Beat Merchant: Jake One Interview

Originally Published on URB

Kids with new MPCs and “Listen To Dilla” shirts only dream of the career Jake One’s having. Out of Seattle’s late ‘90s rap scene, he’s worked with all types and degrees of MCs—essentially, most anyone who’s caught wind of his beats. Big names, 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes; to indie cats, Casual, Gift of Gab, and Slug; to legends like De La and Dre.

“It’s weird because at a certain point you actually build relationships and become friends with these people,” he says, adding: “I’ve been making beats for complete superstars and complete non-superstars. I’m across the board as usual. ”

He just made tracks for Snoop, which he’s hoping will see the light of day, as is a cut on De La’s upcoming album. And DOOM is currently still “sitting on some beats”. Same with M.O.P., Bun B, Raekwon, the list is impressive as it is long. Meanwhile, he’s pushing his latest effort, another project on Rhymesayers.

Along with the clever packaging, The Stimulus Package, shows Jake piecing together soulful, versatile joints for another touted MC—Ex-Roc-A-Fella turned Cash Money signee, Freeway. Here, Jake explains the differences between working with indie artists and big names, and what’s next for someone who’s already worked with his heroes. Jake’s beats continue to attract MCs of all regions, genres and varying rap tangents, and the callbacks haven’t halted. With The Stimulus Package just out, here’s a very broad, 3 part look at Jake’s career, one that any beatmaker would kill for right now.

JAKE ONE, DAY ONE…

What was your first piece of equipment?
Well, my first sampler was some sort of Rolland. I was 16 working at Taco Time for a couple months and saved up for it. I looked in the ads and bought the only sampler I could afford. I didn’t know how to use it; I just wanted one so bad.

What about soul records struck you as such good sample fodder through the years?
I think it’s just being into hip-hop and just being used to those sounds. When I was younger, I actually depended on samples quite a bit because I wasn’t proficient in playing things like synths—so I had to go the sample route. Its one of these things where you go through phases. When I first started I was sampling Jazz almost exclusively and I’ve just transitioned to other things as I’ve aged and learned more. Continue reading “Beat Merchant: Jake One Interview”

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’93 Til Now: Tajai Outtakes

I was listening to old Hiero tapes and realized I was hearing dudes half my age rap. It was “Step To My Girl” by Souls of Mischief whom, says Tajai, were only “15-years-old when we first recorded those songs.” He continues, explaining “Cabfare”: “I didn’t even have a driver’s license let alone a cabbie license! I just laugh at those songs when I hear them but they have a special place because they’ve touched so many people and have the ability to bring me back to that era.”

“Cab Fare”

“Step To My Girl”

I just spoke with Tajai for an upcoming short piece on their new album, Montezuma’s Revenge, produced by Prince Paul. Here are some quick outtakes from that interview—for Hiero fans, and cats that remember seeing “93 Til” on CMC.

When was the first time you heard Prince Paul? How did he get on board with the new album?
Opio and Domino were on a Handsome Boy Modeling school tour with him and he mentioned doing some music with us. What started out as a dream became reality when he came out to record with us in 2006, damn near 20 years after we first were exposed to his wizardry. His projects have been some of the most influential in my progress as an artist and a person so it was a no-brainer to work with him. Continue reading “’93 Til Now: Tajai Outtakes”

Q&A with Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo

By Stacy Gueraseva

Thanks, Jet Blue. Not only for your extra leg room and getting me home alive during that one emergency landing, but for introducing me to Neon Indian. The in-flight playlist of a budget airline can be a good place to discover cutting-edge, new music. Who knew?

It was late summer of ’09, and by then, the buzz around this enigmatic Austin/Brooklyn duo had reached fever pitch. Though just a few months old, Neon Indian was already being touted by bloggers as the next big indie thing (many called them the “new MGMT”), their then-undisclosed identities igniting rabid curiosity. Somehow, the buzz had passed right by me, and unaware of their rep, I listened to these enchanting, synthy soundscapes while descending over the hyperactive night glow of my destination city, Las Vegas. The effect of the music, set against the backdrop, was deeply cerebral.

Psychic Chasms, Neon Indian’s debut album, is like a gadget that was taken apart by the nimble hands of a tech nerd and then reassembled—with a few pieces pleasantly out of place. Or like a random ‘70s movie on a dusty VHS tape that you dug out of a storage box in your parents’ basement and then ran through the latest editing software, preserving some of the vintage quality while adding modern bells and whistles. It sounds like the future—the kind of future imagined in a decidedly ’80s film like Blade Runner. It’s upbeat, it’s mellow; introspective and carefree.

It all came from the mind of Alan Palomo, a 21-year-old Mexico native who grew up in Denton, Texas and moved to Austin in 2007. It was there that Palomo, during a kind of self-imposed creative isolation sometime around the winter of 2008, pumped out a series of short tracks in his bedroom, using a small yet sufficient set of tools. When he found that they didn’t fit the style of his other outfit, the more poppier-sounding band Vega, he filed them under a new project with collaborator Leanne Macomber, the project now known as Neon Indian.

Recently back from a worldwide tour—including three sold-out shows in New York City—Palomo shared the story behind the buzz with NERDTORIOUS.

What was it like for you, moving to the States from Mexico at age six?
Definite culture shock. It was a complete immersion process. I have these vivid memories of being in all-English classrooms and having these really specific moments where I didn’t know how to say a certain word. I remember this kid had accidentally spit on me and I was trying to tell the teacher, and all I could come up with was, “His mouth water was on me!” Because I didn’t know how to say saliva. At the same time, as a result of that, I got assimilated pretty quickly. I think I learned English in maybe 8 months to a year. It’s nuts how, when you’re little, you pick up a language like it’s a video game or something. Continue reading “Q&A with Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo”

Syncopated Triplet Aquaman: New Qbert Interview

He’s widely recognized as one of the best to ever do it. When I spoke with Automator years back, he touched on Qbert saying: “I’ll tell you this—Qbert is the best DJ in the world. Technically, that guy’s fucking untouchable.”

