And there’s the other side of it that just wants to hear a beat and rock free. It’s hard, it really is. It’s the hardest task I’ve come upon is doing that. And then to be honest, being on the road and being a performer as well is like…there’s a studio emcee, but then there’s a true emcee who goes out and holds down the party, you know? Rocks it. That’s a whole other thing thing in itself. Doing all three, I have to say that, I’m tied up-straight up. Booked all day long.

P: And still you have time to do remixes…

E: But more importantly, I want to have time to have time for my girlfriend or have time to go to the beach, or go get a a cup of coffee and chill out. Or whatever I want to do. It’s hard to do this and have a life at the same time. One this is going to have to sacrifice a little.

P: (laughing) Your life is already planned for the next eight months.

E: Straight up, straight up. It’s not even funny, it is… You’ve got to commend Babu too…with a wife and a kid. It’s hard.

P: You’re workin’

E: We’re workin’. People don’t know. [They think] you’re on a tour bus and you get to smoke weed every day. You drive around the country. Nonononono.

P: I know just from trying to get a hold of you guys.

E: It’s fucking psycho. It’s what I love, but it’s work. And if I didn’t love it, I would have quit this shit a long time ago.

P: What do you look for in an emcee?

E: The biggest thing I look for in an emcee, more than anything is their cadence; the way they hit the beat. A lot of people write really amazing shit, but they give no respect to the beat, they don’t consider it at all. They just want a 4/4 drum count and they want to rhyme over it when they want to rhyme over it. It’s all about not where you put your words, but where you don’t. It’s all about knowing where your breaths are and where your pause is. And really taking the beat…there’s a kick, a snare and a hat. Rhyme on that shit! A lot of people don’t…they want to just go on top of it. They just don’t pay attention. I respect people who hit the beat right. Who just hit it right; who make it funky. A lot of people aren’t funky. I want to be moved. It’s audio stimulation-that’s what you’re doing here. If I’m not stimulated by the audio that’s presented to me, you haven’t done your job. I don’t care how dope your thought is or innovative or how dope your voice is even…it’s like I really like people who know how to keep it funky.

P: What if they’re abstract…

E: Then I’m not the person to work with. I’ll give you an example…Aceyalone. He can do anything. He’s one of the most incredible gifted people. And he heard the type of beats I’m willing to come with and he was like, “All right, I’m gonna come straight up on your shit and I was like, “What do you mean?” and he was like, “I’m gonna hit it, straight up. Your shit ain’t meant for me to flip it on.” You listen to it and he’s like [Ev starts to rhyme], “This microphone is mine, whenever I hold it, I transcend time.” He’s funky with it! He was like, I’m providing the funk. And he was like instead of me going against the grain, I’m just gonna be…Some people are like, I’m gonna be a trumpeter and try and stand out . He’s like I’m just gonna be a bass guitar and enhance it. Big up to people like [Acey]. I like working with Defari a lot, obviously Iriscience. Cause these people are obviously not too concerned with getting flashy and they say complex shit in simplicity, and that’s the hardest thing to do, I think.

P: That’s why I think Dilated as lyricists, you guys are underrated as far as what you’re saying.

E: Even if it’s just a battle rhyme, we’re conscious about it and every word is thought out. I don’t rhyme “dope” and “cope”, and if I do, I’m gonna have some shit in between there where you’re going to be like, “wow”. A lot of people think that they’re fresh or they know that they’re fresh and because they’re fresh whatever they write down is gonna be fresh, and that’s not the truth. In Dilated, we crumple up our rhymes twenty times before it comes out right. At least I can speak for myself, I do that. I want it to be right. Even if it’s just some shallow-ass shit. Straight up.

P: But it’s gonna sound right

E: And there’s gonna be content. Like battle rhymes, all I’m saying is “I’m better than you”, but I’m gonna say it in a really fresh way. Simulated you somehow, make you want to hear it again.

K: What are your favorite remixes and if you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

P: “Shut Em Down” remix by Pete Rock. That’s the first time I understood that you could keep the same lyrics and make a whole new song. Also, “Jump Around” by House of Pain, the Pete Rock remix. He could just take a whole mood and flip it completely. Premier did a remix for Fat Joe…[he says all the lyrics before we chime out “Success”! ] That remix right there was just incredible to me. That’s one thing I do. When people have acapellas, I spin my own beats under it sometimes and I just wish I could call the artist and be like, “I took your shit to the next level, man”. Let me go do it for real. I just did a Beastie Boys remix with Babu, and that was a really dope experience for me. I feel like that’s exactly what I did…I put an Evidence stamp on it and made it mine.

