DJ, vocalist, and producer Greg Broussard literally started a movement in LA thirty years ago. With a huge Jheri curl only equalled by his bombastic beats, Broussard manifested his Egyptian Lover persona onto party records that defined him for decades. His pioneering history intermingles with characters like Ice-T and Dr. Dre, all of whom were young and using rap as springboards for eventual careers. He was amongst the first in the rap scene to start his own label, Egyptian Empire Records, doing it to control his assets and career path long before others thought to do so. At the time, there was an opulence of open minds– and fun to be had– and Egyptian Lover supplied the score for it all, even encouraging interlopers through his catchy, electro production.
He now gigs the world as a one man show, playing all vinyl, blasting 808 beats that thump hard as they did back then. These are records that were meant to be played loud and there’s a certain genuineness about hearing them on 10 x 10 speakers while your teeth and skull rattle. It’s timeless dance music without versifying complications– or as Egyptian Lover says, “Just get your freak on.” I caught Greg quickly to drop a little background as he heads to the South Bay Area to commemorate Record Store Day. Salute sir! – DM
In this age of MP3s, talk a bit about your obsession with vinyl and record collecting.
I started at a young age buying 45 singles of my favorite songs and then later on I started buying albums. My first 45 single was “A Letter to Myself” by The Chi-Lites in 1973. My first full album was The Best of Earth, Wind and Fire in November 1978. My first 12” single was Rapper’s Delight in 1979 and worth every penny of it. That’s when the bug hit me. 12” singles of everything that came out. I loved the long versions of songs that did not come on the radio. The instrumentals on the B-side, or whatever they put on the B side. I loved it!
Do you still collect?
Yes, that will always be my thing. I always find something I never seen before.
Tell people about the Radio Crew and Ice-T’s involvement. What do you think is its main legacy?
It was a once in a lifetime period in history. Ice T, The Glove and The Egyptian Lover. Playing records at that club was mind blowing. Then we made an album for the documentary and people to this day are still losing their minds from it. It has so many well programmed beats and scratching on it. We only pressed 25 copies so the bootlegs are out there! It was the beginning of a new era in music. Music to dance to.
What was the scene like when you first started? Were those Uncle Jam parties as crazy as it sounds?
When I joined Uncle Jam’s Army they were already pretty popular. Doing shows as large as 2,000 people. As I got more popular with my DJ skills, so did Uncle Jam’s Army and we started doing shows for up to 10,000 people. These parties were the best times of my life. Playing the music I love and also introducing the 808 drum machine to the L.A. crowd. I played it live at one of the 10,000 party people L.A. Sports Arena shows and everyone lost their minds. They thought I was playing new records but didn’t know what they were? That’s when I knew we had to make a record.
Talk about establishing your own label? How did Rodney-O and Joe Cooley strike you?
I started my own label so that I could have full control over everything I did. I wanted to put my records out when I wanted to and this was the only way to do this. I never thought I would make a killing doing it, it was just fun. Then the money started pouring in. A Lot of Money! When I first heard Rodney O I thought it would be cool to put out another artist and give someone else a shot. I guess you can say he was there at the right space at the right time and he was chosen to be the artist I put out. Rodney had many great ideas and a true asset to my company.
How were the parties in LA when you first started? What’s the most striking memory that stands out to you?
The scene was everyone dancing the same way doing a dance called “the Freak”. It lasted 10 years and more. Every guy would grind on a girl and girls on guys and they absolutely loved it. The faster the song the better. “Planet Rock” was our number one record every night. That is why to this day I still play it in my set.
What was your first experience playing in front of those huge crowds like? You were so young then.
It was great because I knew I could get down. No one could touch me on the turntables as I created my own mixes and style of mixing. And when someone thought they could do what I could do? I played the record backwards and scratched another one in and played both at the same time. One backwards and one forward.
How was Dr. Dre then? How did he strike you?
Dre was the only one I knew back then and he was very into DJing and making records. I knew he would be the one to make it. He has talent. I was kind of upset when I heard his first song “Surgery” because it sounded like mine, but then someone told me, “Well yours sound like Kraftwerk” and then I understood. I thought it was cool. Ice Cube and Easy E came out years after me so I didn’t know them personally but I’ve met them many times.
What do you think of being considered such a pioneer?
Somebody had to be, it just happened to be me on the West Coast.
Talk about other cats like Arabian Prince. You guys seemed to be on the same page musically, is that
fair to say?
We were friends since way back in the day. We always have been friends and will always be. I think my style was so successful in L.A. that many local artist took to the same style and it became a west coast thing. I never looked at it that way, I was just making music. (Quality Music) and I always wanted it to sound and be recorded professionally. I took it very serious.
You’re essentially a one man show these days. What’s the crowd reaction like?
The fans love it. Young and Old, Men and Women. It’s a very cool show that shows the evolution of Egyptian Lover. Starting out as a DJ and going into my 808 drum machine and then my records. It’s fun and I love getting down on the turntables.
What do you think is most important about being a solo artist nowadays?
Being true to yourself and doing what you love. Because if you love what you do it’s not really work. People just give you money for having fun!
You’ve had a lot of successes with your 12-inch singles, even more so this your LPs. Which is your personal favorite?
I have many favorites, one is “You’re so Fine” I remember making the beat for that one and sleeping in front of the speakers all night and waking up to it and changing anything that irked me. Then my band went to Las Vegas and I went into the studio by myself and made the track, put the music on it, wrote the lyrics, recorded it and when my band came back I was playing it in my house and they were like… “WHAT IS THAT?” “DAMN” “WHEN DID YOU DO THIS?” and I just said “Ya’ll out there losing money in Vegas while I’m making money in the studio”
What’s the most unlikely place that you’ve played recently where people were receptive to your music?
Many places. Sometimes it blows me away to see people who don’t even speak English singing my songs. Moscow, Poland, China, Japan, Israel, Spain, Greece, it’s always a great pleasure playing out of the US so I play all the time in other countries. My favorite places are Paris, Germany, London, and Italy. I really think I could live over there.
Why is something like Record Store Day personally important to you?
To Keep the art of music alive. Records become collector items, MP3’s become deleted.
What do you want younger cats to know about you and your music, especially when looking at it from a past tense, historical point of view.
I had fun making it and I made it the best possible way to sound professional so that 50 years later it would still sound good. I am all about quality and being the best at what I do. So when you do what you do, do your best and be the best at it.
Last comments for longtime fans?
Keep Jammin that Old School as I have some new music coming soon. My new album entitled “1984” is coming in August. Also my 30th Anniversary is this year 1984-2014 and Stones Throw is putting out my Anthology. So Egyptian Lover Fans get ready to enjoy more Egyptian Lover. 1984 is going to be recorded the way I recorded back in the day and I used the same equipment as I did back then. The 808, Jupiter 8, SH 101, Vocoder SVC 350, and many other old school vintage keys. This is my dream album and I’ve been working on it for a long time, 1984.
***Egyptian Lover will be at On The Corner Music for a live DJ set to commemorate Record Store Day. Don’t miss it if you’re in the area!