I caught up with Qbert real quick to see what he’s been doing and what his thoughts are on recent DJ news. From DJ Hero, to Shadow’s recent comments, to the passings of DJs AM and Roc Raida, we hear it from an OG’s perspective. For a seasoned vet, he isn’t at all salty, remaining remarkably positive, spiritual, and seemingly still a big fan of a genre that reveres him. Here’s our interview, done over the course of a couple phone calls and an email or two. Safe travels home Rich!

Where are you right now?
I’m in the Philippines doing a show where the proceeds go to the victims of the typhoon.

How often do you still practice?
Everyday, at least a few hours. I can’t miss a day!

Touch on Roc Raida and DJ AM.
God has a mysterious way of bringing souls back to heaven. Raida and AM are just there ahead of us all. I do think that it also exposes people to much of their great music and accomplishments though. Continue reading “Syncopated Triplet Aquaman: New Qbert Interview”

Echo Party And Such: Interview With Edan

Edan’s Beauty and The Beat was one of my favorites albums of the last 10 years. It’s still so fun and all the nuances never get old. But it’s not just about a particular release, more so, it’s about Edan’s versatility and complete catalogue. From radio shows to guest spots, from mixes to his increasingly layered beats, everything is very detail oriented.

It’s been about 5 years since Beauty… and turns out his next move was Echo Party, a frenzied 30-minute opus that sounds like something out of a futuristic Black Ark studio. Now that it’s here and has sunk in, I got Edan on the phone to explain the project in his own words, what he’s been doing, and what’s up next. In the process, you’ll hear new tracks, rarities, and a song sent to us by Edan for readers to check out. Thanks E!

Explain to people how Echo Party and everything with Traffic went down.
I had a longtime friend at Traffic. I know those guys because they’ve distributed my records for a long time. And you know, they have a lot of access to a lot of stuff; Paul Winley, Peter Brown, all these old acts. They’re like the Rhino of old hip-hop. So they figured, it would be cool to have me do a mix for them. They offered me a little dough and that was that.

At what point did you decide to make it more involved than just a standard mix?
I knew that in this day and age, a mix of someone cutting up two copies of “Smokin’ Cheebe Cheeba” is not that interesting. And I don’t like to do things on consignment, which this basically was, so I figured if I’m gonna do it I might as well make it fresh. So I started fucking with it and realized that I should be real technical and showcase some sort of creativity. It wasn’t one of those mixes where I could just bank on the obscurity of the records just to impress the record community. So I basically decided to go the route that I went, which is make a record that was on some bugged out, freewheeling shit in the lab.

You mentioned collecting and not banking on obscure records. Have you grabbed anything interesting lately?
Yes! There’s this fucking record I got at this year’s WFMU Record Fair and it’s just perfect. It’s this one song called “Lookin’ in The Toaster” by this group called Research 1-6-12. The song is just this dude looking into a toaster and the lyrics are a trip [sings: Lookin’ in my toaster, lookin’ in my toaster, the face I see is mine. Weird is the image like a Hendrix poster, like a dream I had one time]. I got the test pressing which just had a piece of paper glued to the front. Once I heard it, I listened to it like 10 times. You want an MP3 of it to put up with this interview?

Yes, definitely. Continue reading “Echo Party And Such: Interview With Edan”

Blunt Talk: Reggie Noble Interview

Published on URB

“Now, you know you don’t own a Benz / Yes, I do and chrome’s the trim,” says Redman to himself on ‘Redman Meets Reggie Noble’ a track off his 1992 debut, Whut? Thee Album. Even then, he drew a line between himself and Redman, a boastful blunt smoking, gun-toting rap character who’s nothing like Reggie (besides the blunt smoking part). That was 17 years ago, and now, his new album Reggie Noble 9 ½ caps a career that’s made him known in both rap and entertainment.

Known for his solo records (Dare Iz A Darkside and Muddy Waters) and work with Methodman (Blackout! 1 & 2), Reggie’s been in films and TV, runs his own label, Gilla House Records, and is an admitted workhorse. “I multi-task ‘cause I’m after that paycheck,” he says, which was apparent during our interview as he repeatedly placed me on hold, talked to his agent about the new album and upcoming mixtape, while taking his daughter to soccer practice.

I caught him on a busy off-day to talk about his pre-Redman days, upcoming film work, and other projects in the pipeline. Here’s to Reggie Noble, a rapper who’s never taken himself seriously and who’s built a name through hard rhymes–and an even harder work ethic. “So fuck all you fools out there with a large vocabulary in your sentence / I don’t need that shit to pay my rent with!”

You debuted on EPMD’s Business As Usual? Talk about that history for people who don’t know?
I met the legendary EPMD at a club in Jersey called “Sensations.” I was actually a DJ at the time and was with this other dude. We went to Sensations to see MC Lyte, but once we got there, we saw EPMD backstage and decided to just kick it. My friend told Eric Sermon [that] I could rap, mind you, I was a DJ at the time and only knew, like, two raps [laughs]! But they kept fucking with me, telling me to kick some raps for them. After a few hours of drinking and smoking, I kicked some raps and Eric threw me on stage that very same night! That’s how I got down with those dudes. That’s how everything started basically.

That’s how you linked up with Def Squad?
After that night, EPMD was just a phone call away. We became homies and I ended up living with Eric [Sermon] for some months. When they’d go on tour, I’d come along to carry their bags and shit. Eventually I worked my mic skills up and got to be featured along with Def Squad. Continue reading “Blunt Talk: Reggie Noble Interview”

Thes One, Lando Calrissian

PUTS: “Check The Vibe (snippet)” off Carried Away

I spoke to Thes One around the time he released his first solo project, Lifestyle Marketing. And his production on PUTS’ new album, Carried Away, is even more layered, more fleshed-out than their past beats. Ontop of his equipment know-how, Thes is a collector, and the combination has proved successful time and time again—check out “Acid Raindrops” and “San Francisco Knights” and know that PUTS’ have made like 7 albums wrought with similar enjoyable, boom-bap qualities.