P: How did that come about?

E: Tick, my man at Grand Royal.

P: Tick!

E: My man. They let people remix their shit. People from Buckwild to Kut Masta Kurt to Erick Sermon…all kind of people remix Beastie Boys. Muggs was one of the first people to do a dope remix. He (Tick) was just calling me one day and was like “It’s your turn” and I was like “What do you mean?” I spent three days on it, me and Babu. I did the remix and Babu came in and put the finishing touches on it. It just came out ill.

P: Who else would you like to work with?

E: I’d like to work with Jeru the Damaja. I’d like to work with him a lot, I really respect the way he rhymes. I want to work with Bahamadia, I’ve already talked to her, hopefully it’s gonna happen. I would like to work with Saafir, I’d like to make that happen. Xzbit, Tash…the whole Alkaholiks click, but Tash especially. I want to work with J-Ro too, but I’ve been talking to Tash for a long time.

P: What is the Dilated/Liks relationship?

E: We’re just down. We’re down with Project Blowed, we’re down with Soul Assassins, we’re down with Tha Alkaholiks. We’re kind of just the bridge. Like at the release party, Aceyalone was rocking on one song and Tha Alkaholiks were rockin’ on the next, and Defari was on the next. We’re just bringing a lot of people together. B-Real was on the next song. It’s just weird. Those are just people off the top of my mind. We got to work with Erick Sermon, we were produced by him, recently. We did a remix on some next level shit. He was one of my favorite producers. The Lady of Rage, I’m into her. I’d like to work with her. She’s dope. I just want to do some hip hop shit. I’d like to work with maybe even like Snoop or Kurupt or Too Short or King Tee. I actually got to work with King Tee recently. Do something for somebody who’s really big, but just be responsible for doing the B-side that had no pressure of blowing up. Like was just strictly hip hop for some Fat Beats heads or whatever. Just to show that the beats were really important. You could take someone’s vocal and put it over my track and take it to a whole ‘nother place. Take it to the ground. And Buckshot…I’d like to work with Buckshot.

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Jul 19

dilated_court_blockphoto courtesy Block

Rakaa-Iriscience

So, I’ve got to apologize for taking so long with this. First off, these interviews were HELLA long, and it took me forever to transcribe them. Although I’d been talking to Rakaa (it gets weird to call him Iriscience) for some time, it’s been hard to find time to do a formal interview. I’m doing this as part of an article I’m writing for a magazine (it’s the cover story on the fall issue of Remix-more on this later). He’s crazy busy: on the road, filming videos, studying jujistu…I finally call and wake him up one morning.

P: So, let’s just start with the whole history thing.

R: I met Evidence at a graffiti yard. I was finishing a piece, he was coming to start one. We ended up meeting each other. We had some mutual friends and whatnot. A little while later, he came into a place I was working. Where I worked was a spot called the Hip Hop Shop in L.A. They had open mics, open turntables, and everything else. You could just go in there and do your thing. I was in there every day freestyling, basically. He came in a few times and would be freestylin’. We decided to hook up and work on a track together. That turned into a couple of tracks and then the group. We got together and created a group and did our thing like that for a minute. A few years later in early 97, Babu joined the group. I had known him for awhile just being in the DJ scene…I hang out in the DJ scene. His reputation was definitely circulating wide. But he was also a really cool person. We ended up meeting and chillin’ and getting along really well. When he moved a little closer-into Hollywood to manage Fat Beats-we ended up networking and Ev slid him the record, and everything else moved from there. We linked up. He joined right before, “Work the Angles”, and we’ve been together ever since.

P: When did you first meet Ev?

R: That was ’92.

P: So when did you guys actually become a group?

R: Later in ’92.

P K: How did you come up with your name?

R: Well, initially we were looking for a name, and I had a publishing company I was going to start. It was called “Expanding Pupils” which meant “growing students”, and to me that’s what it was. We were looking for a group name at the same time, and actually the Alchemist (the producer), said “Dilated Peoples is ill. What about Dilated Peoples?” It just kind of stuck from there. It was as simple as that. What it means is people of expansion, people dilated in a sense that we’re open. Philosophically, we just stay open to change and understanding of that. Also, as a goal to do the same to others-to get other people open-whether it’s on our stuff or whether it’s to get people open in general. It’s good to be open and widen the margins a little bit.