Carried Away, came out recently so I contacted Thes again to see what’s gone down since a couple years (and albums) ago. Head over to URB’s newly relaunched site to read that interview!

Carried Away marks PUTS’ return to OM Records. As such, OM is giving away specially made 45s. It’s a “beer” colored 45 of the track “Beer” featuring Lando himself, Billy Dee Willimas. Thes even flips “Blind Alley” on this version, which you get free only when you order the album from OM! It’s free with purchase of the vinyl (only a few left!) so DO IT NOW!

Orchestrated Funk

I recently interviewed “Music Man” Miles Tackett, the cellist, producer, DJ, bassist and guitarist of Breakestra. If you haven’t already, check out their latest LP, Dusk Till Dawn. It’s funky and filled with all kinds of nice grooves. My talk with Miles recently went up on Soul Culture, a London-based music site focused on soul and all its modern tangents. Check the interview along with a couple great Breakestra joints below.

“Inner City Blues” (Live Mix Pt. 2)

“Got To Let Me Know” (Hit The Floor)

———–>> Miles Tacket Interview

Synth-thesis: Interview With Aja West of The Mackrosoft

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“Three Views Of A Secret”, S.E.M.E.

Aja West controls The Mackrosoft, a label and group that for the last 9 years has released piles of funky, jazz-fusion projects. Their tracks have hip-hop sensibilities (as teenagers, Aja and his brother, Cheeba, interned for The Dust Brothers) yet their music’s quite varied, squeezing R&B, rock, and electronic into textured arrangements—think synthy, erratic Bob James with hard drums.

Mackrosoft Records is 15 albums deep since starting up in 2000. This year, they’ll add a trilogy of works that might be their most intricate; Shirts and Skins, S.E.M.E. , and Upgrade. Colorful and uncluttered, Aja’s arrangements show his composing prowness. He doesn’t read music or write music, but plays most of the instruments himself. He’s surrounded by notable musicians (Money Mark), some of them legendary (Headhunters’ Paul Jackson and Mike Clark). And they all follow his lead, coming in to replay parts, enhance others, or as Aja puts it, “fill in the gaps”.

I spoke to Aja recently while working on an article and found him genuinely eccentric and funny. Here’s a guy who openly takes mushrooms and cuts records, all while orchestrating musicians and running a label. Here are parts of our interview along with standout tracks from his upcoming trilogy.

What exactly do you do?
I make funk jazz, funk soul, funk rock, and all styles of funk that be. I’m Aja West and you’re rocking with the best.

You still take mushrooms while working on your music? How do they affect what you do and others around you?
Absolutely. Over the years, I’ve worked a third of the time in The Netherlands allowing me to use many species of fungi in many unusual but legal environments such as zoo’s, great museums, and red light districts. Altering one’s perception of the world through plant psychedelics will usually give you what you need not want. Psychedelic and mystical catalysts had already provided me with a direct experience of simple joyful noise infused with a plethora of meaning at a fairly young age. Continue reading “Synth-thesis: Interview With Aja West of The Mackrosoft”

The Funk Soul Brother: New Lord Finesse Interview

ness and joe

Lord Finesse, pictured above with Presentable Joe, is an ALL-TIME favorite. He projects such attitude and always comes with hilarious, bull’s-eye punchlines. I still chuckle to the same verses I’ve heard a thousand times. We spoke some months back where he was full of stories about D.I.T.C., stories that shouldn’t be missed if you’re into small histories behind amazing records.

Our interview ran as a Record Rundown for Wax Poetics issue #35 and the remaining portions of the interview (in my opinion, the more interesting parts) were recently published over at Wax Poetics’ site. You can read it in its entirety HERE.

Also, here’s one of the best battles ever: Finesse and Percee P from ’89. The footage is grainy, but both wreck shop. Ness slays it in part 2… Continue reading “The Funk Soul Brother: New Lord Finesse Interview”

Road Less Traveled: Interview With Pax Nicholas

pax high res front

“You (snippet)” from Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef

Published concurrently on Soul Culture

“Pax” Nicholas Addo-Nettey’s early life was spent on Fela Kuti‘s Kalakuta Republic. He would eventually appear on all of Fela’s records between 1971-78, singing and playing congas like he had been since age 6. Eventually, a teenaged Nicholas even recorded solo projects on the side (much to Fela’s chagrin). In 1978 while at the Berlin Jazz Festival, Nicholas (along with Tony Allen and other members of Africa 70) decided to stay and avoid returning to Nigeria. To this day, Nicholas, now in his mid-50s, resides in Berlin with his two sons.

Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef, one of those solo projects Nicholas made in the ’70s, was reissued by Daptone and is out now. It was discovered by Frank Gossner, a collector and DJ who—for 3 years—scoured West Africa for records. Strangely enough, he found Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef in Philadelphia before leaving on his trip. But the record “remained somehow special” to Frank, even among the thousands of records he’d eventually find. He took it to friends at Daptone and, fortunately, here we are talking about it now.

Fela flouted convention, so it’s interesting to hear the product of someone who came from that environment. Imagine growing up in Kalakuta and Fela Kuti and Tony Allen are your bandmates? As expected, Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef is strong afrobeat with long songs that are swift and exuberant. It’s a lovely record from a young Pax Nicholas who was even lovelier when we recently spoke. Nicholas still gigs, still records with his current band, Ridimtaksi. Here are some of his stories.

How old were you when you started playing music?
I have always had an interest in music from the age of six. But the decision to go into music came to me at the age of 15 years.

Did you feel it was your life’s calling? Or were you just raised into it?
I would say, I was raised into it. When I was growing up there was a lot of music around me. In the church with gospel music, and in the community where people met from time to time to play traditional music with drumming and dancing.

How did you end up in Kalakuta?
In 1971, I travelled to Nigeria on the invitation of Joe King Kologbo and his family. While in Nigeria, he introduced me to his brother the late Igo Chico who was the main tenor saxophonist with Fela’s band- Africa 70. He then introduced me to Fela as a singer and percussionist from Ghana. Later I was asked by Fela to visit his shrine at the Surelere night club. The rest is history. Continue reading “Road Less Traveled: Interview With Pax Nicholas”

Drunken Master: Interview With Kid Koala

kid koala_photo by selector marx

Kid Koala (ft. Dan The Automator)- “Unreleased Live Track”

I spoke with Dan The Automator back in ’05 when he was riding the success of Deltron, The Gorillaz, and Lovage. Kid Koala, who had emerged years earlier as a DJ with fresh, innovative routines, subsequently did the cuts and scratches on all those albums. At the time, Automator said this: “Koala does his own thing. I think other DJs are starting to catch onto his methods now. He has an amazing musical touch. Q-Bert’s technical, but Koala’s musical. He knows how to drop shit in and work the musical keys unlike anyone I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen a lot of DJs, and Koala’s acrobatics are amazing. There’s no one I’d rather have touch up my records than Koala. He’s insanely good.”

It’s been 4 years since that interview and Koala still does his thing. I’ve seen him do wildly entertaining sets without using headphones, tossing records behind him until they pile into huge, tipping stacks. His reputation as an oddball follows him, but so does a lot of reverence (Cut Chemist referred to him as his “hero” during The Hard Sell tour). Koala still uses only vinyl; still puts together weird projects that confuse and engross fans. I spoke with him recently, talking about his gear, his “Drunk Trumpet” routine, and seeing what future directions he thinks DJs might take. Koala hits the road later this month on a big tour–The Slew–with a live rhythm section and 6 turntables. Here’s our talk with one of the most creative DJs around, Kid Koala.

What new routines do you think DJs might start doing?
Turntable love ballads. Rocking parties is easy, trying to pull off a turntable serenade is a whole other animal.

You think DJs get better with age or is there a point when they’ve done all they can do?
I think as you get older it gets easier to communicate ideas through your instrument. Your life experiences and personality just sort of naturally come through the more you play. I look up a lot to those jazz musicians down in New Orleans. They seem to really hit their stride when they’re 70 years old. It’s like they’re monks of music. They just breathe into their instruments and the most beautiful sounds and stories come out.

What does your setup look like right now?
For The Slew tour we are using 6 turntables, 2 Rane Empath mixers, Radial Duplex DIs and an old Fender PA100 with two 4 x 8″ speaker columns.

No Serato?
I actually haven’t jumped over to that yet. I’m too lazy to bring a computer to shows. I have more fun with a pile of records. I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.

Continue reading “Drunken Master: Interview With Kid Koala”

Cuban Linx Revisited: Interview With Raekwon

blue rae by Logan Walters

Published concurrently on Waxpoetics.com

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… surpassed all expectations in 1995. Wu-Tang was hurling towards greatness and Raekwon, the MC with most time on Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), was up next. Hopes were high, and yet, Cuban Linx went platnium, embraced by fans and becoming a critical triumph. The New York Times named it one of the best albums of the ’95; Rolling Stone included it in their list of Essential Recordings Of The ‘90s. XXL’s 2005 feature, The Making Of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, furthered its status, giving longtime fans an in-depth look at its making process.

This year, Cuban Linx marks its fourteenth anniversary with a long-talked about sequel, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II. Rae’s legacy still rests largely on part one, which is something he knows and was very aware of when we spoke. “Motherfuckers love that shit. I know! That’s my rep right there,” he insisted, before adding: “That’s why I wanted to add more life to the original story and give fans what they’ve been asking for. We continued the new one exactly as if it was a movie sequel.” The addition of Dr. Dre and Marley Marl on the sequel adds clout, but it likely changes the overall feel of the original–as does guest spots by Busta Rhymes and Bun B. But Rae disagreed, explaining: “We kept the same vibe. I ain’t stupid. I went back and made sure that shit was compatible. RZA sat for hours and guided everyone through exactly what we needed. Trust me, this is what fans of the first one have been waiting for.”

Ahead of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II, I spoke at length with Rae about the original Cuban Linx, hearing back-stories and breaking down certain tracks individually. Could Cuban Linx ever have a fitting bookend? Here’s what The Chef had to say before the coming of part two.

When was the last time you sat down and heard Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… all the way through?
I probably heard it again around three months ago. It had been a while before that though.

What did you think of it fourteen years later?
It brought me back to a different time. It was when we straight didn’t give a fuck about what people thought. I was just trying to be a good emcee. RZA was just trying to be a good producer. This was before all the money kicked in. I was thinking about me standing on my block and me trying to get off that motherfucker. I was formulating about feeding my family the best way I knew how. At that time, I would just be earning money the negative way, you know? So it was about making people all over the world respect the Wu and what we were doing. Continue reading “Cuban Linx Revisited: Interview With Raekwon”

his world finally: interview with lee fields

LeeFields (4)

Lee Fields, a man who cut his first record at age 17, is a relentless worker. His latest album, My World, caps a career of over 40 years in music, an industry where he survived without ever making it big or getting the acclaim you’d think talent would earn. But all that is behind him because, according to Lee, “My World is truly the work of my life. I think it’s the greatest project I’ve ever been a part of.” And while every musician says the same about their latest album, Lee has no reason to lie. He’s an honest man who’s carved an honest living his entire life, gigging from huge theatres to shabby venues while quietly making records here and overseas. And his latest work, another tightly knit effort from Truth & Soul, might indeed be his best. Lee still hustles at 57-years-old, still records because he “never learned to be tired” and plans to keep doing do. Here’s our interview with the tireless Lee Fields, a talk where we comb through his long career, touch on his latest LP, and look at his largely understated legacy.

You’ve been singing and gigging since you were a teenager. How much longer do you envision yourself doing this for?
I don’t know. I’m really having such a wonderful time. I think music is like a sculpture. If you sculpt, then you stop when you run out of things to sculpt. I don’t think I’ve sculpted everything I wanted to yet. I’m real serious about that.