P: I was just at the National Teen Poetry Slam in SF. It was amazing how many teens and kids knew who you were and were like, “When’s their shit coming out?”. You have totally expanded to people that I thought would not even be into hip hop, let alone know what’s up…they’re waiting for your album.

R: We’ve done our homework a little bit, and we’ve gone around and put ourselves on the line to be out there and network and be in front of the people and plant seeds. We’ve been able to meet some really beautiful people around the planet. Definitely at home, that’s where we’re at, so we make sure we try to keep everybody touched around here. The fact that the people come out and have a good time and are looking forward to our stuff is one of the most beautiful feelings. I cannot even express how it feels to be in this position. We were going to do it regardless, but to have it pay off and at the same time have it be accepted is just a really beautiful experience.

P: When you had first gotten together, you had a deal with Immortal. What happened?? You had put something out, but it wasn’t really the total representation of what you guys were doing.

R: We never put out the album. We put out one song on a compilation. We did an album, but we decided that that was school and that was our school project. We decided it was time to go pro to take it to pro games, pro league level. We stepped out of that thing. It was a situation where we didn’t feel like for the amount of energy we were expending we were getting proper mileage. We bounced. That was kind of that. That meant taking a risk-we could have stayed on the label and hoped that everything worked out, but we left and decided to take our fate into our own hands. We figured our career was bigger than one record label, one record, so here we are now.

P: How did you guys meet Beni B?

R: Beni B? We met Beni B when Ev was producing Defari. Defari was always talking about Beni B, this cat from the Bay that was a DJ and a record collector and he was going to put out his first record and stuff…that’s exactly what happened. We liked how Beni did with Defari’s records, and he approached us. Ev had me talk to Beni, I liked what he was talking about, so we just got down and did it.

P: How is it working with people who have been your friends for a long time, like Alchemist or Joey Chavez or something?

R: It’s cool. Those are two of Ev’s best friends since they were younger. It’s not really as serious for me. Those are the homies, but…at the same time, they come in a very natural way. I listen to a tape…if Joey did it and that’s the track I want, it’s gonna go down. Otherwise, it’s just Joey Chavez, my homeboy from Venice. Same with Al (Alchemist). We see each other, we chill. I go out to New York or he comes out to LA. It’s all family. We go get ourselves a little Japanese food, a little shrubbery, and everything is good. If he comes with that hot beat, I want it. If it’s not the right beat for me…I just wish him well in his career…hopefully it will be a hit for somebody else. That’s usually how I look at things. It’s never really been a problem. On the other hand, Ev and I have known each other for eight years, so we’ve known each other longer than a lot of people have been married and businesses have been open-all kinds of things can happen in that time. When you deal with someone that you know that well, things can get personal really quick because you know which buttons to press, but at the same time, you also really realize that you’ve been together this long and gone through this much for a reason. If you have kind of self control to get things back. That’s how we’ve been able to do it: give each other our space; support each other in our solo things-we’re not trying to crowd each other. And then come together and really form and do this Dilated thing the right way.

P: How is it when Dilated is in the studio…it’s very collaborative?

R: It’s very collaborative. In a very general sense, Dilated Peoples produced this entire album. At the same time, we didn’t make the music for every track. We were very involved in picking every track, with opinions in the studio how things should go, arrangements…across the board. With full respect to everybody that worked on it, I’m not trying to take anything away from the listed producers, but we oversaw the entire album as an album. That’s basically how we always want to approach everything in a collaborative way, even if it’s a solo song for me or a solo song for Ev or whatever the case is. We still figure out how it best fits on the album or the live show.

P: It’s totally your vision.

R: It’s a vision that comes out of the democratic process of three people. It’s our agreed upon vision. We speak as one. We have one vision and one voice when we’re working together. We work all our problems out behind the scenes. Once we figure out how we’re gonna do it and how we can all feel comfortable with the idea, then we present it. We stay focused like a laser beam.

P: How did you decide who you were gonna have guest on the LP? I’m sure there were zillions of names thrown around. Did you make a conscious effort to have people that were mainly from LA/West Coast? Did it just happen that way? Did you have a a lot of discussion about who or who would not be included on the album? It feels like there are a lot of people trying to get down with you guys.

R: Do you know that feeling like when you reach into your pocket and pull out some money it’s and it’s like “Oh! yeah!” It was a really pleasant surprise, but the furthest thing from our minds when putting it together. I remember looking at the list of everybody and thinking everybody’s from or represents the LA/West Coast hip hop scene.