You’ve said recently that this is the most creative stage of your career. Why do you think you’ve finally hit your stride after 40 years?
Throughout my musical career, I’ve done a lot of traveling and been to a lot of places. I’ve worked with a lot of people as well. I’ve always kept writing too. I’ve never stopped doing what I do. So just through my life experience alone, I feel like I can convey lots of emotion and conviction—even if it’s not a song I wrote. The whole purpose of being an artist is to make your work as evoking as possible when it comes to passion. At this stage, man, I think it really shows through my work. Continue reading “his world finally: interview with lee fields”

impending doom: Interview With Daniel Dumile

(After cold calls and much thumb twiddling, I spoke to DOOM, a huge favorite who’s one of the most fascinating emcee/producers ever, and whose latest at the time of this writing, BORN LIKE THIS, is a loud exclamation point on a career that has shown tremendous artistic growth from KMD ’til now. His longevity, shape-shifting career, and lack of public exposure, all make for a rare breed of performer— the kind that shuns attention. Dude’s notoriously hard to get a hold of so here’s my long-awaited and rather extensive talk with the usually low-key Daniel Dumile. -DM)

doomonwhite1

 

KMD, Know Mr. Dumile:

DOOM explains BORN LIKE THIS, talks own history, and draws line between himself and written characters

Daniel Dumile’s gift is the ability to be totally engrossed in and devoted to whatever his character does. He flouts criticism –even from his own fans– and has been doing so for a while, since the ’80s. This is how he teeters between mainstream success and inde-rap stardom. BORN LIKE THIS, is more of the same, with guests (Slug of Atmosphere and Raekwon, for example) that reflect his presence across rap spectrums. Production-wise, Dilla, Madlib, and Jake One have a song each while DOOM manned the rest. But without a doubt this is all Daniel Dumile, or DOOM rather, and certainly a standout from his cache of celebrated work. Here we find is DOOM at his most strange, most gruff, weird, and somewhat confessional.

As a rapper, as an interview subject, he’s been notoriously elusive, often silent come promotion time. Antics aside, he remains a totally uncompromising artist, standing tall on rap’s list of all-time consistent emcee/producers. As unapproachable as he’s been with journalists, the guy behind the persona is anything but. He starts our long-scheduled interview with: “Sorry it took this long man! Not trying to discriminate! How are you doing today? What’s your name man?” Hardly a mean guy, definitely a normal dude, Dumile details with candor and insight to all my questions on all things DOOM.

Let’s start with the mask. Why wear one?
It’s really just another character. Zev Love X was a character too, most people think that’s me but he wasn’t. They’ve all been characters. The DOOM thing is to be able to come at things with a different point of view. I decided the mask would just add to the mystique of the character as well as make DOOM stand out. I though it’d be an easy way for people to see and differentiate between characters, sorta like when an actor gains weight for a role. Throwing on the mask was just a good way to switch it up. King Geedorah and Vik are characters too for example.

Continue reading “impending doom: Interview With Daniel Dumile”

Pre-Teen Post-Punk: Interview with Chandra

When people sing “Love Me Do” to themselves on their way to a date ten years on the other side of their second divorce, it’s a sign that a young songwriter has got to a universal truth. This kind of precocious wisdom is embedded in the work of songwriters like Hank Williams, Prince, Elvis Costello, and Randy Newman. People who aren’t old enough to have lived the songs they’ve written nevertheless know how the song embodying that life should go. – Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker

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It should exist, but it shouldn’t be this good. A Delta 5-meets-Jackson 5 adolescent post-punk EP with paranoid undertones, large doses of Farfisa organ and occasional melodica solos? Sounds like a dollar record. Actually, it sounds like the best dollar record ever. Transportation, the EP recorded by then-12-year-old Chandra Oppenheim and her cast of collaborators, is a brilliant artifact of the early-80’s New York club scene and a fascinating listen, full of propulsive rhythms and mildly obscure yet insistent phrasing. I usually use the term “teenage girl poetry” as an offhand diss when artists unwisely delve into confessional mode, but Chandra’s lyrical acumen just might salvage an entire genre of verse.

As the daughter of conceptual artist Dennis Oppenheim, the precocious and self-assured Chandra was in the right place at the right time. Her father’s acquaintances Eugenie Diserio and Steven Alexander, already active in the downtown scene as The Dance, were looking for a child to front an experimental rock band, and the rest is history. After recording the 4 songs on the exceedingly rare original Transportation EP, the group toured the Northeast, debuting at the Mudd Club in 1980. Sometime thereafter, Diserio and Alexander took more of an advisory role, and Chandra recorded a second EP with an all-kid band as The Chandra Dimension. Those songs, stronger than those on the original EP, have finally seen the light of day thanks to Cantor Records’ recent release of both EPs on a single piece of wax, accompanied by a beautiful booklet. Moved by what we heard, we decided to speak with Chandra and dig a little deeper into her story.

When did you get involved in music in the first place?
Well, I was about 10 and I would write little songs and stuff. Like, my best friend from school was getting teased and I would write her a song and make her happy to chear her up—things like that. I was always in plays and stuff too. So Eugenie and Steve were friends of my dad and wanted to do a project with a kid. And they knew that I had done theater and wrote songs and stuff, so that’s how everything started.

Continue reading “Pre-Teen Post-Punk: Interview with Chandra”

The Rhythm The Rebel: interview with Chuck D + DJ Eleven’s PE minimix

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Foreword By Nate LeBlanc

At ten, the thing I noticed was the voice– a commanding instrument that demanded my attention. As a kid, a hip-hop novice, I respected and almost feared Chuck D. His presence dominated my Public Enemy tapes, though he was saying things I couldn’t understand. However, now I know why John Connor sported a PE shirt; not Flav’s borderline gibberish, not the Bomb Squad’s revolutionary layering, or the S1W’s simulated militancy, but Chuck and his thunderous, brilliant rhymes.

Flash forward ten years. Campus was abuzz with the news that the most recent lecture tour would bring the legendary Chuck D to our little corner of the world. Would he rhyme? Talk music? Literally lecture us in the style of some of his more didactic verses? I bought my tickets, waited in a long line, and found my answers in a poorly-lit dining hall. He talked to us like the not-quite-adults that we were. He was by far the realest dude in the room. My most vivid memory is of his palpable consternation that college-educated people all over the world were striking thug poses in deference to prevailing hip-hop trends. He relayed to us, in no uncertain terms, that we should act like what we were—educated people. Good advice.

Ten more years, I’m more or less grown, a man in the world struggling to make ends meet. I appreciate Chuck and his artistry more than ever. There was a time when I didn’t rate Chuck very highly as an MC, but I was using all the wrong criteria. I underestimated what he said and how he said it. As brilliant as the ideas contained in his rhymes may have been, people would not have been as receptive to them if it weren’t for his iconic delivery. More than anything else, I appreciate the fact that he is out there in the world, making himself available to students, news organizations, and independent journalists like David in order to provide reasoned commentary from a hip-hop perspective. He is an absolutely brilliant speaker, an underrated musician, and the best example I can possibly think of for up-and-coming cats to model themselves on—as is readily apparent in the following interview.

Why do you think your messages in PE’s songs have stayed relevant for all these years? Talk about your writing a bit.
I’m someone who was born in 1960. I was at the right age at the right stage when I started writing. I spoke from the perspective of a cat that was born in the ‘60s. I was a curious kid, as I think most kids are, and I always wanted to find answers in my own particular way. I wrote about what I knew about; history, you know, Vietnam and Dr. King, Black Panthers and stuff. Actually as a child, I was always privy to those things. And I mean, from a purely writing standpoint—–you gotta write about somethin’! Continue reading “The Rhythm The Rebel: interview with Chuck D + DJ Eleven’s PE minimix”

Anonymous Exuberance (part 2): Interview with Ken Shipley

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Some re-issues are stunning discoveries, some certainly weren’t meant to be heard. And in this arena of labels and collectors elbowing their way towards the next big find, Numero has quietly released comps flooded with what would be called “lost masterpieces”. And the packaging, the photographs they use, the people they examine, are almost equally impressive as the music itself.

The Numero Group is founder Ken Shipley, and his partners Tom Lunt and Rob Sevier. They, along with a dedicated team scour the country for forgotten music, but more than that, they uncover intimate histories of labels, cities, weirdos, regular folks, and document them with astounding respect and detail. We’re big fans and are lucky to have Mr. Shipley show us his “terribly unglamorous” operation, explaining exactly how and why, he does what he does. You get the feeling these guys would be looking for records, even if it weren’t their jobs—maybe not to this extent—but obsessed and looking nonetheless. Here’s to Numero for sharing so much music and otherwise forgotten histories.

Please introduce yourself for fans wondering who you are and what you do?
Ken Shipley, the Numero Group’s minister of information. Continue reading “Anonymous Exuberance (part 2): Interview with Ken Shipley”

Old School Wrap Up: Interview With Slug of Atmosphere

I did this piece semi-recently for URB. Check it out if you’re into these cats:

“Road To The Riches” (G Rap Cover) by Atmosphere

Originally published for URB

Sean Daley, Slug of Atmosphere, has been on the road for the last ten years, performing and introducing himself to a young generation of hip-hop fans; a generation that often cites him as their favorite rapper. In a few weeks, he’ll clock more mileage for a Spring tour that’ll take him to ballrooms, clubs, music festivals, and tiny theaters across the US and Canada to celebrate the reissue of Atmosphere’s ‘02 release, God Loves Ugly. And while the 36-year-old emcee doesn’t “give a fuck about being the best”, he’s surely revered in a culture that has embraced him, a culture that “empowered” his own youth.

Here, Slug talks hip-hop, its dominant affect on him, who his favorite rappers are, working with DOOM (an admitted hero of his) and ultimately, the legacy he hopes his music will offer. You don’t get good without knowing your roots, which Slug proves, as we kick it on this old-school discussion tip.

Talk about your exposure to hip-hop and how it affected you as a kid growing up in Minnesota.
When I was first exposed to it, I was like ten or eleven-years-old. It was just stuff that was on urban radio. I didn’t know it was a new movement or anything. It wasn’t until RUN DMC where I was like “this is something else!” and that’s when I felt like it wasn’t my dad’s music. I mean, by the time RUN DMC happened, my dad was probably like “these motherfuckers are yelling at me!” where as the earlier stuff, the Sugarhill style was still like Disco, R&B, and Funk. The RUN DMC records sounded like people were smacking the side of houses made out of aluminum. Continue reading “Old School Wrap Up: Interview With Slug of Atmosphere”

the eleventh hour: interview with dj eleven

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Partyrocker DJ Eleven is, above all things, a workhorse. The Oakland native plays all over the globe, sometimes even gigging alongside icons like DJ Premier and Grandmaster Flash. He’s also written for Waxpoetics and XLR8R, and contributes a monthly column for a UK rap publication, Hip-Hop Connection. His mixtapes have been touted by The Village Voice and The New York Times, respectively. And to top it off, The Rub, a booming website he works on (with DJ Ayers and Cosmo Baker) gets heaps of readers daily for the mixtapes and podcasts they put together.

Eleven hustles hard, but was kind enough to lend us some time for an interview. Here’s our talk after he had just gotten back from playing Europe. Bay Area represent!

Let folks know about your Bay Area roots.
I was born in Redwood City but grew up in Oakland. My parents & all of my siblings live in the Bay. I came up DJing in the Bay Area with my crew, Local1200. And, I moved to New York almost 9 years ago. But, I try to get back to the Bay any chance I can.

What mistakes or misunderstandings do you often see young DJs doing?
The three most common mistakes I see young DJs making, are all kind of based on the same thing Continue reading “the eleventh hour: interview with dj eleven”

prolyphic beatmaker: interview with reanimator

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2004’s Music To Slit Writs By showed a capable producer with nice sample selections, sequencing know-how, and solid overall song construction. The project (filled with touches of old-school rap) easily held up against other ballyhooed beat-tapes of ’04, but somehow slipped under the radar. Four years later, and with a new project, The Ugly Truth, having been out a while, NERDTORIOUS spoke to Reanimator about beatmaking, his history, and current well-kept career.