P: Or transplanted

R: Based out of or from, either way. It didn’t really occur to us when we were putting it together. We were planning on working with all types of people. We did a song with AG (Showbiz and AG) and we’ve worked with other people in the past, even overseas and things like that, but when it came down to pick songs for the album and what worked best for what we were doing, with the people and the time schedules and everything, this is how it was and this is how it felt-like it was ready to be served, so that’s how we did it.

P: Were there a lot of other tracks that didn’t end up on the album?

R: A couple, we stay busy. A lot of it is exercise, training. And expression. A lot of it is venting. We’re really creative, expressive people, we’ve gotta get it out some kind of way. But we’re very concise when it comes time to pick what we want to put out.

P: Do you ever worry about being overexposed? How do you choose who you’re going to work with under those circumstances-when it’s someone else’s project? When someone asks you to be on a track…or is it more organic-that you’re just chillin’ with people and roll into the studio with them?

R: We have a strong discography if you look at a list. A lot of people have a lot less numbers by their name, but at the same time, those are albums. We haven’t put out any albums, we’ve done a lot of work, but it’s been really planting seeds. We haven’t fully formed yet, we’re still forming. I do recognize that I can’t spread myself too thin, and we know that we have business situations that are involved, so we can’t just do everything although we love to collaborate and work with people. Ultimately, we know when to chill, or recharge. We don’t get beyond ourselves. I don’t really worry about it too much.

P: How did you decide on Capitol?

R: It was a really unique situation. Pretty much every record label at the time was trying to talk to us. A lot of labels have had success with hip hop, Capitol isn’t really one of them, short of the Beastie Boys, and that isn’t really the same branch of the tree that we’re on. The Beastie Boys are definitely hip hop and very influential, but they were already huge and diverse in their sound when they got over there. To break a group like us…I think the situation at Capitol is a combination of a lot of things. One was that we had a nice amount of light and momentum going into the situation. And two, was that they didn’t have success in a big way with hip hop so they didn’t have a system in place that would confine us to doing things a particular way. They had a desire and a resource and a willingness to be open to ideas, and that’s what made us head over there. It’s that they were open, and they wanted us to help them develop a system, not only for ourselves, but also for the future.

P: Where do you see hip hop going in the next few years as far as like, a lot of the huge somewhat underground groups, particularly from LA, have gone and signed to majors, where do you think the next wave of inventiveness is going to come from?

R: I think it’s going to be a wave from overseas, to be honest. There’s so much quality stuff going on…I travel a lot. There’s so many ideas that haven’t been touched on, so many ways of looking at things. All it takes is for somebody to make that bridge record for it to spark. There’s stuff over there that’s happening that could really do it. I think Canada, that’s gonna happen. All of what we consider Latin America. I think just culture in general is going to be accepted more in hip hop. People aren’t going to be as reluctant to accept new ideas and new approaches in the future because they’re not going to be able to fight with success. [We have a discussion about some amazing emcees from Bosnia and talk about how it doesn’t always matter if you can understand the language they’re speaking…the true emotion comes through.]

P: Where do you get your inspiration for writing?

R: I get it from everywhere, walking around. I get it from John Coltrane’s horn lines, Jimi Hendrix, listening to his songwriting (even aside from his guitar playing) has been extremely influential. Public speakers, my teachers, church…I’ve been inspired by all sorts of things. Gil Scott Heron, Last Poets, Watts Prophets. Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, Kool G Rap, Rakim, Run DMC. I’ve been inspired by hip hop in general. I guess the best way to say it is just by my environment in general. I try to tune out so I can tune in and really just absorb what’s around me. When you travel and you go to this country and that country, and you’re seeing different color money, and different types of people and different attitudes, and you come back to LA, for a little while you get this feeling like LA is just another country, just a city in another country. When you’re looking at things that way, you get a chance to feel the culture that’s here. I’m really influenced by the LA culture, which is just a combination of just different things from all over the world, like most places.

P: Have you lived there all your life?

R: No, I’ve lived all over, but pretty much I was born in LA and I’ve always come back, regardless of where I’ve skipped out to. I’ve got a lot of love for LA, and that’s with full respect for every inch of the world, but I love the people of LA. There’s bureaucracy here and it’s a pretty conservative place. I don’t like everything that happens in LA, but I think it’s beautiful.

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