You sound has a lot of old school rap influences. Who are some of your all time favorite producers?
In no particular order…Marley Marl – I cringe at some of his scratching, but the production was always great. Bomb Squad – The true masters of piecing together lots of samples in an innovative way. Dr. Dre – Some people are surprised that I cite Dre as an influence, but his studio mixing skills and attention to getting timing right always seemed a step ahead of everyone else.

Give our readers some background on Music To Slit Wrists By. How long did it take to complete? What are you most proud of regarding that record?
Music To Slit Wrists By is a record that I originally released in 2002. I had about 2 years worth of songs that, over the course of a year, I pieced together to create this 80-minute mix of music. The thing that I’m probably most proud of is the fact that people enjoy it. I get comments from people who aren’t necessarily into hip-hop say how much they enjoy listening to it, which is nice.
Continue reading “prolyphic beatmaker: interview with reanimator”

American Original: Interview with Biz Markie

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Foreword by Cutso

Hip-Hop does not create renaissance men (or women) anymore. And we can’t really count rappers who have dropped TJ Maxx-bound clothing lines, flavored beverages (soft and hard), TV shows, shoe horns, whatever side-hustles many rappers have undertaken to over-saturate the market on all fronts. Biz Markie did not rely on any of that.

In a time when Hip-Hop was young and cutting-edge, and before it lost grip of its roots, Biz Markie was an all-out entertainer: a successful hit maker both over and underground, an active DJ, a well-schooled record collector, and a mic-soaking beatboxer. He supposedly has an absurd toy collection, as he claims in the Hip-Hop factoid book Ego Trip’s Big Book of Rap Lists. He was also the comic relief character of one of the greatest posses the rap game has ever known: The Juice Crew.

Who could forget his earth-shattering rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” (in which he donned a Hendrix-style dashiki, blowout wig and lefty white Stratocaster) to open the festivities at the Tibetan Freedom Concert? The best part about that particular performance was his inability to play a single note on the guitar. Rather, he substituted shredding for belting “raow raows” belligerently . In that performance, the Biz kept true to the principles of his ground-breaking single “Make The Music With Your Mouth“.

His rendition of Elton John’s classic “Benny and the Jets” (recorded with his chums the Beastie Boys) is also a fine cut of pure, raw, off-the-cuff entertainment. He manages to pull off a gut-busting performance, without knowing a majority of the song’s lyrics.

Nowadays, he moonlights as a venue-packing DJ, and preserves the art of beatboxing as a segment host on Nick Jr.’s children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba, where he teaches viewers how to make music with THEIR mouths.

As the Hip-Hop game awaits its next true all-around entertainer, the Biz stands alone in his own class. With Biz Markie, it is ALWAYS that kind of party. Keep a close watch on your mashed potatoes…

“Lemme Tell You A Story Of My Situation…”

What was the first hip-hop related thing you ever did Biz?
Beatboxing. I mean, I was a kid and that was just the first thing I took up when it came to hip-hop. I didn’t think about, I just sorta did it, ya know?
Continue reading “American Original: Interview with Biz Markie”

freelance rydah: Interview with o-dub

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Oliver Wang, aka O-Dub, a well-regarded writer (and the mind behind soul-sides.com) took time from his activities to answer questions about his varied output. Aside from freelancing for esteemed publications, Wang also teaches courses at Long Beach State University, curates exceptional music compilations, DJs when called upon and, probably most importantly, is also a daddy. As busy as he may seem, he was kind enough to humor us here at NERDTORIOUS— a site that is admittedly indebted to O-Dub for the precedent he’s set and the advice he’s given.

Below is a short Q&A where O-Dub gives advice to aspiring writers, explains the historical cultural significance of Boogaloo, talks about his Bay Area roots, and responds to other random queries. Thanks for your time, kind sir.

What would you tell aspiring writers who want to get published in music publications, blogs, journals and the like?
Find a new line of work! Abandon ship! Ok, seriously…the advice I’ve always given is that start by asking. People don’t realize how relatively easy it can be to get a foot in the door simply by asking. Obviously, you also have to deliver – meet your deadlines, turn in good copy, be flexible (the last is key, especially when freelancing). What you ideally want to do is show yourself to be – at the very least – competent and dependable. Most editors would kill to have someone be at least one of those things. Be both and you’re golden in most editors’ eyes. The reason: at the end of the day, editors have pages to fill and even if you aren’t the next coming of Lester Bangs or Greil Marcus, if you can meet deadlines and turn in solid copy, that’s someone they can depend on. It’s those relationships that can help you build toward steady work (as well as bigger/better opportunities). Continue reading “freelance rydah: Interview with o-dub”

Gonna work out fine: Interview with Mayer Hawthorne

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Like the rest of you, we’ve got Mayer Hawthorne’s insanely catchy debut single on repeat. “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” is an example of everything that’s good about contemporary soul music. Built on the “Get Out My Life, Woman” drums and Hawthorne’s homespun harmonies, it’s a doo-wop inspired breakup song that’s oddly uplifting and decidedly endearing. The single has already become a sought-after collector’s item not only for the quality music, but the killer format: Stones Throw released it as a strictly limited heart-shaped 10″ reminiscent of the Manhattans’ version of “You Send Me”. We’re looking forward to big things from the talented Mr. Hawthorne in the coming year, (no album til at least spring, plenty of time to practice your falsetto) so we decided to ask him a few questions.

What’s your musical background? When and how did you first get involved in music? What instruments do you play?
My Dad is a great Bassist and he taught me how to play when I was young. My Mom made me take piano lessons which I hated and quit. Now I wish I woulda stuck with it! I love playing the Drums too. I try to play as many instruments as I can on the album.

Talk about your upbringing in Michigan and how Detroit’s music scene affected you.
Detroit breeds many of the best musicians / artists in the world. I’m very fortunate to have grown up in a place with such a rich musical history, and with so much soul. Hopefully that soul comes through in my music.

What soul music are you listening to lately; any direct influences on the sound of the track?
Lately I’ve just been going back through the Motown catalog and discovering a lot of amazing songs that weren’t very popular when they were released but are just as good as some of the biggest hits. A lot of Smokey Robinson, Martha & The Vandellas and The Marvelettes. Continue reading “Gonna work out fine: Interview with Mayer Hawthorne”

Obsessive Compulsion: Interview with Mike Davis

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By Nate LeBlanc

Maybe I’m just extra-susceptible to the power of suggestion, but from the first spin, I’ve been obsessed with Obsession, an incredible compilation of funky international psych. The project was put together by Mike Davis (no relation to design genius/DJ/2600 Kid Mike Davis) owner of successful NYC record shop Academy Records and released by the ever-reliable Bully Records. The sounds contained within its grooves are nothing less than bugged-out, fuzzed out, surprisingly DJ-friendly goodness. I had never heard of a single tune or artist featured on the comp, so I decided to contact Mike and get us all a little bit more information on his collection and the origins of the project.

How long have you been collecting records?
Mike Davis: I’ve been collecting since I was about 8, which was 1970 for me.

What was the first record you ever bought?
It was a 45 of “Venus” by Shocking Blue. Still have it. That was when I learned the B-side is sometimes better.

The most recent?
The “Space Traveling” 45 by Robert Starks and the Geniuses.

What genres and/or time periods are you particularly interested in?
That’s a tough one. I have a tendency to go for raw, primitive examples of all kinds of things, but I can also appreciate some slick stuff as well. Any thing that catches my ears, really. I go from the early 1900’s till now.

Owning a record store, you must be exposed to a massive volume of titles. Do you find yourself sacrificing your personal collection in order to keep the store stocked, or the other way around?
When I first opened my own store I put about 300 records from my collection out for opening day to spice things up a bit. I still occasionally thin out things from my collection but I’ve never had to get rid of anything I wasn’t willing to part with for the store’s sake. Both stores have been profitable since opening so I never had that pressure.
I’ve gotten some nice records as a result of owning the stores, but a lot of things I’ve been getting recently, weird psychy stuff from far off lands, isn’t ever going to come in to the store too often, so I’ve had to make an effort to track them down. Continue reading “Obsessive Compulsion: Interview with Mike Davis”

Affair To Remember: Interview with Leon Michels

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If you’ve heard Menahan Street Band’s Make The Road By Walking (one of the year’s best!), then you know the horns are a major part of the album’s feel—if not the most important. The horn-lines entirely anchored the songs, adding texture to the already colorful arrangements but could also serve as its centerpiece. The horns were the product of Leon Michels, founder of Truth&Soul Records and frontman of El Michels Affair.

Menahan’s bandleader, Tommy Brenneck, has said that he thinks Leon is currently one of the top horn arrangers in the business, which is tough to dispute if you’ve heard either Make The Road…or Sounding Out The City. I spoke to Leon last year for a piece I was working on, and afterwards, he graciously shipped us a box of records to help sponsor San Jose’s Dig Dug. The year’s young, and Truth&Soul are gearing up to drop more heat this year. Here are some parts from the series of interviews we did a while back. Thanks again Leon, looking forward to the coming year.

Sounding Out The Scene

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What was the response when you guys first played live?
It was first with the Mighty Imperials. At the time, we were sixteen and played hard funk songs to audiences of twenty-something hipsters in New York. People usually had a hard time wrapping their heads around the experience. It was a novelty act of sorts. With the El Michels Affair, it is different. Aside from the Wu-Tang shows we played, our original music is entirely instrumental. So the shows, depending the audience, are hit or miss.

Do you see your band expanding and playing different types of music, or just sticking with what you’ve already established?
Most of the stuff we do at Truth&Soul is produced and written by myself, Jeff, and some of the guys from El Michels. So we are consistently changing our style but attaching different band names to the music.

How did that Amy Winehouse remix come about? Continue reading “Affair To Remember: Interview with Leon Michels”

Tapedeck Sprained: Interview With Edan

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Beauty And The Beat (one of the few truly great rap albums of recent years) blew me away then and continues age well. Like me, you’re probably waiting for another Edan release, another glimpse of his advancement as an emcee/DJ/producer. He could drop a purley instrumental project right now and I’d be more than interested. Yet he’s only done a few things sparingly since Beauty And The Beat, no full album, not even an EP, just random cameos via singles, remixes, and guest spots.

I interviewed him a couple years ago for Slap Magazine where we spoke about his career up to that point. This is a side talk from that conversation, us nerding out to old rap records and their respective eras. Here, Edan explores “Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme”, a track from Beauty where he identifies his influences by name. He shows a lot of respect—and knowledge—for hip-hop’s foundational sound, which is perhaps why his work is so textured. This interview really gives a glimpse of where his influences and tastes come from. Plus, I really dig how he answers the last question. Here’s to your next album, Mr. Donavexxxxxx.

So why’d you write “Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme’’?
In my mind, just being a fan, I realize that I had assembled some sort of chronology. I felt like, in some ways it’s a good way to show respect and just it makes for a nice constructive song. I also had the sample for the main chorus loop and that basically posed the question of what would be a good embellishment for that hook? In other words, what would the verses have to be for that chorus to be the cherry on top? And that led me to do some emceeing, rather than kick some battle bullshit.

Describe the lyrics. Was it hard to pick and choose who to overlook and who to keep?
I basically took the opportunity to cite cats in order. And a lot of people are gonna say Biggie was the best, Ice Cube was the best, Jay Z is the best, but those aren’t the types of emcees that make me want to rhyme. They’re great, don’t get me wrong. But for whatever reason, the cats that made me want to rhyme had minds that were more like jazz musicians or like a sax soloists.

Explain that a bit more.
Their control of rhythm reminds me of Jazz. So cats like Rakim, or how [Big Daddy] Kane finesses it, they all are very conscious of what is going on. Emcees that I have an affinity for have dope voices or flavor that aren’t usually not mentioned. I also upped T La Rock because he was a pioneer that used big words and tried to sound futuristic. That became very popular during the ‘84-‘85 era, so he’s kind of a pioneer in that thing. Continue reading “Tapedeck Sprained: Interview With Edan”